Tag Archives: queer

Janelle Monáe, Q.U.E.E.N. of my heart

Screen shot of Janelle Monae's QUEEN music video

Janelle Monae silhouetted in black in the final scene of the music video for Q.U.E.E.N.

How many songs have you heard that challenge racism, sexism, slut-shaming, homophobia… and make you want to bust a move? There are only a handful of artists I’ve encountered who wrap up all of those dynamics in a fresh way (M.I.A., Santigold and Ebony Bones! come to mind) but for whatever reason, Janelle Monáe stands out from the pack.

In late April, the great folks at Browntourage posted a link to a song. When I clicked play, I had no way of knowing it would become my new anthem. Q.U.E.E.N. has been playing full blast non-stop: as I make dinner in my kitchen, in my headphones at work, in my living room as I chill out with my cat, over and over. So when I saw there was a music video for the single, released May 1st, I fell even more in love with the song. So much so that it merits its own post:

Janelle Monáe referencing “Qui etes vous, Polly Maggoo?” Yes please! Janelle rocking a 1960s bob? I never thought she could top her badass trademark pompadour.

Screen shot 2013-05-03 at 9.09.50 PM

Film still from William Klein's 1966 satirical art film, "Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo?"

Film still from William Klein’s 1966 satirical art film, “Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo?”

Erykah Badu has an alter ego named Badula Oblongata? Gold!

Screen shot 2013-05-03 at 9.13.29 PM

Monáe does with Q.U.E.E.N. what she does best, mixing visually stimulating high art, culture, and her very own brash brand of feminism. This song and its accompanying video marries them with deft skill.  Her lyrics reference everything from black NYC drag ball culture in the 1980s (Walk in the room they throwing shade left to right/They be like ooh, she’s serving face) to Philip K. Dick (Will you be electric sheep?/Electric ladies, will you sleep?/Or will you preach?). Visually, her machismo comes across in her posturing and sartorial adjustments, while lyrically schooling you on the state of racial politics in America today.

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Anyone else see that final scene lighting set-up as bit of a wink to James Bond?

Not to mention the hard femme rebelles who bring their leaders out of art gallery exile:

Screen shot 2013-05-03 at 9.06.10 PM

Now, I shouldn’t be surprised by all the artistic and (sub)cultural references in a Monáe video. First off, I’ve been a fan for years. She consistently prides herself on bring high art – or at least art that is all too often limited to university classrooms – to the masses in her own creative manner. One of her earlier videos, Tightrope, references Maya Deren. Of course, it’s not just her music videos; her concept albums are incisive, subversive, cohesive (not to mention catchy as fuck) – something we see all too rarely in the world of pop music.

What thrills me about a music video like this one, and what sets it apart from the masses, is that although it references these various elements, it remains unique and fresh. For example, as much as I love Beyoncé’s video for Countdown, I was taken aback at how blatantly it ripped off dancer/choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker… without so much as a wink in her direction (let alone questions of financial compensation). There are countless other examples, some of which lead to successful law suits on the part of the lesser known parties who are being “honored” in this fashion. But Monae? No. Her work is thoughtful, intentional, and unique. It just serves as a reminder there is a very fine line between homage and straight up rip-off.

Screen shot 2013-05-03 at 9.11.57 PM

Sartorial excellence, bravado, and an impressive catalogue of art/film references are all showcased beautifully in this video, but they would be nothing, of course, without politics. Her commentary of race and class is absolutely essential to her oeuvre, summarized nicely in this quote from April 2011:

Heavily inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1927 German expressionist film Metropolis, which used an urban dystopia to berate capitalism, she too has invented a not-too-distant future in order to comment on the confines within she is expected to perform and present herself as a black female artist. “As an African-American woman, as an immigrant, wherever I am, I’m always the minority,” she explains.  “So I came up with the concept of the android as the ‘other’ in society.  I’ve been studying the theory of technological singularity, which predicts that as advances in technology become faster, there will come a point when robots will be able to map out the brainpower of humans and recreate our emotions.  I’m posing the question – how are we going to live with the ‘other’?  Are we going to treat them inhumanely, teach our children to fear them?”

Damn. Smart, stylish, talented, critical, gorgeous… you can have it all.

Now go watch the music video. Again.

Recommended Reading:

Recommended Eye-Candy:

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apocalypse fashion: embodying our fashion ideals

sketch by olivia horvath

page 1 of olivia horvath’s “the 2012 year of apocalyptic fashion” short zine

what a week for oversaturation of supposedly witty statements about important dates and potential end of days (for the record, this did make me chuckle). first came 12/12/12, then 20/12/ of 2012, and today is of course the last day on the mayan calendar. instead of grumping about the massive amounts of factual inaccuracies and assumptions people have been making in light of this , i decided to celebrate a fabulous zine by olivia horvath, which i was lucky enough to snatch a copy of before it sold out.

olivia and i have been online friends since the days of friends-only posts on livejournal, and i’ve always admired their talent and art. 2012 year of apocalyptic fashion is up there as one of my all-time favourites, and fits perfectly with my mission here at my blog – to talk about what we choose to wear from a critical perspective. olivia was gracious enough to let me interview them about this project, and shared some great recommendations… now that the world has not ended. enjoy!

another page from olivia horvath's 2012 fashion apocalypse spread

another page from olivia horvath’s 2012 fashion apocalypse spread

what’s the inspiration behind fashion apocalypse?

I wrote the comic “2012 Year of Apocalypse Fashun” last January, a few months after the eviction of Witch Club- a dreamy, hectic, hyper-intimate, short-lived queer youth warehouse space I moved to Providence to be a part of. The space was not without its faults but I think at its best it gave us this drive to explore and express the fluctuating and impossible parts of identity that get covered up in more organized and straighter space. The eviction was stressful and alienating and left me with a lot of despair, but also a desire to keep that powerful queer infiniteness I experienced there alive in my life and work.

I ended up moving by myself into a dusty windowless loft full of fabric and fake flowers and ballgowns and was watching a lot of anime on a broken static-y computer screen and biking to a college I didn’t attend in the middle of the night to do weirdo radio stuff with Katrina and I was simultaneously heartbroken and feeling this utopic potential. I was at this intense emotional crossroads, feeling super inspired by both my old and new roommates and collaborators (among many others- Katrina’s queer protective magic, Mindy Stock’s “aggressive, intimate” project Virusse, Muffy Brandt‘s unsettling and joyful neons, Pippi Zornoza‘s dark intricacies) and I was trying to make work that both glimpsed queer utopia and acknowledged inevitable failure. So “apocalypse fashun” has less to do with dressing for an actual date and is more about body transcendence and transformation, manifestation of the facets of ones’ self that seem (or are) impossible to physically manifest or to make legible.

what kind of differences are there between how you actually dress, and how you would dress for the apocalypse?

A lot of the way I dress and conceive of myself in clothing is tied up in identity, either in trying to be read a certain way or to be confusing and illegible. It’s hard to imagine solely dressing for personal fulfillment and monumental occurrences rather than strangers’ gazes.

fabulous

Lately I’ve been wearing a lot of black and gold and listening to a lot of music with chimes and twinkling synths, thinking about light hitting reflective surfaces and sequins and armor and stars burning out. I love the way that light scatters and flares and the momentary gorgeous but also distracting and potentially dangerous illusions that result from light being refracted. I have a lot of doomsday ideation and none of it is pleasant and it all seems very real and slow and painful, so I don’t love speculating about the apocalypse. But I like the idea of dressing for some sort of sublime transcendence, full of and reflecting light. Also into the idea of dressing for some crazy revelry where systems of oppression are toppled, which should involve extreme bliss and head-to-toe sequin armor.

olivia

do you have any advice for people who don’t dress the way they would actually like to, for fear of any variety of reprisals?

There are lots of factors that keep people from dressing the way they want to – employment, passing, shame, dysphoria, not being able to afford or construct yr dream garment, the threat of street harassment or physical violence. Reprisals can be very, very real. There’s not an easy answer to this question.

I don’t have advice but I can share one of my coping mechanisms. I love creating characters (duh, comics) and when I’m most reticent to be seen and dressing feels impossible I try to put my gigantic, fragile Leo ego aside and attempt to play a character who embodies an extreme state (tight-sweater virginal, lesbian bed death, terrifying alien mother, boring ass str8 dude, actual baby???) That way, if I start to feel weird and looked at, it’s not about me, I’m not being scrutinized. I’m a vessel, I’m responsible for the delivery of this extremeness to the viewer.

most people have debunked the idea that the world will end on dec 21 2012. what are your thoughts on it, and do you have an outfit planned for that day?

My feelings on the actual apoc are best summed up by Ines Estrada’s comic about the apocalypse but the winter solstice is happening on the same day, so the date feels pretty important. A lot of my friends have told me they feel something stirring, some sort of change coming on, and maybe there’s something to it or maybe we all just agree that 2012 totally blew and are desperate for a new year. I don’t know what’s coming but I am certain it won’t be further stagnation.

Ines Estrada comic

Translated version of “Correcciones sobre el Apocalipsis”

In terms of an outfit… I work on the 21st and my job look is usually tender butch academic (black polo, black sweater, floral-faced watch, too-tight leather jacket, braids, babyface, crying to Rihanna in the parking lot) but I just got this black velvet dress at the thrift store and it literally hasn’t left my body since it came into my possession. It seems appropriate for the solstice, maybe I’ll fester in it a lil longer.
i hope you enjoyed reading these answers as much as i did! you can find out more about olivia’s art (and how to get your hands on it) here.  happy winter solstice!

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2011 in review

for those of you who have been following my adventures via livejournal for the past decade, you know i’m quite fond of taking the time to look back and reflect on the last year this time of year. it’s not so much about “the new year” for me, but moreso about taking stock of what i’ve accomplished in my private life in semi-public ways… my birthday is on the 26th of december, and one of the (few) advantages is that i feel more like i’m reflecting on my year than a compulsory calendar year pros/cons list, you know? i usually do that in friends-locked posts on livejournal, but this time around i thought i’d make a more “public” version.

on top of that, i’m also finding that as social media grows and changes, in the era of endless scrolling and constant connectivity, it’s really hard to find links you’ve shared over the year. so this is a combination of a personal archive for me and a best of the year for you! get ready! it’s a doozy. i’ve tried to keep it as fashion focused as possible, but you should know by now how all of my interests run into and over each other. enjoy!

january 2011

january

  • my best femme iris came to visit <3
  • delicious food and fun craft nights with sarah
  • celebrated my belated birthday with some of my all-time favourite people
  • went to visit simon’s aunt and uncle in their beautiful home in the country, walks in the woods

recommended reading:

  1. What is Glitter Politic? by Majestic Legay (january 11th, 2011)

february 2011
february

  • tried lots of winter survival tips, like writing letters and making mulled wine
  • had my fantastic family come visit for carnaval in quebec city
  • participated in fa(t)shion february

recommended reading:

  1. fa(t)shion february and unfashionability by j. bee at sassyfrass circus (February 1st, 2011)
  2. living single at crunk feminist collective (February 7th, 2011)

march 2011
march

  • played with the new 35 mm holga camera karina gave me (as pictured above and in april, may, june, july photos)
  • went to the sugar shack!
  • really really wanted to chop all my hair off
  • read a whole lots of zines

recommended reading:

  1. Helpful tips: How not to be a boorish body-policing jerk by Leslie Kinzel (March 22nd, 2011)

april 2011
april

  • torn between my desire to devote myself entirely to writing and journalism… and being paid a living wage.
  • bike rides and visits to lévis to see sarah
  • thinking a lot about apartment renovations
  • working really hard!

recommended reading:

  1. On Punk Pants: Duration, Devotion and Distinction by mimi thi nguyen at Threadbared (april 4th, 2011)
  2. passive aggressive status updates: a fine example of girl hate by amber forrester at fight boredom! (april 27th, 2011)
  3. I was here then i wasn’t here then i went somewhere then i came back then i went away then i came back and now i’m going again to paris to read books and be alone by Jenny Zhang at Fashion for Writers (April 27th, 2011)

may 2011
may

  • visited my sisters in ottawa
  • saw austra and bumped into an old friend from 8th grade! isabelle!
  • met amber at slutwalk in montreal
  • hahaha “planked”

recommended reading:

  1. The Faux Vintage Photograph by Nathan Jungerson at The Society Pages (May 11th, 2011) *** this may be my favourite piece of non-fiction writing of the year****
  2. Slutwalk March or not march by Harsha Walia at Rabble (May 18th, 2011)
  3. Things to do if you are a hustling class artist or other person with no trust fund or much of an economic safety net by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (May 23rd, 2011)

june 2011
june

  • launched three major projects i had been helping work on since the fall
  • fell in love with biking once again
  • was kind of bummed about sarah leaving, but decided to make the best of it
  • took so many rolls of film!
  • spent a lot of time thinking about and planning a certain incredible event

recommended reading:

  1. Pointing out small-scale problems at better living through beyoncé (June 3rd, 2011)
  2. Understanding Vancouver’s Hockey Riot by Dave Zirin at the Nation (June 16th, 2011)
  3. Communities of care, organizations for liberation by Yashna Maya Padamsee (June 19th, 2011)
  4. wedding day as a celebration of love, not of coupledom by me at simon et julia (June 21st, 2011)

july 2011
july

  • left my job at exmuro feeling satisfied and accomplished
  • chopped off and donated 14 inches of my hair
  • made my very first radio documentary on that very subject
  • had dinner with and was reinspired by neil bissoondath

recommended reading:

  1. Sustainable Style Series via jesse anne o (july 26th, 2011)

august 2011
august

  • had the most incredible party of my life aka got married!
  • saw so many wonderful people, morgan, my sisters, everyone
  • slow danced with nicole brossard
  • went for a roadtrip in the eastern townships

recommended reading:

  1. Moving toward the ugly: a politic beyond desirability by Mia Mingus at Leaving Evidence (August 22nd, 2011)

september 2011
september

  • started working nearly full time in radio + loved it
  • beginning of my weekly writing dates with karina at librarie st-jean
  • biked 60 km with simon!
  • went without power for nearly eleven days (!!!) after post tropical storm irene

recommended reading:

  1. An Open Letter to my local Hipstersby Sarah Hunt at Media Indigena (September 20th, 2011)
  2. Urban Outfitters is obsessed with Navajos by Adrienne Keene at Native Appropriations (September 23rd, 2011)
  3. Unintentionally Eating the Other by Minh-Ha T. Pham at Threadbared (September 12, 2011)
  4. Antifeminist Frills by Eline at A Fluffy Blog (September 22, 2011)
  5. Fashion is a feminist issue by Greta Christina (September 2nd, 2011)

october 2011
october

  • celebrated karina’s birthday
  • first halloween in ages i didn’t dress up (i was sick & busy)

recommended reading:

  1. Occupy Together in the age of conspiracy by Syed Hussan at Rabble (October 13th, 2011)
  2. Fauxgress Watch: “Born this way” by Rachel at Social Justice League (October 10th, 2011)
  3. An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters on Columbus Day by Sasha Houston Brown at Racialicious (October 10th, 2011)
  4. Fat babes illustrated by Natalie at Definatalie (October 23, 2011)

november 2011
november

recommended reading:

  1. Not every girl is a riot grrrl by Lindsay Zoladz (November 16th, 2011)

december 2011
december

  • visited trenton for the first time of the year
  • took a lot of time for myself
  • said goodbye to my best friend karina as she headed off to sudbury
  • celebrated my champagne birthday with lots of sequins and glamour and fun

recommended reading:

  1. Why the “Native” Fashion Trend is pissing off real Native Americans by Lisa Hix at Collector’s Weekly (December 1st, 2011)
  2. Make your own stuff by Maranda Elizabeth (December 3rd, 2011)
  3. “Hello, I Love you” or “Why Fashion Blogging Smells like Raw Fish” by isabel at hipster musings (December 23rd, 2011)

phew! what a year. a new pair of glasses, three haircuts, tons of babes and incredible amounts of personal challenges and accomplishments. it took me way longer than anticipated to put that together. i’ll be sharing my favourite music of the year elsewhere in the next month or so, and best things i’ve read/seen in 2011 but i think those articles should sate your palates for the time being.

what were some of the best things you read or saw this year? i love lists! share yours with me. here’s one of my all-time favourites:

Woody Guthrie’s 1943 “New Years Rulin’s.” Found in one of his journals dated January 31st, 1942.

Woody Guthrie’s 1943 “New Years Rulin’s.” Found in one of his journals dated January 31st, 1942.

goodbye 2011! hello 2012!

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Filed under politics, pop culture, Uncategorized, vintage, what i wore today

style icon: silent film star louise brooks

over the years, many people (online and off) have asked me who my style icons are. i don’t really like idol/hero/celebrity culture, and so i’ve always managed to avoid answering the question. plus, i always prefered admiring “real people’s” styles, like my friends, as opposed to celebrities i’d never met (who more often than not have a team of stylists orchestrating how they present themselves) and consider my own personal style a mishmash of influences… but! if we re-word it, i can make it work for me. if someone asked me, “which historical figure has had the biggest influence on your taste, style and aesthetics?” there are three or four faces that come to mind.

one of them is louise brooks.

you may not know her name, but you most likely know her face… or at least her trademark bobbed haircut. there is, of course, debate around whether or not silent film stars like colleen moore and louise brooks can be credited as having “started” the trend of the bob, or if they are simply responsible for having popularized an already quite popular hairstyle… but that’s another story.

louise brooks was born in 1906, in cherryvale, kansas. as a young woman, she loved literature, dancing, and the cinema, and soon all three would become major parts of her life. she worked as a dancer before lighting up the silver screen, and after she ended her acting career, she opened her very own dancing studio. as she aged, she continued longstanding letter writing friendships with friends and fans. but that is just a small window into a long, full life. she is probably most remembered for her role as lulu in G.W. Pabst’s 1929 film Pandora’s Box, which also happens to be one of my favourite films.

i could go on and on about her, but i’d rather recommend you watch her films and read up on her yourself. personally, i’ve been smitten with her since i first saw her on the screen when i was in my late teens, and soon after came across barry paris’ biography of her. i wouldn’t quite call it love at first sight, but i quickly realized it was more than her gaze and her face that so entranced me.

Louise Brooks autographed picture- “Dear Winston- These earrings are a bit extreme-even for the 1920’s.” “I wish I still had that bracelet. I adore that dress-such an interesting pattern. Sincerely Louise Brooks”part of the deep fondness i have for louise brooks is that she was such a intelligent, whipsmart, and yes, gorgeous, person… over the course of her entire life. in fact, the most interesting aspect of her, in my opinion, is her life as a whole, not just the short decade in which she was a celebrity. many writers bemoan the fact her acting career was so short lived, but if you hear what she recounted in hindsight in the 60s and 70s, she never sounds bitter or angry about it. hollywood wasn’t a particularly friendly place for outspoken and badass ladies (then, and we could argue even still, today). instead of just moping about it, she lived the rest of her life, opened a dance studio, watched movies, read, and wrote. independent, savvy, passionate, unapologetically sexual, brimming with wisdom and wit. this autographed photo shows a bit of that side of her. signing autographs in 1979 for a picture taken in the 20s, and being nostalgic in a healthy way, all the while acknowledging she was always a bit of a black sheep, a little ahead of the curve.

and that’s why her style, the photographs of her short career, have entranced me so. here are just a few of my favourite louise brooks outfits.

film still from pandora's box, 1929, g.w. pabst

i don’t know what it is, there’s just something about her i’ll always admire and hope to one day emulate myself. maybe it doesn’t need explaining. so obviously, over the years, i’ve tried in vain to emulate brooks. unsurprisingly, i jumped at the first chance i got to do it for others. back in 2007 i participated in amelia raley‘s vintage vivant project. one of the assignments was to take a “star portrait”:

Submit a photo of yourself that mimics a photograph or artwork from 1920 – 1949. Include one portrait of yourself, and the original photo you’ve based your submission on.

julia posing as louise brooks

it’s not quite perfect, but i’m still pretty proud of how it turned out.

clearly i’m not the only critical fashion lover enamoured with her, either! one of the folks over at the always wonderful WORN journal even shopped up this image of her:

aaaaaaand i’ll leave you with this lovely gif. how can you resist that smirk?

a .gif of louise brooks looking queer as fuck. hot damn that smirk/smile of hers!

happy birthday, louise!

RECOMMENDED READING:

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