Totally bottomed: Rik Mayall, a tribute

THE PEOPLE'S POET
THE PEOPLE’S POET

I was obsessed with Rik Mayall when I was a teenager. He was my first ever proper crush. When people went to school with pictures of Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves on their homework diaries, mine was covered in Rik.

I don’t know why I liked him so much, when there was so much more “obvious” fare available to teenage girls. I think it was because he was so intelligent. Humour is intelligence. And who can’t be joyful when they’re being made to laugh?

He wasn’t just funny and smart, he knew shit: to create a character like Rick in the Young Ones, you had to be in tune with youth culture, music, politics. Rick, the character, was a twat, sure, but inside there was a softness, and I couldn’t help but have a sense of only child solidarity: yeah!

When I was 15 I bought the complete set of the Young Ones on video (yes, I had a video). It cost me $120. A friend said: “You’ll regret that.” I never did. We watched them over and over. My friends quoted them endlessly at school. Typical teenage girls, we were each betrothed to someone in our heads. Eireann’s man was Keanu Reeves, Helga’s was Alec Baldwin and mine was, slightly odd as usual, Rik Mayall.

I didn’t remember him so well when I watched the Young Ones as a kid. And I have a theory that that’s because he’s too complex a character for kids to grasp. They remember the orange-haired punk and the long-haired hippy, but a badge-wearing political poet? What is he on about? He was the most sophisticated and interesting character on the show.

He was sexy too: those stove-pipe jeans, tight jackets, badges galore, strange pig-tails in the hair and the red boots. Oh, those red boots. And he was actually pretty handsome when he wasn’t screwing his face up in a grotesque expression.

Of course, I’m describing the Young Ones Rik, but I also fancied all the other Riks. I remember when I first saw Drop Dead Fred with my family. I sat in the car for ages afterwards feeling “strange”. Did I have a crush on this dreadful imaginary creature? How could that be possible? His storytelling in Grim Tales was unique and wonderful. I remember sitting cross legged in front of the TV after school one day when I noticed he was wearing a wedding ring. I fell backwards to the floor. I guess our promised love was not to be. After I got into the Young Ones, I went back and found every back catalogue item he ever did – the obscure stuff like The Dangerous Brothers and Kevin Turvey Investigates. And this was before the days of the internet.

Now I’m older, I actually think he looks quite good in the Bottom years. Yes, yes, I know, but I have a thing for floppy hair, and beneath the stained y-fronts there beats a heart of gold, or at least of slightly tarnished silver.

Then, of course, there was that terrible quad-bike accident, that took him away from us for a while, when we first nearly lost our comedic hero. In some interviews he did for the Young Ones DVD box set and he made light of his ordeal, clutching his long hair and telling us that he nearly died, but “came back as Jesus”.

I wish he would come back now.

There’s something beautiful in someone who will happily make himself ugly. When most of us are obsessed with being pretty, there’s something cool about someone who’s unafraid to be unattractive and vile. As Rik laughed at himself and we at him, he was really letting us laugh at ourselves. We have a little bit of Rik in all of us. Or as I like to say, even the people at the top have a bottom.

Rik brought us intelligence, wit, sensitivity and awareness – all masked in a slapstick package. The types of characters he played may have seemed base, but they were in fact complex, social rejects who had an inner code of their own.

I guess that’s why I liked him. I suspect I am drawn to lovable losers. People who are overlooked by the rest of the world, but have unique, attractive qualities. (No offence to my past lovers.) Even the main character of my magnum opus is a lovable loser. I’m drawn to the gems hidden in the rubble. People who shine where the light doesn’t. Frogs who you may kiss and they end up staying frogs, but who says a frog ain’t cute anyway?

TOTALLY BOTTOMED
BOTTOMED

Of course, the real Rik was a huge success, a comedy genius who won the hearts of many, not just mine, not a loser at all, but someone who reflected part of ourselves back to us: the unwashed side, the grimy side, the funny side, the exaggerated side, the human side. I’m very glad he existed, even if it wasn’t for quite long enough.

I’ll leave the last words to the People’s Poet: “I feel sorry for you, you zeros, you nobodies. What’s going to live on after you die? Nothing, that’s what! This house will become a shrine! And punks and skins and Rastas will all gather round and all hold their hands in sorrow for their fallen leader! And all the grown-ups will say, ‘But why are the kids crying?’ And the kids will say, ‘Haven’t you heard? Rick is dead! The People’s Poet is dead!’ And then one particularly sensitive and articulate teenager will say, ‘Why kids, do you understand nothing? How can Rick be dead when we still have his poems?’.”

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Gary Numan speaks

Gary Numan
MAN OF THE HOUR

Gary Numan was in fine form for his run of Australian shows on the back of his Splinter record, striking lightening like poses in true rock star style.

He didn’t say much, but then he didn’t need to. “I was going to say he’s not much of a conversationalist,” I said, turning to my companion during the show, “but then I remembered actually he is.” That’s because I was lucky enough to have an actual conversation with him. He is a truly lovely bloke and one of the most generous interviewees I’ve had in a while, opening up about depression, his wife’s post natal depression and how music is better therapy than drugs.

Here is the story that originally appeared in the Sunday Mail, followed by a bonus surprise ‘how we made Gary laugh’ outtake at the end…

***

HE MAY be a master of moody, dark wave electronic a, but the place that British musical pioneer Gary Numan now calls home is sunny, friendly California. He moved there 18-months ago after he and his family got sick of life in dreary old England.

“It’s fantastic actually. I absolutely love it,” the 56-year-old says from his home studio. “I’ve gone from somewhere that’s quite rainy and grey and miserable and now I’m somewhere that’s just sunny all the time and it’s friendly; there’s the ocean and palm trees; we’ve got a swimming pool, so the kids are really happy. It’s just a totally different life from the one we had back in England and honestly I feel bad for saying I love it so much but I do.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s going to start writing sunny happy records, he promises with a chuckle. In fact, his latest record, Splinter, is anything but – it’s a dark, sexy record that comes from the depths of a troubled place – when he was dealing with a deep depression. Numan has released 20 albums since his first with Tubeway Army in 1978, topping the charts with early hits like Cars and Are Friends Electric? But now critics in the UK are calling Splinter his best album yet.

The album’s subtitle is “songs from a broken mind”, and it talks about the years following his wife’s post natal depression and his own battle with the dark side.

“I was diagnosed with depression in 2008 and that’s where the title comes from,” Numan says. “I spent the next three or four years dealing with that. Initially you’re dealing with the problem itself and then you’re dealing with the cure. The cure they give you is almost as bad as the problem itself, and then you have to get round that. I didn’t write a song for at least three years and I was really in trouble. My marriage was in trouble, my career was in trouble. I had people around me telling me that I really had to get my shit together, and I just didn’t care. That’s because of the cure; the cure stops you from caring about anything. So it’s a very dangerous thing.”

White psychiatric medicine didn’t help him, writing songs proved to be the beginning of the way out. And the resulting album is anything but depressing: it’s strong, exciting, heart-racing, an epic triumph against inner demons, full of distorted dance beats and catchy hooks.

“I think writing about it helped me get through it,” Numan says. “I feel completely unscathed by it. There are no scars or damage whatsoever. In fact I think I’ve come out of it nicer than I was before.”

And one person who might agree with that statement is his wife, Gemma O’Neill. Gemma has stuck by Gary for 17 years, or even longer if you count the years when she was a member of the young pop star’s fan club. Their unique story began when she first got an autograph from Gary when she was 12 years old. They met again in her 20s, and married five years later. They now have three children together, Raven, Persia and Echo.

“I’d known who she was for a long, long time and it was only when her mum had died that we sat down and our first ever proper conversation and it was through that that we got together,” says Numan. “So it was a really sad beginning but it ended up being the most amazing relationship I could have ever wished for; with all the ups and downs it’s gone through, I couldn’t be more happy. I’ve never been more happy since the day we started seeing each other.”

And rock star Numan knew what he was talking about when he finally met “the one”.

“In a horribly macho way, I went through a lot of people before I found the one that I really wanted,” he laughs. “I don’t mean it in a showing off way but it’s really important. I think an awful lot of people settle. I was absolutely convinced that this was the right person for me, when I found her I never looked at anyone again. I’m very faithful. None of that midlife crisis crap. I’ve been absolutely happy and contented and fulfilled since I met her.

“She was the first one I wanted to talk to when I had some good news, the first one I wanted to be with when I had some bad news, and my absolute best friend that I’ve ever had and it’s never gone away.”

Their kids, who are loving the LA lifestyle, are into very different music to their parents. “One of them’s into Katy Perry, the next one’s into Beyonce and the third one’s into Rhianna,” says their dad.

But the Numans do have some very cool neighbours. Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robin Finck lives not far away. He ended up contributing to a number of tracks.

“He and his wife Bianca are our closest friends in LA,” says Numan. “He was coming around very often when I was making the record and one particular day he just said that he’d be interested in playing on it. I was really honoured. I didn’t even have the courage to ask him if he wanted to be on it. I’m just not very confident really. I just do my own little thing and keep to myself, but when he offered I was blown away.”

The resulting record has left everyone blown away, and perhaps more than anyone, the creator himself. It’s a triumphant ending to a difficult period for Numan.

“You go through something  very seriously unpleasant and at the end of that come up with an album that many people have said is the best thing I’ve ever done,” he says. “It’s pretty cool to be in this stage of my career and having those sorts of comments made about it especially when it’s come out of such a horrible place. So sometimes I think the darker things that you go through can make the most amazing artistic statements at the end of it.”

***

GARY AT THE TIVOLI
GARY AT THE TIVOLI, BRISBANE

And now for a wee bonus. In my interview we also talked about dreams, relationships and technology. My friend specifically asked me to ask about that, since Gary was quite prophetic in the late ’70s about man’s relationship to the machine. This was his reply:

“I love it to be honest. I’m very comfortable with it. I don’t have any anxieties about it whatsoever. Obviously everything that comes along there’s a price to pay. But I don’t think it’s an inherently bad thing. Like my children are not allowed to have Nintendo and iPads, I want them when we go out to dinner to sit and talk to me I don’t want them sat there on Nintendo so I think to a degree you can control the problems that come with it, certainly for children, but all in all, you can be walking down the street and just think of something and go oh I wonder what’s happening in wherever, pick up your phone and within a couple of seconds you know everything there is to know, it’s right there, I think it’s absolutely phenomenal, my work is totally based on technology, the music I make is technology.”

So Facebook friends are electric?

(Laughter) “Funnily enough I’m a bit shit at Facebook but I’m quite good at Twitter.”

Posted in Brisbane, Journalism, Music | Leave a comment

Getting intimate: Game of Thrones’ Finn Jones

SER LORES TYRELL
SER LORAS TYRELL

Finn Jones plays the ever unattainable (for women at least) Knight of the Flowers, Ser Loras Tyrell. He’s Game of Thrones’ resident “confuser”, breaking hearts on both sides of the gender divide. As the anticipated fourth season of Game of Thrones approaches and the Supanova Pop Culture Expo is right around the corner, I got to chat to the charming British actor, who will be in Australia this week. We spoke about everything from those “which character are you” online quizzes to Joseph Campbell’s theories on mythology, story and archetypes. Oh, and what his family made of “those scenes”. Here’s the transcript of my interview. Top bloke indeed.

***

Sally Browne? I love your name. That’s a serious name. Sally Browne. I love it.

There’s a lot of songs about Sally Brown. Old sea shanties and the like.

So you’re the fantasy of every pirate then?

That’s right. I think she was some sort of Creole girl in the 1700s or something. If you’re into music you should check out the compilation Rogue’s Gallery. It was co-produced by Johnny Depp and has all these actors and singers doing traditional sea shanties. The Sally Brown song is on there.

I’ll definitely check it out. I’ll be thinking of you when I listen to it.

Where are you right now?

I am in Hollywood being driven around by my chauffeur as I’m taking these calls.

The life of a knight.

I’m telling you, it’s hard work.

What are you doing in LA?

I’m living here at the moment. I’ve moved here for three months, auditioning for movies and TV shows, saying hello to be people and actually just chilling out here as well. Getting a bit of sun. Getting away from the London smog and drizzle back home.

You’re coming to Australia for Supanova. Is there anyone at the convention you’re keen to catch?

Oh my God, yes, do you watch Adventure Time, that kids cartoon show? I’m absolutely obsessed with it. I’m a hardcore Adventure Time fan, so the idea that both Finn (Jeremy Shada) and Jake (John DiMaggio) are going to be there is totally blowing my mind. I’m definitely going to fan-girl out. I’ll be crying, screaming, fainting, crawling at their feet.

There’s two Finns?

Yeah, Finn the actor and Finn the cartoon character.

Tell us about your fans.

Do you know what, I get nothing but love. It’s really nice. I’ve never had a bad fan experience. I’ve never had anyone say anything nasty to me. It’s always been good positive vibes, which is really nice. I go to a lot of these conventions and wherever it is in the world I always meet a lot of nice people who say nice things. And they’re really intelligent as well. They’re not just mindless, stupid fans. They’re really thoughtful and they always have something intelligent to say about the show.

What about love letters? You must get a few love letters, from both genders.

From both genders, yes. I love the fact that I get male love letters and girl love letters. I got quite an x-rated one the other day, which was quite full on. But it’s all fun and games.

You’re obviously not prudish, to have done some of the scenes you did, what was your mum and dad’s reaction to all of that?

Oh my God, well, it wasn’t so much my mum and dad’s reaction, rather my grandparent’s reaction. I kind of just don’t speak to them about it. They just say, oh, saw you on that television show the other day, good work. Thank Gran, thanks Grandad. A bit awkward, but they’re proud of me so that’s fine.

You grew up in Bromley, what did your parents do?

My dad works in the police and my mother is now a foster carer. They’re very nurturing, lovely people, they’ve all been very pro me doing what I do, lots of support, which is nice.

What’s it like on the set of Game of Thrones, who do you tend to hang out with?

Kind of everyone really. There’s a really good family vibe on set. I’m not saying this just to say it but I genuinely mean it. Everyone that comes on the show are really amazing people. It’s great to hang out with them. I’m really good friends with Gwen (Christie) who plays Brienne, and Alfie (Allen) who plays Theon. I always say it’s one of the best things about the show. Not only is it a hit TV show which is being seen by millions of people and allows me to do really good work, also it’s connected to really nice, wonderful people who will become lifelong friends.

What do you do in your downtime on set?

You stand around, maybe in the Greenroom playing games on our iPads. It’s nice in Croatia you get to go down to the old town, have some nice meals, go to the beach. When you’re stuck in Belfast it’s a little bit wetter but there’s always a nice vibe to catch with everyone. When you’re going on to a new season it always feels like you’re returning home. It’s always nice to see everyone.

Have you done one of those Game of Thrones ‘who would you be’ quizzes? I got Khaleesi, by the way.

Khaleesi! Nice. I think I’d be most like… I don’t know who. I’d like to think I’d be like Bran, Bran Stark. I think I relate to him most out of all the characters. He’s my favourite. That’s who I want to see on the Iron Throne. I want to see Bran and Hodor side by side, ruling the realm. I think they’d do a good job.

Is there someone you’d like to play?

I quite like the badies. I like Jofrey. I like Theon. I think they’d be characters that you could really get your teeth into, but personally Bran’s my favourite.

I see from your Twitter post that you’re a fan of (mythologist and author of The Hero with A Thousand Faces) Joseph Campbell.

I’m a massive, massive fan of him.

Game of Thrones has so many heroes and so many journeys. How do you think it follows the hero’s journey pattern?

Wow. I don’t know actually. It’s really difficult to tell the hero’s journey because the journey hasn’t finished yet in Game of Thrones. And I thought about Loras’s hero’s journey, and Loras doesn’t have a typical hero’s journey. What’s interesting about Game of Thrones is it doesn’t use the typical hero’s journey formula – like Ned Stark being beheaded. And I think in today’s day and age when we don’t have any modern day mythology to relate to and to see ourselves through, that’s why people are allured to it because it’s not conventional. As an actor, I’ve only started reading Joseph Campbell in the past seven months. I’ve read the book and listened to all kinds of audios and interviews and all that kind of stuff. Personally, as an actor I’d love to be given a role that fulfilled the whole hero’s journey, the whole arc, but a lot of the characters don’t fulfill the archetype. But again, I think that’s why it’s so popular. We’re in a day and age when nothing is perfect anymore and we need a new mythology for our times.

I think maybe out of everyone, Tyrion embodies the hero archetype. He’s the outsider, he tries to do the right thing, he gets beaten down, all that kind of stuff, so I think Tyrion is the true hero of the story.

What do you love outside of acting?

I love books. Joseph Campbell’s one of them. I’m hugely into music – hopefully when I’m in Australia there’ll be some good bands to see. I like nature. Outdoorsy things. It sounds like Australia is the perfect place for that. I love to go exploring and getting lost in the world. I like people as well. I’m a real people person.

Go meet him in person at Supanova, Gold Coast, April 4-6, Melbourne, April 11-13.

Posted in Adventure, Geeks, Journalism, Life, Television | 1 Comment

Jill Thompson: Sandman to Scary Godmother

FUN SIZE
MORPHEUS FUN SIZE

She has been headhunted by Neil Gaiman for his Sandman series and was one of the first female artists to draw Wonder Woman for DC. She has also created her own lovable characters Scary Godmother and Magic Trixie. And next week she is coming to Australia for the Supanova Pop Culture Expo.

When Jill Thompson first started getting into comics in her native Chicago there were few women artists. Now tons of GIRLS (look them up in your creature guide) have been inspired to make as well as consume comics, myself included.

Growing up on a diet of Archie and X-Men, Thompson knew it was something she wanted to do from an early age and it wasn’t long before she made it her career. Known for reinterpreting Gaiman’s Sandman characters as the uber-cute Little Endless, she has also won awards for her own Scary Godmother series of books and cartoons – and soon to be doll! Her latest Beasts of Burden comic also just hit the shops.

Ahead of her visit to Supanova I got to chat to the lovely Jill Thompson and discovered she is much more than just “the girl who can draw”. Here she talks about how she got into the art form and how Neil Gaiman decided she was good enough to wait for.

“Way back when I started drawing comics there were very few women who drew comics. My foot in the door was I was easy to remember because I was ‘that girl who wanted to draw comics’. Where everyone else was a bearded bespectacled guy with a plaid shirt and a portfolio, I was the girl that was showing her portfolio. And that I think got me remembered. There were only a few of us girls and some of us still get mistaken for each other even though we don’t look anything alike.

“When I was a teenager I wanted to work for Marvel comics. I wanted to draw the X-Men. I also wanted to draw Snoopy. I told my mum when I grow up I want to draw Snoopy and she set me straight and said the reason you get to see Snoopy is because someone draws him. If you want to draw a comic you have to draw your own. I then started drawing comics that were similar to Snoopy. I then discovered Archie comics and loved those. And then because I really liked comics my father started bringing them home for me. On certain Fridays I would see him come home from the train and he had a little green bag under his arm and that meant he’d been to the newsstand.

“He would pick them out. He brought home what I considered scary comics at the time – and scary comics were superhero comics – because there was always a guy grimacing on the front or beating someone up. Every day my brother and I would come home from school and read them over and over and over, so that just by looking at the covers we’d know all the stories inside.

“It was somewhere between the Archie comics and the X-Men that I fully committed myself to this is what I’m going to do when I grow up. Some recommended I go to art school and I took their advice. I got a job while I was in art school for a company called First Comics. There was no big a-ha moment. It was kind of working for small companies and then working my way up to a large company.

“Happily one of the first things that I worked on at DC comics, the second thing that I worked on there, was Sandman with Neil Gaiman. While I was working on Wonder Woman Neil had seen my work when he was in the office and he really liked it. He wanted to work with me and my editor at the time said no, she has a contract so she can’t do this. And he kept patiently waiting till my contract was up. So I could do the Brief Life story line and that’s when I became someone whose name was recognised for something.

“There are more female creators now. It’s changing because the readership is changing. People at conventions, it’s a pretty good mix, sometimes 50/50. Sandman has always had a huge female readership and I’ve found that people who read Scary Godmother and Magic Trixie are a huge mix. Which is exactly what I wanted. I wanted it to be little kids, their parents, grandparents, both boys and girls. I just wanted to make fun comics that everyone can enjoy. I think I have accomplished that with my creator-owned work.

ARTIST JILL THOMPSON
ARTIST JILL THOMPSON

“There are so many more women doing comics. When I started there were a handful. You could count them on one hand and I would include myself. But now there are many, and there are so many women doing their own webcomics. The internet has created a fantastic venue for comics in general. I’ve also been lucky because some girls that have come up to me who have created their own comics have told me that the reason that they’re doing what they’re doing is because I was there – and it makes me feel that those are my girls and those are my children. I’m glad that I loved comics enough that that made me want to do comics, so my comics were there when they liked comics, so they knew that girls could do it.”

Jill Thompson

Posted in Brisbane, Comics, Geeks, Journalism | Leave a comment

Naked talking with the SuicideGirls

SUICIDEGIRLS FOUNDER MISSY SUICIDE
SUICIDEGIRLS FOUNDER MISSY SUICIDE

Missy Suicide (aka Selena Mooney), a web developer from Portland, started SuicideGirls, an alternative pin-up site, in 2001 at the age of 24. The website and its community has grown to a hub of 3,000 girls, 500,000 members and 12 million followers on every social network you can think of. When they recently released a coffee table book in comic book stores in the US, they attracted queues of 600-long in the street. They’re currently in Australia performing their Blackheart Burlesque tour to themes including Star Wars, Game of Thrones and Dr Who. Straddling the evocative and the provocative, they’ve been praised for celebrating alternative beauty and going against the grain, but they have also been criticised for perpetuating stereotypes of female beauty in different packaging and encouraging female objectification. So who better to talk to about a very hot topic than the founder herself? I got to chat to the very lovely and candid Missy Suicide ahead of the SuicideGirls tour. Here she answers some questions about feminism and the female form.

What was your motivation to start SuicideGirls?

2001 was a very different time. There were really two types of beautiful women. There was the Pamela Anderson silicon-enhanced buxom blonde or there was the waif thin Kate Moss supermodel blonde, and that was it. That was the spectrum of beautiful. I knew all these girls who were gorgeous so I wanted to create a place where they could be themselves and appreciated for the beauty that I saw within them. I decided I was going to create pin-up style photos of my friends but in non-traditional settings. I had a collection of those and I decided I was going to create a website where they could post and keep blogs and express themselves not only through their photos but through their own words. And then we gave the members (subscribers) blogs as wells so they could get to know the girls and interact. The idea really took off. It turns out people like to social network. It was 2001, it was before Friendster or MySpace or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or any of that. The idea that we were creating a place where people would say, I’m looking at these girls naked, and I’m going to put up (a picture of) my face and I’m going to share about my life on this website. It was a radical idea.

Do you consider yourself feminist-friendly?

It’s always a tricky thing because that word can mean so much to so many different people. I think that we are feminist and the main message behind SuicideGIrls is that every woman is sexy. Confidence is the sexiest attribute a person can have. I think that if every woman felt confident and beautiful about herself the world would be a much happier place. I think it’s one of those core things, if you don’t feel confident and comfortable in your body, you’re stuck with your body, so you’ve got to love it. It holds you back in different ways. To be feminist is to love yourself.

What about ordinary girls who might feel intimidated by how attractive all the Suicide Girls are?

If you look on the site, there are over 3,000 girls that are Suicide Girls – so chances are any girl who looks on the site will find a girl who looks similar to them – whether it’s a “hopeful” (someone who wants to become a Suicide Girl) or an actual Suicide Girl – but even the hopefuls have thousands of people giving them positive feedback and compliments and comments and stuff, helping them out (with their photographs), such as, oh, you’re so beautiful but your photos aren’t exactly right or you look a little scared. There are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of photos up on the site, of girls that are beautiful and look like normal girls. They are normal girls.

You’ve got alternative looks but what about alternative body types?

There are SuicideGirls who are amputees, there are SuicideGirls who are little people. Anything you can possibly imagine. They may not be 200 that are a certain way, but there’s somebody that looks like most people. The site has been there for 12 years and there are girls that have been on there since it started. There’s a lot of variety.

What would you say to people who might say you’re perpetuating standards of female beauty in different packaging?

First of all, all the sets (of pictures) on the site go through member review and the SuicideGirls that do well are the ones that members respond most positively to. There’s no shortage of variety of sets that get put into the member review process.

Similarly, what would you say to criticism that even though it represents alternative beauty, it’s still about the objectification of women?

SuicideGirls celebrates the beauty of a woman’s body, which is sexy, but there’s nothing graphic about what we do. Everybody has a body and SuicideGirls aren’t embarrassed by their body or the fact that they feel sexy about themselves, because they should. I don’t think there’s anything really negative about that message.

What about Suicide Boys? I would look at that.

There’s a group on the site where members submit photos. There’s a Suicide Boys group and they give each other weekly assignments. It’s coming along.

Why aren’t things more gender balanced?

Dita von Teese’s burlesque show has men in it. But there’s hundreds of years of females perfecting the art of being sexy for the opposite sex. The idea of a man doing a sexy dance for a female has not been explored much. Most of the male performers are for a male audience. It hasn’t been perfected yet. It’s hard because every time I poll my friends and ask, what do you find sexiest about a guy, they all say different things. There’s not that consensus. When you say, what is sexy about a woman’s body – boobs and a butt. Most men are boob men or butt men, but women will say, the back of his hands, his shirt, crazy stuff. We have to decide what we would like first and we could probably do it.

In music videos and popular culture in general female empowerment often comes through sexuality. Even if it’s Lady Gaga or Beyonce saying I’m a strong woman they’re still presenting it through sexuality. Why is a woman’s worth so often linked with beauty or sexuality?

I think it’s a touch point for confidence. If you’re confident in your body and sexuality you tend to be more confident in your life in general. Even heads of state feel pretty confident in the way that they look. That might have something to do with it.

Being in the position you’ve in, you’ve probably been asked these kinds of questions before – is it challenging for you to deal with questions of anti-feminism and objectification as a woman in that role in that industry?

It is hard to answer those questions. I don’t feel like I’ve been elected as a spokesperson for feminism. All different types of women around the world feel they’re coming into power. Feminism means so much to them – it’s 50 per cent of the population and it’s very hard for me to speak for 50 per cent of the population and say intrinsically this is how women feel because first of all it would be impossible to get 50 per cent of the population to agree on anything and I certainly don’t feel I should be a mouthpiece for them. All I can speak to is my own ideas. And I used to be more timid about that because of backlash in the press. People would be like, that is not feminist! And I’d be, OK, I’m sorry. I feel like I should be able to speak my opinion about what feminism means to me.

What can you tell me about SuicideGirls stats?

We have over 12 million people in our social network following: Twitter and Tumbler and all the different social networks and that’s been huge growth. We started out with 12 girls and we thought we’d be popular in Portland and maybe Seattle.

I have to confess that seeing so many beautiful women affects my feelings about my own body. I was with a guy the other day and I said, we’re going to go to SuicideGirls but you’re going to have to tell me for 10 minutes afterwards how beautiful I am. He said, you’re an idiot. I said, you can call me that as well.

Aw, really? I never modelled for the site because I was a self-conscious 24-year-old girl. But since I’ve been exposed to the site for years and years I feel much more confident and comfortable with my body then I did back then. They don’t intimidate me. I think because I’ve seen so many different types of women be celebrated. Girls that are thicker, girls that are thinner. Girls that are bumpier, girls with tiny waists or big bums, girls with every body type, it’s made me realise there are people that appreciate the type of body that you have, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of them. They’re going to be exactly tuned in to what you have, so if you are projecting that, if you are confident and feel sexy about it there’s going to be thousands of people going, hey, yeah, you’re sexy and you’ll find them. There’s no reason for anybody to be ashamed of their body these days.

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