Suicide Girls : Interview

suicide girls

Naked ambition, tattoos, rock and roll.

For thirteen years Suicide Girls have pushed an everywoman rebellion that democratises the perception of the female body, creative sexuality, and perhaps even the perception of erotica.suicide girls

Starting as a website where people could view ‘sets’ of photos, while there might have been coy allusions to deeper raunch, Suicide Girls has always been tame : exhibiting roughly the same amount of flesh as a page three pictorial and, while not innocent, is certainly not prurient.

The undertone of the site has an obvious ‘It’s cool for cool people to rock their sexuality in a semi naked way’ and Missy the founder asserts there are more profound outcomes as well. It’s these that have resulted in the site’s influence, longevity and expansion.

This January the girls will bring a stage show to the UK where the website will translate to the Blackheart Burlesque, proposing :‘pop culture references, high energy indie soundtrack and the sexiest choreographed strip teases to make your inner nerd explode with glee’. Are they taking exploitation back? Are they going too far? Suicide Girl founder Missy Suicide had this say:

The name Blackheart Burlesque came about through a compilation with Epitaph in 2003 called The Blackheart Retrospective and we always liked them the name. That was in 2003 so we’ve updated the tracklisting just a bit and are all pop culture themed.

I had worked with the choreographer Manwe before on a television pilot, we really clicked so when it came time to re-envision the show I said ‘look we’ve got to do this show and I have ideas, let me tell you the first one and we’ll see how you handle this’.

beauty comes in all shapes and sizes,

certainly more than three

cookie-cutter formulas

‘So… I want a Planet of the Apes number that has girls in silver bikinis and monkey masks, and I want to have fire, and I want to incorporate The Simpsons‘ Planet of the Apes opera.’

There was a pause and he said ‘Okay’.

When he came out to the auditions what he had put together was so much better than what I had imagined. So I said ‘Right, you’re it’ and then we spent the next few weeks bouncing ideas off each other: ‘I want to do a Game of Thrones number, no wait, I want to do a Donnie Darko number’ and just going back and forth and we created the show that you will see in January.

So we might see Dr Zaias?

(Singing in unison) ‘Dr Zaias, Dr Zaias’
It’s in the show but I don’t know whether it’ll be in the London show. But now I know it has a fan I’ll see what I can do. It’ll be a special request.

How do you pick the songs?

I’m pretty controlling of the soundtrack. It has to be something that just clicks. It has to feel right. There are some that are more obvious, we do a Clockwork Orange number, we have to use the Nine Inch Nails track ‘Fuck You Like an Animal’ (i.e. Closer) because nothing says ultraviolence like ‘Fuck you Like an Animal’. That was pretty obvious I suppose but then there are some which are more subtle and there’s a number that is the Fifth Element done to the Beethoven’s Ninth that is just super and doesn’t fit until you see it, and then you think it almost couldn’t have been any other way.

How does the show come together. Do people have to audition?

I normally think of a bunch of scenes that I’d like to see then I just brainstorm a whole bunch of songs that would work with that. I have something in mind and then see if they work. For instance I might have three or four different songs that I might use for adventure time.

People have to audition and we run auditions before each run of shows. We’ve have about four or five tours so far and before each tour we’ve added three or four girls to the troupe. So now there are about 20-25 girls that are all trained up and from that we choose the girls to go on tour depending on their availability, their schedules, the numbers they do etc.

So as it was we have two troupes going at the moment, one is the Halloween troupe who did the Gramercy, and then we had another troupe who opened for the Queens of the Stone Age in the Forum in LA.

Tattoos and piercings have become more prevalent than when you started 13 years ago, do you think this is because of Suicide Girls?

Yes! So much more prevalent. When we started my grandmother was like: ‘Only sailors are getting tattoos, why are you doing this?’ so it wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today. I would hope that we had something to do with it but I’d be a fool to think that we changed society just by ourselves. We’ve definitely played a part, at least in our corner of the internet.

Has this changed the demographic of Suicide Girls members?

When we started there was almost nobody over 30 that had signed up for Suicide Girls. Now, since we’ve been around for 13 years we have a majority of people that are above 30 and I think that this is because a lot of those people are still with us. 53% of our members are female now and when we started that was the opposite, but it’s definitely a majority female thing at this point.

Has your motivation for the site changed since you started? I’ve read that you started the site ‘to see hot punk girls naked’?

(Laughs) Yeah that was my more succinct and flippant answer. But how has it changed?

The main goal of the site is that confidence is the sexiest attribute a person can have. Every woman is beautiful if she feels beautiful about herself and that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, certainly more than three cookie-cutter formulas, and there is nothing wrong with feeling sexy and confident about your body. I think that everything we do has that grain of the intent, as well as being fun things to do.
I mean how fun is it to make a comic book? Super fun!

We do movies as well which came about from the girls themselves. The girls get together and have these shoot-fests around the world. Australia, Sao Paulo, Portugal, wherever. They organise the flights, all chip in to rent a big house and then go stay together and cook for each other, have bubble baths, all sorts of things. It’s just this crazy phenomenon. They just do this on their own. When we started to see the results it was amazing and we said that it was very much what most people would love to see so we encouraged them to just go film it.

That’s sounds pretty wholesome and, dare I say it, like a sleepover?

(Laughs) Yeah. It’s kind of like a sleepover but then they are all taking naked pictures of themselves. I don’t know if it’s really something your Gran would like to hang out at.

How do you define the site? Is it porn, photography, erotica, how do you think of it?

I think of it as Pin-Up. Thinking about Bunny Yeagar (1929-2014), she’s so inspiring. So beautiful and unashamed by her body. She was sexy, funny, sweet and had a quality that I wanted to capture in my friends with the same sort of respect. blackheart burlesqueThe nude female is the most celebrated subject matter in all of art history and if you go into any museum you will see possibly more graphic photos than you will see on Suicide Girls.

I feel like the girls are naked – yes – but there is nothing they are doing that is lascivious and I think most boys probably have a higher requirement for nudity (these days).

Looking for the dark side of Suicide Girls, in 2005 there was some criticism of Sean and the treatment of girls by Suicide Girls?

Yeah there was some disgruntlement and it was a misunderstanding about some stuff. AND there were a lot of things that were said. It certainly affected me and how close I would get to girls and how I would speak to the media, but I feel like every company has to weather some level of disgruntled people and you can’t be too… you have to be yourself and genuine. It was almost seven years ago now so… knock on wood nothing else will happen.

Have you seen some competition amongst the girls?

Certainly in the beginning there was a lot more competition and jealousy amongst the girl buts recently (and not even recently) the girls have become so much more of sisterhood. The sorority aspect of it has been embraced by the models so much. I feel (that’s changed because) it’s a shift from how people use media.

Suicide Girls came out years before social media in a way, there wasn’t MySpace, Friendster, Facebook in the way that it is now. It was still a shocking thing for people to adapt to.

In 2005 people weren’t used to living their lives online, people weren’t as comfortable with their notoriety as they are today. Most people today have at least a few hundred followers across their social media accounts. Our girls have hundreds of thousands of followers so in a way I think girls today are better equipped to deal with that than they were in previous years, they can deal with the pressure and phenomenon.

Do you think people are getting savvier at monetising their social presence?

Definitely people are getting a lot savvier in monetising and advertising what they do. Personal endorsements are worth far more than they would have been in the past. So getting a person who has ten friends saying they like something versus someone how has 10 million followers is a very different thing. It’s ties into the whole Malcolm Gladwell tipping point sort of thing.

Is there a lot of personal endorsement that advertisers use through Suicide Girls?

We tend not to do too many promotions through Suicide Girls. We do a few films and things that we might promote but it has to be authentic to the community and be something that we would genuinely be interested in rather than anything else.

It’s almost like you’re curating an art show?

It’s funny, we say we curate the front page feed, when we are presenting the diverse range of things that are going on.

Do you curate thematically?

Yeah. Halloween. Halloween… well… that’s our jam.

Halloween, Cosplay, Comicon, these are the key holidays in our world. Also we give out weekly homework for the girls to write about set topics. For instance November 1st was National Author Day and we asked the girls what their favourite book was. So everyone posted their favourite books, as well as photos and reviews.

The homework is inspired by a lot of things though. I live in Los Angeles and it’s a lovely place to live, I won’t say bad things but we don’t get seasons. I just missed seasons so this week’s homework is to post pictures of the seasons from wherever you live and talk about the changing weather. So from that to ‘How Suicide Girls has changed your life’. We’ve had several thousand business started up, thousands of friendships, hundreds of couples, its been amazing.

I mean we’ve got over 1500 lifetime members who get that membership because they have the logo tattooed on them.

We call it a sorority of badass bombshells and geek goddesses and if you ask people what their favourite part of being a Suicide Girl is they’ll say the friendships that they’ve made. I mean it’s hard to say definitely what everyone would say, but I’m confident that would be main reply.

It’s sometimes hard to find supportive women and like-minded women. Suicide Girls girls aren’t that… there isn’t that sort of catty jealousy. They are so inclusive of one another that it’s remarkable.

Is that the aspect of the Suicide Girls phenomenon that moves you the most?

I get emails. I’ve got a folder and I’ve collected a bunch and there’s over 800 in there that girls send me, and countless encounters, and they say things like they’ve never felt beautiful until they saw Suicide Girls, or they never saw girls with their particular body type – whatever it might be – celebrated in a way that made them feel confident until they saw a site with countless body types. Girls from every continent, including Antarctica.

Antarctica?

Yeah. There was a research scientist from Antarctica who shot her set there.
But yeah, having girls come up to me and saying that their lives have been changed because they found this confidence through Suicide Girls that they never knew they had definitely helps when you’ve had a bad day.

There have been times where it’s tougher and it’s hard to trudge through, but I have found that when I’m excited the business does better. When I have an idea that I want to push through it picks up. It has its ebbs and flows, it has its ups and downs.

Are you travelling with the shows?

I’m not travelling through the US this time but I am travelling to London.

I’ve seen footage from the Canada and Australian shows. Do you always have a native compère?

It depends, Vorpal was in Australia, she’s Australian, but I don’t know who’s going to be hosting the London shows.

Here’s a good Suicide Girls story. The host from the current US show went as an audience member to a show and was called onstage during an audience participation part. She loved it and loved the attention. She always felt as though she wanted to be a Suicide Girl but never had the confidence to do it, or she didn’t feel that her body was perfect, or this or that. When she went on stage all that went out the window. She just had this amazing time. So she few out to LA for the auditions for the Australian show and just killed it. She was so amazing. She shot a set for the site. Everybody loves her. Her name’s Sunny and she’s started out as an audience member.

So come down to the show, it’s impossible to leave without a smile at the very least.
Suicide Girls Blackheart Burlesque

SUICIDE GIRLS
Announce Change of Venue to the famous
Electric Ballroom on 10th January
For Their #BLACKHEARTBURLESQUE TOUR

 

Kailas
About Kailas 243 Articles
Editor, founder, fan.

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