You’ve given different reasons over the years why you don’t love being interviewed, but the one that stuck with me is that you were always afraid people would “find you out.” That if you told too much, you’d be exposed as a fraud.
Well, that’s typically my fear about my performances, that this will be the performance I will be discovered as the fraud that I have known all along that I am. That really comes from not being classically trained. I didn’t go to Juilliard. I didn’t study a lot. I studied in workshops and things like that, but I didn’t come from the theatre. There was a real snobbery when I started acting. In fact, one of my first jobs was a television show, and I played the blonde bombshell where I had fake breasts and was in hot pants, I didn’t even have a name, she was just called “the bombshell.” I was working with a lot of actors who were all from New York. I just felt really unworthy, and I think that never leaves you.
In terms of my discomfort with doing interviews, I think it’s early on not understanding the difference between things that you say, and the way things look in print, and things coming off in a way that was not your intention. I think you just get really guarded. I just had a hard time even formulating a sentence because I was so guarded.
When people talk about Michelle Pfeiffer and wonder why she wasn’t “bigger” (whatever that’s supposed to mean in any context), I think of Daniel Day-Lewis. Now retired, he was an actor who chose his roles carefully, was notorious for his method acting and that time he went to Italy to become a shoemaker. He won awards and was applauded for his journey. But somehow Michelle Pfeiffer is questioned for being careful and considered and choosing her own paths alongside her career and parenthood. We know what the difference is between them (and it’s interesting that they both starred together in The Age of Innocence and how their careers diverged and converged since then) but the criticism is unfounded.
Oh, and that TV role where she played a blonde bombshell? That was in episode 12 of Delta House, a TV spin-off of National Lampoon’s Animal House. Stream that below.
The question that propels Emily Rapp Black’s Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg is simple and self-implicating: “Why do we (I) love Frida?” Throughout the book’s fourteen loosely-linked essays, Black lays claim to Kahlo for unique reason: like the painter became later in life, Black is an amputee, and both women’s lives were shaped by physical disability. In her youth, the author formed what she calls “the perfect imaginary friendship” with Kahlo. “I chose to try and understand the story of her body as a way of knowing or accessing mine,” Black writes, “as if the story of her life set out a path or trail that, no matter how difficult, I might follow.” Latching onto public figures like this is common among young disabled people, who are desperate to find other people in the world like us, to trace a possible road map for our own lives. Still Black admits the limits of an attachment to a woman who “lives only in the terrain of my imagination where I set all the terms of the story.”
But what about the rest of Kahlo’s legion of fans? Few, if any, other artists have become objects of such intense parasocial affection. Kahlo’s disembodied likeness adorns lipsticks, coasters, aprons, magnets, leggings, notebooks, keychains, backpacks, even Christmas ornaments. (Full disclosure: I have previously owned a Kahlo-emblazoned pencil case, t-shirt, pair of socks, and sticky-note pad; I still display her “Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair” in my bedroom.) Surely the outspoken communist would have abhorred the commercialization of her image and art. But what would she make of how her life has been interpreted, packaged, and flattened by her own admirers?
Hero worship is commonplace with the ever-evolving popularity of social media and the need to show the world and fellow fans that they love their fave and they’re better than yours. But with that adulation comes problematic behaviours, misguided quotes, and misunderstood ideologies. Frida Kahlo is no exception.
Rachel Walker is an artist from New Zealand who specialises in watercolour, spray paint, pen and ink artwork.
Rachel’s creative work has seen her involved in a range of projects, from commissioned pieces to painting for film and stage sets. Her career to date has included a number of solo gallery exhibitions, creating cover art for magazines, school journals and albums, and a stint living and painting in rural France. Rachels original and printed works can be viewed in galleries around New Zealand, as well as the walls of many wonderful homes.
Jenifer has always been intrigued by portraying lesbian stories in this style, especially when she discovered the effects of storytelling in comic books. The form goes beyond simply having fun, and resonates with her in a more decisively profound way. “I always wished to see lesbian stories and art when I was growing up, and the lack of that was what ultimately motivated me to illustrate my own,” she explains. “So, I always recall that old desire as a source of inspiration.”
This year, the Pulitzer Board’s announcement that Darnella Frazier — the teenager who filmed the killing of George Floyd — had won a special citation feels like a big moment, but not necessarily a celebratory one.
Floyd’s death is not something to celebrate, obviously, and despite the narrative of martyrdom and so-called sacrifice assigned to him posthumously, the horrifying truth is that he was murdered in front of a community. He did not choose to give up his life to change anything, and sadly in many ways, his death at the hands of police was just one part of the story.
Code-switching maybe matters less now than it would have two years ago because of George Floyd. On positive days, I think these conversations are allowing Black people to speak up more. On negative days, I think that’s only because it’s in vogue for now and you can only speak up so much.
We know why diversity is important in a lot of ways, but I wanted my book to look at how it influences each person on an individual level.
Q. Were you worried about pulling the rug out from under readers or was that the goal?
It’s my first book, so I’m not saying it’s perfect. But I love twist endings and “The Twilight Zone,” and “Get Out” was definitely an inspiration. I definitely knew where it was going when I started writing. I love the end of “Night of the Living Dead,” which is so realistic about Black experience. It’s still America, so stuff is going to happen to you if you’re Black.
People asked, “Are you sure about this ending?” Yeah, I think it’s pretty necessary. Any other ending wouldn’t be as impactful. I really want people to talk about what happens to Nella and what could her [White] co-workers have done if they’d really been listening.
When I was a kid, I used to love the Goosebumps series, and they had a choose your own adventure and I loved that there were multiple possible endings; I left some things open with this book so readers can think about it. I didn’t want to tie the ending in a neat bow.
This is not a “ra-ra girl power” collection, or even a list of women’s influences on a cinematic canon, but a collection of cinema that is unique in its willingness to show and to radicalize the female experience.
Granny Goodness, created by Jack Kirby, made her first appearance in Mister Miracle Vol. 1 #2. Most know her as the ruthless older woman who runs the orphanage on Apokolips like a daycare lady from Hell. Granny uses torture techniques and brainwashing to create some of Apokolips’ most fearsome warriors — most notably among them, her Female Furies. Her appearance could be considered to be devoid of sex appeal — almost always scowling, a bulky athletic build, forever covered from neck to toe. Ultimately, this depiction serves to make her less sympathetic, because “pretty privilege” even exists in comics. Also, her name is Granny, and, as we all know, women of a certain generation are not supposed to be desirable and function best as bitter older women.
I don’t believe in guilty pleasures but Catfish was a rare exception. Even though I know it’s predominately fake and mostly for clout-chasing, it was still wild, messy, dramatic and fun. Now we’re getting a UK version, co-hosted by Julie Adenuga, and she spoke to gal-dem’s Adwoa Darko about the show and romance.
The presenter wants viewers to watch the show through an empathetic lens. “Anyone I said ‘I’m hosting catfish, UK’ to, their first reaction was ‘oh my gosh, it’s gonna be so funny’. That’s their first reaction. And I look at them,” she says before pausing. “These are real emotions.” She also understands how the road to dating someone is often paved with half-truths as she’s had a few people lie to her about knowing her two brothers without knowing she’s related to them (“now you look like the biggest clown of all time”).
We all learnt the rules of the game from Nev: reverse Google image search people if you’re unsure, video call them, ignore people with only one picture because it’s 2021 and everyone has a camera phone. However, through working on the show Julie reveals she’s learnt a new one: “Tagged photos really became our friends. We’ve had profiles sometimes when we see they’ve got 2,000 followers and only one person has tagged you. What’s going on there?”
Bad times for Adwoa, though, who opened the interview with an admission: she had been catfished.
gal-dem: Lets start with the fact that I was catfished
Julie Adenuga: When did this happen?
I met this guy from Ghana right. I was thinking ‘rah we’re gonna do up Kente get ready’. He said he’s single and later he drops that he has kids and an ex-wife that has gone off and married somebody else, and the kids are in Ghana. We go on the date and this man is doing the most, he’s like toasting to us and I’m thinking ‘rah is this me yeah?’
Last year, I said I wanted to showcase more Black content, particularly creative endeavours and projects that deserve all the spotlights and this is the perfect example of that.
Khula is a jewellery brand by Sophia Tassew, a plus-size content creator from South East London. You may recognise her name from an earlier blog post I wrote about A Quick Ting On—she’ll be releasing a book about her experiences in 2022. In an interview with Bricks Magazine, she called Khula “a sort of homage to my parents who come from Ethiopia and South Africa.”
I’ve always wanted to have my own earring collection or design something. I always thought it would come in the form of a brand collaboration but it didn’t and still hasn’t so I decided to start it myself and learn how to make earrings. Also, as a plus sized girl, growing up, my fashion and style journey was tedious. You were forced to shop for clothes that were meant for people three times your age or the mens section. The only thing I could always rely on were earrings. They’ve been my savouir (sic) many times as well as a small representation of who I am and where I come from. So much growth has happened between then and now and that’s exactly what Khula means in Zulu, grow.
Sophia runs Khula completely on her own, working very long nights and making her vast collection of earrings by hand, as well as packing and posting the products herself. It’s the epitome of a one-woman team.
Taking inspiration from my heritage and putting that into my brand makes me feel so much closer to my roots in a way that I know how, and a language that I understand which is jewellery. I’m very interested in Black people from different eras and celebrating them and their looks.
Renowned is a streetwear brand created by John Dean III and in his interview with In The Know, he discussed how it all began and his Zoom calls with Angela Davis.
I had the opportunity to have a Zoom meeting with Angela Davis. It was amazing. Talking to her is like talking to fairy godmother; this icon—she’s a feminist, philanthropist, scholar, the total representation of culture. For her to wear my t-shirt and send me a picture just shows how powerful the t-shirt was but just also how the messaging is effective.
Dangerously beautiful from artist and sculptor Helena Hauss.
A set of custom made sculptures hand painted in the delft blue style of ceramics. It’s an approach to represent the inner strength and fury that comes with being a woman, in contrast to an appearance of delicacy we’re too often branded with.
I love the visually dissonant nature of Hell Hath no Fury. Just keep the baseball bat away from me.
Domingo himself argued, “West Indians were better prepared to challenge racial barriers in the United States” because they came from countries in which “Blacks had experienced no legalized segregation and limitations upon opportunity.” The brutality of American racism, so very different from that of imperial Britain and France, shocked them into action. In the 1920s, of course, “the great colonial empires were alive and well, but the intellectual seeds were already being sown for their eventual dismantling.”
Almost a quarter of Harlem’s Black population was foreign-born in the 1920s. They included, most famously, Marcus and Amy Jacques Garvey. Garveyism, with its “ideological mixture of Black pride, diaspora consciousness, and defiance of white racism” was foundational to the growth of Black nationalism in the United States, the Caribbean, and the world.
Of course, this only covers the Black Caribbean men. There were plenty of influential Black Caribbean women in the Harlem Renaissance such as:
Hermina Huiswoud (Guyana)
Amy Jacques Garvey (Jamaica)
Maymie de Mena (Martinican and French Guianan grandparents)
“This freedom from spiritual inertia characterizes the women no less than the men, for it is largely through them that the occupational field has been broadened for colored women in New York. By their determination, sometimes reinforced by a dexterous use of their hatpins, these women have made it possible for members of their race to enter the needle trades freely.”
Did you know California was named after a Black warrior queen named Calafia? I didn’t!
Rebecca Johnson of Atlas Obscura wrote about Calafia’s story last November and touched “the surprising complexity of medieval attitudes about race”:
Meanwhile, the novel of chivalry that spawned it [California’s name], Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo’s Las Sergas de Esplandían, has been all but forgotten (despite being memorably cited by Cervantes as one of the books that turned poor Don Quixote’s brains to mush). Yet its portrait of California’s queen, the dark-skinned warrior Calafia, is worth revisiting—not just for its marvelous details, but for the light it sheds on medieval European attitudes about race.
I like the part where Calafia is described as “beautiful, strong, and courageous” and portrayed in an “unfailingly positive light”.