Kiki onstage. Image courtesy of Joust Photography, taken at the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival, 2017
In this episode of Here’s Looking at You I chat with burlesque emcee, singer, teacher and former contestant in BBC’s The Voice, Kiki Deville. Kiki is a charismatic and hugely talented performer who is renowned for her big voice, big personality and big boobs and this has led her to be considered an unruly woman.
Inspired by Anne Helen Peterson’s recent book ‘Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of The Unruly Woman,’ we got together to talk about Kiki’s experience of The Voice and subsequent attempts by the popular media at bullying and body shaming her, about being ‘fair game,’ picking your arguments, the pleasures and pitfalls of celebrity culture, appropriate online behaviour, and grief.
I was recently interviewed by PhD candidate Becky Jones* for Phoenix Talks – her podcast in association with the Leicester’s independent cinema, the Phoenix.
Becky invited me to talk about the noir spy thriller Atomic Blonde which recently ran at the cinema. The film, based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City and set on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, is a visceral experience and features a blistering performance by Charlize Theron as MI6 agent protagonist Lorraine Broughton.
The film is notable for its director, David Leitch, who is a renowned stunt man but what I really wanted to talk about was what our expectations around how action-packed this film would be were regarding Theron’s performance. I also wanted to talk about the discourse around Theron in relation to the film, her star persona and reputation as a skilled actress who really throws herself into her roles, about her as an ‘aging’ star, about Lorraine as an empowered character and Theron as a producer and the history of ‘action women’ roles in Hollywood.
I’ve spent the last couple of days in the company of my two nieces who are five and seven.
They are such funny, engaging and intelligent girls. Every time I am around them I am aware of how impressionable children are and the part we can play as role models young people’s lives.
Whilst hanging out with these two young girls, I couldn’t help but think about the recent BBC two-parter, No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free? I wanted to watch the programme because of my interest in gender but also because as the documentary itself mentions, research undertaken at Stamford University suggests that seven is a key developmental age, because apparently this is when children develop fixed ideas on what constitutes men and women and that even this early in their life, children have already been conditioned to ‘think that boys and girls are fundamentally different.’ As I mentioned previously, my nieces are five and seven. Continue reading →
Image of Rubyyy courtesy of Matthew Kitchen. Shot at The Cat’s Pyjamas ‘Thanks For The Mammaries’ tenth anniversary, farewell show. Copyright
A little later than anticipated, but well worth the wait, here is podcast #5 ‘Why Burlesque Needs Rubyyy Jones.’
In this podcast I chat with the award-winning queerlesque star about how she defines herself, as a performer and persona, where the three yyy’s comes from, her roots and role models, her early performances, how her style came about and her experience as a promoter.
We also discuss burlesque audiences and their role in the form, the sense of responsibility she feels as a performer, promoter and activist, the current social context and where she hopes burlesque will go in the future.
Whilst we will return to the notion of the carnivalesque in the next podcast, it is also useful term to apply to Rubyyy. When I talk about the notion of the carnivalesque and the unruly woman in the podcast, Continue reading →
Award winner, burlesque performer and producer, and self-proclaimed ‘professional loudmouth’ Rubyyy Jones was kind enough to chat with me recently, about her star persona, her performance motivations and the politics of burlesque. This conversation will be available as Here’s Looking At You podcast #5, next weekI thought it was therefore appropriate to talk a bit about what it is that makes Rubyyy so very special as a performer. To do this I am going to talk a little about the act through which I first experienced her.
Working as a promoter and producer between 2006 and 2016, I was constantly on the lookout for acts that enthused and excited me and that I thought would enthuse and excite our audience too. A conversation with the fabulous performer Diva Hollywood prompted to me seek Rubyyy’s work out on YouTube. I’d heard rumblings, but never actually seen her but I liked the sound of what she was doing – namely, ‘queerlesque.’
A film depiction of Wonder Woman acting as a role model for young girls.
Welcome to the fourth Here’s Looking at You podcast. In this podcast I talk about Wonder Woman with Dr Rayna Denison, senior lecturer in Film at University of East Anglia and editor of the Eisner award-nominated Super Heroes on World Screens and Melanie Adams, pin-up artist at Madams Pin-Ups and Wonder Woman expert.
We discuss Wonder Woman’s various iterations over the years, her feminist roots, the politics of her costuming, how she’s marketed in different national contexts and what we liked and disliked about the recently released origin story, directed by Patty Jenkins.
Now the world is ready for you… ?
First we discussed Wonder Woman as a recuring, and changing, cultural figure and how she reflects and reacts to the times. While there are many Continue reading →
So after a year of tantalising trailers, the Wonder Woman movie is finally out. Not surprisingly, as it’s a film based on an active female protagonist (gasp!), it has drawn a mixed reaction.
If you want my thoughts, here they are. Whilst the finished product is a cut above the usual superhero fare, and it is ground breaking in that it is directed by a woman (gasp!), personally I think it still doesn’t live up to the historical promise of the Wonder Woman character, or the film’s own promotional expectations. It was ok, but it could have been so much better.
I had conversations with a number of people about the film and generally my friends think it’s great, particularly because they felt it had a strong feminist message. This got me thinking, I probably needed to think through why I was disappointed and maybe have a more in depth chat about Wonder Woman; a figure I know relatively little about.
So I’m just in the process of arranging said podcast and my guests will include Dr. Rayna Denison, editor of Super Heroes on World Screens and lecturer in film studies at UEA and Melanie Adams, Wonder Woman aficionado and pin-up artist. Continue reading →
My chapter on Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell ‘A Travesty on Sex’: Gender and Performance in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ appeared last year in an edited collection called Howard Hawks: New Perspectives. I recently discovered that this book has been shortlisted in the top three for this year’s Kraszna-Krausz Book Award in the category of Best Moving Image Book.
The Kraszna-Krausz award celebrates excellence in photography and moving image publishing, with prize for the Best Photography Book Award and the Best Moving Image Book published each year. The shortlist was announced last week and the winner will be announced on Thursday, at this year’s Photo London, exhibition at Somerset House where there is a display of material from the shortlisted and winning books this week.
It was my long standing interest in pin-up brought me to the project, and naturally it is through the lens of Monroe and Russell’s pin-up personas that I investigate their roles and Continue reading →