Friday, October 28, 2011

Jennifer Siebel Newsom - Miss Representation

“It limits women…from aspiring to be great things.”
- Jennifer Siebel Newsom

As Americans, we like to think of ourselves as advanced and sophisticated as a society. Yet, when it comes to issues of gender equality the numbers don’t lie –– there’s no escaping the fact that we’re pretty damn backwards.

Women make up 51% of the US population, yet hold just 16.6% of the seats in Congress and 17% of those in the Senate. Indeed, we rank 90th in the world in terms of the proportion of women in national parliaments, below Afghanistan, Cuba, China, Ethiopia, Iraq, and the Sudan!

Furthermore, in America, just 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Similarly only 3% of positions of clout in the telecommunications, entertainment, publishing, and advertising industries are held by the fairer sex (pun intended). And this may be part of the problem, since those that are ultimately responsible for the aspirational messages we receive on a daily basis are predominantly male.

That’s not to say that the innate sexism that’s partly responsible for this power imbalance is necessarily malevolent or even intentional; the root of much of it is simply a lack of consciousness on all our parts. And to an extent, the state of play appears to be self-perpetuating, since a mere 16% of those responsible for Hollywood’s mass market dream machine (writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, and editors) are women, which in turn perhaps explains a similar lack of female protagonists/role models in feature films.

A much talked about new documentary, Miss Representation, which recently debuted on the OWN Network, does a very comprehensive job of exploring the underlying reasons for this vast leadership gender gap. The film features many prominent leading ladies including Nancy Pelosi, Condoleezza Rice, Dianne Feinstein, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Geena Davis, Rachel Maddow, Lisa Ling, and Katie Couric, whose powerful voices add strength to the message –– which is that a woman’s value is more than just the sum of her youth and beauty (as the mainstream media might have you believe).

SuicideGirls spoke with the driving force behind Miss Representation, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who wrote, directed, and produced the exceptional cinematic gender essay. As a Stanford graduate, environmental and gender activist, actress, and mother –– who also happens to be the wife of the former Mayor of San Francisco, and current Lieutenant Governor of California, Gavin Newsom –- she’s had a front row seat watching what happens to women in power and how the media treats them, so perhaps has a greater understanding of the issues they face than most.

Read my exclusive interview with Jennifer Siebel Newsom on

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chuck Palahniuk - Damned

“I wanted to write a religious Left Behind series, but for secular liberals.”
- Chuck Palahniuk

During our previous conversation with Chuck Palahniuk, which occurred shortly before the publication of his Sunset Boulevard-inspired book, Tell All, he spoke about how the ultimate name to drop was God’s. For this interview, we reconvene to discuss the domain of the G-man’s nemesis –– Hell –– which serves as the setting for Palahniuk’s wickedly inspired new novel, Damned.

According to Damned’s canon, evolution is hokum and Charles Darwin is resigned to hellfire and damnation alongside Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe, and the entire Kennedy clan. Turns out you can end up there by committing all manner of trivial shit, such as dropping the f-bomb or honking your horn one too many times. Worshipping the wrong god will also land you in the hot spot, as will suffering the inconvenience of being a deposed one (thus the likes of Thor can also be found hanging out downstairs).

The topography of Palahniuk’s netherworld features a greasy Dandruff Desert, Great Plains of Discarded Razor Blades, a Swamp of Partial-birth Abortions, a Lake of Tepid Bile, and the Great Ocean of Wasted Sperm (where in Hell, “porn is creating an effect equivalent to that of global warming on earth”). Those that find themselves there have two main career options: pornography or telemarketing.

The narrative of Damned follows Madison Spencer, the somewhat chubby, eternally optimistic13-year old progeny of a self-obsessed Hollywood star and a billionaire businessman. As a reflection of her mother’s glamour, Madison is an abject failure, however, the upside of her troubled childhood is that after a lifetime (albeit a short one) of electrolysis and herbal high colonics, Hell holds little terror for her.

Having been resigned to Hell after inhaling marijuana, and eschewing an eternity being "ogled by millions of men with serious intimacy problems," Madison finds gainful employment in telemarketing, an occupation that she finds unexpectedly fulfilling. Ensconced in one of Hell’s endless call centers, which has banks of phones that are programmed to auto-dial the earthbound specifically at dinnertime, Madison finds redemption. The question is, ultimately, will she want it?

Being in the business of asking people questions for a living, I felt a certain affinity with Madison. For the start of my conversation with Palahniuk, it therefore seemed only appropriate to borrow a little something from her telemarketing script…

Read my exclusive interview with Chuck Palahniuk on

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Amanda Palmer - Evelyn Evelyn

By Nicole Powers

“Pity is my least favorite four-letter word.”
- Amanda Palmer

The fiercely individual Madonna once observed that “life is a mystery” and “everyone must stand alone.” But for some that is tragically not possible. Conjoined twins Evelyn and Evelyn Neville (a.k.a. Evelyn Evelyn) are two such people; their uninvited union – and the uniqueness of their in many ways non-individual state – being both a blessing and a curse.

To say Evelyn Evelyn have had a tough upbringing would be a gross understatement. The pair lost their mother 12 minutes after their traumatic birth, and their early life took a nosedive from there. The girls’ father fell victim to an unlikely chainsaw accident shortly after their mother’s untimely demise, and thus the orphaned twins were left with only each other to rely on as they made their way in this all too cruel world.

Extended stints trapped in a chicken coup and held hostage by a child pornography ring meant the girls were robbed of anything approaching a normal childhood –– if that was ever a possibility given their Siamese status. However, after joining a circus and meeting some similarly conjoined pachyderms, Evelyn Evelyn got an inkling that their bond –– far from being a burden –– was something truly beautiful and special.

Having experienced relentless teasing and taunts for much of their life, the Neville sisters’ world was changed radically by the advent of social media. While in a dead end job filling out sweepstakes applications on behalf of an unappreciative motel proprietor, the duo practiced the songs they once performed with the circus and set up a profile on MySpace to showcase them. Unburdened by physical limitations and prejudices online, their music caught the attention of many, including singer, songwriter, and all round entertainer extraordinaire Amanda Palmer.

Inspired by their songs and by their struggle, Amanda recruited renowned folk musician Jason Webley to help with the project. Produced by Palmer and Webley, Evelyn Evelyn released their debut EP, “Elephant Elephant,” in 2007. Their heartfelt rendition of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” –– which served as the B-side of the vinyl edition –– brought them initial success and critical acclaim. A self-titled album followed in 2010, as did numerous sold out live dates.

Having recently returned from a triumphant stint at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival –– and with respect having firmly replaced ridicule –– Evelyn Evelyn embark on the next chapter in their lives with the release of a graphic novel based on their story. Written by Palmer and Webley, and illustrated by Cynthia von Buhler, it’s naturally being released in two parts (via Dark Horse Comics Inc.). Having not only redefined beauty, but what it means to be an individual, SuicideGirls caught up with Palmer to talk about Evelyn Evelyn.

For this interview SG’s editor, Nicole Powers, recruited her own twin siblings, Brenda Day and Samantha May. Though not conjoined, Brenda and Samantha do everything together and feel as if emotionally they are. They are therefore especially excited that Palmer and Webley are unleashing the power of multiples though their production work, and are exploring what it means to be an individual when you’re also one half of a whole. The following is a transcript of their online conversation…

Read my exclusive interview with Amanda Palmer on

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Scroobius Pip - Distraction Pieces

“It can be its own creature.”
- Scroobius Pip

Scroobius Pip went out one day, and made a record for people to play. Then all the beasts in the world came round, thanks to his killer wit and rhymes so sound. The Nyan cat, the dog and the kangaroo, with “Thou Shalt Always Kill” the YouTube massive he did woo. Then the wolf he howled, the horse he neighed, “I’m releasing a second solo record” the Pip brayed. And when the Pip began to roar, there never was heard such a noise before. And every beast he stood on the tip, to peruse a video of the Scroobius Pip. At last they said to the Pip "By far,
 you're the wisest beast! You know you are!” SG got close to Scroobius Pip to say, ‘Tell us all about yourself we pray. For as yet we can't make out in the least, if you're punk or hip-hop, or poet or beast.” The Scroobius Pip looked vaguely round, and hollered these words with a rumbling sound: “Chippetty flip, Flippetty chip, my only name is the Scroobius Pip.”

In truth, he may not have said “Chippetty flip” or “Flippetty chip” – but here’s what went down when SuicideGirls spoke to the Pip…

Read my exclusive interview with Scroobius Pip on