Missy Suicide talks burlesque and SuicideGirls before taking Brooklyn this weekend

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Photo via SuicideGirls

Back in 2001 SuicideGirls, as many of you may remember, became an online sanctuary for people looking to defy social beauty norms and celebrate one another’s bodies. Fifteen years later, these bad ass chicks are running the alt pin-up world (among other things). They have expanded to books, movies, burlesque tours, and we couldn’t be more thankful for images of beauty that clash with what advertisers like to shove down our gullet on a daily basis.

Luckily for Brooklyn, SuicideGirl’s 15th Anniversary Blackheart Burlesque tour will be gracing the stage May 13th at Music Hall of Williamsburg. If Stranger Things, Star Wars, David Bowie-paired burlesque tickles your fancy, you NEED to be at this show. If not, you still NEED to be at this show, it’s going to blow your mind.

I was fortunate to talk to SuicideGirl leader, Missy Suicide, about the beginning of SuicideGirls, taking risks, the Blackheart Burlesque tour, and so much more.

My first question, in case someone reading this article doesn’t actually know anything about SuicideGirls: Would you explain who you are and the bare minimum of what SuicideGirls is?

Alright, I’m Missy Suicide and I created SuicideGirls in 2001 as a community, website, social network, before there was a social network, based around pin-up style photos of the girls that I thought were some of the most beautiful in the world. Girls with piercings and tattoos. Girls that had a unique look, and didn’t fit into the norm. Girls that were committing social suicide by choosing not to fit in.

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What inspired SuicideGirls? Was there a very pivotal moment around 2001 that made you go like, “this has to be a thing now. If I do this, this is God’s work,” type of deal?

I feel like I was in a place in my life where the world didn’t make sense to me? I felt like I was in this space where I had just quit my job and I was like, the women I know are some of the most beautiful women in the world, yet the only people that are celebrated as beautiful are like, Pamela Anderson, or Kate Moss. These totally unattainable body types. And I was like you know these women have so much to share, have so much to share with the world, I can’t be the only one who thinks this way. And so I put them up online and I thought well maybe it will be popular in Portland and possibly Seattle. And it will be a social network for people where people start to be friends and appreciate each other and help each other and help me through a lost period when I was 24.

It turns out that people felt like outsiders all over the world. And the same way that I was feeling lost people were feeling everywhere. There were people that look like me and appreciated the girls that looked more interesting or different, and it became a positive as opposed to something that was not, that we were doing in spite of, you know, it was like “this is me. This is who I am. This is cool! This is awesome!” Opposed to “yeah… this is me.”

Absolutely. When did you realize after forming Suicide Girls that this was going to work?

The first, like first real validation was I got a call from Courtney Love.

Oh shit!

Yeah. Or it was an email from Courtney Love about six months after we had started the site after we launched and we called her and talked to her. She told us how awesome the idea was, and how cool it was. She had two of the girls come out and be on MTV 2, they used to do these takeover nights where artists would, when they are releasing their albums, would have 24 hours of the channel. So she had two SuicideGirls come out there, and there been like 10,000 little moments like that, but that was the first one.

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Photo via SuicideGirls
Photo via SuicideGirls

As the founder what is kind of a typical day for you now, 15 years almost 16 years later?

There are no real typical days. When the girls are on tour it’s doing interviews or figuring out before they go on tour, figuring out new numbers or going to rehearsals or talking about Comic Con or talking about what images we are going to try on social media or our Instagram account or Facebook account or what ads we are running and how to improve those or talking about a particular model has a question or there’s just so much during the day. Or talking about doing a book or talking about licensing our movies – there’s so much.

What is your favorite thing about burlesque and pin-up girls?

That they make it okay to feel sexy. I feel like the thing about burlesque and pin-up images is that, I feel like society has this idea that feeling sexy or being sexy is somehow shameful and burlesque and pin-up girls, they’re proud. You can see it in their smile, you can see it in their face that they’re proud of their bodies, they’re proud of being sexy and they’re proud of being who they are. Feeling that is something that we all need.

What’s something people always get wrong about burlesque?

I think that they think that burlesque is stripping, and you know there is nothing wrong with stripping, but it’s designed with a very distinct purpose, yah know? To get a man aroused or a person aroused. I feel like that with burlesque it’s about the girl, this sexy seductive art of the tease. It’s about the girls feeling sexy and feeling beautiful and that makes you want them. What makes you feel appreciative of what they are doing.

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Photo via SuicideGirls
Photo via SuicideGirls

You do a lot of the themes, determining what goes into the burlesque show, even if you don’t do the choreography. What sparks it? What makes you go, “Oh this I want,” or “I have to have Adventure Time,” or “I have to have Game of Thrones.”

We have a list of over 200 different ideas for routines. I realized the other day that we had tried a million of them and it hadn’t worked. And so I feel like if you match up the song to the number and it comes alive that makes it work. I mean, we’ve got like a million ideas of different numbers and we’ve tried different things. Some of them are awesome like, “Why don’t we have a Mystery Science 3000 routine?” or “Why don’t we have a Spice Girls routine?” Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.

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Photo by Ken Schuler
Photo by Ken Schuler

And the themes are wild too, in the greatest way. Do you have a favorite overall theme that you’ve ever done for the show?

My favorite one is the first one we came of up with. It was Planet of the Apes, and I heard the song, “When A Fire Starts to Burn,” the Disclosure song. And for some reason I had just heard The Simpson’s Planet of the Apes episode where they go to Shelbyville and they see The Planet of the Apes opera. So I was like, what if we take The Simpson’s opera and mash it up with the Disclosure song and then we have girls come out in silver bikinis and monkey masks and one girl in a Barbarella space outfit and she gets kidnapped. That’s going to be sexy! And everybody was like, “Huh… I don’t know about that.” And then when you see it all come together, yes, this works! This is what the Blackheart Burlesque is.

Is there a specific theme you felt the audience responded to the most?

There were a bunch of Star Wars numbers. It’s Major Lazer’s “Original Don” song. You know, you can’t help but move when you hear that song, and the Star Wars theme, everybody knows it, it’s bad ass. Boba Fett comes out and you’re like “Fuck yeah!”

And also a 15 year anniversary tour! How does that feel?

It feels crazy, cause before SuicideGirls I hadn’t kept the same job for more than six months, so that 15 years later I’m still doing SuicideGirls is insane to me. We still keep coming up with cool new things that are fun and interest me. I still feel like part of the community. It’s still super rewarding.

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Photo by Ken Schuler

Was there ever a moment where you were like, “This isn’t going to work?”

There were moments where I was frustrated with things, and where I wanted to implode things, but pretty quickly it took on a life of its own and so I feel like there were times where I didn’t necessarily want to be in charge of it, but it was clear that having a niche community and having a website was going to work.

When did SuicideGirls officially become a business?

It was always a business. It’s surprisingly easy to create a business. You just go online and do it. I thought it was like going to be this huge process and take forever and take at least two weeks to do, and you can go online and get it done and create an LLC in like, an hour.

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sg3
Photo via SuicideGirls

When you started SuicideGirls in 2001, do you remember what your dream end goal was, if there was one?

Wow. I think my dream end goal was just to have a place where I felt like I belonged. where I could make friends and be a part of something that was fun and cool.

I love when you get to see someone with a big dream that they’ve made happen. As a boss of your company do you have any advice for people that are close but haven’t yet been able to make the final leap for their dreams yet?

I feel like if you are passionate about something, you should go for it. You’re going to regret the things that you didn’t do more than the things that you did do. And if you give it a shot and it doesn’t work out then at least you tried your hardest. So that’s the worst case scenario: that you tried your hardest, and the best case scenario is that you changed your life.

I feel like the more people who are passionate about what they are doing the more successful and happy the planet will be. I know it’s scary, but you have to implode your life in order to move on and make it. So give it a shot. The worst that can happen is that you have to go back to what you were doing.

What should the audience expect for the anniversary tour?

They should expect to have a fun, silly, sexy night that they will never forget.

The Blackheart Burlesque tour will be performing May 13th at Music Hall of Williamsburg.

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