Artist, Rapper, Performer
April 12, 2017
How old are you?
I don’t want to answer that.
Where are you from?
How would you describe the work that you are doing within the music community of New Orleans?
Rap Cabaret is the brand I have developed that is now than me. I very much curate it and am in control of it. But it’s purpose is in true cabaret and variety show fashion. At any given Rap Cabaret show, you have burlesque, drag, modern dance, vocalists, live instruments, comedy, circus acts. The idea is that people show up to Rap Cabaret not knowing what they’re going to see but they know that they’re going to enjoy it. Just like you tuned into the Carol Burnett show or Dean Martin Variety Hour not knowing who his guests were going to be or who was going to show up but you watched anyway because you knew it was going to be a good show.
Do you remember being told or taught anything while you were growing up about the behavioral expectations for you as a woman?
I come from a very conservative, backwoods Christian upbringing. Since then my immediate family has drifted away from that my mom is from rural Alabama and my dad is from rural Georgia and when they moved to Nashville, they continue to do what they always did which was to take their kids to a Church of Christ and put them in a Christian school. And as you know, there are far more people than just your parents who influence you. There were adults that around that had distinct agendas of shame as their main tool for punishment and control. The only way some of them knew how to steer you was by shaming you. Their definition of what’s right is completely motivated by fear. I remember having the elders’ wives come up to me after service and ask that I not wear certain tops again. I’ve had these boobies since I was 11 or 12 and I’m not going to lie, I think they were bigger then. It was explicit that we were not supposed to be stumbling blocks for me. That’s a really common word in the Church of Christ and it’s objectifying. You’re no longer a human, you’re a block that is in the path of someone else’s righteousness. If I am a stumbling block to you, I’m this thing that you trip over on your way to the good path. As a woman, you’re too sexy and you’re attracting men with your clothes and the way that you dress and the way that you carry yourself. We had a course called “And The Bride Wore White” and it was about the path to purity and at the end you commit yourself to Jesus. I didn’t end up participating in the ceremony because that was one of the first things I began to question. Those messages certainly carried over into normal life. Sexuality is our main weapon. If you’re on the front of a magazine, it’s because of your sexuality. It was conflicting images of “If you want to go far, if you want to be a newscaster or you want to be on the front of a magazine for your amazing performance in this movie, you still have to be sexy” but then “Don’t be sexy because it’s a sin”.
Can you define sexism as it presents itself to you?
There’s two modes by which it expresses itself to me. One is passive and one is active. Passive sexism is someone subconsciously treating you differently because of your sex. They’re just not even thinking about it, that’s just how they are. Recently, me and my manager who is a man got in an Uber and after loading in our gear, the driver looked to my manager and said, “So are you a musician?” instead of asking me. And then there is active sexism when people are consciously making remarks or decisions or having reactions to you because of your womanhood that are discriminatory. And it’s not all about cis-gendered people. Imagine the sexism that my friends who are transitioning undergo. I almost feel guilty complaining, even doing this interview. I’ve got it pretty easy. I’m a white woman.
How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?
My first reaction is anger. I get pissed off and very self-righteous. It plays into the stereotype of the angry, bitch woman that only holds us back. I’ve got plenty to be mad about but I inevitably back pedal to forgiveness and understanding. This is how the world is, of course they treated me that way, they’re not enlightened like the rest of us. I try to not let the anger fester for too long. And honestly now that I have gained momentum, I encounter it less. People know what they’re getting. That, when I’m interacting with men who don’t know about me, they ask me my name and I say Boyfriend and they don’t know what to do. “What’s your real name?” “Did you know you left a curler in your hair?” And I’ve had a few different men think that I’m just saying, “I have a boyfriend, don’t ask me my name”. As if I would just be like “Boyfriend! Husband! Married!” It is confusing and that’s why I picked it. I wanted people to have to engage with these words of ownership we never think about.
Do you always notice when individuals are acting in a sexist way?
Definitely not. I know that I do it too sometimes. When I worked with kids I found myself saying things and then leaving my body and hearing myself say it and thinking, “Oh my god. I was gender shaming that little boy.” One specific instance I remember is when a few of them were saying, “We all want to come over and have a sleepover at your house,” and it was three girls and one boy and I was teasing him about painting his nails too. That’s not who I am. I don’t care if a boy wants to paint his nails. But there’s so many things that you just do that basically indoctrinates us all towards who you’re supposed to be as a man and who you’re supposed to be as a woman.
Can you recall any specific occasions when you experienced sexist behavior against you that may have stuck with you?
I’m trying to think of examples that aren’t sexual and that’s hard to do because being overly sexualized is just one of the many things. You’re treated like a weak little tiny baby that needs protecting. You’re not good at math and bad at driving cars. One of the main things that has stuck with me is the difference between how I was treated and talked about as a sexually active person versus how my male friends were treated and talked about as a sexually active people. Even after I left the church and shed all that shame and bullshit in theory, it kept coming up. People thinking a certain things about me because I liked to have sex and I would have sex with different people at once. If a woman enjoys sex and is seeking it out then she’s probably got daddy issues and she probably is just a slut who is trying to find herself in these men. And if a man is doing it, he’s just doing what men do. It’s amazing.
Are there any particular stereotypes of men or of women that just drive you insane?
It’s interesting you ask that because I went through an era of shedding all of the gender stereotypes and not making any blanket statements about gender. How people identify doesn’t matter. But recently over the past couple years, I’ve been more comfortable admitting that there are differences. You still can’t make blanket statements but by virtue of growing up in a society where male means one thing and female means another, you do encounter these programming things. Women are supposed to be the soft, touchy feely ones that take care of the babies and men are supposed to be the ones that go out, earn the money, and problem solve. And so we have this dichotomy of how people communicate and yet, in heterosexual relationships, you’ve got one person coming from one world and another person coming from another world that speak two different languages of intimacy and it’s an amazing thing to try to navigate.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
I actually used to avoid the word feminist—this was a long time ago. I had met and interacted with so many feminists who I disagreed with. One lady wanted to put a complete end to the sex industry by putting up billboards that shame people just like that add in the seventies where the Native American has a pile of trash at his feet and there’s a tear rolling down his cheek. That was her analogy: people didn’t know, they just littered all the time and then that commercial came out to shame them so they wouldn’t do it. She wanted to do the same thing for the sex industry and put up billboards and have commercials that shamed people into not going to strip clubs and hiring prostitutes anymore. And she was doing it under the banner of feminism. So I distanced myself from the term feminist. Then my very smart friend called me out and told me that I can’t let the people who I disagree with define this thing that’s much bigger than that. I picked the word back up and I’m waving it around wildly with my own definition of it. You can love sex and you can hate sex and either way you can still be a feminist. Feminism isn’t about fucking all the time, feminism isn’t about shaming strippers out of having sex. It’s up to each person within the individual millisecond of any moment. In my show and my public persona, I do the costumes and the makeup and the props because I love it. I recognize I’m playing into a double standard in the industry because a dude can just walk on stage in the t-shirt that he slept in and pick up his guitar and play and everyone is going to show up and the show still sells out. But I love those things and that’s why my entire aesthetic is built around talking about those things. I’m saying go get your boobs done, get a nose job, put your fake eyelashes on, tattoo your eyebrows, buy a bunch of lipstick. I’m also saying, think about why you’re buying all the lipstick. Think about why you’re shaving your legs. Who is it for? And if you’re doing it for someone else, that’s ok too as long as you’re aware. Shave your legs because your boyfriend really loves to touch your smooth legs. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Just do these things consciously and not passively because men get to be passive and we don’t get to be.