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Missy Suicide and her SuicideGirls

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Missy Suicide and her SuicideGirls are taking over the world with their Blackhearts Burlesque Tour.

Since the dawn of the 21st century SuicideGirls have been reinventing the term “pin-up” through tattoos and good attitudes. SuicideGirls provides a community for women who feel they are more unique than most. Through sexy photo shoots, interactive shows and new social media technologies, SuicideGirls shows women that the word “beauty” is not as narrow a definition as society makes it out to be.

Concocted in 2001 by Selena Mooney under her more infamously known guise Missy Suicide, the SG site and combined community have spread internationally touching countries across the planet.  Two books, DVD’s, merchandise, an episode of CSI and a Burlesque Tour have all been conquered by the SuicideGirls and they do not plan on stopping anytime soon.

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This year the fan favourite Blackhearts Burlesque tour has been taken on the road to Australia and Canada after screaming success throughout the U.S. The show’s prerogative and natural social media friendly attitude helped spread the demand across countries. As the performance begins the very vivacious Master of Ceremonies asks everyone to hold their phones high in the air and… take as many pictures as possible. The audience is not only encouraged to ogle the exotic dancers but to take pictures and share them via personal social media accounts. Boasting a spectacular soundtrack of heavy music infused with EDM and trance beats, the show takes crowd interaction to the next level as the dancers invite audience members on stage, both males and females, to participate in the striptease.

I caught up with bubbly and composed Missy Suicide to talk about the company’s origins and the notorious Blackhearts Burlesque tour.

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How did the company start?

The company started 12 and a half years ago as a website and community where people could come together to appreciate girls that didn’t fit into the narrow definition of beauty that society was perpetuating.

I read that you got the term “Suicide Girls” from Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, in his 1999 novel Survivor. Why did that term stick with you?

It seemed like a good catchall phrase. You know, girls who chose to commit social suicide by choosing not to fit in. Nobody really claims their identity from the subgenre of music they listen to anymore; it wasn’t like John Hughes days of the 80s where people were like “I’m Goth, I’m punk” you know, everybody kind of listened to everything. But they still chose not to fit into society’s narrow definition of normal or acceptable behaviour, haha or whatever.

The term alternative it’s just… it’s mean. it makes me bristle, so “Suicide Girls” seemed like a good catchall phrase that would describe the girls who chose not to fit in.

3c9ff2b26ee508b9f2cd29142c9d4558How do you become a SuicideGirl? What’s the selection process?

Girls apply on the site; we get about a thousand applications a week from women around the world. They go through the application process, they talk about why they want to be a SuicideGirl and submit photos. Then our model coordinator contacts them and walks them through the paperwork process and how to submit a photo set, how to shoot a set or sets them up with a local photographer. Once they submit a photo set then they become a “Hopeful” and they get to participate in the community and their set is up for everybody to see and to get feedback on. If the community responds really positively to their photo set then they become an official SuicideGirl and their set gets “Set of the Day.” If the community is like “oh you’re really cute but your photos are not high enough quality or they don’t show your personality or you look scared,” whatever they get feedback on their photos and they can improve on them, for a second time.

How does the model coordinator choose whom to contact out of the thousands of applications?

She chooses girls that want to be SuicideGirls for the right reasons; if they want to express themselves. If they are doing it because, “my boyfriend thinks it would be a good idea” than that’s not the right reason hahaha.

Her name is Vixen Suicide.

Is there an age limit to being a SuicideGirl? What happens after you are no longer in front of the camera?

Well obviously you have to be 18 to be on the site, but on the upper end there have been girls who have been on the site since it began, 12 years ago. The oldest girl is in her 40’s.

Does the organization SuicideGirls have any influence on the individual girl’s image at all?

No, none of that. The girls are fiercely independent and individuals and that’s why we appreciate them. We wouldn’t dream of telling a girl “oh you need to get this tattoo” haha. That would be completely the antithesis of our ethos.

How much of a say do the models have in the direction or theme of the photo-shoots?

The thing that sets our photosets apart, is that the girls are completely in charge of how they’re presented and the photographer is there to bring their vision to life, which is rare in any modelling situation. Most photography situations are about how the photographer frames out the world as opposed to how the model presents herself, and how she wants to be seen.

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How would you respond to criticism saying that some of the models presented by the organization are not totally alternative, or traditionally fit into “society’s narrow definition of beauty”?

I think the girls are beautiful, they are the girls I find the most beautiful in the world. They are each unique and I feel like it’s kind of silly to say like “you’re too traditionally beautiful, you don’t fit! You don’t fit in to being not fit in enough, you’re not outsider enough!” Hahaha that’s ridiculous.

Do the models have any responsibilities or requirements they have to continue doing to hold their spot as a SuicideGirl?

No, their participation in the community is completely up to them. They choose to blog or to post in groups or do whatever as much as they want. But so many of the girls have made such close friends through the site. The girls are roommates, best friends, business partners. Chances are if you ask any girl what their favourite part about being a SuicideGirl is, they’ll say, “all the friends that I’ve made.”

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How would you describe the connection between SuicideGirls and music?

Well music is an intrinsic part of my life, and I think it’s probably an intrinsic part of everybody else’s life as well. We all tend to carry a soundtrack that surrounds us. We’re big fans, there are even girls who are musicians on the site. It’s what makes us tick.

How did the Blackhearts Burlesque Tour start?

The Burlesque Tour, we were doing a tour back in 2002/03 all the way to 2006/07 and it’s really an evolution how, with the website we tried to modernize classic pin ups and with the Burlesque Tour we really wanted to put a modern twist on classic burlesque. So we were wpeexruewspbpnt5yf7jez4yhjy9g_0agid80r2gonofz5p_85qatfqbipfylrwchspuyyp4itvhxilrv5rr6ydoing it to a modern soundtrack and having sexy fun nontraditional non-old-fashioned burlesque back then, which nobody else is really doing on a large-scale.

We did that for a few years and it was this big endeavor. We decided to take a little break so we could focus on putting out a book, which was another big endeavor haha, and the hiatus just kept growing. There was the book, then there was the magazine, then there was being on CSI; it was tough to build up the momentum again to get things going.

Then we put our third coffee table book SuicideGirls: Hard Girls, Soft Light, last spring and we sent the girls on a book signing tour up and down the west coast, just two girls signing books at book shops and we posted it on our Facebook and Instagram and whatnot, and there were like 500 to 750 people showing up outside bookshops, so were like “alright the people want a live show and we can do something that’s way better than having two girls sign a book” hahaha. We decided the time was right to put on the Burlesque Tour again and in the ensuing 6 or 7 years that we’ve taken off, there have been lots of people that have done more nontraditional, non-old-fashioned burlesque shows, like the Star Wars Burlesque, even like large-scale spectacle performances like Lady Gaga, so we knew we really had to up our game and put on something that felt original.

We worked with an amazing choreographer and the dancers that we have are incredible. We put a lot of effort into the stage show and the costumes and the themes and music and all of it, which is really creating a unique show that I think you guys are going to love.

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Are dancers members of the SuicideGirl community?

Yeah, they’re girls who are members of the SuicideGirls community. They’re hopeful SuicideGirls and new girls, returning girls that are favourites and girls that have performed with us before, girls that are new to the troop. It’s really fun and they’re all just super awesome to look at, full of personality and dancing, they just have so much charisma, it’s really impressive to see them on stage.

What inspired you guys to bring the tour to Canada?

We love Canada. Can I say the poutine? Poutine inspired us to come to Canada haha. You guys do have pretty liberal drug laws up there and you guys have health care. You guys have pretty much everything and the people are so nice and friendly and awesome.

What is the main message you’re trying to convey with the Burlesque Tour?

It’s a sexy fun time; people should embrace their sexuality and their personality and not be ashamed or embarrassed of their uniqueness. Just because you’re into sort of nerdy things like Star Wars or the Big Lebowski or whatever. That can be sexy.

fullHow did you decide on the name Missy Suicide?

Wow, no one has ever asked me that in 12 years. I chose Missy because it’s from a Pixie’s song, “Missy Aggravation” [from the song “Gouge Away”]. I thought that it fit me. It commanded authority but was still small and cute enough. It kind of summed me up, my real name is now much more popular now [Selena] but growing up it was very unique and nobody knew how to spell it or what to do with it. I chose a name that was easy to say but still kind of in charge.

Was that the beginning of the SuicideGirls monikers?

Back in 2001 it was more common to take on-screen names, everybody had their handle or their avatar and so it was more commonplace to do. We let the girls choose their names back then, and choose their online personas.

What is your most proud accomplishment with the organization?

Wow, there have been a lot of things that have happened. We were on CSI New York, had an episode that was written about us, that was a super surreal experience.

I have a folder where I keep all the emails that I get from women that have emailed me saying, “I never felt beautiful until I found your site” and there’s like 874 or something now. I think that’s probably the thing that makes me the most proud. But just showing people that you don’t have to fit into the narrow definition of beauty in order to be proud, confidence is the sexiest attribute a person can have.

Where would you like to see this go from here? You have already exploded quite a bit since you started, what does the future have in store?

I think a TV show would be really fun and awesome. That’s my next goal.

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Interview and words by Griffin Elliot

Pictures from SuicideGirls.com

THE SCENE

The Scene