Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Billie Zangewa

Photo Courtesy Of Billie Zangewa

YOU WERE BORN AND RAISED IN MALAWI AND NOW YOU LIVE IN SOUTH AFRICA, WHICH OF EITHER COUNTRIES HAS SHAPED YOU THE MOST?
I was actually raised in Botswana and it has shaped me the most. I lived in a multi-cultural environment where I learnt about other people of the world. In a way I developed a worldly view at this time of my life.

WHAT WERE YOUR ASPIRATIONS GROWING UP? 
I thought about being a lawyer for the power-dressing aspect of it. Then soon after, it came to me that I wanted to be an artist. I have always been a huge fashion fan, watching “Video Fashion Monthly and then Elsa Klensch's “Style” on CNN religiously as well as devouring “Vogue” magazines. Because of this, I thought I would choose a career in fashion so it was a real curve ball so-to-speak. Ironically, I actually did work in fashion as I was trying to find my perfect self-expression and financial independence.

WHY DID YOU CHOSE ART AS YOUR MÉTIER?
It's not so much that I chose art, rather that it chose me. I was about 9/10 years old and a friend showed me a drawing and it really moved me and I knew that I also wanted to do this. I did not yet know that there was a career and what it was called, but from then on I drew every single day and information about art started coming to me.

WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATIONAL PREPARATION?
I have a Bachelor of Fine Art Degree from Rhodes University in South Africa.

WHAT IS YOUR PREFERRED MEDIUM AND WHAT DO YOU FIND THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECTS OF YOUR WORK TECHNICALLY?
I work primarily with dupion silk and enjoy it immensely.The most challenging thing is that it’s physically demanding; the cutting, pinning and sewing requires a certain level of physical and mental fitness.

IS THERE A PERSON, PLACE OR EXPERIENCE THAT HAS HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOUR ARTISTIC CAREER?
The visual language of the city, specifically Johannesburg, has probably had the greatest impact. It helped to shape the way that I use silk in my work. The experiences that I had within the city informed the subject matter. There have been a few earth-angels (friends, mentors, strangers...) who have given me signs along the way. My family has also been supportive, although it may not have been their preferred career choice for me.

WHAT ARE THE THEMES IN YOUR CURRENT EXHIBITION, “BODY TALK: FEMINISM, SEXUALITY, AND THE BODY IN THE WORK OF SIX AFRICAN WOMEN ARTISTS”?
The works in this exhibition focus on life in the contemporary context and the daily concerns, but also identity.

IS THERE AN AFRICAN PERSPECTIVE OR IS THE MESSAGE UNIVERSAL AND WHAT DOES ART GIVE US IN THE DIGITAL AGE?
The messages are universal, but I am sharing them from my perspective which is African. I believe that no matter the age, digital or otherwise, music, art and food are part of the human experience. The digital age has opened up new areas of self-expression in art but the physical remains pertinent. We are after all made of matter and live in a physical world.

YOU WORK EXTENSIVELY WITH TEXTILE, SILK SPECIFICALLY, HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED TRANSLATING YOUR IDEAS INTO A CLOTHING LINE?
I would love to do that. I have some ideas and when the time is right, it will happen. I have periodically been making my own clothes since I was a young girl so it is a natural consideration.

LAST YEAR YOU WERE ASSIGNED THE MOST STYLISH PERSON IN SOUTH AFRICA AT THE ANNUAL STYLE AWARDS, CAN YOU INSPIRE US TO GET THERE?
It was in 2004 and I believe it to have been the work of my angels both celestial and terrestrial. I was a figure in the South African fashion scene at the time, but did I deserve the title? It came at a time when I had made the decision to focus fully on art and I believe that it was the universe's way of affirming my decision and giving me tools to help me realize my dream. So if one has a dream and believes in it even when it looks impossible, the Style Award or any other kind of gift might come!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Constant Gardener

Photographed By Ellinor Forje 

Silk tapestry by Billie Zangewa.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Terri-Jean Bedford

Photo Courtesy Of Terri-Jean Bedford

MADAME DE SADE, DID YOU SNAG YOUR NAME FROM UKIO MISHIMA'S PLAY OR IS IT AN HOMAGE TO THE MARQUIS?
The latter.

HOW DOES ONE BECOME THE MOST FAMOUS DOMINATRIX OF CANADA?
There are a number of things involved. One is to be of quality. Another is to attract media attention, that happens with sensational trials or hearings and where the dominatrix is media savvy about what will get her picture in the papers, on television and online – while still advancing the views she wants to advance and winning this battle. This in turn takes a lot of support and resources of time and money (sometimes) from supporters. The key is that she stands for something and is seen as standing for something and not just seeking publicity. This leads to respect. With patience and effort one becomes famous.

ARE YOU AN INSTIGATOR OR DOES DRAMA FOLLOW YOU LIKE A BAD HABIT?
Both. Although I would rather have just been left alone to run my businesses and lifestyle and not have to fight.

DOES BDSM INCITE OR SUBVERT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, OR DOES A RELATIONSHIP NOT EXIST?
There is plenty of violence against and repression of women in societies where they have never heard of the term BDSM. I don’t think there is a relationship. BDSM recreationally may help reduce violence against women somewhat as men can have more intimacy.

WHY DO MEN RUN OFF TO GET THEIR BOTTOMS SPANKED ANYWAY, CAN'T THEY JUST RELINQUISH SOME OF THEIR POWER AND FULFILL THEIR SUBMISSIVE FANTASIES THAT WAY INSTEAD?
They already have relinquished some of their power, what they want is the attention of women in a power situation. Interestingly, women don't seem to like men who are submissive to them. That's something to think about when pondering why so many read “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

ARE YOU A FEMINIST? 
No. Feminists are into equality. I think that is too fine a line to walk. Someone has to be in charge in the dungeon or in the marriage, for most people. However, I do think that outside relationships women should have all the rights and protections men have. In the workplace they should not be harassed as women, and so forth. Nevertheless I think getting men to change is tough, as well as getting women to be comfortable as equals. Professional women have told me that there are very few men they could get interested in because they don't feel feminine with men who are less successful, shorter in height or lower in social status than them.

HOW DO YOU PICK OUT YOUR OUTFITS AND WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIALS FOR A DOMINA INSPIRED WARDROBE?
When I was the Madame at the Bondage Bungalow Hotel the main thing for the girls and I was basic leather boots, corsets, leather dresses and coats. Tightness was important, so a good fit, or second skin PVC, was foremost. Also, for some scenes, men liked a well-dressed business woman look, or for us to be dressed like a Victorian headmistress.

HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR DAY OFF?
I am retired now and in very poor health. I use my “up” time to shop, clean, cook, do laundry or use my hidden talents.

WHAT HIDDEN TALENTS DO YOU HAVE?
I’ve authored two books. In “Dominatrix on Trial” I explain the reasons for choosing my pro-domme name and share more on how I became a cause célèbre. I also paint and like to sing. And I’m working on two more books. I write for about a half hour each day, with a lot of assistance.

HAVE YOU BEEN AFFORDED A HEIGHTENED UNDERSTANDING OF HUMAN NATURE, IF SO, WHAT CONCLUSION HAVE YOU REACHED?
Of course I have. I’ve learned many things. Men have bared their souls. I’ve also learned from my legal and political battles. I don't want to get into the details here but you can find out more and see my speech to the Ontario Civil Liberties Association on my website.

Yet, I cannot say that I have reached any conclusions on human nature.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Chelsea Bravo

Photo Courtesey Of Chelsea Bravo

Granted, it's for the boys. But ladies, the red jumpsuit to the right.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Tamela D'Amico

Photographed By Johnny Buzzerio

CAN YOU GIVE IT UP FOR LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK?
I come from a huge and loving Italian family, most of which still reside in different parts of New York. We are like a small army when we get together for family reunions. My siblings were born in Brooklyn but I was born on Long Island, NY and raised there until I was 10. So, I sort of had this Brooklyn/Long Island hybrid of a NY accent growing up. I have fond memories of my childhood there with family parties where the entire neighborhood would join in, while I would be playing outside with kids of all ages who lived in the surrounding areas. I’m grateful that I had that as a foundation, as I think that sort of socializing in the neighborhood doesn’t exist as naturally as it once did for children today. It certainly set up my personality, as I am a “people” person. I adore being around many different types of personalities and people, learning what they’re about.

My family eventually moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida where I spent most of my days fantasizing about the dreams in my head (mainly how to return to NY). It was difficult to be in "The Sunshine State" with a "New Yawk" accent and fair skin. But I made friends quickly and traveled back to NY often. I am the youngest of five kids with a large age difference between my siblings and myself and due to us always traveling back and forth to NY to visit them, I consider myself a New Yorker first. Even today, I'm bi-coastal between New York and Los Angeles. You can take the girl out of New York, but you can't take the New York out of the girl.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT JAZZ THAT MOVES YOU AND WHERE DOES YOUR LOVE AND PASSION FOR MUSIC COME FROM?
Jazz is my heart. They say that you don’t choose to sing jazz, rather, it chooses you. I feel that to be true for myself. I have been hired to sing other styles of music and do. I love it all. However, for my career, Jazz is totally where it’s at. People with passion, in general, inspire me. I adore learning about other people's lives and how they made it through. I’m a big fan of biographies. We learn from each other’s wins and mistakes, all throughout history. When I meet someone new, I always ask, "What's your story?" I listen to them and then I tell it their story back to them like they are watching their own documentary. It’s always interesting, because they often learn something new about themselves that they didn't even realize. Jazz is a lot like that. An artist can be giving you a song that you may know, but it is the interpretation of it that lets you see it in a new light.

Jazz is filled with discovery.

WHO HAS INFLUENCED YOUR STYLE OF SINGING THE MOST?
I always credit Judy Garland as being the first huge musical inspiration for me, because as a young child I would watch New York's Nostalgia network which was like a PBS station that aired old episodes of “The Judy Garland Show” instead of programs like “Sesame Street”. Judy radiated passion and knew when to be still and when to be manic, and all with seemingly great ease because she existed from a center of truth. I took all this in at a tender age and knew that I wanted to be a part of the world that I saw on the screen past, present, and future. After Judy Garland, I of course found the music collection of my parents and older siblings that ranged from Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, all the way to Doo-Wop music of the 50’s and then the operas starring Pavarotti then Janis Joplin and funk/disco from the 70’s all the way to 80’s bands like Journey and Michael Jackson.

From the late 90’s till now, my “favorites” playlist changes often and I find that people are shocked that a jazz singer likes rap, as if all I must listen to is jazz and the American Songbook. I literally appreciate mostly all types of music and love to dance to anything, except maybe old school deep Country music and Death Metal Hard Rock. Because I always had a natural propensity for performing and working in all forms of media, I was often compared to Barbra Streisand in high school. So I researched her path and took notes. She did everything and did it well and I wanted to utilize all of my talents in the same way. Currently, I really enjoy what Florence and The Machine and Adele are doing. I’m the product of an environment in love with pop music. In short, there is no singular person who influenced my style, my style is my own.

DO YOU PLAY ANY INSTRUMENTS?
Funny! Maybe your question should be “Are you good at playing any other instruments well?" Besides singing, I can play a bit of piano, but it’s nothing that I share professionally with the public. So no, I don’t play any instruments that you will ever see or hear. At least, not now. Maybe as an old lady I'll learn classical piano the proper way when I have nothing left to do and become a perfectionist at doing it.

JAZZ IS A GENRE DESCRIBED AS PARTLY PLANNED AND PARTLY SPONTANEOUS. CAN YOU EXPLAIN THAT IMPROVISATION ELEMENT OF JAZZ?
Oh geez. I can hear the groans from jazz musicians worldwide. First let me start by saying, I am no expert on jazz. I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking anyone else this question myself, except maybe to one of the Marsalis brothers. They’re exceptionally well versed on how to describe this, much better than I am. Duke Ellington said that with jazz music “You've got to find some way of saying it without saying it.” I’m a singer with jazz chops. I have taken music theory. Can I sit down and write out the musical notes of how I want my song to go exactly for each of the instrumental parts? No. But I sure as hell can sing it for you and know exactly how it should go musically in my mind and perform it for you.

I believe there is a common misconception about jazz improvisation in that people think it's conceived on a whim; like we are playing a chart and suddenly someone decides to just take off in another direction without reason. Jazz improvisation is the progression of extemporaneously creating new melodies over the uninterrupted repeating sequence of chord changes of a tune. And, there is no exact correct way of doing it. Some choices may in fact be more interesting than others and may or may not be as pleasing to the ear, however. Many jazz musicians, whether they are vocal artists or instrumental players, do not necessarily read music when they perform either. Some can’t read music at all. You will find that in almost every genre of music. That is the great thing about music, in general. It’s a feeling just as much as it is a craft, isn’t it? That being said, there are exceptionally trained jazz musicians who can read any chart once and make it sound like they have been playing it their entire life and with their own unique style and then improvise on top of that. That’s talent! The trick to jazz improvisation is playing music with both creative spontaneity as well as deliberate confidence that doesn’t appear to be rehearsed or commonplace. Composed music and improvised music may seem to be like comparing apples to oranges, but somehow in jazz (and there are many subdivisions of jazz) they blend in a unique concoction.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE AND RATE THE MUSIC SCENE OF THE CITY YOU CURRENTLY LIVE IN?
Los Angeles is filled with every type of music you can possibly imagine, great and small, from huge acts to rising stars. You can see anything here. Each genre of music is a small nugget in a larger picture. Los Angeles is a vast place geographically speaking and no matter what type of music you are seeking, you have to make a distinct choice to make it an event, because you will be traveling to get there. It is not like NYC where you can just walk into a club randomly and catch an act that happens to be playing. There is more involvement in the planning here and a lot of work on the behalf of the artist to do their own marketing no matter how large the marquee value of your name may be.

WHAT IS THE SINGLE MOST DIFFICULT CHALLENGE JAZZ MUSICIANS FACE TODAY AND DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ASPIRING ARTISTS?
Jazz is pretty much the foundation of most of the music on the radio today, yet it is the most disrespected genre of music amongst the masses, as well as the popular award ventures of the music industry. Sometimes, I feel that the general public doesn’t even know what it is. For instance, I recently had someone call me “Opera Girl”. I’m like opera is not jazz! The biggest challenge is education. Jazz needs to be brought back to schools in a major way. My advice for aspiring artists is always the same. Do not become an artist unless you are willing to give all of yourself, come hell or high water. I got my hands on everything that interested me growing up and my parents nourished that. I have a “need to know” attitude and love learning. I’ve worked in almost every aspect of this business from being out front as a performer to being deep behind the scenes. This is a business, at the end of the day, and if you want longevity, you have to understand how it works. Lil’ bit o’ life Advice from me: Question everything presented to you. Don't simply accept the answers. Go on your own journeys. Listen to your gut first, then your heart. Step into worlds that you are frightened of and that you know little about, so you can broaden your horizon. I have been fortunate to have many a great mentor and I hold all of them in high regard. I am a genuine networker in a real sense. Everyone I have ever met since I have come to Los Angeles is in my contact book and I keep up with them, even if it is once a year. People are important to me. Every opportunity should be looked into. My wise grandmother Josephine Pravato, who passed away at 92, would say “If you're bashful, you lose. Don't ever be afraid to go and get what you want in this life.”

ACTRESS, FILMMAKER AND PRODUCTION COMPANY OWNER ARE ALSO SOME OF YOUR CREDENTIALS. HOW DO YOU FIND THE TIME AND HOW DO YOU STAY FOCUSED?
I believe that talent is innate and craft can be taught but only to a degree. There are many methods of knowing how to work in this business and I treat them as tools in my toolbox when a need arises. I demand the highest work from myself. As a performer, I am a huge fan of The Lee Strasberg Method, which is based on the great Stanislavski who first questioned “What is inspiration and how can we evoke the creative mood or spirit.” The basics of those methods and coming from a place of truth is what I try to bring into the foundation of all of my work as a storyteller, whether it be in singing, acting, writing or directing If I cannot fulfill a project by working from that center of truth, I walk away from it. I live for stories that champion the underdog. I’m a storyteller. I do really want to know “What’s your story?” The world is an educational playground and I always feel that I have so much to learn. Focus comes by taking on each project in a case by case scenario, what makes sense to handle what first. I am a superb multi-tasker and nowadays you have to be multi-talented to survive in this business where people are creating their own content. I also have a lot of help when it’s needed. It used to be looked down upon if you had many things you were good at doing. Now it is a pre-requisite to be a triple threat to be taken seriously. Yes, I have my own production company, La Strega Entertainment. I run everything I create or help create through there. My debut album “Got a Little Story” was the first thing my company produced before it was picked up for worldwide distribution.

HOW DO YOU PREPARE BEFORE A PERFOMANCE?
Whether it is singing, acting, or making movies, I prep by taking superb care of my health and body above and beyond the norm. Performing and being on set sometimes for 12 plus hours is very taxing to the body and spirit, so I need to gear up before, during, and after. I work out using the Cardio-Barre method , yoga, and hiking. Beyond that, I just do regular vocal warm ups while connecting to the lyrics/words knowing what they are about and tackling them like a student actress would. What is the meaning behind these words, not just the meaning of them. It’s always something deeper. I thrive on set or in a performance space. It’s where I am most happy. The energy floods me and raises me up. On stage I get nervous, five minutes before. My stomach feels like I have to desperately go to the bathroom and then as soon as my name or entrance is called and I hit that stage, it all melts away like awesome sauce.

HOW DOES ONE ACHIEVE THAT WHO-NEEDS-SWAG-WHEN-YOU’VE-GOT-SWING SULTRY LOOK?
It’s all perception and presentation. You look as good as you feel. And when you don’t feel good, believe that you do and let that spark fly out of your eyes. I look to ladies who came before all of us for inspiration. There are two Sophia Loren quotes, which I live by, “Sex appeal is 50 percent what you've got and 50 percent what people think you've got,” and “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” Both are 100 percent true for me and in this business that we call “Show”. I adore every bit of it, even the bullshit. You have to be as soft as silk to enter it and as tough as nails to stay in it.