Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

High Heels and Feminism With Ladyfag, Queen of Nightlife

Written by K.R. Moorhead
 Active Image                                 Having already established herself as a significant artist and style icon in her home city of Toronto, Ladyfag moved to New York City in 2006—and New Yorkers immediately recognized her talents. Soon after her arrival, she began club promoting and modeling and has since been named one of Paper Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People and one of the Village Voice’s Most Welcome (and Welcoming) Party Presences. She currently hosts multiple club nights in New York City and regularly updates her truly sparkling blog.

 

Photos by Jason Rodgers 

Hair by Brian Buenaventu 

Makeup by James Boehmer  

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Having already established herself as a significant artist and style icon in her home city of Toronto, Ladyfag moved to New York City in 2006—and New Yorkers immediately recognized her talents. Soon after her arrival, she began club promoting and modeling and has since been named one of Paper Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People and one of the Village Voice’s Most Welcome (and Welcoming) Party Presences. She currently hosts multiple club nights in New York City and regularly updates her truly sparkling blog.

 

Ladyfag, however, is more than what she wears; what she wears is a direct expression of who she is. I recently got the opportunity to speak with this undisputed queen of the scene as she kicked off her nine-inch designer heels and discussed politics, art, music, and what exactly it means to be a feminist.
 
{mosimage width=350}K.R: You’re definitely what could be called a Renaissance woman: fashionista, fashion icon, party promoter, professional party guest, performance artist, blogger, etc. How do you answer when people ask you what you do, or do you not get asked boring questions like that?

Ladyfag: Actually, that's the question I get asked the most and it is the hardest to give a straight answer to. I'm Ladyfag . . . and all the things I do make up who I am. I think, I'm different things to different people, and I think that's great. Sometimes it would be nice to just have a one word answer like I'm a painter, or an actor, but my life’s not that black-and-white . . . it's actually quite colourful!

K.R: Well, that’s probably why you’re so successful. So, let’s start with fashion then. Who are some of your personal fashion icons? Who would you say has influenced your style the most?

Ladyfag: Fashion is an important element in my life, not as an industry, which I do follow, but as an art form. I'm a big fan of Galliano, Mugler, Gaultier, Westwood, and sadly, McQueen. I like my fashion to be a little theatrical. While I appreciate the simple chicness of Jane Birkin I'm more of a fan of Nancy Cunard, Catherine Baba, Roisin Murphy. Women who made fashion their own.

K.R: You mentioned Alexander McQueen, who died this year, and I know you wrote in your blog about how you couldn’t help but feel sad even though this was someone you hadn’t actually known. My major artistic influence has always been J.D. Salinger, who also died this year, and I felt similarly to you. It made me really stop and think about all the ways I’d been influenced by him. In what specific ways has McQueen and his work influenced you?

{mosimage width=400}Ladyfag: Firstly, his work speaks words stronger than I could ever explain. He had the over-the-top sensibility I'm fond of and concepts that spoke to me, with the eye and skill to back it up. He was someone who never gave in to an industry, and I guess it gave me this happiness to have the fashion world embracing the bad boy and his over-the-top ideas. I'm attracted not only to the beauty of his work, but to the statements he made. There are designers as talented, but to step into the category of hero you have to be more of an inspiration than just good tailoring. McQueen was a fashion crusader to me. Of course, as it seems to be with most [of] my heroes, they tend to be a little tortured . . .

K.R: I think I feel the same way about Salinger. People have probably written better books, but it’s more about what he was trying to say. Plus, tortured . . .

Ladyfag: Exactly, there are painters I like as much as Frida Kahlo, but her story, politics, and personal battles are what make me think of her with such intensity.

K.R: Is that where the influence for your eyebrows comes from?

Ladyfag: Ha ha! I’m surprised I didn't mention her before. She is someone who inspires my looks directly and indirectly. I think what people forget is that in her world people did not dress like her. She lived in Mexico City and was surrounded by important people in her days. One has to remember that her clothing was tinged with politics and her love of Mexico and its traditions. Mexico and Frida have always been big influences in my life, but I've also always admired anyone who has that connection to their culture and shares that creatively.

K.R: You talk about fashion and politics; your look definitely plays with ideas of gender. Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Ladyfag: The “f” word. Yes, of course I'm a feminist. I was once at a dinner with a group of women who I always sort of felt alienated from. They were slightly extreme in their feminism, and while I love people who are strong in their beliefs, the way they were speaking, and in fact judging, other women, it made me think, the only people who are making me feel bad about being who I am as a strong woman are them. So, I announced that if they were all the voice of feminism, then I guess I'm not a feminist. It didn't go over very well!

{mosimage width=350}Sometimes I think that happens with women; it's a jealousy thing. They were sitting there and discussing how wrong and misogynistic plastic surgery, high heels, and such were and how we shouldn't have to do these things for other people, let alone men, and I knew it was partially directed at me—the only one sitting there in too much makeup and stilettos, and I thought, what gives them the right? I do what I want to feel good about myself, and that's what makes me a strong woman. Even though they were all women, telling them to turn the mirror on themselves and fuck themselves was probably the most feminist thing I could have done.

K.R: I’ve had very similar discussions. I usually say I’m not a feminist for that same reason. Of course I believe in women being strong and independent. I just don't necessarily need to put a political label on it. I’m a humanist!

Ladyfag: I’m a humanist too!

K.R: One thing I noticed about your blog, and speaking of high heels, is that you’ve discovered a lot of amazingly strange and borderline masochistic shoes. What do you think it is about women and shoes? Why do they seem to love and covet them even more than clothing?

Ladyfag: It’s so cliché, women and their shoes! I was actually excited to get to do this interview via computer, so I could take my heels off and be barefoot! I love the feeling of being in high heels; it makes me feel strong and confident and helps me be in character. You're very conscious of your body and how you stand. I think it makes women feel sexy when they walk with the swagger that wearing heels create. Of course a woman can look sexy in a flat, but the crazy shoes I always feature on my blog and the women wearing really high heels are using them as an extra voice, but on their feet. In between the cries of pain I'm showing the length I’ll go to for something I think is beautiful.

And anyways, say what you will, women’s legs just look sexy in a pair of high heels. It's that simple!

K.R: You talk about being in character. Are you always in character? Are you always Ladyfag or, right now, in your apartment, with your heels off, are you Rayne?

Ladyfag: I'm always me. I hate when people say, “What’s your real name? I want to really know you.” And I think, it doesn't matter what you call me; it won't change our relationship. Some of my closest friends call me Ladyfag because they have nothing to prove. But yes, there is still a difference. While I'm always me, when I'm out I'm a personality. So even though it's an extension of me, it's just another way of being. If I go to a party in pajamas and just feel like sitting there, no, that's not Ladyfag, but it's not necessarily about audience. I'm at home sometimes trying on clothes, listening to music and dancing around and that's still me being Ladyfag all alone . . .

{mosimage width=400}Sometimes I'm hanging out at home with my roomie, and we'll be talking about things, and I start getting excited and going off, and he'll jokingly say something like, "Ladies and gentleman, Ladyfag," which we then laugh about because I realize I do act this certain way. It's like I'm slightly schizoid, and the Ladyfag starts to creep in!

K.R: I think most interesting people are like that. They just don’t all necessarily give that part of themselves a name.

Ladyfag: Exactly, I think it's just different in that I've made a mini-career out of that part of my personality.

K.R: So who are you listening to these days? When you dance around your apartment, who do you like to dance to?

Ladyfag: I need music like I need fashion. It inspires me too. Sometimes I plan on wearing a certain outfit and then start listening to Siouxsie and start to paint my eyes all crazy or the opposite, I'll be wearing something a little rock and roll tinged and then listen to Kate Bush and suddenly feel like wearing something a little more romantic. Lately I've been listening to a lot of Florence and the Machine, whose style has some similarities to mine, which makes me love her even more, some La Roux, the Gossip, Bloc Party, and Kate Bush.

K.R: What about Gaga? What do you think of her? She’s got a similar taste in shoes to you.

Ladyfag: Oh, those McQueens! People always want to know what I think of her, which is understandable. I think she's amazing. I think she's got talent and, more than anything, which people don't always recognize, is that she has a talent for recognizing other people’s talents, that she herself doesn't have, and using theirs. She is not as fashionable as people think, but she gets fashion to a very good degree and is smart enough to allow those who really get it to guide her. A lot of those costumes are made by friends whom I'm with at nightclubs all the time. My only criticism of her is, when she talks as though she is the inventor of avant-garde. I understand that people have never been exposed to underground club art or fashion, and so they relate everything to Gaga, but she knows better, and I just roll my eyes when she speaks that way.

K.R: Staying with shoes, what's your favourite pair of shoes that you own?

Ladyfag: My Rick Owens boots, they go with everything and are intense and believe it or not, comfortable. They were a birthday gift to myself, and the first time I ever spent that much on shoes . . . and it felt good!

K.R: What parties are you hosting at the moment in NYC?

Ladyfag: I do a fabulous party on Sundays called Vandam. And on Saturdays I throw one called "Family Function” at Woody's in the East Village (Second and Second). The Resident DJ is Michael Magnan and Jason The Black Teen Wolf snaps pics of your memories . . . As we say, it's cheap drinks, cheap drunks, no cover, no bullshit, good music, and good family! I think some people were a little shocked about how it's not a big glamorous event, but I just wanted a night that everyone felt welcome to. Sometimes I go to bigger events, and afterwards I'll trudge over to a local East Village gay bar and get on top of the bar in my YSLs and just get down and dirty with the boys. I wanted to find a middle ground and mix things up a little. Then I have another little thing up my sleeve for spring where I’ll have a chance to wear my nice clothes without worrying about being on a crammed dance floor and having someone spill their drink all over me. I have so many different little worlds in New York, and I'm trying to do a little bit with each of them.

K.R: Well, you’re from Toronto originally. What appealed to you about the scene in New York? How is it different from working and partying back home?

Ladyfag: I never planned on getting into nightlife here. Actually I wasn't even planning to stay. I just came here for three months, but since the nightlife thing sort of started to snowball, I never left. I guess secretly when I came here I sort of wished something would happen to make me stay, and it did. But I didn't leave Toronto because I didn't love it. It's a great city, but it's not New York!

{mosimage width=500}K.R: Well you must be good at it because Paper Magazine recently awarded you Future Face of Nightlife, and the Village Voice awarded you Most Welcome [(and Welcoming)] Party Presence in 2009. What do awards like that mean to you?

Ladyfag: They’re by no means Oscars, but they mean a lot to me. Being recognized by people in the industry is important to anyone, in whatever they do. It might seem like a lot of fun, and it is, but I work really hard. I could think of easier ways to make money, but I don't because I love New York and nightlife. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. It's a pretty good life! They say, “If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere,” because it's a tough town. You have to prove yourself here. I feel really lucky. If you would have told me a few years ago that I would be living in New York and getting those awards, I would never have believed you. New York is fabulous, and I work hard to be a part of it. I'm just grateful it loves me back!

K.R: I'm a writer, so I have to ask you what you’re reading at the moment.

Ladyfag:  I'm a bookworm. The last book [I read] was about Marie Antoinette's clothing. Right now it's a book called Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a novel about feuding English magicians, but I couldn't help it. I'm almost done, so I also started reading the Mae West biography someone lent me. I have to return it, so I'm trying to read it fast because the book I REALLY want to read is sitting downstairs. It's about Patti Smith and Mapplethorpe . . . there's not enough time in a day!

K.R: Ok, so you’re on a deserted island. You get to have one film, one book, and one album with you. What do you bring?

Ladyfag: [The] Sound of Music, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, and Kate Bush[‘s] Wuthering Heights. While it makes me sad to think of life with only those three I'm just glad you didn't say I can only bring one outfit. That would be a tragedy!

K.R: No, you can have all the shoes you want.

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