Missy Suicide is the cofounder of online community SuicideGirls. The website was one of the first social networks online. SuicideGirls celebrates alternative beauty by showcasing models of all kinds with tattoos, piercings, and coloured hair. The Burlesque tour began in 2002 and ran for several years. After an extended break it started again in 2007 and has since been attracting crowds across the continent.
On April 26th, the SuicideGirls Burlesque show will be titillating lucky ticket holders at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre.
SAD Mag: What’s the origin story of SuicideGirls?
Missy Suicide: I started it as a place to showcase the girls I thought were the most beautiful in the world—the girls with piercings and tattoos, girls who chose to commit social suicide by choosing not to fit in. I wanted to create a place where they could be celebrated for their beauty as well their personality by showcasing their thoughts and feelings alongside their images.
SM: Do you think that tattoos are still taboo?
MS: I think they are more accepted but it’s still not something everyone has. It's a way to mark what is going on inside on the outside, every person’s tattoos tell a different story.
Even if more people have their stories told, I don't think there's any harm in that, it’s still beautiful and meaningful.
SM: How has SuicideGirls changed your perception of body image and insecurities?
MS: I was insecure before SuicideGirls started up. I was twenty-three and not secure in my body or what my sexuality was, what was okay for me to feel or look at. So, the girls have taught me so much about how to feel confident and how to feel beautiful. Hearing all their stories and getting to know these amazing women over the past fifteen years has been life changing. I don't think I’d be the person I am today if I hadn't known so many talented and amazing women from around the world.
SM: Do you have a favourite set of images of the day?
MS: After fifteen years of sets it would be impossible to choose. And, I shot a good portion of them in the beginning.
SM: Do you have a memorable story about any of the sets?
MS: One of my favourite sets is a multigirl that I shot between Mary and Rosa. I don’t usually do two girl sets—I found they never came out right but Mary convinced me. I had shot a lot of her sets already. I’ve known Mary since we were teenagers, actually, and so I shot the set and called it Gossip Girls. It's so them. Their personalities come out, they’re total BFFs, it’s totally silly and fun, it’s a sexy throwback sort 50’s set, super fun and super cute.
SM: How did the Burlesque tour get started?
MS: So in the same way we had an updated version of the classic pin up photo we wanted to take the classic spirit of burlesque and put our own spin on it. So we added pop culture references and a modern soundtrack.
SM: What's your favourite part of the process?
MS: Pairing up the theme with the song! So it's like Major Lazer with Star Wars and the Black Keys with Adventure Time, things you wouldn’t ordinarily think go together. I love figuring out what songs match.
SM: Do you have a favourite act?
MS: I love them all! But my favourite might be the Planet of the Apes number. It’s set to Disclosure’s When Fire Starts to Burn. It's so fun because it’s so out there. It’s like all these girls in silver bikinis and monkey masks coming out to do this sexy dance. It’s conceptual and crazy. The first time I saw it I thought it was going to work, I was like “I think it’s going to be sexy, just trust, just trust.” The first time the audience reacted positively to it I was like “Yes! They did it! This is something people like!” So, that was a big triumph.
SM: Do you think that SuicideGirls asks people to reconsider how they think about beauty?
MS: I feel like a lot of women don’t feel beautiful about themselves. I’ve got hundreds of emails from women who have said they didn’t feel beautiful about until they saw the website. The girls on SuicideGirls are being celebrated for their beauty but you can see how they feel about themselves in their faces.
SM: Do you think that the photos on SuicideGirls subvert the male gaze? If so, how?
MS: The nude female form is the most celebrated subject matter in all of art history and I feel on the site the images are created to showcase how the model feels most beautiful. And then she gets to express herself in her own words alongside her own words.
It’s incredibly frustrating to me that just because those images are posted online everyone asks me if I consider it porn. I don’t. I feel like it is empowering. The Internet is this beautiful thing that can brings people together in ways nobody could have conceptualized thirty years ago. It’s the ultimate platform for self-expression and understanding.
SM: Has it been difficult working as a cofounder?
Sean [Suhl] and I had been friends for eight or nine years before we started the company.
MS: It hasn't always been Kumbaya; we’ve had ups and downs. There are things I’m more passionate about and things he’s more passionate about. But we’ve managed to make it work and I feel like now we’ve worked out all the kinks and we’re kind of sympatico.
SM: It seems like a lot of people find a lot of long lasting relationships on the website. Can you speak to that?
MS: We’ve had hundreds of couples meet on the site, dozens of babies that have been born because their parents have met on SuicideGirls.
SM: Do you feel like SuicideGirls has evolved into its final form? What’s next?
MS: I don't think it's evolved into its final form. I feel like as the Internet changes and how people use the Internet changes, SuicideGirls will change. If you had asked me fifteen years ago if we would be carrying around all these connections in our pockets I would have said you’re crazy. I don't know what form it's going to take, but I know that we've always carved out a place for outsiders to congregate on the web.
SM: What can we expect from the show?
MS: You’ll have to come see it! It has such a crazy, cool energy. The girls have so much fun and I think it’s impossible for anyone to leave the show without a smile.