Who are you and what do you do?
I’ve worked as a shopgirl at Max Black for the past 8 years. We are a small independently run company, which feels like a family. I identify as a queer woman, and I am a huge believer in the importance of my work with Max Black. I am also an actor and burlesque performer within queer and feminist-aligned theatre organisations.
Why do you enjoy working at Max Black (MB)?
My personal outlook and philosophy align with what MB seeks to achieve in the community. We believe strongly in inclusive spaces, the celebration of sexuality, health, creating conversations regarding sex and sexuality, and beautiful, interesting work. I feel equally as passionate about my work as with my art practice.
I would have benefited knowing about these things/themes in more formative years in my sexuality.
What is the most empowering thing you’ve learned through MB?
Through working there, you really begin to support the normalization of sex and sexuality, but also the deconstruction of what is normal. There is no ‘normal’. It’s so nuanced and individual and is part of why human beings are so incredible to me.
Do you find inspiration for creativity through MB?
I am constantly inspired by coworkers and people I serve. Finding my own voice was aided by working at MB, to both my identity and breaking down barriers of shame and stigma that I was surrounded by as a woman with a conservative Catholic upbringing. I feel more confident in representing myself and trying to support the representation of other people, particularly those who are marginalised.
What stereotypes do you want to smash?
It must be said that MB operates as an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community and does not speak for any one community.
We believe you should be able to present to the world, however, feels authentic to you.
We pride ourselves on not making assumptions and we understand that people aren’t defined by their preferences. People can self-identify.
We aren’t there to define someone based on their current position on sexual preference, gender presentation or what they’re into. It’s a constant moving beast and we are super aware of that, as well as the influence and power we can have in that dynamic. It’s important to place the power back on our customers. At the end of the day, we will never be the expert on you, you are.
How would you describe love?
There are so many facets to love! For me, if love was a song, it’d be ‘Sometimes’ by My Bloody Valentine. A mix of unintelligible words and noise. Mess and beauty. That to me is love. I believe strongly in love, I think that it’d be pretty hard to operate on this earth without love.
What has been your biggest challenge as a creative woman so far?
Well, I feel extremely privileged that I can even have a creative career in contrast to my mother who was a refugee. I’m privileged with stability and access where she didn’t have the financial support or context.
The money I make supports me, not through any other financial aid or pre-existing support system and I don’t come from a wealthy family.
Which is what is so beautiful about MB, as a secondary career, I’m able to invest my time into something I love which financially supports me. As a woman, the basics of pay difference within the theatre industry are challenging and I am at times marginalized by my own ethnicity.
In your experience, is there equal representation of women in theatre?
When I look at the main stage I feel perpetually disappointed by some of the stage pieces and why they would have put some of these pieces on.
The representation of women definitely has a way to go, particularly the underrepresentation of queer women and/or women of colour. Often their stories and voices are co-opted by privileged bodies and are used to the advantage of these bodies, as opposed to those they seek to represent. Intersectionality is needed, but not often referenced.
Women often have to work twice as hard to prove themselves, and they aren’t allowed the same failings as their male counterparts. I feel disappointed because I work in areas, such as MB and with particular theatre makers, where women are extremely supported, so I’ve seen it work differently and function extremely well in other sectors.
Do you have any rituals?
I’m your classic creative scatterbrain so structure is very good for me, and I think that’s why I love having a job like MB as it provides structure in my terribly unstructured life. It’s so important (laughs).
Have you ever been to a nude event?
I’ve performed nude both as an actor and as a burlesque performer. Both feel very different. Even though they both were performance based, they’re operating within different contexts. And I have been to a nudist beach. The nudist beach was the most difficult, because it’s not performative. When it’s in the context of performance there’s a bigger purpose, so any hang-ups you have about your body are almost channeled into something bigger than you. Whereas when it’s just you…it’s just you, which should be enough, but is far more confronting.
What motivates you?
My motivation in my work at MB as well as my personal work, is a real belief in the potential and capacity of human beings. I mean, there’s a lot of things that can get you pretty down, you know, but I absolutely believe in the potential for the human spirit. Whether that is by creating spaces for people to find their voices, or redefine their own boundaries or identities, I think I believe in a better future.
Do you ever come up against criticism for your work and how do you deal with this?
Build a really strong sense of self, to counteract it. If someone keeps questioning what you’re doing, you have to remain strong.. especially if you’re doing something that opposes what you’ve been taught your whole life. It’s just a lack of education really. If we were taught to be more open and respectful at a young age, then we wouldn’t have such hang ups as adults.
What does Create or Die mean to you?
I think the phrase “Create or Die” is in a way the philosophy of how I operate. For me, it’s like, I believe in one lifetime in this form, that it’s the one chance to make an impact, to make change, to make my life purposeful.
I can be invisible but I hope my impact on this earth has made it slightly better for someone else whether it’s creating art, change, spaces etc and I hope I continue to do that for this lifetime.
~ Interview by Jessie Ray ~
Max Black are proud supporters of Create or Die’s BARE creative dinner: https://www.facebook.com/events/1842192952771514
Max Black would like to let you know about some of their workshops & events, if you are interested in MB run events, please treat yourself and sign up to their newsletter here: http://www.maxblack.com.au/content_common/pg-join-vip-list.seo