JOSEPHINE SILLARS

REEK INTERVIEW: JOSEPHINE SILLARS

Musician and singer, Josephine Sillars on perfume, female strength, how she looks and her new release, Problems with Power.

What smells remind you of femininity? What are your favourite smells and why?

Obvious answer, but flowers definitely! Obviously they are a traditional symbol of femininity, but I love them. Flowers are definitely among my favourite smells.

Do you feel pressure to act/look a certain way to fit in with the ideals of female beauty? How do you combat or comply with these pressures?

Yes, I definitely do and I would honestly be surprised to find someone who doesn’t feel that pressure. Especially in an industry like the music industry. So much of music isn’t even about the music, it’s about how you present yourself both on stage and off stage. I spend a ridiculous amount of time looking at pictures and videos of myself, because the ones that I present to press and the public will be judged, and it can be so, so difficult because the majority of pictures I have of me playing (especially playing live) are awful. I used to get worked up about it when I was younger, and would try almost too hard to present myself as what I deemed to be a ‘prettier’ version of myself, but ultimately that would always result in me trying to make myself smaller. Which isn’t a great attitude to have. Women should never make themselves smaller. This is one of the main topics I’m trying to combat in my new song, ‘Problems With Power’. The song is written partly from my own experiences with power and partly from friends, but the sections of the song from my perspective do directly deal with the ideals and pressures of female beauty in the industry I work in.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day that have also inspired you to push further in your career or your personal life?

Probably my grandmother, Margo MacDonald. She’s an inspiring lady.

Do you think female success differs from male success in your industry, and if so how? Have you experienced this in your own career?

The majority of people I know in the music industry are male – and that’s just a fact. The majority of people who have booked me for gigs, or for festivals or featured my music somewhere have been male. I literally only know a handful of women who work in the industry. This definitely doesn’t mean there aren’t more, I perhaps just haven’t met them yet, but at the moment, the majority of people in my circle are male. Even the female musicians I know, seem to work primarily with men. Looking at this in terms of success – I don’t think there’s necessarily a way to gender the idea of success, and in music, I imagine the goals that I have would be similar to the goals that a male musician would have, and that we would view our successes in similar ways. However, it’s definitely harder for female musicians to succeed – and this isn’t because people in the music scene are inherently sexist, but when you have an industry built with a patriarchal structure, subconscious sexism does happen. Saying the music industry is sexist isn’t exactly groundbreaking, and obviously the Scottish scene has seen great things from female musicians in the past few years (Honeyblood, Kathryn Joseph etc), but in order for female and male successes to even out, the industry needs to admit to its sexism. People need to stop taking it personally, because yeah, most individuals aren’t sexist – but the industry is. In my experience I’ve been the only woman on a bill with several men countless times, and I have also predominantly worked with men. Even when I’m not booked on the bill for something, 9/10 there will only be one or two women among a sea of male musicians. It’s definitely not because women aren’t up to it – it’s just harder for us to succeed. And this isn’t me complaining that I’d be doing X, Y and Z if I were male and I’m definitely not saying that any of my failures are down to my gender, but ultimately, women have a tougher time in this industry. And I mean, I’m a white woman. I can’t imagine the difficulties that women of colour have.

What female or gender equality causes mean the most to you and why?

It’s definitely a woman’s right to an abortion. I think this one is important to me because I am lucky enough to live here in Scotland, where you can get an abortion safely if you feel you need one. While it’s not a right that I’ve ever exercised personally, the fact that this isn’t the case in places as close to home such as Northern Ireland is something I find extremely difficult to digest. I’m very much a my-body-my-choice type of person.

What signifies female strength to you?

Crying. I don’t like to gender the idea of strength, but if I had to, I would say crying because showing emotions in that respect is something men are taught not to do. I definitely don’t agree with that – men should be taught to express their emotions as freely as women. I hate the idea that crying is a weak thing. I cry about everything! I think expressing emotions is incredibly strong, and I think crying in particular signifies female strength because I like the idea of inverting a presumed weakness as a strength. So many things that women do are labelled weak, and I’m totally in favour of reclaiming those things as strengths.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch you are.

Hmmm…. I am a thoughtful bitch. I tend to think over everything I say before I say it (which is why it takes me so long to write new songs), but then I am always very strong in my opinions when I form them. And I think that makes me powerful – I think I’m a damn rebel bitch because I use my thoughts as wisely as I can.

You can find Josephine’s song “Problems with Power” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9J77FRpBc4


MINERVA

REEK ACTIVIST INTERVIEW: MINERVA

Model, Minerva on her female inspiration, gender equality, her disability and her sexuality.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day that have also inspired you to push further in your career or your personal life?

Madonna is my queen when it comes to inspiring and empowering me to be strong. She has battled with the horrendous patriarchy of the music industry and didn’t change herself. I can identify with this hugely with many sufferings at the hands of the abusive man. She had to experience hardship to get where she is and yet she still fights alongside us, with her incredible speeches at very important recent award ceremonies and protests. She is always someone to aspire to.

What female or gender equality causes mean the most to you and why?

At this moment it’s not about female or gender equality for me. My mind has been focused on the broader spectrum of minority equality. As a disabled, queer female I am a large part of our society’s punching bag. That’s not to say I don’t care about each minority separately, it’s just very difficult not to think about everyone who is suffering from inequality.

Do you feel pressure to act/look a certain way to fit in with the ideals of female beauty? How do you combat or comply with these pressures?

Not really, as a young teen I was considered incredibly unattractive and was called Manerva… lol. After years of hating the way I looked and trying so hard to keep reminding myself that I didn’t care what people think and I actually got to the point where I didn’t. I dress and act the way I feel and I’ve got so used to being objectified I don’t even realise it most of the time, which of course doesn’t make it okay. I am beautiful and I am a good person. For me the ideal of female beauty is completely within. The media has polluted our minds with the reminder that we are not “perfect”, but I am perfect and so are all of you – that’s my real ideal of female beauty. Not to say I’m not shallow ha but I just remind myself daily that I am an individual that is like no other and we are all human, all the same in such different ways and in my world, there is no perfect, just real beauty.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch you are.

I am a damn rebel bitch because I do what I like when I like how I like with who I like where I like. I live completely outside of social norms and stand up for what I feel and believe. Life hasn’t been incredibly kind to me but I will not be letting anything stop me from fulfilling my true potential, one day. You don’t owe the world anything, and all I’m trying to do is remind everyone that they are special and wanted.

What are your favourite images from your REEK photo shoot and why?

I like the two smiling images because I am happy and gorgeous and I love my make up and it just truly shows how happy I was in that moment, being a part of something important and feeling female empowerment and solidarity with two Scottish babes, especially as we shared beautiful moments at the Women’s march.


OSATO EMUMWEN

REEK MODEL INTERVIEW: OSATO

Model, Osato on history, heroines and how the beauty industry treats women of colour.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day?

I think, as I’ve grown older and come to terms with who I am and who I want to be, I identify with women like Maya Angelou and how focused and dedicated she was to speaking out women and how we should be seen. The idea of ‘the feminist’ is kind of frowned upon in today’s society. And in the present day I identify with the messages women like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are speaking about for young girls. We have to be the writers of our own stories and it’s important for all women to understand this message from a young age. ‘The sky is the limit’ that kind of thing.

Tell us about a time you have felt threatened because you are a women?

I don’t think I’ve ever felt threatened, just uncomfortable. Especially when you’re in a predominantly male environment and you’re the only female you’re hyper sensitive and aware of everything you do and how you’re coming across. I tend to shrink myself down to look smaller so no one will pay any attention to me and you don’t get unwanted advances from guys.

Do you feel that brands aimed at women represent you? 

Not at all. Being a woman of colour with a different look to most of the models in the industry, as a young girl you go through a kind of identity crisis. I’m from Nigeria originally but I’ve grown up in a Western environment. So you start to lose a bit of yourself and your culture. So as I’ve grown up it’s been important for me to embrace that culture and who I am. But it’s been difficult because the girls in the magazines or the movies all look the same; tall, skinny, most of the time Caucasian and nothing like me. I can’t relate to a girl like that. So it was really nice shooting for REEK, where the brand is aimed at every type of woman or gender, in all different shapes and sizes. Because that’s the reality of the world we live in. No two people look the same so I think that’s an important message to push to people especially young girls.

How does beauty industry advertising make you feel about yourself?

I used to feel like I had to change myself to look like those girls. It makes you question your beauty, because the girls they are using for these campaigns never look like you. Half the time they don’t look like themselves either because they’re so airbrushed. It would be amazing if there was more diversity. Nowadays fashion brands etc think diversity means adding one black or Asian model to their fashion show and all of a sudden they’re ‘revolutionary’ and paving the way for more diversity in fashion. Which is clearly not the case at all. And there are so many beautiful women out there who should be included in the messages these brands are trying to portray to help all women understand that not one size fits all kind of thing.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch?

I think because I’m confident. I can be in a room full of people I don’t know and I’m able to have a conversation and get to know people.  And my mentality makes me a damn Rebel Bitch. I’ve got a very ‘take me as you see me’ attitude to life.


SGÀIRE WOOD

REEK MODEL INTERVIEW: SGÀIRE

We talk to REEK model Sgaire, on femininity, favourite smells and inspiration.

What women have inspired you most in your life?  

The older I get the more I realise how similar I am to my mother and my sister. I learned a lot of what it was to a be a woman from them and we have so many shared experiences, feelings, opinions and genes, so I suppose that makes sense. I’m always inspired by their strength and kindness. They also have a very low tolerance for bullshit which I find particularly admirable.

 

What smells remind you of femininity?  

I don’t know if I associate femininity or masculinity with any particular smells, but I think I feel most feminine when I’m wearing a scent that connects me to the earth or my own creative energy. Patchouli, olibanum, oud, myrrh, labdanum. Anything natural and earthy and woody. My parents are big patchouli-wearers/incense-burners so maybe feeling feminine and the strength of feeling in touch with my roots go hand in hand. That sounds so pretentious!

Do you feel that brands aimed at women represent you? 

Not really, but that doesn’t bother me too much. A lot of products aimed at women rely on the assumption that we all have one of three or four body shapes or skin tones or that we are all full-time homemakers/mothers or even that we all menstruate. These assumptions are categorically untrue and often really problematic because women are much more diverse than this branding gives us credit for.

That said, I don’t expect anything else from big companies trying to shift as much stock as possible to make as much profit as possible, so I think I’ve come to accept that women like me won’t be represented by woman-directed branding. I’m aware also that representation is a really intersectional issue and despite my obvious trans-ness, as a young, thin, white, able-bodied person, I have much more access to representation than a lot of other people.

Do you feel pressure to act/look a certain way to fit in with the ideals of female beauty?  

Yes, definitely, but again I think I’m getting better at reacting to that feeling in a healthy way the older I get! Now more than ever there’s this pressure from the media to be physically perfect (whatever that means…) and in a society where women are constantly objectified and having their worth measured by physical attractiveness, the pursuit for perfection is unrealistic and really damaging to the body and mind.

I try to hold myself to my own, more accessible, realistic standards, but as a transgender woman, Western beauty ideals can make me feel like my physical self isn’t beautiful or that my existence isn’t recognised as valid by society, and that hurts.

Obviously, I have internalised so many of these standards and they still effect how I subconsciously judge myself and other people sometimes, so I can’t claim to be above them, but true beauty is so subjective and we shouldn’t let patriarchy or industries define it for us.

Western definitions of female beauty are based on years of oppression and hegemony so for a lot of people, the current ideal just isn’t achievable. For the most part, women of colour, disabled women, trans or gender non-conforming women, older women or women of any shape or size that don’t see themselves represented positively in the media are left out of the pictures we’re inundated with every day. It’s no wonder that standards of beauty make most of us feel horrible about ourselves!

I think wisdom, compassion, uniqueness, creativity and honesty are all beautiful, whether they manifest themselves physically or not, so I try to act accordingly.


Image from a photographic series by Alex Storm Hague discussing the link between latex and sexuality.

ALEX STORM HAGUE

Interview: Alex Storm Hague

Artist Alex Storm Hague on her art, perceptions of beauty, feminism and being a bitch.

What inspired this series of images?
The photographs you see happened quite early on in my investigation as I was already aware of the connections between latex as a material and sexuality. I deliberately used pink to show a softer more feminine form which hopefully makes the images more approachable. I feel that pink is synonymous with femininity but I could easily visualise custom shades to represent a broader variety of skin tones rather than only intimating gender (which could be another project in itself). I’m also interested in art direction so focussing on female body parts with this in mind, particularly around how we are used to seeing the female form displayed in an objectified way and its expectations. (Trying to make the balloon conform to how I wanted it to look wasn’t lost on me in relation to this.)

What kind of reception have you had?
The main reaction has been positive, I’ve actually had no negative feedback and perhaps thats down to the way in which the images come across. I’ve left it open to interpretation and haven’t attached an agenda to them so for the time being they’ve remained unchallenged. Like I say, they came about early on in my work so they are by no means an end result but I’m happy that they symbolise an aspect of feminism.

Bitch. What does this word mean to you?
To me ‘bitch’ used to mean a girl/woman that was independent enough to stop at nothing to get what she wanted, she wasn’t bothered by peoples opinion, she was doing her own thing, she was straight forward and transparent even if that rubbed people the wrong way (expectation versus reality) – That’s the mentality I grew up with in the 90s, girl power n’ all that, perhaps being a ‘bitch’ was something that was embraced to an extent. I know its been a derogatory term from those that are threatened by a woman and want to bring her down. Nowadays I think there are much stronger elements of sex and oppression of gender tied to it and I’m surprised when rappers use it but are quick to defend their own daughters in respect of that. My feeling of how its used today doesn’t sit well by comparison.

Does feminism inspire your work?
Yeah definitely I’ve always admired female artists and designers that were trying to carve a career for themselves and be taken seriously, especially those from a period that everything was against them. For me feminism isn’t always present in my finished work but in the kind of work I undertake. I’ve always been told that I can be/do whatever I want to be/do and have truly believed that. For example, a few years ago I became an instrument maker which is predominately a male occupation, I thoroughly enjoyed it and never felt like I didn’t belong, it was such a supportive environment to work in without being seen as ‘the little lady’ so to speak.

What are your own ideals of feminism?
It would be great if we didn’t need feminism, that people were treated equally as a political, economic and societal standard, that would be my ideal.

You can find more of Alex’s work at www.alexstormhague.com or follow her instagram @alexstormhague


Image of model for artisan, independent, luxury, eau de parfum brand REEK Perfume’s rebellious, feminist, unretouched, campaign.

SHAHEEDA SINCKLER

REEK MODEL FEATURE: SHAHEEDA SINCKLER

Image of model for artisan, independent, luxury, eau de parfum brand REEK Perfume’s rebellious, feminist, unretouched, campaign.

Model, Shaheeda, on self-worth, gender, new relationships and being a DAMN REBEL BITCH

The setting in which I feel most threatened my gender and self worth at this stage in my life is upon entering a new romantic/sexual relationship. I have had as many negative experiences with the opposite sex as the next girl, and when I get close to someone new I tend to feel plagued by all the what ifs. Last time I came out of a relationship I was upset and a friend told me, ‘fuckboys are just a part of life’ which made me feel depressed and hopeless about the future of my love life. However when I thought about it more, I chose to devalue this statement. Firstly, I’d like to publicly reject the term ‘fuckboy’ as I feel it is regressive and divisive. If we are pushing for equality I feel like we should avoid new terminology that categorises and degrades. Secondly, I feel like a crucial part in combatting my fear of intimacy is to have an understanding that my relationships pan out the way that they do, not because the people I share myself with are men, but because they are people, with their own self-interests and insecurities, and their own agendas, just like everyone else – myself included. For me, being empowered means acting out of knowledge, experience and understanding, rather than acting out of fear. So, as a young woman, I force myself to be thoughtful about these concepts, to reject the idea that I have been ‘fucked over’, to accept that my emotions are real and not just a part of my gender and to try my hardest to maintain  perspective over the things that happen to me. Ultimately, that’s what makes me a DAMN REBEL BITCH.


Image of model Rosalind Shrinivas for artisan, independent, luxury, eau de parfum brand REEK Perfume’s rebellious, feminist, unretouched, campaign.

ROSALIND SHRINIVAS

REEK MODEL INTERVIEW: ROSALIND SHRINIVAS

Image of model Rosalind Shrinivas for artisan, independent, luxury, eau de parfum brand REEK Perfume’s rebellious, feminist, unretouched, campaign.

Model, Rosalind, on her life, beauty, aesthetics, feminism, fragrance and sense of self.

What women have inspired you most in your life?  

I think it’s natural to say that my mother and sister have been most inspiring for me. We have a very female-power family, since my parents spilt up when I was 11. My father lived abroad so my mother was the sole person bringing us up, teaching us the ways of life. I would look up to her and how she stayed strong and empowered even at times when she wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Her guidance, support and selflessness has given me an amazing role model.  She inspires me to be caring and respectful to others and shows how nothing fills your heart more than making someone else smile. My sister is 3 years older and is more of the risktaker in the family. She taught me to be more carefree and to embrace my creativity. She also always makes sure I am comfortable in myself by celebrating who I am. She’s my ultimate life cheerleader!

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day?  

I would say I have a constant craving for the new and the future so I resonate more with current iconic women, but no one can fault the incredible political and cultural advances women from the past have made for women today! I have always admired is Frida Kahlo. For me she was a woman whose beauty didn’t follow the typical form, and whose strength made her even more of an infatuation. I also find her to be one of the first women to embody a slight androgyny through her style and her natural genetic make up. She also represents the quote ‘Mind over Matter’ for me and didn’t let her unfortunate circumstances impede her creativity, but rather celebrated and expressed her life.

What are your most important female causes?  

One female cause that is important to me, especially studying design, is to challenge women who feel they have to dress a certain way for the ‘male gaze’ or are afraid to step out of the box and wear something that is deemed masculine. Culture is becoming more accepting of all sexualtiies and there is a surge in unisex brands but I feel there is still an overall understanding that women look “sexiest” wearing clothing that show off the female body.  One of my favourite designers is Haider Ackermann for the sole reason that he dresses women with a masculine and feminine blended sensibility. His muse is Tilda Swinton, who has a otherworldy, unconventional beauty and ambiguous strength that is empowering to all women without being stereotypical. I also think there’s a line between sultry and sexy. Getting the right balance can be empowering – women should dress for their own self esteem.

Why were these three images from the campaign your chosen favourites of yourself?

I chose these images because I feel they represent the different sides of me. My craving to embrace my weird side, an androgyny I feel I have and my natural genetic make up. I am half Indian and have more body hair than some girls and this was something that made me feel ugly and was a topic of humiliation for me when I was younger. Something that didn’t make me feel desirable or attractive in anyway because of how other people perceived it. When I got older I started to let go of these feelings linked to my appearance and just be myself. I love how these are part of the images in the campaign. Thank you for making me feel even more empowered to be myself!

Have you ever felt threatened because you are a woman?

I had a time where I was told by a male friend that I was ‘overwhelming’ because of my general interest in him and when all I wanted to do was to support him through a stressful time as I had just gone through a stressful time myself. This made me question who I was because it came across that I would have to change to keep this friendship. I worried  that I was just annoying – that I was an annoyance to anyone and everyone I had come in contact with. There is a stereotype that women are ‘too emotional’ and  guys don’t like talking about ’emotional things.’ When he said that to me, I felt as if I had somehow done something bad. Now, though, I feel you should be as emotional as you like. Women’s interest and support can be thrown by the way side when it should be cherished. There is nothing more empowering that feeling cared for and I find women enjoy this – perhaps it’s a maternal instinct that’s programmed into us all.

What smells remind you of femininity?  

For me sweet smells always do, coconut, rose,fruit scents but I always enjoy a scent that juxtaposes this with a sharpness like pepper, sandalwood or cedar.

How does beauty industry advertising make you feel about yourself?  

I definitely feel images are overedited, which makes some women feel “ugly” if they don’t look flawless! One of the reasons I love being involved in this campaign, is that you can see pores, blemishes, hair. These are NATURAL and real and as a human race it is comforting to know you aren’t alone when it comes to feeling like you have flaws but also your ‘so called’ flaws can be celebrated and are really beautiful. Sometimes I find certain brands encourage a mask with makeup, when I think makeup should be used to naturally compliment what your DNA has given you!

Do you feel pressure to act/look a certain way to fit in with the ideals of female beauty?  

I used too. 100%. As I’m sure everyone has. When I was at school I got bullied for my appearance – I think it was especially because I was a different race and didn’t look like the stereotype or the ‘norm’. But now I feel the complete opposite. I feel freedom to be me and it empowers me when I’ve thought about how I dress/present myself and picked or mixed pieces that make the look original. Same with my mentality. I prefer being a minority because sometimes in the majority certain people are judgemental. It’s wrong to have to try to fit into a status or reputation but some people get irritated when you don’t. Life becomes a facade and I don’t think I could live life without honesty!

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch?   

I feel honoured being part of this campaign and chosen as a Damn Rebel Bitch. I wouldn’t say I’m your obvious rebel, but I think people associate carnage and recklessness sometimes with that word. For me what makes me a Damn Rebel Bitch is my knowledge of the power of kindness and honesty. Through the years I’ve realised the beauty you can feel through supporting others and the lessons you can learn yourself. And there is nothing better than making someone feel appreciated. Uplift others and you will be uplifted yourself!

Image of model Rosalind Shrinivas for artisan, independent, luxury, eau de parfum brand REEK Perfume’s rebellious, feminist, unretouched, campaign.