Back in 2001, two friends bravely set out to create for themselves an environment that supported their personalities, their aspirations and most importantly, their peers. In doing so, they planted a seed that would soon spawn an online community, 300,000 strong and viewed by millions. Their â€œexperiment,â€ it seems, worked marvellously and now SuicideGirls has become the basis for a cultural revolution. SG is a place where women (and men) can be themselves, where they can share their lives with adoring fans and best of all, get naked and have fun in front of the camera. Here, co-founder Missy Suicide, talks candidly about how SuicideGirls became a household name, one you wonâ€™t soon forget.
“The Internet is a place to be entertained and that gray area between entertainment and real life can get messy.”
Format: Back when you started SuicideGirls, had you any notion that the Internet would make such an enormous impact on the way we consume information or had you always known it would come to dominate as the medium of choice?
Missy Suicide: SuicideGirls started in 2001 and I had been working on websites for five years previous. I had a pretty good inkling the Internet would be massive. SG on the other hand was more of an experiment that I hoped people would like. The social network was not yet the proven behemoth that it is today. SuicideGirls began before Friendster of Myspace or Facebook. We knew that it was how we wanted to use the Internet but we werenâ€™t sure if others would feel the same way.
Format: Since then youâ€™ve successfully crossed-over into film, TV, radio and print so tell us about how these other mediums have worked to enhance the SG brand.
Missy: We were very lucky that we have been able to expose new audiences to SG through these other mediums. It sounds naive but I had no idea the power television had until our films started airing on Showtime and the episode of CSI: NY featuring the SuicideGirls aired. The sheer number of people engaged and hearing about your brand is exposure that impacts your fan base pretty immediately.
Radio has been a true pleasure and we feel lucky to be a part of the coolest radio station in America. Print allows you to create tangible objects that are permanent in nature; a website is constantly changing, so being able to create a print piece is a moment in time you can always reflect on. The great thing about the web is that you can constantly revise until you get it right but sometimes it is great to be able to hold a moment forever too.
Format: The new book Suicide Girls: Beauty Redefined has taken things to the next level; itâ€™s a truly comprehensive, extremely well presented look at what SG is all about. What inspired you to take the route you did, especially at a time when print media is in such turmoil?
Missy: There is something about holding beautiful work in your hand; it is such a tactile connected experience. This is our second book and our fourth foyer into the print medium having published two issues of our art magazine previously. We wanted to publish something that would truly be representative of the past eight years and show the breadth of the models from around the world and the amazing photographers we work with.
Format: If you had to tell someone in no uncertain terms what the benefits are to being a Suicide Girl, what would you tell them?
Missy: I believe each girl gets out of SuicideGirls what she puts in. Some girls who were interested in photography and started as models on the site now earn their livings photographing and Photoshopping for the site. Girls who were interested in performing have been able to travel the world on the burlesque tour, appear in films and television shows that are syndicated internationally as well as being interviewed for countless publications. Girls have found their best friends, husbands, and jobs through the site. Others have had their photos done and not really interacted much on the community. It is really up to the girl and the impact can be endless.
Some benefits girls have seen have been meeting amazing women from around the world who share your interest; beautiful photos that you will be able to look back on for the rest of your life; an opportunity to create truly collaborative work in which the vision of how you feel sexiest about yourself can be captured; opportunities to participate in music videos, interviews, TV shows, movies, conventions, and local nights; and a forum to reach 1 million people a week to market your clothing, book, music, etc.
Format: Creatively speaking, you allow your models to conceptualize and execute most of their own photo sets, which seems to have worked out alright thus far. Comment, if you will, on how youâ€™ve managed to compile such an enormous catalogue that is as diverse as it is consistent.
Missy: We make sure that the models visions of how they feel sexiest about themselves are portrayed in the highest quality images. Using the classic pin-up as our inspiration and touch point and bringing each girlâ€™s interpretation of that to each set. I think working with a talented team of photographers world wide who are dedicated to that vision has helped to create some amazingly unique and beautiful work while holding true to certain standards.
I also think having so many photographers who began as models brings out a certain comfort and ease to the photos, the photographers having been in the modelsâ€™ place and therefore having an intimate knowledge of what the other girl is going through. Not to discredit our very talented male photographers as well, who have cultivated great working relationships with the models over the years. I feel really lucky we are able to highlight such amazing work.
Format: Judging by what your ladies do for a living, it seems mayhem and excess is a part of their everyday, but is there anything that the SG brand will not accept from itâ€™s representatives? And Iâ€™m not talking about working for the competition here.
Missy: Nazis. That is one thing we donâ€™t tolerate.
Format: Considering your enormous market share, how do you propose to continue the building of the SuicideGirls empire whilst staying innovative and at the head of the pack?
Missy: We are working on our next film. We hope to have that released in the spring or early summer. We are working on a few deals that will expand the brand a bit and we continue to grow and improve the site. We will be doing more signings and appearances for SuicideGirls: Beauty Redefined.
Basically we will try to keep bringing things that we want to see and think are cool to the community. We have also had some really interesting, truly â€œonly in LAâ€ type meetings that will hopefully result in some really cool new ways to get to know the SuicideGirls soon.
Format: Over the years SG has been faced with some rather controversial issues, lawsuits, dirty rumors and a bunch of scrutiny, tell us how youâ€™ve managed to come out on top and how has your attitude been changed by these battles?
Missy: It is a new world we are living in where people are living their lives online. Being open opens you up to criticism and rumors. Situations can get out of hand and there is a platform for people to say horrible things about you and have them snowball into the absurd. The Internet is a place to be entertained and that gray area between entertainment and real life can get messy.
It can be hard, when you are in the thick of things, to put things into perspective but it helps to have a great real life to remind you of what is important. If you stay true to yourself and continue doing what you have been doing, with the same business ethics and acumen you have always employed, the rumors will be proven to be just that. There will always be some new drama and your 15 minutes of hardship will come to an end, even if it feels like it canâ€™t come soon enough.
Format: If you had an opportunity to confront all the haters and nay-sayers, what would you be saying to them?
Missy: Honestly I would wish them the best in life, and that they never have to incur the hater treatment. I tend to think that people are generally good and donâ€™t really intend for the exaggerations they boast on the Internet to end up affecting people in the ways that they do. It is easy to get caught up in the machine I think and feel forced to keep feeding the monster you created. I just hope that they donâ€™t do it to anyone else.