Namalee Bolle

Namalee Bolle

Namalee Bolle is bizarre. There’s something about her whimsical presence that’s reminiscent of the late Isabella Blow. Her gorgeous lips are painted in her signature colour neon-pink by Barry M, and her sense of fashion is frighteningly bold, which means that she’s always in the first row of London’s Fashion extravaganzas. Let’s also not forget, she’s a fashion muse for designers Basso & Brooke, and she’s the Fashion Director for an overzealous magazine called the Super Super. Her fashion spreads seem to be inspired by the Baroque era with a Sponge Bob twist, literally. Namalee has recently branched out into the music genre known as Powerpop. Songs like “Namazonia,” “I Knew I was Right” along with her nauseous inducing music videos (the overwhelming use of bright colours and trance like beats) are a grimy yet ostentatious delineation of the world that Namalee lives in, whether you like it or not.

But it’s hard to believe that this stunning woman with mainstream appeal, who is practically a media darling in the UK, has barely gotten any press in North America. Maybe North America is not ready for this.

“My mum and dad told me I looked like a punk when I born.”

Format: You have so many different job titles when it comes to the Super Super magazine. Sources have called you the Fashion Stylist, the Editor-in-Chief and the Creative Director. What exactly is your title with this magazine?
Namalee Bolle: Basically I co-founded the Super Super with three people. We all came up with the idea for it and everything. Now I work as the Fashion Director, so I do all the fashion material and the photoshoots . When it started I was Editor-in-Chief. It’s quite a change since its gone along, ‘cause I started out very much involved with the journalism side and everything like that, but then I started doing music and moving away from the journalism part.

Format: Out of all the things that you’re involved in, being a muse for fashion designers Basso & Brooke, singer, fashion director for a magazine, what specific role is the most strenuous for you?
Namalee Bolle: They all are in their own way. With the magazine we’ve had ridiculous deadlines like staying in the office for three days. [As a muse I’m involved in the] fashion shows for London Fashion Week with Basso & Brooke, sometimes we’ll have three days in the studio, working on the collection, styling the collection up and getting everything together that is quite hard work. Being in music is pretty hard, like travelling, it’s quite strenuous performing, staying out really late and then performing again. I think it’s a combination of everything… it’s all [amazing fun but] quite tiring.

Format: Are you actually working on a full length album now?
Namalee Bolle: Yes I am. I’m working on it with a guy called Niyi.

Format: Have you considered collaborating with North American producers like Missy Elliot or Peaches?
Namalee Bolle: Absolutely. That would be amazing. Particularly those two people that you picked out as well [their style of music] is definitely the type of music that I love. I love Peaches, she’d had such a massive [influence on me] ever since I started doing music, and also from a fashion standpoint she’s been very influential as well. With her electro crossing over into nu-rave and pop, she’s just so expressive and she’s a very strong woman which I like. And the thing with Missy Elliot is that she does really powerful weird stuff and it’s mainstream.

Namalee Bolle

Format: Speaking of cross-over, I read that you were in the process of opening up an office for the Super Super in New York. How do you find the vibe towards you when you go to New York?
Namalee Bolle: You know, I haven’t actually been to New York! It’s a place I’ve always wanted to go to. I really want to go to New York more than anywhere. But I can’t really say apart from myspace.com which has been really amazing. I guess since my thing is all about positivity and I got that kind free-spirit. People overseas seem to be really into that. They seem to really like the bright colours. Your message could mean different things in different countries because of cultural differences. But I think my message is quite universal, it’s about love, believing in your-self and knowing yourself, and if you wanna do something just get up and do it. I think my theme is something that people can relate to.

Format: I came across an article about some Muslim women living in Turkey who were authors. Because their literature depicted their Muslim protagonists as everyday women, living modern lifestyles, people were burning the books and pictures of these authors. I don’t know your religious upbringing, but I know you’re half Sri Lankan and I’m aware of some of the stereotypes that are placed on Asian women to be a certain way and when you do things unconventionally you’re considered an outcast. With you, do you feel any obligation to oppose suppressive messages?
Namalee Bolle: I guess in my own way. Where I’m coming from culturally is of mixed race. Half of me is Sri Lankan and half of me is Dutch and all the other things as well. I grew up going to school where I felt different. I didn’t really grow up with religion, so I can’t really speak on behalf of people who have grown up with a religion. We didn’t really discuss religion in my house. But I guess with the point of view that my mum is an Asian woman, I grew up with that very much a part of me. It’s been very very important to me and it’s my identity, I think they’re a lot of things in Asian culture which me and my sister [cultivate] in obvious ways. [This pertains to our] values towards other people and other women, this kind of thing which is very evident in my body work. But you couldn’t really see it in terms of religion.

Things like loving your sisters, supporting one another and being kind, that definitely came from my mum and that was really influential on me. My whole thing is so female orientated just because I’ve grown up being a strong woman and I’ve had situations where I’ve had to assert myself in that way. A lot of my triumphs have been based situations on how I [had to] be strong and independent and all these kinds of things are reflective in my music. Songs like “U Glo Grrl” are songs about female empowerment. I get really annoyed when girls put down other girls. Girls can be so strong if they just stop trying to put each other down and be supportive of each other a little bit more, they don’t realize how powerful that can be instead of fitting over a boy or something. They often disempower themselves that way. I think there are a lot of women around at the moment that claim to be women friendly but they actually aren’t. They’re just putting out an image saying ‘oh yeah, I’m up there, and I need this.’ But you’re not really looking inside to see yourself to see how you can do that. You know what I mean?

Namalee Bolle

Format: Definitely. Do you feel that the empowerment is lacking in music right now?
Namalee Bolle: Yeah I do, actually even when you bring up Madonna, she was a real influence on me. I didn’t even realize until recently. But I’ve never really been a big fan person, I’ve never really been like ‘oh I’m obsessed with so and so,’ so it’s more from a guidance standpoint. Defiant women like Madonna, Lil’ Kim or Missy Elliot, you know, these women that just do what they want to do regardless of what people say about them, regardless if people say they’re strange or weird, or anything like that. That is really an important thing. Madonna always did that. I remember when I was really young I would always feel really empowered by the things that she said. She really believed in what she said, about art and culture, everything she did, she served a purpose. Even if it’s pop music there can be a higher level of meaning behind it, it doesn’t have to be straight non-sense just because it’s a simplified version of music.

Format: I think it’s a collective of things besides being a woman. I know what it’s like to feel segregated growing up in a neighbourhood of a predominant race and feeling different because of it. Were you fortunate enough to live in a diverse environment like Jimi Hendrix or was a difficult for you? Were things confusing for you?
Namalee Bolle: Yeah I was really confused and I think that’s my main state, a state of confusion. I was really quiet, I mean really, really incredibly shy. But I was an introvert, and quite happy to do things on my own. I didn’t really want confrontation and I think that stems from the fact that people didn’t really know what I was, and I was aware of the fact that they didn’t’ really know what I was. Being of mixed race and quite ambiguous looking at that. Some kids thought this and some kids though something else. I remember when people use to ask and I didn’t really want to get into it. I remember when my mum use to come and pick me and they would be like ‘oh is that your mum?’ My dad didn’t really come out that much. I don’t think it was negative, but it just really affected me. But that’s what my art is about, it’s about identity. I never really felt like I belonged to anyone. But when I talk to other people of mixed raced it’s like you really don’t feel like you belong to one thing, you belong to all of them. That’s why everything is so mixed up and that’s normal to me.

Format: What is your artistic background, were you initially going to be painter?
Namalee Bolle: I liked drawing. Because I was so quiet and stuff I used to just draw. I did really well in it and my parents always thought I would be a [fine] artist. I really liked cartoons. Then when I went to school I got into fashion. I got into modeling and I realized I really like fashion, I didn’t want to be model, but I liked that whole world and it’s fun. And I was into Andy Warhol and all those figures of that time.

Format: When did the eccentricity start to kick in?
Namalee Bolle: From the day that I was born. My mum and dad told me I looked like a punk when I born. I had all these weird, imaginary friends I used to speak to, I dressed up in all these weird clothes from a really young age. Apparently I really used to like Kate Bush and I used to try to dance like her.

I think I’ve got that whole British eccentric thing. My dad’s from Holland, so I’ve got that extra eccentricity. I think also the distinct combinations of cultures that I grew up with, that European infused with Asian culture. I’m different worlds coming together.

Namalee Bolle

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