Kelly Osbourne: The gay interview

Fourth in a series of interview with musicians

Hollywood spitfire and staunch LGBT ally Kelly Osbourne is feeling tense about her first book, There Is No F*cking Secret: Letters from a Badass Bitch. After all, “What if I change my opinion by the time it comes out?!” she says, laughing because it’s true.

Then there’s our revealing interview, where the opinionated 32-year-old actress, singer and now author — and daughter of Ozzy and Sharon — let her candid thoughts loose on topics ranging from her sexuality (“everybody’s gay”) to her openness about dating women and her issues with celebrities who feign lesbianism for publicity. And that recent controversy over her statement regarding President Donald Trump? She admits it really got to her. Turns out, even badasses cry sometimes.

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: Your book, which covers your personal journey to self-acceptance, could have a positive influence on so many young people trying to find themselves. Kelly Osbourne: Oh, thank you so much! It’s the most vulnerable thing I’ve done in a while, I can’t lie. I’m kind of like, oh my god, I’ve actually done this, because for the first time in my life I wanted to take my power back, and instead of people telling me who I am, I wanted to tell them.

Who are some of your favorite badass bitches? I mean, Elton goes without saying. Just people who’ve made a difference in my life, like Liza Minnelli. I think Lil’ Kim. It’s anyone who just learned to be themselves and take responsibility for who they are.

When were you first aware you had an LGBT following? I don’t remember a time in my life when I haven’t been submerged in the LGBT community. It’s the only community that, even though I shouldn’t have belonged [laughs], accepted me. It was the only world I ever really felt comfortable in, because, and I say it in my book, I don’t know what it feels like to fit in.

What do you attribute that bond to? I think my relationship, especially with the drag community and the drag world, became so prevalent at such a young age because of Boy George, of course, and Blitz Kids and that huge movement in the U.K. I think drag queens choose how they want you to see them and they do that knowing that they’re probably going to get a lot of shit for it, and that’s what magic is. That’s like, “Fuck you, this is who I am,” and you can wake up every day and be whoever you want to be. I love that.

When did drag first come into your life? It’s never not been in my life. I mean, my mom was calling up [a drag club] in San Francisco; I was, like, 11 or 12 and being snuck into a drag bar. It was amazing. And there was a time I went to go see Cyndi Lauper on tour when she was playing in the U.K., and she used to have, like, 20 drag queens on tour with her. I was probably about 9 or 10.

You have to understand, my favorite childhood pastime was putting my mom’s lacy underwear and bustier on over my clothes — because I wasn’t allowed to wear them any other way — and going to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Rocky Horror is still, to this day, one of my favorite movies of all time. I loved the makeup. If you look really closely at the “Time Warp,” you’ll see where I get all my hair colors from. But yeah, everyone else was watching Annie, and I was watching Rocky Horror Picture Show and singing about sweet transvestites.

How much of your gay submergence do you credit to your mother? It’s equally my mom and my dad. In rock ’n’ roll, you were the outcasts back then and outcasts tend to find each other, especially in London.

How about Boy George — what was his influence on you? I remember staring at my TV, thinking, “Is it a beautiful woman or a beautiful man? It doesn’t matter.” He was the first person to break down barriers. He single-handedly changed people’s perspective so much. And he’s such a smart man! If you ever sit down and have a conversation with him about his political views and his opinion of the gay community, he says things that are so spot on and so important because he’s lived long enough through good times and bad times to see what things really are. I love talking to him. And he has the most beautiful eyes you’ve ever looked into!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Lea Michele: The gay interview

 

Third in a series of interviews with musicians.

Lea Michele knows exactly where her life is headed. “It’s just gonna be me in bed with gay people and I’m gonna be alone forever like Cher,” the powerhouse playfully foretells, “and that’s totally fine by me.” If you’re like Michele — theater-kid-turned-Broadway-queen, and then, with TV’s Glee and Scream Queens, the apple of Ryan Murphy’s eye — it’s a natural fit. And so be it. “That’s just the story of my fuckin’ life, all right.”

Not the whole story, though. The rest involves brainstorming the 30-year-old singer’s “dream girl” make-out sessions and what Glee episodes she likes the most.

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: I loved that you were drinking red wine while singing The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” when you reunited with your Glee co-star Darren Criss recently. Lea Michele: Listen, that’s just a typical night for me, let me tell you! I mean, we just wanted it to be casual, like a chill time, us hanging out. We didn’t want it to feel too performed. We just wanted it to be a little peek of what Darren and I do for fun together.

How much wine did you enjoy during the recording of your new album, Places? No wine during the recording of Places, I’ll tell you that. It was too vocally challenging, so none in the recording studio!

This album is more intimate than your debut. You take it down a few notches, and it sounds like you’ve realized that you don’t need to be the pop artist that some people might think you should be. Thank you. Can you do all of my press for me and tell everyone that?

Ha! Sure, I’m for hire. How did you apply what you’ve learned about yourself as a recording artist to Places? I learned a lot from my first album [2014’s Louder]. I definitely think a lot of things contributed to that album: I took a lot of people’s opinions into play, as well as just being a lover of pop music myself and also working on Glee at the same time, so I had a lot of factors kind of coming at me.

I worked on this new record over the past three years, and I really just took the time to be quiet and think about myself, and I was finished with Glee, so I was no longer in the recording studio for that. I just took the time to figure out really, truly who I am as an artist, what kind of music I want to make, and at the end of the day, I’m from Broadway, I’m a theatrical singer, there’s no way around that.

When I did this record, no one told me to change anything; no one told me to sound any different. And this is it, this is me. It’s a true representation of who I am, and all I can hope is that people like it. If they don’t, that’s OK for me now at this point in my life. You know, I’m 30 years old, and I know I can sing. I just hope that people like it and that’s all you can really do. At a certain point, you just have to let it go into the universe.

Did you feel differently making your first album? Did you feel like people were trying to put you in a box? No, I just think that I was sort of influenced a little bit more personally. I was putting myself into a box! No one was really making me do anything – I was the one that was saying, “I want a song that sounds like Katy Perry” and “I want this song to sound like Kelly Clarkson.” But in the recording studio this time, I was like, “No. It can’t sound like anyone but me.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Melissa Etheridge: The gay interview

Second in a series of interviews with musician/activists this week.

“You keep doing what you’re doing, you keep being out, you keep being beautiful,” Melissa Etheridge tells me, as if to emphasize the present-day significance of simply being your queer self.

The Grammy-winning rock icon, whose coming out at the height of her career in the early ’90s paved the way for many in the LGBT community, knows the gravity mere visibility can have on the world. On the heels of our interview with Indigo Girls, Etheridge, 55 — who will be performing in concert June 29 at the Majestic — brings her centered thoughtfulness to our conversation about the precise career moments when her music incited momentous change, the influence Donald Trump is having on her latest “empowered” songwriting sessions, and why she’s not sweating the “big bully in the schoolyard.”

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: Melissa, if there was ever a time to drink your weed wine, it’s gotta be now and for the next four years. Etheridge (laughing): Tell me about it!

Can you send me a crate? You do need it, don’t you? Oh my god, I wish I could. I wish I could get it out of [California], but I’m working on it.

Does that stuff help you write? Does it get the words flowing? You know what, I’m not as much of a drinker. I actually just smoke, and yes, smoking helps me write very much — smoking helps me every day.

Is it sativa you smoke for writing? For writing I smoke sativa; otherwise, if I’m not writing, I don’t use sativa because it would just make me run around in circles. [Laughs]

You know, when it comes to marijuana, I’m still learning. Aww. The whole product thing that I’ve got going, called Etheridge Farms — part of what we really want to be is sort of the “Cannabis for Dummies.” I can really take everybody through this … and this is good medicine! It’s good for you. And I’ll show you the choices and how to do it if you’re scared and stuff; that’s really what I want my brand to be. It’s about wellness and sort of walking people through this. It’s a very good time to take a breath and know that this too shall pass, and it’s making us all better.

Do you really believe that message – this is making us all better, that “this too shall pass?” I do. I have to. It’s my worldview. It’s my belief in the world, and I do have a belief that the universe doesn’t give us anything we cannot handle. All of this is cementing and making stronger our desire to live in a world that celebrates diversity. We know because the last eight years we’ve been riding on this incredibly amazing wave of, wow, we can all do this, we can live and let live and be stronger, and to borrow [Hillary Clinton’s] battle cry, be “stronger together.” Sometimes that being taken away from us and being confronted with what the world would be like without it is what makes that desire stronger, so obviously, it makes us stand up and take to the streets and say, “No, this is not how we want to live, this is not the American dream and let’s change that.”

Well, because we have to – we’re forced to. I was listening to your song “What Happens Tomorrow,” from 2007, and it gave me so much hope then and it’s giving so much hope now. But also, at the same time, I can’t help but feel bittersweet hearing, “I believe a woman can work hard and succeed, and we could be content to believe that she could be in charge of the free, and be the president,” knowing Hillary isn’t in the Oval Office right now.  I still believe in it. I know it was hard. We will never forget what that was like in November and January. We will never forget. We will tell our children. I have 10 year olds and said, “Look, this is an important time in history and you’re going to tell people that you were alive when this happened.”

Creatively speaking, is the current political climate shaping your new music? Are you writing songs about all this? Of course. I think we’re going to see more music talking about it, more music coming from that, and my music has kind of — I’ve always had a bit of that in my music. So, right now is a writing time for me. This whole year. And I can’t help but be influenced by it. I don’t want to put out a protest album, because I’m hoping in two years it will be moot and that we will have figured this all out, and yet I want it to be inspiring and speaking of our times because these, I think, are very important times.

What you do so well is put a face on an issue or event, like your song about Matthew Shepard, “Scarecrow,” and “Tuesday Morning,” an LGBT-rights rally cry centered on the late Mark Bingham, who sacrificed his life to save others in the Sept. 11 attacks. I imagine that might be the direction you’d go in. It’s funny, I haven’t really told anybody what I’m up to, but that’s exactly it — putting a face to it. I’m finding stories and really taking that way in.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Indigo Girls: The gay interview

 

Ray and Saliers, aka Indigo Girls

Marriage equality was a mere pipe dream when Indigo Girls duo Emily Saliers and Amy Ray came out in 1988, coinciding with the release of their eponymous Epic Records debut. There was no groundbreaking Ellen sitcom episode. Melissa Etheridge wasn’t formally out, and wouldn’t be until 1993, when she released Yes I Am. Within popular entertainment, particularly within the music business, Saliers and Ray were at the forefront of the queer rights movement. They won a Grammy and released chart-toppers like “Closer to Fine.” And they refused to let their sexuality get in the way of their success, brazenly being themselves at a time when being a gay public figure was uncommon and even downright scary.

In Friday’s print edition, we have an interview with Tony Award winner Billy Porter, so all this week, we decided to run interviews with other musicians who have taken an active role in art and politics.

We caught up with Saliers, 53, and Ray, 52, at the beginning of 2017, just days before Donald Trump would become our 45th president. The trailblazers talked about how music will unify despite the divisiveness of his administration, why “this is a really good time for artists to come to the forefront and stand up and be brave,” and their initial grade-school encounter that led to a devoted musical career and dear friendship spanning three decades.

Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: You’re on the road fairly frequently. What keeps you touring as often as you do? Amy Ray: Every audience is different, so every experience is different, and I just think it’s good to get out there and play in front of people and keep that community… build it and keep it vibrant and have that exchange.

Emily Saliers: The demographic is more mixed now, and there are younger people who come to the shows. I don’t know how they find out about us, maybe their parents. Also, a lot of young women who are looking for bands that have a feminist reality about them. Self-empowered, self-worth, self-questioning — all those things that are all over our lyrics. Even though we’ve gotten much older, I don’t feel like the experience of going to one of our shows is like we’re just this old band that’s been around forever. It still feels new and fresh. I love it as much or more than I ever have.

Given the divisiveness of what’s happening politically, is building that sense of community more important now? Ray: It might be. I guess in some ways there are other levels where community is always important, because even when you have the best kind of administration and a president that you love, there are still pockets within our own country that need community and need that glue where there’s hard things going on, whether it’s different queer communities or Native American communities or communities of color that are disenfranchised in some way. But right now, it’s pretty daunting. There might be reversals that are negative environmentally and human rights-wise. I think it’s definitely a time to batten down the hatches and roll up the sleeves and start working.

What part do you think the arts, including music, will play in the political climate of Trump’s America? Ray: This is a really good time for artists to come to the forefront and stand up and be brave and make themselves known, and not be worried about alienating people with their art. Sometimes in the music community — still! — there are people who go, “Oh, we don’t want to rock the boat and alienate our audience.” But I feel like people are feeling less of that and more like, “Screw it.” I can see it happening around me with my friends even, who didn’t want to rock the boat, who might’ve been scared to alienate somebody in their audience. But now I think it’s like, “Well, what do we have to lose?”

Visual art and movies and theater right now are very important – music, also. Popular culture, like with Ellen, the original sitcom, for instance, really impacted people. It broadened a lot of people’s horizons, and Transparent does that as far as issues around queerness and trans issues and issues around Jewishness.

During Obama’s administration, there was, in a good way, a lot of permission given to all this really beautiful art to blossom, and I think that’s good because there’s this strong groundwork that’s been laid that just needs to continue happening well into the next administration. Art can really bring people together who might feel alienated from each other, like in my community. I live in a rural community where maybe 80 or 90 percent of the people voted for Trump, but I don’t really demonize people. I can’t go there ’cause they’re my neighbors, and I know them. I know them in their best moments. And I just try to understand where they’re coming from.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Emeli Sande — the gay interview

emelisande20161Hello, it’s… Emeli Sandé, this generation’s only performer able to rival Adele as a powerhouse, tear-jerking force of nature.

The Scottish vocalist (born, funny enough, Adele Emily Sandé) is back for your pillow-sopping nights with her much-anticipated Long Live the Angels, a rumination on new versions of events, particularly the dissolving of a decade-long relationship that ended in divorce in 2014. Among the best albums of 2016, Sandé’s triumphant catharsis pushes through the pain with spirited, choir-lifted credos of faith and love-led empowerment.

In this revealing interview with Sandé, the 29-year-old opened up about the gay fans who helped her realize she needed a break, discovering President Obama’s daughters listen to her music and how Mariah Carey helped her feel less alone.

Dallas Voice: It’s been nearly five years since you released your debut, Our Version of Events. Why the wait?  Emeli Sande: I was just going through such a personal and spiritual growth. I mean, we spent so long promoting Our Version of Events, and it was amazing, touring, but I found it almost impossible to get back to ground zero and write music. I needed a timeout. I also was going through stuff myself that I needed to understand before I could put it in music and feel steady enough to go out there and give it to other people. So, it was a combination of both. I feel like for two years I just needed that time to dedicate to making this music.

How would you describe the process of writing these songs while going through something as difficult as your divorce?  I was always writing; this kind of feels like real diary entries. With every song, it was almost like I was sponging up my life. I find it a lot easier to express emotions through music, so I was acting like I was fine, but the music was all telling the truth in what I was feeling internally. It was all kind of me writing my emotions as I felt them, or if I’d do sessions, whatever I was going through at that time in my life, it just kind of came out.

Do you get emotional singing these deeply personal songs?  Not really. I feel quite empowered when I sing them just because it gives me an honesty on stage. Obviously, I hope they’re entertaining and they make people feel great, but it was really my truth. So, when I’m on stage it feels like I’m connecting with the audience and just kind of sharing myself fully. So, seriously enough, I kind of feel quite strong when I sing them. I feel liberated to tell the truth on stage.

Tell me how your connection with your gay fans has evolved since releasing your debut album.  During every show, I can feel my gay fans out there, and there’s a real kind of depth and understanding. I remember I was doing a show at KOKO in London, and it was around the time everything was going so fast, and I got a couple of notes from fans. A gay couple wrote, “Are you OK? If you want to come hang out with us, you can come on holiday with us.” I just thought it was so nice that they recognized — I must’ve been exhausted at that point, and I think they could see that. I really appreciated that letter from them. And I just appreciated all the different stories. I just love that I can also empower them through the music.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence — the gay interview

 

df10950_rv2Take it from Chris Pratt, who recently experienced being shipped off to a new world: The future is full of promise for the queer population.

“If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community and you’re really good at plumbing, then you know, they’ll send you, I’m sure,” quips one of the hottest actors on earth regarding whether the hibernating pod people aboard the Starship Avalon in his latest action-adventure, Passengers, are of varied sexual orientations.

“Anyone who’s valuable to the homestead company and who would be worth money to the homestead company would go,” the 37-year-old Guardians of the Galaxy star continues, speaking from the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, “so that would include all people from all — the whole spectrum, anyone who could essentially provide a service that’s an old-world service.”

Imagine a world of gay plumbers who aren’t defined by their sexuality but by their ability to unclog toilets. Or one in which Chris Pratt, as Jim Preston, and his Passengers co-star Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Aurora Lane, aren’t contemplating anyone’s sexuality. Perhaps sexuality will be but a footnote among the more important qualities that characterize persona, even as Jim prematurely wakes up 90 years ahead of schedule.

“Hopefully we’re well into the future where none of these things are even a conversation anymore, where they’ve gone from issues to conversation to hopefully being forgotten about, and everybody is treated equally,” says Lawrence, 26. “So, yes. Of course I would assume there’d be diversity.”

Chris Pratt and director Morten Tyldum on the set of ‘Passengers.’

Naturally, director Morten Tyldum shares that sentiment. Not only does he have a gay stepdaughter, the filmmaker was behind the camera for the Oscar-winning Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as gay computer scientist and famed WWII codebreaker Alan Turing.

“I think, very shortly, it will become a non-issue,” Tyldum says. “As Chris said: If he’s a good plumber, he would be on the ship. Nobody would care if he’s gay, straight, whatever.”

That, he notes, was his approach to 2014’s Imitation Game, which was controversial for its absence of gay sex scenes. In an interview with Variety in 2015, the director explained why his Turing wasn’t romantically or sexually engaged with another man: “It was not because we were afraid it would offend anybody,” he said at the time. “If I … had this thing about a straight character, I would never have a sex scene to prove that he’s heterosexual. If I have a gay character in a movie, I need to have a sex scene in it just to prove that he’s gay?”

In Passengers, Pratt and Lawrence do go at it. But Tyldum, who admits sex scenes in films are “very complicated,” explains this sexy scene is necessary for character development.

“The sex scene in Passengers is there because it’s a relationship — it’s between the two main characters – and there’s a sex moment because it’s about these two characters,” he says. “I think to have a sex scene it needs to have a story moment, going from the two strangers to becoming a couple.”

Jim (CHRIS PRATT) and Aurora (JENNIFER LAWRENCE) walk thru the Hibernation Bay on date night in Columbia Pictures' PASSENGERSThe difference, the director points out, is that “to have a sex scene in Imitation Game would be to sort of prove that Alan Turing is gay,” which, like the hypothetical gay pod people, would minimize more qualifying human attributes.

For Counterpart, an upcoming espionage-themed thriller Tyldum shot for Starz, the filmmaker reveals one of the leads is gay “for no other reason than that person is gay.”

“It’s not made an issue,” he adds. “He just happens to be gay.”

Conversations with his stepdaughter led to him underplaying the gay character’s sexuality both in Imitation Game and Counterpart. The sex in Passengers, on the other hand, builds upon Pratt and Lawrence’s chemistry. Hypothetically, could a movie this blockbuster-sized involve two queer lovers in space?

“I think that that will come sooner than we think,” he says. “But there’s always going to be the challenge that the more an audience can identify with the character — there’s a bigger group of heterosexuals than gay people, but I think we’ll be seeing more and more.”

Meanwhile, you decide if Passengers benefits from a hetero sex scene and — bonus! — two shots of Pratt’s bare bottom. Lawrence relishes the fact that “we could just keep diving in” – no, she wasn’t exactly talking about sexy time with Pratt. She was referring to the “original script.”

“It’s really rare that you get to be so intimate with filmmaking,” she says, not meaning “intimate” in the way most of us do when we refer to Chris Pratt. “It’s normally an ensemble. I’ve never worked with so few actors before. I was very excited to be stuck in space in Atlanta with them.”

Shot on a 1,000-foot-tall, four-story concourse adorned with eight miles of LED lights, Pratt likens the confined set to a stage play, and says, “It did feel more intimate than anything I’ve ever done.”

What other celebrity would they be keen on sharing such close quarters with?

“Oprah! Beyoncé!” Lawrence blurts. “No, I’d get jealous of Beyoncé after a while and, like, probably rip her hair out.”

Pratt, on the other end, wants “someone really funny.”

“Well, my wife [Anna Faris] is famous, so I’m gonna say, of course my wife. I would take my wife. But I would try to do someone really funny, maybe like George Carlin.”

Unless, of course, you know any famous gay plumbers.

— Chris Azzopardi

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Meryl Streep: The gay interview with the icon and star of ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’

Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins in FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS by Paramount Pictures, Pathé and BBC FilmsMeryl Streep is laughing her signature laugh. You know it: Sometimes light and airy, sometimes a surge of boisterous euphoria that carries well into the next question — but always unmistakably Meryl.

Cinema’s grand dame cracks one of her warm, famous chortles during our recent interview, while entertaining the idea that her latest chameleonic role, as real-life opera diva Florence Foster Jenkins in the movie of the same name, could once again spur drag queens to emulate another one of her queer-loved characters. Then she laughs again as she fondly remembers locking lips with Allison Janney in 2002’s The Hours. Meanwhile, the mere mention of 1992’s Death Becomes Her Meryl unleashing a hearty roar. Another laugh, too, when she ponders how sexting and Snapchat are related.

Gay audiences know this laugh because they know Meryl Streep. They also know her compassion for LGBT issues, both as an extension of her queer-inclusive acting repertoire and more explicitly, when, during her Golden Globe acceptance speech in 2004, she slammed then-president George W. Bush by condemning his anti-gay marriage stance. They’ve learned the art of shade from her sharp, searing tongue in The Devil Wears Prada, and they live for all the campy one-liners in Death Becomes Her. And during Angels in America, HBO’s 2003 watershed miniseries about the AIDS crisis, they wept.

Now, Streep, 67, sheds her skin once again to portray Jenkins, one of the worst singers in the world. In the poignant dramedy Florence Foster Jenkins from Stephen Frears, director of The Queen, the esteemed once-in-a-lifetime luminary plays a wannabe opera singer with a voice so hysterically appalling her loyal husband (Hugh Grant) bribes critics into letting her think she can sing.

Here, during this rare and revealing one-on-one conversation with Streep, the three-time Academy Award winner and record holder for most Oscar nominations discusses why she regards Angels in America as one of the most important LGBT-themed films she’s done and how she feels about gay men performing Meryl monologues. And looking ahead, is the biopic queen ready to consider her own story becoming a feature-length film in the future? Streep laughs at the very thought, of course, but she’s not kidding when she says, “I hope I fade into oblivion.”

Dallas Voice: You’ve given the gay community a breadth of greatness over the last four decades. When you look back at your gay roles, which has been the most important to you?  Streep: Oh, gosh. To me, I mean, Angels is such an important piece of history, and I felt really lucky to be part of that because I don’t think there was anything like it before. It really felt like being at the Democratic National Convention in the moment that Hillary shattered the glass ceiling — a big deal. The Hours was important, too. And of course I got to kiss Allison Janney, which was a perk!

Don’t tell Emma Thompson, who famously tongue-kissed you and gave you an orgasm in Angels.  Yeah, right! The Hours was nothing like that!

I remember Emma talking about that kiss in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. She’s very proud of it. She said she learned that “you have to use tongues even if you’re not a lesbian.”  Oh yeah, you really do. [Laughs]

When you look back at that moment, how does your takeaway from that kissing scene compare to Emma’s?  It’s just, you can’t take the baby from the bathwater. You can’t. It’s just the whole thing of it — that [orgasm scene] was just like the culmination of it. But what [screenwriter Tony Kushner] was doing was for a really mainstream HBO audience at that point — just groundbreaking. That hadn’t been on television. Movies, yes. But not television. So it was very cool.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Joy,’ ‘OITNB’ star Dascha Polanco on female empowerment in Hollywood

LOS ANGELES - JUN 27:   at the NALIP 16th Annual L

Dascha Polanco

“I want you to smell me.”

It’s not your typical conversation starter, sure, but Dascha Polanco— a star of both the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black and the new feature film Joy — does smell nice, like fresh flowers. Seated in a New York City hotel suite, the 32-year-old actress invites me to cozy up next to her, because then, she jokes, I can experience the fact that “not only is she beautiful but she also smells delicious.”

Dallas Voice: It’s weird seeing you out of an orange jumpsuit.  Polanco: Is it?! I love the fact that I got to play with decades: the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s. But it’s two totally different worlds, TV and film.

What’s that transition been like for you?  Professionally, it’s always welcome. It’s a new challenge. It’s a new area of acting and being able to be play with characters and stories more creatively. I think with [director] David O. Russell and this project, it was intimidating.

Because it’s David O. Russell?  David O. Russell. Jennifer Lawrence. Bradley Cooper. Robert De Niro. Diane Ladd. Virginia Madsen. Isabella Rossellini. You just want to make sure you have your A-game on, and for a Latina being in this industry for the last three years, it takes you by surprise.

How does being Latina change things?  Well, there are not many Latin actors in Hollywood. There’s still a lower percentage of them breaking into Hollywood, but we’re seeing more diversity, especially with David O. Russell’s film. You’re seeing diversity there, to that caliber, and for me, that’s a big responsibility.

There’s been a lot of talk about diversity in Hollywood lately, and not just when it comes to race, but when it comes to women. And this movie is very…  Female driven.

It is. It’s all about female empowerment. It has a feminist message. How does that personally strike a chord with you  I can relate so much to the story and to the elements of the movie: having obstacles in your life, being a woman and having to be a parent, having to be a daughter, taking care of not only your personal self but also your family. It shows how much women throughout the years have been the backbone and have, at times, struggled to even take a risk or try to live their dream or move forward because of other commitments or because of the stigma that we are supposed to be at home.

From the perspective of someone who is Latina in Hollywood: What is the current state of finding roles in Hollywood for a minority?  I thought to myself for the last two years: I’ve gone on auditions — so many auditions — in comparison to when I first started. Maybe it’s because of Orange, maybe it’s because of my representation, but there’s a need, a desire now. You see more offers, you see more shows that want to include diversity because of the success of shows like Orange Is the New Black. Anybody could’ve been cast as Jackie in Joy, and that’s the beauty of it. The role that I play, anyone could have, but he didn’t make it exclusive [and say], “I’m gonna make Jackie a white actress.” No. She’s ambiguous. She can be black. She can be Spanish. The fact that this is a Golden Globe-nominated movie — ah, it takes me by surprise that I’m part of this project, not because I don’t have the potential, not because I don’t believe in myself — but because of what, historically, I’ve seen growing up. And now that I’m part of it, there’s hope and there’s an opportunity that was rendered that I’m not taking for granted.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Danish Girl’ Alicia Vikander: The gay interview

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The Danish Girl stars the current best actor Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as the transgender pioneer Lili Elbe, but for a lot of folks — including me — the emotional anchor of the film is Alicia Vikander’s amazingly fierce yet sensitive performance as Gerda, Lili’s wife before she transitioned in the 1920s and ’30s.

Vikander has had a remarkable year in cinema, with high-profile roles in four films (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Burnt, Ex Machina and The Danish Girl — look for her name on the Oscar shortlist), but found time to sit down to talk about this film about a groundbreaking couple.

Dallas Voice: You’d had quite a year — the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association just gave you two awards for your films! Congrats! Alicia Vikander: Wow! Thank you, everyone in Dallas! … I know, it’s been quite a whirlwind — a lot of new experiences throughout this year. I’m trying to get my head around it.

Probably the most attention you’ve gotten is from The Danish Girl. How did the role reach you?  I was on the tube in London and read the newspaper that Eddie [Redmayne] and [actor] Tom [Hooper] were going to make this, and I thought [as a filmgoer], “Wow, I’m really looking forward to seeing it.” Then my agent called me two days later and said, “You know, there’s a very good female role in it.” The script had been around for at least 15 years in the industry, and I had heard the Lili Elbe story mentioned before, [but didn’t know much about it].

I assume you had friends in the GLBT community, but you play someone before we even had the term GLBT or the vocabulary for transgender. How did you get in the mindset to play someone from another time?  It’s interesting you say that — the “vocabulary.” [Doing the film] was extremely educational for me. I went to ballet school for nine years, so I did have a lot of gay friends coming out during my years there. [I would use] my fake ID with my gay friends [to get] into gay club and I met [trans people], but before we started to film, I didn’t have any close friends in the trans community. Learning the vocabulary [was very important]. We had some extraordinary people, some from the transgender community and people transitioning and people who stayed with their partners [after they transitioned]. There was one woman who brought an incredible book called My Husband is a Woman Now. She told me, “You can ask me anything you want.”  It even took me a few minutes to warm up to ask, but that was an incredible insight.

The film is pitched as Lili’s story, but I have to say: Your performance really grounds it. I don’t think Lili would have existed with Gerda, which comes through via your work.  I, too, was quite blown away [by Gerda]. It’s daunting to play someone [about whom] you ask, “How does she do that? How does she have such strength and emotional courage?” It’s hard to get emotionally right. But that was already on the page — to give, to support, to standby and step back. But to sacrifice [as Gerda does] can be consider passive, but she’s just not! She has the insight of knowing. Lili can’t choose — she is who she is. But Gerda does get to choose, and she chooses to stand by Lili. I wanted to show, of course, this emotional journey — that she knew that what she does in the right thing, even though knowing was [impossible]. Just imagine how tough it is today [to transition]. Now imagine how it would have been then, yet still to be seen and loved by somebody else. [The film is about] the emotional journey of these two people — about finding the amount of love to go through what they did when it was illegal and quite dangerous to do.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Marina and the Diamonds coming to South Side Ballroom

Marina42015On Oct. 14, Marina and the Diamonds will perform at South Side Ballroom as part of her Neon Nature Tour. The opening act is out pop sensation Shamir, with whom we have an interview running on Friday, but we thought we’d revisit our interview this summer with Marina, taking about her insanely cool album FROOT and her love for her gay fans.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones