‘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

CC23_SG01_00100_R1449185468

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

Bird and the Bee: The gay interview

BirdandBee2Greg Kurstin and Inara George, collectively known as the Bird and the Bee, are standing at the doorway of Webster Hall in New York City, where they’re about to take the stage. Kurstin, 46, raves about the free chocolates he’s about to take full advantage of, and George, 41, will probably have a glass of wine. “I’m the booze bag of the group,” she readily admits.

Best known for their 2006 dance hit “Fucking Boyfriend,” Los Angeles-based Bird and the Bee is on tour to promote their first album in five years, Recreational Love, yet another synthpop pleasure from the duo that will have you wishing you were sipping a summer cocktail in the sun.

Dallas Voice: You’re about to hit the stage — do you expect there to be a big gay turnout?  Inara George: What we love about our shows is we have people from all over the place, and yeah! I feel like we do have a pretty good gay following.

Greg Kurstin: Hey, we’re happy if anyone shows up! We’ve been away for five years, so we’re just happy that people are still coming out. When you go away for that long, you just hope people remember you.

When in your career were you first aware of a gay following?  Inara: I just had a flashback. I remember having an interview with a gay magazine right after “Fucking Boyfriend” — the dance track version — and thinking, “Oh my god, that’s amazing.” I’ve always felt like the gay community has pretty good taste, so I was obviously excited about it. The Bird and the Bee [in 2007] was the first record where I kind of got it.

What’s the significance of the title of your new album, Recreational Love? What does “recreational love” mean to both of you?  Inara: I came up with the title of the record before I really knew what it was about. I think of it as a play on words: recreational drug / recreational love. As a young woman, I always have the sense that I could have recreational love; for me, it really exists without some emotional attachment.

Greg: I can’t say that I have a lot of recreational love now that I’m married. I’ve definitely done my share of dating, and I’m just happy that I don’t have to date anymore because it’s so nerve-racking. But I’m married, and so it’s like, “Ahh, finally; I don’t have to worry about it.” It was a lot of stress for me! But yeah, the song is a fantasy song in a lot of ways.

Inara: It’s not like that’s what I’m doing anymore; it’s a commentary on how I miss it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Carly Rae Jepsen: The gay interview

CarlyRae4Carly Rae Jepsen is calling — and no, not maybe.

This is a real-life phone date (pegged, of course, to the release of her latest synth-pop concoction, E•MO•TION) wherein the 29-year-old is bubbly over, well, just about everything: Her career. The gays. Marriage equality. Being “the little mermaid.” And that time Justin Bieber changed her life.

Dallas Voice: Growing up in Mission, British Columbia, what was your introduction to the gay community?  Jepsen: In Canada, I had tons of friends who I grew up with who are gay or lesbian. I had one friend in particular, and I saw just how hard it was for him when his family found out he was gay — they shunned him, actually. He thought he was gonna have to make it on his own and move out — it was heartbreaking for all of us. We didn’t really understand it, and that’s probably when I began to really get angry about the pain that was caused for what I thought was no reason. Moving to the U.S. and seeing how big of an issue it is made me to want to help and bring awareness to the subject.

As a steadfast ally, that’s exactly what you’ve done. Though the group has since adjusted its policies on both fronts, you famously canceled a Boy Scouts of America gig due to the fact that gay members and leaders could not work and volunteer.  You know what, I’ve had a couple “I think I’m gonna tell my kids about this” moments. When we got marriage equality and there was a celebration for that in New York City [hosted by Freedom to Marry on July 9], it was an honor to be a part of that.

I can’t explain it. There are some performances that you do and you’re like, “That was cool, that was fun.” That one was different fun. It was so memorable and an incredible thing to be a part of. The band and I had a moment backstage where we all kind of were like, “Wow, this is really cool. This is a different kind of cool, to be a part of this.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Music legend Giorgio Moroder: The gay interview

Giorgio3At 75, disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder reemerges to once again produce some of the biggest icons of our time

By Chris Azzopardi

It’s been 35 years since Giorgio Moroder and Cher hooked up for a late-night session to produce “Bad Love,” the diva’s disco rave-up from the soundtrack of the 1980 coming-of-age drama, Foxes.

“We were supposed to start at 2 o’clock in the studio, and who comes in at 2 o’clock punctual? Cher,” Moroder recalls, tickled. “I said, ‘Shit, because with an artist like her — the big stars, you think, if it’s 2 o’clock, they come in at 5 o’clock, if you’re lucky. So she was there at 2 o’clock, and I said, ‘Cher, something is wrong — I was told you’re always late.’ And she said, ‘Yes, I’m always late… except the first time.’”

Decades have passed and music has changed and Cher has not. One other thing remains the same: Moroder still lights up at the mere thought of the ageless icon, how “I loved her” and “she was so funny.” Undoubtedly, Cher, to this day, can still smack you with a punchline. A star, an icon, the diva of all divas — her success is abiding.

Now, returning to the scene at age 75 with his first album in 30 years, Moroder can say the same for his own monumental success.

The Italy-born musical mastermind who unwittingly blazed a fruitful trail of radio hits is the father of such celebrated dance-floor relics as Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” and Blondie’s ubiquitous No. 1 hit “Call Me.” A cavernous catalog of ’70s-era paragons and Moroder’s unprecedented artistic vision became the catalyst for modern-age dance music. Between 1974 and 1984, Moroder’s creative force was a hot commodity, and everyone who was everyone — Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie — clamored for his heyday genius.

During Moroder’s most musically prolific era, the producer, composer and DJ could be found endlessly shacked up in a studio. There, he’d mix until the wee hours, never to succumb to his own burgeoning brand of sonic escapism that coaxed just about everyone but himself — the man behind those very beats — to the clubs.

“If I go back, I remember one year, ’85, when I did the [music for the] Top Gun movie,” he says. “The whole year I was doing several projects, of which most didn’t work out, but I think I had one weekend by myself. I would work like crazy.”

And even that’s an understatement. While producing for an army of iconic artists during the first wave of disco-dance, Moroder was also becoming a booming cinema presence.

He won his first Oscar for his music in 1978’s Midnight Express, and then two more for “Flashdance… What a Feeling” and Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away,” from Top Gun. In 1983, he intensified Scarface with his music (he produced the soundtrack), and also contributed to the 1984 children’s fantasy classic The NeverEnding Story, for which he produced the theme song.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Hilary Duff: The gay interview

Chris Azzopardi admits: He wasn’t especially a Hilary Duff fan. And then he interviewed her.

Convert. Totally.

In their rangy interview, the former Lizzie McGuire star talks about marriage equality, her fascination with Grindr and why she took a break from showbiz.

HilaryDuff1“I’m like the dorky kid on the bus who’s like, ‘Hiiii.’”

Wait a minute. Is that you, Lizzie McGuire? Maybe? No.

It’s Hilary Duff, razzing on her cold-ridden, congested-sounding self as she does a nasally nerd impression. And though Duff is known to millennials (and their moms) for originating the dorky Disney icon in 2001 — which, she admits during our interview, has been “torturous” — the 27-year-old is ready to move on. Actually, she’s been ready. It’s the rest of the world that just can’t seem to let Lizzie go.

During an insightful and surprisingly candid conversation, Duff spoke about her career as a whole just hours following June 26’s landmark Supreme Court ruling, which granted full marriage rights to LGBT Americans. The child star-turned-music maker also talked about her latest album, Breathe In. Breathe Out., eight years in the making; the long break she took to find her true self; and not knowing how to be a “totally normal girl who doesn’t give a fuck.”

Dallas Voice: You’re a longtime ally of the LGBT community, and you also have many gay friends, so you must have been thrilled about the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. What does that momentous moment mean to you?  Hilary Duff: Oh my gosh. I’m so excited. What a big day. It’s a huge step toward equality. Everyone should be able to be who they are, love who they want and marry who they want. It’s 2015; for us to still have judgment about people being gay is ridiculous, so I can’t believe it’s taken this long. It’s definitely a big day in history, and I’m just so excited.

Considering you’re not feeling well, you probably won’t be celebrating just yet.  Actually, I do have a party happening at my house tonight for my assistant/best friend. We just worked through her birthday during album release week, and I feel so bad, so we’re finally celebrating at my house tonight. But we’ll be celebrating [marriage equality] as well, I’m sure. It definitely deserves a big toast. Do you have a partner?

I don’t have a partner, no. Is being on Tinder key to finding “the one?” Perhaps you can give me some dating advice. What are Hilary Duff’s tips for finding a husband?  Obviously, I haven’t been so lucky. No – I don’t know. I would not, uh — I would not go with me on Tinder. I don’t know! God. Geez. Maybe the right thing will be in the air tonight.

Lately you’ve been a Tinder enthusiast; have you experienced Grindr?  Well, I haven’t physically actually experienced it, like I don’t have it on my phone or anything, but it’s basically the same thing as Tinder, right? I know because my makeup artist, who’s one of my best friends, has used Grindr a lot and he’s told me all about it. I get to hear all the stories.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Mo’Nique: The gay interview

MoNique1Mo’Nique isn’t one to hold back. Take her ongoing clash with Lee Daniels, who directed her Oscar-winning performance in 2009’s Precious. Daniels said the 47-year-old’s behavior got her “blackballed;” she, on the other hand, says Hollywood isn’t “playing fairly.”

The actress’ latest film, Blackbird, rolled into theaters earlier this spring, but she remains a draw onstage — she’ll be performing at at Arlington Improv July 10 and 11. Prior to her appearance, our Chris Azzopardi sat down with Mo’Nique to discuss how the back-and-forth feud wouldn’t stop her from working with Daniels again; her belief that if she doesn’t have to come out as straight, nor should LGBT people; and the childhood mantra that brings her comfort when the media is on her back.

Dallas Voice: Blackbird tells the story of someone who’s looking for acceptance from the outside world but also from within. Have you been there? Do you know what it feels like to be an outsider?  Mo’Nique: I think every human alive understands what it means to be an outsider. We’ve all been outsiders in one situation or another, so of course I’ve felt like an outsider before. But it’s OK to be an outsider.

What situation did you find yourself in that made you feel like an outsider?  Baby, when I wanted to be a high school cheerleader and they didn’t think I could wear the little small skirts and do the kick.

As an LGBT ally, where do you go internally to play someone like Claire, the homophobic mother in this film?  I go to honesty, because I know those mothers and I know those fathers that have and are having a really difficult time accepting the babies that they brought into the world. They can’t understand, “How can my baby be born that way?”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Out in Neon: Trees’ Tyler Glenn

Neon Trees’ gay frontman Tyler Glenn is a nice guy: Funny, smart and thoughtful, he’s the kind of artist who makes the interview process an enjoyable one. So it’s not all that surprising that Tyler’s band also comes off as funny, smart and thoughtful, especially on its latest release, Pop Psychology (Mercury). A more personal effort than the quartet’s previous releases, many of the songs involve serious subject matter. But instead of getting bogged down, the music, which is buoyant and brilliant dance-pop, elevates the songs and the mood, sort of like a musical anti-depressant.

Neon Trees will perform in the intimate space of the Granada on June 18. Before the concert, Gregg Shapiro talked to Glenn about the band’s name, being pigeonholed in a genre and what the reaction has been by fans to coming out (it’s not what you’d expect).MG_6313_re-credit-Mathew-Hartman

Dallas Voice: For the few uninitiated, say something about the genesis of the name of the band.  Tyler Glenn: I was with friends in high school and we would hang at a burger establishment called In-N-Out in California. It was one of the older, more original ones. They had these palm tree lights. We thought Neon Palm Trees sounded like a cool band name. I always kept it in the back of my mind [laughs]. Unfortunately, we are kind of tied to fast food [laughs].

Were other names in contention?  There was always a list of names that my guitar player and I had, but a lot of the names were either too dark and serious for the type of music that we wanted to make or a lot of them were [the names of] smaller bands that I thought no one knew. I don’t know what I was thinking. “No one knows this band, so we’ll have this name.” It was very immature of me. I don’t think there were any viable options, really.

Neon has been a popular component of bands’ names — Neon Trees, Neon Indian, Neon Hitch, Neon Neon. Why do you think that is?  Yeah! I don’t know. That was definitely a concern. We had had our name for a long time. We had been a band before we put out our first record for quite a while. When we put out our first record in 2010, that’s when Neon Indian put their record out, and then Neon Hitch. We found out that that is actually Neon Hitch’s name. Her parents gave it to her. She couldn’t go changing her name [laughs] and we couldn’t fault her for that. I don’t know the answer; maybe the connotation with new wave music or something.

Speaking of new wave music, on Habits, Neon Trees’ full-length major-label debut, there is a song titled “1983” which is followed by the song “Girls and Boys In School,” which recalls New Order in 1983. Can you please say something about the both the musical significance of the year 1983 and the band New Order for Neon Trees?  The song 1983 is about the year I was born, but it’s not really about the year. The song’s more about maintaining that level of innocence before love gets tainted, for me anyway. I think the song definitely took a more literal approach in the music video. I think listeners looked at us and thought, “Oh, they love the ’80s” [laughs]. But I think the song was more a nostalgic thing for me, in terms of innocence and youth. New Order has always been a massive influence on the band. I love their hybrid of electronic music and the roots of it and how it started as a band back with Joy Division, when it was more guitar-based, I thought they did that really well. And Peter Hook’s bass-playing is timeless. I’ve always been highly influenced by that band, for sure.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Marina and the Diamonds: The gay interview

Marina22015“This line is so sketchy!” says Marina Lambrini Diamandis (better known by her stage name, Marina and the Diamonds). But despite the fallible international phone connection, the Welsh indie-pop artist’s refreshing truthfulness is not impeded as she promotes her latest album, FROOT.

Marina can be heard loud and clear while serving major dish to Chris Azzopardi on a variety of hot topics: lesbian rumors, Katy Perry parties, interviews she calls “complete shit” and what she thinks of artists who pander to the gay community (Hint: “It’s insulting”).

Dallas Voice: So, your new album, Marina: I cried.  Noooo!

Was the experience of creating the music as emotional of an experience for you?  Yeah. I mean, maybe in a less intense way because I was writing it for over 18 months. With everything I’m very kind of exposed, but particularly so with this one.

How did you end up making an album that’s very much about self-confidence and loving yourself first?  I can’t really tell you. There’s not an answer for the way I got to that point. The relationship you have with yourself — you can’t really orchestrate that or make that happen. It’s more than just a point you get to in your life. It was very gradual. Obviously, I must’ve got to a point where I was inspired enough to write about it for songs like “Happy,” but that was quite late in [the recording stage], so songs like “Immortal” and “Gold” were written on the way to getting to that point, if that makes sense.

So you were working yourself out as you went along?  Yeah, totally.

The album really resonates with me in a way that I think will also resonate with a lot of people in the LGBT community.  A lot of the reason I think I have a gay fan base is because a lot of the themes, and the core of the songs, are usually stemming from something to do with identity or acceptance. I know that I always felt like that and I don’t anymore. FROOT definitely focuses on that, but I suppose, yeah, it is a lot about letting go of certain things. Anyone who feels rejection, prejudice or discrimination in some way would connect to that.

When we spoke in 2012, you were reluctant to gush too much about your gay fan base. At the time you said, “I don’t want to be a cliché pop star saying, ‘I love my gays!’” When does talking about one’s gay fan base become a cliché?  It’s not that it’s a cliché — it’s more that, perhaps, I was cynical about it. I felt that people in pop use that to express themselves in that way for calculated means because they know the gay fan base is extremely loyal and extremely expressive and is a tastemaker demographic. You know what I mean? It’s like, “Oh, god.” It’s insulting to both sides.

I kind of feel the same way now, because, yeah, of course I have a really strong gay fan base, and the fact is that it is a really enjoyable factor for me to have a really strong demographic because it makes the shows a lot more fun, for one, and because they are really expressive. But all types of people should be appreciated. I’m sure the gays would back me up on that!Do you think the appreciation of one’s following can morph into pandering?  On Twitter, I don’t really like it when I see loads of messages from an artist saying [in baby voice] “I love you guys! I love you guys! I love you guys!” because I don’t think there’s any kind of intelligence in that. Also, how can you be genuine and say that so many times? Maybe that’s when it becomes pandering, when you’re dumbing down your fan base.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones