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Jerry saltz i: @jerrysaltz After moderating The Art of Sexuality, a Playboy-hosted art talk in New York City, the senior art critic for New York magazine signed on to interview revolutionary artist JR for us (Portraits for the People). “JR is a weapon of mass artistic destruction and retinal pleasure amid the corruption and crises of our Western democracy,” says the Pulitzer Prize winner. His upcoming book How to Be an Artist sets out to con- vert his experience as a critic and lecturer into an accessible guide for the art novice. Jim carrey heather hazzan t: @JimCarrey i: @heatherhazzan For playboy’s Equality Issue, our new con- Hazzan, a New York–based photographer tributing cartoonist chose to honor the and self-described lover of podcasts and late civil rights activist and public servant outcasts, traveled to an Italian-style villa in Elijah Cummings with an illustration titled the Los Angeles hills to photograph Jan- For Goodness Sake. “I drew Elijah Cum- uary 2020 Playmate Riley Ticotin (New mings because he stood for love, fair- Year’s Revolution). “I wanted Riley to spear- ness and truth. He embodied what is left head her own shoot and know that every of our endangered moral conscience,” person on the team had her back,” Haz- says the award-winning actor. Carrey will zan says. Her past subjects include music soon return to season two of Kidding and breakout Lizzo, presidential candidate Eliz- release his semi-autobiographical novel, abeth Warren and playboy models Molly Memoirs and Misinformation. Constable and Christine Sofie Johansen. PLAYBILL shan Boodram i: @shanboody The pains of polyamory, bottom dysmor- phia and thinking about sex 24/7: Boodram tackles these and other sexual quandaries with wit and empathy as this issue’s guest Playboy Advisor. This isn’t her first stint in the hot seat: In May, the certified sexol- ogist and author of The Game of Desire hosted a live session of Playboy Advisor at the Playhouse, our pop-up magazine event, where she offered modern answers to questions from 1960s-era playboys. chloe & chenelle Jill Filipovic i: @chloeandchenelle t: @jillfilipovic “Diane Guerrero has such a strong voice Filipovic brings her shared experience in in the community, and we wanted to a male-dominated industry to her Playboy capture that,” say the Delgadillo sisters, Interview with legendary newswoman our 20Q stylists. “The Statue of Liberty Christiane Amanpour. “Christiane opened served as our muse. We played with col- up a world of possibilities for other women ors and shapes to make her feel and look in journalism, showing us what we could powerful.” Despite schedules overflowing be without pulling the ladder up behind with album covers, marketing campaigns her as she rose,” notes the lawyer, political and music videos, they’re no strangers journalist and author of 2017’s The H-Spot: to our sets, having dressed a handful of The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness. our feature subjects this year, from BDSM role-players to King Princess. CREDITS: Cover: photography by Nadia Lee Cohen, model Reneé Tenison. Photography by: inside cover and p. 1 courtesy Playboy Archives; p. 4 courtesy Kelia Anne, courtesy Roeg Cohen, courtesy Gary He, courtesy Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic, courtesy Dina Litovsky, Maya Washington; p. 5 courtesy Spiros Halaris, courtesy Emma Holly Jones, courtesy Cassandra Keyes, courtesy Michael Lionstar, courtesy Todd Lown, courtesy Craig MacLean; p. 12 courtesy Nadia Lee Cohen, Erica Loewy (6); p. 13 courtesy Getty Images for PEN America, courtesy Dina Litovsky, courtesy Morris family, courtesy Playboy Archives, Simon Hanselmann; p. 18 David Lee/Focus Features/ Kobal/Shutterstock, Legendary Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock; p. 19 courtesy Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix; p. 35 courtesy Allyson Riggs/Hulu; p. 64 Alfonso Jimenez/Shutterstock; p. 65 Moriah Ratner/AP/Shutterstock; pp. 100–109 © Hank Willis Thomas, courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; pp. 116–125; p. 141 Erica Loewy; p. 187 Erica Loewy; pp. 209–220 courtesy Playboy Archives; p. 221 courtesy Anthony Alvarez/NYLS, courtesy Doug Andrews/The Corsair Newspaper, courtesy Playboy Archives (3), AP/Shutterstock; pp. 222–232, 234 and inside cover courtesy Playboy Archives. Pp 30–31 Lapinot: Countrysidekick © Lewis Trondheim; pp. 88–98 Francophile © Claire Lombardo, 2019; pp. 148–153 Gazillionaire: 7120 © Matt Lubchansky. Pp. 14–17 styling by Kelley Ash, hair by Chanel Croker, makeup by Samuel Rauda, prop styling by Briana Gonzales; pp. 24–29 styling by Molly Russell; pp. 41–49 hair and makeup by Yoko Fumoto; pp. 54–57 styling by Vanessa Gonzalez, grooming by Kayti Pillor, set design by KayCee Tarricone; pp. 66–71 styling by Chloe and Chenelle Delgadillo, hair by Clay- ton Hawkins, makeup by Fabiola @TMGLA; pp. 110–115 styling by Marcus Ivory, hair by Susy Oludele, makeup by Christian Diaz, manicure by Eri Ishizu, prop styling by Seth Brody, animal handling by All Star Animals/Jeff Gold- enbaum; pp. 142–146 hair and makeup by Jami Cox; pp. 164–171 styling by Naz Meknat, grooming by Kathy Santiago; pp. 72–83, 87 styling by Calvy Click, hair by Amber Duarte, makeup by Karo Kangas; pp. 126–137, styling by Kelley Ash, hair and makeup by Sparkle Tafao; pp. 172–183 styling by Kelley Ash, hair by Eddie Cook, makeup by Heather Cvar; pp. 196–207 models Candace Collins Jordan, Raquel Pomplun, Brande Roderick, Reneé Ten- ison, Victoria Valentino, styling by Chloe and Chenelle Delgadillo, hair by Sami Knight, hair assistance by Arbana Dollani and Allie Ellis, makeup by Lily Keys, makeup assistance by Kasha Lassien, nails by Yoko Sakakura. U.S. PoSTal SERvICE STaTEmEnT of ownERShIP, managEmEnT anD CIRCUlaTIon. 1. Publication title: Playboy. 2. Publication number: 0032-1478. 3. Filing date: October 1, 2019 4. Issue frequency: Quarterly. 5. Num- ber of issues published annually: 4. 6. Annual subscription price: $38.97. 7. Complete mailing address of known office of publication: Playboy Enterprises, Inc., 10960 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024. 8. Complete mailing 4
elizabeth SUMaN Claire loMbardo i: @elizabethsuman t: @clairelombardo The playboy senior editor focuses her edi- Should we feel empathy for adulter- torial curation on the arts, whether articu- ers? Lombardo, an Iowa Writers’ Work- lated in spray paint or pubic hair. This issue, shop graduate and New York Times she introduces Hank Willis Thomas (The best-selling author (The Most Fun We Art of Attention), inaugurates a new con- Ever Had), weaves past and present in tributing cartoonist (Jim Carrey) and pre- her search for an answer in Francophile, sents JR (Portraits for the People). “playboy her playboy fiction debut. “Movement has always been a platform for creatives through fictional time gives us, as read- to express themselves with freedom,” she ers, the benefit of hindsight,” she says. “It says. “I hope to continue that legacy.” informs our understanding of characters, and their choices and circumstances, in a more three-dimensional way.” FraNkliN leoNard i: @franklinjleonard How did this producer, professor and CEO of the Black List, Hollywood’s prestige in- cubator for filmmakers and screenwrit- ers, go about guest-editing The Playboy Symposium on women, sex and cinema? “My approach was simple,” he says. “Pass the microphone to a woman who knows the subject better than I.” The result is a seven-page study by Kate Hagen, the Black List’s director of community. SpiroS halariS elSa JeaN i: @spiroshalaris i: @elsajeanofficial Halaris’s art will be familiar to regular de- In Fandomination, we meet adult per- vourers of playboy fiction. His ethereal il- formers who are converting freeload- lustrations accompany recent reads The ing fans into subscribers. One such Kiss, The Modern Era and We Are Not Here. subject, Elsa Jean, who has been ac- For his latest commission (Francophile), tive in the adult industry since 2014, can Halaris looked to Renaissance paintings be found on many platforms, includ- and romantic European films. “The main ing “We as sex work- character also influenced the mood of the ers are special enough to have the ability series,” he says. “I tried to evoke sensuality, to express our sexuality with people world- nostalgia and domesticity to represent the wide,” Jean says. “Sex is such a beautiful trips between her past and her present.” thing; I love that I can share it with people.” Neryl Walker i: @nerylwalker In fall 2018, playboy creative director Erica Loewy e-mailed Walker with a chal- lenge: Reimagine LeRoy Neiman’s fa- mous Femlin, the first iteration of which appeared in our Party Jokes page in 1955. “I love the fact that playboy asked a woman to reinterpret the Femlin. It’s about women owning their sexuality rather than being objectified by it,” the Australian art- ist tells us. “The Femlin is fun, cheeky, sassy and confident.” Walker’s spritely cre- ations have appeared in every issue since. address of headquarters or general business office of publisher: Playboy Enterprises, Inc., 10960 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024. 9. Full names and complete mailing addresses of publisher, editor and editorial director: Publisher Reena Patel, c/o Playboy Enterprises, Inc., 10960 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024; Editor Shane Singh, c/o Playboy Enterprises, Inc., 10960 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024; Managing Editor Gil Macias, c/o Playboy Enterprises, Inc., 10960 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024. 10. Owner: Playboy Enterprises, Inc., 10960 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024. 11. Known bondholders, mortgagees and other security holders own- ing or holding one percent or more of total amount of bonds, mortgages or other securities: Icon Acquisition Holdings, LLC, 10960 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024. 12. Tax status (for completion by nonprofit organiza- tions authorized to mail at nonprofit rates): not applicable. 13. Publication title: Playboy. 14. Issue date for circulation data below: September/October 2018. 15. Extent and nature of circulation: Average number of copies each issue during preceding 12 months: a. Total number of copies: 155,345; b. Paid circulation: (1) Paid outside-county mailed subscriptions: 116,838; (2) Paid in-county mailed subscriptions: 0; (3) Paid distribution outside the mails including sales through dealers and carriers, street vendors, counter sales and other non-USPS paid distribution: 12,187; (4) Paid distribution by other classes mailed through the USPS: 0; c. Total paid distribution: 129,025; d. Free or nominal rate distribution: (1) Free or nominal rate outside-county: 133; (2) Free or nominal rate in-county: 0; (3) Free or nominal rate other classes mailed through the USPS: 0; (4) Free or nominal rate distribution outside the mail: 2,950; e. Total free or nominal rate distribution: 3,083; f. Total distribution: 132,108; g. Copies not distributed: 23,235; h. Total: 155,343; i. Percent paid: 97.7%. 16. Electronic Paid Circulation. Paid Electronic Copies: 77,921b. Total Paid Print Copies + Paid Electronic Copies: 206,946c. Total Print Distribution + Paid Electronic Copies: 210,029d. Percent Paid (Both Print & Electronic Copies): 98.5%. Number of copies of single issue published nearest to filing date: a. Total number of copies: 137,032; b. Paid circulation: (1) Paid outside-county mailed subscriptions: 97,453; (2) Paid in-county mailed subscriptions: 0; (3) Paid distribution outside the mails in- cluding sales through dealers and carriers, street vendors, counter sales and other non-USPS paid distribution: 9,387; (4) Paid distribution by other classes mailed through the USPS: 0; c. Total paid distribution: 106,840; d. Free or nominal rate distribution: (1) Free or nominal rate outside-county: 122; (2) Free or nominal rate in-county: 0; (3) Free or nominal rate other classes mailed through the USPS: 0; (4) Free or nominal rate distribution out- side the mail: 3,550; e. Total free or nominal rate distribution: 3,672; f. Total distribution: 110,512; g. Copies not distributed: 26,520; h. Total: 137,032; i. Percent paid: 96.7%16. Electronic Paid Circulation. Paid Electronic Cop- ies: 74,720b. Total Paid Print Copies + Paid Electronic Copies: 181,560c. Total Print Distribution + Paid Electronic Copies: 185,232d. Percent Paid (Both Print & Electronic Copies): 98.0%.—David G. Israel, CFO/COO, Playboy Media. f5
Pl aymateS & 14 PiCtorialS 72 January: riley TicoTin Calabasas has more than one queen; watch our first 2020 Playmate take the throne 126 February: chasiTy samone From the Army to playboy to the political sphere (soon), this Playmate is ambition personified 172 march: aniTa PaThammavong Adrift on a sea of marigolds, the native Laotian explorer radiates confidence and kindness 196 once a PlaymaTe, always a PlaymaTe Five Playmates star in a historic pictorial that celebrates the vast range of womanhood Vol. 67, No. 1 DePartmentS H e r i ta g e 14 sex: FanDominaTion 209 DiamonD Days Cover Story The latest disruption in the adult Light the candles: It’s the industry gives control back to Playboy Bunny’s 60th. To It’s a full house, and our performers celebrate, we talked to more Rabbit has found himself with than a dozen former cottontails 24 man in his Domain: about their favorite memories a perfect hand—that is, the orville Peck hand of 1990 Playmate of the 218 DePTh oF FielD Mask aside, the crooning Year Reneé Tenison. cowboy has nothing to hide We shine a spotlight on Vincent Tajiri, the magazine’s 6 32 culTure: The gooD founding photo director wiTch oF The norThwesT 221 Playboy’s rearview Lindy West does not have to be shrill anymore Across the decades and the pages, the magazine has been 36 guesT aDvisor: home to compelling, and shan booDram sometimes surprising, content Intimacy insights from the 224 anne marie Fox YouTube-slaying sexpert From her serendipitous 50 Travel: uŽuPis uToPia discovery as a model to her work on film sets, our February Exploring the Lithuanian 1982 Playmate tells us what it’s republic and the strange allure like to conquer both sides of of micronations the camera Also: Check out our inside covers for Also: Bringing to life the Bunny suit, some vintage playboy outtakes. classic cartoons, and a snapshot Plus, the case for drug decrimin- of activism inside the original alization and the power and pain Playboy Mansion of playing a racist on-screen
Playboy IntervIew FIctIon 24 41 Christiane amanpour 88 FranCophile F e at u r e s The world-renowned news Past and present collide in 54 eriC andre For president authority marks the dawn Claire Lombardo’s tale of two of her “sexy 60s” in a fiery lovers and their perhaps not- Cocaine, fellatio, Speedos— conversation with Jill Filipovic so-oblivious spouses welcome to the Cool Party 20Q coMIcs 58 antiFa in FoCus 66 diane guerrero 30 lapinot Out of the shadows and on the record: a bracing look at the The Doom Patrol star sounds Lewis Trondheim’s funny antifascist movement off on immigration, gender bunny and his sidekick get inequality and mental health “ruined” in this mini tale ProFIle 148 gazillionaire: 7120 142 a very millennial Can Micah Veerman seed sCandal the universe with his 22nd century…ideas? A tale of Katie Hill’s resignation is only the adventure capitalism from beginning of what she expects Matt Lubchansky to become a generation- defining fight for privacy the Playboy syMPosIuM 100 the art oF attention winter 2020—contents 189 on sex, Cinema and the Female gaze Artist Hank Willis Thomas is a master of the pop-culture What makes a great sex scene collision in 2020? The Black List’s Kate Hagen zooms in 110 ForCe oF nature Princess Nokia conjures the four elements—giant snakes and all 20 116 portraits For the people Two art-world insiders, JR and Jerry Saltz, discuss the former’s epochal new work 154 the other plan B Shira Tarrant argues why pro- choicers need to adopt the term abortion beneficiaries 158 seizure City Ahead of the 2028 Olympics, Los Angeles is cleaning up its act by pushing people out 164 style: sterling For all Actor turned producer Sterling K. Brown talks representation while flaunting his natural swag 66 Also: Party Jokes curated by comedian Demi Adejuyigbe; Jim Carrey illustrates a tribute to the late Elijah Cummings 7
f HUGH M. HEFNER Founding editor-in-chieF 1953–2017 sHaNE MicHaEl siNGH executive editor aNNa wilsoN multimedia director ERica loEwY creative director EDiToRial JaMEs RickMaN executive editor caT aUER deputy editor Gil Macias managing editor RYaN GaJEwski, ElizabETH sUMaN senior editors aRiEla koziN, aNiTa liTTlE Features editors wiNiFRED oRMoND copy chieF; RobERT bUscEMi, DaviD caplaN contributing copy editors MicHElE slEiGHEl, HalEY sTaMp research editors; aNDREw sHaFER contributing research editor ToRi lYNN aDaMs associate editor; kRisTi bEck senior manager, Franchises D R E a M H a M p To N , Dav i D H o c H M a N , M o l lY J o N G - FasT, b R i a N k a R E M , M aT T M c G o R RY, J E s s i ca p. o G i lv i E , R. kURT osENlUND, asHlEE MaRiE pREsToN, sTEpHEN REbEllo, aDaM skolNick, ERic spiTzNaGEl, alEx THoMas contributing editors JiM caRREY contributing cartoonist aRT & pHoToGRapHY REGiNa RosaTo associate art director aaRoN lUcas art manager; sasHa NETcHaEv senior graphic designer JilliaN NEwMaN project manager saNDRa EvaNs manager, photo production TERREN liN director, video operations; JEREMY cRisaFUlli manager, video production NaTaliE alvaR aDo, lilY FERGUsoN associate photo editors cHRisTiE HaRTMaNN director, playboy archives JoEY cooMbE senior archivist, playboy archives aMY kasTNER-DRowN senior digital media manager, playboy archives EvaN wooDs associate art director, multimedia pRoDUcTioN lEslEY k. RippoN production director DiGiTal & social MaRiTza YoEs senior director, content marKeting aNDiE EisEN, HElEN sibila associate editors bRaND & MaRkETiNG RacHEl wEbbER chieF marKeting oFFicer DaRiaN EDwaRDs senior vice president, design; zacH Glass senior vice president, marKeting operations aNNa oNDaaTJE vice president, brand; JaMal DaUDa vice president, content marKeting pUblic RElaTioNs TERi THoMERsoN senior director, public relations; pRiscila MaRTiNEz publicity iNTERNaTioNal pUblisHiNG HazEl THoMsoN senior director, international publishing and licensing MicHaEl olsoN manager, international publishing and licensing playboy (issN 0032-1478), winter 2020, volume 67, number 1. published quarterly by playboy in national and regional editions, playboy, 10960 wilshire blvd., los angeles, ca 90024. periodicals postage paid at los angeles, california and at additional mailing offices. canada post canadian publications Mail sales product agreement No. 40035534. subscriptions: in the U.s., $39.99 for a year. postmaster: send all Uaa to cFs (see DMM 707.4.12.5); nonpostal and military facilities, send address changes to playboy, p.o. box 420307, palm coast, Fl 32142-0307. For subscription-related questions, e-mail [email protected] To comment on content, e-mail [email protected] • We occasionally make portions of our customer list available to carefully screened companies that offer products or services we believe you may enjoy. If you do not want to receive these offers or information, please let us know by writing to us at Playboy Enterprises International, Inc. c/o PCD, P.O. Box 420307, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0307, or e-mail [email protected] It generally requires eight to 10 weeks for your request to become effective. • Playboy assumes no responsibility to return unsolicited editorial or graphic or other material. All rights in letters and unsolicited editorial and graphic material will be treated as unconditionally assigned for publication and copyright purposes, and material will be subject to Playboy’s unrestricted right to edit and comment editorially. Contents copyright © 2019 by Playboy. All rights reserved. Playboy, Playmate and Rabbit Head symbol are marks of Playboy, registered U.S. Trademark Office. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any electronic, mechanical, photocopying or recording means or otherwise without prior written permission of the publisher. Any similarity between the people and places in the fiction and semi-fiction in this magazine and any real people and places is purely coincidental. For credits see pages 4 and 5. certificado de licitud de título No. 7570 de fecha 29 de Julio de 1993, y certificado de licitud de contenido No. 5108 de fecha 29 de Julio de 1993 expedidos por la comisíon calificadora de publicaciones y revistas ilustradas dependiente de la secretaría de gobernación, Mexico. Reserva de derechos 04-2000-071710332800-102. printed in Usa. 8
A Letter “Absolutely.” misconduct at work, is forging ahead with a When we called Victoria Valentino, who new mission to protect others from falling vic- tim to internet-fueled sex shaming. first appeared in this magazine as a Playmate in September 1963, and asked if she would In The Other Plan B, gender studies pro- consider being in playboy again, at the age of fessor Shira Tarrant argues that regressive 77, she didn’t hesitate. Like us, she recognizes reproductive-health laws represent a penalty that in 2020, fighting for equality means pro- against sex and that men benefit more from viding actual visibility. An activist against access to abortions than they realize. Here sexual assault, Valentino knows firsthand at playboy we are particularly proud to have how speaking truth to power—she coura- supported the National Network of Abortion geously spoke out against Bill Cosby in 2014— Funds last year, and in 2020 we will remain is a societal force for good. She also knows that committed to advocacy in the face of state and beauty has no boundaries. federal legislative challenges. In this, our Equality Issue, you’ll meet peo- As always, the arts will light the way, which ple whose fearless work gives us hope that in is why it was paramount for us to present a this next decade we will all enjoy a more equi- group of artists who excel at creating spaces table society. for conversation, connection and represen- tation. Director and photographer Nadia Lee Christiane Amanpour, one of the most re- Cohen’s cover pictorial, Once a Playmate, spected journalists of our time, is the subject Always a Playmate, features the perpetually of this issue’s Playboy Interview. Currently magnetic Valentino, Candace Collins Jordan, the host of an eponymous news show on CNN Reneé Tenison, Brande Roderick and Raquel and PBS, Amanpour has interviewed doz- Pomplun. Elsewhere, we examine how art ens of world leaders, from Angela Merkel fosters equality through Hank Willis Thom- to Yasir Arafat to Bill Clinton. Here she ap- as’s traveling retrospective (The Art of At- pears as interviewee, discussing how she re- tention), JR’s career-defining mural in New ports on topics including gender inequality, York (Portraits for the People) and Sterling K. climate-change denial and the current threats Brown’s new production company in Los An- to our democracy. She also talks sex—and geles (Sterling for All). We are also thrilled to trust us, it’s a page-turner. add Jim Carrey’s incomparable imagination to our pages; the actor-artist contributes For For this issue’s Playboy Symposium, we Goodness Sake, a visual tribute to the late civil partnered with Franklin Leonard and Kate rights leader Elijah Cummings. Hagen, the Black List’s founder and director of community, respectively, to examine how And finally, our first Playmates and Play- well (if at all) Hollywood is keeping up with mate photographers of the new decade: Riley evolving attitudes on sex, sexuality and gen- Ticotin, shot by Heather Hazzan; Chasity der in cinematic representations. And across Samone, shot by Adrienne Raquel; and Anita two music features, we profile the enigmatic Pathammavong, shot by Ali Mitton. Together, country singer Orville Peck and the rising these women demonstrate the importance rap star Princess Nokia, two artists who are and beauty of individuality. As Pathamma- rethinking gender norms in their genres and vong writes, “I believe that empathy is the in the industry at large. first step toward equality. We simply cannot let discrimination be indulged and privilege For A Very Millennial Scandal, playboy weaponized to divide people. We need to take features editor Anita Little interviewed for- the time to listen and educate instead of com- mer congresswoman Katie Hill in the days ing from a place of pain and anger.” before and after her resignation. Hill, in the wake of a political scandal that brought about So welcome to 2020. This is our vision for it. online debates on revenge porn and sexual From the Editors
WORLD OF PLAYBOY the Nadia Lee Cohen, the mastermind behind both this issue’s nostalgic cover and the ad campaign for Playboy’s new fragrance, Make the Cover (coming March 2020), creates work with the instinct of a storyteller. That may explain why the British artist gravitates toward eccentric and strik- ing characters who can effortlessly weave a narrative into her cinematic portraits. For the Equality Issue’s cover story, Once a Playmate, Always a Playmate, Cohen used her lens to “focus a spotlight on age and pho- tograph something I consider to be underrepresented in popular cul- ture,” she tells us. Cohen invited five Playmates across six decades—1963 through 2012—to help bring her vision to life. “I wanted to celebrate the original Playmates who helped shape and pioneer the brand.” Lens 12
The Art Outsiders Playboy’s Freedom Fighters Giddy Up The Blond(ie) Remembering Bunny Stephanie Morris
photography By charlotte rutherford
When Elsa Jean flounces into the studio in full hair and makeup, one has to wonder why she’s here. Every moment she spends on set, she’s losing money. “I make about $30,000 to $40,000 a month from my OnlyFans account,” says Jean (pictured), whose platinum blonde waves and wide eyes leave no question as to which animated phenomenon inspired her stage name. “I’ve cut my studio work way back because I really don’t need to do it anymore. It takes me 30 minutes to film something. On set, it takes hours.” Although only 23 years old, Jean is a five-year veteran of the adult business—a porn superstar (1.5 million Instagram followers and counting) and now a proselytizer for OnlyFans, a membership-based social platform that hosts the content of more than 100,000 creators for more than 8 million subscribers (or Sign up. log in. “fans”). Launched in 2016, Only- Fans, while not exclusively for adult cash out. repeat. performers, has disrupted the porn Why so many people industry by making it easier for sex workers to generate income off their are buying into content, shifting them away from major studios for casting, produc- free porn’s biggest tion, distribution and payment. In- competitors creasingly influential in a time when consumer demand for amateur con- tent is trending up (videos filed in By lina abascal Pornhub’s Amateur category boast the site’s longest average view time: 15 minutes, 25 seconds), subscrip- tion sites including OnlyFans, Fan- Centro and JustFor.Fans are grooming a new generation of self-made men and women. And many of them are adult per- formers working from home. Those subscription sites are just a few of the third-party plat- forms whose main services support sex workers striving for eco- nomic independence. Why spend time toiling for a suit when plain about Spotify’s payouts, perform- ers view Pornhub’s returns as poor: on you can sell directly to your audience on your own schedule and average, 64 cents per 1,000 views. Jean doesn’t even maintain a personal web- your own terms? It’s the remote-ification of porn. The poten- site; after talking to other actresses, she realized that “OnlyFans and Snapchat is tial impact—and what’s likely making some porn-tube giants where the money is.” anxious—is the antiquation of studio-produced adult enter- ••• tainment. If sex workers can own their content outright while Across industries, new technologies are helping purveyors sell content to niche growing their audiences with the promise of on-demand, how audiences. This is the strategy behind those sponsored posts for athleisure wear can Pornhub, whose library largely comprises studio-based pro- or mail-order meal prep interspersed among puppies and food porn on Insta- ductions, refresh its offerings? Jean offers a vivid example to gram. But when it comes to adult con- tent, performers still have to operate in spell out the benefits of OnlyFans over free streaming: “I don’t legal gray areas while taking advantage of always-plugged-in consumers’ fondness for do anal unless it’s on my OnlyFans or my Snapchat,” she says. personalized subscription services (Net- flix, Trunk Club) and direct-to-consumer “That’s how I locked in my people.” brands (Kylie Jenner’s Lip Kits, Casper). Most sites’ subscription models involve a monthly fee for ac- Stephanie Michelle, a hentai-inspired performer, recently shifted her focus to cess to exclusive images, videos and chat sessions that are typi- OnlyFans from other platforms. There, she forfeits 20 percent of her earnings cally but not exclusively pornographic. Workout videos, product from her content, all of which sits behind a paywall. Daily, she posts 30-second to reviews presented by models in various states of undress and minute-long clips while chatting with selfies of women applying makeup are also sold, based on the account. Content creators pay a fee, in the form of a percent- age, to use the platform. FanCentro, which operates on Snap- chat’s platform but is unaffiliated with the Snap Inc.–owned app, takes 25 percent of subscription fees; in exchange it provides models with their own URLs, as well as a payment-collection service—important, given that PayPal, Venmo, Square, Cash App and nearly all other payment processors do not allow trans- actions for sex work or services. Professional porn stars have had their own websites since the advent of the internet, and Pornhub allows anyone to upload content to its ever-growing database. But just as musicians com- f 15
her fans. Such engagement helps her fans individually was not too time-consuming; collecting pay- know which content they like best. In ment, however, became tricky once her original payment pro- turn, fans remain satisfied, paying cus- cessor banned her after too many fans wrote explicit messages tomers longer. in their payment memos. She was also tired of fans haggling over price. Even Pornhub’s headliners are on OnlyFans, including Riley Reid, the Los “My rates are my rates. I can plainly say what I’m selling and Angeles–based porn star who recently be as explicit as I need to be with my subscribers,” she says of tallied more than 1 billion views on OnlyFans. The 20 percent cut frustrates her, but owning her Pornhub. In fact, she’s on almost every content is a perk. “At the end of it all, it’s all yours. You have the third-party site so people can find her no rights to your content, whereas with Snapchat or sending clips matter where they’re searching. “I mon- directly, you don’t. If my content leaks, OnlyFans makes it way etize greater off myself by working for easier to track down the source.” After less than half a year on myself,” she says. “I think more girls are the platform, Hoesha, whose offerings last year included a nude realizing that you can get more out of you review of Popeyes viral chicken sandwich, has nearly enough selling your body online and owning your subscribers to stay afloat without a day job. own content.” Danny Labito, an amateur gay fetish creator from Detroit, Reid doesn’t want to miss an opportu- moved his fans from Pornhub’s Modelhub, where his earnings nity to sell content, and she doesn’t. Peo- were bleak, to OnlyFans. Occasionally some of his loyal Only- ple are consistently buying subscriptions Fans viewers will message him for private commissions. He and accessing video clips on networks negotiates rates for custom content on Twitter, Instagram and she doesn’t even promote. Her primary e-mail, and his patrons pay him through PayPal or Cash App. focuses are her FanCentro-operated Selling sexual content violates both these processors’ terms, Snapchat and her personal website, but he uses them anyway. “There aren’t many other payment, where she offers studio- options for sex workers,” he says. In his first three months, he level porn content for around $9.99 per made $7,000 from OnlyFans subscriptions and tips, supple- video or monthly passes for $34.99. menting the full-time job he holds while he finishes college. For those with less dedicated audi- For someone like Reid, managing content sales and subscrib- ences, building a custom site can be more ers can become nearly impossible. It’s one of the reasons she of a hassle than it’s worth. Hoesha, an finally decided to partner with FanCentro—which promised OnlyFans account owner in Arizona, to do “all the dirty work”—after years of offers to “join the pre- tried to sell adult content on her own mium Snapchat bandwagon.” platform, with mixed results. Messaging Joining that bandwagon would mean manually adding and de- leting users from her accounts—arguably the most tedious part of using premium Snapchat. If someone cancels a subscription, access must be revoked manually or Reid risks sending content for free. For a sense of scale, Reid says she regularly hits Snap- chat’s maximum of 5,000 followers per account and has to cre- ate sister accounts—all of which distribute the same content. The operation is so large that Reid has three smartphones solely so she doesn’t have to log in and out on one device. ••• As these third-party tools multiply, claiming they can help sex workers make up to $100,000 a month (the amount Reid says FanCentro estimates she could pull in), sex work is far from au- tonomous or fail-safe. Because FanCentro functions with Snap- chat but is not involved with Snap Inc., creators who violate the app’s industry-typical terms by uploading “pornographic con- tent” can be banned. Jean’s Snapchat has been deleted three times already. “I’m not sure what will happen when Snapchat catches up and everyone is removed, but as of now, I encourage all the girls, and myself, to milk it as much as possible,” Reid says. I ask Jean if subscription sites can contribute to the normal- ization of sex work. “Even though not everyone will do it, every- one wants to do it,” she tells me. “When I get online, I’ll see girls who aren’t in the industry. They’re Instagram models. Their followers sign up because they’re like, ‘I’ve been wanting to see this girl naked.’ ” This doesn’t make them porn stars, at least not according to Reid. “I don’t think they understand what it’s like to go to set and have sex with someone you’ve never met, where there’s a guy over there with the boom,” she says.
The truth is, with the options now available, they’ll likely never have to. But cracking the surface of mainstream con- sciousness through OnlyFans and FanCentro doesn’t always equate to mainstream acceptance. After all, subscribe now buttons don’t change laws or end discrimination. Not over- night. Not even over years. The trouble is that today, self-promotion on the internet—and with it, self-acceptance—is a necessity. To be successful on these so-called fan sites, visibility is required. Keeping your business a secret doesn’t result in more sales. This means legions of sex workers are actively advertising their services on social media to millions, cashing in every day that they’re not being shut down. For all their disruption, these sites have hardly progressed the sex workers’ rights movement. “Sex work is work,” as the rally- ing cry goes. They have, however, created opportunities for sex workers to build community and financial mobility in the age of FOSTA-SESTA, when basic online tools such as message boards have been shuttered in the government’s attempt to end “sex trafficking.” Amid the exodus from studios, the promised land remains what it’s been for decades: validity, rights and respect across legal systems. As Reid argues, “It’s such a normal thing for people to be sell- ing their bodies on the internet.” b f 17
between How does it feel The Klan member. The bigoted politician. The slur-spouting athlete. A to bring a racist to staple of cinematic evil, roles steeped in racism have never been a simple life? Seven actors share undertaking for the performers tasked with playing them. While audiences the challenges and have always loved a good villain, the on-screen depiction of racism carries responsibilities of perhaps more weight today than in previous eras. After all, this is a time embodying hatred when President Donald Trump’s vitriol is an accepted presence on Twitter feeds; when NPR publicly defends its labeling of that same president’s Above: The biopic 42 rhetoric as racist; when we’re just two years removed from the deadly white depicts the struggles of supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia; and when mass shootings Jackie Robinson, the first perpetrated on any given day instill persistent fear and anguish. Does art African American player inform how we identify prejudice in our own lives, and do the stories we in the major leagues. tell on-screen exacerbate or salve the pain? playboy spoke with seven actors Right: Topher Grace’s about their racist roles to examine how we represent hatred in art, the risks portrayal of David and nuances of understanding such mind-sets and the power in reflecting Duke was nominated, the current state of America.—David Dennis Jr. along with the rest of the BlacKkKlansman “ ensemble, for a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding film cast. racism. palatable “ evil. 18 FILM
Topher Grace William Sadler Garrett Hedlund Real-life KKK leader David Duke in Spike Lee’s Detective Michael Sheehan in Ava DuVernay’s Mike Burden in the 2020 film Burden, the 2019 Oscar winner BlacKkKlansman 2019 Emmy-winning Netflix miniseries When real-life story of a Klansman who inherits a KKK They See Us memorabilia shop before finding redemption On confronting Duke’s charm: “Duke rebranded racism. He’s very charming On Sheehan intimidating the Central Park On filming in the KKK shop: “As the crew was and disarming, so he made racism more Five into confessing: “During a scene with my setting up, a father and son were walking palatable—that’s true evil. The night before co-star Asante Blackk, Ava DuVernay took me around. A crew member asked if they worked I went in to read for Spike, I was rehearsing aside and said, ‘I want you to scare him.’ So I on set, and the father said, ‘Hell no, we’re alone, and I still couldn’t say half the words. I unleashed this character, and when I finished, shopping. About time a goddamn place like told Spike, ‘I’m really uncomfortable speaking I asked Asante, ‘Are you okay?’ and gave him a this opened up.’ That allowed us to see how like this.’ If you do that with the wrong hug. I’m not comfortable playing those people, real this is. It made our commitment to the director, and you don’t pay it off the right but the better I do it, the more impact the story project stronger.” way, it’s very dangerous to make someone has. It’s more important than ever before that look charismatic. But Duke’s charisma is what we tell stories like these.” makes him so powerful.” Alan Tudyk tWilliam Fichtner eBurgess Jenkins Baseball manager Ben Chapman in 42, the 2013 District attorney flack Jake Flanagan in 2006’s Ray Budds, one of the villains in 2000’s fact- Jackie Robinson biopic best picture winner Crash based Remember the Titans On using the N word: “While rehearsing those On whether Flanagan’s racial button-pushing On his approach to the persistently racist words, I would get tears in my eyes, which makes him racist: “Under his breath, my football star: “The guy is angry and frustrated wasn’t good for the scene. So I would watch character says, ‘Fucking black people.’ The and feels betrayed, and everybody has felt these violent street-fight videos, and I’d get a point of the scene is about choices we make angry, frustrated and betrayed. The key is to knot in my stomach and I’d just get angry. And in life and how we can end up in uncool figure out the emotional value and connect then I wouldn’t cry anymore when I said the circumstances. I didn’t look at him as just to it, rather than judge them and say, ‘Okay, word. It was like I got dipped in hate.” racially motivated, but I saw that piece of him this guy’s a racist jerk.’ Well, they don’t see when he pulled that card out.” themselves as racist jerks.” Catherine Kellner lines Fannie Taylor in John Singleton’s 1997 movie Rosewood, based on a true story of a white woman who falsely accuses a black man of rape in the 1920s On the film’s most intense scenes: “I’d go William Sadler channels into my trailer and breathe into a paper bag Detective Sheehan in Ava because I was so nervous. But the cast and DuVernay’s four-part series John Singleton kept saying, ‘Do it, because about the Central Park Five. people need to know.’ In scenes where I cry over and over, part of me honestly wept because of my own ignorance, because the subject matter was so real. But it became one of the best experiences of my life.”
What would happen if the United States decriminalized drug possession? A veteran drug-policy expert offers some trippy outcomes BY JAG DAVIES
The drug policies in this country are preposterous. As long as Policy, plus celebrity activists such as Richard people who use drugs are treated like criminals, mass crim- Branson—have also supported decriminalization, inalization and mass overdose deaths will remain two of the arguing that drug-policy reformation would revo- greatest ongoing tragedies in the United States. lutionize how the U.S. handles use and addiction. Accidental drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Decriminalization has proven to be transfor- Americans under the age of 50, exceeding fatalities from gun mative in other nations across the world. Numer- violence, car accidents, homicide and HIV/AIDS. According ous countries, including the Czech Republic, the to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Netherlands, Spain and, most notably, Portugal, Center for Health Statistics, more than 68,000 deadly drug have had remarkable success with it. overdoses occurred in the United States in 2018 alone. The Portuguese regime, established by António At the same time, U.S. law enforcement makes an arrest for Salazar in 1932, closed the country off from the drug possession every 25 seconds, adding up to well over 1 mil- rest of the world for 40 years. When the suppres- lion arrests a year. It’s the single most common reason for ar- sive rule abruptly ended in 1974, in came the drugs rest in the country. These arrests do nothing to reduce the the country had barely experienced before. By the use of drugs; in fact, criminalization amplifies safety risks by 1990s, one in 100 people in Portugal was addicted pushing people who use drugs away from public health services. to heroin, and the country’s rate of HIV infection had hit the highest in the European Union. But What if I told you that decriminalization of all drugs (yes, all since 2001, when Portugal became the first coun- drugs) could put an end to that? Under decriminalization, peo- try to decriminalize all drugs, the number of peo- ple who are caught using or possessing a small amount of drugs ple voluntarily entering treatment has increased or are found with drug paraphernalia would no longer face significantly as rates of addiction and adolescent criminal penalties, meaning any form of criminal punishment drug use have fallen. From 2000 to 2015, HIV in- (including arrest, jail and imprisonment) would be abolished. fections in Portugal plummeted from 104.2 new cases per million to 4.2 cases per million. This idea—to cease to treat drug possession as an unlawful offense—isn’t as outlandish as it may seem. According to a poll Given decriminalization’s successful track re- conducted by the Cato Institute, 55 percent of Americans sup- cord, senior levels of government are attempting port decriminalization. The leading governmental, medical, to pave the way for it in an array of countries, in- public health and civil rights groups—including the Ameri- cluding Canada, Ghana, Ireland, Malaysia, Mex- can Civil Liberties Union and the Global Commission on Drug ico, Norway and Scotland. Still, only a handful of U.S. policy makers have embraced the idea. Some progress has been made in reforming the war on drugs in the United States—but mostly by cities and states, not by the federal government. Alaska, California, Col- orado, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah have reduced drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. Dozens of cit- ies around the country have instituted pre-arrest diversion programs, such as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion. “911 Good Samaritan” laws, some of which limit criminalization at the scene of an overdose for witnesses who call for emergency medical assistance, have been adopted in all 50 states. Progress has also been made toward cannabis legaliza- tion in all 50 states, giving hope that once-unthinkable drug reforms can happen with positive results. Since Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, D.C., California, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Michigan, Illinois and Ver- mont approved measures to legalize cannabis, states have saved millions and are allocating the dollars earned from cannabis taxes to civil sectors. In Colorado, for instance, $225 million in tax revenue was distributed to the Colorado Department of Education from 2015 to 2018. A study pub- lished in the journal Economic Inquiry shows compelling evi- dence that opioid-overdose deaths in states that have legalized recreational cannabis drop by 20 to 35 percent. The national debate around cannabis has evolved from whether the remaining states should legalize it to how they should legalize it. But even though a 2018 Rasmussen Reports survey found that only nine percent of likely U.S. voters deem the war on drugs a success—and despite positive case studies rang- ing from Portugal’s decriminalization to cannabis legalization stateside—the Trump administration is making moves to ramp
communities would slowly wither, afford- ing those affected an opportunity to support themselves and their families. We would no longer fear years like 2018, when law enforcement arrested about 1.43 million people for possessing small amounts of drugs for personal use. The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch could work on releasing the 137,000 people they estimate are behind bars in U.S. prisons and jails on any given day for drug possession—many of them being held pre-trial because they can’t af- ford to post bail. Thousands more currently locked up for failing drug tests as a condition of probation or parole could start working to- ward their freedom. Black people, who represent 13 percent of the U.S. population and use drugs at simi- lar rates as other groups, would no longer ac- count for 29 percent of people arrested for drug-law violations and 33 percent of people incarcerated in state prisons for drug posses- sion. Law enforcement would be able to divert resources to serious public safety concerns— such as the 67 percent of reported rapes that went uncleared in 2018 and the thousands of rape kits that went unprocessed. If mass drug-possession arrests stop in the U.S., the thousands of people currently deported every year for possessing any up the drug war. This marks a shift away from modest Obama- amount of drugs would no longer fear losing their homes. Per- era reforms that slowed the growth of mass incarceration. Trump and his ilk have weaponized the overdose crisis in an at- manent residents—many of whom have been in the U.S. for de- tempt to demonize immigrants and people of color—even call- ing for the death penalty for people who sell drugs. cades and have jobs and families—would no longer live with U.S. voters may soon decide on drug decriminalization for the anxiety caused by the automatic detention and deporta- the first time: In September 2019, activists in Oregon filed Petition 2020-044, which will likely come to a vote in No- tion, often without the possibility of return, for being caught vember 2020. If passed, it will decriminalize simple posses- sion and refer offenders to a range of voluntary services such with any amount of any drug. as evidence-based treatment, harm-reduction programs and housing services. The savings on law enforcement—as well as One may hypothesize that fewer drug-possession arrests the revenue from cannabis taxes—would fund these programs. would mean more crime on the streets, but the Pew Charitable Some Democratic presidential candidates, such as Bernie Sanders, include far-reaching drug-policy reforms in their Trusts reported in 2017 that there is “no relationship between platforms. “We are going to end the international embarrass- ment of having more people in jail than any other country on drug imprisonment and drug problems,” because under de- earth. Instead of spending $80 billion a year on jails and in- carceration, we are going to invest in jobs and education for criminalization, people would still be arrested for committing our young people,” Sanders promises on his campaign website. Yet as of press time no 2020 presidential candidate has made crimes under the influence of drugs. Decriminalization would a full-throated endorsement of ending arrests for drug posses- sion and implementing Portugal-style decriminalization. only mean that police could no longer waste taxpayer dollars ••• arresting people for possession. So what would the United States look like if we stopped treating drug users as criminals? Mass incarceration and mass crim- Decriminalization also makes it easier to ramp up health inalization—which are major drivers of economic inequal- ity, health disparities and systemic racism—would decrease and harm-reduction services that are known to drastically re- significantly. The criminalization that targets lower-income duce addiction, overdose deaths and new hepatitis C and HIV infections. Evidence-based drug treatment could more easily be offered to anyone who wants it. For those who continue to use drugs, services to reduce potential harm—such as screen- ing unregulated drugs for adulterants, community-based naloxone distribution, syringe-access programs, supervised consumption sites and other long-proven approaches—could also be made more widely available. All the pieces are in place for drug decriminalization to take effect in the U.S. Now we just have to demand that our leaders act. To truly end the war on drugs and avoid new public health crises, we need to accept that criminalizing possession offers no solutions or hope for real cultural transformation. b 23
orville The man behind the mask has a voice of gold and nothing to hide. What will it take for a hidebound genre to embrace the new cowboy in town? by MARISSA R. MOSS
e PhotograPhy by ALYSSE GAFKJEN Man in His Domain The aptly named “party switch” featured in every room at the Dive Motel in Nashville has four options: sex, drugs, rock & roll and sleep. Orville Peck, in a pair of horse-print tighty-whities, is boogying to the sex station, which blasts 1970s R&B while a rotat- ing disco ball shimmers in sparkly pink hues overhead. The lack of a television, plus the bright geometric wallpaper and deep shag carpeting, signals that this renovated roadside inn isn’t the kind of place you visit for a family-friendly good time. But on this sweaty Tennessee afternoon the only thing splayed across the bed sheets is Peck’s collection of handmade lace-up masks. Gold fringe, long red fringe, short cream fringe, mid-length pink fringe. Fringe galore, yee-haw, amen. Peck fastens on one of his masks—which he hopes never to be seen in public without—pairing it with an embroidered Nudie-style suit. Someone suggests we crank up the party switch to drugs, which fea- tures trippy lights and sounds by hip-hop forefather Grandmaster Flash. The country artist is pleased, mostly with his outfit. “I do like the Porter Wagoner look,” Peck says, referring to the 1960s twangy crooner who made sparkly, chain-stitched getups part of his signature look. Wagoner, however—at least as far as we know— never cracked a whip while listening to “White Lines.” The musician moves to another bedroom, this one featuring side-by-side bathtubs and more shag, to snap additional photos. He stands on a bed and gives a hearty crack to a long, vintage-leather lasso. “I’m good with a whip,” the superhero-like figure announces, an innuendo that would no doubt cause fidgeting across town on Music Row, the epicenter of Nashville’s commercial country-music indus- try. While fluid sexuality has long been embraced in pop music, the naughtiest images to ship out of this town tend toward a tight- pantsed Luke Bryan singing about “knockin’ boots.” For someone like Peck, who is openly gay, a career in mainstream country has al- most always been out of reach. Just seven years ago, in 2013, coun- try radio penalized Kacey Musgraves for alluding to kissing girls on “Follow Your Arrow”; the song never charted higher than 43 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart despite being named song of the year at the 2014 Country Music Association Awards. The genre, con- ventional wisdom would like you to believe, is conservative, and the only viable path for an aspiring artist who happens to embrace gayness is country-adjacent. But times are changing. Nashville is starting to demand a party switch. “See,” Peck says, flicking the whip in an impressive wave motion with a controlled snap of the wrist, all cowboy confident, “I told y’all.” Peck, who put out his debut LP, Pony, on Sub Pop in March, sings about relationships with men because that’s who he is, not because he has an agenda. The sexiness in his songs comes more from a sonic palette that sometimes sounds like Chris Isaak than from character-playing. Much has been murmured about Peck’s sexual- ity and his “subversive” role in country; almost as much has been made of his masked anonymity. All three aspects are captivating, for sure, but they represent a fraction of the whole: Peck speaks about being a gay man in country music not to spur a revolution but to find a role for folks like him in a genre that, historically, hasn’t 25
been welcoming. If anything, he’s a tra- ditionalist at heart. Dolly Parton and Wagoner are his North Stars in a cos- mos that also includes Merle Haggard. And no, Orville Peck isn’t his real name, but no one makes a stink about Eilleen Regina Edwards, the woman we know as Shania Twain. His photo shoot done, Peck, now in a T-shirt on the hotel patio, smokes a cigarette through his fringe, which is parted down the middle like a set of cur- tains. “I’m not setting out to be an insti- gator,” he says. “In fact, my songwriting is probably more in line with traditional country than a lot of country now.” He’s not wrong: Peck’s songs don’t im- itate Haggard’s per se, but neither do those of the subgenre that includes Sam Hunt and Florida Georgia Line crooning about women, pickup trucks and beer. When compared toe-to-toe with the bro- country groups that dominate popular radio, Peck is no more indie rock than 26
they are hip-hop. But a fear lingers that queer singers like Peck are trying to warp country into another liberal bastion. Peck doesn’t see it as a changing of the guard so much as an opportunity to be a part of what’s been built. Country’s queens—Parton, in particular—were Peck’s inspira- tion and role models, but he soon realized the genre as a whole wasn’t ready to invite him in; it’s an experience that’s relatable for many people whose stories have been excluded from the country canon. It’s not that people of color or queer people haven’t had a role in Nash- ville’s understructure; it’s that their impacts have been diminished and muted. This isn’t entirely the fault of country music itself. As Nadine Hubbs discusses in Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, classism has resulted in the dismissal of country as the province of unsophisticated hillbillies. “Even just a few banjo or fiddle notes,” Hubbs writes, “can suf- fice to convey qualities including rusticity, Southernness, stupid- ity or lack of sophistication, and violent bigotry, especially racism and homophobia.” When the middle and elite classes use the re- frain “anything but country” to describe their musical interests, they’re signaling not just personal taste but economic background and political affinity. Classifying country music as the antithesis of sophistication promotes the idea that it can’t be appreciated by any- one who lacks white skin and a blue collar. “I think the stigma that country music is made by a certain type of person, and is only for a certain type of person, is something per- petuated by big-wig old white men who run record labels and feel like that’s how they can keep in control,” says Peck, stubbing out his cigarette. “But look at Willie Nelson. That guy’s a weed-smoking gay-rights activist.” “ ” 27
The issue of otherness in country is “I thought she was like Elvira or something, because she was this further highlighted in the case of Lil Nas X, who came out as gay following the suc- larger-than-life character. That’s the country music I love. People al- cess of his 2019 hit, “Old Town Road.” After he was nominated for a Coun- ways think I’m playing a character, but that’s not it at all. It’s about a try Music Association Award (for musi- cal event of the year), a flood of national super-heightened version of yourself to tell the story better, which is headlines erroneously declared him the first openly gay person to snag such an what Dolly does. She wears wigs—she’s a drag queen, basically—but honor. In the past decade, openly gay art- ists Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark she sings these sincere, heartbreaking songs, and it’s all very genu- have been recognized by the CMAs. The media’s lazy assumption speaks to the ine. That’s kind of what I try to do.” view of country as a “hillbilly” home where there can’t possibly be space for Although Peck maintains his mysterious persona, he hasn’t made queer folks, resulting in erasure by ac- cident. Country’s gay community hasn’t up a past that doesn’t exist. He’s an entertainer, not a myth. Peck always been heard, but it is rich, and crit- ics often confuse the Music Row machine grew up all over, with a father who was a sound engineer for glam- and country radio—where queer voices are indeed silenced—with the music rock bands including Suzi Quatro and a mother who valued cre- makers themselves. ativity; he has two brothers. A trained ballet dancer and singer As the world considers more inter- pretations of sexuality and gender, and obsessed with David Bowie and cowboys, Peck had started perform- country music becomes a global com- modity that needs to react to those ing by the age of 10. He taught himself to play guitar, performed in trends, there’s space in the expanding universe for a star like Peck. “Whether punk bands and studied the art of mask-making before recording they even recognize the reasoning, I think a lot of gay people feel detached Pony on Gabriola Island in British Columbia. from country music,” he says. “But mar- ginalized people of any kind have to “I think most people want to discount me as a hipster who’s dip- bushwhack and blaze our own trails a lot of the time. Those paths aren’t there for ping my toe into this yee-haw agenda,” Peck says. “But the reality us, and it’s usually in the face of a lot of adversity or a lot of judgment.” is, this has been me for a long time. This has been a dream of mine It’s a complicated balance to recog- my whole life.” nize the role queer people have played in country music and also acknowledge His country dream is coming to fruition at a time when change is how they’ve been curbed. Peck knows this history well, from Lavender Coun- increasingly unavoidable, at least in terms of integrating queer voices try, the band credited with releasing the first gay country album in 1973 (Peck and supporting LGBTQ people. Miranda Lambert dedicated her song has sung with them), to Willie Nelson’s 2006 version of the cowboy-lovin’ an- “All Kinds of Kinds” to WorldPride 2019, which she attended in New them “Cowboys Are Frequently, Se- cretly Fond of Each Other” (Peck has York City; Carrie Underwood’s “Love Wins” hints apolitically at covered it). His mask is reminiscent of Jimmy “Orion” Ellis, a 1970s and 1980s equality; and Maren Morris is a fierce and outspoken advocate, as country singer with Presleyan vocals and an affinity for obscuring his face. are Musgraves and Margo Price. Nashville is also evolving: Its music Peck’s masks are more SM than bedaz- zling like Ellis’s, but a mask nonetheless community rallied fast and hard when former Arkansas governor signifies a love of showmanship. and vocal homophobe Mike Huckabee joined the CMA Foundation’s “My introduction to country music was Dolly Parton when I was a kid, and I didn’t board in 2018. He resigned in less than 24 hours. know she was a real person,” Peck says. Newer artists like Brandon Stansell are leaning in to main- stream careers as queer people, following in the path of Ty Herndon and Chely Wright, who both came out years after their debuts but whose careers never benefited from their truths. On the indie end, acts such as Karen & the Sorrows, Trixie Mattel and Little Bandit are breaching the genre to make it more inclusive. Brandi Carlile, a queer artist and 2019 Grammy nominee for album of the year, is doubling down on her commitment to the genre, producing country records, singing duets with Dierks Bentley and forming the female supergroup the Highwomen. “She’s really changing the narrative,” says Peck, who sees a link between how country music has historically sidelined women and how it currently treats the queer community. “I feel like the prob- lem is less about homophobia. It’s a chauvinist problem,” he says. “Female musicians go through this all the time. The gatekeepers of country, as is the way with everything on this planet, tend to be conservative, straight white men. I think that’s kind of ending. I really do believe it.” Peck has dreams too: of performing at the CMA Awards, singing at Nelson’s ranch and, of course, appearing at the Grand Ole Opry. He thinks they’ll all come true, because despite the mask, he has never been less hidden in his life. “I genuinely feel like I’m on a horse riding into the sunset, on my own terms,” he says before disappearing into the hotel room with his bed of masks. There’s a cowboy battle raging in Nashville, and Peck has been practicing with his whip. b 29
The Good Witch With the release of a scorching new book and the return of her Lindy West is sitting in a season of Shrill, a series inspired by her best-selling essay collection of the same hit show, writer lindy director’s chair—so big, name. (The show returns to Hulu in Janu- west finds herself she says, it’s “almost a ary.) The first season was beloved by both hammock”—in a Port- critics and viewers, and the show was promptly renewed. The pressure is on to at a crossroads—what land, Oregon warehouse keep the bar high. filled with cameras and “It feels like a lot more responsibility,” happens when an inordinate number of she says, keeping an eye on a scene in which Aidy Bryant, the Saturday Night you don’t have to be crew members with han- Live regular and Shrill’s lead, gets into a dlebar mustaches. As she heated exchange with her fictional boy- friend. “I’m glad I wasn’t given this kind shrill anymore? glances up at the moni- of long leash when I was 23. I probably tors, watching actors re- would’ve made something really bad.” By Eric SpitznagEl peat lines she helped Over the course of the day, West men- write, she reflects on her tions several times that for most of her ca- reer it was just her on a couch, wrestling hypothetical death. words out of her head in an otherwise empty apartment. Now she’s sitting in a “I was exhausted, but crowded soundstage where “there are al- ways a million moving parts and a million I felt proud of myself,” she says of a re- things to do. Sometimes it’s a last-minute zhuzhing of the script, and sometimes it’s cent six-mile mountain hike across often the props department needing me to sign off on some tiny detail that viewers prob- treacherous terrain. As she was travers- ably won’t even notice.” ing a high, narrow trail, she crossed paths Shrill the TV show follows Annie Easton, a character loosely based on with three other hikers, all young and fit. West. While the similarities between the two are hard to miss—both Easton “I had this realization that if one of and West are writers living in the Pacific Northwest who champion fat-positivity them accidentally bumped me off the and get hounded by trolls, oblivious pass- ersby and many others—the fictional trail and I tumbled down this ravine, counterpart has a long way to go before she reaches present-day Lindy-ness. and if someone caught it on video, peo- “She doesn’t seem like a character ple would think it was funny,” she says. who’d be like, ‘Yes, I’m a witch and I’m hunting you,’ ” West says, referring to her “It wouldn’t be ‘Woman Tragically Plum- recent book of essays, The Witches Are mets to Her Death.’ It would be ‘Look at the Fatty Roll.’ ” It’s hard to know whether to laugh or nod grimly when West shares stories like this. The 37-year-old writer and producer has made a career of this balancing act, pointing out injustice while also being one of the most uproarious social critics of her generation. Dressed in a Queen T-shirt knotted at the belly and a form-fitting leopard- skin skirt, West exudes fabulousness with just a hint of I’m not entirely sure about this. She’s also exhausted. They’re in the final weeks of shooting the second 32 CULTURE illustration By EwElina DymEk
of the Northwest
Coming. (The title is from her 2017 New Portland’s Pearl District, on a break from the Shrill shoot, and York Times op-ed about #MeToo blow- talking about her new book—in particular her essay about the back and men bemoaning “witch hunts” late comedian Joan Rivers that I keep insisting is brilliant. West despite “millenniums of treating women isn’t so sure. like prey.”) Of the character’s develop- ment she adds, “I think we’re going to “I was worried it was dumb,” she says. “I was worried that I was move in that direction slowly. It’s her unfairly picking on her.” journey toward becoming shrill, or learn- ing how to own that.” I contend that it’s a careful meditation on a woman largely considered a pioneer in comedy. Uncertainty looms over every West is long past learning how to sentence as West contemplates an icon stuck in a rigged sys- embrace her inner shrill. She practi- tem. “Instead of fighting for us lost, last girls,” she writes, “she cally owns the word now. She built a ca- turned around and gave worse than she got.” reer as an outsider critic and satirist of It’s a far cry from the West of a decade ago. In 2010, when she “ i’ll watch a was a relative unknown writing for the Seattle alt-weekly The scene and Be Stranger, her caustic reviews of movies such as Sex and the like, ‘aw, aidy is City 2 went viral thanks to snarky but hilarious observations the prettiest like “What is the lubrication level of Samantha Jones’s 52-year- leading lady i old vagina?” ever saw.’ ” West can barely stand to reflect on that early incarnation. “I didn’t know anything,” she says. “I just wanted to be funny. And misogynist culture, but she’s no longer an I was so mean. Some of the stuff that I wrote about people’s work, outsider; she’s a best-selling author and a I would die—I would die if someone wrote that about me.” writer and executive producer on a hugely successful TV show. She settled into a more confident voice at the self-proclaimed “supposedly feminist website” Jezebel in 2012, where she wrote The subtitle for her first book is Notes some of her most challenging and controversial essays on sex- From a Loud Woman. But she doesn’t need ism, bigotry and body shaming. She could still be ruthlessly to be loud anymore. Everyone is listening. funny, but the stakes were higher, and she was learning how to be more nuanced. Which isn’t to say she shouldn’t be loud. The rules change, however, when “So much of Lindy’s writing revolves around issues that the world has stopped shushing you, aren’t black or white,” says Jessica Coen, editor in chief at when outlets like The Guardian and The Jezebel during West’s tenure. “They can’t be distilled down to a New York Times are lining up to offer you single hot take.” Many of the topics she writes about (abortion, regular columns and Elizabeth Banks fat-phobia) don’t seem like they’d be entertaining, Coen says, wants to produce a TV show with you. but West always pulls it off because “she writes with so much Being loud is a weapon of the ignored energy and wit, so while the topic itself might not be a delight, and disenfranchised (and, of course, of reading her always is.” angry mobs with digital pitchforks), not so much somebody who has the spotlight Comedian Patti Harrison, who has a recurring role on and a captive audience. Shrill, was affected by West long before she joined the cast. She recalls watching West debate the topic of rape jokes with “I was so desperate to make people comedian Jim Norton on Totally Biased in 2013. West argued laugh,” West says of her younger self. that “you don’t get to say that comedy is this sacred, power- “I was afraid to be sincere, because it’s ful, vital thing that we have to protect because it’s speaking vulnerable.” truth to power blah, blah, blah, and then also be like, ‘Well, it’s just a joke—I mean, language doesn’t affect our lives at all, so It makes you wonder what, if anything, shut up!’ ” For Harrison, it had a seismic effect on how she ap- she’s scared of now. proached comedy. ••• “I was doing improv in college at the time, and I believed noth- “You think?” ing should be off limits,” she says. “But Lindy was so funny and so smart. I wanted to be provocative, and I thought you should be West wrinkles her nose, not sure if she able to say anything, but she shifted my thinking.” wants to take a compliment. We’re in When Shrill became a TV show, West was given a chance to shift people’s thinking on a larger scale. She went from com- menting on pop culture to being a part of pop culture. But is Shrill changing minds en masse? Or is it just a dot on a TV land- scape that idealizes tiny bodies and isn’t about to change because of one norm-busting heroine? Martha Plimpton, who became friends with West long before she co-founded the #ShoutYourAbortion social media campaign in 2015 with fellow Seattleite Amelia Bonow, says she under- stands the tug-of-war between idealism and making a commer- cial product. “You can’t overhaul the whole fucking system by sheer will alone,” she says. “I’m still figuring it out myself. There are 34 CULTURE
says of the “witches” title of her new book. Her next thought reminds me that, ear- lier that day, we had spoken of the fears that plagued her as an emerging writer. “There’s power in this label that people are putting on you, and we can assume that power,” she says. “They’re scared of us.” ã0003ã0003ã West is vague when discussing what’s next for her. More books are likely, and she’ll stay with Shrill for as long as there’s an audience. But she has ambitions that are less about the next career move than, say, exploration. “I’ve always had the unspoken thought in my head that I can’t go to Japan be- cause I’m too fat,” she says. “I’d just Godzilla the whole place, knock every- thing over and break all the chairs. But that’s crazy. It’s a regular-size country.” She’d also like to try downhill skiing or Aidy Bryant, who plays parameters that’ve been set up that you have absolutely zero scuba diving, two things that terrify her. West’s Shrill alter ego, power to change. You want your producing and activist sides to shoots a scene on the intersect as much as possible, but you also can’t torture yourself But her real dream—— streets of Portland for the over what you can’t do.” “Here,” she says, pulling out her phone. show’s first season. West, however, is optimistic that Shrill can make an impact. “I can feel it affecting me, and I made it,” she says. “I’ll watch “I’ll show you.” a scene and be like, ‘Aw, Aidy is the prettiest leading lady I ever saw.’ I’m not like, ‘Who is this fat woman?’ Once you start nor- As she scrolls through Instagram, she malizing it in your brain, I think the process happens really fast.” tells me about her friend Jenny, who By way of comparison, she recalls a cultural norm whose evo- lution she witnessed in her early 20s. “The thing that keeps me has recently taken up horseback riding. going, and I don’t know why I always return to this when I’m feel- ing stressed, is the smoking ban,” she says. “It seemed unfath- “Jenny told me to follow this Instagram omable that you could get people to stop smoking. But then they made a rule, and now it’s unfathomable that bars ever allowed page called African Horse Safaris. It’s smoking. You can create a new normal, and people who are oth- erwise resistant will get used to it. You forget what life was like a real service, and you’re basically on a before, you know?” horse that’s galloping across the savanna.” ã0003ã0003ã West still gets hate mail. Just the other day, she tells me over din- She hands me her phone and points to a ner, she received a message from a man who wrote, “You’re stu- pid and I heard you wrote a stupid book and I hope it tanks.” video. A saddle-cam captures a horseback But long gone are the days when she would get daily death rider chasing a tower of giraffes some- and rape threats. It’s no coincidence that she left Twitter in January 2017. where in Tanzania. West insists it wasn’t the trolls alone that drove her off the “Are you kidding me?” she says, laugh- platform, but she’s glad that dealing with them is no longer a cen- tral part of her job description. ing. “That’s not CGI, that’s real!” “Why are you entitled to engage with me?” she says of Does she actually want to go to Africa the armies of men who insisted on attacking her—usually anonymously—online. “This is the stuff that started to drive me and ride horses amid the roaring wild- crazy.” Every time she hit back at the barrage of toxic masculin- ity, it felt “bad for my mental health,” she says. “I already feel life? “I don’t know. But it’s made me like I have psychological effects from that time of my life when I had to seem impervious to pain. It’s not good for you.” And, she wonder: Is there a reason I couldn’t do adds, “it’s not good for your brain to be numb to that.” it? I’d have to learn how to ride a horse. Eventually West let go—not just of Twitter but of the idea that trolls can be reasoned with, or that there’s value in proving how It’d have to be a big horse. But horses are much abuse you can endure. Through the Twitter breach, she emerged as a woman who’s more focused, more equipped to fuck strong, whatever.” up the patriarchy. “Hopefully it’s a little bit of a rallying cry,” she She keeps flipping through photos and videos. “I’m sure it’s probably scary. But maybe that’s why I need to do it.” In a weird way, it seems like the perfect next adventure for Lindy West. This is a woman whose entire life has been about doing things that are scary and that the rest of the world told her she couldn’t or shouldn’t be doing. Is there any differ- ence between shouting about your abor- tion or feeling proud of your body or pushing back against rape humor and riding a horse at top speed across an Af- rican savanna? West smiles, still transfixed by the im- ages of galloping horses on her phone. “I guess we’ll find out.” b f 35
artwork by alphachanneling
Shan Boodram, clinical sexologist, youtube star and author of The Game of Desire, taps her followers and offers unflaggingly positive advice to a woman who can’t stop thinking about sex, a guy who can’t get women to like him and others whose dilemmas may just be your own Q: Is it normal to think about sex 24/7? emotional qualifications; you just have not made of steel—so don’t be afraid to I’m a 28-year-old woman who just to be intentional in finding him. As a admit that to your girlfriend and ask got her master’s degree and is play- woman who just completed her master’s, for guidance on how to manage both the ing the field while praying for a future you already get the formula: Know who situation and your feelings. As for the partner—and I honestly feel that I’m ad- you are, know where you fit best and im- other woman, you already know the an- dicted to sex. It just naturally seeps into merse yourself in that community so you swer to this: Yeah, you should bring it my thoughts no matter what I’m doing, can align with like minds in the areas up, but I also think your senses are cor- even at the most inappropriate times. that matter to you the most. rect. Instead of making it a cautionary When I envision my future partner, he’s statement, look for a casual way to in- just as much of a freak as I am! Are there Q: I’m a man in his 30s and have been sert it into the conversation. other men and women out there who feel in a relationship with someone I deeply the same things?—T.G., Bangor, Maine love for two years. I recently met an- Q: I recently started dating a person A: We are all so much alike! The details other woman who’s cool and works in the who’s transitioning and has bottom may vary, but the root questions are same industry as I do. We got together dysmorphia. They were born with fe- pretty much the same: Am I normal? Am for coffee a couple of weeks after meet- male parts, and as a female I thought I I worthy of being loved? Based on what ing, and we’ve been texting ever since— would be able to better figure out their you describe, the answer to both those maybe it’s just friendly, maybe it’s a body, but it’s daunting right now because questions is “Hell yes!” But if you’re wor- little bit flirty. I still haven’t told her I they feel weird about their genitals, ried about your relationship with sex, have a girlfriend, and it’s starting to and I don’t know how to navigate. How ask yourself these questions: Is my sex feel weird. On one hand, I don’t want to can I get to know my partner and their drive in conflict with local laws? Has assume she likes me “that way.” On the body in a way that will make us both feel my sex drive blatantly impeded my prog- other, I feel I’m being dishonest with comfortable?—J.M., Miami, Florida ress in other areas of life? Is my sex drive her and especially with my girlfriend. A: Congrats to your partner for making often a point of moral contention in my Where do I go from here?—S.P., Arling- such an important decision, and also relationships? If you answered yes to any ton Heights, Illinois congrats to the two of you on your new of these, it might be a good idea to speak A: First, know that scenarios like this connection. I’m going to remind you to a licensed professional—not because will come up on both sides. I highly en- of something I’m certain you already you’re an addict per se but because bal- courage you to discuss it with your know: Change is not easy, and it abso- ance isn’t easy. If you answered no to partner, because at the end of the day, lutely is not instant! Your partner may all three, and you find that sex is by and having a second person to navigate the have spent 20-plus years feeling uncom- large a joyful part of your life, just know complexities of life with is the joy of fortable in their body or getting mes- that I’ve never met a single human being being in a relationship! Why is it that sages about their genitals that never who claimed their sex life, libido, de- in romantic connections we accept that aligned with their feelings—and as pow- sires, opinions or beliefs were perfect. we have to share the undersides of our erful as the decision to take ownership We are all trying to find love, make con- humanity (poop horror stories, credit over their truth through transitioning nections, grow, have some orgasms and drama, morning breath and all), but is, it does not magically erase all those make peace with ourselves (in no par- when it comes to our natural drive to damaging, dysmorphic years. If it took ticular order). That said, there is abso- desire and be desired by others, we all them two decades to make the decision lutely a partner out there for you who can want our partners to believe we’re su- to change, they’re allowed to take at match your physical drive and meet your perhuman? Well, as it turns out, you’re least a third of that time to heal from the f 37
The woman who has never had an orgasm or masturbated has likely not found her middle, because no one has ever invited her there. dissonance they were surely feeling all either saying what she thinks you want drenched herself in sex-positive con- that time. The good news is that though to hear or not speaking at all. My guess tent, and I still, at times, feel internally change isn’t instant, if nurtured, it can is she would like space to call the shots, shamed. Instead of trying to ignore be gradual. Through patience, positive to allow things to be her idea and to know those feelings when they come up, I em- affirmation and lots of communication, that there is no expectation for anything brace them. I examine where they’re you should see an improvement in their other than her truth. This transition may coming from, I ask myself how credible attitude toward themselves, which will take time and a lot of verbal affirma- the original source is, and I make tiny result in a better connection in the bed- tions along the way. As a starting point, adjustments to my behavior so that I can room. Just remember that you should I would suggest you learn her “turn-on work through my feelings—slowly. The not expect a 180. Allow them to take the triggers”—a system I created to help cou- woman who has never had an orgasm lead as much as possible. If you need a ples understand, beyond basic biological or masturbated has likely not found her nudge, watch porn that turns both of instigators, what gets their partner in middle, because no one has ever invited you on and use it as a tool to discuss what the mood. The triggers are environmen- her there. Her past told her to deny her you’re comfortable and not comfortable tal (the five senses must be appeased, sexual self, and perhaps those in her exploring together. meaning the environment must be tidy present are pushing her to be totally and set), mental (e.g., a sapiosexual who liberated in her sexual pursuits. That’s Q: My girlfriend and I (a man) have been requires a mental connection before a a big jump. I would suggest she ignore together for three years, and I love her physical one), desire (direct language or both, find her own true starting point immensely, but due to a lack of activity, actions that make someone feel wanted), and take it from there. And because our sex life is not that great. She works cat-and-mouse (power play in which a this can never be said enough, I’d like to as an exotic dancer, and I think this af- partner likes to work for it or be worked add that while it can seem as though the fects her views on sexual intimacy. When for), negotiated (something else in addi- rest of the world is living in the land of I try to talk about it with her, she mainly tion to sex must be offered to sweeten the milk and orgasms, women’s pleasure re- tells me what I want to hear or avoids the pot) and visual (attention to appearance searcher Elisabeth Lloyd, author of The question altogether. I would like to break is paramount). I have a quiz you both can Case of the Female Orgasm, has found down that barrier and get her to be more take to learn what each other’s triggers that only 25 percent of women are con- open. I know this will be difficult because are: Try it out sistently orgasmic during vaginal inter- of the industry she works in—and I have as a launching point. course and about five percent never have chosen to accept that aspect—so how orgasms. The path to pleasure is not lin- can I help our sex life progress?—R.U., Q: What advice would you give a ear for many women—all the more rea- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 20-something woman who has never had son to take it slow and do it your way. A: With this attitude you’re already 80 an orgasm because she can’t rid herself percent there; all you have to do is fig- of the idea that self-pleasure is bad or Q: I’m in a monogamous relationship ure out the other 20 percent together. I dirty? She doesn’t know what she likes with the love of my life, but I’ve recently would imagine that, as an exotic dancer, or even how to figure it out, which makes become attracted to someone else—a your girlfriend might have some diffi- telling her partners what to do that much woman (like me)—whom I know well and culty untangling her sexual practices at more difficult.—R.W., Toronto, Ontario have been interested in on and off since work from those at home. At work she A: I have seen this question many, many before this relationship. I’ve suggested probably has two modes: one in which times. What that person needs more polyamory, but my partner isn’t onboard she portrays someone else’s sexual fan- than anything else right now is patience with that. What should I do?—G.S., tasy and another in which she shuts with herself as opposed to a quick “get Sausalito, California down her sexuality to recenter herself. over it and get into it” fix. Years and A: It sounds like what you need is an op- It sounds as though this mirrors how she years of sex-negative messaging are not portunity to explore this connection with treats conversations around intimacy, that easy to erase! I am a person who has your “someone else” without impinging 38
on your primary partnership. Inter- let me go down on her, but that’s it.) I’ve 2. Change yourself. Those are trig- est and engagement are very different tried dating apps and shooting my shot things. After spending more time with on Twitter, but I still get nothing. Am I gering words, I know, but change is the the other woman, the reasons the two doing something wrong? Am I just ugly? of you never worked out may become Am I doomed to a life of watching porn only constant; all you’re doing is tak- clearer. On the flip side, maybe through all the time and paying strippers?—P.S., this exploration you’ll decide that she Atlanta, Georgia ing ownership over the process. Based can actually improve all your relation- A: I am so grateful for this question. It is ships by allowing you to be in full, bal- vulnerable, authentic and relatable. And on what you’ve learned through your anced expression. At that point I’d revisit you are already on track to solve your the polyamory discussion with your dilemma, so all I’m going to do is point self-assessment, start making small in- partner. You may be looking for a free that awesome energy toward some ac- relationship—defined not by the rules or tion. I have a five-phase strategy you can tentional changes so that who you know titles you chose in the beginning but by use to make yourself a masterful connec- how each partner feels at any given time. tor. Here’s the lightning-round version: yourself to be and how people perceive The only thing constant in this world is change, and in a free relationship this 1. Get to know yourself. This does you are more aligned. isn’t just your reality; it’s your mantra. In not mean take yourself on a long ro- order for this arrangement to thrive, you mantic walk; it means start identify- 3. Learn from the greats. Once you’ve must be committed to hearing your part- ing the core of who you are and how you ner’s truths without constantly person- tend to interact with others. I suggest gotten good with you, start reading books alizing them. You acknowledge that your doing the Big Five Personality Test and relationship is yours to experience, not an attachment-theory quiz to start. In- or enlisting the help of experts to learn to control. In short, when it comes to the vest some time in studying emotional rules of your relationship, you edit them intelligence to help you master your in- how to attract others. We’re told that often. And I suspect that right now what terpersonal life. Next, take what you’ve you need is a relationship that gives you learned and get feedback from others; flirting, seduction, social intelligence, space to flirt, connect and gain clarity. after all, the mirror cannot see itself. Since you don’t have an ex, ask a close charisma, empathy, humor, strength and Q: I want to get straight to the point: friend or family member how you can How do I get women to like me? I’m a improve as a connector, and if you sense even attractiveness are traits we’re sim- 28-year-old black male who’s never been they’re giving you answers to support in a serious relationship or had vaginal your ego versus your growth, tell them ply born with, but in truth these are all intercourse. (I once paid a stripper to you can handle the truth—and you need it in order to move forward. skills that can be taught. 4. Practice, practice, practice. There’s a reason pro athletes practice more than they play: If you can’t do something when the stakes are low, you won’t have a chance in hell of performing when pres- sure, nerves and clocks are in the mix. So learn to love socializing, start conversa- tions with no agendas and be charming to everyone you meet. Not only will this make you a better dater; it will make your time on this planet more pleasant. 5. Set yourself up for success. Now that you’re good with you and good with oth- ers, put yourself in environments that welcome, want and warrant the absolute best version of you. b f 39
interview. i p l ay b oy.c o m
CHrIStIane Playboy aManPoUrIntervIew: A candid conversation with the unbreakable newswoman on everything from immigration to #MeToo, the power of the press to the dawn of her “sexy 60s” An impeachment scandal is in full swing, is not a newsman at all: It’s Christiane would remain in the English educational and attacks on the press erupt almost Amanpour, the British Iranian war re- system through high school. By the time daily from the White House. The year, of porter turned CNN and PBS host. Crisp, she enrolled at the University of Rhode course, is 1973. elegant and unshakably poised, Aman- Island to study journalism, Iran was in pour uses her nightly CNN International the throes of a revolution. The Amanpour In his Playboy Interview from that show to delve into global affairs, interro- family fled to England, starting anew year, legendary CBS anchor Walter gate newsmakers and occasionally rip to in a cramped flat. For the nascent jour- Cronkite was “visibly steamed” by a ques- pieces the lies and obfuscations uttered nalist of the family, that historical mo- tion about the Nixon administration— by the world’s most powerful men. Aman- ment marked a turning point. “I knew which at that time was halfway between pour began her reporting career in a world what I wanted to do,” she said in a 2013 the Watergate break-in and the presi- just introduced to 24-hour news coverage, Mediabistro interview. “I wanted to be a dent’s resignation—and its war on the and even in an age of fake news and over- foreign correspondent.” news media. The fatherly newsman gave flowing Twitter time lines she remains a strident critique of what he called a our guide across borders worldwide. Starting out at Providence, Rhode Is- “well-directed campaign against the land’s NBC affiliate, Amanpour soon press, agreed upon in secret by members Born in London to a British Catholic heard about a new network called CNN. of the administration.” mother and a much older Iranian Muslim It was a ragtag place, she was told, where father, Amanpour spent a charmed child- they might be more amenable to an olive- In 2019, another American president hood in Tehran, riding Arabian stallions toned British-accented woman reporting has declared war on the free press and is and skiing through the winter. At 11, she the news. She made the switch, and Chris- facing impeachment. But today’s most was sent to a British convent school; she tiane Amanpour as we know her was born. venerated defender of newsmen’s rights “Frankly, the press has been part of the “There are hundreds of millions of women “I’m pretty middle-of-the-road in most problem by thinking that objectivity around the world who don’t dare imagine of my views except when it comes to geno- means neutrality or false equivalence.” that they have a right just to be happy.” cide and climate truths.” PhotograPhy by Christelle de Castro 41
Name a major conflict of the past 30 with weapon. Filipovic reports, “Chris- some of the world’s most important sto- years, and Amanpour reported from it. tiane Amanpour has little patience for ries. What do you make of this moment Operation Desert Storm was her first, theoretical musings about the state of for press freedom and the role of journal- but she truly cut her teeth covering the journalism or feminism, and even less ism in society? Balkans, where her sense of moral out- for armchair critics who haven’t done the AmAnPOur: The president has been rage mounted as she watched Serb atroc- work or taken the risks. More than once very clear from the beginning that the ities and the targeting of her friends she engaged with a question of mine be- strategy is to delegitimize whoever he and colleagues. Reporting the news, fore rejecting it, but even in her dismiss- thinks is an opponent, whether it’s the she concluded in Bosnia, requires accu- als she was thorough and illuminating. press, a foreign leader, the chairman of racy and proportionality, not simplistic Just sitting in her office—lined with tro- the Federal Reserve—whoever seems to both-sidesism—an ethical code she has phies, a framed picture of her son atop stand in his way. That’s his thing. Our since called “truthful, not neutral.” her crowded desk—you can imagine she job is to not accept that framing from would remain collected and steely even anybody who seeks to delegitimize the That ethos has served her well as she’s interviewed petulant lead- when bullets are flying. You walk away free, independent, demo- ers and seldom-questioned holding her in tremendous esteem and, cratically protected press. strongmen—she had an not that she’d give a damn, liking her a I have a platform to bring exclusive sit-down with lot—even when she calls you out on the the truth, to bring evi- soon-to-be-ousted Egyptian first sentence of your interview.” dence, to bring stories, to president Hosni Mubarak in PLAYBOY: The president of the United bring what’s really happen- the midst of the revolution States has called reporters scum and slime. ing in the world and in the in Cairo, was among the last AmAnPOur: I cannot believe you started United States to the audi- journalists to interview Lib- with the president of the United States. ence. I think the rest of it ya’s Moammar Gadhafi and PLAYBOY: Going for it, you know? He is up to the audience. They was once told to “be quiet” has targeted CNN in particular as a pur- now have responsibility. by Yasir Arafat before he veyor of fake news. Public trust in the PLAYBOY: But lots of view- hung up on her—and shapes media is at an all-time low in the United ers aren’t taking that on; her approach to the Trump States. You’ve made a career out of telling many are simply seek- era. It has also made her a ing out publications and credible voice in the age of television shows that con- #MeToo: She’s a reporter for firm their prior beliefs. whom feminism is a simple Are viewers the ones who commitment to equality, are abdicating their civic not an extremist takeover responsibility? that threatens to destroy AmAnPOur: There are a due process. And it makes lot of people who believe the her a fitting replacement conspiracy theories and the for Charlie Rose, a man lies that are told about us or felled by his alleged pre- about what’s going on in the dation on and harassment world. But I notice the back- of younger women, and in lash to all these lies and whose place Amanpour & conspiracy theories, and I Company now airs on PBS. appreciate the fact that our ratings are up, readership In 1998 she married for- is up, subscription is up mer U.S. assistant secre- for real truth-telling plat- tary of state James Rubin; forms. I’m not a Pollyanna. two years later she had their I don’t think we’re out of son, Darius, at the age of 42. danger. I think, though, that those of us Now, at 61 and recently divorced after 20 who have been doing this for a long time, years of marriage, Amanpour is opening a who are experienced and know where the new chapter she calls her “sexy 60s.” That truth lies, have a responsibility to stand storyline started in familiar territory: re- up for the truth—even in public, even if porting. Her six-episode series Sex & Love it’s unpopular. Around the World premiered on Netflix in PLAYBOY: You’ve risked your life for sto- 2018, revealing Amanpour as a winning ries. Friends and colleagues of yours have and surprisingly cheeky chronicler of fe- given their lives to bring us the news. Just male lust, pleasure and desire. on a visceral human level, how does it feel when you hear the president of the United Amanpour sat down with journal- States call reporters slime? ist (and freelance columnist) AmAnPOur: I haven’t heard the word Jill Filipovic for playboy in Aman- slime, but I’m hurt and obviously of- pour’s office at CNN’s London headquar- fended when I hear an absolutely vital ters, where a sign on the door, illustrated with an AK-47, reads prohibit entrance 42 INTERVIEW
pillar of democracy and civil society moral outrage in a place where you don’t long time there is that the story comes being trashed from within. But it also know the culture very well, where you’re into focus ever more sharply. I’ve never redoubles my commitment to fighting an outsider? presumed to be an expert from day one on against it. I know firsthand the danger of AmAnPOur: I hope this doesn’t sound the ground. I’ve always said that the first living in a world where lies are portrayed arrogant, but I’ve grown up all over the stories you see will inevitably be pretty as facts. For me, the difference between world. I’ve traveled all over the world. I simple. The longer you’re there, the more truth and lies is the difference between grew up in a patriarchal society with a the layers will manifest themselves. freedom and democracy and dictator- Muslim father and a Catholic mother— PLAYBOY: One criticism of foreign cor- ship. So I’m very troubled by this. But I’d an Iranian father, a British mother. I respondence as a field is that it’s neo- still love to interview President Trump. was taught from a very young age about colonial: Foreign correspondents go in, PLAYBOY: There’s a debate roiling the the morals we learn first and fore- extract news from poorer countries and press right now about how to cover the most through our religious upbringing, run stories that are simplistic or sensa- president’s lies—or those of anyone who whether it’s Christian, Jewish, Mus- tional or that simply portray other cul- comes face-to-face with journalists and lim or whatever. Thou shall not kill. tures as backward and in need of saving. spreads absolute falsities. How much air- Respect your father and your mother. Is there a diversity problem in interna- time do you give that? Thou shall not lie. All those things we tional reporting? AmAnPOur: You don’t. You counter grow up with form the basis of a moral AmAnPOur: Do I think there should be it. The concept of fake news is more diversity? One hundred per- not something Donald Trump in- cent. Do I think there should be vented. Others might have called more gender equity? Do I think it propaganda. Just in fairly re- I have no time for there should be diversity in every cent history, the Soviet Union was level of news coverage, and in a master of this. The Soviets, now every level of global society? Yes, I the Russians—that’s their war this conversation absolutely do. But do I apologize? by other means. That’s how they Certainly not. If we didn’t do it, fight to keep dominance in their about whether who would? The typical complaint sphere. We’ve got plenty of expe- comes from armchair warriors rience, we in this free press, and sitting at home in their pajamas, we know how to counter it. We just we should tweeting, instagramming and have to do that without getting facebooking from 10,000 miles hysterical, overly despondent and away. Tell me, which is worse? overly emotional. or shouldn’t be That’s a whole lot worse than those PLAYBOY: The New Yorker and of us who get up and go there and Errol Morris both got in hot water there. find the stories. for interviewing or planning to PLAYBOY: I think there are two ar- interview Steve Bannon. The guments. One would be that it’s un- argument was essentially that balanced: How many Africans are he’s a propagandist, not some- in the White House press corps? one whose voice should be am- The other is that publications like plified, which exemplified the idea of platform. It’s true that I don’t know the The New York Times and networks like de-platforming. Is there anyone you would ins and outs of every single culture, but CNN should be relying more on local jour- never interview or have on your show? I’ve learned a lot over the 30 years I’ve nalists to cover their own nations. AmAnPOur: Right now I refuse to traveled the world examining people’s AmAnPOur: I think this criticism is have climate deniers on my show. I will cultures. I learn as I go. But I don’t con- crap, if you want my honest opinion. As not have people who deny scientific ev- sider my reporting to be some kind of I said, what is the other option? Further- idence. I’m very much wedded to the moral diatribe; I look to the humanity more, things are changing, and I think concept of fact-based, evidence-based of every situation. I see people in every that criticism is out-of-date. I think my empirical truth. People who say it doesn’t story I cover, people with lives and loves profession was instrumental in turning exist are just equivocating and are rela- and stories to tell who aren’t just statis- around the West’s indifference to Bos- tivists. Frankly, the press has been part tics in war or famine or whatever politi- nia and then to Kosovo. We helped spur of the problem by thinking that objec- cal crisis they might be caught up in. our democracies to intervene, to stop tivity means neutrality or false equiva- PLAYBOY: Have you ever felt that the a genocidal slaughter in Europe and lence. It no more means that when we’re push to find truth in a complicated situa- therefore save their own dignities and discussing climate and science than it tion and not be focused on neutrality has standings as well as lives on the ground. does when we’re talking about genocide taken you away from your obligations as That’s a good thing. We did that, and I’m and ethnic cleansing. When you pre- a reporter? proud of it. We might have had that im- tend you’re being objective by equating AmAnPOur: Never. I challenge any- pact had we been en masse in Syria, but unequal facts and unequal moralities, body to produce any piece of my report- we weren’t, because ISIS was beheading you’re not telling the truth. You’re telling ing they think fits that description. people, starting with poor James Foley. lies. In the worst case, you’re an accom- Never. Which is not to say I got every- And so we were not able to go there. Who plice to the worst results of that. thing right all the time. One of the things did we rely on? Syrians, Syrian journal- PLAYBOY: But how do you navigate I like about going places and spending a ists. They told the story of their war. 43
PLAYBOY: At great personal risk. hardware and all of that, our natural movement. What perspective do you wish AmAnPOur: At great personal risk and instinct is that everyone has a human Americans had on the immigration de- with great professionalism. I ask my- story. The thing I’ve learned throughout bate? How could we be thinking about it self, what would Obama have done if the my career, and I guess from my child- differently? same press corps that was in Bosnia in the hood, is that we’re all very similar. We AmAnPOur: First and foremost it is ab- 1990s had been in Syria, telling the same all, wherever we come from, have the solutely true that over many, many years human stories day after day and making same hopes, the same dreams, the same the United States administrations and it impossible for our democracies to turn desires. And we need to emphasize that Congress have failed to implement a ra- their heads in the face of wanton slaugh- more and more, because there’s a sense tional immigration-reform process, pro- ter and wholesale violation of all the val- these days—especially with national- gram or set of laws. They’ve just failed. ues and policies the West says it not only ism, populism and anti-immigration, What we’re seeing is a whole load of ad hoc upholds but seeks to promote around the whether it’s in the United States, parts policies that are made with a huge amount world? It’s a terrible realization that we of Europe or elsewhere—that somehow of short-termism that then affect real failed in Syria. The Syrian journalists did there is a group of people who are less human beings. So I think one story that’s a great job, but we failed. The Trump ad- than human, who are really scary, who not told enough about the Southern bor- ministration is now pulling out American would do us harm, who would, if we let der of the United States is the push factor: forces, and ISIS is not defeated. them in, somehow destroy our coun- What is causing people to get up and take tries. It’s not borne out by the facts, that very dangerous route by foot, many We failed in Rwanda. We didn’t go to Rwanda because, if I’m not mis- What am I with their families, to come from taken, the African and the Western sick of getting Central America or wherever it press were focused on the good- asked? “What might be to try to find refuge? The news story of Nelson Mandela’s does it mean to economic and environmental fall- election in South Africa, a fantas- be a woman in out there is not being told. tic story. They were focused on O.J. Simpson in the United States. And this field?” People wish to stay in their own in three months, 800,000 to 1 mil- countries if they can. That’s the lion black people were slaughtered and it’s sad that today those thoughts one thing I’ve learned from trav- in Rwanda. That’s a huge burden and those politics are still being perpe- eling and covering war and ref- to bear. What I’m saying is that trated. Too many political leaders are ugees. It’s not as if everybody’s I have no time for this conversa- appealing to the fear factor rather than dying to suddenly leave their tion about whether we should or to the hope factor. countries and come to the U.S. shouldn’t be there. PLAYBOY: Give me an example: When Most people who come are forced PLAYBOY: Speaking of things you have you covered a story differently? to by crime, war, famine, dic- might have no time for, you’re one AmAnPOur: In my coverage of the tatorship or lack of freedom in of the most famous female jour- war in Bosnia I almost never went to the their own countries. They would nalists in the world. What are you briefings at the beginning, and I didn’t rather stay where they are. That’s sick of getting asked about being a do the politics. I remember telling sto- why, to me, it would seem that woman in this field? ries of what it was like as an ordinary the best foreign policy of a na- AmAnPOur: Oh, that’s inter- person to be caught in a medieval siege tion is not only to keep itself and esting. What am I sick of getting asked? from 1992 all the way through the 1990s its economy and standing in the “What does it mean to be a woman in until the war was stopped. The first win- world secure but also to do its utmost not this field?” More and more women have ter, I’ll never forget, professors, engi- to close its borders and hunker down; a joined this particular profession as for- neers, scientists, artists were cutting nation needs to do what it can to make eign correspondents, in front of the cam- down trees for wood, burning their books other parts of the world livable. I wish era, behind the camera, on shows and for heat, picking grass and herbs from leaders could look a bit more broadly at the like. That’s a huge change from when the central islands along Sniper Alley, what would really prevent a mass influx I started out in 1990. But until we have just trying to survive. of people seeking basic safety and free- more women at the top of news organi- PLAYBOY: Your personal and profes- dom and something to eat. zations, there will still be an issue—not sional lives have hinged on migration and PLAYBOY: So I have this quote from you. with how women are represented but how In Sheila Weller’s book The News Soror- the world is represented. ity, you say, “All my energy, my emotion, my intellect went into my work. During Treating women equally is not just a the ’90s, people would ask me, ‘When are human right or a charity. If women as you going to settle down?’ And I’d say, ‘I well as men in our work were determin- don’t think I’ll ever have a child.’ ” And ing what stories were going to be covered then you did. What changed? so there wasn’t such a massive imbal- AmAnPOur: What changed is that I ance, eventually you would get a differ- felt I needed to humanize myself a lit- ent look at the world. Women have made tle. Actually it was pretty funny. One of a big difference in how we cover the my producers, Robert Wiener, was in- world—and I think our male colleagues strumental in CNN’s coverage of Bagh- have learned from us—because in addi- dad during the war. He once said to me, tion to covering the bang-bang and the “So, Christiane, what are you going to do, 44 INTERVIEW
snuggle up with all your awards? Don’t AmAnPOur: And all of them still deny it. tances as payoffs or payouts. We should you think you need to get serious about PLAYBOY: You told Variety that you don’t hold the serious offenders accountable, your personal life?” I suddenly started to think the pendulum has swung too far. 100 percent. But not every action is a think about it, and I said, “Yeah, maybe I It’s a question everyone’s being asked: criminal action. And not every action should focus a little bit more on my per- “Has #MeToo gone too far?” You said no. is the same. I think a huge amount of ef- sonal life and see what happens.” And I But you also said we can’t have a one-size- fort and accountability can be meted out did. I started to make myself more open. fits-all solution to these issues. without necessarily firing or destroying I’d had great love affairs in the field, AmAnPOur: Correct, and those are somebody’s life. on the road, but I was absolutely com- not two opposing thoughts. Do I think But much like the Truth and Recon- mitted to my career and to the stories. I it’s gone too far? The answer for me is ciliation Commission in South Africa could not have done what I did had I had categorically no. This movement has or those kinds of post-conflict resolu- the responsibility to stay alive and to completely changed the dynamic of the tions, it requires all sides—in this case keep leaving the field and going home. world. It’s not perfect. It’s not that now all genders—to work together. It requires I couldn’t have done it, end of story. I every woman is safe or every woman has those whose wrongdoing is less than a didn’t really think about my own safety. a clear path up in her career or every criminal wrongdoing to fess up, to work You’re young, you think you’re immor- woman can get the truth out. That’s not with whoever they need to work with on tal, you don’t necessarily have anybody the case. What it has done is shift in an whatever level to atone. Some people to stay alive for. You’re balls to the wall. irreversible way the expectations around have perhaps been accused unfairly, and You’re doing the job and you’re we need to be very aware of that, loving it. So I was a late starter because we’re not going to have in that regard. I had my kid at How much a solid foundation for this move- 42, and it is literally the joy of my ment if it looks like it’s unfair life. But I can tell you one thing: and just a witch hunt. As soon as I had my child, I sud- luckier can I PLAYBOY: One thing feminists denly started to feel more ner- emphasize about this movement vous about going overseas, about is that, though we talk about sex- going to war zones, about maybe get? Seriously— ual harassment, it’s really not succumbing, like so many of my about sex; it’s about power. friends and colleagues had done. it’s not a AmAnPOur: And sex. PLAYBOY: I don’t mean to sound PLAYBOY: And it’s about the insensitive, but why have a kid ways in which sexually harass- then? rhetorical ing women are more than just “it AmAnPOur: Well, it’s a good makes us feel bad.” It’s that it sys- question. To be honest, I didn’t tematically pushes us out of op- necessarily think I had to have a question. portunities and out of particular kid, but I cannot imagine my life fields. So is part of the solution as rich as it has been since I’ve had to replace the men who have done my kid. Nothing in the world will wrong with women? match what my child means to AmAnPOur: Well, listen, you’re me. Nothing, nothing, nothing. what women have been forced to endure going to ask me because that’s my case. But fast-forward now to these young in silence. It has shifted entirely the no- Charlie Rose does not accept these accu- kids. I had a 26-year-old young man on tion of consent. I believe that in order sations. You have to put his perspective my show recently, a member of Extinc- to really change this, men have to be in- in it as well. But I can say only this: I am tion Rebellion, who, like many millen- volved in the solutions. And I say that absolutely thrilled and I think it’s a great nials, are asking themselves if they’re because I’m a feminist, because I’m statement that a woman has taken this going to have children. Are they going to the mother of a boy and I want my boy job at this particular time. I’m not just be able to bring children into this world to grow up in a safe, consensual soci- a token woman. I’m a woman who has we’ve created for them through our wan- ety, hand in hand with women, and be- risen through the ranks and hopefully ton short-termism and greed? That’s a cause I believe this world will never get proved my competence, my integrity and whole different existential crisis than any better unless in every level of society my lack of compromise on those issues. we had in my generation. Would I have a men and women are on equal footing and So I think it’s completely and utterly apt. kid? Well, for me the question was could working together. The amount of feedback I’ve had from I still be a professional. Today the ques- PLAYBOY: So outside of the most obvious women absolutely confirms that for me. tion is whether it’s moral to bring a child criminal cases that should be dealt with Actually, I don’t even think it should be into this world. These are tough issues our by the justice system, what does a solu- a question. I think women have proved young people are wrestling with. tion look like? themselves over and over again, and the PLAYBOY: Your show replaced Charlie AmAnPOur: Obviously crimes have notion that we should be grateful for any Rose’s on PBS after he was sacked for sex- been committed. We should not have peo- tidbits or crumbs or pairing with any- ual harassment. He’s just one of a long list ple protecting themselves by having their body else is ancient history. What irri- of men whose behavior has gotten them lawyers or lobbyists or whoever they are tates me is that when people of privilege removed from their positions as part of getting victims to sign nondisclosure complain about, let’s say, a woman get- the #MeToo movement. agreements, forcing people to accept pit- ting this job, they’re complaining about 46 INTERVIEW
the field being level. That’s all. And you leave whoever it is behind, in what- And I would say that sometimes I’m very that’s not acceptable. We have to have a ever nightmare scenario you’ve all been stressed, sometimes I’m anxious, some- level playing field now. in together, and feel guilty for them, for times I can maybe talk loudly or what- PLAYBOY: The #MeToo observation I’ve their basic physical safety. You think ever. I put it all down to the effects of what found most resonant comes from Rebecca you’re deserting the cause, so to speak. I went through. I’m not ashamed. I don’t Traister in New York magazine: “In hear- You’re deserting colleagues, friends, have screaming PTSD, but I certainly ing these individual tales, we’re not only people, the story. have…I don’t know. I don’t even know how learning about individual trespasses, to describe it. but for the first time getting a view of I’ve had those feelings and I’ve pushed PLAYBOY: A normal human reaction? the matrix in which we’ve all been liv- the limits of getting people out of the AmAnPOur: It’s a normal human reac- ing. We see that the men who have had siege of Sarajevo. I did things that I tion, but you know what? It’s to an abnor- the power to abuse women’s bodies and would have been in deep, deep trouble mal human experience. Not only what psyches throughout their careers are in for had it been known at the time. I used happens to us, but to watch what’s hap- many cases also the ones in charge of our every means possible to extract some pening to the people we’re covering. It’s political and cultural stories.” How do very vulnerable people from Sarajevo. inhuman what we’ve had to witness. And you think it changes the dynamic to have It wasn’t allowed, but I did it along with that’s why I make no apologies for any of women like you now in a position of tell- my team members, and I’m pleased and us who go and do it. You can be white, you ing our political and cultural stories? proud of that. can be rich, you can be poor, you can be AmAnPOur: First and foremost, the ul- PLAYBOY: Whom did you extract? any other color. But go and tell the sto- timate contradiction to all of these ac- AmAnPOur: I extracted a husband, ries and tell them honestly and bring cusations against Harvey Weinstein is wife and their kid and made up all sorts back the information. that he’s been accused of some very se- of stories as to why they had to be pro- PLAYBOY: How did you not burn out? rious criminal wrongdoing and miscon- cessed through the official lines, get on AmAnPOur: I think because I came duct against women, and yet he produced a military flight, get out, come to the back enough, but also I obviously have some great films. There’s no doubt about United States, et cetera. I even said the a huge amount of stamina, mental and it; our cultural environment might have kid worked for a kids’ program on CNN. physical. I am a very optimistic person. been poorer without those films. But the It was only mildly stretching the truth. I have faith. I was always in the warm point you’re making is correct. If we ac- In any event, I saved their lives, we saved embrace of my family and friends. And cept that our society’s story will be told their lives, and I have nothing to apolo- that’s what I would return to. I would by only one gender, it’s not the whole gize for. Again, what’s the alternative? come back to my family and friends and story. That’s what we’re still struggling Our oath, or mine, is do no harm. I don’t just try to have as normal and as beau- for. It will take decades, if not centu- feel the necessity not to come home and tiful a life as I could. I would go to mu- ries, more. And whoever’s in a position have a glass of wine and see my friends seums, go to good films, go to lovely of power, privilege and entitlement lets and family. In fact, I believe that kept gardens with beautiful plantings. I would go of it with great difficulty. What they me sane and that I could, like many peo- gravitate toward beauty, and it was an need to know is that most of us are not ple, have been driven completely mad antidote. I knew early on—even if I didn’t looking to overtake and dominate; we had I stayed there the entire time with know, I knew subconsciously—that I had want to share in the telling of our per- no break. And then what good would I to come back and do things that would sonal and global narrative, or our histor- have been? What story would I have told? cauterize the wounds. ical narrative won’t be told accurately. I would have been totally compromised. PLAYBOY: You’ve been described many PLAYBOY: I don’t work in many conflict One of my proudest accomplishments is times as having nerves of steel, but zones, but I do work in humanitarian cri- that I emerged sane from all these hor- there must be moments when you’re ab- sis zones. One of the more jarring things rendous things I’ve seen. solutely terrified. for me is coming home from a crisis and PLAYBOY: Were there ever moments AmAnPOur: Yeah. having a nice bottle of wine and dinner in when you felt you’d crossed over, that PLAYBOY: What were some of those mo- a beautiful restaurant. It so deeply high- you were at a point where you were men- ments when you felt the most frightened, lights the random luck of being born in tally unwell? and how did you navigate that? one place or another. How do you navigate AmAnPOur: Nope. Never. Certainly not AmAnPOur: I’d never really been in that contrast, and does it ever get easier to at the time and not since, but I think it’s a war zone before Bosnia. I mean, yes, be in the places you work and then come an important question, because there are there was the first Gulf war, but that was back to a beautiful home in London? degrees thereof. Some people are much much more about big armies facing off AmAnPOur: I remember very strongly more affected, some people less. Some against each other. It was much more of the first times I came out of the siege of people are obviously affected, some peo- a set piece, though it was pretty scary Sarajevo to take a break. I would come ple hide it. I think mental health is an when we were in Iraq under Saddam Hus- out for maybe a couple of weeks and then issue we absolutely have to talk about. And sein’s whim. But to be in Bosnia in a me- be there for several months and then we are, more and more and more. I credit dieval siege with indiscriminate shelling come out again for a couple of weeks, et CNN and all the news organizations that of civilians—and we were obviously cetera. I remember deep feelings of guilt very early on in the Bosnian war and cer- among the civilians; we didn’t have a spe- when I left. I thought it was just me, but tainly after 9/11 realized they were send- cial journalistic safe haven somewhere— now I know it’s very common. I don’t even ing their employees into the worst, most was very scary when I first encountered think it’s post-traumatic stress disorder; extreme experiences of the human condi- it. And then you just develop a certain it’s stress-of-the-moment disorder, when tion, and that it will have an effect. awareness. I always touch wood and say There’s no doubt I’ve been affected. 47
I’m very lucky. Many of my friends and as a reporter—the trafficking, the pros- to each other. Communication came colleagues were not so lucky. You can’t titution, the sex-selective abortions of allow those fears and those emotions in female fetuses, the rape and all the hor- across as one of the most significant as- the moment to paralyze you. It’s only af- rible stuff. This was completely differ- terward that you realize what you’ve been ent. This was about love and intimacy pects of what makes relationships suc- through, perhaps the crazy risks you’ve and how different societies define it and taken. The whole way through the war, it how they experience it. cessful or not. That’s important for men wasn’t that I wasn’t afraid; it was that I PLAYBOY: You mentioned your life as a managed the fear. young single foreign correspondent and to understand, because I think men PLAYBOY: Are you a person of faith? the affairs, and that’s kind of the movie AmAnPOur: Yeah. picture: In between firefights every- traditionally are less communicative. PLAYBOY: Can you tell me more about body’s having great romances and love that? affairs. How did being a young single Women have the reputation of always AmAnPOur: Not really. I mean, it’s woman in that field shape your views on nothing huge. I was brought up Catholic sex and love and relationships? wanting to talk, but we do it because we by my mother, and I went to a Catholic AmAnPOur: I was free in those years. convent. As I said at the beginning, that I was on the road. I didn’t have any con- want to break down barriers—our own whole early childhood education formed straints from family, and I was able to ex- my human and moral view of the world. plore my emotional and physical desires. barriers, but also the barriers that may “Do unto others as you would have them I know it’s a cliché: As one male colleague do unto you” is the basic golden rule, isn’t used to say, wheels up, rings off. Now, I be preventing couples from really get- it, of Christianity? I’m not an extremist. wasn’t married, so there was no ring to I’m pretty middle-of-the-road in most of take off, but I met fantastic people who ting to know each other. my views except when it comes to geno- had the same worldview. We were on cide and climate truths. the front lines together. We believed in PLAYBOY: Sex can be quite hard to talk PLAYBOY: But you’re also a feminist, the same struggle. We were proud of our right? work and thought we were doing some- about, even in very libertine societies. AmAnPOur: Oh, I’m definitely a femi- thing that made the world a better place. nist, but that’s middle-of-the-road. As I say, you’re on the extreme end of AmAnPOur: Yes and no. I was so PLAYBOY: But the church is not exactly human experience in every way, even in middle-of-the-road. your love affairs. It was great. And I’m amazed by how open these girls and AmAnPOur: No, it’s not. So those are still friends with a lot of them. issues. When I have interviews with PLAYBOY: You don’t have to name women were to me. I mean, when I asked church leaders, for instance, I go very names, but any you remember particu- deep into that. I always bring up the issue larly fondly? this Afghan woman who was pregnant of women in the Catholic Church AmAnPOur: Very fondly. The person PLAYBOY: Is that a challenge personally? who was my main boyfriend for the lon- with her third child—she was probably Not to do your job, but to reconcile your gest time. Yeah, very fondly. faith with some of what the church does? PLAYBOY: What did you take away from no more than 20—I said to her, “Are you AmAnPOur: No, no, no. Who I worry that relationship? about offending is my mother, who AmAnPOur: That it wouldn’t have happy?” and the translator said, “Are watches. But for me, it’s an absolute no- lasted because we were both too focused brainer. I’m sorry my faith has so much on our careers. you sure you want me to ask her that to account for and to atone for, but you PLAYBOY: In your personal life and now know what? All faiths do. in your reporting on sex and that realm question?” She said in that society and in PLAYBOY: It sounds like you’re in a of human experience for your Sex & Love pretty fabulous professional place right Around the World series, what might be that milieu, it can be a subversive ques- now, but you told British Vogue that informative or useful to, let’s say, a typ- you’re thinking of putting yourself back ical playboy reader, who’s probably a tion. And that is perhaps one of the most out in the field again. “It’s time for my man? What does he need to know? third act,” you said. In your dream uni- AmAnPOur: Okay, that’s interesting. important takeaways from the entire se- verse, what’s the third act? I think he needs to know what I discov- AmAnPOur: I don’t yet know what my ered reporting the Sex & Love series: ries for me, because it just summed up third act is. I’m on the cusp certainly in not only the obvious, consent and all the my chronological life. I’m not sure how rest of it, but that a man needs to be sen- everything: There are hundreds of mil- it’s going to manifest. What I do know sitive to what makes a woman tick; what is that I love being in the field, not nec- it is that satisfies a woman emotionally, lions of women around the world who essarily under fire, but doing things like physically, sexually. I’ve noticed from Sex & Love Around the World. I really en- a lot of the interviews I’ve done around don’t dare imagine they have a right not joyed that, because even though it had this subject that the couples who feel the that title, it wasn’t about the seedy un- most heard are those who talk together just to be happy but to ask for happiness derbelly of sex that I’ve done so much on the most and express their desires and love and care from their partners. That was an eye-opener to me. PLAYBOY: The series, to me, was quite unexpected. I’m wondering if you learned anything in your reporting that feels resonant to this period in your life—your “sexy 60s.” AmAnPOur: That’s a slogan I made up to make myself feel better. But in many ways there’s a freedom that comes with a certain age. I’m really lucky. I’m still gainfully employed, doing something incredibly satisfying on a really impor- tant network with a really great audience around the world and around the United States. How much luckier can I get? Seriously—it’s not a rhetorical question. I’ve received a lot, and I hope I’ve given back a lot. I hope it’s going to be sexy 60s. There’s a lot out there I don’t even know about that I want to explore. And that’s what it is: I don’t have the answers for the first time. I’ve just fig- ured it out while you’re talking to me. I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what’s out there. And it’s a little scary, and it’s exciting. I think I’m on my last 30 good years and I want to make them great. PLAYBOY: What’s that going to look like? AmAnPOur: We’ll see. b 48 INTERVIEW

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