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CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE:
A previous version of this article incorrectly reported pin-up photography site SuicideGirls’ founding year as 2011. It was founded in 2001.

Courtesy of SuicideGirls

Stars of the Blackheart Burlesque Tour, organized by Missy Suicide, the founder of SuicideGirls.

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In 2001, Missy Suicide (Selena Mooney) co-founded SuicideGirls, a website that features pin-up photography and profiles of alternative female models, as a way to show the world that there is more than one way to be beautiful. Seven of the “SuicideGirls” featured on the site will come to Boston’s House of Blues on Nov. 17 to star in Blackheart Burlesque. The Tech caught up with the show’s organizer, Missy Suicide, about her thoughts on the show, stereotypes, and the sexiness of engineering.

The Tech: Tell us about the story behind the online community you co-founded, SuicideGirls. What motivated you to start the group, and what are the goals?

Missy Suicide: The most exciting thing about the Internet to me has always been as an outlet for all voices, and as a way to find like-minded voices, no matter how small they may be. I found myself in Portland in 2001, after the dot com bubble had burst, with time on my hands before going back to school for photography. I started taking photos of my friends, these gorgeous women who didn’t fit into society’s narrow definition of beauty, women with tattoos and piercings and stories to tell.

This was 12 years ago, and the only women who were celebrated as being beautiful were blonde silicone-enhanced Barbie dolls or waif-like models. I wanted to photograph the women I knew with the same confidence, attitude, and sexiness the classic pin-ups had. I wanted the girls’ pictures to depict how they felt sexiest about themselves. Once I had shot a few friends, I was sitting at a coffee shop with my friend Sean, and showed him the photos I had been shooting, and said I wasn’t sure how to display them, because the girls had so much to say and share with the world, [so that] to put just their images in a book or on a wall felt wrong. We had worked together in the past and he suggested we make a website to display the photos. The idea for SuicideGirls was born.

We created a community based around the models’ photos, where the girls could keep blogs and interact with members. 12 years later the site has evolved into an international phenomenon that has resonated with people around the world. The ideal of beauty has definitely broadened in that time. I have received thousands of thank you’s from women around the world, who were outsiders and didn’t feel beautiful until they saw how empowered and confident the women on my site were. Hundreds of thousands of friendships have been made, tens of thousands of couples have met, hundreds of marriages and businesses have been formed because of connections that were made on our site, and dozens of babies have been born because their parents met on our site.

TT: What stereotypes do you think women face? How does SuicideGirls address or defy those?

MS: SuicideGirls’ stereotypes are that they are all crazy vampy biker babes hell-bent on destruction in the name of a good time, but the truth is the majority of the women on the site are smart, fun, sexy women, lawyers and doctors, homemakers and baristas, professionals and college students, pursuing their dreams and enjoying their time on the planet. We combat that by having the girls share their thoughts and feelings on the site, not just their image. You can read what the girls are really up to in the blogs.

TT: What stereotypes do you think MIT students, or engineering students in general, face? What about MIT women in particular?

MS: I am not really sure what the stereotypes you [MIT students] have to face are. I don’t think in general that people think that there are women at MIT. Of course there are strong, smart, confident women at MIT, but I think the field of specialty is predominantly male-dominated, at least publicly. I think the women who attend MIT have accomplished so much, I think the best way for them to combat stereotypes would be to be leaders in their community, so that more women and girls can see that a career in technology is an option for them.

TT: The Blackheart Burlesque Tour features raw, erotic sexuality. So, let’s say you’re an expert. What would it take to make engineering sexy?

MS: There is nothing sexier than a smart person. Confidence is the sexiest attribute a person can have, and if you have all the answers then it should be easy to be confident.

TT: SuicideGirls consider themselves “the sexiest, smartest, most dangerous collection of outsider women in the world.” That’s confidence right there! Have you always been so confident, or did it take time for you to feel comfortable in your skin and find your voice? Why do you think confidence is important, and how do you suggest young people attain it?

MS: I wasn’t always confident and still have my days, but for the most part feeling comfortable in my skin came when I stopped worrying about what other people thought. I am sure there are people that notice the things that I am most critical about myself, but the number of people who do is .0001 percent.

Most people don’t notice the things that you are embarrassed about or give you the most self-doubt. If you can walk into a room and feel good about yourself, then most decent people will think the same thing, and fuck the ones who don’t. What bearing do they have on your life anyway?

My grandmother got her first tattoo at 75. She used to say “I could never — what would people think of me?” I told her “It is your body, you are 75 years old, whose approval are you seeking?” She finally agreed with me and in the eight years since she has gotten it only one person has said anything negative about it. She has had thousands of compliments on it and her bravery in that time.

If you want something, don’t wait until you are 75 to do it.

Comments
1
Correction: SuicideGirls was founded in 2001, not 2011.
2
I Think there is an error. She co-founded in 2001 not 2011!
12 years ago :)