On a cold rainy New York City night, I walked into Vanity Projects, a nail salon in Chinatown where my friend and renowned art curator Tim Goossens, invited me to view a curated series of music videos on display which patrons viewed while getting art deco designs painted onto acrylic talons. When the polish dried, we stood around, clawing plastic cups, sipping white wine while swimming in the nostalgia of a Cher video being projected on the wall.
Suddenly, the lights dimmed and the sounds streaming through surrounding speakers shifted from familiar to foreign. A sea of long, dark hair began emerging onto a carefully lit platform in the corner of the salon as a warm and tropical soundscape took over the room. A spell was cast upon us as Martine Gutierrez spun around enchanting us as each follicle of her jet black hair swung merely inches past our noses. She stared into us with a steady, somber gleam in her eyes as she slowly raised a microphone up to her lips. We were pulled even deeper into the mood as a soothing voice escaped her, a sound undulating between whisper and moan, and like a rising tide, she held us captive the rest of the night in metaphors of eager and idol love.
Discovering Martine and her majestic self-produced music was a breath of fresh air for me. I had been looking for an artist who represented what my label Park Side Records stood for, a ruthless creative who was independent in their ideas and passions, yet spoke directly to the hearts of listeners who may not realize what music beyond the mainstream could offer. I immediately felt a responsibility as well as a need to share the emotive beauty of her and her music with the world so I asked if I could re-release her debut EP, Blame The Rain. Much to my delight, she obliged, and this summer I also got to release two of her singles, “Head 2 Toe” and “Origin,” the latter of which I am featured on and whose video, directed by Martine as well, is part fantasy, part documentary as it contains footage of our first collaborative live performance art piece which took place on the streets of the Dallas Aurora Festival, also curated by Tim Goossens.
Martine is a force to be reckoned with, and getting to know her has felt similar to Alice falling deeper into Wonderland, where just when you thought you found your way out, behind the door is another endless pool of wonders.
For Martine, music is sort of a secondary effort when it comes to creative priorities. The first being her work as a photographer who focuses on conceptual self-portraiture. Here is where she really takes center stage, voicing her public opinion through the time-consuming details of her works. After her solo exhibition Indigenous Women, a self-produced 146 page glossy fashion magazine, debuted at the Ryan Lee Gallery this past September in New York City and was met with praise by the New York Times, she secured her spot as one of New York’s newest art elites while simultaneously proving she exists beyond labels and pronouns.
She’s a revolutionary artist who manages to boldly take ownership of her narrative while leaving herself open and vulnerable to prying eyes. She motions between innocence and mistress, empathy and revenge all while continuing to evolve as her own divine muse and once you dive in there’s no easy way out. So with fair warning, I dare you all to fall into Martine.
NOMI: I refer to you as a multimedia artist. How would you describe yourself in a way that encompasses all the things that you do?
MARTINE: I’m a star. [laughs]
NOMI: Yes, you are!
MARTINE: I’m a star that just discovered herself opposed to waiting for that muse moment that every good movie with a makeover scene has where you know, the man finds her in the dark nightclub and he’s like “Wow, look at this potential!” I just beat him to the punch and I said: “Let me do it myself!” [laughs]
NOMI: Genius. So you take control of your own narrative. I feel like that’s a throughline through all your work, where you’re sort of like ‘This is something usually seen through the male gaze, but I’m gonna do this in a way where you’re seeing it through my perspective.”
MARTINE: I think making things has always been a huge conduit for me to discover how I want to identify and how I want to evolve as a person. And it just so happens that everyone’s watching right now. I’ve been doing this a long time, which is the gag, I guess, because right now everyone’s saying “How are these things so glossy? How are you doing everything yourself? How are you XYZ?” And it’s just time. It’s just taken a long time.
NOMI: Yes, actually I was going to ask you this later on but I think we’re on it now. In your work, you sort of objectify yourself in a way that feels really empowering because you’re taking control of something that is usually in the male gaze and you sort of use it to mix yourself with pop culture and what people usually consider to be mainstream. Is that sort of like an act of vengeance?
MARTINE: Oh my god, love vengeance! Love vengeance! I think that’s more your narrative than mine though. [laughs]
NOMI: [laughs] I love revenge!
MARTINE: You love a revenge. You love returning like a storm.
NOMI: Do you feel like you’re not allowed in mainstream spaces for whatever reasons? And so you create them yourself and, like you said, instead of waiting for someone to discover you, do you feel like you haven’t been allowed into certain venues but you took control of it?
MARTINE: I used to think that I didn’t have access to those platforms until I guess I started modeling and I got to have my runway moment, I got to have you know, work with some like high-end fashion people and I guess that’s what I thought I wanted. I thought I wanted to work with the best of the best because that would make me feel better about myself. Or that would somehow validate me and it just made me feel so much more other. It made me feel, you know — it made me feel objectified because of my identity, if that makes sense. For minorities who sit at the often isolating crux of intersectionality, how do we ensure that our voices are not jeopardized by “opportunity.” And how can we work against the very power structures that propagate beauty and normalcy to the masses, and I think in the pursuit of personal gain, we look at collaborations as positive opportunities, but for those of us who are minorities, we’re almost always objectified, tokenized, or used to diversify or assume allyship, and that’s how I was in the campaign, right? I was the check off the box — “Oh we have a Latin girl, oh we have a trans girl. Look at how open, look at how progressive we are? This brand, whoever they are.”
NOMI: It’s like they’re operating under a cloak of allyship. They’re like “OK, we’ve done this thing in the past where we objectify people so we’re going to diversify so we feel like we’re on the up and up, but we’re doing the same thing but through this idea of working as an ally, working with our community.” You’re like this is being done by men and the male gaze—
MARTINE: Absolutely, because the male gaze is at the center of everything. It’s part of why it’s almost always heteronormative, sexual — what would you call it? — narratives within advertising. It’s like the girl is sexualized within the narrative, but she’s not sexualized for girls to look at her. She’s sexualized for a dude to look at her. Does that make sense?
NOMI: I also sometimes feel like even queer people and even women — sometimes we’re approached by women or the queer community and it’s safer to be a part of these things, but they’re also operating in a way that they’re trying to use the male gaze as well.
MARTINE: Mhm. It’s hard because using it is also a tool to dismantle it because how else are you going to get to that audience if you don’t get their attention?
NOMI: I wanted to know — the video for “Origin,” which deals with gaze in a very different way from different perspectives. I feel like it touches on voyeurism and self-obsession when it comes to the video. So that being said, do you prefer being a voyeur or a subject?
MARTINE: I love being a voyeur. I love being a voyeur. I love watching. [laughs]
NOMI: [laughs] You’re a spy.
MARTINE: I’m a spy! I think that’s why I like being — I like changing my identity or changing my appearance because it means I get to have a certain amount of anonymity so I get to watch. I get to watch without being watched, which is so funny—
NOMI: Within that, you also like watching yourself.
MARTINE: I do. I mean, I love a mirror, as you well know.
NOMI: I mean, yes. There was a mirror literally on the bed—
MARTINE: There was a mirror that had to be on the bed, a double-sided mirror. Even our phones — a selfie is a mirror, in a way.
NOMI: A selfie is a mirror. And I feel like the mirror in the middle kind of insinuates us also seeing ourselves within each other. Do you sort of feel like you’re drawn to people in ways where you see yourself in them?
MARTINE: Yeah, I think that was a huge part of—I mean, there’s the physicality of it, right, we both have dark hair, we both have brown eyes, we both have caramel skin, plump lips. But then there’s the other side where because of our backgrounds, whether that means we’re Latina or being exoticized for being, you know, mysteriously looking women, we have similar experiences, and so I think I’ve always looked to — I guess I’m always hoping to learn something about myself, like in someone else. I don’t know if that’s unhealthy or not.
NOMI: Right. It’s a little bit—I guess it’s different when you try to validate yourself instead of learning. There’s a difference. In the video, there’s a few dimensions where …. There’s us watching ourselves. It kind of turns into this whole cyber world. It kind of insinuates a little bit of sex in a way, or lust. Do you enjoy cybersex?
MARTINE: Oh, it’s sex talk? We’re having a sex talk?
NOMI: [laughs] How did that turn to — I feel like it started with a performance, and then you added, and it kind of turned voyeuristic into a very lustful place. So I feel like it turned very cyber-sexy.
MARTINE: Yeah, it’s very cyber-sexy. I feel like it’s nod to the platforms in which we meet people now. Whether it’s Tinder or What’s App or Grindr or, like, OKCupid or, I don’t know. What’s that elitist artsy one I wanna be on?
MARTINE: Someone invite me. Someone invite me on, because I’m curious!
NOMI: No, it’s bottles and models — you’re gonna hate it!
MARTINE: I still need to see. But I think because the performance started as this public exhibitionism of our own bodies and our own sensuality, right? Because yes we took footage and yes I edited it down to moments that I like the most, but people that were there weren’t extras — they were strangers; they were voyeurs. They were people who chose to stay and watch, chose to take pictures, chose to touch us, which was totally inappropriate and remember we had to leave and get ushered away. They got security. I think the second part of it was, you were also streaming onto Periscope.
NOMI: Periscope, yeah.
MARTINE: And that was the part I wanted to incorporate at the end, like this other side of the people that don’t have to come in real life and get to have — I don’t know if the experience then becomes more seedy, but it’s a much more ‘90s navigation of, like, porn for sure.
NOMI: Yeah, and I think it was interesting to show footage of people watching, logging in and watching something that becomes lusted for online, because that’s usually very private. And to actually see that perspective added this level of loneliness. I feel like we use the internet, not only to connect with people, but in reality, you’re alone and you’re just so isolated and not even connecting whatsoever.
MARTINE: Right, if anything, it’s a large opportunity to invent what it is that you’re interacting with. Whether you’re IMing with someone, sending pictures or Skyping, like, you can put more on that person or on that experience than is actually happening because you’re not actually there. Through our phones, it was a total fantasy, and yet, in the real space, people were drunk, people were — the bed was stopping and going because our weight wasn’t evenly distributed. [laughs]
NOMI: Oh my god, it was scandalous.
MARTINE: It was crazy.
NOMI: That moment on the bed you mention how someone tried to touch us and it got a little dangerous and I remember someone in the crowd was going around and telling other people that we were trans — they were also trans and they wanted the audience to somehow know that they were watching trans people because they themselves were actually living a stealth life and they wanted to sort of gauge people’s reactions to trans people for their own weird benefit. I don’t know. It was a strange thing that added a sense of danger that we were not aware was going to happen. It was just strange because the whole performance had nothing to do with gender or transformation. It was just like, for me, it was about we took voyeurism and self-obsession —
MARTINE: It was a social commentary as opposed to a commentary about our bodies as individuals, you know what I mean? And unfortunately once people know, they want it to be a thing, right? Because it makes them uncomfortable. So that’s what they focus on.
NOMI: Right. So do you find that you’re constantly pushed to present your art from an angle so that it makes a statement about gender or transition and that whole world even though the focus of the work at hand has nothing to do with that?
MARTINE: I think press — I think press pushes it to be the topic. I get to write the statement at this point because I’m not dead yet. [laughs] Like I’m still writing, like “This is what the work’s about.”
NOMI: So it’s not reinterpreted.
MARTINE: Right. Once I’m not around, who knows what they’re gonna say. But I already have this feeling my work is going to represent something that I didn’t intend for it because it already happens when I’m alive through press. I’m already a token.
NOMI: Yeah. Crazy. So music for you—was music something you fell into an extension of your art, or how did music come into play? Was it just a whole separate world for you or did it also come to pass as you were creating your photography and producing art?
MARTINE: It became like a skill I had to develop because I was making a lot of video and it was before the videos were kind of like taking on a music video structure or length. Some of them were really long, and it’s boring and it’s not like — it’s elevating to have sound or some kind of score.
MARTINE: It brings everything to life. I was in a band in art school with two cuties and it kind of like fizzled out, which also gave me more time to take control — because I was just the vocalist. I wasn’t producing, I wasn’t coming up with really the melodies or the beats, and I realized “Oh, there’s so much to chosoe from. Why use those?” Why were we using those sounds when I like these sounds so much more?
NOMI: Again, you were taking control of your narrative.
MARTINE: Right, right. And then, yeah, I guess —
NOMI: What state of mind were you in when you were writing “Origin.”
MARTINE: Um, I was in the state of mind of Nomi Ruiz because we had, like, just met through Tim. Because he brought you to my show in China Town, and you were gagged and you were like “I’m gonna say hi to her.” You tell your side! I feel like Tim just told me “Nomi Ruiz is coming to your show.” And I was like “Cool, who’s that?”
NOMI: You were like “Who’s this bitch? Why do I care?”
MARTINE: “Why are you so gagged by her? I thought I was your star!” I’m like “She’s coming for me!” No, I didn’t think that. I thought, “Cool, I’m gonna meet a celebutante.” But also I was so nervous and anxious about the performance that honestly it didn’t really stay in my mind long. And after the show, the space was so small, that it was packed and I remember having to weave through people to even shake your hand and be like “Hello, nice to meet you!”
NOMI: I was just about to leave and I was like “I have to meet this girl.” Like it was the first time — because I can be nervous and anxious and something just drew me to you. I was like “I have to know this person. We have to be in each other’s lives.” Tim introduced us and I was like “Hi, I’m a nerd, let’s know each other!”
MARTINE: And I was like “So great!” And later, Tim was like “That was Nomi.” And I was like “Oh, cool, oh I like her!”
NOMI: That’s what I love about watching the “Origin” video because I feel like it takes me back to that whole process — we got to know each other on such a deep level. It kind of forced us to spend more time together and really got to know what was behind your ideas and know you as an artist and as a friend. It brings me back to that time.
MARTINE: I remember once Tim told us that there was this performance and that he wanted us to perform together or like, he would love for us—it was posed as a question really. And we were like “Obviously, that would be amazing — what are we performing? We don’t have a song together.” And so it was obvious that I had to write one, I guess! So I remember going — remember, was it Williamsburg? I don’t remember where it was. We got, like, tea.
NOMI: We met in Williamsburg.
MARTINE: We sat at this cafe and I had like that little notepad and I was just writing down words. Writing down words when we were talking and it was like “Cats. Milk. Collars. Purring.” It made absolutely no sense and you were probably like “This girl is crazy.” But I remember being just so inspired by you and your energy and your confidence and your sexuality. You’re like oozing sexuality and feeling like this is — I have to do a song that will do her justice. I can’t have her — I can’t have some sad love song like I’m always singing. It has to be something sexy!
NOMI: I think you really blended the two, which is something I love and I also express in my music. There’s this sexy confidence and there’s this underlying sort of somber pessimistic idea of what love is.
MARTINE: Right, and it’s always just out of reach — at least for me. It’s always just around the river bend. [laughs]
NOMI: Right so, do you believe in love?
MARTINE: Um. [laughs] Dot dot dot. I want to believe in love. I believe in a deep, deep love, but I don’t think I’ve experienced it.
NOMI: So what is your perception of what love is?
MARTINE: I don’t know. I don’t know! Because in some ways I’ve never really seen a successful relationship, whether it was in my family or —
NOMI: So you think love is a successful relationship?
MARTINE: I think love is having passion for finding someone that is passionate about what you’re doing, who you are, and your passion for them circles this swirling magnificent energy of like acceptance and intimacy and laughter and, I don’t know — it’s funny because, in some ways, I’ve had that with really close friends, that openness and safety and intimacy, it’s just not sexual. And then I have the other side, which is like sooo sexual. It’s like just sex — it’s just about the physicality of the other person.
NOMI: Why can’t you have it all in one?
MARTINE: It’s like where’s that guy with the duality of both? I don’t know. And I don’t know if it’s like an age thing and the age that I’m at, the people around me are just immature, or, I don’t know.
NOMI: I also feel like we’re pressured to have that in one person, and that’s not so realistic. For me, I’m in a phase where I”m starting to question why can’t I have love for my friends and sex from a lover and have all these different desires within me fulfilled and be OK with the fact that it comes from different places. Like why can’t that be a version of love?
MARTINE: It can. I guess that’s what life is—inventing the narrative that works for you. Like there is no normal, that’s the bottom line. There’s average. There’s the majority, and you can choose to be a lemming or you can make your own life.
I guess that’s what life is—inventing the narrative that works for you. Like there is no normal, that’s the bottom line. There’s average. There’s the majority, and you can choose to be a lemming or you can make your own life.
NOMI: How much of your songwriting is based on real-life experiences?
MARTINE: It’s hard because I honestly don’t know if I actually live in reality most of the time.
NOMI: That’s why I love you.
MARTINE: Oh, and I love you! Because you’re so willing to — I don’t know — to take the glamour of… I don’t know. It is invention. You’re fully on board, always! You’re always on board to be like — I don’t know, I can’t even explain it. When we’re together, whenever we hang out, it always becomes a cruise collection editorial video in like the strangest way where everything is paid for, everything is easy, everything is chic, there’s drugs everywhere!
NOMI: [laughs] I’m like whatever you want, whatever you desire, I’ll make it happen.
MARTINE: There’s boys everywhere. It’s just like beach and ocean and skin and late nights, late mornings. I don’t know! It’s just so luxurious, and it’s not real, which is why it’s like when you ask about making songs about reality, that was happening, but I don’t know if that’s actual reality—it was so dreamy.
NOMI: Yeah, totally. When you say in “Origin,” “Forget about my origin,” what are you saying?
MARTINE: I’m saying forget about — I guess, in some ways, it’s directly about me or any trans girl, really, if she, unfortunately, is straight and into cis men, it’s saying forget about the place I come from, forget about my beginnings.
NOMI: Like this is who I am now.
MARTINE: Like take me right now for what I am right now. And I think it could also speak to a greater social understanding of not putting pressure on or not finding so much importance in where people’s — how people’s bodies came together; formed.
NOMI: You also say what’s your flavor, what’s your type.
MARTINE: Isn’t that obvious what I’m saying?
NOMI: Yeah, but what’s your flavor, what’s your type?
MARTINE: Ohhh! Mmmm. Well, last night I had a good flavor. [laughs] And a good type. He was Serbian. He was a martial arts teacher in Queens, athletic build, scruffy with a buzzed head, gorgeous skin. There’s a celebrity he looks like, I just can’t put my finger on it. So handsome, smelled a little — had a little B.O. because he was coming from practice so in his sweats and a T-shirt — and you know, the sweats that kind of cling the right way. His cute little sneakers. He was checking me out, the L was down, so a bunch of people — it being so late, it was midnight — and I noticed him, he noticed me, and then I don’t know what it was. I was feeling my oats and I went over and started talking to him and he had this thick accent and I was like “You’re obviously not American.” Because he was like “Where you from?” I’m like “America. Obviously, you’re from somewhere else.” But so hot, kind of shy but wouldn’t admit it. When we were on the train, for no reason at all, had to hold the rod across the ceiling with both hands so his arms were above his head and he kept swaying back and forth in and out of my space. Because of course once the train came, we stood next to each other and it was so awkward because everyone on the train could tell we had just met and we’re flirting.
NOMI: I love that when there’s an audience.
MARTINE: There was a real audience and there were like other guys that were interested in me just because of the proxy of this other dude. It really felt like I was hitting on him until halfway and then convinced him to get off at my spot and we went to a park — because we were gonna go dancing. He was like “I love the disco”— I was like “I love the disco. I love to disco.” He was like “Let’s find one.” I was like “It’s a Wednesday night.”
NOMI: I love it — a New York moment!
MARTINE: I was like “I’m so exhausted but you’re so cute.” And so we just went to a basketball park — what do you call it, a basketball park? Is it obvious I don’t play sports? I just watch them. A basketball court. And I was like ”Play me your favorite song” and he wouldn’t play me a song so he played like the number one song in Serbia or whatever, and it was this pumped girl—she was like Iggy Azalea of Serbia and I was like “You think she’s hot?” and he was like “yeah!” I was like “Oh my gosh, I look nothing like this girl.” And so I danced for him and he was mesmerized.
NOMI: You danced for him on a basketball court.
MARTINE: Couldn’t find a club and couldn’t get him to dance but he sat there and would kind of spin me around from his seat and then pulled me in and then stole a kiss and then…put his hands in between my thighs and then I was like “Oh wait, um, I forgot to tell you.”
NOMI: Oh shit.
MARTINE: I was like “Did you know? I’m trans.” Like “I’m trans” — like question mark? Now I’m confused too! And he was like “Yeah, oh yeah, I know!” But the language barrier — I was relieved for point one seconds until he was like “Nope. Actually I don’t know what that is,” and put his hand inside my skirt and then jumped and was like “Are you kidding me?” “I’m not kidding you, no.” He was so confused and I was like “I thought you knew” and he was like “How would I know? How would I know?” Which I guess speaks to my own dysphoria about myself. I’m like isn’t it obvious? Isn’t it obvious? And I guess it’s not — not even under the terrible fluorescent lights of the J Train.
NOMI: Yeah there’s a weird disclosure thing going on these days where it’s like, when do I say something?
MARTINE: RIght, it’s like when do I say something? Because you build a moment and you build a mood — that is a total deflation of anything you’ve built.
NOMI: Yeah, it’s like how do I go there? When we’re riding the subway?
MARTINE: I’m always dealing with straight cis men that have never been with a trans girl before. I don’t know why this is becoming my type. I guess it’s cuz I’m fishy.
NOMI: It’s not a type, it’s a situation. It’s just like….I don’t know, it has to be addressed at some point and the thing for me is when is it safest — when is it safest in this scenario as a trans woman, building a mood?
MARTINE: In some ways I’m — my perception is like sheltered and an allusion because I’ve been lucky enough to hook up with guys where they don’t know, I tell them, and they’re just totally accepting and they’re into it, you know?
NOMI: Passing privilege.
MARTINE: Passing privilege, yeah. So they’re just like “Sure.” But the Serbian guy was not — he walked away. He got his backpack and walked away back to the J train.
NOMI: You’re lucky he didn’t go crazy.
MARTINE: Right because that’s the thing — he’s a martial arts teacher at one in the morning in an empty basketball court. What was I thinking?
NOMI: Oh my god, one in the morning?
MARTINE: We met at 12!
NOMI: I wanted to talk about the concept of chosen family. I feel like there’s this concept that exists in queer culture, gang culture, biker culture, etc. Do you feel you belong to a chosen family that you’ve sort of curated?
MARTINE: Absolutely, but I think I have several families. It’s not like Pose. [laughs]
MARTINE: I’m just letting everyone know the trans narrative is not just like Pose. [laughs]
NOMI: Right, exactly.
MARTINE: You have several — I don’t have a house, I have several groups of friends that are, they’re all family in different ways. There’s some people I turn to — some communities can make me laugh, and there’s certain communities that I go to that I know will always lift me up, you know, and release my self-doubt. And then I think you are one of the categories and feeling like I have a mentor or can come to someone who has been there before. My sister, too, in a way. But it’s different. It’s the same as these newbie boys. Everybody has a different experience. It’s like how do you build a community for yourself where different people have that insight that you need to grow and survive?
NOMI: Yeah. Totally. I wanted to talk about your solo show where you displayed a 146-page glossy magazine called Indigenous Woman. In the letter from the editor, which is also written by you, you posed an interesting question that I wanted to ask back to you. You said, “As artists, how do we tell our own stories?” So how do we tell our own stories?
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diy celebrity 101, become the editor in chief of the magazine that catapults burgeoning art stars, even if that means you’re shooting your own cover, doing ur own beat, styling ur own wig, making every ad, writing every article, directing every editorial—at least you know you look good 😉 INDIGENOUS WOMAN opens in chelsea sep 6 @ryanleegallery 6-8pm, come thru
MARTINE: We have to make our own gags. It’s the same thing I was saying at the beginning. We have to be our own distributors, our own photographers, our own CEOs, you know? Make a magazine. Make a magazine, girl!
NOMI: Make a magazine, girl! [laughs] Oh my god, looking at that magazine stresses me out because I was thinking I know you did everything — produced the whole thing entirely on your own. What kind of work went into bringing Indigenous Woman to life?
MARTINE: What kind of work? That’s a crazy question. Every possible kind of work you can imagine. I had to learn InDesign, I had to download fonts, things that had never felt important to be before. I was looking at so many other publications to see what I was drawn to in terms of how they layout text, how you break up a page. It was crazy — I made so much work for myself because I wasn’t just contributing an image, I was contributing …. Like, I wanted to project different mental head spaces. I wanted to feel like they were different photographers and different models and different stylists and different writers. Like even the interview I’m doing with myself and I struggled at first to make I wasn’t just talking to myself. How do you create tonality that people can project “Oh this is a real interview between two people.” Not like a girl and her sis.
NOMI: I think work like this is so important, to talk about all the things that go into it because for so long as women and marginalized people we’re constantly — there’s this illusion that we have to wait to be discovered, or we have to wait to sort of prove that there’s sitting at the table we want to be a part of. I think we need to push each other and encourage each other to dismantle that narrative and take ownership of our own work and not wait around for someone to give us permission to exist as an artist. Just make your own shit.
MARTINE: Completely and I just saw A Star is Born.
NOMI: Me too, I saw it yesterday.
MARTINE: Oh my God, what’d you think?
NOMI: Is it a good movie? I enjoyed it. I feel like I was judging it because I saw the version with Barbara Streisand.
MARTINE: Oh, I haven’t seen that version — is it better?
NOMI: I mean, yes, it’s gorgeous. It’s flawless.
MARTINE: Maybe I’ll watch that.
NOMI: The pop moment kind of threw me off when she went full electro-pop. Because I thought it was going to stay in this rock singer-songwriter world.
MARTINE: Interesting. I had nothing to compare it to and I loved it. And I cried. I thought it was so good.
NOMI: Yeah, I cried!
MARTINE: I thought it was so good. But at first, I had trouble getting into Gaga’s acting, because I was just like “That’s Gaga — no you are not working for a catering business.” And then I don’t know, I guess her chemistry with what’s his face, I was like “Oh, I believe it. I believe it now. I see sparks of something.” And I could hold on to that. But I guess I brought it up because it’s the same narrative. It’s the same narrative! Like she is stuck until he pulls her out of the mud.
NOMI: Right, it’s like someone has to give her the opportunity, which does exist, but I feel like she should be empowered to take it.
MARTINE: Like cute as a representation of reality, but why not give us something that’s aspirational?
NOMI: Yeah, totally!
MARTINE: I guess in some ways they are like “It is aspirational! She wants to be a star! And she becomes one!” But no, let’s look at the way in which it happens.
NOMI: Right. She’s discovered. It’s that same narrative. Redoing it, brainwashing us again in a way.
MARTINE: What’s the actor’s name?
NOMI: Bradley Cooper.
MARTINE: Oh my god, imagine A Star is Born comes out and the twist is Bradley Cooper plays Gaga’s role and Gaga plays Bradley’s role. Gaga is already the famous rock drunk singer who comes into this drag bar and here’s this straight guy performing “La Vie En Rose” and she’s like “Gag, like, this guy has balls to be performing at a drag club.” And then she’s like “Come to my concert,” and he’s like “No, I have to take care of my mom.” It’d be major! It’d be major.
NOMI: It would be major, oh my god.
MARTINE: And then she props him up to become this star and then she kills herself. It would be such a gag!
NOMI: It would be a gag. I would watch that movie over and over again.
MARTINE: That’s the movie we should make now. Hollywood, open your ears, write it down.
NOMI: In Indigenous Woman, you make a few statements about white privilege. Like in the CovertGirl ad and the whitewash soap ad. As a biracial person whose father is Guatemalan and whose mother is white, do you feel you experience both ends of a spectrum privilege?
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MARTINE: I have passing privilege, but I don’t know about both ends. I guess I — if anything I feel more distant from both sides of my family because it’s polarizing to be something in between when you have a dozen cousins that are WASPy and a dozen cousins — more like two dozen cousins — who are full-on Guatemala City, speak very little English. I mean, the last time we hung out — it’s been so long now. I mean, ugh, maybe we don’t include this part. I don’t know what I want to say about it.
NOMI: For me, I often think about on the spectrum of people of color, we are viewed as more privileged because of the color of our skin, because we are sometimes viewed as racially ambiguous. For me, I think it’s harder to acknowledge that privilege in a wider scheme of when I talk about people of color in general and I think in order to dismantle classicism and racism I need to acknowledge that I’m operating from that perspective in certain situations, like “OK, this is not cool, I need to check others and check myself some of the time.” Do you know what I’m saying?
MARTINE: Totally. I believe we all negotiate who we are by trying on labels, and sometimes that means you fumble, you know?
NOMI: Yeah. Well, that’s what I loved about Indigenous Woman, because I felt like you were sort of using privilege as a way to make statements about being marginalized at the same time as you have this gorgeous ad and you make this whole statement of white privilege. It was being sort of used an image that could have been “Look at this gorgeous girl. Of course she’s a supermodel, I wish I could be one,” and at the same time, you’re doing this thing you don’t even realize at first — and then it’s like boom, it sits with you because your mind is right away like — just thinking about this beautiful person you created there.
MARTINE: And then you’re like, wait, is she white? Is she —?
NOMI: Then it moves to you and you’re saying “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s white privilege.” It really stayed with me and it really opened my eyes to that conversation. I thought it was well done.
MARTINE: Thanks, Mom!
NOMI: I love you. That’s all the questions I have.
Photos by Stevens Añazco