Finding myself in Aurora Lady’s punk feminist world

Aurora Lady's shirt in Queens

When I first met LA-based artist, illustrator, writer, stylist, schemer and dreamer Aurora Lady I knew we would be friends for a long time. I loved her artistic vision, her bold illustrations, her passion for truth telling, and her penchant for feminist community building. When she told me she was coming out with a line of t-shirts I was thrilled, why would I want to wear anything else?

What I really love about Aurora’s work, whether it’s a t-shirt, a painting or photo shoot, is that she creates a whole alternate reality full of realized girl crushes, and powerful, glamorous, gnarly ladies. I was excited to talk to Aurora more about her t-shirt line and the inspiration behind it, so I interviewed her for the awesome blog Weird Sister .

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I just got one of her newest shirts, which proclaims “I nearly lost myself.” I loved the simple design and elegant handwriting. I had a tough winter, but managed to find myself again as spring arrived. I’m happy to say I feel more grounded, hopeful and powerful than ever. It’s also a testament that this is the first time EVER I have dared to wear a crop top (no, I did not even wear them the first time around in the 1990s).

Unisphere feminism

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When I placed my order for the shirt I wrote a note to Aurora that read like a confessional: I was afraid to wear the shirt, even though I loved the look. I felt self-conscious because I’m a curvy lady, and usually I pick clothes to hide, not showoff, my midriff. Aurora reassured me and told me that she too, felt like that, but the shirt enabled her to claim her power and feel more comfortable with herself.

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So I took a cue from her book and wore my shirt with a high-waisted pencil skirt and my favorite Stan Smith Adidas, a perfect outfit for exploring the post-industrial wilds of Brooklyn and celebrating the punk rock history of Queens at the Ramones exhibit at the Queens Museum (up through July 31, 2016).

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Embracing yourself, expressing who you are, not giving a damn about who might judge you. That’s the punk rock spirit.

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Corita on Film

Sometimes you have to travel far away to meet someone who lives next door. That was certainly the case when my band Corita went to Austin this spring to play (unofficial) shows during the South by South West music festival. We were lucky enough to play with bands from all over the country, including bands from Brooklyn! We met Jim Campbell when he was playing in Moonmen on the Moon, Man and he gave us a 7″ of his band Paper Fleet.  While we were playing Jim shot this great footage of Corita playing our song “Degrees of Freedom”  on Super 8. Fastforward a few months and he managed to splice together audio recording he made and the film and voila! Corita’s very own home movie! Enjoy our punk rock parking lot performance.

We also just played a show last night with Paper Fleet at Don Pedro’s in Williamsburg. It’s such a treat to play with bands that you respect and enjoy. In addition, Don Pedro’s is much improved as a venue since the last time I went there a few years ago. They have a menu featuring delicious homemade burgers and there’s even a vintage store, Mystery Train Vintage, in the basement (!). So last night not only did Jim make another great video of Corita (this time on a digital camera and of our song “Remember That You Will Die”), but I also scored a Guess denim dress and a vintage braided leather belt – a whole new show outfit for $26. Punk rock!

I also want to point out that in this show outfit I am wearing my new, beloved t-shirt from Gal’s Rock boutique in Paris. It’s a whole store devoted to the music and fashion of women who make rock music! I will write more about it when I finally get around to posting my photos from my France trip, but suffice it to say that the t-shirt contains the names of all my favorite bands from the US and the UK in the 1990s. Yes, please!

Punk Rope Games Recap

Team Henri the Depressed French Cat: Peter, Me, Marisha and Brian

For the first time since I was sixteen and used to compete in horse shows, I got up early on a Sunday morning for a sporting event. The event was the fourth annual Punk Rope Games, where teams of punk ropers competed in events like the chicken toss relay, as well as more “traditional” jump rope events, in addition to performing a fight song to show off their skills.

Gang of Genghis Khan conquer the doubles jump

I love punk rope because it combines fitness drills with serious fun, absurdity, music and team spirit. Tim and Shana, who run Punk Rope, are the most giving and energetic people who make the idea of fitness accessible to those who whose first impulse is not to be active.

The “Asian Contagion” team show off their infectious skills during their fight song. Jeremy (in the front) just got a bronze metal in a national jump rope competition!

My bandmate Marisha signed me up to participate in the games and after some brainstorming we opted for the surreal and based our look and name our favorite internet video of the moment of Henri, the depressed French cat.

This being our first games, and the fact we hardly practiced at all, meant that we manged to not score any points. I do think we nailed our 75 second “fight song” routine, which we did to that enduring 90s classic “Jump Around” by House of Pain. The downside of this is that song is now stuck in my head. And the lyrics are way worse than I remember.

Cat moves during our team “fight song” performance

Floor punch!

Concentration during the chicken toss relay

We also managed to heckle and cheer the other teams in bizarre, not quite French accents using odd expressions that proclaimed the superiority of the French culture and lifestyle (you all know I love France and I love to laugh at it too as much as I like to laugh at my own country).

Team Henri the Depressed French Cat

The teams performances and costumes made the event like a mash up between gym class and CHERYL, my favorite arty, off the hook dance party.

“Plague” from team Asian Contagion. She made her rat wig herself!

The eventual champions, Phat Positive, also put together a video to show off their skills even before the games. They have raised the bar for next year, and next year, my teammates and I will be ready.

Phat Positive performing their “fight song”

Phat Positive: 2012 Punk Rope games victors

However, my favorite part of the games was the after party, where we got to revel in the camaraderie that is Punk Rope. Of course, I had to change my clothes and put together  a relaxed, sporty outfit for the occasion.

Punk Rope Games after party outfit. T-shirt and skirt by American Apparel, ASOS “Deny” wedge sneakers. Thanks to Marisha for the photo!

What gets you up early on a Sunday morning?

The final scores. We scored a crying cat!

Thank you to Felicity Hogan for the great shots of Team Henri in action!

Faire du Sport!

Punk rope, punk rock

Getting ready for Punk Rope class

I used to wear my avoidance of sport as a badge of nerd culture pride. In high school after I quite the field hockey team I was allowed to take an “individualized athletic program” where I could practice the sport of my choosing for 3 hours a week. That amount of time seems like nothing now, but as a teenager it seemed like torture. I came from a place where long legged, blonde haired, soccer and lacrosse playing girls ruled the school. The rest of us just didn’t count quite as much. I wanted nothing to do with this culture. So the activities I chose to complete my sport requirement for high school graduation: horseback riding, modern dance, and roller skating.

I know the classic New Year’s resolution is to “loose weight and exercise.” As you know if you read this blog regularly, last year I lost 20 pounds and became a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. I don’t need (or want) to keep loosing, but I want to maintain and find a “new normal” for the level of activity that I do. While  I’ve practiced different sports intermittently for a long time: ballet, yoga, biking and swimming, I was never consistent about exercise. I’d do something for awhile and then stop, but I know I need to stay consistent to keep the weight off (I also need to keep tracking food as most of my weight gain or loss came from changing the way I ate).

Activities that I like both have some skill to them, so they get better with practice, but are open to anyone. I also like when they can be practiced independently, but have the potential to be social. The high school nerd in me still hates the idea of sport, so I have to trick myself into doing something that’s fun (ballet! swimming!), or useful (biking! It gets you places!).

January bike ride

Low and behold, in my determination to exercise regularly, I’ve come across a few classes in the New York-area I absolutely love, as well as some helpful resources I want to share in case you too have a resolution to get out there and get in shape.

I had the time of my life in the adult beginner ballet class at Mark Morris‘ studio in downtown Brooklyn, which I took with four other friends. It’s extremely motivating to know you are practicing at a school with some of the best modern dancers, and they also have life music in every class! Now that I am done with grad school I can’t wait to go back.

The class that changed my relationship to fitness was my friend Emily Kramer’s Spirit Boxing workshops. Open to women and trans people, these classes combine boxing conditioning with yoga stretching and centering. I found myself engaged on a physical, emotional, and intellectual level and felt supported, despite how out of shape I was. This class showed me I could do things I never thought possible, like run around Prospect Park and learn how to throw effective punches.

Lately I’ve been hitting up the Punk Rope class at the Greenpoint Y with my bandmate M. There’s classes in different parts of the country, but Tim and Shawna, the punk rope originators, run a high energy class with a new theme, sound track, and special exercises and drills every week. They call it “recess meets bootcamp” and I think that’s accurate! It’s so fun to jump to punk songs I don’t even notice how much I’m sweating. Plus, they got me to do sprinting drills, something I have not done since middle school!

I also want to add that what is so great about Tim and Shawna of Punk Rope and Emily of Spirit Boxing is that they are all activists dedicated to promoting health and fitness for kids who may not learn the value of exercise and healthy eating at school or home for many reasons. Learning from these teachers is inspiring on a deeper level.

Killerfemme active lifestyle: pumping iron with red nails

Finally, for learning to train on your own (and getting over fear and inertia) I found the site Stumptuous.com to be really helpful. While it’s geared towards women interested in lifting weights it’s got great advice for anyone who wants to pump iron, do it safely, and is dubious of gym culture.

What are your New Years resolutions? What have you found is the exercise for you?

I’ll also leave you with a little extra inspiration: