On October 1st 2012, I did something which previously, I never had the confidence to do. I attended a concert on my own. Looking back now, it seems such a trivial piece of information to admit, but I was quite nervous about it at the time. The act were the Scissor Sisters and they were at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, in-sync with their latest album ‘Shady Love’. Little did I know but that would be their final concert in Ireland prior to disbanding.
It was an incredible performance, the audience were vigorously involved and a unique atmosphere was cultivated – one which even seems to defy words but the energy and enthusiasm was palpable. I was in awe of lead singer, Ana Matronic’s confidence, the ways in which she engaged with the crowd, her powerful strides across the stage, the choice in costume, her generosity and kindness and of course, vocal ability. I was in awe and that moment alone epitomised Ana as an Extraordinary Woman.
I was incredibly honoured to speak to Ana for this interview series and made every attempt not to fan-girl. We spoke about drag culture, the importance of authenticity, marriage equality and staying true to oneself.
How would you describe yourself both personally and professionally?
The most succinct way of describing myself would be a witch. Personally and professionally, I’m a witch!
How would define your coven?
My coven is one of a transforming chimeric characters; people who can change form and keep me entertained.
How have you come across such characters in your life, thus far?
It’s pretty easy when you are sort of loud, boisterous and an outwardly ridiculous person, which I always have been. As much as I enjoy being in the spotlight, I enjoy sharing it even more. I enjoy interesting people and I enjoy sharing, combining both of those is one of my favourite things to do.
You mentioned your love of the spotlight and your extroverted personality, how were both of those first cultivated?
It was pretty intrinsic from a young age, I was always performing for my sister and likewise, she performed for me. I grew up in a very artistic household where that sort of behaviour was encouraged. My mother is a very expressive and open person and encouraged that in her children too, which is something I am incredibly grateful for.
When you were in college you studied pop culture but how did that theoretical and historical grounding, inform who you came to be?
I feel very fortunate that I have older parents. My mom was nearly 40 when she gave birth me and her mother was born in 1904. For a good part of my growing up, I lived with my Grandmother. I was aged ten and obsessed with the movies from the ‘30’s and ‘40’s. I was obsessed with Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart and Duran Duran! I’ve always been really interested in history, which I think comes from my family. I have been raised with the notion to make a better future for the world and for yourself – you should know what came before you. I believe that I was given a lot of wisdom from my parents and my family at a very young age, which is very nice.
I am at the opposite end of the scale, in that my parents were quite young when my siblings and I were born. Did the age of your parents pose any challenges for you, particularly when you were at school?
I definitely noticed when the Mom’s would get together with the kids, my mother would often be in the corner just engaging with one person at a time. My mom is not as extroverted as I am, I am a complete and total ham. My mother is a painter, she loves reading and solitary activities and I didn’t realise it until many years later that she probably didn’t have a whole lot in common with the twenty-five year old Moms of that time in my life. However, I definitely have more of a sophistication in terms of reference than my friends and that meant I could really get along with my friends’ parents. I had a wealth of references that they could relate to. My husband’s grandmother loves me – she’s 96 – she can talk about music with me as I know who Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman are!
In the architecture of your image, was that something that you were very conscious of moulding or was it a natural process due to your extroverted personality?
My persona was cultivated in the drag scene in San Francisco and later on in New York. I was in my late twenties before things began to occur for the Scissor Sisters and by that time, I pretty much had an established aesthetic. It really was about staying true to that and attempting not to dilute it. However, there are things which you can say on stage at a drag show which are not appropriate for an arena in front of 80,000 people when you have a number one single. I’ve known from a very young age who I am and how I wanted to represent myself and I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a family who helped me to cultivate that confidence.
You spoke there about the freedom of drag culture and I fondly remember my first time in the George Bar as one of the most liberating and ‘normal’ experiences I’ve ever had. It was an unequivocal acceptance which I had never witnessed in a straight club and was my fundamental reason for my entry into Alternative Miss Ireland. What elements of drag culture did you aspire to bring to the mainstream?
Firstly, I just want to relate to you on the straight club versus gay club idea. For me, drag was always a safe space to express whatever kind of femininity I wanted to explore at the time. Whether that women was a ‘50’s-style bombshell or a stern Eastern European art freak – it didn’t matter. I never felt threatened in that environment.
The element of drag culture that I really respond to and emulate is the idea of transformation and the notion that you can be anyone you want to be, you can express yourself in any way that you want and you should. Personal freedom and authenticity are really big issues for me. I want everyone in the world to have the freedom to live their authentic lives and to express their authentic selves.
In 2015, what do you think are the barriers that exist which limit or impede such authentic expression?
I am very fortunate, I am an American white woman. I have privileges that people around the world don’t have. There are so many social issues that prevent this around the world, we are still globally fighting for human and civil rights – including in my country. There are so many reasons why this doesn’t take place but one of the things which I want to do and wish to represent is the removal of the fear in oneself to express that. When you remove or combat your fear of expressing yourself, you are almost undeniable by those who would want to hold you back. I’ll stop there…
With a surname like Lynch, I imagine your affinity to our nation was already quite strong before you frequented us so often but what makes the Irish people so attractive to you?
Firstly, the struggle and because there is an inherent struggle for identity with the Irish people, there is a compassion and an empathy for struggles all over the world. Not just that, but an inherently strong cultural image, language, artwork and music has existed in the face of so much adversary. It has survived and thrived and gone global. Everybody celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone knows what Irish dancing is and there is so much joy tied in with being Irish as well as the struggle. That combination is so apparent and makes me very proud of my surname and my ‘people’.
We have a big occasion coming up on May 22nd, the nation will be voting on a constitutional change relating to marriage equality. As an outsider looking in, if you could speak to the nation and offer them some wisdom, what would you say?
My message to the Irish people: For those who are voting yes, get out there and campaign. Try to be as visible as you can. For those who are against it or are on the fence, there is nothing to fear. No one is coming for you, nor will they attempt to attack your belief system. This is a wish and a hope for less violence in the world and for true expression of the beauty of being a human being. It is a basic human right and that is really all it is. If you do not believe that is true, please find a gay person and go have a pint with them!
I’m very fortunate that this interview series has culminated in becoming a sequence of conversations with many of the people I admire most but if you were to have a ‘kiki’ with those whom inspire you, who would be present?
Oh my God. Ok, let’s see. I’d probably start with Donna Haraway; a theorist, a sociologist that deals with the future. She’s one of my heroines. Neil deGrasse Tyson; physicist. Alan Moore; comic book artist. Deborah Harry, Veda Beaux Reves, Justin Vivienne Bond, Carol Channing, Little Edie and Big Edie and John Waters. Fellini and he’d be right there with Giulietta Masina. Oh God, there’d be a lot of people…
You have achieved so much, thus far but what remains on your professional or personal ‘bucket list’ for the next decade?
Finishing a solo album is definitely on there and that’s actually on the bucket list for this year. I really want to get my comic book finished. I began it many years ago but it has become this many-headed monster that occupies the back of my brain. I really want to visit India. I want to see a cure for HIV/AIDS. I guess attaining a vaccine for HIV/AIDS isn’t something which I can personally do but it is something I want to see in my lifetime. I would also like to voice a cartoon character – preferably a villain or be the voice of a robot…
You have a tattoo of a robot too, if I remember correctly?
Yes, I have a love for all-things robots. I’m actually currently writing a book about robots.
When is that due for publication?
In the Autumn! It’s called ‘Robot Takeover: The 100 Great Robots in Myth, Popular Culture and Real Life’.
And of those one hundred robots, what would your top three be?
It’s not really an outwardly ranked list but top of my list would be – she’s actually a cyborg and not a robot – Bionic Woman. Then there would be Maria from Metropolis and then sharing that top three would be R2D2.
Thank you so much to both Ana and Veda for the orchestration of this interview. You can follow Ana on Twitter – tell her I sent you!
For further insight into other ‘Extraordinary Women’, you can find the interview series here.