photo : Steve Prue
interview : Jennifer Link
Arden Leigh is a frequent contributor and writes an advice column for Auxiliary Magazine on relationship strategies called Ask Arden. Known for being today’s freshest voice on women’s dating and relationship strategies, she brings together her experience in neuro-linguistic programming, brand marketing, psychology, pick-up artistry, and the fetish industry, to offer great advice to Auxiliary Magazine readers. She is the founder of the Sirens Seduction Forum for Women and the author of The New Rules of Attraction, published by Sourcebooks in December 2011. When she isn’t writing or coaching, she enjoys modeling and being a part of the New York nightlife scene as a personality and performer. Arden is currently working on a solo music project and aims to release her EP, “Break Me In”, by the end of 2012. She has been publicly labeled a “predator” and she took it as a compliment.
What do you do at Auxiliary Magazine?
I write each issue’s Ask Arden column, where I answer readers’ inquiries about dating, relationships, lifestyle, fashion, and generally being awesome. I also from time to time coordinate interviews with musicians, models, and other personalities if I am kind of crushing on them and want to exploit my press credentials in order to seduce them. (Oops, did I say that out loud?)
How did you join the magazine?
Steve Prue, a close friend and very talented photographer, offered Auxiliary an exclusive photo set of me that we’d shot together, and they chose to use it to feature me as their next issue’s PinUp. After that, they approached me about submitting an editorial, which I eventually did. When a few months later they put feelers out for me to do another one, I suggested a regular advice column. I think Auxiliary covers an important alternative corner of culture, and that corner rarely gets its own romance mentors. The dating gurus who are out there for the most part are aggressively mainstream and usually don’t even fit into the same generation as the demographic of our readership. We needed a voice to advocate for that part of our lifestyle.
What skills and experience from your past do you draw on when offering relationship advice in Auxiliary?
First off, I always keep current on my reading. I dislike experts and authors whose advice seems to come from a purely anecdotal place, so I am always reading books and articles based in hard science from an anthropological standpoint about the biological reasons we behave the way we tend to in relationships and applying their arguments to the way I think about my work. That said, I also practice every word I preach, so much of my advice also comes from my being on the front lines of dating and daring to risk and try new things just to find out what’s going to work best. Something most people don’t realize about me is that I didn’t even have a boyfriend until I was twenty-two, so I was never a “natural” at romance. Everything I practice is a skill set that other people can learn and apply to their lives too.
What led you to where you are as a writer today?
I spent several years as a high-earning professional dominatrix, which ran concurrently with the time I began studying seduction (the two of which have some overlap in their applications), and I thought, how funny would it be if I wrote a book on seduction from a kitschy pop culture dominatrix standpoint and called it “Whipped: A Professional Dominatrix Shares the Secrets to Wrapping Men Around Your Little Finger”? But then as I wrote it, I realized I believed in every word I was writing, passionately so, and it got less and less kitschy and more and more sincere. By the time I inked my deal with Sourcebooks, we were moving farther away from the pro-Domme angle (which is still referenced in the book, but not remotely the main focus), and before its publication we decided on the title The New Rules of Attraction. It’s not just a dating/relationship book but also a lifestyle manifesto.
Prior to that I was writing plays and questionable spoken word poetry and assiduously keeping personal journals. I credit almost all my writing abilities to my compulsive journaling. I took very few actual writing classes; I was just lucky to have a gift and to be able to hone it like a muscle. Nowadays I’m working on both a memoir and a screenplay, so I continue to branch out into other genres.
Do you think that words or images are more important?
In a magazine, my eye gets drawn to images because I’m usually seeking style inspiration or looking for something beautiful and breathtaking. But the things that have had the most impact on me over the years have been words, key sentences that haunt me. Then again, I’m probably biased.
How has subculture changed over the years in your opinion? How does/has it varied from place to place?
I find the most interesting difference in our subculture to be the difference between New York and Los Angeles. In LA, looking hot means looking like you stepped out of a salon an hour ago, whereas in NYC, looking hot means looking like you had sex an hour ago. As for how it’s changed over the years, I’m not sure. People are always moving in and out of different scenes. I have always been true to my style tastes but I tend to move fluidly through different social circles.
Do you think the fashion drives the music or the music drives the fashion?
I think it used to be that the music drove the fashion, but lately I haven’t seen many new looks coming out of the music scene. We’re stuck in this awful hell where you can buy a reproduction of an 80s band T-shirt for thirty bucks, but there’s very little in music today that’s original when it comes to fashion, so the people who are just now trying to look “edgy” by wearing skulls or motocross jackets or CBGB T-shirts are catching up to us and we have no new ground to escape to. The only exception I can think of is Lady Gaga, whose crazy shoes and asymmetrical minidresses and giant 80s Bowie shoulders and shiny gladiator metal and studded leather show up ripped off in every mall storefront. And don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but love and respect for Gaga, who is a true original, a sincere artist, and someone who works her ass off for the love of what she does, but she can’t be the only voice out there. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an alternative artist dress in a way that I didn’t feel was a copy or at least an amalgamation of other things I’d seen before. But then again, maybe I’m not looking closely enough, and I’m always open to being introduced to new inspirations.
What piece is a fashion staple in your closet?
I’m a sucker for wearing all white, especially in alternative culture since it’s so dominated by dark colors. I manage to pull off a fringe semi-goth look by looking like an Edgar Allan Poe ingenue, a shipwrecked castaway, or a Victorian apparition. So my closet is full of white lingerie, billowy white dresses from All Saints, and one white Dolce & Gabbana cocktail dress that is all Sophia Loren classic Italian curves. But my current favorite piece has to be the sheer ivory lace slip from Agent Provocateur that I wore to the Auxiliary June/July release party in LA. It’s so vulnerable yet sexy at the same time, revealing but innocent.
When you go out for a night on the town, where can you be found?
I love going out to my friends’ bands’ concerts at places like Bowery Electric, Mercury Lounge, Bowery Ballroom, Highline Ballroom, Irving Plaza, etc. When I feel like getting up to some mischief I’ll head to Three of Cups, a divey rock and roll bar in the East Village. I love taking dates to speakeasies like Please Don’t Tell or Milk & Honey because they seem so secretive. For a sexy but casual lounge I head to Vintage, which has a cocktail list with over 200 martinis and is decked out in red velvet antique furniture. And for dinner and a show, I go to Nuit Blanche at Beaumarchais on Wednesday nights for some spectacular performances and amazing food.
What is one relationship mistake that you see all too often? And what piece of advice would you give to anyone to live by?
I see people spending too much time overanalyzing tiny details and losing sight of the big picture. It’s like, one person will send a text in a hurry that is maybe phrased a little carelessly, and the other person will be all “what was that supposed to mean” or “why are you being this way”, which will set the first person on the defensive, and which can result in awkwardness or fights that can last far longer than they should. Or they’ll freak out about the person seeing their ex once in a blue moon when they themselves are spending time with them three or four nights a week. People need to chill more and respect that if someone is showing up and being good to you and you feel you’re pretty much on the right track moving forward, that’s what counts. Let the little things slide a bit and don’t create battles where they’re unnecessary. Save your lines in the sand for points that really matter to you.
The one piece of advice I would give everyone to live by is to refuse to let fear stand in the way of going after what you want. You have to think strategically, plot a course of action, and then commit to it and follow through. You must be able to clearly see which variables are under your control and which are not, and to decide how to play your controllables and then let go of your uncontrollables. Don’t be so attached to outcome that you allow fear of failure to keep you from pursuing a goal at all. Failure is really not that big of a deal. In fact, it’s a necessity. If you’re not failing from time to time, you’re not learning anything. Accept the suckiness of the occasional failure as the price you pay for the awesomeness of your successes.