photo : Zach Rose
interview : Zach Rose
Auxiliary Magazine’s regular contributor, the infamous Vanity Kills, is one that matches sharp wit and insight with a varied background in fashion, cosmetics, and music to bring readers content that is not only informative, but also highly entertaining. Vanity Kills has plenty of experience writing on topics she enjoys and embodies, currently she has an online column on Lip Service’s webzine entitled, Lethal Style. Contributing beauty articles and a multitude of in depth interviews with designers from around the world to each issue, she brings a unique and fun persona to Auxiliary Magazine.
What do you do at Auxiliary Magazine?
Instruct and inform the masses in all manners related to the fine art of warpaint application, interview people that don’t suck, and formerly provided comic relief with some 100% fictional ridiculous goth drama. Also I allegedly partied with the copy editor in at least five different states.
As an independent writer working with multiple companies including Lip Service and Auxiliary, what is it about writing that is most appealing to you? How did you get started?
As frustrating as it is at times, it’s the air I breathe. As much as writing the perfect paragraph which conveys my thoughts on Hello Kitty corsets in the exact matter I want it to keeps me up at night, I cannot picture ever NOT doing it. Being physically rewarded for my efforts with money and merchandise is nice, since I put a lot of effort into the written word, but it’s never been my motivation. The greatest reward is the immense sense of accomplishment derived from bringing to completion a finished piece that I would have loved to stumble upon, in either a book or a blog, and find myself. When I feel like I’ve written something equally informative and pleasurable to read.
I’ve always loved fashion magazines. As long as I can remember, I’ve read every woman’s magazine I could get my hands on and mentally devoured all the vignettes that accompanied the fashion spreads. My brain absorbed them like a sponge. It didn’t matter if the outfits themselves were hideous or exquisite. You can’t mount a painting on the wall without a frame. Words are that frame. In time, I found myself ‘styling’ things in my head. Constantly thinking of what shoes would go with what skirt and what earrings would complement the ensemble as a whole. Fleshing out these thoughts into full fledged fashion and beauty articles was just a natural extension of all that internal style obsessed dialogue.
What led you to where you are as a writer today?
When I was about eight or so, I’d write stories about anthropomorphic dogs. Probably due to the fact that I was obsessed with dogs and I’ve lived in Eastern Europe where we had, literally, TWO channels on television. Thanks to that childhood imagination and watching too much Polish dubbed Dynasty in the company of my grandmother, I concocted some sort of canine fantasy land. Now that I think about it, you’re probably all too likely to find similar themes in the creepy domain of furry fan fiction. Some scary individual with a raccoon tail attached to his Tripp pants is probably eagerly typing something not entirely unlike my ‘earliest work’ into a word processor right now. Except it’s grosser and I definitely don’t want to read it. And so, it has come to pass that my parents dubbed the kiddie drivel I authored to be the early work of some pint-size prodigy writer. They were wrong. I came to America and abandoned the wonderful world of talking German Shepherds or whatever other nonsense I’d chicken scratch in spiral bound notebooks.
Fast forward 14 years.
I always composed bitchy observational rants in my head. Sometimes my easily distracted brain would allow me to sit down long enough to open up Microsoft Word and transfer them into a digital format. If I felt that I wrote something particularly on point, I’d share my scathing criticism of that band or those fluffy legwarmers with the world via the mediums of MySpace and Livejournal. Apparently, people liked what they read and decided to provide me with an outlet which allowed me to shove my opinion down everyone else’s throat. That was in 2007.
The rest, as they say, is history. I have since unleashed music reviews, step-by- step makeup tutorials, sarcasm-laden fashion advice, and even a story or two (though I am by no means a fiction writer, and absolutely hate being mistaken for one) upon the world.
Could you describe your views on the makeup industry and how Auxiliary (and your writing) caters to niche, more independent cosmetic brands?
To my delight, in the past few years a number of indie home-based makeup companies specializing in ultra vivid hues of eyeshadows and lipsticks sprung up like proverbial daisies. This was great for the consumer, as we finally had an alternative to MAC’s, ‘Looks amazing in the clearly doctored up promo photos, yet has poor color payoff in real life,’ seemingly endless monopoly over the domain of highly pigmented cosmetics. It was refreshing to have more options rather than just shell out more money on the same colors re-packed in different containers with different names every other season. Having a competitive cosmetic market is vital, since the manufacturers will have to try harder to give the consumer more color, staying power, and ease of application for their buck. And Jane Q. Makeup Artist won’t be forced to be a slave to one particular brand. Especially when said brand suffers from a steady decline in product quality over time.
Since smaller businesses do not have the benefit of having a whole marketing department constantly brainstorming innovative ways to push their product, they rely on good old fashioned word-of-mouth as a primary means of advertising. In this day and age this translates to beauty blogs, YouTube makeup personalities and, naturally, magazine coverage. As a beauty writer, I do my best to shine the spotlight on up-and-coming companies you can’t find at your local Sephora. Not to mention that these small businesses are usually a family ran operation, where one or two people will pull 14 hour shifts in order to answer buyer inquiries and fill orders on top of formulating new products, designing packaging, making their presence known on various social networks, etc. It’s a sheer labor of love. Therefore it’s important for me to showcase the fruits of that labor. Realistically, Revlon or MAC won’t care if Auxiliary’s coverage helps them to sell a few extra lipsticks here and there. It’s all a drop in the ocean to these cosmetic giants. But every sale matters to the ‘little guys’. Sometimes selling a few extra shadows or glosses each month makes the difference between a company staying afloat or going under. So generating buzz about indie wares is extremely important and helps creativity thrive.
How has subculture changed over the years in your opinion? How does/has it varied from place to place?
I can only speak for the state of the modern goth/industrial scene, since it’s the subculture I’ve called home for the past 13 years. I don’t have my hand on the pulse of the punk, hipster or Guido community, so I cannot take the liberty to comment on the changing dynamics within subcultures as a whole.
The goth/industrial scene is finding itself in dire straits recently, mostly due to the, ‘Too many chiefs, not enough Indians,’ syndrome. With the advent of that whole MySpace attention whore phenomenon, where Tila Tequila type of individuals achieve fame solely because they mastered the arduous task of inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide, everyone wants to be a star and they want it now, damnit. So you have hordes of kids pirating Reason, schlepping one or two bad drum loops together with a mish mash of porn/generic horror movie samples and vocals that sound like flatulence. The song writing process takes about two weeks. Then they get busy with begging their friends to tell their friends to fan them on Facebook and playing live shows at local dives. And the general cluelessness of the promoters causes the quality control to be nearly nonexistent. Everyone wants a whole lot of recognition for the most miniscule amount of work. Saying that it causes the caliber of ‘entertainment’ within this particular subculture to suffer is akin to saying that Tommy Lee might have a snorted a line of coke once or twice in his lifetime. Nobody wants to create anything profound or complex, because hey, that takes effort, research and skill. Not to mention the financial commitment.
Then you have the ‘big bands’. I assume that THEY assume that their fans must be completely incapable of critical thinking on ANY level, because the music and lyrics truly pander to the lowest common denominator. Personally, I frequent clubs less often, because I really do not wish to hear a sample about ‘fucking that slut’ or ‘bull-fucking shit’ played ad nauseum to the tune of a 5th rate house track masquerading as ‘industrial’. It’s no such thing. Popular acts wish to write the most simplistic trance and house and try to repackage it as ‘techno body music’ to the clueless so called industrial kids. It has about one eighth of the production value of real house, so none of these guys would make it as legit house or trance outfits, so the industrial scene became like a terrible joke rave. Because none of that music would actually go over at a REAL rave. So now unfortunately industrial clubs are the place where bad pseudo-techno goes to die. It’s really depressing. But hey, as long as it contains a sample with the word ‘fuck’, or said word is in the title of the track people eat it up.
People don’t even recognize industrial that sounds industrial anymore. Case in point, at this year’s Kinetik SAM packed the room so tight you couldn’t move, but the room was less than half filled for Dive.
As much as the city of Philadelphia leaves a bad taste in my mouth as a whole, I can’t deny that the people running goth/industrial events know how to put a successful party together and pack a room with bodies. Unfortunately, a city where promoters update their professionally designed websites with current information on an ongoing basis and combine aggressive online promotion with good old fashioned ‘real life’ flyering of local businesses tends to be an exception rather than a rule. In most cases the individuals who organize the aforementioned goth/industrial social gatherings subscribe to the false notion that minimal effort yields maximum results. I’m not trying to pass off those retarded canine centric tales I wrote as a child to be the Great American Novel, so people shouldn’t attempt to pass off creating Facebook invites for their night and expect people to kind of just show up on their own as being a promoter.
As long as Johnny Come Latelys with the business sense of a fruit fly and egos the size of Russia continue to think that sending e-vites to your inbox via various social media platforms, cramming people into non-climate controlled backrooms with sub-par soundsystems and DJs who don’t know the first thing about mixing two tracks together is a job well done the scene will suffer. Sadly, I fear that we’ll all be staring at empty dancefloors until the people that throw parties for the sake of having a venue they can spin at themselves step off. I have noticed that alternative nightlife seems to thrive in areas where organizers hold lucrative day jobs that allow them to book national acts (as opposed to local washed up synthpop jokers that haven’t gone anywhere in 15 years), rent legitimate spaces (because a basement is still a basement no matter how you try to dress it up) and don’t have to worry about making the choice of paying their utility bill or printing flyers.
This may be a bit off topic, but what is your favorite dinosaur and why?
Right now I’m in the process of accepting applications for the coveted position of ‘Favorite Dinosaur’, since Jurassic Park certainly did me wrong with their not-so-authentic portrayal of the velociraptor. For years I thought this allegedly fierce reptilian beast to be a highly-intelligent killing machine whose infallible hunting prowess coupled with critical thinking abilities were the unstoppable two-hit combo which caused Sam Neill’s character to theorize that, ‘it’s entirely possible that raptors, rather than humans, would have become the dominant species on this planet’. Sam Neill wouldn’t lie to me, would he? Turns out that he did. Velociraptors were in fact not all that bright and about the size of a turkey. Science : 1 Me: 0