My interview with Aurora Lady (blogger, artist, and designer of Feminasty tee-shirts) begins much the way all of our hangs do: with coffee and a selfie.
I first met Aurora two years ago shortly after moving to LA, and our friendship felt electric from the start. The first time we ever hung out was in Santa Barbara, where we bonded over our shared love of young Leonardo di Caprio (circa Romeo and Juliet – swoooon), and our passion for a good photo (she took the most amazing photograph of me that day – the first of many pictures we’d take). Since that day, we’ve had all sorts of adventures and have spent hours just hanging out and discussing everything from Gossip Girl to veganism, feminism to thrift store fashion. We’ve cried in front of one another and laughed hysterically over the weirdest things. In two years time she’s become one of my best friends – a sister really – and I love that we’re practically next-door neighbors now.
It’s funny how, sometimes, the universe seems to bring people into your life at exactly the right time. Meeting and spending time with Aurora is undoubtedly what kick-started my journey into full-on feminism. Feminism was always something I’d been interested in, but it was also something I’d never really figured out how to apply to my own life. When I moved to CA, I knew feminism was something I wanted to explore and embrace, and Aurora was the perfect woman to help guide and inspire me. A beautiful, green-haired grrrl-goddess, Aurora carried herself with an undeniable energy, and I couldn’t help but feel empowered just being in her presence. She was funny, quirky, and confident – glowing from the inside out with a passion for art and a thirst for equality. She wasn’t afraid to talk about the things others shied away from, and she wasn’t afraid to be honest with me. She’s always been candid and open and intense and kind of messy – in the best possible way. Being around her I felt invigorated and inspired, and I can’t thank her enough for encouraging me on my road to finding feminism. Basically, she’s the best.
But back to the interview! Aurora – being the talented, hardworking woman that she is – recently debuted a line of feminist tee shirts – this first set of four shirts is called the Feminasty series –on her site. And they are grrrl-power goodness to the MAX. These shirts are conversation starters, they’re an ode to self-love, and they’re for any woman (or guy!) who wants to have their voice heard. These shirts are about equality, strength, and roller-skating on the beach in fish net tights and a tutu. These shirts are for listening to music so loud your eardrums shake, cuddling with your best friends during a Clueless movie night, and wandering around downtown amidst the neon lights. They’re for the dreamer, the rebel, the wild child…they’re for YOU and ME and our daughters, sisters, mothers, best friends, and the strangers we meet in fleeting, beautiful moments. They’re for shredding and cutting and customizing – these tees were made to DIY!
I could seriously talk about these shirts for ten more pages, but I wanted to hear from the woman behind the brand. So Aurora and I sat down at our favorite coffee spot a month or so ago to talk about her tee-shirts, feminism, being a teenage girl, and more…
Aurora: I want to take a selfie before the sun goes down
*a bunch of rustling and laughing ensues as we pose*
Augusta: I look real gross today.
Aurora: No you don’t, you look cozy!
*there’s talk about tattoos, sweatpants, and other women we admire - very typical conversation topics for us :)*
Augusta: Okay, here we go, let’s do this! I actually don’t know the answer to this question, so I want to start with it. When did you start identifying as a feminist?
Aurora: Well, I learned about feminism when I was about 15 in school; well, actually probably younger, like 13. That’s when I started reading about it – in Sassy Magazine.
Augusta: Sassy Magazine? I recognize the name, but I don’t think I ever read it!
Aurora: It was amazing; I have a book I’ll share with you (she’s always lending me the best books – Weetzie Bat, Cunt, etc.). That’s how I found out about it [feminism]; I don’t think I understood what it meant at that point, like, I was reading it, but it didn’t…I didn’t feel like it applied to me. And then, when I was 15, I began to realize the way I affected other people and the world. Once I realized I had responsibility in that capacity, then I started understanding a little more about what feminism was. And then, in college, I read ‘Cunt’ and it clarified everything for me. But it was still a gradual process.
Augusta: Yeah, I think it’s an ongoing journey in general.
Aurora: But I remember actively identifying as a feminist around age 15.
Augusta: Oh wow!
Aurora: That’s when I was really starting to get into making zines and knowing what was happening politically. I wasn’t happy…I was looking for a way out.
Augusta: Totally, well, it’s a good way out. My next question is sort of generic, but how do you – personally – define feminism?
Aurora: The simplified version I like to give most people who ask for it is, basically, the radical notion that men and women are equal and deserve equal rights. That’s the short version.
Augusta: I like that, I’m going to start using the simplified version! Okay, so, where did you come up with the term feminasty (the name of this set of tee's, and the design on one tee in particular) and what does it mean to you? Because I’ve seen people react to that word in different ways, and I’m wondering how you intended it?
Aurora: So, I didn’t actually come up with the word feminasty. I just really, really love the word. This awesome comedian, Erin Gibson, who hosts the podcast Throwing Shade, she started calling herself a feminasty. And I felt like it was the perfect melding of…well, it felt like the perfect way to sum up modern feminism. It integrates pop culture. I think it’s so clever and thoughtful!
Augusta: I love it. I tagged a photo with the hashtag feminasty, and someone commented describing it as “a dynasty of women’ which I thought was pretty cool.
Aurora: I like that too. Erin Gibson was so assertive about calling herself that – a feminasty! – I just thought ‘that’s so sick!’
Augusta: So you use to do a lot of custom portraiture (Aurora is an incredible artist – each design on her tee-shirts is from a water color painting she created). What made you want to transition to tee shirts; have you always wanted to do fashion?
Aurora: I’ve always been interested in fashion. The portraits I did for a good, solid amount of time, and it was great, but it was a lot of time working on other people’s content. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t necessarily saying what I wanted to say – especially to help other people, or empower other people. This project was definitely more accessible – the thing I love about zines is that anyone can pick one up, anyone can make their own. With a tee shirt, anyone can take one and make it theirs. One of my ideas is for this to be a DIY project too. You know, cut it up, dye it, do whatever you want! It was really important to me that the DIY concept be a part of this line. I want you to live hard in these tee shirts.
Augusta: That’s awesome. Who are your feminist role models, inspirations, and grrrl-goddesses?
Aurora: My mom, definitely. She was my first feminist role model. And she probably wouldn’t have called herself that, but she totally was. She was really hardcore about taking care of business, and knew how to take care of herself and taught me how to do the same. My grandmother. My sister. And my friends. Honestly, the people I hang out with are really important to me. I feel like, the older I’ve gotten, I’ve gotten more selective about who I have around me. And I’m really interested in getting to know the people that are hell-bent on caring about themselves and other people.
Augusta: Aw, well I’m glad I’m one of those people.
Aurora: Yeah! Of course!
Augusta: This isn’t really one of my questions, but I know you’ve mentioned before that – back in college – you weren’t really much of a girls girl. Did you have a lot of girl friends? Because I certainly didn’t. I had a few really close friends who were girls, but I didn’t like girls…I always thought ‘oh, girls are so catty and bitchy and mean.’
Aurora: I think, I mean, I had a few really close gf’s. I didn’t have a lot though. I definitely wasn’t seeking female friendships out. I think, luckily, they just came into my life, but even then I wasn’t acknowledging that it was happening.
Augusta: Yeah, it’s so weird. I totally did the same thing. But now I can’t imagine not having a network of awesome female friends. Now I seek out women and female friendships. It just sucks that girls are set up – at an early age – to be pitted against one another.
Aurora: That’s the thing. We’re taught that’s the way things should be. Fuck that!
Augusta: Yeah, fuck that! Okay, what’s one piece of advice you have for teenage girls? Or more than one piece of advice.
Aurora: That’s a good question.
Augusta: *laughs* I spend a lot of time thinking about being a teenager, since I try to gear a lot of what I write to that demographic.
Aurora: Totally. I guess I would say never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Recognize your own talents and self-worth, and don’t let anyone tell you what those are.
Augusta: So true. Kind of on the same note, I write a lot about overcoming insecurity – what do you do when you’re having a moment of insecurity?
Aurora: Honestly, I’m the sort who will – unfortunately – cover up my feelings until I blow up. It’s not a good way to deal with things. I’m better at it then I use to be though. For the most part, it’s me bursting out in tears for a while. Generally, when insecurity hits me, it’s pretty temporary I think. I feel like my friends are so solid that I have them to turn to when it’s bad. I read a lot of self-improvement books and I mediate in the morning.
Augusta: I need to mediate. That sounds peaceful. But back to shirts! So, I know initially you had a bunch of different shirt ideas. Why did you decide on these four designs to start?
Aurora: There were certain things I wanted to get across. I wanted stuff that was going to speak to different girls at different points in their life, different men, or whoever might be interested in feminism. Hopefully everyone! I wanted to choose four designs that were definitive about the direction I want to move in. I didn't want anything too cute or too young. It needed to be accessible to everyone.
Augusta: On that note, where do you see the line – and yourself – in 5 years?
Aurora: I would love for feminism to be everywhere and for it not to be a big deal that I have a feminist clothing line. I don’t know if that’s realistic, but Ru Paul talks about—
Augusta: Ru Paul!! I have so much love for him.
Aurora: Right?? He’s super smart. He did this interview with Joan Rivers, the one where she’s in bed, and she asked him whether he felt like society was more open-minded now then when he got started in the 90’s. And he was talking about how, yes and no, and how there are windows that are always opening but others that are closing, and how it will keep going that way. He said it will never go too far in one direction, and I’ve been thinking about that a lot.
Augusta: Do you believe that?
Aurora: I don’t know. I think it makes sense.
Augusta: It does. But you’d like to think that at some point down the road, more of those windows would be opening and less would be closing. But it is interesting identifying as a feminist. I’ve been going on a bunch of job interviews, and on my resumes I have to decide whether I want to put a link to my website. How sad is it that being a feminist could cost me a job?
Aurora: Or, not necessarily that you’re a feminist, but that you’re talking about it.
Augusta: Yeah, and you shouldn’t have to think twice about that! But I guess we’re not there yet. Which is why we need it so much – and why we need shirts like yours! Ooh Ru Paul should totally get one of your shirts!
Aurora: That’d be amazing.
Augusta: If you could pick one person – anyone – to wear one of your shirts, who would it be?
Aurora: My mom.
*I start crying (very typical)*
Aurora: Stop it! You’re going to make me cry!
Augusta: I can’t help it! You know me, I cry all the time. Okay, okay, I’ll ask the next question and try to stop crying. In 3 to 5 words – or a super short statement! – what has it been like starting your own fashion line?
Aurora: That’s hard! Um, okay, it’s been exhilarating. Steep-learning curve. Dream fulfilling!
Augusta: Aw that’s awesome! *laughs* Okay, so the next question I have written down is, “What’s your favorite color?” Because I don’t know the answer!
Aurora: It’s blue. It always goes back to blue. Like a teal-y color.
Augusta: Ahh, I should have known that. Another random question: what did you dream about last night? If you remember. Do you remember your dreams?
Aurora: Usually I do. I don’t think I dreamt last night…I probably did, I just don’t remember.
Augusta: Dreams are so interesting, I always have the weirdest dreams.
Aurora: I do too. And they’re usually like, really comforting with a tinge of weirdness that makes me uncomfortable.
Augusta: Ooh cool! *looks at list of questions, slurps some coffee* Yay! That’s all the questions I have written down. Do you want to talk about anything else?
Aurora: I feel like that was a good interview. Those were fun questions.
Augusta: Well, thanks. It’s kind of hard, because I know you so well and I know the tee shirts pretty well!
Aurora: I think you nailed it.
Augusta: P.S. your pink eye shadow is really cool. I bought some blue eye shadow the other day, and I tried to put it on and I could not figure it out. You’ll have to help me.
Aurora: Thanks! We can totally make it work. Do you use a primer?
Augusta: What’s that?
Aurora: *laughs* Okay, so you’re not using one.
Augusta: Dude, I’m so lost when it comes to makeup.
Aurora: I’ll totally help you! We can go back now and I’ll show you!
Augusta: Yes! Let’s do it!
And then she taught me how to apply blue eye shadow, which is just another awesome thing she’s helped me figure out. I’m so lucky to know Aurora, and we’re all lucky that she’s using her creativity and passion to create this badass line of clothing. Want a Feminasty shirt to call your own? Get one here, post a photo, and tag it with #feminasty and @auroralady.
And check out more of Jenn's beautiful work here and her instagram @jemerling!