IN 2001, SELENA MOONEY, AKA MISSY SUICIDE, launched SuicideGirls.com, a website showcasing alt-softcore pinup pics. The girls, opinionated, inked, pierced, were, especially at the time, a big departure from the classic Barbie doll chic of the going erotica vibe circa the early 2000s. Plus the SuicideGirls credo wasn’t just about the pics: Most of the models also blogged. I.e. SuicideGirls is as much about verve as it is about look.
If mainstream culture finds alternative styles more acceptable now, Missy Suicide here deserves a nod. Her website gets 2 million unique visitors a week, and the SuicideGirls’ Facebook page has almost 3 million fans. SuicideGirls has got art books, a clothing line, a comic (illustrated by Cameron Stewart), it’s been featured on Nightline, HBO’s Real Sex and CSI. The brand has become a beacon for women of the underground and those who love them.
The Smoking Jacket: Tell me about what prompted you to start SuicideGirls.
Missy Suicide: I created SuicideGirls nearly 11 years ago–yeah, it’s been a long time–to celebrate the girls with piercings and tattoos, to treat them with the same sort of reverence that was afforded to the classic pinups.
TSJ: The look was less common then.
MS: Definitely. In the past 11 years, the tattoo culture has been embraced on a massive scale. But when we started, [if you were inked] you might be the minority in your general physical region.
TSJ: Back 11 years ago, what was your Internet presence like?
MS: There was no Facebook, there was no MySpace, there was no Friendster. So with SuicideGirls, all the bloggers and models kept journals online. They interacted through message boards and groups as well. It was a burgeoning kind of concept back in the day. It was something that was quite different and people were really drawn to it.
TSJ: Obviously everyone’s a lot more adept with the Internet generally and especially with social media now. How has that fact changed the online presence of SuicideGirls?
MS: I think our community has been a big proponent of social media. We now have over 25,000 models from around the world, including Antarctica. We have a social network reach of over 7 million people and we’ve got members and regional groups where people meet up in almost every major city in the world. We’ve definitely seen the power of the Internet.
TSJ: I saw a mention of Antarctica on your site and I was like what?—Is that a real profile?
MS: Yeah! She’s a research scientist.
TSJ: That’s awesome. So how did you come up with the name for your site?
MS: ‘Suicide girls’ is a term that was in a Chuck Palahniuk‘s book, Survivor [check out the reference to the term here]. Our interpretation of it is girls that commit social suicide by choosing to live by their own agendas instead of living inside a prescribed box.
TSJ: What’s the ideal of beauty that you feel you’re putting forward with SuicideGirls?
MS: Suicide Girls are girls that don’t have to fit into a certain mold. I think that the idea of beauty we’re putting forward is that confidence is the sexiest attribute a woman can have. And I think that if you embrace who you are then you’ll be far more beautiful than trying to cram yourself into a prescribed box of what is [considered] beautiful. I think that if you embrace your flaws and your unique features and you’re confident in them that you’ll be much more beautiful than if you’re trying to fit into whatever the latest trend is.
TSJ: How do you feel navigating the world of Internet sexiness and putting forward this different idea of beauty?
MS: It is challenging at times. People, especially on social networking sites, can leave rude comments. But in general–like the things that I put forward that I’m like I don’t know if people are going to see how beautiful this girl is–they tend to totally respond positively. Like one of our models has vitaligo.
TSJ: The pigmentation thing.
MS: Yeah, the pigmentation problem. She’s a beautiful, amazing girl that has such an amazing story. But no mainstream magazine would put her on a cover. And that’s kind of what we did when we had her on the front page of the SuicideGirls [site]. I was nervous about what the reaction would be. But everyone was so positive. It was really great. When you feel, Aww, the Internet can be awesome.
”Confidence is the sexiest attribute a woman can have.”
TSJ: Tell me about the way you stage your pictorials.
MS: We’ve had girls that have pushed all kinds of boundaries. The girls really dictate how the sets are themed. They do fan theme sets or they do sets that speak to their interests or their political desires or leanings. Even sets that deal with gender issues and all that. There’s a really diverse collection of images that fit under the umbrella we’ve created.
TSJ: Do you have any favorite spreads from over the years?
MS: It’s so hard to pick! We just started doing this SuicideGirls timeline. I’ve been curating those and that’s been really fun to look back at some of the models. Some of the girls on the site have been models with us for like nine, ten years. They’ve really changed since they’ve been modeling. So we started doing this collection, this look back at the girls. And [it shows] the evolution of their one little baby tattoo to how now they have more tattoos than they can count. How their bodies have changed and how many hair colors they’ve had.
TSJ: So are you all tattooed and pierced yourself?
TSJ: And over the last 11 years have you gotten more tattoos than you had before?
MS: Yes. And I’ve probably had every hair color under the rainbow. It started with just wings on my back and then I got full sleeves. Yeah. Once you start modifying your body to reflect externally what’s happening internally, it’s hard to stop.
The Suicide Girls Guide to Living
HEY WE’RE RUNNING A SUICIDE GIRLS CONTEST!
Tell TSJ who your fave Suicide Girl is in the comments below or on Twitter. One lucky winner gets a 3-month membership subscription to SuicideGirls. OMG. Contest closes Friday, February 24, 2012 at 12 pm EST.
Illustration by Cameron Stewart.
A gallery of Suicide Girls pulled from their Facebook fan site. For you.