Friday, 12 January 2018

The Hidden Pin Up #13 - Bet You're a Tiger In The Sack/ Can I Touch Your Hair?


How many of you have heard these before? It seems saying inappropriate things to women of colour is a common occurrence. I'd love to hear if you have ever had similar said to you to add to the Hidden Pin Up project. As you can see stories are transcribed in thread onto hessian feathers. The feathers make up a pair of burlesque fans which will be danced with by Manchester's House Of Ghetto, an all black female dance troupe for a performance exploring the history of the black Pin Up and the racial stereotypes and fetishisations which still exist to this day!

Here's the latest response to the call out. Tell me what you think and share your stories! You can comment anonymously on this post or contact me on my facebook page: 

...a guy in a bar in Southport drunkenly staring (swaying) finally coming over to tell me “you’re pretty for a black girl”. 

Another was in Uni, a guy I was getting a little friendly with stopped what we were doing to say “this is weird, I’ve never slept with a black girl before”...

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The Hidden Pin Up #12 - I'm not really into black girls but...

I'm still looking for stories of racial fetishisation from women of colour for The Hidden Pin Up project. I am transferring them onto the hessian feathers of the burlesque fans I have made that will be danced with by Manchester's House of Ghetto as part of a performance exploring the history of the black Pin Up.

Below is one of the most recent responses I've had. If this rings any bells with you, get in touch and tell me your story! You can share anonymously in the comments section of this blog or message me on my Facebook page. Contributions posted on my blog will be anonymous. To find out more about this project search this blog for The Hidden Pin Up series.

My experience has mainly been in the work place and passing/sweeping statements about my culture/hair, and just my work colleague’s lack of understanding and ignorance of black culture and heritage. 

So for example I am the only POC in my office and I have comments like ‘how do you get your hair like that', ‘can you brush it’, ‘what happens when it gets wet’ ‘can you tie it in a bobble’, ‘can i touch your hair’ , ‘never realised it was that soft’. 

I could go on and on but they are some of the daily micro-aggressions I have encountered. 

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Hidden Pin Up #11 - You can be my mocha

I am getting some great stories in from my call out for your tales of black fetishisation for The Hidden Pin Up project, thank you, please keep them coming. 

The title of this post is from one of those stories, in fact the first one one I collected and I think it perfectly encapsulates the preconceived notions and misjudged ideas many black females face on an everyday basis. 

The article 'Is your sexual desire for black people racist' from states,

'When you focus on stereotypes instead of treating a person like an individual shaped by their heritage, background, and unique experiences, that person becomes an extension of your imagination'

...and what poor and filthy imaginations some people have as shown below in the message I had sent in today. 

Please contact me to share your own experiences of black fetishisation, all messages will be posted anonymously and may be used as part of the art work for this project. Check out The Hidden Pin Up posts on this blog to find out more:

Hey Gemma! I have a few gems for you .... 😑 I've had a lifetime of it tbh but standout favourites include the classic: I'm not really into black girls but you're amazing

Also on tinder: 'I've never fucked a black girl before'

(and you never will :))

Recently from a white guy 'do you prefer white guys?'??? is he asking 'am I a racist'


At a bar one time with my then boyfriend: 'What's a sexy sister like you doing with a white guy'

Frequently being addressed as 'Sista' bc we are all sassy charactures and love to be called that by white guys...

Also 'I bet you're a tiger in the sack' and other variations on that, though Idk if that's race related or just general gross

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Hidden Pin Up #9 - Meeting with The House of Ghetto

Today I traveled to STUN Studios in Hulme to meet Darren Pritchard the House of Ghetto's house mother and House of Ghetto (HOG) dancer Lenai who will be dancing with my hemp burlesque fans for my Hidden Pin Up project. I was so excited!

It was great to chat about the project and see how the fans looked in hold which also gave me a chance to see how they handled. The fans are unfinished as yet because I still plan on embroidering words and phrases into the feathers which will be inspired by true stories of black fetishisation. 

While at the studio I got my first story from Darren as he recounted how Lenai's sister had been dating a guy who told her 'You can be my mocha'. Not only is this totally cringe worthy it's also a perfect example how black women can still being treated as 'exotics' and further highlights how the stereotypes given to the black Pin Up from the vintage era have survived today.

We also discussed costume ideas and I took some measurements of Lenai for the outfit I am currently putting together. My designs are based on examples that are blatantly not authentic but a western amalgamation of 'black/savage looks' used in mainstream films and pop culture. 

I want to keep the look vintage Pin Up but also have that unsophisticated inauthentic theme. Everything will be made from hemp to complete the raw primitive aesthetic behind the fans. I am loving how the hemp can be sculpted, frayed and cut to create different shapes and also the various connotations it brings up about black stereotypes and black history.


It was really great to move this project onto it's next phase and I am loving every minute of it. I'm hoping to share some of the stories I collect in my upcoming posts and also how the outfit and fans progress. Until then get in touch with your own stories of black female fetishisation and stereotyping. Email with the title The Hidden Pin Up or find me on Facebook Gemma Parker Artist

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Hocum Pokem


Last Saturday I went back in time to a place where witches are reborn, cats can talk and spell books have eyes! No, I wasn't watching 90's Disney classic Hocus Pocus, but sitting in the audience of the drag parody Hocum Pokem starring US drag royalty Peaches Christ and Jinkx Monsoon and UK female drag queen Holestar as that tricksy trio of witches The Manderson Sisters!

This wasn't my first time seeing a Peaches Christ Production, last year I watched her fantastic version of Return to Grey Gardens and way back in 2010 I was lucky enough to perform as a backing 'monster' in the UK premiere of Peaches film All About Evil at Manchester's Midnight Mass. With this is mind I was looking forward to something wickedly fabulous, and Hocum Pokem at the Contact Theatre Manchester, did not disappoint!

Sitting as part of a dressed up glamorous and ghoulish audience the show began with the capture and hanging of the Manderson's 300 years ago before we were quickly whisked to modern day 1993 where virgin Max, played expertly by comedian Kate McCabe, unwittingly lights the Black Flame Candle and brings the sisters sauntering back to life for one night only. The girls looked amazing with Peaches suiting the huge red curls and sparkling green gown of Bette Midler to a tee, while Jinkx looked every bit as sexy in the role made famous by Sarah Jessica Parker in the original film.

When Max and his little Cousin Wonderlette (I've never seen the like!) steal the spell book that could keep Peaches and her sisters alive forever they kicked off a series of events that bore close resemblance to the film yet took on a drag life of their own on stage. Handsome Billy Bitcherson was raised from the dead to give chase, and we were treated to the vocal talents of Holestar singing her own version of Proud Mary (she really can belt it out!). We also got treated to the local talents of dancing aces The Ultra Violets, and the storytelling/hosting skills of Manchester's Anna Phylactic.

With lots of improvisation and jokes, not to mention audience interaction, the show flew by and before I knew it the sun was rising and the sisters were forced to return to the dead, but not before another big showstopper!

Not wanting the make up and glitter to end and having been put in the mood for a serious dance we then attended the after show party 'Witch I'm Madonna' at Cruz101 where Peaches and Jinkx, in fabulous new attire, hosted a night of Madonna themed drag acts performed by local talent.

I have to say watching Jinkx Monsoon in any guise is a thrill! She just has something that captivates and yes, as my friend stated, gives major confused feelings. An impromptu dance to Vogue only made me love her more.

Nothing phased these US Qweens as they affectionately ribbed off each other. You can tell there is a lot of love and respect on and off stage and their adopted Manchester family certainly felt it too. If the audience reaction was anything to go by when we were asked what show we'd like to see next year, we may be treated to a drag version of Death Becomes Her! and as I can vouch, drag dreams do come true, bring on next October!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Hidden Pin Up # 8 - Burlesque fan experiment with hemp

I've spent a couple of weeks industriously fraying sackcloth to resemble ostrich feathers for my experiment making burlesque fans from hemp, and I now have my first complete fan.

I'm really pleased with how beautiful it looks and quite surprised too. It's very textural and immediately recognisable as a burlesque object, yet the different material makes you want to look closer.


Due to the hemp it is heavier than a usual feather fan but not too heavy to manipulate and wave and I'm interested to see how it handles and looks when being danced with. 

I created the feathers by using a real feather as a template to cut out the shape. I then stitched a thin piece of craft wire along the feather stem so that the feather would have some stability and bend into the shape I wanted once finished. 

Next I began to pull the edges apart, removing whole strands in places and creating fronds that mimicked the real feather. I found that this only worked if I cut the sacking on the cross in order for the frayed edges to create the right shape. Each feather is different and I like how that adds to the overall effect. I spent some time figuring out how to lay out each feather to make the most visual impact.

The fan worked best when I placed the feathers to reflect their natural bend. For instance I sorted feathers that bent to the right to lie on the left hand side of the fan so they would lean inwards. Straighter feathers I placed in the middle and left bending feathers I placed on the right. You can see how much better this looks than just laying the feathers out any old way.

 Feathers laid to bend inwards

Feathers laid in no order

I then used more craft wire to fix the feathers to the spokes of a 16" burlesque fan. I used two layers to get a fuller look.

My next thought is to experiment stitching into some of the feathers. I'm thinking of embroidering words that represent the stereotypes black Pin Up's of the past and black women today still have to face in mainstream culture. 

I'm making the fans to highlight the marginalised and primitive characterisation that have hidden the black Pin Up from view, so this will take a bit more research into what messages will work best, and I'd like to do some one on one chats to get first person experiences from women who have to deal with this regularly.

If you have any stories or info to share about your own experiences please get in touch. In the meantime I will be interviewing friends and seeing how the hemp takes to embroidery.