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- 09/02/15--09:10: _He Wasn't Good Enou...
- 09/02/15--09:16: _Premiere: PINS's Ge...
- 09/01/15--03:38: _5 Ways to have a Ha...
- 09/01/15--04:13: _5 Provincetown Pool...
- 09/01/15--04:43: _John Waters Gives U...
- 09/03/15--02:00: _Justin Bieber Says ...
- 09/03/15--03:00: _Premiere: Watch For...
- 09/03/15--04:15: _"No matter how old ...
- 09/03/15--04:30: _GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS: ...
- 09/03/15--05:40: _Lana Del Rey Doesn'...
- 09/03/15--05:53: _Janet Jackson's Alb...
- 09/03/15--06:03: _Dean Blunt Meets Hi...
- 09/03/15--06:30: _A Response to Direc...
- 09/03/15--06:45: _Alessia Cara: The B...
- 09/03/15--07:00: _Today in Olds: Keit...
- 09/03/15--08:45: _Download Rick Ross'...
- 09/03/15--09:00: _Writer Natasha Noma...
- 09/03/15--10:31: _Listen to Two New S...
- 09/03/15--11:00: _Our Guide To Labor ...
- 09/03/15--11:12: _Anti-Fur Activists ...
- 09/02/15--09:16: Premiere: PINS's Get Lost In America In "Dazed By You" Video
- 09/01/15--03:38: 5 Ways to have a Happy Hour Feast in Provincetown
- 09/01/15--04:13: 5 Provincetown Pools That Give the Beach a Run For Its Money
- 09/01/15--04:43: John Waters Gives Us His Picks For a Crazy Day in Provincetown
- 09/03/15--03:00: Premiere: Watch Fort Lean's Nightmarish Clip for "Cut To The Chase"
- 09/03/15--06:03: Dean Blunt Meets His Weed Dealer In His "Lit Freestyle"
- 09/03/15--06:45: Alessia Cara: The Budding Pop Star Who's Making Introversion Cool
- 09/03/15--07:00: Today in Olds: Keith Richards Thinks Rap is for the "Tone-Deaf"
- 09/03/15--08:45: Download Rick Ross' New Full-Length Mixtape
- 09/03/15--10:31: Listen to Two New Songs from the Empire Cast (and Pitbull)
- 09/03/15--11:00: Our Guide To Labor Day In NYC
- 09/03/15--11:12: Anti-Fur Activists Crash Rihanna's Perfume Launch Party
It is with heavy heart that Chad and I announce our separation today. Through not only the marriage, but the music as well, we've created many unforgettable moments. We are still, and forever will be, the best of friends, and will always care deeply for each other. To all our family, friends and fans, thank you sincerely for the support.
When was the last time you were excited about something that was 99 cents? (3am drunk dollar pizza slices don't count.) Victor's Raw Bar happy hour goes for gold with oysters, shrimp and clams all coming in at justttt under a dollar. Each is paired with its own sauce and no one will judge what could otherwise be considered an over-order. This happy hour runs from 3pm to 5pm so it could be the perfect place to start a Happy Hour marathon if so inclined. And, if you like the happy hour, come back for the Drag Queen brunch.
Victor's, 175 Bradford Street Ext, Provincetown, MA 02657, (508) 487-1777
The Governor Bradford restaurant feels both like a dive that has somehow avoided public inspection as well as the unofficial Provincetown Town Hall. It's been around since the late '60s, and the waitresses seem like they've been around even longer -- but both of those should be seen as positives. It's the type of place where you could run into a group of friendly foreign tourists, or a regular who hasn't left the bar stool for months. Happy hour includes dollar shrimp, oysters, and clams, and a cheap beer can often be found. There are plenty of other places in town to go for artisanal or fair-trade food, but Governor Bradford provides the rare delicacy of locals with good stories, and a bartender probably harboring some solid life advice.
Governor Bradford, 312 Commercial St, Provincetown, MA 02657, (508) 487-2781
The Red Inn
Usually reserved for date nights or celebratory dinners, The Red Inn is on the finer (more expensive) side of the dining scene in Ptown, so their Happy Hour is a particularly special occasion. Oysters, clams, and boiled shrimp will only put you back $1.25 per piece, but the special is extended to other menu options including creole pate, spicy lobster corn chowder, ceviche and more, meaning you can explore their well-crafted and even better respected menu at a discounted price. Feel free to still bring a date or celebrate, the ambiance is always at full value.
The Red Inn, 15 Commercial St, Provincetown, MA 02657, (508) 487-7334
The Whaler's Wharf
The Whaler's Wharf in Provincetown could be thought of as the most charming seaside imitation of a mall. Instead of central fountains, it looks out on an actual sea. Instead of a parking lot, it connects directly with the pedestrian-friendly Commercial Street. Instead of a food court, it houses a number of independent restaurants, with Ross' Grill among them. Located on the 2nd floor of the Wharf, Ross' Grill has great porch views and the best time to enjoy leaning out over the railing and exclaiming "I'm the king of the world!" is between 3 and 5pm for their raw and tapas bar happy hour. Wellfleet oysters and jumbo shrimp are only $1.25, and the tapas inclusion means cheeses, Serrano hams, chorizo and other Spanish snacking accompaniments.
Ross' Grill, 237-241 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA 02660, 508-487-8878
Ciro and Sals
It could be considered cheating, but the early-bird special at Ciro and Sals could also be considered the most extreme version of a happy hour. If a full day of sun and swimming gives you an early appetite -- or you're already in need of sobering up a bit -- then Ciro and Sals has your antidote in the form of a robust three-course Italian feast all for $30. It's a deal one would expect from a strip-mall Olive Garden with food you'd expect from New York's Eataly. It's pre-fixe so the hunger-crazed (or slightly tipsy) don't have to worry about sifting through their regular, extensive dinner menu. The stand-out pastas and seafood are still represented on the early bird menu, however -- try the locally-sourced calamari or leave it to the chef with his daily pasta special. Ease of ordering and your whole night free starting at 8pm on? Who knew taking on the elderly option could be so rewarding.
Ciro and Sals, 4 Kiley Ct, Provincetown, MA 02657, (508) 487-6444
Photo from Victor's at 175 Bradford St Ext.
For more on Provincetown, check out PAPERMAG.com/ptown
Houses with wraparound porches, a spacious front yard, or private beach access are amongst the most desirable in Provincetown, but perhaps the most coveted real estate in town is a poolside lounge chair at the Provincetown Inn. The hotel is a sprawling ranch-style campus, with the pool at the heart of the operation. The pool is open to the public and accessible via a winding wooden path off the start of Commercial Street. During the day, you may find yourself in the middle of a bass-thumping poolside party with lounge chairs fanning out around the perimeter of the pool flanked by a bar (featuring an assortment of frozen drinks that seem nearly doctor mandated on a scorching hot day), and burgers, fry cafe and grill station. The dance hits blast from the bar and the MC isn't afraid to call you out for trying to relocate a lounge chair or any other rule-breaking poolside behavior. Despite the code of conduct, the vibe here is neighborhood block party, where everyone seems at their summer peak. With adjacent beach-side access, it can easily turn into an all-day affair.
Provincetown Inn, 1 Commercial St, Provincetown, MA 02657, (508) 487-9500
Hot Hot Heat
Access to the backyard pool at 8 Dyer will cost you at least one night stay at the hotel but there's no better way to luxuriate during your Provincetown stay. The backyard is a jungle gym of grey wood, white trim and expansive glass, reminiscent of an expensive Hampton's house, fitting for the lush boutique hotel. The pool is heated seasonally so it affords a water retreat even during the chillier months in PTown. There's also an indoor jacuzzi and sauna, both of which are complimentary for guests. It's a spa, it's a hotel and it's the easiest way to come back from vacation feeling like an entirely new person.
8 Dyer, 8 Dyer St, Provincetown, MA 02657, (508) 487-0880
Drinks on Deck
Acting as a full day-to-night one-stop-shop for Ptown fun, the Crown and Anchor houses bars and restaurants, as well as a pool on their back deck, which is open to the public and always down for a party. The pool features a slightly smaller deck and less chairs than Provincetown Inn but also boasts a burgers, dogs and fries grill and a lineup of delicious boozy frozen drinks. (If frozen isn't your thing, you can also grab a drink from inside the attached Wave Video Bar.) And because this is Provincetown, your bathing suit is your day-to-night ensemble so mingling between the pool and bars requires nothing more than a good towel, stamina and confidence.
Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St, Provincetown, MA 02657, (508) 487-1430
If the best part of your vacation is the "escape" and "getting away from it all" element, The Seaglass Inn and Spa is the perfect option. The hotel is located on four sprawling green acres a short distance from downtown. Wooden Cape Cod reclining chairs dot the landscape, along with prominent American and rainbow flags giving the resort a stately suburban vibe that feels like a place JFK would have taken his family during one of his Cape vacations. A kidney shaped pool completes the picture and the big unencumbered land provides a perfect spot for kids or dogs to roam wild, play games or just enjoy greater air quality.
Seaglass Inn & Spa, 105 Bradford St, Provincetown, MA 02657, (508) 487-1286
Hidden in Plain Sight
The Brass Key suggests a secret society where membership is passed on between the different generations of the upper echelons of society. But while the luxury price tag of the hotel may make it exclusive to some, it's ultimately an inviting establishment and only a little bit secretly located. It's central to Provincetown, a mere minute from the Pilgrim monument, making it convenient for all and just off the main street. When you're hanging out in the courtyard that connects the Victorian buildings, cottages, spa and event space, you'll feel like you've discovered a secluded retreat. Central in the compound is the pool, which is also visible from one of the many balconies on any pool-facing room. You're welcome to carry on the myth of a secret society but the accommodating staff and friendly poolside conversations may dispel any notice of pretension.
Brass Key Guesthouse, 67 Bradford St, Provincetown, MA 02657, (508) 487-9005
Photo of the 8 Dyer pool in Provincetown.
For more on Provincetown, check out PAPERMAG.com/ptown
John Waters' heart might belong to Baltimore, but the legendary camp filmmaker and "pope of trash" has had eyes for Provincetown since he was a teenager. "I've been going to Provincetown for 51 summers," Waters told us over the phone recently. "I hitchhiked there when I was 17. Someone said 'Oh, it's a really neat place. You'll like it.' It was. I did." Waters, who describes Provincetown as "a gay fishing village," knows the town in and out. We asked him to give us some of his favorite entertainment picks for an outrageously fun day in town.
My favorite store in Provincetown is called MAP. It's got great books, very hip clothes, great gift items. I love to hang out there. I'm always hanging out at the front corner like a store detective -- so don't even think about shoplifting there. I'll take you in the back and make you be on nudeshoplifters.com. I used to be a shoplifter in the old days, so I know the tricks.
MAP, 220 Commercial St., Provincetown, MA. (508) 487-4900
Scream Along With Billy
On Friday nights I love to see "Scream along with Billy," which features Billy Hough, this great performer who plays the piano and performs entire albums as part of his show. He's the only gay man I know who can do Eminem's full album.
Check billyhough.com for locations and showtimes
Longnook Beach is my favorite beach and I don't mind saying that because you need a sticker to go and they're hard to get. Every day I pray I see a shark eat a whale or a seal, because when you're swimming the seals come right up next to you in the water. So I'm always looking out for that. I love nature, as long as it's things killing other things.
Albert Merola Gallery
I very much like the Albert Merola gallery. I'm a little bit biased because I show there, but they have the best art gallery in town. They have great shows there. I'm a fan of one of the owners there -- he's a painter, James Balla. I collect his work. They also handle Pat de Groot, who is my landlady. She's an amazing painter and she's in her 80s.
Albert Merola Gallery. 424 Commercial St, Provincetown, MA. (508) 487-4424
I love it, there's no irony. The food is good and they treat me well. And what else do you need when you go to a restaurant?
MEWS. 429 Commercial St, Provincetown, MA. (508) 487-1500
The Provincetown Book Shop
I worked there as a young man, and that was really what ended up being my college education, because I never really went to college. When I won a LAMBDA award this year I dedicated my prize to the owners because they were really my education.
The Provincetown Book Shop. 246 Commercial St, Provincetown, MA (508) 487-0964
For more on Provincetown, check out PAPERMAG.com/ptown
The time thing is truly something you have to learn. Earlier in my career, I didn't quite get that good shit actually does take time. I used to make fun of these middle-aged guys in L.A. with their Maseratis. And now I have one. I realized, "Oh! I had to be old before I could get a Maserati." I couldn't afford one when I was a temp and I was 25.
Releasing the Twitter-kraken
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I see certain things on the news or I hear through the grapevine that someone has "gotten in trouble" for what they said on Twitter. I feel that, frankly, if you're a comic, you really do get a pass. There aren't that many stand-ups and there are very few female stand-ups. You gotta give one group a pass to be inappropriate. If it's a comedian that someone is pulling up a joke from three years ago, don't even go there with me. It'll make me wanna be more outrageous. [But] I do have to limit myself, because sometimes I go a little crazy. I was doing this Twitter Q&A and it was after I had done two shows in Seattle and I couldn't sleep. I very innocently got a question, which was: "Who was the biggest douchebag in Hollywood you've ever met?" And I said, "Oh, probably Demi Lovato." And then all of a sudden people took it very seriously, and there were 23-year-olds in their parents' basement threatening to kill me. I'm now a little more savvy about who is out there.
Wild weeks and dinner club with Paris
I have a week coming up where I'm doing seven shows and they're consecutive. And on a week like that, I'm a complete vampire. Obviously I have to be at the top of my game at 8 P.M., so that's not when I want to be winding down. It's in my best interest to stay up till four in the morning watching a lot of very bad television so I can go on stage the next night and talk about which Duggar has decided that, because of a certain scandal, they're gonna be a missionary for a while outside of the United States. I do a shit-ton of talk shows. I'm also very into the dinner party sitch. I have a posse that I hang with in Beverly Hills. They're called the Loop Group, and it's everyone from Sidney Poitier to Jackie Collins to Michael Bolton to Paris Hilton. It's this crazy combo of people who are Beverly Hills mafia. The older folks I like the most -- the living legends like the Rickles -- because they have the best stories. But sometimes I'll put up with the kids. And by "the kids," I mean anybody under 90.
Tick-tock you don't stop
I am hardwired to be writing 24/7. My act is very improvisational and that's why I have done 23 stand-up comedy specials for television. I can't stop coming up with material because of the ever-changing nature of pop culture, politics, my own crazy family, some interaction I had on the way to the show in Knoxville, celebrities I met on a talk show. That is the great thing about the world we live in: it's fluid, and that's a comedian's dream. I'm constantly jotting things down. I'll wake up in the middle of the night and write something down. I'll put something in my iPhone in my notes. On the way to the show I have an old-fashioned notebook and I just jot things down that I see on the way there. I'm just kind of constantly thinking about the next show.
My good friend Cher said something to me that really rang true. She was joking around but she said, "I don't know what to do. No matter how old I get, I feel 25." And I really, really know what she was talking about. I feel the exact same way. I don't know what to tell you. I feel 25. I am definitely living the hope that, no matter what your real age is, you do whatever you feel like doing as much as you want. And if it's not fun, get out, because it all has to be fun. Earlier in my career I thought it was all about the achievements and being maybe a little too competitive, and now I realize it's really all about fun. Like, it took me time to get here but the more fun you have, the more success comes your way. I swear to God that's true.
Last night, if you happened to be walking down Orchard St. on the Lower East Side, you might have thought for a second you had teleported back to 1991. A stylish crowd of artists, musicians, and editors converged on (the new) Max Fish for a photo show featuring works by Richard Kern and Ricky Powell, among others. The exhibit was GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS, a show celebrating the female muse and curated by photographer Brian Boulos; other photographers featured included Skye Parrott, Ben Rayner, Miyako Bellizzi, Nikola Tamindzic, Alessandro Simonetti and more. Works on display included all sorts of odes to female inspiration and included shots of fabulous women ranging from Debbie Harry to Jemima Kirke, Agyness Deyn to Florence Welch. We got our hands on a few images to check out in case you didn't make it to the opening -- take a look, below.
GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS runs at Max Fish (120 Orchard St.) through the end of the month.
We've been awake, quivering with anticipation, since Janet Jackson released "No Sleep," the first widely available piece of music off her upcoming album Unbreakable. There's an end date to our wait in sight -- not only does the record now have an official release date (October 2) and a track list (featuring Missy Elliott!), it's also available for pre-order today. Check out the full track list and the statement of producers and long-time Janet collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis over at FACT.
Asians can't be racist. White or black, we don't care, all dogs taste the same to us.-- Joseph Kahn (@JosephKahn) September 3, 2015
"I'm so shy. I mean, still now, sometimes, I get very nervous," confesses Alessia Caracciolo when we meet. Better known to the world as Alessia Cara, she's the voice behind wallflower-pride anthem "Here" that became a viral hit this summer and made introversion seem cool -- not quirky. The 19-year-old singer has been on a long promotional march, arriving to this shoot straight from a lengthy morning soundcheck for a Radio One performance, and she's heading after to a flurry of promos for her EP Four Pink Walls, which dropped last week to rave reviews. (Taylor Swift even tweeted, "After just a few listens through the Four Pink Walls EP, my <3 belongs to @alessiacara.")
Though her slight figure and large dark eyes attest to her youth, she's self-possessed and at ease skimming through racks of clothing with the stylist, and chatting with the hairdresser about her dye-stressed hair, currently close to its natural dark reddish-brown. ("My mom's a hairdresser," she explains. "It was purple for awhile. Because I have access to it, I always want to experiment.") Cara speaks rapidly and warmly; she's affable and polite, and if she's feeling that shyness now, she's balancing it well.
Cara was raised in Brampton, a quiet city just outside of Toronto whose suburban peace she credits as being part of why she focused so much of her attention on listening to and learning music. "I'd keep music video reels on TV going, and if there was a cool artist I'd take a picture of the screen or write it down and try to find them," she remembers. "Or if I heard a song in a movie or on the radio, I'd type the lyrics into Google, because this was the pre-Shazam era." She joined choir and participated in talent shows, but cites that shyness as a factor that made playing and practicing at home more appealing. The rest of the Caracciolo family -- mother, father, and younger brother -- aren't particularly musical, beyond listening and appreciating it. "I sort of found singing on my own," Cara says, "which is why it was difficult for my parents to understand why I wanted to do this for a living."
Like another Canadian pop wunderkind, she began by posting videos of herself singing on Youtube, performing songs by artists she admired, from Lianne La Havas to Amy Winehouse. Unlike Justin Bieber (who she's covered and has "always loved his songs and [is] glad that his music is proving his talent"), she did not find monster viral success with her clips. Instead, her channel served as a platform to learn how to perform -- and to learn how to get used to having people hear her.
While she had been posting videos since she was 13, it wasn't until three years later, in 2013, that her version of the Neighbourhood song "Sweater Weather" had a breakthrough. The cover didn't blow up online, but it did catch the attention of production company EP Entertainment, who signed Cara and teamed her up with writing partner Sebastian Kole. A year later, she was signed to Def Jam and hooked up with production team Pop & Oak, who have worked on tracks for everyone from Nicki Minaj ("Your Love") to Miguel ("Use Me") to Ariana Grande ("Break Your Heart Right Back"). Over these years, Cara honed her songwriting skills, mining her love for all genres of music for inspiration. "I want to make a sound for myself, but at the same time it's so versatile," Cara notes. "I just wanted to experiment. I want to be multiformat and I love all these genres, so why not do them?" True to that ethos, Four Pink Walls encompasses everything from anthemic pop to old-school hip-hop to the slinky soul vibes of her first single.
That debut song, "Here," is a loungey track about feeling out of place at a party, and highlights Cara's husky, confident voice and snappy delivery. "I was just like, this needs to be said. It's so awkward and uncomfortable," says Cara about her inspiration for the tune, an actual party she attended in high school and left with actual feelings of disappointment and distaste. "I feel like a lot of people probably weren't happy. They were there just to get a good Instagram picture out of it. Great selfie, but you didn't have fun." She's still amazed by the track's success. It racked up 500,000 streams in a week when it was featured on Fader, went on to be a smash on Spotify's viral charts, and was highlighted by outlets from Billboard to Spin to Cosmopolitan. "I didn't think that people would even hear it," she says. Cara began working on "Here" with Kole two years ago, before signing with Def Jam or even really thinking of an album. "We didn't promo it, we just put it out and left it and saw what happened. Everyone just kind of pushed it up."
Cara's an engaging speaker when she talks about her music and her fans, but she gets really animated when we talk about other artists -- who she's listening to, who she's excited about, who she idolizes. To that last, Amy Winehouse is Cara's alpha and omega of influencers, the first singer she was captivated by, and traces of that admiration can be heard in Cara's own delivery. When I point out that the cat eye makeup she's sporting today is reminiscent of Winehouse's signature look, she corrects me: "[Winehouse] owns the cat eye. It's not even a cat-eye, it's like a lion-eye!"
But while she reveres Winehouse's talent, Cara is clear-eyed about the negative sides of her career. Of course, she's seen the documentary Amy, which was released this year and offers a window into the British singer's struggles with fame and addiction. Cara talks candidly about the ways in which it touched her, both as a fan and as a musician. "I'm new to the industry and I'm a female, and the things that she was saying resonated because I feel the same way, especially about her being terrified of being famous and not being sure she could handle it," Cara shares. "That's still my fear. Because I'm so shy and kind of introverted. It was kind of like a cautionary tale for me."
Of course, getting your mainstream break as young as 16 has pitfalls beyond becoming a tabloid trainwreck, particularly with respect to getting respect. Cara has very definite ideas about her work, and involves herself in every aspect, including visuals and merchandise. "I think it's about how you let people see you, and how you carry yourself," she notes. "They're seeing that I'm serious about what I'm doing, and I'm not just a girl who wants to do things for fame." She wants to follow the examples of artists she feels have navigated the treacherous waters of early fame, noting that Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, and Lorde all appear to have found a successful balance while remaining unscathed.
Cara's seriousness about her work -- she's constantly writing down ideas for songs, and is trying to add drums to her repertoire of instruments, which currently includes guitar and ukulele -- is genuine, but it didn't stop her from enjoying and engaging in adolescence. When first signed with EP, in fact, she didn't even share the news with any of her friends. "The hardest part about it was trying to sneak around and juggle school and the studio at the same time," she notes. "I still wanted to experience high school in its entirety." Cara hit those high school milestones, going to prom and graduating, even applying to college, despite hoping she wouldn't have to go. "I always knew music was going to be my Plan A, and everything other than that would be settling," she says. "Deep down I was praying for a shot at this."
Her shot has certainly arrived. The next few months will see her continue the full-court press, with plans to perform and tour, and a full-length album, Know It All, coming later this fall. But for all her self-possession and maturity in the face of this sudden slingshot to fame, there are still moments that leave her wowed. Cara cites a July appearance on the Tonight Show, where she performed "Here," as one of her biggest career highlights so far. "It was like, very, very surreal. I still can't believe I did that," she says. "[Fallon] came back stage before the show to say hi. It's so weird, because I watch that show all the time! It was really, really, really amazing."
Undoubtedly, there will be more amazing moments ahead. Cara is truly "here," and with Four Pink Walls rising as high as number six on iTunes's charts a day after its debut, it looks like she'll be staying.
Continuing the unfortunate trend of aging rock musicians complaining about rap lacking artistry or whatever, The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards has come out of the woodwork in an interview with the New York Daily News to dismiss not only rap as a genre (its fans are all "tone-deaf" because they just need people "yelling" over drums), but also Metallica and The Beatles. It's generally pretty sad when this kind of thing happens, because it's evidence not only that the inexplicably alive Keith Richards needs attention (which, yeah, he's getting), but also that he's unwilling to listen to and engage with new forms of art and understand how and why they're made, and what they offer to the world at this particular moment that Baby Boomer dudes with guitars ripping off the blues don't.
Rick Ross has had a rough year or so -- his last major release, Hood Billionaire, had both middling reviews and sales, suggesting that after what felt like eons, his tenure of having a finger squarely on the pulse of hip-hop had started to come to an end. As much as his other artists have had successful releases, it's been a bumpy time for the boss. But the just-released full-length mixtape, Black Dollar, might just change that. Download it through DatPiff, then read our account of a night out with Rozay.
Mic staff writer Natasha Noman has recently returned home to New York, after a stint performing her one-woman show, Noman's Land, in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The English-Pakistani writer's show chronicles her post-grad experience of working as a journalist in Lahore, Pakistan, where she went on a Tinder date with a woman whose father had been kidnapped by the Taliban. Combining comedy and drama, with a sharp eye for the challenges of adjusting to a new culture, Noman and her well-reviewed show have been featured everywhere from the BBC to a recent Twitter controversy. We caught up with Natasha to talk about her experience in Pakistan, creating narratives out of personal experiences, and whether she still uses Tinder.
So, you graduate from Columbia, then all of a sudden you're a journalist in Pakistan. How did that happen?
"What went wrong?" That's a perfect question. "So, you graduate from Columbia and you're mentally unstable. Walk us through it." First, I worked at Women's Refugee Commission and even though it's an amazing organization, which I respect enormously, the nature of my job was a little frustrating in some ways, because I was sitting in a cubicle and I'm too loud and need to talk to people too much -- I need interaction. So, then I thought, "I've always wanted to be a journalist, so why not go to the place where it's most difficult to be a journalist and see if I can survive? And if I can survive (literally), then I can do it anywhere!" Given that I'm half-Pakistani, I already knew some people there, which made it much easier and which made it a lot more feasible for me to go and work there than if I was just some random white person, because I could pass as a Pakistani if I didn't open my mouth. So, I sent some writing samples and expected to get an internship offer, but they offered me this really cool position as a features writer at this weekly newspaper along with work on the production team of a punditry show on the weekends. So, I showed up, and drove around in a bulletproof car and had all these exciting, amazing experiences, learning so much every single day. But I also got a little lonely, really horny and pretty repressed; it was like going back in the closet.
What happened when you eventually came out to your friends over there?
When I finally felt safe enough to tell my friends that I'm gay, one of them responded, "Oh, my God, try gay Tinder!" And I was like, "Noooope, I don't think that's a good idea." And she insisted, "Such fun! Gay Tinder -- the gay Tinder!" So then I said, "Alright, let's do this." I opened up Tinder and I put it on the maximum proximity setting and there were three women on there. Well, allegedly. I'm pretty sure two of them were men.
Are many young people in Pakistan on Tinder?
It's all relative - not many in comparison to the country's population, as it's a very elite tool. Anyone using it has to be A) rich enough to have a smartphone and B) have Internet access (telecommunications infrastructure being what it is means 3G isn't really a thing) and C) international enough to know what it is. Having said that, there are still way more than you'd think for straight people. There are enough of the Pakistani elite and expats to mean there are more than just a few options.
And this one chick -- given that the competition was so dire -- immediately agreed to meet with me. We were both rather desperate.
We met up and, on the first date, she starts telling me about how her dad was kidnapped by the Taliban. We ended up having sex once. And she was really tiny -- she climbed me like I was a beanpole. Anyway, we never spoke again after that. Clearly my skills blew her away... The whole encounter was very bizarre.
Did your date shed any light on what it's like to be a young, gay woman in Pakistan today?
Not my date in particular, but the whole experience gave me an insight into how gay people conduct sexual relationships in a country where homosexuality is illegal. Technology has made it easier to find one another and, more importantly, to do so under the radar. It's a mixed blessing. On the one hand it facilities clandestine encounters, making it easier to be gay in an immediate sense, but in the bigger picture, it strongly reinforces the modus operandi for gay people of conducting their romantic life underground and not exposing that side of their identity. Micro gain, macro loss.
What happened next? Did you have any more dates?
I continued on as my merry, repressed self. A little while after that, things began to get more volatile. One of my colleagues was the target of an assassination attempt and there were lots of death threats because the paper I was working for was basically criticizing the government's negotiations with the Taliban, which was a big no-no. So, the Taliban essentially responded by saying, "We're going to come after all of you." My editor said, "They know who you are because you work for the paper, and they're coming after everyone associated with us, so you should really go." So I relented and said I was going to chill in England with my family for a couple months until things simmered down, and I'd come back. But then, when I was in England, another one of my colleagues was tragically shot and at that point I decided it just wasn't worth my returning.
So I went back to New York, and was a little listless and depressed for a while. It was around this time I had lunch with my friend Veds [Veda Kumarjiguda, director of Noman's Land] and I was like, "Hey, Veds, I've got this really cool story," and she goes, "Oh, my god, this needs to be a play right now. It doesn't need to be consensual -- it's happening." So we started it. The Fringe was just a pipe dream because it's the ultimate place to go for theater and I didn't think we'd get accepted. And then, after we did, I thought maybe if we could get two people in the audience that would be great. So, the confluence of the various outcomes is just insane. It's just been overwhelming and so wonderful. It's been hands down one of the best experiences of my life.
I'm interested in the shaping of the show -- how did you craft a narrative out of your experiences?
I'd be lying if I didn't say the lesbian Tinder date with the dad kidnapped by the Taliban wasn't a sensationalist hook. Because the minute you mention those three words -- Taliban, lesbian, and Tinder -- people are like, "Can I get my ticket now, please?" It's a hook and also a framework -- the date happens throughout the course of the play and it weaves in and out of vignettes and asides. So, it functions as a map for dealing with much more serious themes, the two major ones being the narratives we create for ourselves in order to make our situations tolerable and also the extent to which people are willing to make compromises.
Living in Pakistan, especially living around gay people who end up entering into heterosexual marriages because that's really their only option, I suddenly saw that there's a difference between compromise in life, which everybody has to do, and compromise of oneself. And I think the degree to which we are willing to compromise is something that everybody all over the world has to deal with. But, in more extreme circumstances, it's something that's more acutely demanded of people on a daily basis. So, we deal with that in the play: we talk about people I know being shot and people persisting every day, despite the risks. Well, that and the awkward sexual encounter. I hadn't done it in six months, so I was pretty sure I'd forgotten how to at the time.
It's like riding a bike.
Ha, sort of. I was a little wobbly at first, but I got there in the end. We had nowhere where we could have sex. We're getting off track here, but I had these wonderful friends who said, "Ok, you can come and use my apartment for sex. We'll go out for the evening." I mean, we couldn't do it in the car because there was a driver, and we would be arrested or worse; basically, sapphic, roadside car sex was not advisable. And we couldn't do it at her house because her parents were there. I couldn't do it where I was staying because I was staying with a family.
Anyway, ultimately, this bizarre and surreal date involved so many essential themes -- from extremism to sexuality to identity -- it offered the perfect window into an often inaccessible world. I guess something rewarding came out of it, even if it's not what I expected.
Now that you're back in New York, how has your experience of being in Pakistan affected what personal identity means to you?
I don't know how to emphasize this enough -- and it sounds trite and hackneyed -- but the freedoms and luxuries that we're afforded on every single level are really remarkable. Because the majority of the world just doesn't have what we have. I think also, ironically, it's watered down my identity politics because I realized obsessing over these ideas is in some ways arbitrary and synthetic, when this isn't the reality that most of the world is facing. Obviously, it's important to live in a place where there's pluralism and transparency and people can be who they are, but there are many more pervasive, fundamental issues that need to be dealt with before one starts talking about gay rights. And I feel like the inability to be gay somewhere is symptomatic of larger issues, rather than the source of the problem. So, it made me more grateful for being a gay woman in New York, but also less feisty about identity politics.
Do you think that there's any sort of work that people can do to create the sorts of environments, on a global scale, in which which people can be free to live as they choose?
I think caring, first and foremost. People are so myopic and self-centered -- and I don't say that in a censorious way because I'm incredibly guilty of that, as well. But if people can take even five minutes out of their day to do something that either is contributing to a larger movement or even just reading about an issue that you didn't know about before, that makes all the difference. I was on this BBC panel in Edinburgh with these South Asian, female comedians and one of them, Bisha K. Ali, said, "Existing is a political act." And I never thought of it like that before, but she's absolutely right. And what you choose to do with your existence is just as much a statement as being the loudest voice in the Black Lives Matter movement. And it's important to recognize there are people who desperately need their voices heard and compassion from a world that is often uncaring and complacent and selfish. Doing nothing perpetuates this kind of disenfranchisement.
Do you have any plans for this show going forward?
Well, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown for about three months leading up to the Fringe, because I was working long days -- I fucking love my job at Mic, it's like a dream, but it is a very intense job. So, doing that in conjunction with editing the script and dealing with PR and all those administrative details of the Fringe at night and all the rehearsals on weekends, it literally felt as though I was on the verge of a breakdown. And I kept telling myself, "OK, all I've got to do is get through the Fringe and, after that, it's over." But then, unfortunately, the play was received rather more favorably than either of us anticipated.
What a bummer.
Yeah, I know, it's the worst. So, after it was received favorably and got quite a bit of media buzz, Veda and I thought, "It would be really fucking stupid to end it here because we have a momentum that we've worked hard to create." Also, we're very passionate about offering voices to people who ordinarily don't have them, and I think characters in my story have that opportunity. Even if it's contributing in only a small way to this larger theme of giving a voice to people who are marginalized, that is what drives me to keep the play going. And if people are interested in seeing what it's like for Pakistanis on a daily basis -- a country that's so often misrepresented as something that's two-dimensional and violent -- if people are interested in seeing another face of that, then that's to be celebrated. Who knows what's next?
I wanted to save my most important question for last: are you currently on Tinder?
Let me check! I think I have a folder in my phone called "Dating," or something. Or maybe it's just called "Sex." I don't think it's on here. No, I don't think it is. I had it on my phone for a while. I don't ever want to use it again -- it's pretty gross.
Well, sorry, ladies.
Sorry, ladies, indeed. You'll have to come to the show and be my groupies and hit on me afterwards. If a one-woman show is the product of every Tinder date, I just don't have the energy to use it anymore.
We're just a couple of weeks away from the September 23 premiere of the new season of Empire, complete with live-tweeting Cookie insults, obnoxious Lucious business plans (from behind bars), and Hakeem on a scooter. Tide yourself over with two just-released tracks from the next volume of the show's soundtrack -- "No Doubt About It" (featuring Pitbull and co-written by Ne-Yo) and "Ain't About the Money." Neither is quite up to "Drip Drop" standards, but that'd be pretty greedy, wouldn't it? [via EW]
Summer is coming to an end, and with it your opportunity to at least pretend that there are no consequences to your actions (try finding a whole new neighborhood to hang out in through the snow). So get your Labor Day in New York on with our guide to the list of some of the best parties, shows, and screenings the long weekend has to offer.