(Words: Jamie Tabberer; pictures: provided)
Skin, the in-your-face rock legend of the '90s and beyond, has always been unapologetic in her queerness. And we love her for it.
As frontwoman of Skunk Anansie, she and the band scored hits like ‘Weak’ and ‘Secretly’, before headlining Glasto '99 [below]; after a solo career, she reunited with Skunk in 2008 and the band still tour and make music 26 years after forming. And the fashion icon details it all in this year's tea-filled memoir 'It Takes Blood and Guts', which also describes her encounters with fellow LGBTQ icons (albeit ones we've sadly lost) like Alexander McQueen and George Michael.
She's still on the go in 2020, while seeing out the pandemic with fiance Rayne Baron, AKA LadyFag.
“It’s like breaking up a relationship in some ways," Skin tells us of lockdown from her home in NYC. "First was almost denial. Hanging around, watching Netflix, eating popcorn. The second was realisation… Creatives go into adaptation mode. Our lives don’t stick to a schedule. I’m used to things changing and having to redevelop.”
Here, ahead of an appearance at Hay Festival Winter Weekend, the outspoken star (one of SA's key songs is ‘Yes It’s Fucking Political’, after all...) sounds off in fabulous style on Trump and Boris, her respect for LGBTQ youth and her memories of a “ridiculously hot” Mel B of the Spice Girls at the Brits ‘97…
On the best party she’s ever been to
“I remember being at a Donatella Versace party at her house. There were only 20, 30 people. I was sitting next to Madonna, George Michael was there, Boy George, I think. I think Naomi was there. Whitney Houston was around, Michael Stipe. Everybody in that room, what they were doing in their own right, was incredible. No hangers on, no extra people. And there were no cameras in those days. It was very free, very private. Everybody was so secure in their own talent, they didn’t give a fuck what anybody else was doing.”
On the "absolute fucking disgrace" of government cuts to LGBTQ bullying projects in English schools
“Boris Johnson is like a mini Trump. How can you take that funding? Something that is so clearly proven? I think this generation of kids are so cool, wise and knowledgeable. They’re at the forefront of the battle in ways we couldn’t be. Obviously they’re standing on our shoulders, but they’re at the forefront and they’re not being listened to.
“It’s an indication of how this government feel about gay people. ‘We don’t want to spend that money. It’s not an important issue.’ You’re going to see a rise in bullying of LGBTQ, queer and non-binary people, when we were doing so well, moving forward. This is a giant leap back. It'll have repercussions. Children are going to suffer and it’ll be directly due to governmental policies. Hopefully a Labour government if get in – if they sort them-fucking-selves out – will be able to readjust that.”
On the importance of opposition
“I think you should have a right wing. You should have opposites. You can’t expect everybody to be left wing, be the same. [...] It’s bad if everything’s too left, and if it’s too right. But what I think is really bad is the extreme right. I don’t think the extreme left wing are that dangerous, if I’m honest. I think the extreme right have portrayed the extreme left wing in their image. What do the extreme left want? They want fucking Medicare for all, to peacefully demonstrate, for corporations to pay tax. They don’t want to kill anyone. The extreme right wing literally want black people to be slaves. They want to take the language of gay, queer and trans people out of the constitution. They want to repeal gay marriage. They also want to keep their guns and more people to have guns. They want black people to be second class citizens and not have all the rights that we have now.”
On the 1997 Brit Awards
“I remember Mel B was playing pool and my boys were just like... tongues out! I mean, she was so hot – she’s hot now – but she was so fucking ridiculously hot. She had a leopard skin catsuit on. I also remember Prince came in in a flight case. It was so obvious he was in there. It was hilarious. We were like: ‘Why can’t he just walk past like everyone else?’”
On Donald Trump and Boris Johnson
“If the Democrats don’t grow some balls, and understand what Trump is doing and how, and attack that, bring that down, then in four years’ time it’s just going to be worse. It’s not getting any better. And because of the rhetoric, because Trump doesn’t concede, QAnon, all that stuff, that’s all very anti-left wing, anti-Biden, anti-Harris, anti-Bernie Sanders, anti-Elizabeth Warren, anti-The Squad. America’s in a very dangerous position. And it has an effect. We wouldn’t have Boris Johnson or Brexit if it wasn’t for Trump.
“You wouldn’t have what’s going on in Poland, Brazil, France and Germany. Manipulation of misinformation – they watch Trump and copy. That’s what’s worrying. It’s going to get worse for us in England. We have someone who’s looking at what Trump’s doing and seeing what works. It’s adapting to every country. That’s not good for us. Trump is acting like a Hitler. He’s doing things the fascists did in the 1930s. People say ‘How did Germany happen?’ Look at fucking America! It can happen in England, it can happen in many countries around the world. Look at what’s happening to gay people in Russia.”
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On wedding planning
“We’re not planning anything in a lockdown. We’re not doing a Zoom wedding. We want a wedding where everyone can be there. She’s an event planning party queen, so LadyFag will definitely be taking over a lot of those reins. But I’ll sort the music out!”
On her friendship with Alexander McQueen
“We bonded because he saw something more real, authentic and down to earth in me than he was seeing in a lot of fashion people. I was a Brixton poor kid and he was always, first and foremost, an East End boy. We came from completely different backgrounds but we had the same energy. What’s happening now, in terms of somebody like me being successful, he saw that in the 90s. Skunk Anansie were completely different from everything else around. For a lot that was negative, but for McQueen it was positive. He saw that and welcomed me. We became friends. I didn’t see him much in the last years of his life, because it was all a bit mad and we were on tour. He was the enfant terrible of fashion. He didn’t believe the bullshit from the fashion people. I didn’t understand that world either.”
On meeting George Michael "a few times"
“I judge people after I’ve met them three of four times. Some people, whose names I won’t mention, are nice depending on who you’re talking to. If you’re at a party talking to Kate Moss, certain people will come over and say hello. But if they see you in the street, they’ll pretend they don’t see you. George Michael, him and his sister were both genuinely lovely. Really warm. A lot of very talented people are like that. [...] I value that, because in our business there’s a lot of fake, affected people; social climbers. Especially now people think being famous is a profession - that they don’t have to have any talent behind that.”
On Hay Fest
“They really liked the book so they asked Lucy [O’Brien, 'ITBAG' co-author] and I to be involved. I’ve never been to the festival before. I’ve not written a book before! I’m looking forward to it. I’ve done one online festival and it is kind of weird. You’re having a conversation and you’re conscious people are watching, but you can’t see them. I do a lot of DJing – I did [before corona]!- and it’s all about reading a room. This has a different energy. But I'm really glad people are adapting and changing. People more now than ever need things like the Hay Festival to happen."
Catch Skin at the Hay Festival Winter Weekend, taking place from Friday 27 November 2020 to Sunday 29 November 2020. Glasto pic: Wiki.
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