She is self-affirmed, walking to nobody’s tune but her own. She rejects conformity and seeks only her own truth. She is ungovernable, and just the kind of woman we love. MS. ALUWANI RATSHIUNGO sat down with Ms. Laura Windvogel, or the artist and activist known as Lady Skollie.
Noted Man[NM]: In a paragraph, please introduce yourself.
Laura Windvogel [LW]: Laura is someone who always excelled at art so I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I got confused a few times within the journey cause I’m very outspoken, and very dramatic and chatty so for a while I thought maybe I was supposed to be an actress. Then I was living with industry girls like in advertising agencies and stuff and that’s when I started seeing how I could package the best bits of myself like my love for art; my love for the dramatics and everything and package it into one thing.
NM: You don’t want to pursue acting?
LW: Nah. I think being an actress plays to my weakness of always wanting to be the centre of attention but it also plays to my other weakness which is: I hate planning and I hate practising words and stuff so I think that was just misguided because I love being the centre of attention. That’s actually what it was about.
NM: What is your earliest recollection of ‘being a girl’, in other words, when you first realised what it meant to be female in this world?
LW: I did this zine called ‘Kaapstad Kinsey’ like 3 years ago which was about people’s first sexual experiences and how they experience sexuality and how early sexual experiences really sculpted their identity as older people. Through asking people those questions I was able to also think about my first experiences which isn’t necessarily sexual but I think it was my first experience of understanding that there was definitely guidelines and rules that were put in place by people to define what being a woman is. When I was like 5 in kindergarten there was a girl called Zita and I was totally in love with her cause she used to wear little suits and stuff. I think that was the first time where gender bending was also like… in my mind I just didn’t have a name for it and I didn’t understand how I was supposed to react to it but I knew then that there are different types of women. That there are women who don’t subscribe to one trope.
NM: Was there a moment where you felt, officially, like a woman and why?
LW: Yes. So I developed in a weird way. I feel like I went to sleep one day and I was like flat and when I woke up I had tits and ass. It was literally like in a month. I used to always have guy friends. You know that thing of being the cliché tomboy. My hair was short and I wore flannel and one day I just woke up and had tits and ass. If you look at my body, I have these zebra stripes from where I just went poof-poof. I think that’s when I first understood that there were certain things that made people see you differently and it being something as visceral as tits and ass was very obvious at the time cause of my little friends that had started treating me differently and they were like “Whoa Laura is actually a girl!” That and the day I got my period I guess. I was like 12 or so.
NM: In a world that is hell-bent on hating black women, self-love is crucial. How do you practice self-love?
LW: It’s such a weird thing because self-love has always been a given to me. Part of my struggle of how I was relating to women especially at the beginning of my career was that I didn’t actually understand that in a lot of women self-love isn’t a natural thing. I grew up with a mother who always taught us self-love and I think it’s very evident in me and my sister. It’s actually not that evident in my mother because I think she preaches it but she doesn’t practice it. Overall, I think that self-love – whether we are talking about race/sexuality/gender – is what will deliver us. My solo show last year was called ‘Ask what you want by Lady Skollie’ because the more I did contribution based research with people I realised that there’s people living lives – sex lives, love lives – without ever considering themselves and asking for what they want and thinking that settling for someone you don’t want is some kind of power. It’s like people expect a gold star for not loving themselves. I love myself so much, misguidedly so. I have a Kanye love for myself. My boyfriend always calls it my misguided confidence because I’m confident even when I shouldn’t be but that saves me and protects me in a lot of ways.
NM: Doesn’t that get tricky sometimes considering that men are allowed to be confident but the minute you are “Kanye confident” as a woman you get labelled “bitchy”?
LW: Yeah. I’ve had a lot of that.
NM: You create erotic artwork, one can only imagine this leads to hyper visibility, respectability politics and possibly slut shaming. How do you navigate that?
LW: I had a really weird experience early on in my career that shook me so much that I had to start setting hectic boundaries. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard people say “You’ve got that Nicki Minaj level of bitchiness”? Because Nicki as a performer is so sexualised, that people just want to absorb, touch and take and that’s pushed her to another level. When in public, she is not approachable or obtainable. For a very long time I was obtainable and I thought that my niceness contributed to my work cause people would be able to engage with me. I’ve had to learn how to be unapproachable.
NM: Is there a place for forgiveness for abusers and if so, under what conditions?
LW: When remorse is present, when an understanding of transgressions can lead to better places.
NM: What was your favourite literary discovery this year?
LW: Lauren Beukes
NM: What was your favourite music discovery this year?
LW: Rediscovering the Destiny’s Child discography.
NM: Who is your iconic ungovernable woman?
LW: Dope Saint Jude, Nicci St. Bruce a.k.a Push Push, my mother, and my sister Kim.
Images by Simiato