Reykjavík’s weirdest girl scored a free trip to China and told us how
Sometime in early 2007, a fabulous group of women were gathered in a living room along with their finest costumes and a pile of glow strips for a night of fun in front of the camera. After it was all done and up on the internet, the one who had planned it decided it was too much fun to not do again. This is how the Weird Girls Project began and the woman in question is their undisputed spandex-queen, Kitty Von-Sometime. For five years, she has self-financed this video series which brings together women to an unknown location to perform an unknown concept in unknown costumes for a single day’s filming. Fifteen episodes and three special projects later, she has been summoned to China by Converse to produce video projects for the 2012 limited colours campaign. We sat down with her to get the whole story on her viral success.
OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE AND INTO THE FIRE
So what was the original inspiration for the project?
When I was in the UK I mostly had male friends. I was quite a tomboy growing up. When I moved here it seemed to switch and I mostly had female friends. I was really surprised at the level of being asked, “does my bum look big in this,” to more severe issues of confidence, so it stemmed from that.
I noticed that when we would go to a bar or a party, they would stand back against the wall—typical wallflower routine—and they were very conscious of saying or doing anything that other people wouldn’t think was cool. I’ve been lucky enough to be raised in a way that I was never that self-conscious. I was getting a bit bored of this concern about other peoples’ opinion, so I decided to shove them in front of cameras.
It definitely feels from watching your videos that the women are not in their comfort zones. Is that an important element?
It is really about that. That, in fact, is the human aspect of this project. They would never normally wear something that tight, or be that exposed, or be in front of a camera or even turn up to meet a group of strangers they’ve never met before and try to make friends. That’s something I find Icelanders shy away from. The part about keeping the women in the dark about the episode concept until the day of shooting is also a way of pushing their comfort. Nearly every time I do an episode, there are girls calling me up a couple of days before going “I can’t do this,” totally petrified because they don’t know what they’re doing!
How important is it to you to have cohesion between the visual and musical aspects?
Very, actually! I tend to have a concept first and find music that goes with that, but the mood of the women and the mood of the piece tend to evolve with the music. I grew up in the first MTV generation and I was very obsessive whenever I was listening to music on my Walkman. I would always run some imaginary music video in my head, so that’s why I really like using this format. It’s part of why I do this and it’s how I’ve always operated, just me alone with my Walkman.
THE ICELANDIC WAY SPREADS ACROSS ALL LANDS
Tell me about your trip to China.
I’m going in April sponsored by Converse. They release four limited edition colours of Chuck Taylors every year and I’ve got two contrasting colours in each of the two pieces, so I represent all four. Chinese cinema uses four seasons, four acts and things like that, so I want to try and have some reference to it. Then they are also paying for another episode where I can do whatever the hell I want, and I am doing whatever the hell I want! It’s brilliant.
How did the hook-up with Converse happen?
It came about in a very Icelandic way—a good friend of mine from my hometown in England works for them [in China]. Last November I was going over there for a holiday and she was talking to the marketing director [about me] and ended up showing her the [Weird Girls Project’s] website. I suddenly got an email a couple of days before I was supposed to leave for China asking if I could pull one off while I was there and I was like “are you kidding me!?” Normally I spend three months of Excel spreadsheet organisation before.
The marketing director asked if I could do one just as a tester to see how I do with the Chinese women because this is kind of a totally new thing for them. She came down and watched me just do a photo shoot and halfway through the day she sat me down and said, “right, you’re coming back here and doing a tour.” She told me that in just a couple of hours she’d watched these girls go from standing against the wall to running around. It’s a great feeling. It’s very scary now though. I’ve got to try and do it again with eighty-five different women in the next three videos.
THE FEAR AND THE FUN
What is the most exciting and/or terrifying part of all of this for you?
Oh my god, I don’t know! Everything that is exciting is also terrifying—although not really in a bad way. I’ve gone from just mucking around with my friends to a massive budget from a huge company and I have to deliver something. They are supporting me as an artist—these are not adverts, they are being done for the content—but the bottom line is there is someone else paying. I’m talking, like, A LOT more money than I’ve ever spent on episodes. Major stuff. I’ve got the best cameras I can have, the best lenses I can have, I have a section of the Great Wall for one of the episodes! It’s going onto another planet, so it’s totally intimidating and totally exciting.
Also, directing women whom I have no language in common with is something I’m nervous about. I’m going through these very simple moves to do with the girls in China, and I want to see if I can direct them without any words. I have a translator but it’s much easier to interact with them eye-to-eye because if they look to the translator, I lose a lot of what I’m trying to express to them.
The other thing is that this is going to have huge exposure—they said that a “bad” view-count would be three million in China. I have no arts qualification, I have no film qualification and I’ve suddenly been able to go to China with the best equipment to shoot in some of the most amazing locations. I feel a lot of pressure to do good because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I really want to be able to burst with pride when I show the pieces I’ve done.
Did you ever think it would come to this point?
No! Never! I mean, I haven’t been stupid. I have a bit of a business-head, really, and a lot of what I’ve done has been to get further. The fact that I’m using the music video format has been strategic from the beginning. I know that art galleries only have a limited number of people coming and, even though YouTube is massive, there are only a limited number of art videos. A music video means that it gets exposure from the band’s fans, as well as the fact that it can end up on television as a lot of my videos do, so the artwork gets seen on a much broader spectrum.
I know that to a lot of people I am missing the exclusivity of high-brow art stuff because I’m just putting it on for as much exposure as is humanly possible. But as far as I’m concerned, the more people that see it the better. If they don’t like it, they’re not gonna like it whether they see it in a gallery or on television. I plan to do more of this strategy when I’m in China because I want to get to Japan. I WILL do Japan next!
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