As most of us know, queer women are wildly underrepresented in the fashion world. While gay men seem to have the scene covered, lesbians aren’t so visible. But, as out writer Michelle Tea noticed while following Beth Ditto and co. around during Paris Fashion Week, another group is even less visible: Poor folks.
Anyone who has read Tea’s books (such as Valencia or The Chelsea Whistle) knows her background — she’s a lower middle class girl from Chelsea, Massachusetts — and anyone who knows the story of Beth Ditto knows she’s a poor girl from a po-dunk Arkansas town who worked her way onto the covers of fashion magazines.
In The Believer’s 2009 music issue, Tea follows Ditto and manager Tara Perkins (also the lady behind the Sex Workers Art Show) around Paris and, like many of us, wonders “how did this happen”?
“I’ve got survivor’s guilt. I’ve got punk guilt,” Ditto admits in the article, which highlights the fact that while she has become fashion’s first lady, she hasn’t changed much.
“If people think you’re rich they give you things. If they think you’re poor, they don’t give you anything,” Ditto says while scoring free schwag from designer’s showrooms. A point that Tea hangs on to:
While the article also covers usual Ditto/fashion territory (how magazines don’t know how to dress larger women, etc.) Ditto’s statement about getting things for free if you are rich is worth exploring. As the rest of us drown in debt, struggle to keep or get jobs and are more concerned with keeping a roof over our heads than buying a designer bag, there is something amazing about a band like the Gossip making it so big in a world many of us feel so alienated by.
Where folks like Tea, Perkins and Ditto would have been shunned by Kate Moss five years ago, somehow the Gossip’s success overseas has them all backstage, watching the models gear up and bringing home complimentary furs.
In a way, the Gossip’s rise to glory among the fashion elite is a classic story. A story of a hard-working punk band making it big without cash to back them up, without a trim and traditionally “hot” front woman — just with raw talent and that American work ethic that is hard to find in popular music these days. Tea writes:
The Believer couldn’t have chosen a better writer to dissect the Gossip’s rise to fame. The whole article isn’t available online, but you can order it or pick up an issue at a local bookstore today.