There are too many boring people slovenly committing mortal sins in this world. Too many computer chair activists, terrified at what might happen if they air an opinion they hold in real life. Too many people afraid to go out and just do it. Not Christeene. No, the self-professed “drag terrorist” wields 10-inch dildo guns and if you’re not a fan, then you can kindly “fuck off”, in her words.
But here’s why you should be a fan: she’s our generation’s Divine. Her unapologetic transgressions and outrageous music are what’s required to wake us up to battle the horrors and injustices that we now face. She’s an advocate of vulnerability, because we’re too ashamed to own our feelings, however alien they may seem. She’s a sexual pioneer, unashamedly carnal in her signature look – smeared lipstick and a dishevelled wig. (Clothing very much optional).
Ask Christeene about her origin story and you’ll likely get a fable about how she was yanked out of some trash bin as an infant in her hometown of Austin, Texas. She’s now “approaching nine years old.” Real name Paul Soileau, Christeene is a provocative invention of the highest order, created to unleash the aggressive sentiments bottled up inside a queer, Southern boy. Soileau grew up in Louisiana and left for Texas after Hurricane Katrina. That’s when Christeene came to life. With a career arc that mirrors literally no one, she draws ire for her low-budget visuals that double as political and social commentary. Watch any of her videos – “Fix My Dick”, “African Mayonnaise” – and you’ll get a sense of what I mean.
Christeene is a true visionary, which is why she’s teamed up with director Matt Lambert and Rick Owens for her latest visual assault, “Butt Muscle”. It’s so NSFW we’ve had to blur out some parts. She shoves Owens’ waist-length hair into her asshole. She pisses in his mouth (no relation, I’m told, to Trump’s #goldenshowers). Christeene and Owens’ partner Michèle Lamy share a lubed-up, open-mouthed kiss. And it’s all in the name of laying bare the inherent shame and guilt of being openly sexual, especially as a queer person. We’re censored for it, vilified and dismissed by YouTube, the government and the public.
Christeene may shock, but her real message is one of joy and love. It’s a message shared by her collaborators Rick Owens and Matt Lambert, who join her here in conversation, discussing sexuality, vulnerability and censorship. And if you don’t get it? It’s not for you.
“I don't care what they think,” she says, shrugging off her detractors. “I had fun.”
Christeene, what’s the secret to being so unapologetically, openly sexual and transgressive?
Christeene: I think it’s being vulnerable. And allowing yourself to drop those goddamn images that we’ve seen on what is sexual, what is transgressive shit and your own vulnerability mixed with your family and whatever kind of fucking sexuality that you have. No one has the same kind of sexuality. Everyone’s got their strange tastes inside their mouths and their brains, so if you allow yourself the vulnerability to release those things, that’s all the shit you need to get out there. Just find the right platform and family to do it.
Why do you think there’s such an inherent shame placed around sexuality?
Christeene: A shame? Because I live in America.
What do you mean by that?
Christeene: The Bible tells me so and…
Matt Lambert: Sexuality is being vulnerable, right? Being honest with what you’re sexually into is vulnerable, and a lot of people are incredibly afraid to be vulnerable, ever, in their lives. People like Christeene and Rick, and I try as well, that vulnerability is a part of the strength of ourselves as artists. A lot of people are terrified of that. I think revealing that sexuality as truth is really scary for a lot of people.
Christeene: But it’s also fun. And when we see “Butt Muscle”, where people are laughing and having a good time – fuck the scary, and fuck the fear and vulnerability and start to tap into the enjoyment of it and the exhilaration of it and the freedom of it.
Matt Lambert: And not just the sexuality itself, but the sexual beings that we played with are things that, for a lot of people, would feel taboo. To take those ideas and have fun with them and play with them and use comedy, hopefully demystifies those things a little bit for more people. Humanises those things a little bit for people. I hope.
“Culturally, the world is so safe and so flat right now and we need to balance that out. We’re suggesting other standards of beauty and other things that might not be so cliché” – Rick Owens
Is there a right reaction to any of your music or videos?
Christeene: No. As long as there’s a reaction. If there was no reaction, then fuck that. So long as I get something.
Rick Owens: I hope someone’s going to say, “Oh, they shouldn’t have done that.”
Christeene: Or “Bless their hearts.”
Matt Lambert: Well, you know what my mom’s gonna say. She’ll say, “Well, as long as nobody got hurt.” Like Ashley (Ryder) almost threw his back out fisting himself.
Christeene: He did. So someone did kinda get hurt. My emotions were hurt several times.
Now that Trump is in office, will you make any change to what you are already doing?
Rick Owens: Oh absolutely, I’m going to go harder and stronger. You have to keep the balance of the world. It’s our responsibility to keep that balance.
Matt Lambert: I forget the quote but Christeene had a great tweet right after Trump won that was basically that. It was about going harder. Buck the fuck up, keep doing what you're doing, do it twice as hard.
Christeene: All the people who died last year, all these fags and all these wonderful people who build us up, I was like buck up, get your shit together. The well of souls is full. Tap into this well of souls that we have and start to harvest that shit and you got yourself a gorgeous strength. I don’t like to use all those goddamn army terms like “an army of” or “fight this”, like fuck that, but I tap into some spiritual strength and some fricking anal aura, as my dancer Silky would say, that will take you over and start to use those magical weapons.
Rick Owens: (To Christeene) I love it when you start testifying.
Matt Lambert: A lot of people want to make work that speaks to what’s going on, especially to that conservative energy in America, and now it feels like, “Let’s fucking do it now!” Now is the time to do it. If people were sitting on their ass thinking, I should make work that’s more political, or more engaged, or socially conscious, now there’s a bit of fire under their ass to do it.
Christeene: We have been provoked. We are like fire ants. Someone stepped on our pile really heavily.
If this was funded by a label, what would that limit in terms of what you could do in the video?
Rick Owens: Well, that’s the big message here in a way. The fact that I’m independent means that we get to do shit like this. We can do whatever the fuck we want. And I want to emphasise that and celebrate it. We get to do anything we want. And being independent is a rarity now, isn't it? So this is a way to really—
Christeene: Celebrate it?
Rick Owens: Celebrate it. I was gonna say tell that message, but telling a message sounds a little preachy and I don’t want to do that. But yeah, celebrate it, that’s the best way of putting it.
Matt Lambert: I’ve worked with a lot of record labels myself as well. If you’re doing videos for peanuts you can get away with a lot. But when you start to get into American labels and deal with their voices, and the fear that they have, especially when it comes to sexuality and relationships, queer bodies. You can definitely have greased up titties and asses everywhere in a hip hop video but as soon as you start getting into queer spaces it becomes something that people don’t want to touch. So I deal with that with every project that I do. It’s always a conversation, whether it’s how we censor for a premiere or what the label has to say about a video. So this was a great opportunity to not have to worry about any of those restrictions and just do our thing.
“You can definitely have greased up titties and asses everywhere in a hip hop video but as soon as you start getting into queer spaces it becomes something that people don’t want to touch” – Matt Lambert
Christeene: From where I’m coming from, I never have dealt with labels or any kind of proper management really, so this was a natural avenue that my hole needed to take, because it was freedom to do what we wanted and it was family doing it. When you work with family and you’re vulnerable with them you can be free and say, “Fuck you!” to the rest of the world. We’re not gonna put some regulations on this shit. It seemed like the most natural room for me to walk into.
Rick Owens: It is such a cultural piece. Culturally, the world is so safe and so flat right now and we need to balance that out. We need to offer our little contribution to balance that.
How do you combat that safeness?
Rick Owens: I just meant there’s a conservative element in the world where standards of beauty are very cliché. We’re suggesting other standards of beauty and other things that might not be so cliché.
Matt Lambert: And other standards of intimacy and other standards of sexuality.
Rick Owens: And joy. Because you know that video, making a video is so loving and sweet and joyful. There’s a glitter rock feeling to it. In terms of transgression and the jubilance to it.
Matt Lambert: I guess that was the idea. To make something that was transgressive but to do it with humour and to do it with love, to do it with a humanist approach, because you could have definitely taken some of those moments and have it done just for the sake of shocking. It was really important for all of us that we have all these characters as people, that there were real relationships, and there really were.
Christeene: Yeah. If you see us laughing in the video, we were fucking laughing. And if you see holding up a gun with 10-inch black dildo on it, and I look like I'm gonna die in shock, that’s reality.
Rick Owens: And when you see him choking on my hair, it’s really happening.
Christeene: I am choking on it. And when you see Rick trying to move rhythmically to music, that’s really happening too. God bless editing.
Whose idea was it to pee into Rick’s mouth?
Christeene: That was Rick’s idea. I wanted to put his hair up my butthole and then coming out of my mouth and then he was like, “Hey, how about you pee on me?” And I said yes.
Matt Lambert: I pitched to Rick that we wanted to do some ass play and he wasn’t so into it, so he countered with another suggestion, which was a little sketch. I think there was something really romantic about it. He was exchanging intimacy and fluids with his partner and Christeene was the conduit and the vessel that transfers the energy between them. So the way we talked about it was this beautiful, intimate discussion of how to get to that point. It’s a bit comical for sure, but I think there’s something really fucking tender and beautiful and human about that scene.
Christeene: Like we said, the video represents a lot of personal relationships with each other. And whenever I’ve met these two people we shared each other’s trust and love, so in that one particular scene I’ve got Michèle hooked up to my mouth and I’ve got my pee going into Rick’s mouth and it’s a beautiful connection and river of love.
To what extent can you use your respective arts to protest? How far can you go that will make a difference?
Christeene: I don’t see it as gauging how far I can go, like a metre, or hitting the pig with a hammer and seeing how high the bell can go. I think it’s just how much more vulnerable can I get. I look at it singularly as creators, as creative people, how we singularly look at taking down this maniac and his regime but also you start to hunt and you connect with more of those people and I think that’s how far I want to go personally. How can I reach more of the people out there who are trying to create and do the same things?
Rick Owens: It’s not just about going far; it’s about contribution. How can we contribute to making the world a better place, and safer for people like us?
Do you thrive on the reactions to your work?
Christeene: Well, it’s beautiful to do live shows especially. I hear lots of wonderful things from little fags and dykes and trannies and fucking creatures I’ve never even heard of that live deep, deep in the ocean and it’s the most inspiring, oh it’s music. It’s better music than any artist I ever heard out there when it comes from those kids mouths and hearts. It’s the best. It’s the only reason I keep doing it.
Watch the uncensored, hi-res version of “Butt Muscle” here
Hair Charlie Le Mindu, make-up Inge Grognard at Jed Root, styling Rich Aybar