When the team at Vanish, photographer Amber Lynn Walker and I decided to take the leap on last month’s controversial cover photo, we knew it might ruffle some feathers. But nothing could have prepared me for what actually happened.
I was sitting in magic central at the Melbourne Magic Festival between shows when it all began. The issue of Vanish had been out a few days already without much fuss and I had begun to let my guard down and really focused on my performances. My phone was sitting quietly on the table minding its own business when I heard that familiar buzz. I ignored it to concentrate on reviewing my script. But shortly after there was another buzz and another and another – twenty more in quick succession until I was afraid to look. I expected the worst, a relative must have died, my house was on fire, there was no more good scotch to be had in all the world. You know, something truly horrible.
When I finally picked up the phone to check, I saw a wall of messages, most containing screen-captured images of comments from magicians all over Facebook.
I was floored. An industry like magic is no stranger to topless dancers, topless Criss Angels and everything-less magicians (by which I mean the Naked Magicians from Australia), so it was shocking to see people so offended by the image. Even Houdini posed provocatively in his underpants for one of his most iconic images in 1903, over a hundred years ago.
Amber Lynn Walker, Anastasia Synn and so many other amazing people had already jumped into the conversation to defend the cover before I even noticed there was a conversation to be had. The support was as overwhelming as the drama so I stayed mostly out of the Facebook discussions. I did get a chance to share my side of the story on Nicholas J. Johnson’s amazing podcast Scamapalooza but I think it’s essential for me to lay it out here as well.
The discussions over the past month, while heated, were overwhelmingly civil and respectful. A true testament to the wonderful community magic is built on and a powerful reminder of why I am so proud to be part of this industry. I have been asked to respond to some of the specific backlashes, so here it is, these are the three most common comments I received and my response.
This cover hurts women in magic! How will anyone ever take us seriously?
I just finished a small tour with my new magic show: Melbourne Magic Festival, which featured 65 different magic shows, and the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, which featured seven different magic shows. At both festivals, I felt respected by my peers at all times, despite everyone having seen the cover. It made absolutely no difference in the way I was treated. If you take what you do seriously, people will take you seriously. Passion and skill are taken seriously. Hard work and determination are taken seriously. Cleverness, originality, and a desire to move the industry forward are taken seriously. Ekaterina’s #FemaleMagician is a beautiful expression of this. The women in that video are powerfully talented and it is impossible to not take them seriously.
It is my firm belief that women of who demonstrate skill and focus always command respect.
There was no reason to do a nude photo. The image is completely unjustified.
The photo’s concept is a reference to the classic American Beauty movie poster, an iconic image that has persisted in pop culture. The image was conceptualized and photographed by my mentor and fellow magician Amber Lynn Walker, a woman who has been an unwavering beacon of cooperation over competition between women in our industry for as long as I can remember. For us, the image was iconic. I have also been a nude model for years, which I mentioned in the article. When I did the layout, I wanted the cover and the graphic elements in the article to appear in a top-down, birds-eye-view style that would be a visual reflection of the bird’s-eye view that the article takes on my career. You don’t have to like the artwork, but it was undeniably relevant to the feature.
Women are already oversexualized, why make it worse?
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but everything is oversexualized — car commercials, burger ads, even yoghurt is oversexualized. If you feel you have been objectified or marginalized, I stand by you. It is awful when people expect you to do a sexy show just because you are a woman. I will always stand up for anyone’s choice to do whatever sort of show they feel comfortable doing. I want everyone to feel that they can dress however they want onstage and not be forced to fit into any mould or set of expectations they didn’t sign up for. That being said, my show is a sexy magic show. My character Lucy is a bawdy silver-screen starlet type who uses her flirtations to motivate a lot of the comedy in the show. This show is what I am most passionate about; I have put my heart and soul into this character for a while and it’s what I want to be doing. If you want to leave the tools of sexuality and innuendo behind when you build your show, that’s great! Don’t let anyone make you feel like you need to use those tools if you don’t want to. I want to, and I hope the world of magic has room for both styles of magicians to thrive and still leave room for all the amazing things yet to come.