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  • COURTESY SUICIDEGIRLS
  • Missy Suicide



When SuicideGirls started 13 years ago, Missy Suicide “had no idea that it would get so popular,” says the photographer born Selena Mooney who co-founded the site with Sean Suhl in 2001. This was pre-social media, mind you, and alt-porn’s corner of the Internet was much smaller and more dimly lit in comparison. “People sharing their lives online was still a very novel concept, and then to pair that with boobs,” she laughs, “‘What? No! Nobody’s gonna do that.’”

Not so nowadays. And with 5 million unique visitors logging on to view its photo sets of 2,700 models, SuicideGirls is alt porn’s grande dame. The success of the site has spawned coffeetable books, documentaries and feature films, and the 27-city Blackheart Burlesque Tour, which relaunched a couple of years ago after a five-year hiatus. Scheduled to stop in Atlanta this month, the show mixes the art of striptease with geeky pop culture references that run the gamut from Star Wars to “Game of Thrones.”

But the expansion of the SuicideGirls’ empire hasn’t come without pains. During a conversation with Missy Suicide in preview of Blackheart Burlesque’s Atlanta stop at the Masquerade on Thurs., Nov. 13, we talked about past controversies and criticisms — like the flack she caught a couple of years ago after calling herself a feminist — as well as why she thinks the brand continues to flourish in a world where sexting nude pics is the new norm.

Now that tats and piercings aren’t nearly as alternative as they were 15 years ago, do you ever worry about SuicideGirls losing its alt-cred?

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While society has become way more accepting — which is amazing and something I could’ve never predicted 13 years ago — there’s still a ton of room for growth. When everyone feels beautiful then I don’t think I'll need to be alternative anymore. But there’s a long way to go before that happens.

About a decade ago, Suicide Girls faced criticism from former members who said the site had strayed from its early feminist leanings. There were also allegations that co-founder Sean Suhl verbally abused girls and that you were a “pro-woman front.” How did you handle that?

I am in the office every single day and I pretty much live, breathe, and eat this site, so to be called a “front” is not only offensive, it’s just another way to knock down a female-run business. I get in trouble for saying that I’m feminist; I get in trouble for not being feminist enough — you’re never going to please everybody and that’s why I think just being true to yourself and your ideals is the only way that you can go about it. I can’t get too caught up in what other people have to say.

Do you just steer clear of the feminist label now?

I had for a really long time, but now I’m kind of more, yeah, fuck it, I’m feminist. Like, I feel like I’m feminist, and I know that the word means so many different things to so many different people. But I feel like one of the strongest feminist ideals is that women are equal and people should be happy with their bodies and with themselves. Our sexuality is such an intrinsic part about being human in general, and about being a woman, that we shouldn’t deny it or feel like it’s dirty or wrong. The more that women are empowered by their bodies and happy with their bodies and themselves, the more productive and equal women will be. You hardly ever see men that are like, ‘But I’m too fat,’ or ‘I have no inner thigh gap.’ That doesn’t happen. The sooner that women just embrace their bodies for what they are and stop worrying about that as much — and just say fuck yeah, I’m beautiful — the happier the world will be. So, yeah, I do feel like I’m feminist, in a nutshell.

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  • COURTESY SUICIDEGIRLS
  • COSPLAY: SuicideGirls' Blackheart Burlesque Tour hits the Masquerade on Thurs., Nov. 13 at 8 p.m.



How much of your day is spent on the creative side now? Do you still spend a lot of time taking photos or no?

I haven’t shot a set in quite awhile — probably a year. There’s so much for me to do these days, between the books and the website and the tour and the movies and managing everything — the merchandise and the office and the 25,000 girls that apply every year. It’s a lot. So as much as I would like to shoot, I haven’t in awhile.

Is this generation of SuicideGirls motivated by the same thing the first generation was motivated by?

The trail has been blazed by the original SuicideGirls, so the new generation has been exposed to it more. It’s not as taboo. There is some statistic that like 96 percent of all people between the age of 18 and 30 have taken a nude photo and sent it to somebody. It’s kind of a different era. I feel like the stigma is not as strong as it once was.

I’m almost surprised that you get 25,000 applicants a year in an era when sexting is the norm.

But on SuicideGirls they’re beautiful photo sets that represent how a girl feels sexiest about herself. And she gets to join our global sorority of badass bombshells and make friends with girls that are like her from around the world. If it’s just sexting or SnapChatting a quick nude to somebody, it’s probably not the type of thing you want kicking about the Internet forever. Whereas a SuicideGirls photo is a declaration that says I’m confident with who I am, I’m confident with myself and my body, this is how I want to project myself to the world.

The idea behind SuicideGirls is that it allows women to take pride in their bodies without feeling objectified but does it matter to you whether male subscribers, who make up 49 percent, share the same progressive outlook?

People definitely appreciate the nude female form in whatever ways they want to and I would be extremely naïve to think that it wasn’t in a sexual way. But I think that these women feel beautiful, so there’s nothing wrong with appreciating them in whatever fashion — as long as they’re respectful. The subscribers on SuicideGirls are far more respectful in their comments than the people on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

And that’s probably helped by the fact that people have to pay $4 a month to join. That weeds out the trolls.

Yeah, definitely. If you’re paying to be a member, it’s something that you value.

Do you all ever have to kick people out for being rude?

Yes we do. And we’re not afraid to. Laughs We’ll give you your $4 a month back, dude.

This interview has been edited and condensed.