Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I have become completely obsessed with some of the super-extreme female pop-culture personalities I have discovered lately. From a Real Atlanta Housewife to a real Staten Island mob-wife to a beyond outrageous rapper, these gutsy women, combined with their over-the-top visual styles, have taken things to a whole new level of originality and insanity. They are fearless alpha women without boundaries, which is why I absolutely adore them. I mean, they go there. And often with so little pretense it seems like they don't even realize it! These unique female specimens are fearless originals.
I recently laughed till my sides split as I tuned in to see my favorite Real Housewives of Atlanta star, the sublime Ms. Phaedra Parks, catch up via speed dial with the vice president of Ghana (Hello your excellency! Great to hear your people are doing well). Then we watch as she bats her eyelashes to convince her hot, super-sweet ex-con husband, Apollo, to partner with her in a new business effort: a high-end crazy funeral business called "Fantasy Funerals by Phaedra," which she sees as a lucrative offshoot of her current legal profession. Although her unhappy husband Apollo refuses to touch dead bodies, he finally agrees to join the venture because he loves his wife and wants to support her "dreams" -- plus, he admits he would be probably be good at "comforting people."
Meanwhile, Phaedra is doing more than just starting a funeral parlor. She's raising a cute baby and toiling away at her high-powered day job running her namesake entertainment law firm where she has become known for keeping many bold-faced Hotlanta troublemakers out of the pokey. We even see her getting compensated by one of her hip-hop clients in a courthouse parking lot (after she successfully keeps him out of prison) with a fat wad of cash. And to top it all off, she is organizing a trip with the housewives to Africa!
Outrageous women at play: Big Ang (at left) out and about in Los Angeles and Cindy Sherman transformed into party girls.
Next, there is the divine and shockingly over-the-top Big Ang from VH1's Mob Wives. Yes, I have been addicted to this show since it premiered last year, but when I caught a glimpse of the larger than life new cast member Angela Raiola, (aka Big Ang) I lost my mind. Talk about shock and awe. The niece of the late captain of the Genovese crime family, 51-year-old Ang, a single mother (and now grandmother!), is the grand poobah of a popular Staten Island bar called the Drunken Monkey, where she is beloved and holds court nightly. She reveals her addiction to plastic surgery on camera -- which is not exactly a surprise, given that her breasts are larger than any Russ Meyer's pin-up and her lips inflated beyond those of Amanda Lepore.
I first fell for Ang when I saw her fry up a pan of big sausages, which she drowned with her signature "gravy," (she told me on the phone the other day that she is an excellent cook and famous for this dish) and recounted, in her gravely a-pack-of-cigarettes-a-day-for-30-years voice, how hot wise guys were (and still are) and how they showered her (and still do) with so many luxuries and homes over the years. But that body, those boobs, that voice and that undying love of sausages aren't the only reasons I am obsessed with Big Ang. I'm hooked because despite her crazy enhanced looks and dubious provenance, she seems to be a truly sweet person who is adored and respected by all the "elder" mob stateswomen -- even the other wives who seemingly despise each other. All Ang wants is for everyone to just get along and she tries her best to be the benevolent peacemaker, which is no easy task in her world. She is amazing.
Then there is the queen of outrageousness, her highness, Ms. Nicki Minaj. Although she was a handful to shoot for our cover, she's been blowing my mind since I first set my eyes on her mad, extreme style that has consistently swung between outrageous and clowny. Her candy-colored sculptural wigs, curvy Barbie-inspired silhouettes plastered with Day-Glo colors and out-there accessories have become legendary among fashion folk. Last year when she sat in the front row at the Carolina Herrera show, confidently dressed like an insane fashion alien chatting politely with an unflappable Anna Wintour (who was seated next to her), I got to thinking, "How does Nicki think she fits into the world around her? Does she think she is normal?" (I tried to figure it all out in my fashion story on the following pages.)
It's ironic to me that one of my favorite artists of all time, Cindy Sherman, was honored with a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art recently. You might be thinking, "What does Cindy Sherman have to do with all of this?" But throughout her superb career, Sherman's cinematic images have tapped into the extreme angst and raw, insane emotion emanating from extreme women of all types, whether they're housewives, royalty, socialites or clowns. Using her own body to channel these enigmatic characters, Sherman has constantly moved me with her portrayals of women who are often so exaggerated they almost (innocently) appear like glamorous monsters. It is not a stretch to imagine Sherman becoming Phaedra the hip-hop legal eagle, the silicone-enlarged Big Ang or the cartoon-Barbie clown Nicki in one of her works. Women like these have inspired Cindy for years -- and they inspire me as well.
And so it is in their honor that I dedicate my spring fashion pages to all of those wonderful and magnificently eccentric women who turn the world upside down with their tough-as-nails talk, magnified personalities and untouchable style. Not only are their balls bigger than most men's, but they can grab you by them with a simple flutter of one of their big false eyelashes!