Twin Cities staple artist Desdamona hits the road next week with her "Too Big for My Skin" campaign, stopping everywhere from Loyola University (where the Gannon Scholars have taken on "Too Big" as their theme for the year), to a prison in Washington State. The campaign centers around a poem of the same name off her album "The Source" in which she addresses body image issues-- topics many women and men struggle with daily. She is armed with messages of self-empowerment, healthy body image and active lifestyles. With a family history of weight struggles, Desdamona has made it a priority to stay active by regularly participating in yoga for the last two years, but most recently donned a more drastic cardio and weight training program. While working with personal trainer Hamish (Pride Fitness Minneapolis) Gimme Noise stopped by Lion's Gym to catch up with her and check the new workout.
Gimme Noise: So, you just returned from France! What did you have going on there?
Desdamona: I was in France for the Sons D'Hiver Festival and I collaborated with Ursus Minor (Stokley Williams (STP), Tony Hymas (ENG), Francois Corneloup (FR), Mike Scott (NJ) and Boots Riley (Oakland). While we were there, we also recorded tracks at Pigalle Studio in Paris for Ursus Minor's upcoming release. This was my second time performing overseas, and my first time in France so it was a great experience. Everyone was so supportive and it's true that the French really appreciate music. I have to admit, I didn't want to come home.
GN: You have been quite busy last year, and already into 2010. What projects stand out to you as accomplishments, and what do you hope to get done this year?
D: Of course, traveling to France and collaborating with such amazing musicians makes the top of the list. It's a dream come true to be able to do what you love and see the world at the same time. The tour I'm about to go on is also a big step for me because it reaches past music. I'll be in Washington State visiting colleges, a prison and also performing at venues in St. Paul, Abeerdeen, Tacoma, Seattle, Everett and Chicago, IL. The tour consists of a screening of the video campaign, "Too Big for My Skin," artist talks, performances and workshops.
GN: What is the "Too Big for My Skin" campaign and what message/s are you bringing with you?
D: The main message is having a healthy self-image no matter who you are. It's amazing how judgmental we can become when someone doesn't fit societal standards. When the video was first posted up someone left a comment saying something like, "So, you're promoting fat people. Yeah that's just what we need." I wanted to tell the person that they totally missed the point of the video. The video is about being who you are, feeling good and valuing your life. It's amazing to me how someone can turn that into something negative. It's also proof of how necessary it is to have positive images of ourselves.
GN: What was the process like writing the poem (and your family story, if you feel comfortable), developing the concept for the video, and then, having it come to life on video?
D: I wrote the poem quite a while ago and in the process, it came quickly. I didn't think about what I wanted to say--Most of the good poems that I write come that way. I could hardly write it down fast enough to keep up with the thoughts. The last quarter of the poem came a few days later. Sometime you just have to let it simmer and turn into what it wants to be. Women in my family have struggled with weight. One of my grandmothers had a gastric bypass type of surgery back in the 80's--(it was called something else at the time). My grandmother is about 5'1 and she was told by a doctor that she needed to lose weight. She did lose the weight but I remember her having to be very careful about what she ate because some foods just didn't agree with her and would make her sick. My sister also had a gastric bypass in 2002 and she too has difficulty eating certain foods.
When I was younger, I was involved in dance, cheerleading, swimming, softball and gymnastics so I never had any problems. The weight has come with age and not being as active. In the video, I wanted to show people in their natural state and have the audience recognize that as beautiful. We get fed a false image through the media and I wanted to show real women. The idea was simple. It was like a photo shoot with still images and then posed moments. We asked the women to give us a "power pose" so they choose for themselves what made them feel good. We also did some interviews that we hope to edit in the near future and add to the video.
GN: The video has had almost 25,000 views. Tell us more about the responses you have been getting from all over the world.
D: I can track the statistics on my YouTube channel and it's been watched on every continent except for Antarctica! I guess penguins feel pretty good about themselves already. The response has been really amazing. We had almost 50 women involved in the making of the video and that's how the word spread initially. People started posting it on their blogs and websites and putting up links from their Facebook pages and Twitter. I've gotten emails about it and the Gannon Scholars at Loyola University in Chicago have taken on the title of the poem as their theme for the year. They've even printed up t-shirts. I'll be going to Loyola as my last stop on this first installment of the tour and I plan on continuing to take the video across the U.S.