In the underworld of prohibitionist Harlem, there was one queen who ruled the roost – Stephanie ‘Queenie’ St Clair. The Caribbean racketeer was not only a boss entrepreneur of the illegal numbers game, she was also a leader and activist, funnelling her vast riches back into the community. Unlike others on the scene, she ruled by reputation alone, and was known for her elegant style and give-no-fucks attitude. But then, as prohibition came to an end, the mob started seeking out new lucrative enterprises and showed up on her turf. Queenie soon found herself in the midst of a gang-land showdown with the infamous mobster Dutch Schultz! So join us down at the speakeasy as we knock one back in our final episode of 2019 with Queenie St Clair!
By the end of the 1920s, the U.S. was rocked by financial and ecological disasters that saw it spiral into the Great Depression. At the same time, the advent of sound film was ushering in the golden age of American animation, and with it, one of history’s most iconic film makers: Walt Disney. While Disney would become a household name, at the heart of his finest work were countless unsung artists and animators; one of the most legendary among them was Mary Blair. With a background in watercolour and fine arts, Blair’s use of bold colours and shapes would go on to cement her reputation as one of the most influential artists in the Disney story. But she would leave more than just her legacy at Disney, devoting her working life to creating the kind of art that dreams are made of. So gather your woodland animal friends about you as we take a break from our last few darker episodes and go goofy (sorry) for the art and flair of Mary Blair.
In 1632 in a small, haunted Ursuline convent, a series of strange disturbance began to occur. When the Prioress, 25-year-old Sister Jeanne, was beset by terrifying dreams of a priest who cursed her and bade her to perform obscene sexual acts, she knew who was to blame. She had been possessed, she claimed, by demons under the direction of one Urbaine Grandier, the powerful parish priest of Loudun. As more and more of the nuns came under the influence of devils, it was determined that elaborate exorcisms were in order, and investigations into Grandier’s maleficent magic began. While Sister Jeanne maintained that she was the innocent victim of possession, others soon suggested her potential involvement with a conspiracy to bring Grandier down. So, was Jeanne indeed a victim of maleficent witchcraft, or is the power of hysteria to blame for her actions? Perhaps, though, she was far more calculating than this! Get out your rosary beads and holy water and join us in this week’s Halloween episode to find out more about Sister Jeanne des Anges and the infamous possessions at Loudun!
It’s finally time, Deviants! This fortnight, we journeyed way, way back to visit the figure who started it all, the original Deviant Woman – the witch, the slayer, the mean mother you don’t want to cross – Medea! From her mythological beginnings as Jason’s right-hand-woman to her titular role at the centre of Euripides’ famous drama, Medea remains one of Greek mythology’s most infamous and intriguing figures. After supporting Jason through his conquests with the Argonauts (and saving his life on multiple occasions!) Medea was betrayed in the most awful way, and her method of revenge is one that has seen her labelled a madwoman, a fiend, and a wicked and monstrous mother. But is it really that simple?
We’re joined by Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby’s fabulous host Liv to dive into all things monsters, betrayal, rage and revenge. So grab your poisons, your favourite coronet and climb aboard your dragon chariot, and join us as we break down one of our all time favourite Deviant Women, Medea!
Known in her lifetime by many names, Malintzin would be recorded in history as the infamous La Malinche. Born into nobility and sold into slavery, from a young age Malintzin possessed a gift for language and diplomacy. In 1519, she was given to Hernán Cortés, the leader of the Spanish invading forces. When her translation skills were discovered, Cortés used her as his interpreter and, eventually, took her as his lover. Positioned as a vital go-between for the Spanish and indigenous peoples, her role is now seen as the decisive factor in the success of the Spanish mission in the “New World”. Often cast as either the victim of the Spanish invaders or Cortés’s duplicitous ‘whore’, she has only recently started to be understood in the light of her historical reality. Journey with us to the temples of Tenochtitlan to witness an epic clash of civilisations, and discover La Malinche: scheming betrayer of her people to some, symbolic mother of the Mestizo race to others.
In the dark and seedy cabarets of Weimar Berlin, where sex was a performance and decadence was king, one woman ruled the room. Born to artist parents at the turn of the century, Anita Berber was destined for a life on the stage. Famed for her kohl-rimmed eyes, her bright red hair, and her provocative burlesque, Berber became an underground sensation. But she was just as infamous for her scandalous bisexual affairs and hotel orgies as her avante-garde performances, and with dances named ‘Cocaine’, ‘Morphine’, and ‘Asylum’, you know she partied as hard as she danced! So join us in the end-of-the-world liberalism of Weimar Germany as we trace this Expressionist queen to the stage and beyond!
During the turbulent years of World War II the pool halls and billiard rooms of the U.S. were quiet: the men who had once dominated them had gone off to fight. But after the war a new buzz brought audiences flooding back to professional billiards, and an unexpected star was on the rise. Known as the ‘First Lady of Billiards’, Masako Katsura hailed from Japan, where she had already established herself as a national champion. But after meeting and marrying an American serviceman, Katsura found herself in the U.S., where a resurgence in the sport meant she stood to become the world’s first female billiards champion. So come on and chalk your cue (that’s not a euphemism…) as we delve into the world of a woman whose ball skills (also not a euphemism…) helped to pave the way for a league of sportswomen in the 20th century.
When Wendy Carlos released Switched On Bach, the first classical album recorded on a synthesizer, she radically transformed people’s understandings of what electronic music could do. At the time of the album’s release, Wendy was also six-months into hormone therapy and struggling with her rising fame and anxieties about how the public might react to her transition. But Switched On Bach was a huge success and Wendy went on not only to critical acclaim, but to work with famed composers and film directors, including scoring Stanley Kubrik’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. Join Lauren and our special guest host, Deviant Women’s own composer India Hooi, as we discover how Wendy Carlos changed music forever!
Carolyn Layton had an idyllic childhood. Daughter of a socially progressive Methodist minister father and peace activist mother, she grew up believing passionately in social justice and racial equality. After marrying Larry Layton, a conscientious objector, the two began a new life together, a life founded on their shared principles of equality, freedom and social progress. Then they found an incredible new church, that seemed to share and espouse the values they held most dear: The People’s Temple. As Carolyn became progressively more involved with the organisation and its charismatic leader, Jim Jones, she started to change, and it wasn’t for the better.
Join us as we chat to Laura Elizabeth Woollett, author of Beautiful Revolutionary, about how Carolyn became implicated in the greatest loss of American life until September 11 and the complexities of how we remember the mistress of Jim Jones.
After fleeing her arms-dealing husband and his castle in the Austrian countryside, Hedy Lamarr made her way to Hollywood and the open arms of MGM Studios. She was going to be a star! The only problem: she’d gained a risque reputation for herself in the Czech film Ecstacy. This temptress image is one that would follow Hedy for much of her career, despite the fact that not only was she an extraordinary talent, she was also an extraordinary mind. Because little did most of Hollywood know, Hedy spent her evenings working on an invention that would go on to change the world forever! Join us as we journey through wartime Vienna to the MGMs studio lots, and watch the thrilling and devastating downfall of the bombshell, Hedy Lamarr.
As colonial powers muscled in on 18th century India, one woman rose from obscurity to become the leader of a powerful and formidable mercenary army. From the life of a dancing girl to life on the battlefields, the Begum Samru was feared and respected not just by her troops, but also by those who held the highest power. But she loved just as boldly as she fought, and her heart led her to desperate measures of Shakespearean proportions. Follow us into the wild and vibrant streets of the Mughal Empire as we trace the legendary life of the Begum Samru.
Marsha P Johnson was a legend of Christopher Street, a revolutionary trans and LGBTQ+ activist, and a leading figure of Stonewall. Famed for her extravagant floral headdresses, her bright red plastic heels, and her generous spirit, Marsha made a name for herself not just as a drag queen, but as a mother to the queer street and trans youth who needed her. Together with her best friend, fellow trans activist Sylvia Rivera, she created STAR, the Street Transvestite (now Transgender) Action Revolutionaries, and advocated for the rights of the most marginalised of her community. Join us on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots as we celebrate the life of one of Pride’s most important figures.