INTERVIEW BY AMY KELLNER
You know that gay people recruit, right? Yeah, well, they do, and Girls Like Us Lesbian Quarterly is the perfect brochure for luring cool young women over to the dark side. It is a way classy magazine full of interviews with iconic lesbians and photos of hot, weird girls, and it’s read by smart, artsy types who think that the L in L Word stands for LAME.
Jessica Gysel began making GLU with graphic designer Kathrin Hero in 2005. It’s published by Sophie Mörner, the publisher of Capricious, which is a really pretty photography magazine. These girls are all Dutch. Why are Dutch lesbians all so cool? Oh wait, Sophie is Swedish. Swedish lesbians are also cool! Let’s just say all foreign lesbians are cool and can kick our asses. OK? OK.
We called lesbian Jessica on her lesbian phone in lesbian Amsterdam to ask her some questions about GLU and she ended up recruiting us! We are totally lesbians now too. Thanks, Jessica! See you at the next lesbian party!
Jessica Gysel: I’m so happy it’s not me doing the interview for once.
Vice: Oh yes, the tables have turned, lesbian. Will you describe your magazine for us? It’s a “lesbian quarterly,” correct?
That’s a bit of a lie, actually. I just like the word quarterly so we pretend we come out four times a year. It’s really three times. We don’t make money off the magazine. It’s something we do as a project of love, so it’s not possible for us to make it so often. Maybe in the long run, if we get more structured advertising coming in.
You have another job? A day job? A “real” job?
Yes, I have to. For the last ten years, I’ve had my own marketing and communications agency. We advise on trends and hook up brands with, like, cool… what do you call them in America? “Opinion leaders”? We do lots of stuff with Absolut and K-Swiss. That’s where I make my money.
I think we call them “early adopters” and “trend hunters” and we want to line them all up against a wall and shoot them. But you’re OK since you’re a Swedish lesbian and also since doing GLU redeems you. But listen, how did GLU start? At first you were doing another magazine called Kutt, right?
The guys who make Butt magazine, Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom, are good friends of mine. Soon after they started Butt, we were having dinner one night and they said, as a joke, that we should do a female version of Butt and call it Kutt because kut means “cunt” in Dutch. It was fun for a while, but it was never that serious. In the end it didn’t feel right. People would compare us to Butt too much, and the guys wanted the aesthetic to be the same as Butt. They wanted me to make a heavy butch dyke leather kind of magazine.
Yeah, Butt has a real specific sleazy/arty macho sex thing going on.
And when Butt started, the male gay media was so mainstream, it was easy for them to take this niche and make it their own. But for lesbians it’s totally different. I thought lesbians should be more glamorized, because we are already in a corner. I mean, Kutt was nice, but GLU is a bit more mature. We’ve thought it out more.
It makes sense that you wanted to do your own thing. So how do you pick what goes in the magazine now? What’re the criteria?
I just want a good mix of old, young, famous, not famous, mainstream people—someone like Leisha Hailey, for instance—and more unknowns. Fashion, music, writers, artists. I want it to be quite diverse.
Is it always women?
Yes. We never have men.
Never, ever, ever men?
No. But in the next issue we have a guy who did an interview. And we have had photos by men, like Richard Kern and Wolfgang Tillmans.
Oh, so you’ve had men take photos and write, but the subjects are always women.
Yeah. In a way I think that men often grasp what should be lesbian identity. Maybe because they’re more objective. Maybe because they don’t have this kind of weird... I have to be careful what I say or I’ll sound like a lesbian hater! But you know what I mean.
Sure, lesbians can get all sensitive about “identity” and all that boring college theory stuff and you don’t wanna be stuck to that.
Yeah, I want more openness. Like, we had one cover by Richard Kern, and I got all these emails from girls who were like, “I can’t believe you work with him! I know ten lesbian photographers who could do the same job.” And I said, “OK, let me see this, because I don’t think so!”
Yeah, I can see why some lesbians might not love Richard Kern. And then I could see them having a big parade about it. Who are some of your favorite lesbian artists right now?
Well, it’s hard to say because so many of them are not out! Like [famous female artist whose name we can’t say], she used to be straight but is now dating a girl friend of mine. But she’ll probably never admit it so I could never interview her in GLU. And I have another friend who is dating [somewhat famous musician whom we also, sadly, can’t name but we know who it is and it’s a doozy] and it’s the same story.
Wow, that’s good gossip! Well, girls (like us, har har har) tend to flip-flop so maybe it’s harder to define a lesbian scene.
I also think the scene is not that sexy, so people don’t want to be associated with it. I’m probably going to get killed now.
I hear you, sister.
And it’s hard to find advertisers aside from American Apparel, who have been supporting us from the beginning. Lately I’ve been talking to Nike and to all these brands and they all say, “Lesbians don’t sell.” Especially not our kind of lesbians because we’re not lipstick L Word lesbians.
Well, you could turn it around and make it into something cool, like lesbians are the real outcasts, the real punks, and everyone else are just big sellouts!
It’s kind of true! A lot of fashion starts with lesbians but we never get any credit. Wife-beaters, skinny jeans—a lot of that originated in specific lesbian scenes.
What’s the most popular feature you’ve ever done?
We had a series of photos of handbags that look like pussies. That’s the one people always talk about, and then the photographer sold the series to Italian Rolling Stone.
Who is your dream interview?
I would have loved to interview Susan Sontag before she died. Recently, I’ve been trying to get in touch with Fran Lebowitz. It’s hard because she doesn’t have email. I’ve been going through a friend of a friend of a friend. Maybe also Jil Sander, the fashion designer, but she’s not out. It’s like, either they’re not out or if they are, they’ve been interviewed a million times already. Like K.D. Lang or something—it’s too obvious. It’s hard to find exciting new people to interview.
So you have all these big lesbo icons, but what are the new, young dykes doing?
Well, there are lots of great new bands, like Telepathe, No Bra, Lissy Trullie, and all these booty bands from Brooklyn like Michelle, Durty Nanas, and Yo Majesty. Kim Ann Foxman has a new band called Hercules and Love Affair on DFA records. I love it, it’s very classical New York house music. And there’s the whole scene around CocoRosie and their VoodooEros label.
Ew, CocoRosie is gay?
Bianca is. As for writers, we just had the cartoonist Ariel Schrag interview this writer Melissa Plaut. Melissa was one of the few female cabbies in New York and she kept a blog about it called New York Hack that just got made into a book.
Oh yeah, I know her! We used to hang out at the Hole sometimes.
Yeah, she’s gonna be in the next issue. We also have an interview with Maria Beatty, an old New York S/M-style filmmaker from the 80s. She has great stories. For me it’s important to tell a bit about lesbian history because nobody knows about it. I’m always trying to dig up more stuff.
What about new lesbian artists?
There’s a new group of artists in Stockholm and they are really queer. That’s the thing, the younger generation are more into defining themselves as queer than as lesbians. And they date boys, girls, whatever—they don’t care. I like interviewing older women best because they have more stories to tell and a bigger body of work to talk about. The younger ones, we use them in the shoots. They should just shut up and look beautiful.
No, no, that was a joke.
What’s your favorite interview you ever did?
Edwige Belmore. She was a Parisian model, a famous It Girl in the late 70s and 80s. She dated Sade and Grace Jones.
Man, I love how you know about all the secret lesbians!
Oh, there’s so much more lesbian gossip that I’m not allowed to tell. It sucks. I’ll have to save it all for my memoirs.
For more see glumagazine.com.
INTERVIEW BY AMY KELLNER