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The Enduring Appeal Of 'Alt': How the SuicideGirls Survived the 2000s

mitchell sutherland

"It's almost become as ubiquitous as Kleenex or Xerox. When you say 'Suicide Girl,' you know what type of girl you're talking about."

At JustDance dance studio, three burlesque performers strip off their Sailor Moon skirts. They aren't practicing for Comic Con or gearing up for an anime festival. They are Suicide Girls rehearsing for a burlesque show about to tour America.

Founded a few weeks before September 11 in 2001, Suicide Girls still exists. MySpace, LiveJournal, Kiki Kannibal, and other mid-2000s internet darlings may have lost their luster, but SuicideGirls continues to attract 6.2 million Instagram followers, almost three million more than the first daughter Ivanka Trump.

Oregon-native Missy Suicide founded the site in her apartment in Portland with her friend Sean Suhl, a.k.a. Spooky. She grew up in Beaverton, Oregon near the Nike headquarters and struggled to fit in with the jocks around town. She idolized girls with tattoos, but found that many of them wouldn't classify themselves as beautiful. Feminists also stayed away from discussions about sex and body positivity. Missy and Suhul created SuicideGirls as an online community for the girls they idolized and identified with.

Girls posted nude pin-up photos, highlighting their tattoos, and the site attracted the ire of both feminists and the Bush administration. Feminists questioned if women posting their own nude photos counted as exploitation, and in 2005, Racked reports, the US Department of Justice asked the site to take down pictures that could be considered obscene.

Read more: How 2007 Became a Meme

While other 2007 stars, like Chris Crocker, have faded into obscurity as YouTubers profit off the schtick he developed, SuicideGirls has survived. Today, the site attracts over five million users, according to Racked, and is staffed by ten employees.

In between rehearsals, Missy sat down with Broadly to discuss their new burlesque tour, how she survived the mid-2000s, and why she got the last laugh over the feminists who hated her.

BROADLY: What's the biggest misunderstanding about SuicideGirls?
Missy Suicide: If you ask any girl what their favorite part about being a SuicideGirl is, she's going to say the friendships that she made. Most people think that it's just about nudity and naked pin-up pictures, but it's really about the community and the friendships that they make. And then about me personally in relation to SuicideGirls, people think I can be a little bit harsh, but I'm really sweet and nice and friendly.

How did the burlesque show come about?
The burlesque show came about because we had done a burlesque show a number of years ago, and it was super popular. They opened for Guns N' Roses, but it's a lot of work to put on a burlesque tour, so we decided to take a break, and it just kept extending and extending. Then we decided to put out a book, and we sent two girls out to do a book signing tour. By the time they got to Santa Cruz, there was 500 people outside of a shop. We knew that we could put on a better live show. People want to have the same experience they have on the website in real life where they meet up, and it's really an extension of the community, where the audience itself has such an amazing energy in it. We wanted to do a pop culture themed burlesque tour. The cosplay Comic Con stuff is very popular. We wanted to be able to take the cosplay element and combine it with the sexy spirit of traditional burlesque and put a modern twist on it.

Read the full interview on Broadly.