Local music’s lovelies unite for charity
DJ Ginger Dunnill found herself on the fast-track from tomboy to temptress. On a normal day, the pretty, petite Dunnill sports baggy hip-hop gear in an attempt to take a pin to the balloon of stereotypes inflated around women in the hip-hop world. She wants respect for her work, her emceeing, her DJing, her artistry—not for her body.
It was surprising, then, that she should be the only lovely in the New Mexico Rocks Pinup Calendar to appear topless (though all the good bits are covered by a record). "I'm the most tomboyish and the shyest one of all the girls [who appear in the calendar]," she laughs. "I don't know how that happened." The Santa Fe DJ tentatively brought some proofs to her mom, warning her that the images were a little risqué. "She's like, 'Thank God! You're wearing lipstick!’"
Funny, too, that Dunnill was propositioned for the calendar just one month after being initiated as the first female member of an Albuquerque hip-hop crew. When the men of Manchromatic saw their colleague's pose—Dunnill in her skivvies and heels holding a record over her chest—“They tripped out at first," she says. "They're like, 'Wow, you're representing on every angle.’”
Dunnill is proud of her picture and her involvement in the project. Embodying music, activism and individualized sexuality, these calendar girls (including our own Laura Marrich) were heavily involved in all aspects of the effort. The proceeds will go to Common Ground, a collective dedicated to providing short- and long-term aid to the people of New Orleans.
Calendar organizer Samara Alpern lived in New Orleans for six years until 2002. In January, she went back to the Big Easy to volunteer with Common Ground. "I was really disturbed at the rate of the aid efforts down there, which were slow, poorly managed, almost nonexistent in some cases." Alpern, though not a musician herself, is a big fan of Albuquerque's music scene and has always wanted to get something off the ground that would promote local music. "I can't really tell you how it turned into the cocktail that it did."
It also turned into what amounted to a full-time job, she says. "It's a huge enterprise, not for afternoons or weekends." The thought of a pinup spread occurred to her in January, and she'll probably be logging long hours of promotion through this December, she estimates. In addition to handling the business end of things, Alpern, a graduate of the art program at Tulane University, also directed the photo shoots and designed the layout of what she calls a feminist art project. "Each woman's personality is a big part of this project. You can't really ogle the woman without recognizing the woman as a person."
It was challenging to attempt such a suggestive endeavor without exploiting the subjects, Alpern adds. "I wanted to build a model where the woman can say, ‘I'm going to do a sexy project and be attractive’ but do it in a way that's not exploiting her." That's why it was so important for the models to come up with their own outfits and concepts and to have the final say over the photos.
Rachel Lujan, guitarist for Romeo Goes to Hell, knew going into the shoot that she wouldn't want to show tons of skin. "Some of the girls were just in their lingerie, and I was like, ‘I don't think so,'" she says. "I think it's just about how comfortable you are in your body." Lujan appears as a secretary, which is what she does for a living. She spent the days leading up to the shoot rummaging through her closet, trying to find the right look. She didn't feel any pressure to show a certain amount of skin, she says, and there wasn’t any cattiness between the women. "It was really great for all the bands. It brought us all a little closer. I feel like we bonded."
All of the participants donated their time, from photographer Emily Nash (who, save for a single nip-slip in one of the girls’ photos, didn’t doctor any of her work in postproduction) to hair and makeup volunteers. The models were responsible for finding sponsors to put money toward the printing of the 2,500 calendars. That was the most difficult part for Dunnill. "Some of us are really humble, so it's hard to be like, ‘Here's a semi-naked picture of me. Give me some money.’” Still, Dunnill's belief that she was part of a locally historic event didn't waver. "This is going to go down in New Mexico history as this generation of women who are really on the forefront of the industry," she says.
So far, the response to the calendar and fundraising effort has been overwhelmingly positive, with Common Ground e-mailing Alpern after news of the calendar appeared in New Orlean’s Times Picayune. Alpern says the pinup calendar could become a staple of New Mexico's music scene. "It would be magnificent if women musicians got together on an annual basis to do this and promote a charity of the women's choice."