23 March 2011

Interview - "When the Veil Drops", by Samara

A few weeks ago, I attended a writer's conference that specifically dealt with memoir writing. At that conference, I met a great many authors who had a story to tell. None of them, however was as unique or so profound as the lady who sat next to me on the front row. Samara is an Egyptian born woman, who grew up in the ancient city of Cairo. That in and of itself is a unique story. She could have probably had a best-seller talking about life as an Arabic woman who came to the U.S. What makes Samara's story so unique is her choice to focus solely on her sexual liberation by discussing the dichotomy of her life as it relates to Sex in Egypt and Sex in America. I can assure you that you will not agree ALL of her life philosophies, but you will find it an interesting read, nonetheless. My mouth was agape for much of the time I spent reading it. Get her book, "When the Veil Drops", from Amazon and enter the world of a woman with ideas that will leave some wanting more and others thinking new possibilities.

"When the Veil Drops", by Samara

1. Hello Samara. Let's start by introducing yourself. Tell me a little bit about your background and what brought you to America.

I am 37 years old single woman and free lance writer. I was born in Egypt. I was a virgin at the age of 23. I came to the US after I married an American soldier. It was lust mistaken to be a love story since I had no experiences.

2. Did you come from a wealthy family in Cairo? Would you say you had a comfortable life there?

I came from an upper class family in Egypt and I had a very comfortable life if by materialistic comfort.

3. I don't want to deviate too much into political affairs, but would you say your family in Cairo is happy that Hosni Mubarak is no longer in power? 

My family members hold different opinions about Mubarak leaving power, but mostly they are cautious and awaiting the replacement to formulate an opinion.

4. So what is this book about and what prompted you to write it?

“When the veil drops” is my sexual memoir. I have always kept a journal. I was asked by a close female friend to put it in print.

5. Of all the cultural differences between the United States and Egypt that you could talk about, why do you choose to write about sex? I mean, why not a woman's right to better education, equal pay, or representation in politics? 

I actually believe that the right to sexual freedom is the one women’s right that is one of the most neglected and ignored.

6. You open your first chapter, "Sharmoota", meaning whore, detailing how a doctor basically took you as you were being seen for an actual medical condition. Even though you do give in and ended up seeing him several times thereafter, don't you have to admit that's not a very professional thing for a doctor to do and doesn't that verge on sexual assault?

I understand that it can be viewed as sexual assault. It was not for me. It was an act of craziness in the heat of the moment. The doctor asserted himself as a man and I loved it. For me he initiated, I had the right to not give in. He did not force me.

7. Pick the chapter in your book that has the most meaning for you. Give me the chapter title and then summarize for me the details of it.

It is hard to choose a chapter that has the most meaning. I believe the sum of my experience made me who I am. Each relationship was meaningful to me.

8. Okay then, which chapter was the hardest for you to write about? And tell me what made it difficult to recount that particular incident.

Jack M.D was the hardest to write. It is the longest relationship which lasted longer than my marriage. I was trapped in it for over six years. Writing about it help setting me free.

9. At the end of your book, you recite poetry in Arabic and then give the English translation. Would you mind talking about the last poem, I believed entitled, "The Straight Rod"?

My poems are my very personal expression free of any form and rules. It is me and how I feel.

"The Straight Rod
I seek protection from my doomed devil
From a merciful God
I don't want my sins to be forgiven
I know my words disgust you 
Yes, I wear the veil
My face has repented
My body resists, refuses 
and likes torture
I seek protection of my doomed devil 
From a merciful God
I don't want my sins to be forgiven
I walk on a straight path to hell
and I don't feel alive
Unless I am on a straight rod"

- Samara

10. I have to admit, some of your philosophies, opinions, and concepts on sexual relationships are probably the most incendiary I have ever heard. I spent the majority of the time reading with my mouth agape. Mainly because I would have never expected to hear all this coming from a woman of Arabic descent. Do you write more for the shock value or is every word a legitimate sentiment from the heart? How did your feelings begin to develop into this new line of thought?

Every word I wrote represents how I feel and think. The shock is a byproduct of my opinion and not intended goal. I was called a Human resources nightmare before. I would not call it a new line of thought. I grew believing in polygamy. Now I extended the male right to multiple partner because society does not allow polygamy. Writing about your life help you discover yourself and your line of continuity.
11. Explain why you believe that a man who doesn't cheat when afforded the opportunity is not a man worth keeping.

I believe that a man has to be honest first to himself. Honest means true to his nature. You can’t be faithful to others while betraying yourself and denying your true nature.
I believe that men can have sex without emotional attachments. Women can’t. If a woman cheats then she does not love her partner and a man should walk away. If a man has another sexual partner then go back to his wife or girlfriend that strengthens their emotional bond.

If a man does not cheat because he does not want to hurt his partner, he is under a woman’s control.

If a man does not cheat because he thinks that he cannot enjoy other women then he is a lost cause already.

The only exception is the military or politician if a man does not cheat fearing to lose his job. I can understand and respect that because keeping his career is at least a male reason. For example, my partner was a soldier who deployed. Of course, I asked him to have safe sex with locals. I also asked him to call me and I got to hear him. It was very arousing to me and I enjoyed it. It felt like I got to join. It is more flattering to me to know that I have a man who is desired by others and can please others.

12. There is a dedication in this book to your Mother, whom you acknowledge isn't thrilled about your lifestyle. You mention that she fasts and prays on your behalf. Are you still friends with your mother? Has any other friendships/relationships been altered now that this book is out?
I am very close to my mother. She found a way to accept me and love me even if she disapproves of me. I have lost few friends over my book. They acted all puritan and refused to stay my friends. I knew their sexual stories and the number of their partners which was way more than my humble list. Yet, I became the whore to them.

13. There are some commentary in your book that is not to flattering to people of Islamic faith. In fact, some of your points go against Muslims in general. What makes you so willing to be outspoken on these matters? Do you have any fear of reprisal?

I am a moderate Muslims. Some Muslims may disapprove of me but Islam teachings ask us not to judge each other and leave judgment for God. I have always been outspoken. I have to be true to myself first and my true nature. I believe Muslims who will be mad at my writings have bigger issues to worry about than my book. There are few mosques who asked American Muslim to ban the book and not to buy it. So far, they won and the book did not sell. If the book sells it might prompt them to take other measures against myself or the book.

14. Who is this book for? Who, do you believe, will best benefit from your book?

Initially, I wrote my book ," When the veil drops" for women, however it had more male than females readers. The purpose was to entertain and give a light hearted reading to women who could be my girlfriends.

15. Do you think young women coming of age should read this book and learn about or experience what you have found out about sex? Will you try to educate young Arabic women about sex as you see it...maybe in seminars, workshops, or a school? 

If given the chance, I am willing to talk about my book and discuss with women in seminars and workshop maybe not in schools.

16. What's next for you? Will there be a part two?

I am working on writing a book about my childhood in Egypt. I am also working on a second edition of "when the veil drops" coming in June.

Greg, Samara says hi.

19 March 2011

Part II - Interview with Model, Selena Bree

Continuing on from the previous post, I talk to Selena Bree about her challenges as a model. Most of these photos are some of her newest work that she chose to debut here for the benefit of Photo Anthems Blog readers. None of her images were photographed by me, but rather by the attributed photographer.

Model, Selena Bree, by Agency O

9. As a mature model, is there ever an issue with confidence because of your age?

You know I honestly sometimes wonder if I should have lied about my age. I get cut a lot just based on it. I had one model contact and confess to me that she was a year older than me but says she is 48 because she looks 48 but 58 is what she is...so how do you make change and trail-blaze if you don’t state your age? Geez...if I was going to lie I would say I was ten years older...than the compliments would really start coming in...

Model Selena Bree, by Personal Images
I do lack confidence often because of my age but I bet you everyone I have worked with didn’t know it I always worry. I think if you care about what you do and want to do a good job that entails a bit of anxiety. I just don’t allow it to stop me from doing it I try and do my best, think of it often times along the lines of an acting job too...after all I am creating a character at the time anyway, aren’t I? And is there really a shame in being photo-shopped for brown spots or wrinkles any more than acne, dark circles from allergies or other so called imperfections? I allow the photographer to do what he or she wants...I have been stretched to 6 feet tall, or had very little changes made, and was given a small waist and bigger breasts....I must admit I do love it when they fade out my turkey neck

10. What would you say are your most challenging issues or concerns as a model in general?

A big concern for me right now is how to get work where I break even. Costs have gone up everywhere. Sadly whenever economics suffer the arts are the first thing that gets cut. I can feel the fun going out of it already if I am forced to lie or deceive to do what I think is right. I am thinking of divorce or separation or should I give up this quest completely?

I don’t live in a big city where I would have access to more photographers within a smaller radius. So the biggest challenge will be bumping myself up to the next level for travel and expenses. Getting more established photographers to see where they might use me.

And of course there is that challenge of finding my niche. I was criticized highly when I was younger as a dancer for being so “large” even when I weighed 108lbs. When I left dance for 4 ½ years I went into bodybuilding which suited my body.

And I am feeling like I need to kick myself in the butt and try a little harder at nutrition, stretch a bit more, get back into dance which provides me with more stamina. Give up some of my nightly wine. The biggest aging factors for the skin are sun, cigarettes and alcohol.

Model Selena Bree by Richard Evans Photography
11. What criticisms have your received in your endeavors? How well do you take that?

Funny the only criticism I have been given is from my own husband. He did not like the pictures I initially did. He said it was pornography. Though he enjoys showing me off on the dance floor I often feel like the “trick dog” because this is the only activity we do together.

Model Selena Bree by Richard Evans Photography
12. How have you changed since you first began to be photographed?

 Since I started modeling again I felt like I was really blossoming once more. I felt like my life has purpose, a direction, and the possibility of making societal change. I have been spending many enjoyable hours at the computer. Thinking up and arranging new outfits. Making new friends. Loving when a collaboration works and the modeling shoots ends up with a hug, a thank you, a new friend, and another connection with another artist (photographer). I haven’t even been doing art. This has been fulfilling my artistic desires. I felt successful for the short period of time I have invested. None of the younger girls in my area have gotten a Showcase Image of the Day, Photo of the Week, book offers, nor been in a calendar.

13. What do you think mature models offer that is unique to a photographer? How about to the art world in general?
Model Selena Bree by GDB Photo
A mature model radiates her life experience. There is knowledge in her eyes. A full commitment to knowing exactly who and what she is about. She has survived decades and has lived life with it’s ups and it’s tragedies. There is a full, whole, and developed individual knowing what they want to do and are willing to do it even though they are doing some ground breaking. These are women that refuse to fold and stand up for what they believe in. Pioneers. Trail blazers or as one of the mature models so aptly said “we are on the move!”

As far as the art world goes...they are learning to love and appreciate us. We still have beauty to off it is just a “different” type of beauty.

Model Selena Bree by GDB Photo

14. What is the next level or the next step for you?

I would like to be in more and more published materials. I see that as a way to make my mark that establishes something that will stay long after I am gone.

15. Do you have any particular wish list projects that you want to do?

My secret wish list? I guess I have been bluntly honest about everything else so here goes:

I wish Playboy would do a special on 1953 models and include me! I was born the year Hef published. The whole world began to change from that beginning. Especially liberating woman. I would love to see a reflection of that with a tasteful pictorial.

Model Selena Bree by Richard Evans Photography
I wish The Petite Alternative found me acceptable. They are on such a great path re-defining beauty with tattooed and pierced women. But adding mature and muscular too “alternative”?

I wish Palmer’s or Obagi would use me in their ads. It is a rare day that I don’t use both products twice a day. I have fairly good skin but I feel both have done wonders in improving my complexion and my skin.

I definitely hope to be in A. C. Gellert’s next book!

Is there not a clothes designer out there that needs some mature petite run way models? I really move well with all my years of dance training.

I would like more photographers to step up to the plate and add more variety to their portfolios. I bet there are plenty of “projects” or “visions” where only a mature model would work. (And please pay for me to get there)! :-)

A documentary or short media story would be nice about this crazy eccentric woman starting modeling when she was close to 57 years old.

Model Selena Bree by Richard Evans Photography
16. What advice would you give to another young lady wishing to do what you are doing?

I would tell every young lady to go for it! I regret few things in my life but one I do regret is having not taken that offer to model shoes the day I turned 18. I lacked confidence. My violent alcoholic father had told me I was ugly, stupid and no good because I was a female my whole life. When I took modeling class the teacher didn’t need to do anything make-up wise to change the way I was. Here I thought I was plain and had spent my high school years getting ready for school and then not looking in a mirror all day because I was ugly only to find out I had a good face and was extremely photogenic. But it took me til I was 25 years old to accept I wasn’t ugly any more. I don’t know that I still don’t need and enjoy some of that re-enforcement I get today from modeling. Our self-esteem is established by what we tell ourselves AND what we hear from others.

I would tell them to feed their heart’s desire. Don’t care if you make money or not. I gave up a lot in my life because of my love for dance and never regretted it for a second. Don’t allow any one else to tell you have failed if you aren’t a Vogue model. You have succeeded in your life if you do what you love to do!

Model, Selena Bree, by Agency O

This has been an interesting interview and I wish to thank Selena for volunteering her time and her honest contribution. I hope you've also enjoyed listening to her. Be sure to check out more of her work by clicking on the hyperlinks on her name. You see her wish list, so if you can help, advise, or if you're in the area with time and a camera, give a girl a holla! Thanks again, Selena! Hope to be seeing you soon.

Coming up next is another interview. Author, Samara talks to me about her new book about growing up in Cairo as a young Arabic woman and her new found sexual freedom in America. 

16 March 2011

Interview - Selena Bree on Being a Mature Model Part I

I came across Selena Bree by happen chance as I perused Model Mayhem. I don't recall what got my attention, maybe it was her tattoo, but as I opened her profile I noticed that she had gotten started in modeling late in her life. The age she submits sort of glares at you a bit. In my mind, there's got to be a story behind it, so I continued to read her profile information. I liked her attitude. There's sort of a vivaciousness to it. After looking though her images, I put her on my list of people I'd like to work with. Then it struck me to contact her and get more of her story. I greatly admire the mature models, who choose to aid in the creation of art. There's a character there that lends itself to art in a way that is quite refreshing and inspiring. I asked if she'd be willing to be interviewed for your pleasure in the blogisphere. None of the images were taken by myself, but rather by the accredited photographer.

Model, Selena Bree, by Blue Eyes Photography

1.Let's start with an introduction. Introduce yourself to the Photo Anthems blog readers. 

I go by the name Selena Bree and am on four modeling sites: OMP #445442MM# 1787005, Model Brigade # 126942 and Model Insider. I had used this name years ago when dancing in small post-modern dance companies or doing theater in the Southern California area and decided to go back to it when I joined Shadows on the Sand belly dance group. I turned 57 Sept. 22nd. I spent 30 years in California and moved here [Arkansas] 17 years ago. Living in the Bible Belt is a real culture shock and I still don’t quite get it but love the pristine beauty and being able to ride my horse topless in the woods along with my big dogs having a great time. I live on 40 acres on a dead end dirt road 30 yards from my mom’s house so we both needed a change and wanted to go where there was clean air, water, less stress and a lower cost of living.

2. Specifically, how exactly did you get started in this thing and how long have you been doing this? 

The photographer who took pictures of our belly dance company really loved my body (and particularly my arms) and wanted to do a nude shoot.  Years ago I had done nude artistic work with several photographers in the Southern California area and was in their gallery showings and portfolios.  I used to be much more muscular and the balance of body building with dance made for a great look. I had taken modeling at age 17 and was offered a job to model shoes but my parents nixed the idea and I perused dance and a nursing career instead.  I officially started July 29th 2010 on OMP but didn’t get going for awhile

Model Selena Bree, by Personal Images
3. What are your feelings on nudes or nudity in general? Is it reflective of your lifestyle?

 I adore nudity and am a true nudist. I feel one of the worst things I remember as a child was the day I was told I had to start wearing a shirt and I loved the feel of the sun and wind on my chest and back while riding my bike.  I often go naked around my house and property and nude sunbathe on a trampoline in my yard.  I ride topless horseback through the woods every chance I get when it is warm.  I spent six months every weekend at Glen Eden Nudist Resort. Being in the natural self in nature is truly healing. 

4. What kind of impact does this lifestyle have on your family?

I am suddenly in a real quandary this week because my husband doesn’t want me to do nudes and I feel strongly that women my age should be seen and I feel with my dance and art modeling background, theater, etc. that I bring something special to a shoot.  I have been so happy with the modeling and think the human body is one of the most interesting and beautiful items on the planet.  All woman are special and beautiful!  I hope to encourage photographers to continue to come to my studio.  I never stopped being who I am for a relationship and am far too old to do it now.

Model Selena Bree, by Cajunpix2

5.  On your Model Mayhem profile, you state that you are on a "personal mission to make sociological changes in the perception of  beauty by being a mature model willing to be out there giving it up for the camera". Please elaborate. 

I am getting the impression that it is not that people don’t want or find woman my age unattractive.  Our media places too much emphasis on the same stereo-typical youthful, with breast implants and skinny ideal of what beauty is.  Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, ages, and conditions.  Plus us baby boomers are a huge part of the population; isn’t it time to be represented by women our own age?  Youth is beautiful and easy to accomplish.  Aging gracefully takes an amount of effort.  I just saw an article that 50 is the new 30 so why aren’t we catching up?  European young men and people in other countries have always adored and appreciated older women. What is our problem?  And teenagers have begun using Botox?  This is getting way out of line and so unrealistic.  Beauty comes from the inside; from our life experience as much as from the superficial outside.  Years of living life add an element that is almost regal.  Plus I am a bit pissed to think I should be shoved aside for what is an unavoidable predicament.  Regardless of what hype is out there, aging is going to happen to all of us. 

I saw a counselor for a short time.  He was an older man in his seventies.  He married a beautiful woman that was of model quality.  He said that to him she was just as beautiful to him as she was when she was eighteen.  He made a comment that has stuck with me for the last two decades.  He said, “you never realize how beautiful a woman in her 50's is until you look at her from the eyes of a 50 year old man”.   

Model Selena Bree by Cajunpix2
6.  How do you prepare for a photo session and what do you do between gigs to get better at modeling? 

I overly prepare for a shoot.  I bring way more outfits than necessary. I always work to exhaustion when someone comes down to my studio. We go for hours until we run out of ideas or just figure we have had enough. I love going to one of the thrift stores because you can find old vintage hats. 

I prepare for a shoot by networking trying to find my niche. I email and discuss ideas with photographers when they enjoy the collaborative process.  I have manilla folders of photographers I have worked with.  And ones I have talked to for future shoots on my desk.  And a file organized by states of photographers work I like and hope they will decide to get to me or me to them someday.

I did do a water flush, sauna etc. for one of my shoots for that more ripped muscled look.  I have certain daily habits: 200 crunches before I get out of bed, 30 push-ups on Perfect Push-Up , standing on point shoes when brushing my teeth, and sitting on a Pilates ball in the mornings at the computer, using Obagi, micro-dermabrasion on a fairly regular basis.  I go through tons of Palmer’s butter, oil and lotion.  And the usual manicure, pedicure, shave  everything that is pretty standard.  Between shoots I look like a ragamuffin, never wear make-up and sometimes go for days with conditioner in my hair to help off-set the shampooing, blow drying and hair spray.  Funny, I don’t dress up in my everyday life as much as I used to but wait for a modeling shoot!  I do take a beard trimmer to my arms.  I sunbathe enough to keep some color but not excessively.  I wear sun screen consistently on my face and neck. 

I live my life as part of preparing for gigs.  I follow through on my ideas.  I teach ballet and beg. Belly dance, hit the gym three times a week, ride my horse when I can to re-center and calm myself.  I am hoping to get back to doing my art.  Keeping an active creative mind helps me in my modeling.  A good photograph entails the same elements as any other piece of art work. I make it a point to thank each photographer for helping me and giving me great images to use.  So far I have been blessed with great TF/CD experiences and only one that wasn’t the greatest but used it as a learning experience.

7.  What boundaries do you set for yourself in your willingness to help a photographer deliver his vision? 

Boundaries: I don’t do porn. I did do a “parts” photography with a long time photographer I do trust.  So far I haven’t had a problem with anyone other than one photographer (wasn’t the greatest) when I did a body painting and he kept telling me I could do “crotch shots” and no one would know.  He didn’t quite “get it” that “I would know”...and no I don’t do them.  Under the right artistic concept I might not shy away from female genitalia seen or used in an artistic way...I would love to do some artistic Shibari and love some of the unusual work I have seen in some bondage...oh dear....this would definitely not be accepted by my husband and I have yet to see what I will do about this whole issue since I haven’t done a shoot since this week’s development...I already know he wouldn’t see the creativity or beauty in that either, just like he doesn’t understand nudes either.  Oh dear...what to do...

Model Selena Bree, by Cajunpix2

8. Who inspires you as a model? 

Heroes!  Jamie Lee Curtis, Meryl Streep and Sally Field...I think they are cute as heck or looking great and not altering themselves...Michaela is my idol being the second  model to get over 7 million hits on OneModelPlace and she is in her 50's.  Gloria Jean...All the women in all those publications I have seen so far where they are over forty...those that are just starting out...the models who have been in The Petite Alternative for strongly standing up to their own sense of individuality. 

[Insert from Terrell: I was told to add Dr. Carla Johnson, aka Unbearable Lightness to this list soon after showing Selena her profile.] 

More to come...