- 24, May 2019
- Theatre in Paris exclusives
- Amanda Mehtala
Theatre in Paris exclusive interview with Viktoria Modesta, special guest June 2019 at the Crazy Horse Cabaret
We here at Theatre in Paris are proud to provide innovative theatre accessibility solutions for the hearing impaired, breaking auditive and language barriers to render hundreds of theatrical productions accessible to global audiences. This June, an inspiring figure hits the Parisian stage with a whole new futuristc take on accessibility, reshaping how we view disabilities and challenging the norms of the entertainment industry. Theatre is Paris are thrilled to present Viktoria Modesta, guest performer at Paris' Crazy Horse cabaret. From her modest background to her rise to international stardom, Viktoria Modesta is a unique individual who has become an inspiration, pushing the limits of conventional forms of beauty and artistic expression. Born in Latvia, Viktoria has a difficult medical history and underwent multiple operations as a child. She moved with her family to London at a young age, where she instantly fell in love with the underground subculture of the city. Making the difficult decision to voluntarily amputate her left leg below the knee, she has taken control of her own body and used her platform to become an inspiration to many. Her talents have extended across mediums, from song and dance to fashion, defining herself bionic artist exploring modern identity through performance, fashion, avant garde visuals, technology and science. We recently had the exclusive opportunity to ask Madame Modesta a few questions, get to know her before seeing the one-of-a-kind show!
TiP: At 20 years old you made a life-changing decision. Can you tell us what inspired this empowering decision and how it has shaped your identity since?
VM: The isolation I experienced during my time in hospital as a child has had a profound and unexpectedly positive effect on me - it helped me develop a vivid imagination that really has become an integral part of my work.
As a child, Disney and Hollywood definitely influenced me a lot - through these stories I fell in love with the idea of transformation, of believing in a better future, of influencing your own path. The adult version of that was the subculture of London, which is where I really got to exercise my image and taste, and the more avant-garde artists like Alexander McQueen, Matthew Barney and Marie Chouinard, who reimagined the human body and identity boundaries.
I was fascinated with people who are characters, conceptual beings that have been carefully crafted and redesign various aspects of their human selves. Besides a few notable people who are their own creation, like Bjork or Leigh Bowery, creative women too easy fall into the category of a ‘muse’ which was not something I aspired to, and from an early age my desire to be my own creator and creative - to be my own playground for imagination - dominated my ambition. The final decision to amputate my leg, however, was a mixture of health safeguarding and wanting to take ownership of my body. I turned a potentially hindering situation into something that could be fun, interesting and experimental.
TiP: You have always been a creative, artistic individual. What inspired you to start singing at such a young age?
VM: Music has always been a big part of my life. Despite spending little time at school, I did manage to be part of a local music program when I was a child, where I got my initial moments of performing on stage as a lead singer of the local girl group. However I never saw myself just as a singer, and was always focused on the bigger picture, singing as a part of my story and glimpse into a fantasy. After the initial music school experience, I was way more fascinated with fashion, art and club culture and it was only when I got into my late teens that I realised that working on music would allow me do a lot of things from music arrangement, to creative direction, marketing and design.At the time it was a lot less widely accepted that being an artist isn’t this singular thing where you only get to do one thing but have a sort of aesthetic trademark that can translate into many mediums.
TiP: You gave a wonderful performance at the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, can you tell us about that experience?
VM: It was a big surprise and an eye opener. I didn’t actually know anything about the Paralympics but got a call from a friend who was doing mechanical installations at the ceremony, saying that the main director would like to see me for a casting. It all happened very fast, just one quick meeting. I got the part of the Snow Queen and 3 weeks later I was performing in front of 90 000 people at the stadium and millions watching worldwide. I think it was the first time I realised that advancing the human body is a global topic.
The perspective and acceptance of alternative body and ability was still very basic, and primarily focused on comparing physical accomplishments only, like sports. We commissioned a diamond-encrusted prosthetic to go with my outfit, and it really felt that the idea of confidence and of fashionability was an anomaly.
People see medically assisting devices as something that is meant for the hospital, but the reality is that there is so much potential. Millions of people are using some kind of assistive device every day, so my question is: why not consider design, why not give the same attention that we spend on almost every object in our life on something that transforms the function of your body? Technology luckily has helped us bridge the gap here, as more advanced prosthetics started to be seen more as a superhuman addition to the body, as opposed to a basic mobility device.
As a conceptual artist I want to look further into how in the future we, as humans, can unify our idea of technology assisting our body and lifestyle. Personal technology is a cool designed consumer product, except when it’s a medical solution for disability. I see this as an opportunity to design the technologically enhanced human. Then of course there are art and fashion. I think with a great problem comes great opportunity and we have not explored the limits of the human body and identity nearly enough in modern culture.
TiP: And this led to your world-renowned video Prototype with Channel 4? Did you anticipate the overwhelming response you got for the video?
VM: I honestly did not. It never crossed my mind as it was meant to be a national TV campaign that was very specific. The fact that it literally created a cultural wedge and has created a response in every type of industry and sector was really one of the most powerful moments of my life. I put all my energy and creative spirit into that project, like my life depended on it, and essentially put myself out there in a very vulnerable way. I think that my story resonated with a lot of people. The fact that I was able to voice it in a creative way is a blessing.
TiP: Had you ever been to and performed in Paris before? And a bit more about your upcoming Parisian performances. What motivated your partnership with Crazy Horse Paris Cabaret?
VM: Living in London most of my life there were many opportunities to visit for holidays and fashion week. In more recent years I've done a few fun professional things like opening the Paris half marathon and performing at the premiere of “Ghost In The Shell”.
As I have been to Paris many times and have seen the Crazy Horse Paris show on a few occasions, I have always found it so charming and classy and always perfectly executed. Many things motivated and excited me to collaborate. My work has been moving into a direction further and further away from traditional entertainment with more art/tech fashion projects and this year I really feel like it's time to bring all of the futuristic things I am excited about, back into a more traditional space with iconic brands that are really interested in innovation.
Being able to perfect a show and work with one of the world’s tightest productions and perform with such talented dancers is really a challenge and an opportunity I could not refuse. I really believe that there is some unlocked magic potential that we will be able to explore. It's a bold move on their part and a statement that the mainstream entertainment is ready to move into 21st Century.
TiP: Could you describe your show at the Crazy Horse in 3 words?
VM: Intense, hard but gentle and transcendent
TiP: What's your favorite thing about performing?
VM: I love carefully creating the world that my performance will take place in, and then stepping into that world to tell a story, bringing all fantasies alive in a multi-sensory way. Pushing all of my skills and collaborating is a very deep process in which sometimes magic happens and it has a personal growth and healing effect on either myself or others. It's very powerful.
TiP: What’s your favorite thing about Paris?
TiP: If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring actors, dancers, or performers with a disability, what would that be?
VM: Find your supporters, mentors and people that lift you up and encourage you to push yourself and experiment and concentrate on the long game and not short term goals. Doing things in a new way takes a lot of will and persistence but everything is possible.
**Viktoria Modesta will be the featured guest star at the Crazy Horse Paris Cabaret June 3 - 16, 2019. See the legendary BionicShowgirl performance every day of the week, 2 performance times daily!**