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Ican imagine more than one reason why people might think I am a freak: I like to kiss girls, I am an artist, I like raisin bran, and I don’t believe in a god. I’ve had to hide who I love due to judgment and disapproval from others. If not for my proud friends and family then I’m not sure I would have had the courage to be open with who I am. This issue explores and celebrates the value of pride, not only queer pride but overall pride in who and why you are.
Your mind has surely wondered about one of the many definitions of freaks. You might be thinking about that girl you met last year that was willing to do unspeakable things with you in bed, or maybe you are thinking about that guy in your 9 a.m. that eats his boogers when he believes that no one is looking. If you think someone is a freak, what does that say about you? We encourage you to challenge your thoughts and persist with kindness towards everyone. Countless people are outcasted by society and have endured immense pain and suffering because of prejudice.
Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University have so many weirdos. I believe the city has formed a safe and embracing environment where everyone can thrive. We all want to feel accepted. If you haven’t found your people yet, I
hope this issue reassures you that they exist. Keep doing the things you love, and people with the same extreme behaviors, beliefs, and aesthetics will appear beside you.
In this issue, we explored a fantasy world filled with characters whose teeth never got collected by the tooth fairy and family Christmas cards send a shiver down your spine. The playful nature of this issue allowed us to experiment and celebrate being freaks. Our goal has always been to highlight minorities, misfits, and underdogs, so doing an issue with the theme of freaks was ideal. Our staff created content they found interesting and could relate to, but despite our best efforts, this issue does not encompass every minority group.
As you consume this issue, keep an open mind and heart. I wish for you to embrace and share your talents and differences, if not for yourself, then for those still struggling to be prideful of the things that make them unique.
editor in chief
INK Editor in Chief Hope Ollivant Literary Editor Caroline Jenkins Art Editor Mac Woolley Senior Photographer Cecilia Nyguyen Senior Graphic Designer Claire Evan Senior Copy Editor Monisha Mukherjee Social Media Manager Sydney Folsom Music Director Julianne Lane Fashion Director Kayla Lundy Director of Student Media Jessica Clary Office Manager Owen Martin Creative Media Manager Mark Jeffries We’re Super Erin Robinson Bird Girl Molly Lerais Ugly Contributors Melati Maupin Alex McGowan Laila Errazzouki Naomi Gordon Renn Trani Caleb Goss Farrah Fifil Sophie Antonia Christopher Gehrke Front Cover Melati Maupin Back Cover Laila Errazzouki Lareina Allred Jasmine ClitO’Patra Nathan Hosmer Layout Design Open Call Student Media Center Staff SMC Lead Designer Clare Wislar INK Graphic Designer Claire Evan SMC Graphic Designer Fiona McMichael
6 TABLE CONTENTS Staff photos 4-5 Dime Bodies 8-11 Neat Freaks 21-23 Club Kids 24-25 What the Freak!?! 31-35
INK TABLE OF CONTENTS Freaks Quiz What kind of freak are you? 26-29 3’s a Crowd 30 Open Call 36-39 Collections Dream Play 18-20 12-17 Exploring Non-Places with a partner
t could be argued that hatewatching was invented in the 1800’s. Back then, all it took was ten cents to see the strangest wonders in the world. These shows featured everything from wax figurines to exotic animals and, the most famous, human “oddities.” Freakshows became more popular through the 19th century and attracted massive crowds, yet the treatment and perception of the performers was more horrific curiosity than admiration. The history of freakshows is darkly complex, arguable ongoing, and poses the question: what exactly makes a freak? Freakshows had already been in Europe and America since the 1830’s, originally existing as sideshows to the main circus attractions. According to the Lynchburg Museum, oftentimes one only needed to pay ten cents to see these displays earning them the name of “dime-shows.” However, these shows gained a lot of following as the ringleaders started featuring human acts. An UCLA Entertainment Law Review, explains how there were four categories that these human acts fit into: The Born Freaks, people born with physical or behavioral abnormalities, The Made freaks, people who altered their appearance purposefully, The Novelty Acts, performers such as acrobats, or sword swallowers, and The Gaffed Freaks, those who faked abnormalities. An UCLA Entertainment Law Review, explains
how there were four categories that these human acts fit into: The Born Freaks, people born with physical or behavioral abnormalities, The Made freaks, people who altered their appearance purposefully, The Novelty Acts, performers such as acrobats, or sword swallowers, and The Gaffed Freaks, those who faked abnormalities. The greatest of the freakshow leaders, P.T. Barnum, built his circus to extreme popularity through the display of human freak shows, especially utilizing fake freaks. The University of Sheffield published a piece discussing how two of the displays that lead to Barnum’s early fame, a skeleton of a mermaid that he called the Fiji mermaid, and an African American woman he said was the 161-year-old nurse of George Washington, were both faked. The piece also explained how while many performances were faked, some of the performers were real, one of the most famous being General Tom Thumb, real name Charles Stratton, the dwarf general. While certain facts about Tom Thumb were exaggerations, he was a real dwarf and the appeal of his persona, the military general, got him worldwide fame and fortune. However, most freakshow performers were not so lucky with their differences, making them pariahs in society and often forcing them into the freakshows because they felt they had nowhere else to go.
According to a piece highlighting the tragic stories of famous freak shows in All That’s Interesting magazine, one of these such performers was Isaac W. Sprague, known as the human skeleton, turned to the freakshows as his physical condition made it extremely difficult for him to find any other work. The ringleaders took advantage of the fact that their physical and behavioral differences isolated them, often purposefully exaggerated their abnormalities and exploited them without any care for their wellbeing. The magazine All That’s Interesting published a photo series piece in which they talked about many performers, one being Mirin Dajo, famous for piercing his body with sharp objects without sustaining injury, and how this act ended up killing him after he swallowed a needle for a show. The piece also pointed out how several of the acts ringleaders put together were heavily racially motivated, and that they often forced people into the show. George and Willie Muse, two African American albino twins, who were kidnapped and forced into the freakshow as the
“Men from Mars.” These ringleaders also saw a market in the customs of people from other countries, such as Madam Gustika, an African American woman with lip plates. While these facial plates were quite common in many cultures across Africa, they were reduced to freakish novelty in these shows.
Despite the heyday of freakshows, they were not made to last. UCLA Entertainment Law explained how The popularity of freakshows declined heavily in the late 20th century due to a rise in medical knowledge paired with social outrage over the dehumanization of the performers. With doctors debunking several of the fakes, and explaining the medicine behind real affectations of performers, the mysterious wonder of freakshows faded and the ringleaders were exposed as the con artists they were. Overtime, laws were passed to protect the human rights of performers and by the end of the 20th century, freak shows were completely gone, at least in the traditional sense.
Humanity has always been drawn to the rare and bizarre and while curiosity has not changed, but the management and treatment of freak shows has. Freakshows may not exist anymore in the traditional sense but, the showcasing of “abnormal" people is still very much a part of our culture. From people like the lizard man or human barbie, who have done extensive body modification on themselves, to shows like “My 600 lb. Life” and let us not forget the modern-day circus of TikTok, the freakshow is still a popular form of entertainment, but now the freaks are running the circus. Performers now make their own money, and the shift in the mainstream perception of “freaks” have allowed for them to be appreciated and respected rather than shunned.
Freaks still don’t have it easy. While the age of the internet has made it so people from all over the world can showcase their traditions, cultures, and differences as simple pieces of their humanity, the anonymity of the internet haters can be very damaging. Fake freaks are still out in numbers as well, with many performers faking disorders, or body abnormalities for clout and thereby making a mockery of the people who are living with those conditions. While ridicule and hate towards people who are different still exists everywhere, more people can embrace their differences and share their “oddities” as just another piece of who they are. While freaks will never be normal nowadays, to be a freak can be the same as being unique. Even our use of the word “freak” has changed to describe a person who is extremely devoted or passionate about something, such as a health freak. This once insulting label has become a symbol of stubborn pride for many people as they fight back against any mainstream ideas of what normal can be.
Humanity is quite freakish.
DREAMPLAY: EXPLORING NON-PLACES WITH A PARTNER
Creative Direction - Alex McGowan Photographer - Chris Gerkhe Styling - Alex McGowan, Kayla Lundy Models - Wyatt Clark, Aaron Olugbemi Makeup Artist - Chloe Johnson Clothing - Rumors
NEW AGE FREAKS OF THE BYGONE ERA
Technicolor lights flash in the darkened club, lighting up the room with flowering neon hues. Groove is in the Heart blasts on the speakers, making the entire building seem to vibrate to the beat. Bodies move to the music, hips gyrating, shoes clacking on the ground. Tonight, Limelight has a hypnotic atmosphere, tempting us to be pulled into the movement, to dance alongside everyone else, to lose ourselves, becoming two more bodies in the masses. Yet all we can look at is something else across the room. A figure is posing there, perfectly framed by the lights. Skin painted robin’s egg blue, lashes reaching to their forehead. Their chest is hairy, yet the sparkling corset they’ve slipped into gives their body one of the deepest hourglass shapes you’ve seen. The tinsel draped across their shoulders sparkles, and the circular shapes that their pants turn to seem to dance. This is a Club Kid.
NAOMI LILAC GORDON
Parties like these were always a treat. The infamous Michael Alig would decorate Limelight for the muses themselves, decking it out in some of the most outrageous spectacles the eye could imagine. Tonight, the DJ booth stood in front of a wall of Panasonic Televisions, displaying blurred shapes, brightness turned up to eleven. There had been times when there were bloodied walls, neon signs, and household objects hammered in the most innocuous of places. The details have blurred together in the haze of memory, and without record, it’s hard to decipher the facts. But I remember the true stars of the show. I remember Alig and the Club Kids he brought to the parties. James St. James, a technicolor vampire, who’d pull incomprehensible designs out of his ass. Ernie Glam was a clowncore nightmare, makeup and costuming making his face terrifying and beautiful, his body at least half naked at all times. Amanda Lepore, sometimes called a lifesize Barbie, though life-size Bratz-doll might be a more fitting term these days. With her pumped-up lips and her pumped-up tits, it was like Jessica Rabbit had stepped out of your tv-screen and into the material plane. There were countless more, each with bold, unique personas, completely commanding the room whenever they stepped out, and all of them here, gracing us with their presence. The eloquent and
mind-melding look that these titans would step out in might seem deserving of a display in the Met, and yet they were all here, making magic for our very eyes.
A lot of it really was just for our eyes, too. This was stuff we really couldn’t see anywhere else. That was the reason most of us showed up, right? Even when Guiliani took office in ‘94 and began cracking down on New York’s nightlife, something about his bullshit “Quality of Life” campaign. He’d raid the clubs, but we’d keep coming back. We toughed it out for a bit, but then all the bullshit that happened with Alig. We’d all known for a bit. We just didn’t want to believe it, I guess. He walked free for longer than he probably should’ve, but they convicted him for Angel’s murder, and that was the end of it. Things just kept falling apart from there, and could we really stop it? It was out of our hands. The scene toppled inwards on itself, and for a while, Guiliani completely destroyed the city’s nightlife.
In his eyes, and the eyes of so many others, we weren’t respectable. We were freaks, and with every weird freaky party that we threw, with every disgusting and outrageous outfit we wore, with every freaky and boundaryshattering makeup look that we beat on our face, we were confirming to everybody that we really were a
bunch of fairy freaks. But this was before the whole respectability politics scene in the aughts. Before we were gay best friends and “just like you.” Before we were packaged, marketable, mass media. Before the main focus was on assimilating into straight society. Back when the big thing was being yourself in the biggest, boldest way possible. Being weird was a badge to wear with pride. The world wouldn’t let us be ourselves, but this club, this moment, was enough right now.
Looking back at the memories, the oddities and occurrences that stay buried in the recesses of my mind, I sometimes question how much of it truly was real. It was that last era of true celebrity, before the tabloid boom in the early 2000s, and the rise of social media that quickly came with it. Maybe today, the Club Kids would’ve been Instagram influencers but back then, there weren’t even cheap digital cameras for people to use. There was no way to vicariously experience things online, or to see things secondhand through the wave of pictures and media released. This was back before we were commodified and packaged every single thing. It was the experience that counted. It was the experience that you were being sold.
You really had to be there.
what kind of Freak are you?
Where do you vacation?
A. Palm springs with family B. Las Vegas C. The Gooch D. Dyatlov Pass, Russia E. A New York Gutter F. In the basement of an eccentric German
You find $20 bucks on the ground, wyd?
What are your friends like?
What silly animal are you?
A. Wolf B. Monkey C. Jackrabbit D. Raccoon E. Cobra F. Spider
A. Pick it up with skin tight gloves (you are above germs) B. Buy your entire grocery list for the month. C. Go to home depot baby D. Pull up your blockchain E. Get a even more fucked up haircut F. Call a spicy hotline for two minutes
A. Snobby B. Profitable C. Hospitable D. Cynical E. Rambunctious F. Vivacious
What pisses you off?
You get to be the main character of a movie, which movie?
A. Getting called a Nazi B. Being up charged C. City folk D. Billionaires E. Everyone and everything F. Creeps
A. American Pscho (2000) B. Parasite (2019) C. Trucks (1997) D. Hackers (1995) E. They Live (1988) F. Pink Flamingos (1972)
Words by Renn Trani
Charecters by Laila Errazzouki
What are some of your hobbies?
A. Covering up your family’s past
B. Getting that bread.
C. Driving donuts out in an empty field
D. Browsing conspiracy theories
E. Rocking, smashing, and boozing
F. Taking a kink test
Where do you find yourself at night
A. Perusing your collection of gas masks
B. Diving for valuables tossed in the James
C. In bed early feeling hazy (must wake up early to fish)
D. Searching your house for CIA trackers
E. Pissing in a alleyway drunk
F. Living your socialite dream out on the town
A captured evil monkey who if released will wreak havoc on humanity, you get to decide its fate, wyd?
A. Conduct immoral experiments for beauty product development
B. Hold the world at ransom
C. Teach that boy to be chill asf
D. Learn the monkeys evil secrets
E,Teach it to hate cops
F. Find it a monkey bae to calm down with
Do you read magazine articles or just look at the pictures
A. You don’t read that trash
B. Read them then sell it for scrapes
C. You read it on the toilet
D. Report the magazine for unamerican activities
E. Read that shit and spread the word
F. Enjoy the stimulating pictures
Where do you see yourself in ten years
A. CEO of your families company
B. Still Grinding, still hustling.
C. Owning two trucks. D. Higher up position in federal government
E. Accepting the Old Head allegations
F. Still seeking pleasure
Which 1800 economic policy do you subscribe to?
B. Fiscal Policy
C. Supply-side Policy
D. Microeconomic Policy
E. Labor Market Policy
F. Tariff/Trade Policy
Collage by Caleb Goss
Mostly A 'S
The freak who is alarmingly well adjusted.
This freak has it all, good job, expensive clothes/cars, an insane dating life, you name it. Someone who wouldn’t be caught dead with you and your freak friends. They met your parents during a euphoric haze in Key West (that they’ll never speak about) and now you’ll receive the occasional Christmas card of their seemingly perfect family all posing with such big smiles and even bigger machine guns in their arms. Sweet little Anna Marie is holding a uzi the size of her, how cute! This isn’t the first time they have gotten militaristic either, rumors of this freak spending one Halloween as a Nazi resurface every-now-andthen. You don’t even want to attempt to understand the freaky dynamics behind the closed door of their seemingly perfect life.
The Freaks You Know
Mostly MostlyB C'S
That freak that don’t play about the bag.
You never understand how this freak stays afloat. No job, but their hustle is no joking matter. When they aren’t donating plasma every chance they get, you’ll find them salvaging all the copper, brass, and aluminum they can get their hands on. When you’re at the function and downing the rest of your suds they’ll be sure to come up and ask for that empty can. They know the market price of anything at any given moment, just ask them the current price of a single egg and they'll be sure to respond without a second thought. They’re always posting their bread spreads on social media so things must be going pretty good. Despite all this, they are the last person you would ever take financial advice from.
The freak that somehow works for the federal government.
This is the freak who you lost contact with a few years ago. Up until they came knocking on your front door asking if you had time to complete a census. Last you saw them was 2019, they had just hijacked their grandma's minivan on a quest to the land of Nevada. Foaming at the mouth about: Raiding Area 51, Jeffery Epstien, and recent budget cuts to the CDC. How they have ended up at your front door asking about your Hispanic origin is beyond you. Maybe they uncovered something, bit off more than they could chew and were given a choice of working for them or prison. Or maybe the stacks of unpaid parking tickets under dear old grandma's name finally caught up to them.
Some friendly, some dicks, some incidentally cause conflict.
Mostly D 'S
The Truck Freak.
This freak is a good friend to have around, especially when moving to a new spot. They don’t mind picking up your rank thirty year old couch that’s seen you grow from childhood to your present state. Which is currently trying to figure out cleaning mixtures for the barf/wine stains from last night on said couch. The truck freak doesn’t care about this at all, in fact they’re more excited about this new move than you are. Pure joy now that you have finally vindicated their feelings that it was a great idea to buy a truck. An idea they were starting to regret after getting in their fifth fender bender trying to squeeze between yet another side streets. During the weekend you’ll find them at their annual truck meetup lost in a wave of beer and blue jeans.
The freak who’s alphabet only consists of A. C. A again and B.
Few freaks are born exactly the way they are but this freak is one-in-a-million. When teaching this freakbaby it’s ABC’s it decided the first three were all they needed to accurately express themselves to the world. ACAB. ACAB. ACAB. They loudly screeched at only the age of two. They grew up to have their face imprinted under the dictionary definition of “Radical Anarchist” Not knowing the rest of the alphabet proved to be difficult later on though. During their SATs the fourth answer, option D. confused them so much they just stuck with what they knew. ACAB. ACAB. ACAB. Surprisingly that test came back as a solid 1600. Today you’ll probably find them walking around handing out pamphlets for their new anarchist commune.
That freak who a bit freaky.
Maybe the most misunderstood freak that you may know. There are many like them and your relationships with them may vary. On one hand they may be a creature of the night you dread to come across. Or perhaps a sorry monster that you wish to understand and protect. They like to lurk out late within the same particular bar/club time after time. While avoiding daylight, they do emerge to the world of the living every so often, usually with the same attire as last night reeking of their business. If they’re your roommate, you know the sleepless nights hearing their private commotions.
It’s easy to view these freaky monsters in a bad light but I wouldn’t be too judgmental, you just may be one yourself.
30 By Caleb Goss
FREAK !?! WHAT THE
Creative Direction: Caroline Jenkins and Hope Ollivant |Styling: Caroline Jenkins and Hope Ollivant | Photographer: Melati Maupin| Makeup: Sophie Antonia Production Assistant: Kayla Lundy |Models: Mic Gravini and Fawziya Gyamfi
Allred Erin Robinson Nathan Hosmer
“I’ve always said that GWAR is a band that could last a thousand years.”
-Dave Brokie, Founding Member of GWAR
The History of Richmond’s Favorite Freakshow
Lane, Senior Music Director
On Halloween night in 1986, hordes of young Richmonders flocked to a makeshift brick stage at VCU’s Shafer Court. The humble expanse of concrete and mortar next to Hibbs Hall was already considered sacred ground by members of the local punk scene, having been graced by the likes of Iggy Pop and Bruce Springsteen in years passed. As concert-goers settled in that night, they had no clue that the band they were about to see would go on to be one of Richmond’s best known acts nearly forty years later. But by the time they left, it’s safe to say that fact wouldn’t have surprised them. GWAR’s show that night was a chaotic, hilarious, and high concept amalgamation of performance art, costume design, and brash punk rock that left audiences in Richmond wanting more. GWAR’s website describes the group
as “... part of an elite fighting force, the Scumdogs of the Universe.” Their biography further specifies that GWAR is made up of barbarous, intergalactic warriors who were sent to conquer the “insignificant shitball” known as planet Earth. In reality, GWAR was started in the early 1980’s by a small group of Richmond based artists who were disgruntled with the status quo.
Hunter Jackson, an art student at VCU, had an affinity for visuals that were campy and over the top. He found inspiration in comic books and Dungeons and Dragons, much to the chagrin of his professors, who he felt only saw merit in high brow media. Hunter had a workshop at a repurposed dairy factory on Marshall street, which he used to craft over the top monster costumes he planned to use in a film he was
making: “Scumbags of the Universe.”
The factory, commonly known as “The Dairy” at the time, also housed practice rooms for bands. In a room adjacent to Hunter’s, a popular punk rock outfit called ‘Death Piggy’ would frequently meet to run their sets for upcoming shows. They were known for their humorous and extreme and live antics. Frontman Dave Brokie firmly positioned his persona against the overly serious attitudes he felt proliferated the Richmond music scene at the time.
Given the proximity of their workspaces, and a similar dissatisfaction with their respective scenes, it was no surprise when
Hunter and Dave teamed up to create GWAR, a project that celebrated absurdity, camp, and irreverence. They used the few resources they had to bring their instantly entertaining, albeit controversial, blend of performance art and shock rock to stages in Richmond and beyond. For the past 37 years, GWAR has been kept alive by a frequently rotating team of visual artists and musicians who have a shared passion for keeping the project alive. Since their humble
beginnings on Marshall street, they have released 15 studio albums and toured the country several times.
The stage that one stood at Shafer Court has since been demolished, The Dairy has been converted into an upscale apartment building, and Dave Brokie passed away in 2014. Nevertheless, GWAR is still going strong, and is currently touring the country to promote their latest album “The New Dark Ages.” What
started as a small passion project created by students who were told their art was meritless and low brow is now one of the best loved bands to ever be founded in Richmond. GWAR’s ongoing success is a testament to artistic merit of the freakish, irreverent, and absurd.
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