Riley Thompson is a queer, trans multidisciplinary artist with a leaning towards digital media. She is really interested in bodies, forms and space, and how we inhabit, create and occupy them. Riley creates videography for Stripperoke, a space that combines stripping and karaoke (‘you sing, we dance’), that is run by and for a community of queer, POC women who are sex workers and strippers. She says, ‘It’s about being present and then trying to convey in video and photography the freedom, power and release that comes from a space that is void of all the commercial, patriarchal heteronormative bullshit and shame we have been force fed about our bodies, and about sexuality, and sex work. It’s about celebrating those things that society would have us hide away.’ This irreverent, liberating approach is exactly aligned with the badass theme of our April issue. We caught up with Riley to find out what makes her tick, and what being badass means to her.
Was there a defining moment when you realised you were a badass?
I don’t really think there was a moment. A lot of my life I spent trying to live up to society’s expectations of what I should be. It has been a long process of harvesting the field in which I grew my fucks so that I can now leave it barren.
What do you do or wear when you need to feel like a superwoman?
I have a few items of jewellery and things that hold special significance that I feel I can draw energy from in some ways. I may spend a little more time on my makeup (social warpaint) for added confidence. Then I like to do bits of Tai Chi, dance and power postures to feel centred and in command of my body. If I’m on my way somewhere it’s just about singing really loudly in the car which for whatever reason feels quite empowering.
What does badass mean to you?
To me it’s about being in the arena where life happens. Where you feel joy and pain and love and you battle and get hurt and you fall over and you have your face in the dirt but you get back up. Maybe you need to sit things out for a while and have friends and people patch you up again, but I think being badass is about stepping back in, stepping up and being there.
Is there a book that changed your life?
There are so many that have influenced me over the years. I think one of the most memorable in my formative years was Do androids dream of electric sheep? by Philip K Dick. It sparked an interest in sci-fi and the human condition within changing worlds that still fascinates me to this day.
What are your fears?
I’m afraid of creatures that don’t have eyebrows or the ability to express emotion through them, like most reptiles and insects. They can’t be trusted! Also birds (they are just freaky) and most crustaceans.
I’m afraid of failure, although I have been trying to reframe what that means since so much of our world is made up of binary ideas that just don’t actually make much sense. There are also a lot of things related to my personal life: whether finding fulfilment and satisfaction within work, relationships and myself will be possible and fear that maybe I’ll never find that, maybe it doesn’t even exist.
Does being a badass ever get tiring?
Hell yes! I think finding places, people and things that bring you healing is incredibly important.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would worry about messing with past and how it will affect the present – we’re just one time traveler away from Nazis on dinosaurs. But if it was safe and wouldn’t break the time space continuum, I’d probably just say: ‘You are good, you are different but not broken. Don’t be afraid, the people who love you will be there for you, lean into your truth.’
Riley Thompson is in our Badass Women issue of Marie Claire – get a copy to meet all the inspiring women in the special section of the magazine.
You can follow Riley on:
Youtube Riley Thompson