Growing up, my icons were those who stirred up a revolution in the 1960s. John Lennon, George Harrison, Janis Joplin, Mary Quant – there’s a fair list of those I admired.
Thinking back to these days, they were so appealing to me because all of them had the same thing in common: a lot of pain they experienced to get what they wanted, and the bravery that inspired me to do things I’ve only dreamed about before. And when you’re sixteen and idealistic, you think you’d be able to become the voice of your generation. There’s plenty of things you see in the world that could be changed – further empowerment of women, openly talking about mental health struggles, more tolerance for everyone no matter who they are. When you see those you admire so much sharing their experience, you get a whole lot of motivation. And I was profoundly shaken when I bumped into this interview created by a non-profit organisation Blank on Blank who set out the interviews with icons of pop culture to animations – check them out.
In the interview, Janis mentions her tough upbringing in Texas – she was perpetually ridiculed for who she was in Port Arthur, where she grew up. She broke into the music industry in the times when rock music was dominated by men. She was insanely open about her sexuality. Little Girl Blue, a documentary about her, gives you more details about the life she led, and about the enormous power she found within herself to overcome the difficulties and get what she wanted. Her sister, Laura Joplin, has also shed some light on her intriguing, contradictory personality in Love, Janis. But what made her so much more than the legendary rockstar to me is her fragility.
The interview in question was scheduled weeks in advance, but Janis cancelled it because of the derogatory piece that The Rolling Stone published about her before. When it finally happened, she explained why she reacted the way she did in the first place. The journalist asked her if she was upset if the press puts her down – to which she’s given a totally moving, earnest answer.
In my insides, it really hurts if someone doesn’t like me, you know. It’s silly.
And even if she spoke about not being able to get over it quickly, she’s had the insane power to demand more for herself. She carried on to defend herself against opinions that some women were perpetuating when speaking about rock music.
How can they attack me? I’m representing everything they said they want. (…) You are what you settle for. You’re only as much as you settle for. If they settle for being somebody’s dishwasher, that’s their own fucking problem. If you don’t settle for that and you keep fighting it, you know, you’ll end up anything you want to be. I’m doing what I wanted, and what feels right, and not settling for bullshit, and it worked. How can they be mad at that?
And every time when you’re working towards your goal and the road to what you want seems more winding that it promised to be, her vulnerability and courage is something to take inspiration from.