You've gotta hand it to Whitney Mixter. We spent all summer analyzing, obsessing over and perhaps most eloquently, making fun of The Real L Word. We interviewed her roommate and exes. We created a truly spectacular photographic series based on Whitney's trademark "power of the clam." We made a parody video. None of this upset Whitney. Why? Because she gets the fucking joke, understands the game, and doesn't hate the players.
And if you, like many other young dykes, fell for dear Whitney on the show, you're REALLY gonna like Actual Whitney. It's like the show, but with all the best parts of her put back in.
"...when you read Whitney’s blog or interviews with her friends, you see a smart, entrepreneurial, funny, ambitious, introspective, philanthropic human WHO ALSO possibly mishandeled Tor/Romi/Sara’s emotional well-being with reckless rationalizations. But we only saw Sex Whitney, which is a shame because the paradox IS WAY MORE INTERESTING THAN WHAT WE SAW."
An East Coast girl raised in Connecticut, she spent her formative lesbian years in Brooklyn before moving out to Hollywood to make it as a special effects make up artist. I learned more about Whitney in a 40 minute conversation than I did watching 9 hours of The Real L Word. I talk to Whitney about the NY/LA divide, her thoughts on our recaps and parody video, growing up different/androgynous, her life changing experiences in Hawaii and Thailand and the very first time she was compared to Shane.
Also, don't forget to enter to win a date to the Dinah with Whitney! It will almost definitely go something like this:
Jess: There's oftentimes a polarizing view on New York vs. Los Angeles. I happen to be a New Yorker who loves LA and I know you're an east coast girl from Connecticut and Brooklyn. What's your take on NY vs. LA?
"All I really meant was that there are more subcultures with the lesbian community in NY because the city is more of a melting pot overall."
Whitney: I love that you're a New Yorker who loves LA, cause I felt so hated on when I told my friends that I was moving from NY to LA! They all told me "you're gonna be back in a year! You're gonna hate it!" You know - the people - blah blah blah, but the fact is that there are people that are great everywhere, there's people that suck everywhere. You just have to find the good people and surround yourself with them. So, when I was moving to LA I was just out of a relationship and I was ready for a change and I really focused on surrounding myself with the right people.
I feel like the difference is that NY is a little more gritty because it's a walking city. I feel like there are pockets of subcultures going on moreso, where LA has more of an urban sprawl feel. So, NY has more of those interesting clique pockets, where LA has a more spread out universal feel. People have asked me what I think the difference is between the NY and LA lesbian scenes, and I know I dug myself into a hole when I said LA is "a more polished lesbian" -- that's not what I meant. NY lesbians are gorgeous. All I really meant was that there are more subcultures with the lesbian community in NY because the city is more of a melting pot overall. People come to LA for specific reasons.
Jess: I totally understood what you meant by "LA is a more polished lesbian." That's just because the people in LA are just more "polished' in general so naturally that transcends to the gay community as well. Ever notice how girls make sweeping generalizations about lesbians like "oh, all lesbians love/hate....." No, that's just people or women in general!
Whitney: Right! You're exactly right when you say people here are more polished. I think there's this general air in LA - people come here to pursue their dreams in media or entertainment so there's just more attention given to that aspect of people's lives. It's not a specifically lesbian thing, just a universal thing.
Jess: Like the saying, "people who have been told they're pretty move to LA and people told they're clever move to NY."
Whitney: [laughing] Right! That mentality has been going on for a long time. East Coast has Yale and Harvard and West Coast has Hollywood.... [laughs]. East Coast is my home and I have so much love for the East Coast, but LA has been very good to me - I've met some amazing people, including these girls from the show who are like my second family, so I don't have any regrets about moving, that's for sure.
Whitney: [laughing] Oh my god! The first time I saw her at PYT I'm not sure if she looked at me and was like oh shit, but I totally went up to her and we were cracking up. First of all, I read everything you guys wrote and watched the parody video - which I thought was hilarious. We are characters of ourselves on the show, so, obviously you would see us as characters in your recaps! It's expected and I don't take my life too seriously so why should anybody else, ya know? But seriously, the recaps are so entertaining. I especially like the graphics that are added to the images - like the rays shooting out of the Power of the Clam and the cap you guys put on my head... I saw so many of them and I was like, "this is amazing." [laughing]
Jess: Remind me to send you the one of Clay Aiken inside an actual clam shell in your hands. You know, Alyssa, Sara & Romi were initially hesitant to do an interview with us because they felt the recaps were a little harsh.
Whitney: People ask me all the time if it was an accurate portrayal and I tell them that it's a reality TV show. The producers asked me what was exciting and interesting going in my life and created a "storyline" around it. At that time my love life was hectic. I was single and sort of a real "Shane" - that's what was going on and it was d-r-a-m-a for sure. That was all real, but I also think I was dumbed-down a lot. Look, in reading the recaps I was definitely dumbed-down, but I did it to myself! It's fine, I make fun of my situations a lot and I have a very free sense of humor. If you just watched the show and read the recaps you'd kinda think I didn't have a brain, but I feel as though I'm pretty worldly, well educated and have a clear sense of what's going on. I'm totally willing to accept that it can be misconstrued in the show and hopefully I can show other aspects of myself in interviews, etc.
Jess: Did you or the cast ever approach the producers afterward about why you were all portrayed one-dimensionally?
Whitney: I only speak for myself when I say this, but when I signed on board I knew it was a reality show and I knew the way those shows are edited.I knew they were going for a realistic, fly on the wall perspective and for the most part, that's what they did. I fully understood that they were looking to create "storylines" so I didn't feel it was necessary to approach them and question their M.O. I don't personally need public approval to feel confident in who I am as a person. People come up to us and say that we helped them come out or deal with their sexuality so that payoff really outweighs any other annoyance.
Jess: It seems like you're a professional lesbian these days, with all the club appearances. Are you still doing special effects makeup work?
Whitney: [laughing] When people ask me what I do I almost feel compelled to say I'm a professional lesbian because I'm traveling all over the country, visiting different cities and doing club appearances! I still do special effects makeup for sure, but I've been really busy traveling all over lately.
Jess: Are you still pursuing a career in art therapy?
Whitney: Yup, absolutely! I'm trying to work on starting a non-profit for kids... that means a huge deal to me since art has been such a prominent force in my life just personally and in terms of expressing yourself. I've seen first hand what a huge difference art therapy has on kids lives. I actually worked in New York for Portraits of Hope which is one of the great non-profits for kids. I went from a career I wasn't very happy in to working for them and it was so life changing and so rewarding to see the instant impact those projects had on the kids lives. We tied the projects in with social education and made the kids aware that they can be part of something bigger than themselves... I just knew that it's something important for me to carry on in the future.
Whitney: I was a 'different' child. I kind of woke up one morning at 6 years old and decided I didn't want to be a girl and all of sudden -- I wanted to be Billy Idol. I was a very eccentric kid. I had bleached, spiked hair at 6. When I reflect back now as an adult, I think the only reason I was never teased I was because my parents were so open to expressing themselves.
I was very gay looking and androgynous as a child and my parents never looked at me weird and were just so supportive of basic expression, whether through art or your own personal style. I mean, both my parents are in the arts, be it music or visual arts. They never questioned me and just took it as part of who I was and because of that it really created an intrinsic character and self-confidence within myself and I just walked with my head up like it was "normal" and I was NEVER teased or bothered for that reason. I think a very important part of kids today is having the support from their parents and being comfortable and confident with expressing themselves and I think art is a huge way to be able to do that.
Jess: Did your parents watch The Real L Word?
Whitney: [laughs] You know, my dad watched the trailer and said to me "Ya know what, Whit... I love you BUT I think I'm not gonna watch it!" I was like "you know what dad - totally fine!" My mom on the other hand, was all about watching it. She would go to my aunt and uncle's house every week and I said "ma, no matter what, PLEASE don't watch episode 7. Please!" [laughing] She laughed and was like, "Whit, I know what you do, It's fine!" I'm like, "mom, I love that you're so supportive and accepting -- but there's certain things I wouldn't wanna see you doing and I'm not gonna say what it is specifically, but please don't watch." She actually didn't watch episode 7 per my request, but they do kinda know what went on because my aunt and uncle watched and spread the word. They know what I do, I'm an adult, they know I live my life and I make decisions that are my own and they respect that. They know who I am as a person and I don’t think they ever would critique that or look down on it.
Jess: Why did you first put your hair in dreads?
Whitney: I first dreaded my hair when I was living in Hawaii when I was 19. I've always been really attracted to that look and the mentality that goes behind it. I'm a Leo and I think it kind of goes with having a lot of hair. It's kind of like my safety blanket. I think it also reflects how I live my life you know; very natural and low maintenance but you can still do things with it. [laughing] I'm very go with the flow but if I need to do something fancy, I can get fancy. I moved back to New York at 20 and cut them off. Now, picture me with a graduated bob. Not a good look. [laughing] Panic attack! I was like oh my god, what did I do? Cutting them off the first time made me realize that I should probably have dreads forever, so I re-grew them from that time on.
Jess: What were you doing in Hawaii?
Whitney: Um, I was living in New York going to college at Pace University my freshman year and one day I kind of had this blip. Maybe you've had this living in New York... you ever pick up people's conversations and have a heightened sense of a day and you're just like "ugh" and it's effecting you? That day I felt like I was surrounded by everything I was trying to avoid in my life, whether it be greed or stress, things like that. I was finishing up my freshman year at Pace and was like - you know what? I'm just gonna make a drastic change. I'm going as far away as I can. Where should I go? Well, Hawaii sounds like a good bet.
So, I bought a one-way ticket and applied to school out there hoping I'd get accepted because I bought a ticket. I like to throw myself into situations where things could go either way: it could be disastrous or it could be great, and I won't know until I try it. It was great and I moved back to New York after a year because while Hawaii is beautiful, you kind of realize that if you have goals and want to achieve something you wanna be on the mainland.
Jess: Tell me about your trip to Thailand.
Whitney: That's another example of a crazy situation I put myself in! I was a carpenter and had been working on natural building projects internationally and I found this one in Thailand and I exchanged some emails with a guy who had a hut in the middle of the rain forest pretty much and he gave me limited directions to find this vegetable truck that would transport me to the hut. I went by myself, flew 20 hours, and trekked very difficultly to find this truck in the middle of nowhere. So now I'm surrounded by meat and vegetable bags on the back of this truck and after an hour and a half we finally get to the end of this road and the driver says to me in broken English, "Here we go!" and I was like "Greeeeat!" I get my bag and there's nothing but dirt and trees. He drives off and I realized that I was literally in the middle of, when I say nowhere I mean nowhere. There was a dirt and trees in this very heavy dense jungle, nobody was around and I didn’t have a cell phone.
I honestly felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I was like, “wow this is the most alone I’ve ever been” and it was definitely a challenge to my courage and self. I spent a couple weeks just sleeping on a board under a tin roof, I did permaculture gardening and natural building and it was amazing. I stayed at this permaculture area where there were only 2 other people for almost 3 weeks and then I traveled around Thailand for another week, staying in hostels, etc. It was an experience for sure.
Jess: You really are cut out for reality TV. How you described jumping into situations that could be terrible or awesome. Isn't that what instant fame is?
Whitney: Oh, yea! Absolutely! When we were first being filmed it was very surreal. Like, is this real life? Even watching yourself back is surreal. It's just random, that's the only word I can use to describe it.
Jess: Was the Shane comparison something you carried around for a while?
Whitney: Oh yeah, I remember my friends had a party at their apartment in Brooklyn to watch the premiere episode of the entire show and I was late to the party... and I walked in the door and the room fell silent and someone looked at me with disgust and was like, "UGH, SHANE!" [laughing] I knew in doing the show that I would have comparisons drawn to me as Shane. Yes I'm single and people see me as a "player" so yes -- comparisons can be made, but I definitely think I'm my own person in the same regard.
Jess: Which characters and storylines spoke to you when The L Word was on the air?
Whitney: I did feel close to Shane's character because I think there was more to her than met the eye, but Alice and Dana were honestly probably my two favorite characters because of their senses of humor. They were my favorites to watch.
Jess: What's your take on Ilene Chaiken? You obviously know the public's feeling on her.
Whitney: I'll say this. I think Ilene has faced a bunch of scrutiny for decisions she made... However, as a general blanket statement, she has to have some credit given to her because she's created a tremendous leap forward in lesbian visibility. The L Word was really groundbreaking TV and of course people didn't like some storylines -- I understand that -- but, in general, the show was very successful and I think it did a world of good for lesbians in general. Not only being able to relate to the characters personally, but create more of an acceptance country-wide. I have to give her a little bit of applause for that. And on a personal level, she's only been nice to me. As far as the reality show, they have an agenda and a vision for what they want the show to be and I think they achieved a similar positive response in doing the show. I'm part of it and I was definitely one of the cast members who was generally thrown under the bus by many people watching, and I still feel good about it! [laughing] So, yea....
Jess: What's your favorite lesbian movie? [see Top 10 Lesbian Movies That Don't Suck]
Whitney: Let's see.... I was a pretty big fan of Better Than Chocolate. I liked that movie. Actually, I'm gonna go ahead and say hands down But I'm A Cheerleader. Honestly, when I saw that movie - it was hilarious and well done and had it Clea DuVall hooking up in it [laughs]. When you're dealing with such heavy issues as coming out or accepting your own sexuality, I think it's really important to have some sense of jest in the matter.... some light heartedness cause it is such a weighted issue. Sometimes it's nice to have a comfortable, light air to it and I think But I'm A Cheerleader accomplished that.
Jess: I have to ask, during the infamous scene in episode 7, what was the camera woman's reaction in the moment?
Whitney: I honestly have no idea, but people ask me if I knew she was in there filming and I'm like, “um, I don’t know if you noticed but my room is only about eight feet long.” So yeah, it wasn’t like she was blending into the wall with like a four foot long camera pack on her back! I was also aware when they changed tapes in the middle of filming that moment.... I mean it was seamless and they did a really good job of sneaking that in. But honestly, it was only her in the room, and I'm very comfortable in front of her. She does a good job of doing her whole fly-on-the-wall perspective thing. She is just so quiet in her steps and every movement she makes she’s like a majestic force, you really don’t hear her. So, it wasn’t as awkward as people might think... It wasn't a whole crew of people - just one woman in the room and the only moment I really noticed was during the tape change, I'm not going to lie.
Jess: You're with Sara now, right?
Whitney: Ummm, [laughing] I'm not technically in any relationship. I have feelings for Sara. We both have feelings for each other, but we haven’t put labels on it yet. Honestly at this current moment, I think both of us are kind of at a place where... can I hook up with girls on the road? Sure. Would she be able to hook up with people? Sure. But, honestly right now I kind of have eyes on Sara.
Jess: How cute!
Whitney: [laughing] I can't believe I just said that! I'm like having a panic attack!
Jess: So is your whole posse -- Romi, Sara, Alyssa, Scarlett -- down for season 2?
Whitney: I mean I can’t speak for anybody specifically, but I think we’re all friends. We all have our lives overlapping. I don’t know what the status of Sara and I will be during filming or where we’ll be at but, I think everybody who’s in my life knows that this is part of my life and our relationship means more than cameras so they’re all open to it.
Jess: Finally, a topical question. Have you ever tried Four Loko? Any idea if it increases or decreases the Power of the Clam?
Whitney: Oh my god, that’s so funny you said that. I actually went to a Four Loko party the other night! I was like, “What is Four Loko? Why does everybody know this but me?" I had a couple sips but I was the designated driver so I wasn’t drinking. But I do know that I just bought new boots and some girl drinking Four Loko spilled her entire cup all over my new boots. So that was my impression of Four Loko. Anything involving caffeine and making my energy increase plus alcohol is probably not a good combination, cause the whole Power of the Clam comes out.