An interview with Wendy Ho
Tonight, for one time only, the legendary Wendy Ho will be performing on the Buddies in Bad Times stage with Toronto's own Miss Conception. To help promote the event, as well as her new music video, "Yes I'm a Ho," she agreed to a phone interview with Xtra.
Xtra: In your new music video, you have a three-way with Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon. So right off the bat, I have to ask: Kill/Fuck/Marry for Obama, Clinton and Nixon?
Wendy: Definitely marry Obama, fuck Clinton and kill Nixon.
Xtra: That makes sense. Obama looks like the kind of guy you'd want to go back for seconds with.
Wendy: He seems like a great husband, and you know he ain't cheating on Michelle. I mean, there's just no way. I think they have a really great marriage, and Bill is just definitely . . . He's still sexy. He's definitely fuckable. But marriage material? I do feel bad for Hillary. Poor girl . . . You got yourself a playa!
Xtra: And Nixon is just a freebie kill?
Wendy: Oh god, please. No. He can go! (Laughs)
Xtra: So the song is "Yes, I'm a Ho." Where did that come from?
Wendy: Well, the whole thing with Wendy Ho is that it's really embracing the word "ho" and taking a spin on how there's this negative word for being a promiscuous woman or being someone who is in charge of her sexuality enough to charge for it. That's not always the case and that's not how it's always depicted, but there's a word for that, but for men there's really not. And so it's almost like taking the derogatory term and trying to empower it and say, "Yes, I'm a ho, I'm in charge of my sexuality," and so it's coming from an affirmative place. I'm affirming it in a way that's great. Even Nicki Minaj -- I was very surprised to hear her song, which was very jokey, "You're a stupid ho," which just perpetuates this female stereotype. And [what I do] is very funny and digestable, but ho is all about being a woman and being empowered and being funny and being all these things that aren't typically embraced as being female qualities: being loud, being sexual, being in charge. But it's really about affirming in a positive way that, yes, I'm a ho, and it can be a great thing.
Xtra: Especially right now, with this climate down in the States where people are debating whether birth control should be covered by healthcare, there's slut-shaming. You're being very sex-positive in an atmosphere already not that positive about sex, and even less so about female sexuality.
Wendy: Well, it's always been the case. I mean, we've come a long way, but I think there's still some insidious sexism that goes on, especially with women. We're bombarded with images, millions of times a day, of what we should look like as white women, how we should be, how we should act, and it's still this stereotype of skinny, pretty model. There's still all of these expectations that are put on a woman. And we're also bombarded as consumers. Look at this Housewives franchise that's going on here! It's just perpetuating negativity within female empowerment. It's always kinda been that way, but it still needs to be shook up. The whole platform, I look at it as sex, race, gender, class, all those things are kinda the same chains that people can wear, and they're different categories, but they're all bondage. The act of Wendy Ho is about disassembling all those things and being a white woman that was born into a poor class and then flipping that on its ear, too.
Xtra: Actually, when I first heard you, Miss Conception was doing "Little Town," and I totally thought you were a black woman. And then I watched your videos and you're actually this very pretty blonde white woman, and it was like, "Oh my god!"
Wendy: And that was part of my story, too. I was always told that my looks and actions -- and I had this black best friend growing up that always told me, "You're a black girl! You got a big booty, you're thick on the bottom, you speak your mind, you love yourself a wig -- you're a black girl!" And then on top of that, I liked to sing soul and R&B, and that's how I want to sing. And I was told in high school, "That's not the way you should sound. You should sound like a pretty white girl." And it was all of those things that I've been told and I've come up against that I've embraced in this act. People telling me that you can't act like this and you can't speak like this and you can't sound like that. Well I've taken it all and I said, "Yes I can."
Xtra: There was the Oprah Winfrey song -- that one was super soulful. Actually, did you ever get a call back from her for that? Because I feel like she should have sent you a muffin basket or a thank-you card or something, because that shit was awesome.
Wendy: I think she should have, too! But you know, I think she's got to be really careful with her audience. She's still primarily talking to her audience of white women, who are still in these chains sometimes. People would have clicked on that link, saw that she associated herself with Ho -- I don't think she knows how to get her mind around it. There are a lot of people that dismiss it right away because of those things. There are people who go, "Oh, this woman is loud, crazy, too much." I think she's one of those people. I mean, I love her. This song was written from a real place when she was leaving. I thought she was leaving, but she didn't really leave! We were all at the United Center crying with her, and then she turned it around. "Oh, I've got my network, and it's the next chapter, and I'm on TV full-time!"
Xtra: You're going to be performing with Miss Conception at Buddies in Bad Times. How did you two meet?
Wendy: We met down in Puerto Vallarta last spring, and we were both performing at the Palm, and she's just the greatest. From the get-go, she knew who she was. She was like, "Oh my god! You have so many people in Canada who love you!" I had been to Toronto once before, very early on in my career, where I didn't know what I was doing. I performed at Big Primpin'. Someone had actually thrown a glass at me, so that put me off a little bit. I don't mean to paint it with that brush, but in my mind, it was always kind of scary. It's crazy to think of it like that in Canada.
Xtra: Usually, we're all very apologetic, but every once in a while, you'll meet an asshole.
Wendy: I had some fans there that were so embarrassed and so apologetic about it. It's fine! I'm looking forward to coming back and working with Miss Conception. She's a great person.
Xtra: You were talking about how you couldn't get a mainstream audience, but you've done super well with the gays and the drag queens. So what's it like to have that very committed, very loyal fan base?
Wendy: It's amazing! From the get-go, I was lucky enough to have an immediate response. I started off in New York working in comedy clubs, and I would go to a straight comedy club, and I still occasionally do, but then I would go and work for the gays, and it was just a whole other experience of respect and fabulousness. It was very apparent to me. I was like, "I'm going to go over here. I'm treated much better!" It's amazing! I can't say enough wonderful things about my fan base and the people that continue to show up. And once you have them, they're the smartest, funniest people I know, and there's a reason for that. Most of my friends are gay men. It's always been that way. When I was in high school, my first boyfriend turned out to be gay. I had that fag-hag, fruit-fly thing going on. To have that as my core is just the best. I went to a Madonna concert last night, and it's huge and on a much grander level, but I get it. Her audience is predominantly gays and women, and the energy that was there -- everyone was just happy and there was no complaining. With the queens sometimes, you know, it can get a little testy and bitchy, but I know a lot of them are just reading and having fun. I feel respect and revered in this community, and I would do anything for my gays. I love 'em, I love 'em, I love 'em.
Xtra: Now, for the final question: if you had to make a sex tape with Obama, and possibly Michelle, too, if you're up for a three-way, how would it go?
Wendy: Ooo, she can watch! I'd very much want her to be pleased as well. I would love to go into the Oval Office, turn it into something that it ain't. Put on the candles, clear off the desk and go at it, and then act surprised when Michelle is there. That's how it would go. I would work for him, go in there like "Yes, Mr President." Take notes, like Monica Lewinsky, and then go at it, honey!
Xtra: And then out come the Cuban cigars.
Wendy: Exactly! (Laughs)
Xtra: Thanks for talking with us! Anything else you'd like to say?
Wendy: I just want to say that I cannot wait to play in Toronto again and to come lubed, honey! Because you need to be lubed when you show up!
Wendy Ho and Miss Conception at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St at 7:30pm. Tickets are $25 each.)