When we first saw the ad for the Phillips Satinelle Ice, we were excited: finally! An ad that treats a transperson as a real person, not just the punchline to a joke or a visual gag! Then were were confused: why were people across the internet referring to this ad as the story of a transvestite? Finally, we were curious: who was this anonymous dancer, and what was his story? Was he (or she) a drag queen, a transsexual — or something else entirely? We just had to find out.
Thankfully, through the magic of the internet (and the help of the kind folks at DDB), we were able to get in touch with Karis, the dancer and hula hoop performer (previously featured in the video for the Scissor Sisters’ “Filthy Gorgeous“) who was the center of all the hubbub. We asked him a little about who he is, why he did the ad, and what the experience has been like — and here’s what he had to say.
First of all, thank you for taking the time for this interview.
Well, I think everyone’s being misled about my life, so it’s my pleasure.
What do you mean by misled?
I first of all don’t identify as a tranny, or transsexual. For the commercial I wore breasts, and I knew it was going to come back to me, but it was so groundbreaking that I was happy to do it. Honestly, I like to think that I can change myself and be however I’m comfortable. I’m a little tranny… I’m all of those things. But people told me that I was being quoted as saying that I’m a transvestite — I’m not. If that’s what’s safe for you, it’s fine to label me that way, but don’t quote me.
So how do you identify yourself?
I’m so comfortable being myself, I’ve just never questioned. I love the whole androgyny thing, though, if that’s even a category. I’m a man, and I do love being a man, and would never want to change that – but I also have my days where I love getting dressed up and just being fierce.
The one really great thing about this ad – well, there are a lot of great things – but for me, now I can speak about how there are just so many more avenues than just tranny or gay boy. It’s nice to be able to educate people that there are more avenues.
Do you identify as gay?
I like to think that I’m more evolved, and that things are more liquid, but I am primarily gay.
What was it like to work with DDB, the company that created the ad?
They have been the most wonderful and gentle people. They have been so interested in learning about gender and sexuality issues. They have been so fabulous – I could not ask for a better crew of people.
How do you feel watching the ad now?
It’s weird knowing that that’s me. I know it’s supposed to be a take on my life, and they did use a lot of components of my life – my massage parlor, my nail salon – overall, I’m happy with it. I love doing things that challenge and educate. I’ve gotten so many emails from trannies saying that they never thought they’d see something like this in their lifetime – and that lone is worth all the trouble. It’s a shame that it’ll never air in the states – but thank god for the internet.
Want to know more about Karis? Catch up with him on MySpace.
[Photo by Austin Young]