What inspires your looks?
“I’d say New York’s club kids from the 1980s and ’90s. I find it cool how the scene came up from the underground, with them defining themselves through their crazy looks – I just love it.”
Do you define yourself as a boy or as a girl?
“I define myself as in between. For me, gender is more than just male or female. I see it as a spectrum with a lot of different possibilities to express yourself. Platforms such as Facebook show that there are a lot of names for it, but for me, gender means self-articulation, to live out your social gender and to be free to do so.”
When did you create Leni?
“I didn’t create Leni. It was more like a natural process. During my performances, I’m in a certain character, but I’m the same as a private person. That’s why I’d rather say it’s not a just a fictional character I made up, but a part of me, of my real identity.”
What’s Leni’s intention?
“To give the community an understanding of gender because, even in 2016, I still have the feeling that a lot of people don’t really understand. But that’s why I’m here now – to rescue the world from evil politicians and other creatures putting stones in our way. I want to spread queerness in this world and I’m doing it with my pictures and performances.”
What did you discover or learn about people since you started defining yourself as Leni?
“It definitely got a little bit harder. When I’m on the streets, I cause confusion – people look at me, asking themselves if I’m a man or a woman. People always try to categorise you and that makes it hard, but you get used to it, although it’s exhausting to be put in boxes… I learned that. But I also got to know a lot of different people from the scene that understand. They share my point of view and I enjoy that because you can’t fulfil this mission when you’re all alone.”
What can other people learn from Leni?
“I want to make people understand that gender is nothing you’re born with, but something everyone can develop. I’d love to make people understand that they also have the freedom to express themselves. It’s hard in other countries, I know, but that’s why I think it’s cool that some people on Instagram see me as their role model and ask me for advice.”
What’s the idea behind Boltish, your choker collection? Tell us about your vision.
“To be honest, it kind of came from itself. I design my own performance outfits and a choker is always part of them. After my performances, people often ask me where I get them from, so I tell them that I make them myself. Because of that, I decided to focus my label on these chokers and, since the middle of 2016, I’ve been selling them on my online shop.”
Do you see yourself as a role model, teaching people that gender doesn’t define us?
“Gender is always an important topic for me. If people want to see me as their role model it’s up to them. But some people ask me about gender, for example on Instagram, and I’m happy to be their contact person.”
Do you have a life motto?
“I have a friend from London who used to say, ‘Be nice or f*** off !’ That’s a pretty cool motto.”
Your style and make-up is outrageous. Where do you get your inspiration from?
“Well, as cheesy as this might sound, watching Party Monster as a teenager definitely changed my view on things. I started sewing looks and going to school in self-made heels. But inspiration is a tricky word, as I approach things very technically. I find one piece I really like and start building a concept around it. Some take a day, some will take a few weeks. And since these concepts can go in very different directions, the inspirations vary just as much. I’d say my main inspirations are anatomy, fetishism, religion and, to get very vague, symmetry and distortion.”
When did you create Hungry?
“Hungry surfaced in 2014. What was I thinking? She started as a blonde, pouty hipster girl, then became an artsy pouty hipster girl and then had a full conceptual makeover after moving to London in late 2015.”
Why did you start to do drag?
“It wasn’t my fault. I wanted to try it once, so a friend took me out to buy hair and another gave me the femme face and some heels and we went out to this big drag party at Monster Ronson’s. And people loved me! I did! It wasn’t for another four months that I went out again, this time as Hungry. That second time I met Pansy Presents, who asked me to perform right away, so I was pretty much forced into feeling comfortable in drag. Thanks for that. No seriously.”
What does Hungry stand for?
“Hungry wants to give people a glimpse of a reality that could be. An organic, breathing image of another dimension’s life form. Like Alexander McQueen’s Plato’s Atlantis collection, Hungry is the human that adapted to completely new surroundings. And with Hungry being that, I just want to inspire people to be more. Put more passion into things.”
What did you discover about people as Hungry?
“I instantly learned how real the objectification of women is. I was being catcalled, followed and grabbed way too often. As a teenager I dressed to provoke, I wanted the stares, I wanted the insults, but just looking like a woman gave me all of this without me asking for any of it. And the moment they realised they were dealing with a boy dressing up as a cute girl, things got scary. These things are behind me now, though. Mainly because I look bloody scary most of the time, but also because you learn to carry yourself in a way that people don’t want to mess with you.
“A more positive thing to discover was how genuinely appreciative people can be. Seeing someone be thankful for all the time you put into your work can make a day. And being out as Hungry had me discovering incredible people, incredible artists.”
Why Hungry? Hungry for what? Why did you choose this artist name?
“So, I’m really bad with food. We’re not talking anorexia or anything serious, but I will just forget to eat for a day, or eat a bag of crisps for dinner and call it a meal. It mostly happens when I’m working on something I’m very excited about or when I’m sewing.
“I also just saw how genius a drag name this would be. It’s so open to anything. Hungry for fame. Hungry for love. Hungry for presidency?”
Does being in drag make you feel more confident?
“Of course it does. Every drag queen/king or club kid will say the same. No matter how much of yourself you allow to shine through in your drag, it is still a mask and it’s one that lets you decide how crazy you can go.”
Is uploading a picture or Snapping in drag as exciting as performing in front of a live audience?
“It’s a completely different kind of exciting, but in my case it’s pretty equal in importance. As soon as I am finished getting ready, I take the pictures that will go on my Instagram. From that point on, knowing that the look is documented, I can go into a night, relaxed and focused. And I can ruin as much of my make-up on stage as I need to, because that always sells.”
Where will we see Hungry in the future?
“On a stage near you soon. Spreading world hunger? I’m not sure what the future holds for Hungry. I travelled a fair lot this year and loved meeting new and like-minded people. I hope I get the chance to keep on exploring that way. I’m not going to think further than that, as I didn’t pick the careers with the steadiest future chances. We will see. Ta-dah!”
Special Thanks to Urban Spree and Nicolas Defawe