There’s only one Courtney Love.
And she’s had a place in my life for a long time.
When I was a young teen, my life was pretty chaotic. We were moving around every year, and I was transferring in and out of schools with swiftness. I was struggling with a family situation that didn’t make me feel safe, and I retreated into a world that came out of a radio.
Looking back, it seems strangely antiquated to say “Rock and roll saved my life.” It didn’t– I kept myself alive. But I did it with the help of music. Here’s the thing though– up until that pivotal point, I was listening to r&b, top 40, and hip hop.
I loved music, but I didn’t find what I didn’t know I was looking for til I heard Hole.
I knew who Courtney was, of course, because she was married to Kurt Cobain, and Nirvana was all over the radio and Mtv. I wanted to like Nirvana (I still want to like Nirvana), but they never really hit me in the gut. I knew they were important though. I knew that when Kurt passed away, I was sitting next to my best friend, Crystal, and she started crying. I noticed that we were on the floor. I wanted to hug her but I didn’t know how to handle the idea of death, and instead decided to look awkwardly at my typewriter. What the hell was going on? Who kills themselves at the top of their game? I was totally confused.
After that, I started to hear more about Courtney. “Live Through This” was being played more and more on the radio. Courtney’s raw voice made me uncomfortable. It was the first time I had heard a woman sing like that– it was totally foreign that she didn’t care about how she sounded to her audience. Crystal ended up buying the album and we listened to it. Then we pulled out her guitar and turned her tiny amp up just barely so her dad wouldn’t hear it.
That was my first introduction to a lot of things. It was the first time I agreed to be in a band (like all of them, we dissolved…unlike a lot of them, we never even had an initial practice!). It was the first time I saw a woman unabashedly wear her heart on her sleeve, for better or for worse. It was the first time I felt the stirrings of teenage obsession coursing through me.
I remember feeling so connected. I had this secret, this woman to emulate. At a time where I was totally engrossed in perfection (perfect grades, perfect weight, perfect extra curriculars, keeping up the appearance of a perfect home life), Courtney was my spirit animal. She was doing the exact opposite of what I was. She was making decisions that affected her negatively, and she was doing it publicly. She was brash and smart. She was hurt and pissed off and she was totally ok letting that show.
I wanted so badly to let that side of myself show, and I couldn’t.
Courtney taught me a lot when I needed it. She taught me about feminism, about standing up for yourself, even if it just starts with stating how you are feeling. She taught me that there is a world outside of terrestrial radio– I dove head first into Babes in Toyland, and from there, Kathleen Hanna, and from there, into Riot Grrrl and zines. She taught me that there was fashion outside of the mall. She taught me that you can wear ANYTHING, if you have confidence. She taught me about marketing, although at that point I didn’t know that was what I was learning. She taught me about her version of fame: be ruthless, be big, talk in soundbites.
(Speaking of the talking in soundbites, I specifically remember an interview where she was asked about Alanis Morrissette and her album “Jagged Little Pill”. Courtney responded with, “She’s a safe version of female rage”. This BLEW MY MIND! It still hits me with the same exciting energy as the first time I read it. It was a bold, articulate statement and however much I was aware that you should never slag on other women, well, Alanis was boring. Boring rage–there’s no greater sin when you are in teenaged pain. Thank you, Courtney!)
My heart still has affection for Courtney, even though “Live Through This” ended up being the only album she made that I really got into. I loved viewing her work when she had an art show last year, and I’m really impressed with the fashion line she’s released. When I see an article about her or Francis Bean, I read it. And despite all of the problems that engulf her, I hope for the best.When I put together my “Cathedral of Rebellion” collection earlier this year, there was no doubt that she would be one of my seven saints.
Courtney’s one of my favorite people in pop culture, and so, spur of the moment, when Ben and I decided to have a date in Hollywood two nights ago, I put together a little homage in the way of a Miss World sash and tiara, and had him take some pictures. Hole’s imagery was so strong on “Live Through This”, and I think it still rings true and pure in very sticky sweet way. If you haven’t seen the video that inspired this shoot, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Courtney helped me create my own version of “Miss World”. I’m so thankful that she came into my life when she did.
Photography: Ben Pringle
Makeup: Lime Crime Cosmetics
Artwork and styling: Aurora Lady