Lady in the Mirror
Joyen Santos: singer/songwriter, rope bondage dominatrix, the bad girl of burlesque, alt model, and crazy cat lady based in Manila, Philippines
There is this cryptic hyper erotic French photographer who’s been running around shooting my friends from the kink scene for quite some time now. My Type A intuition tells me to do a background check first and I do not see any images of the proponent, only those of his subjects – most of them pulsating with violent sexual energy midway through self pleasure. Initial thoughts? Hah. I like this photographer already.
We finally meet personally through one of the most awaited events in the kink scene – the annual private femdom ball. He shyly approaches me and introduces himself. He is a fountain of war stories and projects in our element – one of which is this second feature in Intimate Manila.
Meeting and working with someone as crazy beautiful as Les Filles de Pigalle inspires me to venture into producing pornographic art with him in Manila. He is already close to becoming one of my soulmate freaks behind the lens; read: he himself went through my suitcase of goodies and mixed and matched my pieces to come up with this half-dressed geisha policewoman Victoria’s Secret Angel wardrobe. He was also crazy enough to come up with the idea of having me write my own article for Intimate Manila. Ah, we agreed that models are put on such a high pedestal.
How did it feel to have Les Filles de Pigalle slide into your DMs? Can you explain how that happened?
Les Filles de Pigalle slipped under my skin when he asked to have his photographs up on exhibit during the Kink Karnival. I have never seen a sexier, more accurate depiction of how I feel about sex and eroticism until I saw his photographs. Sex is this myriad of messy fluids, smells, and pain, but he makes it look like the most perfect thing ever. He is most welcome to slip into my DMs again any time.
You are also a multidisciplinary artist. What kind of work do you make?
I am a singer and songwriter for rock and electronica, with a background in filmmaking, live sound recording, audio engineering, and sound design. Presently, I am experimenting with a raw acoustic tandem specializing with what we like to call ‘heartbreak hits’ with Armo (of Spongecola) — Shadowsplay. However, I am more popularly known for being the country’s only openly practicing Japanese-style rope bondage dominatrix and the co-founder and one of the headliners of Manila Burlesque / Burlesque PH. At some point in my life, I was a Chief Marketing Officer specializing in digital marketing and all sorts of events.
As a photographer yourself, how is it to now be on the other side of the camera?
Nowadays, I prefer it this way. One of the local performers I look up to, and with a similar background too, told me that being the talent is a job with an expiry date. Yes, I do have an administrative skill set which I can use any time, but I cannot be the talent forever — so now is the time to be in front of the camera. I become a talent, a tool, for anyone from emerging artists to experienced professionals to use for their work. One day, I will do the same.
As a young artist, do you feel inspired by this kind of rebellious attitude to fashion?
I believe that there is no other way to dress. My mother, who is an Olympic shopper and trendsetter, inspired me to dress up (or undress up) however the hell I want to as long as it is in the proper setting. The performance starts when I put on or choose not to put on certain pieces of clothing.
Are artist Joyen and model Joyen somewhat separate?
Yes. In order to produce nothing but high quality deliverables, we have to designate roles and responsibilities to reconcile limits and expectations — compartmentalize. Some say I wear too many hats, but it is all a matter of managing which hat goes where. As a model, I think of myself as just another ingredient for the artist’s vision. I do my best to be that ingredient. As an artist, it is my turn to pick the ingredients suited for which project and make sure that each one blooms to their fullest flavor.
Text by: Joyen Santos
Photos: Les Filles de Pigalle
Lingerie: Krate the Label
Hair and Makeup: Laime Pascual