Be Here Nowish: An Interview with Purple Milk

Alexandra Roxo and Natalia Leite are busy. And while they may flirt with the idea of peace and quiet, a world without emails and solace in Brazil, the creative team behind Purple Milk is forging ahead for all the right reasons: to break boundaries, to penetrate barriers, to elevate their own work and offer something new. Luckily for us, that “something new” does feel authentic and really does feel refreshing.

Portrait by Fiona Torre

Purple Milk’s most recent venture is the web series, Be Here Nowish. Being touted as “the next Broad City”, the series is at once sexually and spiritually progressive (same-sex shack-ups and topless scenes-a-plenty) and impressively, unapologetically funny.

Leite and Roxo are also the duo behind Vice’s new documentary series, Every Womana show in which the directors take on the traditionally stigmatized jobs of women across the country. The pilot episode places them at a truck-stop roadside strip club in the middle of nowhere, and—determined to understand the life experienced in this very real circumstance—the artists become close to the people living in that world, merging that reality with their own investigation.

The WILD’s sat down with Purple Milk to discuss the reactions given their controversial subject matter and their new series, Be Here Nowish– now available online.

Every Woman is an interesting concept, but it garnered a bit of controversy after its debut. Did you expect that?

Alexandra: Of course. We got all types of different reactions, which I think most art does. We got a lot of strong reactions in both directions, which is really awesome. We’ve gotten letters from around the world—Tweets, Facebook messages, emails—from people who were really touched by the piece. And also, from people who were really pissed by it. So, to us, that’s a successful project. And now a few million people have viewed it.

The negative reviews actually surprised me because it seemed your intent was to liberate and objectively explore rather than to exploit anyone. There was even a comparison to the Nicole Ritchie show, The Simple Life. As if Every Woman was a sort of alterna-version.

Natalia: It’s just naturally a controversial subject. There’s going to be controversy around anything that’s about strip clubs. I feel there were a lot of comments that indicate people didn’t even watch it thoroughly to understand the behind the scenes of what’s really going on. People want to jump to conclusions quickly. We feel that because we went and actually did it ourselves, that we’re providing a different look into that space. And we’re still in touch with the girls that we met there. One of them sent us a letter because she was so excited when the piece came out.

A: And honestly, we kind of think the Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton thing is funny. Our lives couldn’t be more different than their lives. And I think that our show couldn’t be more different. There are different filmmakers that go into different communities and immerse themselves.  Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock, Johnny Knoxville, Sacha Baron Cohen… There are a lot of people that go and do a bunch of crazy shit in different communities and have all their own style. And our style—what we wanted to create—was not objective, obviously. It can’t be objective because we are the lens that people are viewing through. We intentionally never wanted to make fun of anyone and were very aware of that. We were just being ourselves and that was the most important.

N: Yeah. And we were really transparent while we were shooting it. We told people “We’re here, we’re filmmakers, we’re only working here for two weeks.” We told them everything.

It kind of reminded me of George Plimpton. He wrote about sports a lot and would go into those worlds and behave as if he were a football player rather than a spectator, to get a sense of the thing that he was exploring: “Participatory journalism”.

A: Yeah, but we’re not journalists. We’re artists and so we’re creating a piece—a film, not a straight documentary and not a piece of journalism. I think that sometimes maybe that’s difficult for people to understand, especially VICE’s audience that is used to a really specific type of content. For us to come and say, “We’re doing this thing. It’s a bit of a documentary, some of it is staged, some of it’s narrative, some of it’s experimental…” Obviously it takes a minute for people to really understand that this is the language we’re going to speak in.

With the experience of working as a stripper behind you, how do you feel in reflection?

N: That place is very specific. But we realize that it is really a hard job and that it’s exhausting emotionally, physically, in many ways mentally… So much of it is you being a therapist to these people. Some of them will tell you really traumatic stories. You’re just supposed to be there and listen. Especially for truckers who spend so much time alone on the road—this is important to them. We had a lot of respect for the women that do it and some of them—like this woman Daisy that we filmed—she really enjoys that job. There’s no shame for her and there doesn’t have to be. It’s really complex, it’s not black and white and I think it’s a job that has a lot of misconception around it.

A: And it’s really hard. I don’t think that either of us could have imagined how hard it was—how emotionally and physically draining it is.  We were dancing and also carrying around cameras and having to set up shots and set up sound. And we’re filming everything and doing the sound for everything and also performing as these roles—it was exhausting.

N: I think the nudity part—the dancing—is maybe the least exhausting part of it. You know, you get nervous at first but then you get used to it and then it’s more just being in this space where there’s just a lot of energy exchange. And the people there want more than just to see you dance topless. It’s a deeper connection they are seeking.

Can you tell me a little bit about the concept for Be Here Nowish?

A: The series is about two girls played by Natalia and I who meet at a party in New York and are both kind of going through hard times in their lives. One of them, Natalia’s character Nina, just lost her job and started bouncing around in relationships with lots of different girls and my character Sam just got dumped by her boyfriend and is trying to make her living as a dating consultant. But she just keeps running into the worst clients.

N: Our characters are soul searching—my character has the opportunity to go to Los Angeles to do a plant medicine ceremony with a shaman and she invites Alexandra’s character because they’re both like “(A.) I want to get the hell out of New York, and (B.) I need to do some spiritual work on myself obviously because nothing’s working out.” So they go to LA and it’s kind of a wild journey out there getting involved in this spiritual community that exists there—a sort of young, hip, post-new age-y spiritual community.

Does it feel like the subject matter is, in some ways, kind of autobiographical, like it mirrors what you were experiencing when you were creating the show?

A: A lot of it is. They’re things that we’ve experienced or things that we were experiencing or that our friends have experienced. But the characters are very different than us and that’s the fun part about acting. I’m not a dating consultant in real life and I have a girlfriend and I wasn’t just dumped by a boyfriend. Natalia’s not a drug delivery gal. We’re still acting.

purple milk the wild magazine

Photographed by Lizzie Hollins

Do you have a WILD Wish?

N: I would like time to stop and someone to give me a lot of money so we can both take a vacation to Brazil and not have to worry about work for a month. A vacation, but without emails at all.

A: It would be so fun to have a vacation at the same time.  But doubt it’s gonna ever happen.  One of us has to keep carrying the torch at all times.

N: That’s why it’s a wild wish.

text by: Hillary Sproul

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