May 26, 2010
I’ve looked up to Tara Emory for several years now, not just because she’s gorgeous and has an amazing website, but because she was one of the first transwomen to launch her own site. I’ve been a fan since 2001. Tara is world renowned for her Victorian fashions, corsetry, pvc, rubber, fetish clothing making, erotic watercolor illustration, and pin-up photography and movies. So I’m honored to have the opportunity to interview Tara Emory.
Caramel: You have a bold image. Do you have a “Type A” personality or are you more reserved than your outward personae might imply?
Tara: The real me is far more introverted than the exhibitionist you see in the pictures. I’m the kind of person who you meet and don’t think much of, but then discover all sorts of amazing facts and talents about me, whereas other people seem to put all their cards on the table the minute you meet them, and then when you scratch the surface you realize they’re not quite as amazing as you originally thought they were.
Caramel: When did you first develop your admiration for pin-up photography?
Tara: Well, my first appreciation for burlesque was when I visited Paris when I was 14. I was far too young to go into any of the naughty clubs, but there was a little but of a “Moulin Rouge” sort of vibe going on that stuck with me further on in life. Then perhaps in art school, there were the groups of students that really like Boris Valejo or other fantasy-oriented fetish artwork. But back then I was far far away from the fetish scene. In fact, what you’d consider “fetish” or “pinup” was something I thought was only going on in my mind. I had no exposure to icons like Bettie Page until I was well out of college.
Caramel: What made you choose the name Tara for yourself?
Tara: You know, I don’t quite remember!. It was always a name I liked, and just a name that found me eventually, The “Emory” part was a strange ocurrance, as I met this girl years ago that I thought called her self “Emory”, I thought “Emory” is a cool first name, I’ll use it for my last name. Years later I discovered she was in fact called “Ann Marie”, not “Emory”!
Caramel: I used to visit a club in Cambridge, MA named Manray and always wondered if I’d bump into you there. Did you hang out at Manray a lot?
Tara: Yes, quite a bit, but I started going in the mid-90’s and back then it was a handful of times a year. Around 2000 or so I was there pretty regularly on Friday nights, which was their fetish night. The club was hopping pretty good by ’03 -04 though I still meet people who went there in the early 90’s or even the 80’s and said it was better then.
Caramel: Where you already designing fetish clothing when your website first launched?
Tara: Yes, though I could probably fairly say that they stemmed from the realm of my erotic illustrations. I was designing outfits that didn’t exist in real life, so eventually I taught myself to sew so I could make them.
Caramel: When you began your full-time transition about 10 years ago, how did your friends and family react to it? Were you often mistaken for a girl years before your transition?
Tara: There was an uncomfortable period, but I do seem to remember that my mom didn’t bat an eyelash about it. It was like she pretty much knew. Going through most of my adolescent life being mistaken as a girl helped explain things too.
Caramel: Have you ever felt pressured to move to the West coast where there’s more adult industry activity?
Tara: I’ve been out to LA and Las Vegas for adult industry work, but in the long run it doesn’t really further my own particular brand of art when I work for someone else. It is tempting to try to move shop to LA, just because the talent is out there, but I have a great space here out east and I’m a bit of a pack-rat. I’ve been collecting Marie Antionette style couches for a film for years, and in order for me to do the same out there, I don’t know, I’d either have to do prop rental or start from scratch with my fetish for “interior design”
Caramel: Although I don’t like actually being called a “shemale”, it doesn’t bother me as a porn term. I promote transsexual porn every day of my life so if I got my panties in a bunch over it, I’d be in the wrong business. However, many transsexuals are seriously offended by it. In her 1990 book, “From Masculine To Feminine And All Points In Between”, Jennifer Anne Stevens defined “shemale” as “usually a gay male who lives full-time as a woman; a gay transgenderist”. I thought her definition was ludicrous and far more offensive than the actual term itself. Do you ever get any flack for using the term?
Tara: I personally don’t like the term insofar as someone calling me “shemale” to my face (though for some reason when my French friends up in Montreal say it, it sounds very exotic and romantic). But when you think of it, doesn’t “Shemale” has the same amount of “male” to it as … well…. “female”?. I think of the term as a cute hybrid term, like “mermaid” or “unicorn”, and it definitely plays up to a certain amount of fantasy. I had a discussion the other day with a trans person who was trying to convince me to not use it for “Uranus Needs Shemales“. And I had to explain how all of the other “trans-” terms were way too clinical and descriptive, without any sense of fantasy. “Uranus Needs Transgendered Women” just doesn’t have the same kick to it.
Caramel: I’ve taken a sneak peek at “Uranus Needs Shemales” and found it both highly erotic and humorous. Are you working on other huge productions also?
Tara: Yes, but my lips are sealed. I get myself into trouble for starting a zillion projects and not getting them done. If I tell about the 3 or 4 solid ideas in production, people are going to expect them all to come out tomorrow! I have people already asking me when my “Delucious Blasphemy” and “Shemale Faerie Tale’ DVD’s are going to be out (the answer- as soon as I finish making them).
Caramel: Did you get your start at Yahoo’s Geocities before launching your website?
Tara: Was that what it was? I think I still have my very first website on a zip disk in a drawer somewhere. Back when you still had to take the naughty pictures to the one hour photo lab to get them developed! Thank God for digital cameras (though I think God had little to do with those…).
Caramel: We both went to art schools. I attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts for two years, but didn’t really know what I was doing there. Sometimes I wished I’d just gone to school in NYC but I’m not sure I would’ve learned more about art than the club scene. Did you chose a Southern art school so you could better focus on your education?
Tara: I chose a Southern art school to better focus on being further away from my parents who were driving me up the wall senior year in high school. I think the South probably stunted my transsexual discovery though. Had I gone to NYC, I might have blossomed earlier, and probably would have been there right on the tail end of the whole “club kids” thing. Then again, I might have fallen into a rough crowd of party monsters, so perhaps it’s best I didn’t take that path!
Caramel: When you started out in porn in your mid 20’s, did you ever worry that it might bite you in the ass if you chose to perhaps go into another field? More specifically, if you continued to pursue Animation, might it have caused a liability?
Tara: Well, I’ll just have to do animation that is not squeaky clean! Same is true for fashion. If I were to try to enter the mainstream fashion industry, the porn career might ruin things, but if I stay in the fetish/kinky fashion scene, then it’s all a big bonus.
Caramel: You’ve got such a huge “cult following” at this point, do you think you might ever parlay it into a mainstream media career?
Tara: I’m still waiting for a big, big break. Perhaps some goofy reality show where I have to live with a bunch of other people that are nothing like me. I’m not much of a drama queen though, so Bravo won’t touch me.
Caramel: The themes for your photo sets and videos are prolific and diverse and you never seem to run out of ideas for new ones. I’d imagine that ideas for new themes come to you pretty much the same way a hook comes to a musician. Do you get a rush of excitement when a new light bulb pops up and you begin thinking of a new outfit to design?
Tara: I’ve got tons of ideas for things that I haven’t been able to do for years, and sometimes an idea gets spun off into multiple concepts. Only rarely will an idea come out of nowhere that I hadn’t entertained at one point. Though sometimes a sexy scenario can come from the strangest places… For example, I bought a bunch of tiki torches for an outdoor bbq in my backyard. Afterward, I was like “what am I going to do with these things?”, and then the idea of a sexy shoot of a damsel in bondage in a tiger striped bikini tied to a post while horny, hungry headhunters circle around me and lower me into a huge pot… So sometimes ideas come right out of the blue!
Caramel: That’s a hot visual. Do you make a lot of sketches when planning out costumes and set designs? I’m very interested in hearing about your creative process from the conception to finished product.
Tara: Well, let’s take some of the UNS stuff for example. I did my first sketches for a “space cadet” fetish back in like 2003. Fishbowl helmets, big robots with huge metal cocks. I’d keep coming back to the concept little by little over the years and develop it more, or throw bits of it away and start from scratch. Then maybe I’d actually make the outfit, do some pictures, but then only come back to the same outfit years later and add a few more ideas to it. It seems like a long time (and probably agonizing for my fans), but it makes the final concepts stronger in the end.
Caramel: In your most “submissive” sets, there is a clear distinction from typical sissy fetish content, but you’re clearly no stranger to bdsm. Does that whole sissy concept bore you?
Tara: Yes and no. I do love my petticoats, but there has to be a strong sexual context to it. For a person to be just dressed up in something frilly could end up being like a 50 year old guy in a bad wig dressed like a french maid (ew!), but shorten the petticoat, tighten the corset and put it on a hot TS or girl and show a little crotch, then the same submissive/frilly is far more enticing.
Caramel: Do you think you’ll ever write about your life and work – an autobiography perhaps someday?
Tara: Yes I’d like to. I keep thinking it’s time to do it and then my life takes a huge turn in the other direction and I have no idea where the story would end. Perhaps if it was a serialized graphic novel or an ongoing series it might work best. Right now I went through a rough patch in my life and am still to close to it to write about it objectively.
Caramel: I understand that you love old cars. Do you just love the design or are you also mechanically inclined?
Tara: Both. I grew up in a household where there was always sometime old and interesting around. So I prefer to drive something uncommon, whether that be a Citroën or something British that is likely to break down on me (where the mechanically inclined part helps). I don’t need to get to a place of employment, so I can occasionally be broken down at the side of the road in an MG . Hmm, I feel another photo shoot idea coming up…
Caramel: Do post-op transsexuals, mainly those who are not in adult entertainment, ever ask you why you haven’t undergone SRS (Sexual Reassignment Surgery)? Has anyone ever tried to make you feel wrong or that you’re not a “total woman” until you have SRS?
Tara: Not really. For whatever reason I don’t know a lot of post-ops or even pre-ops that are not in the adult business for some reason. Most ts’s who are not in the adult business sort of frown on all of us anyway, for making a spectacle of ourselves and putting ourselves out there as a freak show since we have a little from column A, and a little from column B.
Caramel: Is there an active fetish scene thriving in New England these days?
Tara: Eh, somewhat. It’s fractured. It’s tough to do the sorts of fetish nights in Mass that command respect from the international community. Even us people in Mass prefer to go to Florida for Fetish Factory, or Kink in the Caribbean in Jamaica or Montreal and just make it a weekend or a week long bender.
Caramel: Do you ever get to any fetish clubs in NYC?
Tara: Yes, I do, and I predict that like it or not, NYC will probably figure a little more prominently in my future. I doubt I’ll move there, but I’m 4 hours away (well, 8 if I break down and have to flag a tow truck by waving my panties in the air), so it’s really on my doorstep. I predict the occasional weekend spent there.
Caramel: You’ve modeled for other premier websites like Shemale Yum, Shemale Strokers, Shemale Porn Star, Bob’s Tgirls and those are just some of the photo and video sets elsewhere that I’ve seen. What other sites have you been featured at?
Tara: This past summer I did 3 or 4 shoots for Shemale-Club site as well. I’m on the fence as to whether doing these sites has helped me or not. On one hand, it’s exposure, but on the other hand, they aren’t as picky with the photos they use (I’d be a lot pickier). And also, on the third hand, the exposure ends up crowding out my own work, and if people get their rocks off on seeing a free gallery of me on one of these sites, they might not join my own site.
Caramel: I tend to get along well with others who understand what I do and most of my time is devoted to adult entertainment. When I’m dating someone who isn’t interested in the business, I find there’s often not too much to talk about if they’re not interested in it. Do you have a hard time dating people who aren’t interested in the porn industry?
Tara: I try to get them interested in the porn industry. I’m a bad influence that way.
Caramel: I do love the way you think. Thank you so much, Tara and all the best.