“I'm really quite shy and an introvert, and I guess I use my many personas to be more outgoing.”
Tara Emory is easily one of the most unique and imaginative pinups on the t-girl scene. We all delve into the area of fantasy every time we slip on our heels, but Tara has taken feminization (and pinup porn) to a whole new level. In her shoots, she’s portrayed everyone from bellhops to butterflies, mermaids to matadors. She’s even done a sexy Sarah Pallin. (Look out Tina Fey!) I’ve been a fan of Tara’s for years, so it was a thrill to talk with her, and to ask about the process she goes through to create her amazing images. For me, it was a little like peeking behind the curtain in Oz… and seeing that the Wizard is actually a sexy transsexual with a flair for the wild and the wicked, as well as the wonderful.
CiCi: How long have you been doing this? When did Tara Emory -- the fetish transsexual pinup -- come to be?
Tara: Oh, I guess I've been doing this close to 9 years now. I dabbled in the fetish scene in the mid 90's but at that time I was going out to fetish clubs maybe twice, three times a year. Around ‘98 or ‘99, it all pretty much came out with going full time, and being a fixture on the Boston fetish scene (when there sorta was one), and starting up my website at the same time. My very first corset I think I made in like 1997 or so. It was green satin with white marabou trim. Back then I was definitely more into the fetish dressing than the day to day dressing. And I suppose that was the doorway into learning that I was transsexual/transgendered. I think by about 2000 or so, I was pretty much full time and very comfortable with being me.
CiCi: How was your transition to girl life? Was it tough on you? Was it tough on your family and friends?
Tara: I sorta went through all this 10 years ago with my family and don't really recall what it was like, but generally I think it went down ok. I seem to remember one family member meeting "Tara" for the first time and saying that it wasn't much different from me as a boy. When you're in "boy mode" and you're constantly mistaken for a girl, people aren't really surprised to learn that you're TG. It's like, "Oh yeah… that's what a transgendered person is like. That makes sense." Most of us meet people every day where something in your brain says, "What gender are they?" And some of them are either trying really hard to fit in the gender role that society wants them to be in, or they just go with the gender ambiguity and let people guess.
CiCi: You really were a pioneer. One of the first girls to start her own website. Back then, did you ever dream you would take it this far and basically become world famous?
Tara: Am I world famous? I'm not so certain of that, but if others say it's so, then I guess it is! I don't know. You don't really think of how far it will go. If I sorta stay at the same level I'm at now, then that's great, and if it becomes sort of a viral success, then wonderful. I've had various smooth talkers/would-be "agents" come into my life promising they could make me really famous -- or saying that I had to change the way I live -- or "you've got to move to L.A." I've ducked away from that because I either thought I was going to be taken advantage of, or that they were talking b.s.
“Some people are offended by the word "shemale" but I think it has a fantasy aspect to it, like it's a mythical creature. Actually, I have been called a "unicorn" before, which was probably the greatest compliment I've ever gotten…”
CiCi: And they probably were! But was it hard getting the website started? The web was still in its early stages. Did you build the site yourself? And how long did it take before you really started to see a lot of hits?
Tara: I think my very first website was some sort of "geocities" page, but that was so long ago I probably only have a version of it on like a Zip disk or something! It was also pretty bad trying to do dirty pictures back then, because digital cameras weren't that common yet, and you'd have to take the "questionable" film to get developed. I had more than one time where they either refused to process the prints, or they mysteriously stole some of the double prints I ordered. Probably around 1998 or ‘99 I got my first digital camera and had my first pay website.
CiCi: I imagine you've always been theatrical. Always had a flair for the dramatic. Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood? Were you a creative kid?
Tara: As a kid? Not so much a flair for the dramatic. In fact, I wasn't any sort of "drama club” extrovert at all. (In other words, I would NOT have been in any sort of “High School Musical.”) *rolls eyes* I'm really quite shy and an introvert, and I guess I use my many personas to be more outgoing. As a kid I wasn't into Halloween, and to be truthful, I’m still not. The only time I got heavily into Halloween was at the tail end of college when I was entering costume contests and winning some money here and there. But I wasn't making fetish costumes, I was making bizarre funny outfits out of cardboard boxes like gas pumps or ATMs. There was also one year where I dressed up as the Russian space station Mir, and won a trip to London. But theatre? Nah. But maybe now, I might. I've actually been sort of thinking of doing some real acting if the right role came around. But I think I'd have to be one of those actors who doesn't really act -- they just hire him or her to act like they normally do. I'll gladly take some roles for people to have me act like they expect me to! I could really relish doing something like an Amelie or a Holly Golightly sort of role.
CiCi: Holly Golightly? Excuse me while I imagine a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” shoot done Tara-style. (pause) Okay, I’m back now. : ) Tell us about college. I understand you went to art school. Does your school know what a success you've become?
Tara: Yes, I did, and it was a pretty conservative school in the *ahem* Bible Belt. They seemed to pride themselves on being a pretty "wholesome" environment, which isn't really the best atmosphere for an art school. So... I think if my alma mater knew what I did now, they'd probably NOT be interviewing me for their alumni newsletter any time soon, which is fine, because I don't really need them for anything anyway.
I guess I sorta blame my years at a Southern art school with delaying my whole figuring-out-that-I-was-transgendered process. I might've had an alternative life if I went to like New York, which would have put me there right at the tail end of the whole Limelight Club Kid era (mid 90's I think). On the other hand, maybe I would have become a junkie or something. In a way, I'm kind of glad I decided to be a pornstar/ fetish model at the age of 25, AFTER I reached a certain maturity, rather than falling into the potentially seedy adult industry at an earlier age. I've seen 18 year old strippers who are already jaded by the business, and it's not a pretty sight.
CiCi: If it’s not too personal, would you mind talking about doing porn? Did you spend a lot of time pondering that decision? Or did it just seem like a natural expression of your fetish side?
Tara: I fell into porn in my mid-20's, and I think that was the right time for me. If you had told the 18 year old version of me what I would have been doing in 10 years, I would have called you crazy. I think I had to reach a certain amount of maturity -- or at least harmony with myself. (I’d been an ashamed teenager drawing pictures of crazy kinky sex scenes.) It took me until about my mid 20's to come to embrace my inner pervert, so doing porn was a natural progression and expression of that.
I might have had an initial hesitation though. Sort of like, "what if this comes back to bite me in the ass." Eventually, I made the rationalization that 6 dirty pictures of myself floating around on the internet was just as damaging as 60,000 dirty pictures. Someone could try to use those 6 pictures to discredit me, but at least with 60,000 I can say that I "owned" my career. Plus it opened up a whole world of opportunities in other fields that are related to the business end of the "adult business."
Some people do porn as a means to an end -- as a way just to make money. And you see them all the time. They're the girls who if they changed their hair color you'd think they were a totally different girl. They all look the same, and they slip in and out of the business and hope it doesn't come back to haunt them (and often it does), when they try to work either in "real" Hollywood, or something that is the opposite of porn (like becoming a school teacher).
I'm the opposite. I actually want to make porn movies that people are still talking about 10 years later. What that will lead to I don't know, but I do know that the porn stars that get a cult status do end up getting roles in real films, write books, do the talk show circuit… all that.
CiCi: I can def see you on the talk show circuit… chatting with Tyra. So tell me about your photo sets? Do you struggle to come up with new ideas... or are you one of those people who has ideas stacked up for the next several years?
Tara: Ideas stacked up for years, and I occasionally dig into the pile and see what ones I should develop further. Sometimes an idea splits off into a few ideas (right now "Bubblegum Broadway" is splitting off into "Lion Tamer" and "Magician's Assistant," which are two I've designed but haven't started on yet.) If I really got my stuff together, I could technically try to do 50 shoots in like 2 months, and then dole them out one every week and be all finished with work until like 2010.
CiCi: That’d be a pretty amazing two months! So how long does it usually take... from conception to design to creating the outfit to creating the set?
Tara: It depends. I'm working on a lot of stuff for my sci-fi porn film "Uranus Needs Shemales," which is taking a lot longer than I had expected. And even with that, I've got conceptual sketches that go as far back as like 2003. But that's what the best ideas are; they're the ones you've been working on for years. I've also had ideas that went from concept to creation in like 3 days. There are a lot of factors that drive what shoots I do next. Sometimes it's things like the "time of year." Last year in mid-November I was like, "Ooh, I'll do a pilgrim shoot for Thanksgiving," and then I didn't figure out what that would be, but now that it's almost a year later, I can revisit that and I've got some time to do it properly.
CiCi: Do you have a personal fave? One particular outfit or photo that made even you go, "Whoa!"
Tara: As for a favorite? I don't know… I'll poke around my website and hover on an old shoot and appreciate different photos or poses that I used to. And then I'll look back at some outfits that I feel I over-did. And some that came out really, really good. I keep coming back to "Cocktoberfest," which even though the outfit is really traditional, non-fetish materials (nothing shiny at all), all the stars were in alignment that day. And at the time I made it, I really enjoyed hand-painting all the little details. The proportions of the sleeves, to the corset to the skirt, work really well, and I put in that extra effort to out-do any sexy German barmaid outfit I'd ever seen. It's one of the few outfits I've made that's actually comfortable, and fits like a glove. I could totally walk around the house all day wearing it, with the skirt that has a poofy-ness to it, while showing enough below to be very naughty. And this is coming from someone who really doesn't get into all that cliché, submissive "sissy" stuff.
CiCi: So tell us about your movie. What's it about? And what made you decide to take on this kind of challenge?
Tara: Yes, It's a bit of a challenge writing and directing my own film when I'm in front of the camera most of the time. It's called "Uranus Needs Shemales." It's about my character, Cummander Asstra Galasstica, and well, large sex-robots called "TestosTRobots" and her ship called "The Viberator." It's all made to look a lot like it was made a while ago, since it takes place in the future, in the year 1997. That's all I can say right now, and though it's all coming along pretty slowly, it is progressing. I'm also working on other films, and it may even be that some of them come out before "Uranus." I can imagine that there will be like 5 months of post-production and editing for a (cheezy) FX laden extravaganza such as that.
CiCi: I can’t wait to see it. Tell me something about Tara that would surprise most people? (Other than the fact that you’re shy and introverted. That one definitely shocked me.)
Tara: Probably what would surprise people is that my life isn't really a fantasyland. There may be a carefully crafted image that I portray, but when one speaks to me, they realize that I'd be the first to tear down the myth. And yes, there seem to be myths out there and all sorts of things said about me where I have no idea where people get that idea. I think people would also be surprised as to how dull my life really is. Not that I'm bored with life quite the contrary, I'm happy. It's just that it's full of menial tasks, and really doesn't have the sort of drama that people expect. I've been thinking of writing my autobiography, but I’ve been having a hard time because it isn't full of juicy pay dirt like tales of rejection, drug abuse, working the streets, etc. I’ve had a pretty well-adjusted life, which unfortunately makes for "bad television"!
CiCi: Tara, thank you so much for giving us a little glimpse at the girl “behind the curtain.” So, just one final question. I ask all my interview subjects this question: “Hey T-Girl, what does your T stand for?”
Tara: Well… hmmm… good question… I don't really often use many of the "T" words, and I really, really, really don't like it when people say "Gurl" with a "u." Some people are offended by the word "shemale" but I think it has a fantasy aspect to it, like it's a mythical creature. Actually, I have been called a "unicorn" before, which was probably the greatest compliment I've ever gotten from someone who met me and really "got" me. So, I'm not a T-girl, I'm a hybrid creature, a mermaid or a unicorn or a centaur. Let's go with that!
A mythical creature indeed. According to the dictionary, the word, “fantastic” has two meanings. It can either mean something associated with fantasy, or it can mean something that is exceptionally good. Tara Emory’s work is both. You can see more of Tara and experience her imaginative and erotic photos at www.tara-ts.com.