Illustration by Elena Durey.
stéphanie sokolinski (born 26 October 1985) better known by her stage name soko, is a french singer-songwriter, musician and actress
do you remember the first queer person you encountered?
i don't remember having the thought that liking someone of the same gender was weird. to me it was so rooted that we're all the same. the only thing that made it seem different is that everyone in my family was very straight, but also my mum has always been the one- if my cousin had a black boyfriend and then half the family was fucking racist, my mum would be like 'we're not going to christmas dinner if her boyfriend's not going!' she was really cool like that. she would always say to my brothers, if you like guys, it's ok. but they never thought that a girl could like girls. it was never brought up. i grew up in such a small place. a tiny village. it was a lot more common to have gay guys than lesbians.
what kind of art were you were drawn to as a teenager?
in my small tiny village there was not much access to art. everything was very pop culture and i lived thirty minutes away from the theatre so i couldn't see that many movies but when i started going to high school i used to go and see movies all the time. four times a week i was watching movies. and i felt i could finally develop taste for cinema and music through movies.
then i moved to paris when i was 16. that's when i started going to a lot of shows. it was the rapture and lcd sounds system and it was cool. it was the beginning of ed banger and i was going out a lot and i was really obsessed.
i started acting then and so the summer of my 16th i had decided to quit school and i had also booked my first part in a movie. in the audition they had asked me 'what do you think about kissing a girl in the film?' and i thought 'it's really no different'. then i had to shoot the film and was really excited, fuck! I'm going to get to kiss a girl that's hot! in the film i had to kiss a girl and a boy and I hated kissing the guy and when I kissed the girl, she was such a great kisser and i remember thinking, oh my god girls' lips are soft and so yummy and so awesome. from that point on i was like 'yeah I think i'm definitely going to kiss more girls.' [laughs]
was that your first kiss ?
yeah- in a film.
that's so weird. that's such a weird first kiss.
yeah! then I started going out a lot and over time i would go out i would kiss girls at clubs. every. single. time. 'i want to kiss another girl.' i didn't have sex with a girl until i was 19, but for three years i was like 'OH MY GOD I NEED TO FIND A GIRLFRIEND.' I had a boyfriend but he was a bit violent and into doing a lot of drugs and when i finally broke up with him i was like 'I'm never gonna do drugs. i'm never gonna drink again' and for the next three years i was only with girls because i couldn't let that overpowering destructive male energy around me. there can be destructive energies around anyone. by nature women are more nurturing- doesn't mean everyone- but i just like very kind people that are very soft and in tune with their emotions but also determined and ambitious and very kind.
was there healing power in the love of a woman?
i think there's healing power in the love of anyone period. i don't think it matters whether its a woman or a man. its just seeing those same qualities in people whatever their gender is. and love heals all
your music is so raw and honest. how important is that to you?
i had a weird experience with music. the first few songs i wrote, we don't have to mention it cause i hate them! the first few songs i wrote i didn't feel like a musician i felt like an actress and i was like 'i'm going to write songs as if it's not me.' it would feel like a character and people would approach me and say 'this song is so me' and i would say 'this song is all fake, it's not even me, i don't care that it's you!' my reaction was like 'BUT IT'S NOT ME!' and then i felt like a liar and i felt like i was being dishonest and i was presenting a side of myself that people thought they could connect with that wasn't even me. so i did a total 360 and went' i really need to make everything that i do really raw and intimate and vulnerable and personal and then it was the real...
... it was like a mission- instead of writing a bunch of bullshit- almost like taking a picture of what's inside my head EXACTLY like a musical picture and it felt so much more rewarding...
... cause then i could go out and perform these songs without feeling like i was a liar and it was so much better to pour my heart out really trying to dig deep, like self induced therapy - really what i feel about a whole situation. and to me a song isn't done until i feel like i've summed it up and expressed exactly how i feel. that's definitely been a big part of my art and what i do.
who is your queer hero?
this french author virginie despentes - she had a huge impact on my life and i did a movie with her a few years ago. even though i've always felt like i was a feminist i don't think i had the knowledge yet and then making the movie with her that was adapted from one of her books, i got to read a lot of her books. one particular one was called 'king kong theorie' and the very first lines were so impactful. i would paraphrase it and not do it justice but you should look it up. it's an amazing opening chapter where she's like...
'this book is for all the women who never want to be in the kitchen. it's for all the women with beards. it's for all the women who don't want to shave their legs.'
... then she talks a lot about prostitution and rape and she's had a tough life. but then i got to be around her and see how much of a powerhouse she was. I hold this relationship very dear to my heart to this day. she opened me up to sing. she was dating men until she was 40 and realised she was a lesbian and was like 'never going back!' [laughs hysterically]
what one piece of music or book or film should young queer people read
this book [ 'king kong theorie' ] is amazing- she also made a documentary that remember being amazing about feminism and that was really fucking great [ Mutantes: Feminisme Porno Punk ] she's such a punk. it's funny cause i feel like i don’t really think about art in terms of 'this person is queer, this person isn't' it's just a good book. gloria steinem has some of the most amazing writing out there and she's not particularly more queer... she's just a great all round woman.
i've been really attracting, really super strong very unique people in my life, but that's because i'm obsessed with cultivating differences and making sure i surround myself with people that have more to offer than fitting in boxes...
... there's nothing more that i find more sad in a way, than people not living their full truth or not trying to explore what their truth is and how they could make themselves happier if they were not being so hard on themselves and trying to look like the kardashians...
... i'm really lucky to witness those millennials and see that everyone is a lot more fluid with their sexuality and more embracing of other people's differences. there is still a long way to go for that not even to be a question or an issue anymore. but at least i feel lucky that i'm seeing the generation of progress and the generation that is more inclusive. the generation that talks loudly about political views and we want to rebel against gender differences and stand up for gender equality.
thanks for being part of this. I really wanted to do something to give my life a bit of meaning... not just bullshit stuff!
yeah! I mean i was against doing promo and being in the public eye - but also doing this and then being given more platforms to express our kind of lives and ideas is also very very privileged position to be in, so of instead of being like 'I hate doing promo this is so vain' i'm like, i am being giving a profile and a voice that can reach more people so instead of being this little brat that doesn't want to do any shit, i thought it was my mission to turn this opportunity in NOT making it about promotion and NOT making it about vain shit and really talking about things that are important for me. whether it's gender equality or being queer or being vegan or trying to do any little steps that come to honour our planet and take care of our people, and live a life that is surrounded by love. we're in a very privileged and lucky position. it's lucky to have so many people following us and if you use it right way it's very powerful.
Illustrator Elena Durey is an queer Irish illustrator, currently studying BA (Hons) Illustration in sunny Falmouth and would like to meet your dog.