Emily Eizen- artist, influencer and almost High Times cover girl
In a sea of beautiful women on Instagram, Emily Eizen stands out above the rest. Maybe its her 70s technicolor feed, her shock red hair or the fact that she unabashedly smokes weed. Mostly it’s the fact that her photos move you somehow, her soulful feminine approach to being a cannabis influencer has been noticed in an industry that by the numbers, is controlled by men. Eizen is less an ‘influencer’ and more so a Botticelli painting come to life. She may not stand on a shell, but like Venus is often depicted with a haze of flowers billowing through the air.
The relationship between art and cannabis has been a long explored topic. From artists like Dali whose psychedelic musings were obviously inspired by THC to Miles Davis who vocally praised the herb as a daily ritual, art and cannabis have enjoyed a famous union. But until the digital age emerged, women were largely left out of this conversation. Media platforms such as Instagram hatched a space for female photographers to share cannabis portraiture that was once considered too controversial to hang at the local coffee shop and too lowbrow for a traditional gallery showing. While it’s male detractors brand the imagery as attention seeking, rebellious or ‘sexy’’, it’s creators and thousands of fans see it as a way to empower women. It’s what Emily and like-minded cannabis creatives such as Roze Volca, Lizzy Jeff and Nesha Torres have created on Instagram, a wave of cannabis expressionism, a space to celebrate the divine feminine and document the unique relationship women have with cannabis. I ask Emily what its like to be viewed and what its like to create.
I think what our readers are really curious about is what is the public’s fascination with watching people smoke weed? Instagram began the trend, then it was Youtube but now people are moving to Twitch, can you shed some insight?
Cannabis is trendy because its on the cusp of federal legalization but only legal in a few states, so its this kind of fantasy lifestyle to watch other people freely smoke weed and flaunt it. Things that we have in California and Colorado, ounces of weed or smoking a joint outside, are still not available to most people in the US. I think people being open about their cannabis use or atleast for me is trying to change the image that stoners are loners on the outskirts of society. You see a woman and shes an artist, but she’s a businesswoman and she also smokes weed and gets shit done, people are interested in that and it starts a conversation. I recognize it’s a massive privilege to post photos of myself smoking weed online and not be worried about the law. I want to make that clear, many black people and people of color are in jail for doing the same thing and I think in an industry thats mostly white its important to not ignore this. I was shocked when I attended MJBizCon in Las Vegas (the cannabis industry’s biggest event), most of the actual convention was all old white guys, very few young people, people of color or women attended. It was all these old men trying to cash in on a new trendy market and doing so successfully.
Tell us about your feelings on color- you have a very vibrant palette, its unique for 2019 where most of Instagram is pale or neutral tones.
Thanks- I use colors that reflect my artwork, a lot of what you see in the industry is very minimalist but my main goal is to merge art and cannabis into a third entity. A lot of typical cannabis imagery you see on Instagram is completely tacky and follows this misogynistic ‘blunts and bitches’ trend where women are used as props to sell product. My art represents a movement away from that. I want to create dynamic beautiful artistic images of women using cannabis on their own terms.
Did you intend on becoming a cannabis influencer or did it cannabis just make it into your photos?
I was taking art classes at Santa Monica college and was searching around for a budtending job when I ended up at ERBA Collective. After working there for awhile I noticed the complete lack of creative imagery when it came to the cannabis industry, [insert classic nug shot here] so I offered to take over my shop’s social media to experiment. Soon I started going to events, making connections and viewing the landscape of the cannabis industry as a whole. I realized there was no job title for what I wanted to do and saw an opening to start creating imagery for brands that I would like to see. I slowly realized that I myself could become a brand to represent people like me who were underrepresented- a female, queer, cannabis user.
I heard you worked with High Times and were supposed to be on their cover, what happened with that?
High Times contacted me because they were launching their first issue dedicated to women in the cannabis industry and they wanted me to be on the cover. They weren’t going to pay me but I was happy to do it because it was a huge honor. The idea was to do a cannabis meets Venus theme and the shoot itself was great. We had an all female crew, photographer and creative director, I felt comfortable and felt the imagery was tasteful and artistic. They were clear this was for the cover of the magazine. A week later I get a call for an in person meeting from High Times and the representative told me the night before the magazine before was supposed to go to print the CEO pulled my image because he thought it was too ‘sexual’ and controversial. Apparently the High Time’s stock was about to go public and he felt the company’s search for investors would be harmed by my cover. I was so hurt. High Times has had centerfolds of half naked girls for 20+ years that were tasteless and misogynistic. This was a step in a new direction, a celebration of women in cannabis with imagery made by women. I’m really dispappointed that High Times feels that women are ok in it’s magazine but only for men. It’s disappointing they couldn’t handle a woman reclaiming her own sexuality, but they can have as many naked women as they want so long as its for the male gaze.
So what did they do with the image?
A few weeks after their representative calls me and tells me High Times is having a big party and will use the image of me there so atleast I’d get some exposure. So I arrive at the Women of Weed party where hundreds of people are and they’d blown up my photo to be lifesize and cut a hole in my face so people could use my naked body as a photobooth prop. It was incredibly uncomfortable and humiliating, they hadn’t asked me if they could do that. Another thing that was disrepectful is they had intensely photoshopped my body so that my butt was enlarged and my skin was unrecognizably smooth. It was like they had made me into a Kardashian. The raw images from the day of the photoshoot looked great, I have no idea why they thought I needed more curves, I already have a pretty shapely body. I ended up leaving early because I was so mortified. In the end I made them pay me and I’m not sure I’d work with them again.
I’ve noticed that unlike most influencer pages in the cannabis space, yours seems free of advertising, do you work with brands?
I do work with brands but it’s important to me that I really believe in the product and use it myself. I get so many requests to work with brands who want to only work in trade, very few want to pay a me for taking photos of their product despite it being no different than standard advertising. Men in the industry steal our images and use our content without asking or paying all the time, if we want a more elevated industry then women need to start getting paid as much as men do. Right now that’s sadly not the case.
What would you like to see more of in the cannabis industry for 2019?
I’d like to see my friends and women in general getting paid for their work. There are so many amazing women in the cannabis space working very hard and being compensated a fraction of what men are for the same jobs-branding, consulting, photography, compliance, etc. Friends supporting friends and helping eachother grow is a big goal of mine this year. I’d love to see more people who are truly passionate about the plant getting into the industry and making change. I’d love to work with brands who understand the importance of the kinds of imagery that me and other women are creating.
What cannabis products do you enjoy?
Foria’s cannabis lube was one of my favorite products I tried this year. I love high CBD flower, I think people don’t give it enough hype. Henry’s and Flow Kana’s outdoor organic herb is very good.
See more of Emily here. Know of another cool cannabis person that should be profiled? Drop us a line 💌