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Princess Jafar’s Instant Messages: №1 “Poetry Meat” with The Childlike Empress

I met The Childlike Empress earlier this year in traditional Pittsburgh fashion. Which, of course includes painting Gia Fagnelli’s bootyhole blue, transforming a trashcan into his spaceship and spending the night in VIP rooms with drag royalty such as Kevin Aviance & Raja Gemini thanks to the prestigious party planning prowess of Pittsburgh’s premiere party princess, Indica Queen.

When I decided to start this chat series I thought about people who I was captivated by and was generally interested to know more about. I couldn’t be more thrilled to start this series with someone as equally magical and compassionate as The Childlike Empress. For those of you who are already familiar with The Childlike Empress, congrats, and I hope this interview reveals new sides of them. And for those just meeting them, please click every link in The Childlike Empress’ LinkTree.

Thanks for meeting with me and spending a few hours writing this together.

*Listening Note* For those of you at home, if you highlight the text and hit “speak,” your phone or computer will read the interview to you!

Princess Jafar: Hi!

PJ: How’s your night? Are you somewhere tropical right now?

PJ: 100% agree. My sister was showing me this Floridian she’s become obsessed with who claims to be “a pure blond looking for other real blonds.” He’s so terrifying, but she loves his Facebook hahaha.

I had the same craving today sushi and nachos i ended up grabbing Taco Bell. It was the first time I’ve had it in forever and it was perfect.

I’ve been mostly quarantined so it was nice to do something normal.

PJ: Yeah, its understandable and a good move to switch up your spot. I mean, this isn’t going anywhere so we have to adapt and learn how to actually live through it.

PJ: Yes, self care and self love and self spoiling as well! I say those all to, kind of, separate self-care from the version popularized on “Parks and Rec.”

I’ve been caring for myself by trying to educate myself on some topics that interest me and by working on some songs I want to have out soon.

Are you working on music? /Slash/ Is music something you work on or does it come out unexpectedly? I read that a lot of the songs on your last album came out pretty quickly?

PJ: I think we are all doing all those things at the same time right now and could use a soundtrack for it. I was caught by the word “dry spell.” Even if you are in one or not, it’s still some sort of spell. It creates an interesting idea in my mind of a witch in an arid climate.

So, full disclosure, I looked you up and found some interesting things. Some things that I found similarities in between us and some interesting discoveries that I thought added to your puzzle. So you can stop me if this is too much but! When I googled the childlike empress I found an interesting piece about your mother’s side being Guatemalan.

My grandmother just passed two weeks ago and there’s a family name in your family that i have been considering changing my last name to.

I hope this isn’t awkward but I mean, the internet is what it is and it’s all just there on the first page of google and I wanted to do a thorough interview with you!

But, I think we have some witchy connection. My birthday is 4.26.88 and you are 10.26.94, which is my half birthday. And I’m a taurus and you have a Taurus moon. One of your family last names is Salazar and my family’s last name is Al-Achkar. I recently have condensed this to Alazar and have been writing it down over and over and talking to friends about taking on the last name Alazar. So when i saw ‘Salazar’ in your family name i was just- i felt like there was something going on. Also I apologize if this is too much! Hah.

PJ: Mm, grandmas are very special. Mine just turned 88. Which, again, is the year I was born. She was born in Lebanon and came here in the early 80s.

Actually i wanna say one more thing: my grandma and I couldn’t be very close after high school because of religion and me being gay and queer. But- I honestly don’t care about that and now that she’s passed I feel the best parts of her are free to be with me more than when she was here physically.

-Omg someone just drove past me weep-singing to Taylor Swift’s “You Belong with Me.”-

That meant a lot, okay. Who needs tarot when the universe gives me that imagery.

Okay, so I think before that Taylor Swift paid content interruption, I wanted to ask about your grandmother and if you have a strong connection to your Guatemalan side.

PJ: That’s very relatable for me and my sister as first generation. My white mom was allegedly pretty fucking racist and shamed us on a lot of our Lebanese cultural markers and made us feel ugly. Turns out she’s ugly. Um, hah anyways that’s all alleged for legal purposes.

I’m actually spending the summer with my sister and her new baby and her husband and we’re all learning Lebanese together through youtube. It’s so weird growing up in a small rural town being othered by American kids and not fitting in with Lebanese kids at the Maronite church who were raised with a Lebanese mother who spoke it at home.

I have been reaching out to friends from Lebanon today because of the tragedy and feel pretty helpless to help them but I’ll figure something out. I’m donating 5¢ for retweet of my tweets on my twitter for the month of August 2020. I can donate the proceeds from that to a hands-on group in Beirut.

But, back to this, my sister and I have such a strange push and pull between the two groups. Food seems to be an easy way for us to connect to it, however. That was something that wasn’t kept from us the way the Lebanese language was.

PJ: Same, I actually found out by reaching out to Qaws.Qozah who performed in one of the PJOL shows you were a part of, to see if they would be interested in doing an article like this. They responded that they were safe and they’d talk later so I looked into it.

I spent the morning after that actually diving into your album Take Care of Yourself. It was perfect for watching the rain on a Japanese maple from under an awning, smoking two and half bowls.

I heard it out of order last night on your youtube. And this morning listened to the first three tracks 3 times, then the next three 3 times, then the last two a few times and finally got to the final track. Then listened all the way through again. Would you be interested in going through the album with me a little bit?

PJ: When did they pour out- I mean when did they spring out of you- ha I guess I’m trying to say, when did you write the songs?

PJ: When i heard the album out of order last night ‘YIKES!’ played second or third and I was like, ‘Alright! This has that summer rock vibe to it.’ And when I listened to the album, I had been anticipating hearing that feel more through out but appreciated having to work for it and get to it by getting through this emotional journey and labor. I also noticed that the two songs you just mentioned ‘dang.’ and ‘YIKES!’ are the two with punctuation in the title and really bookmark the album. For ‘dang.’ I just wrote, “the realization.” You realize this situation you’re apart of is not it. And for ‘YIKES!’ I had written in my notes, “Ooookay thank god I dropped this situation and cut this connection when I did.” Also, I wrote that Yikes could be an EP on its own. It changes so much that it could be 4–5 separate songs. What I read about you on a horoscope site said this is because you are a bit distractible but at the same time dedicated which means your interests can switch gears quickly and intensely. It also said this comes out because you weigh the possibilities of a lot of different options and enjoy seeing many truths existing at once. “Hands in a lot of pots.” Is that wrong or does that ring a bell?

PJ: Yes, about you specifically, hah. I used your birthday 10.26.96. Even though I got it wrong earlier in our convo, when I was looking into you I used 1996.

PJ: I relate to that. I call myself a ‘Jacqueline of all trades’, our alien friend Gia Fagnelli calls himself a ‘Jagoff of all trades.’ We, one-person-bands, seem to find each other. And that might be because we expect people in our circles to be able to take on a lot of roles and responsibilities, with limited resources provided and the highest quality product expected. Through my research I saw you were a very strong writer. I went to school for writing and languages and often forget that I’m a writer even though I’m writing and editing lyrics everyday. This project is a way for me to stay active while I’m feeling the fatigue of self-isolation and the toll of seeing worldwide trauma on a daily basis.

Back to the music a bit, in the album’s opening track, ‘cataclysm,’ which has a striking 38 second music video you write “sell all your smiles for a gun.” Do you endorse or condemn the idea of giving up happiness for security?

My happiness is my security. And I’m extremely defensive about it at this point.

PJ: When I heard the line I heard it through the lens of the ex. But when you wrote “you are not the one its come undone” I saw that as an observation and a command coming from you.

PJ: I think there’s a lot of judgment around some art forms but we need to just try to shake that off and be confident in what we present. I was wondering if you were familiar with Charley Pride.

PJ: I hope this isn’t too big of a jump from being judged in art forms but Charley Pride is an 82-year old Black country singer widely loved and awarded, a living legend who has upheld and shaped the genre. But his first album was released without his picture on it so that it would sell without controversy because the genre is racist and exclusionary. And his whole career he was asked if he was a failed r&b singer and if he was faking the country act. This is happening to Lil Nas X now as well. Do you feel backlash for embracing the banjo and folk and rock vibes even though they’re all traditionally African?

PJ: I love the wide range it possesses. It’s as mutable as you. I was listening to Etta Baker this morning as part of the dive and preparation for this article and I love the way the banjo can squeal and whale and clunk and plink. A longtime friend of mine who goes by Lonesome Daughter speaks through banjos and also is a multi-faceted artist who inspired me to embrace many media. When I listened to your album in order, I was surprised the banjo came in during the 5th song on the EP. The first few songs have a very Smashing Pumpkins and Modest Mouse and Hush Sound vibe with the strings and then go into a more folk rock vibe. Why do you think you blocked this out and structured the album this way?

PJ: What are you listening to and inspired by recently?

PJ: Your life is like a movie though. Your horoscope that I filled in for you -lol- said drama might tend to follow you. Narrative is conflict, does that lead to that cinematic feeling? Or is the reading off?

PJ: I giggled. Poetry Meat is a beautiful title for this interview, if you’re down for that. Well, Childlike Empress, I wanna thank you for spending three hours with me talking about you and your process and your past and your future and yourself and your communities. This is the first in the series and I’m so happy to have started it with you. I am thinking I want to shape it around chatrooms and AOL. So what would be your Princess Jafar Instant Message screen name for this convo? Like ‘skaterdude811’ kinda thing.

PJ: I don’t know if that’s possible, that’s a top tier screen name. Mine was luxojr88. That’s the name of the desk lamp from pixar.

Thanks again to The Childlike Empress for joining me in this PJIM series.

Please click every link in The Childlike Empress’ LinkTree:

Performance Recording Writing and Visual Artist.

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