An Interview with Artist, Model, and Activist Alexandra Marzella
In a March interview with NYMag, Alexandra Marzella — a social justice minded model and performance artist who’s known for pushing the boundaries in her work and on social media — was asked to name the last website she’d look at it. Her answer? “Change.org,” she said. “I get emails form them everyday, so it’s a regular on my browser”
Flattered by her response, I reached out to Alexandra to see if she’d chat with me more about her appreciation for Change.org’s work, and to get her take on some of the issues taking place in our society. Even in the midst of her busy work schedule, she graciously obliged. Check it out below.
A.J. Many people assume that the ‘selfie generation’ — or younger people — aren’t as engaged in social issues and politics as much as previous generations. But as a model and a performance artist, you contradict this notion by putting action behind your words. What are your thoughts about critics of the ‘selfie generation’?
Alexandra: I think people need to let people live. Ultimately yes, the selfie generation is a bit self absorbed, but which generation isn’t? I don’t think previous generations would have handled the rise of the internet and iPhones any differently. The accessibility and fastest form of communication only opens more doors to facilitating change.
Q: What — or who — in your life has informed and shaped the person you are today?
A: Pretty much everything one experiences informs their existence. I think the most poignant things are often very small, sometimes they don’t become clear until time has processed them. I am really thankful to the friends and family that have lifted me up so many times. Hold on to those, but not too tightly.
Q: There was a possibility and concern at one point that the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities might lose funding under the Trump administration. Will you say more about the importance of the arts in our society, and how has art helped you speak on issues that other mediums may not allow?
Art and being a creative is so encompassing that it leaves nothing uncovered. Everything is subject to exploration in the arts. Any attempt at destroying the ability to make art is ultimately an attempt to oppress and silence voices. Art has and will continue to enable me to express emotions and thoughts that I find important to express.
Q: April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States — a clear reminder that, in 2017, cisgender and transgender women still experience sexual violence on a regular basis. As a feminist, what do you believe society’s role should be in preventing sexual assault, and how do we better support women who have been sexually assaulted?
Not just as a feminist but as woman, as a human I/we have to speak up. Silence is violence. Be careful of who you speak for, as that can often be silencing someone else. If you see something, say something. Let people know you are open to discussion and available to lend support where needed. If you have a social media following, speak out.
Q: You’ve said in a recent New York Mag story that Change.org is a regular site you visit. How did you first find us, and what sort of causes keep you coming back?
After the presidential election I was searching for outlets that are pushing for serious change. Change.org popped up in my search and the email list is educational and immediate. It feels important to look up how people come together to create these platforms. I especially like the interactive space Change.org provides for people to voice their personal concerns.
Q: Change is an open platform, which means anyone — regardless of their political viewpoint — can start a petition. In our ever polarizing political world, how do you think those who disagree can seek common ground, and how do we avoid demonizing those who don’t agree with us?
This topic is of particular interest to me. I, myself, often have opposing views, or at least the ability to see multiple sides of arguments. I think one thing people can do is be open to education and open to educating others. Viewpoints all stem from real needs or real states of living. Privilege is blinding. I think it’s amazing that your platform provides a safe space for difference. People really fear difference. I think detaching from that fear and utilizing it is a power is ideal.
Q: Solidarity with people who are marginalized is something you care deeply about. It’s also why people support and give to campaigns on our site. But solidarity takes a lot of work, patience, and empathy. How do you cultivate the best habits and virtues in order to stand alongside others?
Never forget: you know nothing. I have stubbornly clung to my personal opinions in the past only to be rightfully called out and, thankfully, encouraged to listen to other’s stories. I have to constantly question and be aware of the mighty privilege I hold and the values I want to live by and promote. I am quite unfiltered and worked hard to be that way. Now more than ever I am learning the power of holding back, not from progress but from unnecessarily taking up space.
Q: People’s stories matter, they inspire and challenge us on a daily basis. What stories gives you hope and lead you to take action?
The things that inspire me to act are often one-on-one or small group conversations. Sometimes they’re not even conversations as much as passing words. When you see individuals genuinely caring and implementing that into their daily lives and interactions, it opens a door to your own ability to do this. Kindness and the joy of laughing with someone is often the best medicine.