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An Interview with Elle of Creepy Gals
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CreepyGals was founded by Linda Chen, an artist, illustrator, and photographer. Linda is a NJ native and California transplant who runs her own business from the heart of LA. Check out our interview to see Linda talk about creativity, representation, and her favorite Twin Peaks character.

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Dust Empires: Hey Linda! Tell us about yourself.

Linda Chen: Hey! My name is Linda, or sometimes known as Elle (@creepy.gals) on the internet. I’m a Scorpio who loves everything pink and red, is a HUGE Ru Paul Drag Race fan and is an anxious mess most of the time. I have dedicated my life to pursuing the arts in any capacity I can, from creating my own world with my online shop called Creepy Gals, playing in bands, photography, to running a music and art showcase called Venusfest. Self expression and surrounding myself with creative people is super important me. It is really what keeps me going in life.
I recently made the decision to uproot my life in NJ and move to Los Angeles in hopes to expand my artistic horizons I’m ready for what LA has to offer! Bring it on.

DE: What inspired you to start Creepy Gals? What inspired your brand name?  
LC:
Creepy Gals was a product of my insatiable need to make art. It was just one of many creative outlets that I added to my long list of things I really wanted to delve into.  I didn’t think I would really get anywhere with it. I just wanted to illustrate things I really like and believe in. I never would have thought that my work would resonate with so many people. I’m still surprised and super grateful for everyone’s support.

Back in 2014, I started a zine called Creepy Girls, and asked some of my talented femme artist friends to submit some work. Most of our work were dark and mysterious in nature, and that is why I called it Creepy Girls. I really loved the name, because it really spoke to me. I feel more creepy and weird on the inside, definitely not normal or super wholesome. So I decided to name my shop Creepy Gals. Creepy Girls was already taken by another shop, so I changed it to “Gals” which I like way better.

 DE: What’s been your biggest challenge in running a business? What have you learned?

LC: Running your own business is one big challenge. I have to manage every aspect from creating, marketing, order fulfillment, and handling the financials. It becomes quite burdensome to juggle everything plus other aspects of my life. I tend to overextend myself all the time because I just want to do so many things.  I have had plenty of mental breakdowns. It really is a balancing act that I am still trying to figure out.  I guess what I have learned is to not let take on so much at once, and make lists so I can visually see the tasks I need to complete so I’m not entirely lost in the madness.

DE: What would you tell someone who wanted to start their own business?

LC: Don’t be afraid of a challenge. If this is something you love to do, don’t give up. Don’t let that inner voice or others deter you from actualizing your dreams. You really never know where your preserverence will take you unless you give it a try. And don’t be discouraged if you see others trying to peruse the same things.  There is room for everyone to succeed, as corny as this all sounds.

DE: What’s your favorite part about working for yourself?

LC: I love having full autonomy over my creative ideas and processes. I have a clear vision for the world I want to create, and having the freedom to actualize it is so fullfilling.

DE: Where do you draw inspiration for your pieces?

LC: Aesthetically I’m inspired by roses, vintage valentine cards, kitchsy love motels, and 50’s and 60’s home decor. I just love the imagery and it just so pretty. Looking at visually pleasing things offers me an escape from the turmoil that is my mind so thats why I love creating and surrounding myself with imagery that really calms my brain. I live with depression and really bad anxiety, so any excuse for relief is much needed. I love juxtaposing pretty imagery with content that is far from pretty and plays into my cynical and sarcastic side. This is truly the Creepy Gals aesthetic.

The other part of work is more on the uplifting side. I’m inspired by women and everyone that is part of the queer community. Women and queer people deal with so much adversity at the hands of our society. They are beautiful and strong despite what antiquated social conventions and media has restricted them to. That is why I continue to make the work that I do. I want to create physical reminders for my self and my audience that we are absolutely worth it and we are not to messed with.

DE: What are some other ways you like to express yourself/ your creativity?

LC: Music has always been a huge part of my creative identity. I have been singing my whole life. I remember my childhood self singing “My Heart Will Go On” by Celene Dion at the top of my lungs, serving super star realness. It really was an escape for me and still is. I played various instruments in concert/marching band from 3rd to 12th grade. From highschool up to this point I have been the guitarist and vocalist in several bands.

Photography is another art form that is super important to me. Right now, I am working on an ongoing portrait photo series called Fuck Beauty Standards where individuals I shoot literally signal to the world to “fuck off” with a nice solid middle finger. This series is meant to challenge the status quo and mainstream ideals of beauty  which has been the detriment to people’s self esteem and self image. I wanted facilitate a new positive dialogue that helps to build people up, not tear them down for the sake of capitalistic gain.

DE: What’s the first instrument you learned?

LC: First was the recorder in 3rd grade. We were all required to learn it, so I really had no choice. I was pretty good at it if I do say so myself. In 4th grade the school held an assembly demonstrating a wide variety of instruments that we could choose to play if we wanted to join the concert band. I instantly wanted to play the saxophone, because Lisa Simpson played that. But when it came time to check the mark for our choice, for some reason I panicked and went with the clarinet. I don’t really know why that happened, but that was what I stuck with until 12th grade.

DE: What kind of music do you like to make? Tell us about your past projects and future musical goals?

LC: I love psychedelic, noise, stoner metal, garage rock music when playing in a full band setting. When I do solo stuff, I love performing more folk songs on the acoustic guitar.

The first band I was in was called Puta De Cava and we created what we called Witch Gaze music. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Heidi, Mel, Sam and Dawn hold a special place in my heart. They really opened my world and were an important part of my most formative years.  It was so inspiring creating with all femmes. I will truly cherish those days. My friend Mel and I often sang together in different projects. Our harmonies are like no other.  My last main project was called Chimes, which had gone through many line up changes. We were a psychedelic , stoner metal, noise rock band towards the end. It was in Chimes that I really learned how to let go on stage and develop my sound as a musician. It was such a cathartic release performing on stage in this band because I would really get into the music and head bang and let the music possess me.  The last band I was in was the Soft Maybes. It was a super fun rock band lead by superstar Dash.

Now that I’m in LA, I would love to play bass in a band. Someone! Take me! I’m all yours

DE: Tell us about Venus Fest! How did it start? How long did you run it? Any plans on continuing it in LA?

LC: I felt there was definitely a lack of diversity in most creative scenes, and my own community back in NJ was no exception. Most bands circulating through the music scene consisted of all white cis males. There was a dire need for female, queer, and POC visibility, thus Venusfest was conceived back in 2014.  It was and still is extremely important to me to provide underrepresented groups a platform to show their incredible talents in a safe space. My best friend Lowell Craig, the owner of Index Art Center back in Newark, NJ helped me run the event at his gallery. We would invite female and gender- queer artists and musicians to participate in the one day festival. There were music performances, an art exhibition in the main gallery, and vendors in the side gallery. Proceeds from the event would go to a charity organization. Up to this point there has been 6 Venusfest showcases, and I hope there will be many more. The last one was run by my friend Kelli , Desiree, and Lowell, since I moved to LA. It is truly a special event and I would love nothing more than continue it out here in LA.  Lowell has the east coast covered. I need to spread it out here in the West Coast!

DE: Favorite Spice Girl?

LC: As a child I wanted to be Baby, but was forever typecasted as Posh because of my natural black hair. It pissed me off to no end. Oh Well. Baby Spice was my favorite for a long while, but with age I have come to really appreciate Ginger Spice. She is such a baddass and I love it! Her red outfits are sickening!

DE: Favorite Twin Peaks character?

LC: Agent Cooper for sure. I love his childlike sense of wonder. It is so endearing. He’s a damn fine detective that is intelligent and quite handsome too. I named my cat Agent Cooper after him , even though she is a girl. I didn’t see the need in sticking to gender constructs. Audrey Horne comes in at a close second. She makes my heart swoon.

DE: Favorite pizza topping?

LC: Pepperoni. I need spice in my life.

DE: Where do you see your brand going in the future? What are your goals for the next year? 

LC: I’m just going to continue do what I love doing and see where it takes me. I would absolutely love to have a pop up show where I can build an installation so the audience can fully immerse themselves in my world. It would be a pink and red wonderland. I would also want to delve into designing apparel at one point. We’ll see if any of this happens. Stick around and find out!

DE: Finally, what’s next for you? 

LC: Right now I’m working on a secret collaboration with artist/photographer Danin Jacquay @deathcats. Just you wait and see!

CreepyGals was founded by Linda Chen, an artist, illustrator, and photographer. Linda is a NJ native and California transplant who runs her own business from the heart of LA.  To shop Creepy Gals click here. To check out their instagram click here. To learn more about VenusFest, click here.