Burbank, California-based pin-up model, boutique babe and vintage maven Doris Mayday talks her first shoot, transitions, sexism, and the truth behind reality TV.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: You were born and raised in Las Vegas, and you started college early at age 16 and began modeling right before you turned 18. You’ve stated that you were always a “vintage nerd” and never actually planned to model, but rather that it “fell into your lap.” Care to share how exactly you stumbled upon such a dream job?
A: It all started off as a favor. There was a new calendar coming out called Lucky Betties, and the creator, Jessi Pagel, was friends with my boyfriend at the time. She needed a blonde for one of her calendar girls, so even though I had done no prior modeling, I agreed to it. I couldn’t have asked for a better first gig! Jessi was so involved and passionate that I got to see all the aspects and hardwork that goes into a proper photoshoot. Understanding the importance of hair and makeup artists, wardrobe, lighting, locations, styling, and originality made me fall in love with the photoshoot process. I really enjoyed working with her so much that I ended up helping a lot with promotion. From those events, I wound up meeting a lot of people in this industry and creating relationships. At the time though, my heart was still set on being a sex therapist. I never thought my love of vintage fashion and decor would ever amount to a career, or that I was any good at modeling. To me, I was just having fun, but to others I was told I was a breath of fresh air because I had genuine interest.
Q: You managed the Bettie Page Store at the Fashion Show Mall in Vegas, and you also managed the Bettie Page Store that opened in 2011 in the Mall of America in Minnesota. You started as a model for their company many years ago, right? How did you move into the store management role? Was it a difficult transition moving to Minnesota?
A: When I started off as a model for Bettie Page Clothing, I initially sent in my résumé months prior when I caught wind of the store opening. When the owners knew I wanted to be more than just a pretty face for them and that I wanted to actually work, they hired me! Starting a store, you have a million things thrown your way and I was always rolling with the punches. After proving that I could handle more responsibility and with a smile on my face, when opportunities came up for expansion I was promoted. For the Mall of America location, I did that location on my own. At the time, I had fallen in love with a man from Minnesota. I knew I wanted to move out there, but I didn’t want to leave my company, so I started scouting locations and found a great one! I did all the meetings and paperwork behind my bosses back, and when it was time to sign on the dotted line, I presented it to them with a heartfelt plea for us to expand there. Moving to Minnesota was incredibly easy, and I am still incredibly smitten with the state. Some of the nicest people around, and talk about great vintage!
Q: Speaking of transitions, you’re now the manager of the Pinup Girl Clothing Boutique, which opened in August 2012 in Burbank, California. You met Laura Byrnes (owner/creator of PUG) at a clothing convention when you were only 18 or 19 years old, and began working for them as a model, right? How did that relationship evolve into the position you have now?
A: When I met Laura Byrnes, we instantly hit it off. Shortly after, she asked me to start modeling. I would come out a few times a year to Los Angeles to shoot and we would always wrap the end of the day with a great dinner with long talks. There was always mention of one day of them having a boutique, but Laura is a perfectionist and always was holding out for all the stars to align. Last year, I found myself in Minnesota at a cross roads where I was no longer feeling challenged and that I was missing opportunities. I decided to quit Bettie Page and move to California and give it a go since a lot of TV and modeling jobs are there. It so happened that the time couldn’t have been better, and Pinup Girl was finally ready. Laura knew of my work experience and asked if I would manage the opening. Thank goodness! Now I don’t have to be a starving artist in LA!
Q: Tell us about the process of opening the boutique! Now that the shop has been open for over six months, what have you found to be the most rewarding aspect of the job? What have some of the biggest challenges been?
A: Pinup Girl allowed me to be incredibly hands on and involved with getting the store in tip top shape. There were a million renovations we had to do from construction, to new tile, painting, sanding, molding and styling. I’m pretty sure I can start a new business called Pin Up Handy-woman! There were many 20 hour days in the final stretch before opening. But having customers come in and say how impressed they are with the final look made it all worth it.
Q: I was intrigued (and surprised!) by a post about the PUG Boutique receiving its first hate mail. Some angry passerby slipped a note through the doors of the shop stating, “not to take it personal, but why would anyone want to be a pinup girl? They are only ‘whack-off’ objects!” Understandably, your team shook it off as funny, but also considered that it’s sad that some people still think that the only reason a woman would dress nicely is to attract a man, as opposed to simply wanting to feel good about herself. This also made me wonder – as a well-known pin-up model, have you had people react that way to you/your job as well? How do you respond to those people (if at all?)
A: Unfortunately, sexism is still very much around in 2013. There have been countless times where people have doubted my intellectualism as well as my motives due to my appearance. Some women use that to their advantage and can play the dumb or promiscuous female role but I think that just ends up hurting women worse. I understand that there is a time after the 1950s where women wanted to throw on the pants and power suits and prove their equality to the male counterparts but at Pinup Girl our argument is that there is no reason why you can’t be respected in a well tailored dress. If someone is going to view you as a “wack-off object” or an inferior female that’s their problem and it should never steer you away from how you want to dress.
Q: Being that you’re a lover of vintage style, I was surprised to learn that you typically shy away from wearing vintage hats, thinking that they don’t flatter you or that they’re too “over the top.” I enjoyed reading your resolution to make 2013 “the Year of the Hat,” and that you’re trying to wear at least one hat per week. So far you’ve said that it makes you feel “classier, ladylike, mysterious, and even sometimes spy-like,” and that more of us should get over the notion of feeling silly in hats. I love this idea and was wondering, how is your hat-per-week goal progressing? Are you still getting the reactions and feelings that you were initially?
A: With any resolution you start off with a bang and I was doing rather well in the beginning. I have slowed down a little bit but recently I rocked a fabulous turban that has put the fire back under my tush… or should I say my hat! I’ve realized that I have to keep my hats on display in my beauty room so that I’m reminded to put them on.
Q: Last year you were featured on TLC’s “My Crazy Obsession” for your “obsession” with all things related to 1950s culture and style, which given the nature of our magazine, we can totally appreciate! What sort of reactions did you see from viewers? Were any of your friends or family surprised by the fact that you appeared on the show or some of the things that you said or did? I’ve seen some of your fans comment that they felt like the show exaggerated your “obsession” and was edited to play up the “craziness.” Do you have any thoughts on that? Knowing what you know now, would you still have agreed to be featured on the show?
A: When I first signed onto the project there was no name for this production and it was described as a documentary. They seemed generally interested in my life as well as my boyfriend at the time who is in a rockabilly band. I spent months coming up with a story line for filming that would be realistic. As much as people want to think that reality TV is real, it is generally scripted so I wanted it to be as genuine as possible. After signing my life away I found out 2 days before filming that the show was going in a new direction and called “My Crazy Obsession” and eccentricity was the key subject. All of a sudden I was being told what to say and do. I had to act like I didn’t have a cell phone or computer and risk spraining my ankle by putting silly bags on my feet instead of modern snow boots. It is easy for people to say how they would never do that but when you have a camera crew who flew out all the way from New York sitting in your living room on a time crunch who are being yelled at by their superiors, you will do anything to just get it all over with. My boyfriend was rather disappointed with the new direction the show had gone in and they didn’t even showcase anything about him, even though initially we were told it would showcase his band. In interviews they only got him to crack once and say something forced, so of course that’s the only clip they used of him. It was rather embarrassing but a majority of the feedback I received was positive. I think people were too busy looking at my clothes and furniture to notice the ridiculous story line… Thank God! We did get to go on Anderson Cooper which was an amazing experience. Being able to go out in public and use a cell phone is now like putting on a mustache and glasses. I literally have had people whisper how they think I’m the girl from TV but there is no way because I’m on a cell phone. So all in all I don’t know if I would do that again.
Q: Though it’s a topic I’m sure you grow weary of discussing, let’s chat about your hair for a second. I read an interview from 2010 in which you mentioned that your signature blonde locks quickly became a trademark, and at that time you mentioned that you wanted to change your hair color but couldn’t. Obviously, you made the leap to go dark since then, and last summer you went red! What changed your mind about making the switch? I’m sure your fans are quite opinionated about your choices of hair color, aren’t they?
A: You would think I kicked a puppy when I dyed my hair from blonde to brunette! People apparently view my hair as their domain and almost seemed offended I would change it. I was always called the blonde Doris and it was getting on my nerves. Why couldn’t I just be called Doris? What was the big deal about being blonde? Thankfully I did some photo shoots with the dark locks and people really started to like it. I started getting references to Sherilyn Fenn, who is a girl crush of mine so I knew the change was a good move. I actually wanted to go red before dark but at the time I had an abundance of red headed friends. When I moved to LA I thought it would be a good time to try red. I think changing my hair color has actually been a good thing because I can be more relatable to different people. People are always going to have an opinion on what Doris they prefer, but frankly dear… I don’t give a damn.