Transsexual performer Nina Arsenault explains "The Silicone Diaries"
The Silicone Diaries is transsexual performer Nina Arsenault's account of a dramatic physical metamorphosis -- one that took her from an awkward man to a sexy woman.
A one-woman show produced by the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Company, The Silicone Diaries consists of seven monologues. Beginning as 5-year-old boy Rodney, Arsenault expounds upon her late 1970’s self. Growing up in a trailer park in Beensville, Ontario, Rodney's fascination with the "perfect female body" began at Zellers, where he would stroll past mannequins while shopping with his mother.
The obsession had begun. In 1998, at the age of 25, Arsenault began her eight-year transformation, which consisted of 60 plastic surgeries and procedures (including injections of silicone from the black market, which shaped her hips and buttocks). With these came the pain, joy and inner-exploration that formed her into the Barbie-esque type of female that she looks like today. The Silicone Diaries is, more than anything, an homage to beauty and perfection.
The play (directed by Brendan Healy, dramaturgy by Judith Rudakoff) dances between the real and the imaginary. Challenging ideals of beauty and convention, it is an intimate voyage through Arsenault’s life.
During the nearly two-hour monologue, a video edited by R. Kelly Clipperton of numerous still photographs and videos, rolls onscreen. These are depictions of Arsenault from various states of her life, and they, coupled with the rest of her performance, help to shed a new light on transsexual life, the portrayal of which is often skewed by the media.
Arsenault believes that representations of her community in the mainstream media is predominantly presented from a heterosexual, masculine point of view.
It was in 2005 when she began chronicling her experiences in a column for Fab Magazine, that the idea to create a play, which was at the same time a fair representation of the transgender world, first began to form.
“I feel that there are so few real transgender stories in the media and in culture, and a lot of times when there is a real transsexual story, it is put together by non-transgender people, [...] and so I don't feel that we very often ever get the chance to tell our own stories our way, with all the complexities and unresolved bits and the paradoxes [...]."
Arsenault was tired of hearing typical transgender stories. She wanted to go beyond the tale of the man who, when flirting with a girl at the bar, realizes that she is transsexual and freaks out.
"You always get the story from the straight man's point of view, so in my play I wanted to tell that story from my point of view, of what is like for us,” Arsenault told the Vancouver Observer in a interview at the The Cultch Theatre on Sunday afternoon.
Her transformation is a work of art in itself. Arsenault is an aesthete and worships, without qualms, beauty -- a reason for why she may appear overly superficial to many.
Arsenault, who holds two graduate degrees in acting, previously starred in I Was Barbie, a solo performance in which she portrayed Barbie at the doll’s 50th official birthday party in Toronto. Her works also include joint efforts in photography and video.
“ [...] I don’t think I am a superficial person. I know lots of women who have had plastic surgery. It doesn't mean you are superficial, it doesn't mean that you are complex or deep, all that it means is that you have had something done. I suppose like any other group of people, there are smart people who do it, and big hearted people who do it, and people who are not so much.”
In the end, the assumptions made by society, which reach conclusions about her personality based only on her looks, are just as superficial. "That's the irony of it," Arsenault says.