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Kumi
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Female
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Interviewer: Karl Hungus
Date of Interview: 11/26/2007

Sometimes interviews move and glide like dancers across a ballroom floor. Other times it's like interrogating a hostile witness on the stand. This interview sits on the median between those two poles. Kumi, one of my favorite fetish models/performers, had graciously agreed to an interview with me, back in August of 2007.

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Steve Diet Goedde (the famous fetish photographer) said his first shoot was with you and Midori. It looks like the three of you will be in London at the same time. Are you guys tight? You're all so amazingly great at what you do. Was there a sense of ...destiny... during that first shoot with Steve?

Well, I wouldn't say it was his very first shoot! He did do some work prior to meeting me and Midori! We've known each other for about a decade now. But it's not necessarily the length of time that has determined the type of friendship we currently have. As far as that first shoot in San Francisco, I'm just happy I actually made it there (hangover and all!). And what a lucky coincidence the other model scheduled decided to not show up!

How did Kumi happen? Did you make the traditional modeling to fetish modeling leap, or did you start out fully formed (and fabulous)? To put it another way, if you were a superhero, what would the origin of Kumi be?

I was pretty much just hanging out in the local club scene. I was spending quite a bit of money at the local fetish shop when a girl there introduced me to friend of hers recently transplanted from Chicago (Molly). She was looking into starting a latex business and I happened to have some cash. It was Molly who knew Steve and asked him to come to San Francisco to shoot some girls wearing latex. Not very superhero-like at all.

I saw pictures from your last trip to Greece/Piraeus [turns out it was London. Ah, the vagaries of age.]. The scene you did, with the crown of candles, was absolutely profound, and moving. Do you have to get into a different headspace for something like that?

Are you sure that was Greece? The show I most recently did featuring candles on my head was in Tampa, Florida with Midori. But I think you're referring to the show in London (Elements of Suffering). That show was performed with Midori and Amrita for the Torture Garden Birthday event (May 2007). The entire installation performance from start to finish lasted about an hour and a half. The original idea I had involved another performer which meant I would be doing half the work (suffering), but we ended up doing the show with three instead of four performers which meant I got to be the one that suffered alone. Hah! Ninety minutes of being on stage and trying to remain in character can be difficult enough, but with the added portions of "abuse" (dirt in the face, ink in the eye, fire, water dunking, octopus flogging, and bondage), it just added to the difficulty - but at least it gave me something to do.

These performances, although they do involve bondage, are not considered a typical BDSM show. Actually, they're not meant to be labeled as BDSM or fetish shows at all. Yes, I definitely need to get into a different headspace, but it's something that any other performer would need to do before a performance. These aren't BDSM scenes where I have to obey whomever is playing at being in control and respond to their cues and demands. This is a performance piece that has been predetermined and rehearsed before we've even stepped foot on stage.

Do you prefer performance art type scenes to fetish (click click) modeling? Is it apples and oranges?

Performance art scenes are very different from fetish modeling. (And there are different types of fetish modeling as well, from website content shoots to fetish fashion work for a particular designer). I enjoy both obviously, but being able to perform on stage in a variety of cities also tests out different skills and abilities. For example, being able to read an audience and improvise is something I've been able to try and improve. In some venues, I can see the audience, and during a performance, I might see that a show that was well-received in one city, might not garner the same reaction in another city. Having the ability to work with my co-performers to adapt while on stage in order to change the mood of the audience is an enormous benefit. Also, since different countries have cultural and social limits from others, having to familiarize and rearrange certain portions of a show at a moment's notice is vital to the performance.

Obviously, I often do bondage themed shows, but I've been able to participate and produce more non-conventional types of performances that can leave behind the labels of 'fetish' or 'bdsm' and cross over into areas and venues that feature other types of developing art forms. It's great to be able to move into venues where these shows are now accepted as art and not something just "perverts" want to see while they're drunk at a night club.

You have kumimonster.com, which is your pay site, your livejournal, your blogspot travel photo blog (which is awesome by the way), Social Kink, etc. Do you keep your different aspects of your personality compartmentalized as well?

Actually, my blogspot started acting all wonky on me. Now I keep a new moblog page at http://kumimonster.tumblr.com. The blogspot page is still up, but the newer photos are at the tumblr page. I keep the LJ because I use it to keep track of my life (where I've been, where I'm going to). It's nice to be able to look up where I was __ years or months ago on a particular day, even if I just wrote something dumb like "GAH, I will never drink Jack Daniels again. Hangover. Sux."

My online life is me. It'd be too difficult to keep everything separate and compartmentalized. The only time I deviate is when I decide to hide out and stay away from people and spend time with myself (no phone, no computer, no parties, no airports).

I see that you're a history buff. Do have a favorite era?

20th century genocide/politicide and wars.

How has the industry changed since you first started? Do you find that you're more empowered/respected than before? Is that even an issue?

Computers! That's got to be the main contributor to the massive amounts of change that's occurred. Everyone's a photographer/model/artist. New latex designers are popping up all the time as well, though not as frequently. It's helped a lot of people, including myself, but I also feel it's brought about a great deal of laziness when it comes to doing business. Fast friends can be made without ever having any face time involved. I feel that some types of work should require more immediate interactions, but then I'm used to flying around and more often than not, meeting people in whatever country they happen to be in if it's on my itinerary, or taking a side trip if it's not. I was asked to model for a latex company once, and instead of flying the pieces out to me, I decided that I'd fly to them instead. Maybe it wasn't necessary, but I'd like to think that my commitment could only advance any possible future work relationship - which it has. Not only with them, but the others that I work for as well like HWdesign in Vienna.

As far as being respected, I suppose it's nice. A few people that I appreciate have told me that I'm held in some regard and that I'm respected. That's cool. I figure that as long as I'm still working, then I'm doing something right.

Are there fetishes that you take home with you, and some that you'll do in a scene, or in a shoot, but not at home? Without getting creepy, are you kinky with your significant other?

First and foremost, it's got to be latex. I wouldn't have amassed the collection I have now if I didn't covet it so much! I will never sell my pieces, they're too important to me. Some items also illicit memories. I have given away certain pieces to friends and I think (hope) they realize that as well. I know Steve Diet Goedde has a couple of my old latex items like the red Chinese dress used on the cover of the Beauty of Fetish book as well as the pants I wore during our Dore Alley shoot where I was blonde. Those pieces were pretty melted and mangled after a decade! Midori has the dress she wore in the Chinatown shoot as well but if I remember correctly, it was still in wearable condition.

I love my stockings too. I used to like leather a lot, but now I've stopped collecting leather clothes. Instead, I've been working on collecting leather gloves, which I often use for more practical reasons during travels through colder climates.

For me, it's personal. Sure, I love to wear latex out to parties but if I feel like it, I layer on the latex for myself. I don't care to share.

One of the things I love about you is your chameleon-like ability to look completely different. That is helped, of course, by your shaved head. How did that come about? Did you dig the bald look, and then use it for shoots, or vice versa?

I was wearing wigs for fun before I shaved my head. One night I got drunk and shaved it off. Luckily, I didn't have a lumpy head so I kept it.

Do you have a favorite shoot, or a favorite scene? Do tell!

Wow. How to answer this without insulting people?! Well, obviously the Chinatown shoot with Steve Diet Goedde and Midori was really great and it's amazing to realize how many of those images actually got used in a variety of magazines (fetish and non-fetish). Many of my shoots opened up new experiences for me, but honestly, one of the ones I was most excited about in the past couple of years had to be with Gilles Berquet in Paris. I remember seeing his images in magazines and a little book he put out called "Maniac" featuring Mirka Lugosi.

You haven't made too many movies, although Date With Danger was great. Are we going to see more Kumi vids?

I really don't know. I've done a few movies, but not more than a handful. I'm not opposed to doing more. I had fun working on the last Fetish Academy 4 (marquis). Maybe I will work on one with Karezza (fetish-live.com) the next time I'm in Vienna.

I see you as one of the vanguard women who have defined the fetish/glamour model genre. You, Midori, Darenzia, etc. have really created this role, and allowed models like January Seraph to choose a career that might not have existed fifteen years ago. Do you see yourself as a feminist icon?

Huh? Oh, you mean like that fetishubermodel thing. Heh. Feminist icon? No way.

So endeth the lesson with Kumi. There may be a Part 2, it hasn't been decided yet. In any case, I guarantee you that you will see and hear from Kumi again. She's an amazing talent, as even the most cursory glance at her site will tell you. What strikes me about Kumi is her humor, her intelligence, and her straightforwardness. She truly is unique, and uniquely beautiful. I believe the fetish world owes a debt of gratitude to Kumi, for bring the kink more into the mainstream.

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