by Kena Ray
Original Interview: October 2004
Updated Comments: September 2018
It all started with a Beatgreet.com e-card* I received from my best friend: a short music video featuring a kaleidoscopic gold spandexed toosh jammin’ out to simple electronic beats and startlingly original lyrics. My mind boggled, and after following a few links I discovered the “gemious” behind this masterpiece: A Gem Sweater** enthusiast-slash-art student named Leslie Hall.
She agreed to an interview, and here are her delicious responses.
What sparked your passion for gem sweaters?
I started purchasing gem sweaters for my high school dances. When I wore them I kept getting nice compliments like, “wow” and “you’re so sparkly.”***
I noticed how the shimmer of the gems began to get people’s attention. I just kept getting more and more of them. I buy them all second hand. They were all previously owned and worn by someone before me; I am breathing new life into these forgotten sweaters. I am letting them shimmer once more.
In Arizona, we can only wear sweaters about six weeks of the year. In our climate, how might you commit an analogous level of artistic clothing expression in an alternate medium?
Surprisingly I found 10 of my sweaters outside of Mobile, Alabama. Those 10 are sweet gems. They’ve barely been worn, fresh as a newborn.
What would you like to happen in the future of fashion?
If the world was my Barbie doll, I would dress them well. All girls would wear shimmering gem sweaters to light the night skies. The boys would be blinded by the magical glamour of the ladies. There would be parades in the streets and every day would be shimmer and shine.****
Do you display your Sweaters at Leslie & the LY’s shows?
Yes, to spread the gemmed word, I have formed an all female hip-hop band. We do a lot of costume changes, and when one owns 120 gem sweaters, this can get pretty exciting.
(Here I began singing the lyrics to Leslie’s song “Gold Pants”) “Thank you momma for making me gold pants/ [that I can] dance in/ and make romance in.”
Anytime people see the gem sweater photos, 90% of them just want to know where I got the gold pants. How could I not form a band to the sweet and magic power that gold spandex has? I write all our music and use GarageBand on my Mac. I have to say seeing us live tends to blow peoples’ minds. If you’re not a fan of the music you’ll end up being mesmerized by our electronic dance moves. Being on stage is a perfect platform to expose people to the art and glamour of gem sweaters. Also we’re the only unsigned band on BEATGREETS.com. I swear it’s all for the gold pants.
Kena’s Updated Notes: 2018
* This reference is long-lost relic of the early-aughts.
** I like how I turned “gem sweater” into a proper noun.
*** Leslie is, I dare say, the pioneer of today’s body-positivity movement. In 2003, The Simple Life aired, popularizing blonde twiggies in pink velour track suits exposing their montes pubis; and Chingy’s “Right Thurr” was on the radio; while the Riot Grrrl feminist movement had (mostly) quieted down. Yet here she was in these videos, daring us through pre-ironic Sophia Petrillo glasses to appreciate her gyrating ample booty while she warbled and her bandmate rapped to iGarage about cellulite and crafting. I thought it was the ultimate badass comeup that she took the probably horrified reactions of her Paris Hiltonesque high school peers’ responses of “wow” and “you’re so sparkly” as complements that shaped her brand, and then marketed it. She’s still my heroine.