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Glam Rock's Rebel Voice 

Kat Robichaud and her darling misfits reclaim their bodies in the singer’s new anti-slut-shaming video.

Wednesday, Jul 29 2015
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Kat Robichaud is soaked in blood. Several hands crawl up her black latex-clad chest, groping and clawing at her face and breasts, slowly inching closer to her crown of women's legs, clipped from magazines.

As shocking as that image, depicted in Robichaud's new music video "The Apple Pie and the Knife," may be, she says the message is clear: She's reclaiming her body from the slut-shamers of the world.

The video, premiering this week on SF Weekly's website, is partly inspired by experiences the Concord, N.C.-born singer had as a contestant on NBC's The Voice. When the up-and-coming glam rocker, who plays the Stork Club on July 30, appeared during the singing competition's fifth season, she encountered obstacles familiar to many women who have been on TV.

"I was slut-shamed on social media quite a bit," Robichaud explains, noting the bulk of the negative comments came from female viewers who took issue with everything from her boisterous nature to her "booty shorts."

The new video opens with Robichaud wearing a sash emblazoned with the word, "suffer-agette," as she sings, "Shoulder to shoulder/ How fast we've forgotten," referencing an era when the young singer believes women teamed up together to fight inequality instead of undermining each other.

"At the beginning of the suffrage movement, women banded together," Robichaud says, "Now we size each other up."

Women aren't the only slut-shamers who've attacked Robichaud, of course. "Men slut-shame me when I ignore them," she says.

But not all of the things that happened on social media as a result of her TV appearances were negative, Robichaud says. Two girls messaged her, sharing their experiences of abuse and isolation, saying they knew she would understand because she was such a misfit on stage.

Robichaud responded with words of encouragement and empathy, and she notes that The Voice provided a support system for her that included guidance on how to handle any sensitive situations that might come up with fans, along with a staff member she could call 24/7 if she was ever in crisis.

After competing on The Voice, Robichaud had enough fans that she was able to crowdfund her latest album, Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits, and while the "Darling Misfit" moniker partly refers to her band, she says it's also how she's come to think of the outsiders who make up so much of her fan base.

Robichaud's band stays home July 30 when she sings with a piano accompanist at The Stork Club, but a piano, platform heels, and a wig are pretty much all the powerful singer needs to win over any crowd.

But even in fun, campy lounge-singer settings, Robichaud has learned to be mindful of the complicated dynamics between women in a post-sisterhood age.

"I figured out that if I'm singing to a couple, I'd better sing to the woman, because if I sing to the man, she'll think I'm trying to steal him," Robichaud says, laughing at the silliness of it all.

Nevertheless, club gigs in the Bay Area are a bit safer for this misfit than they were in her native North Carolina, where she says just being on the street outside a venue in glam rock attire could attract angry, confused reactions. Robichaud and husband Guillaume moved from Raleigh, N.C., to San Francisco's Tendernob neighborhood a little over a year ago.

Growing up in "tobacco and NASCAR country," Robichaud says she rebelled against her surroundings. Her father instilled in her a love for wholesome Hollywood musicals like The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins, but when she discovered VHS tapes of more risqué titles, such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Cabaret at her local library, she says those films awakened something in her.

"The Nazis and sex in Cabaret went right over my head, but I loved the music," Robichaud notes, adding, "I'm not afraid to have a vibrato, because Liza Minelli made it happen."

It was this early exposure to musicals that led to a love for the theatrics of glam rock, Robichaud says. And while some legendary glam rockers, such as the New York Dolls, were more testosterone-fueled, Robichaud says the artists who influenced her were the ones who brought more subtlety to the table.

"I gravitated toward Queen and Bowie because they weren't out there waving their dicks around," Robichaud says, "They embodied sex, but they were sexy because they were mysterious and effeminate."

Robichaud's work reflects her affection for people who defy gender roles. In a different video, for her song, "Why Do You Love Me Now?" drag performers Jillian Gnarling and Johnny Rockitt, along with multimedia artist Uel Renteria, alternately adore and antagonize the singer, first adorning her body with a painted flower design and then dumping a bucket of water on her head and smearing the paint.

The scene is a homage to Carrie, Robichaud says, but water and paint were substituted for the pig's blood used in the Stephen King story.

Gnarling and Rockitt return in "Apple Pie," lip-syncing their roles as women who undermine Robichaud, even attempting to force-feed her some apple pie in a symbolic attempt to instill wholesome conformity in her.

When Robichaud posted the "Why Do You Love Me Now?" video on Facebook, she was dismayed by a commenter who said he loved the song, but did not like drag queens. The singer tried to explain to the fan why his comment was hurtful, but eventually blocked him.

Robichaud, whose ideas and outfits sometimes seemed more out-of-place in North Carolina and on The Voice, says she feels drawn to the drag community because it is such a safe, welcoming place, populated by beautiful artists who know a thing or two about being attacked for who they are.

"I've never had to explain myself or apologize for who I am in drag circles," Robichaud says. "A Darling Misfit is anybody who feels like they don't belong and need a space where they're safe to express themselves."

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Brendan Bartholomew

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