February 29, 2012 by Isa
Songs of Presence
Images by Daniela Talvitie (MAMMA project) / Hair and make-up by Tom Wennerstrand (Helena Rubinstein/Noir)/ Styling by Mert Otsamo/ Head-pieces by Mert Otsamo On one of those too-cold early winter days in Finland I make my way to Daniela Talvitie’s home, a modern high-rise in the Arabia district of Helsinki. Outside the door I see two dark-haired women and a little child; the women are talking in hushed tones. Knitted mittens hold take-away coffee cups. I pay them no further attention because I am lost in thought; then I ring the door bell. When I get in the elevator, the two women are there, too, and we all cram into the small space, us three women and the child in his stroller. Something tells me that I should probably know one of the women, but I have no time to think about it, because I am busy preparing for an interview with Ninja Sarasalo, supermodel turned stay-at-home mom. What am I going to ask her? I get off at the wrong floor, and when I finally make it to the right floor (the top floor of the building where Daniela has set up a make-do photography studio for the day), I realize that the woman I probably should have known in the elevator is nobody else than Ninja Sarasalo herself. Well, that went well, I think. When I see her, she sits on a chair, getting her hair figured out by the hairstylist, sipping on her coffee, getting a massage by her friend Iman (the other woman I saw), looking very much like a supermodel in a cool vintage dress, and not like the stay-at-home moms I know from playgroup. She is stunning, no make-up, tired and all. At that moment her son runs by with a snutty nose, and in a very non-supermodel-kind-of-way, she takes the hem of her vintage dress and wipes his nose with it. Not so glamorous. I like her already. “I am such a diva, getting a massage and everything,” she says, smiling genuinely. And then apologetically: “I’m sorry, I stayed up too late yesterday. I’m so tired. Why do I do this to myself? I mean, I’m a professional!” I laugh and we shake hands. “Well, sometimes you need to get out of the house,” I offer. “Hell yeah,” she agrees. “I was yelling obscenities at the parliament in the middle of last night.” So, tell me about yourself. Anything you want to say. – I am Ninja. Housemom, can I call myself housemom? Yeah, yes, you can. - Ok, I am a housemom. I am an artist. I am a photographer. I do surrealistic acting. Yesterday we had a performance. I was a black Muslim woman, then a strange sister. It’s called Yhtäkkiä tässä. You can see it on youtube. (She takes the notebook on which I’m scribbling from me to check if I spelled it correctly.) - Yes, that’s right. Yhtäkkiä tässä. I don’t feel like it’s work; it’s not a hobby, but something I really enjoy. Do you think of yourself as an artist? – Yes, definitely. I just had a photography exhibition… The exhibition she talks about is called Naisten kanssa (With Women). Oh I saw that, I loved it! It’s also a bit about motherhood. Women. (Reminder to self: don’t interrupt!) - Yeah, I love women. They are so inspiring. In every age. And she doesn’t like them photoshopped. The photos in her exhibition have come straight from the camera. It was very honest, I liked it. - I have been doing it [photography] for five years, but seriously, it took about one year to put everything together for the exhibition. And then, I just… and the… bling! came: Yeah I’m doing an exhibition.! Everybody was like, yeah right… And I said: Yeah I will. You are confident. - Somehow. I thought maybe I’m stupid, it’s so expensive, and photographs don’t sell, you know, people want to go to IKEA, but I really enjoyed it. I can call myself brave. You are quite talented, you model, you act, you are a photographer, I mean is there something else? Do you paint? - Yeah (laughs). Yes I do. My grandmother is actually a very famous painter. Marjatta Sarasalo. Beautiful paintings, really, you would like it. We re interrupted by little Taito. Mom, come… mom come now, he squeals. Mom is here, sweetheart, she says. - Sorry. My brains don’t work any more. When you have a baby it’s like dementia. You don’t know yourself any more. I think it takes ten years to find yourself again. - He is tired, he didn’t take a nap. I am a little bit worried about the photoshoot. I give the boy my journal and a pen and he starts drawing lines. I still have them in my journal now: art by Taito. You talked about taking pictures of women, and you didn’t want to have them photoshopped. - No, not at all. I hate photoshop. I mean I understand that in some points, people have to use it, but I think it went too far. They are really changing the human too much. It puts stress on women, and children, girls. They look like plastic. If you have a stomach, they take it away, I mean why. Who says that that’s how we need to look. You were very active in the fashion world some years ago. Is that something that bothered you? - I love fashion. I loved the people, the shows, the atmosphere, the traveling, the making money, all of that. But I didn’t really like the other part of it, you know, the pressure I felt of having to lose weight or be a certain type of skinny. My agency would tell me to lose 3 kg or something. I was very young. And I didn’t understand why. Why? So that’s when I started feeling like I was hitting a wall. My heart wasn’t in it any more. I do things with my heart, with passion. If I’m not feeling it, then I can’t do it. (laughs). I like life! - Yesterday we (she and her friend Iman) were walking, it was 4 o clock in the night, and this guy came after me, and he just said; oh, you got fat! I mean what is wrong. I would never go to anybody and say that. She (Iman) went to put some sort of cup on his nose and said Pinocchio, Pinocchio, Pinocchio. And the guy was like, ok, you won. Was he older or younger? - No, younger, 25 years. Do you get a lot of those? -Yeah. But I don’t care. You don’t care… - No, not so much. I mean, why. It’s like: do you have a problem? Talking crap about each other. I don’t like it. (Her son is playing with the hairstylist’s gadgets the whole time she is telling me this. Now, Taito, seriously, let it be, those are Tom’s things.) Do you have a message for girls? If you could say whatever you wanted to say, you would say… - Be proud of yourself! - I saw this drawing on a wall the other day. Some girl had written “Am I too ugly to protect myself from a rapist?” And I wanted to write there, no no no, don’t believe that, you are beautiful. And then I saw it continued: “yes, I am too ugly. I don’t deserve love, I deserve rape.” You have traveled a lot. Is the wrong body image only a problem in the Western world? - In Africa, they don’t think about this. They like women with ass, with shape, with curves. It says you are powerful, and rich. But here, I think, they try to take our spirit away somehow. Because women, the bigger they are, the stronger they are, mentally. You know those skinny girls look sick. Like they are not even there any more, their spirits. – When I was pregnant I was in Paris, and they were afraid of me. Literally afraid. They didn’t know what to do with this big, strong, feminine woman. And the skinny girls? They were just hiding in a corner (laughs). So you didn’t really like the fashion industry, and you don’t like photoshop. What got you interested in it in the first place? What was the original pull? Did you slip into it? - My mother. It was kind of her thing. I was a boyish girl. I do love clothes , I mean I love it, in the right way, but I would never let my child go and be with these people alone. I mean, it was just a period of my lifetime.
Do you still do photos? - Yeah, like today. I did Elle. Yeah, sometimes, but you know, I am not in the shape that people want. And I think I’m too old. How old are you? - 28. That’s not old! - Yeah in fashion I am a grandma! Is there anything you would change in the fashion industry, if you could? - There is nothing that I can change. But I wouldn’t maybe let my 14-year old girls go there alone. Because it can be very crazy, the environment. But I learned a lot. I learned to take care of myself, so I think it’s more positive than negative, but I think these girls shouldn’t be so skinny. I mean when you see them in real life, you think, this is not real! But I cannot change it. Has motherhood changed you or your outlook on life? - It has made me calm down. I was always like with my heads in the clouds. Life just goes and goes. Now, I don’t even look at myself in the mirror… I am not that selfish anymore. I am not looking for where is it! where is it! I found a nice man, I have a beautiful boy. I don’t look for material things. I still like beautiful clothes, but I am not like, I need that new Gucci bag. Or I need to be rich. Are you happier now than you were…? - Yeah. Yes. But yeah, on some days I am tired (laughs.) Me too, I confess. What is your everyday life like? - Booooooring (laughs). I call myself housemom, but I see my friends, I am very social, I meet my friends, I am not at home all the time. I clean, but I am not a slave. I hate it when people complain to me about cleaning, after I have done 12 hours of changing diapers and you know, just working really hard. It’s this running joke between my fiance and me. Have you cleaned today? And I’ll say, shut up, and clean yourself (laughs). If you think about this little boy of your’s, what do you think he will do/become? - He is going to be a Samurai, and he will save the earth. Really. He has that kind of look in his eyes, that he knows something that I don’t. He is very wise. I don’t know if you’ve heard about Kristall-children. They are very sensitive. They can see spirits. They are very empathic. I think Taito is very empathic. And I didn’t teach that. He was like that.… I am also afraid for our planet, you know, what is going to happen. I worry about when he is 30, how he is going to feel about all those changes, I mean if everything continues to go like this, the whole earth goes to the dogs. So I feel bad. But at the same time I want to believe that they have this different kind of spirit. Because they are born in a different time and blah blah blah. Already they have stronger characters than we do. Like I said, he already understands things that I don’t. So, I think the world might end up somewhere positive, because I see that goodness in him.
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