THIS, THAT & THE THIRD:
THE INIMITABLE CONTESSA STUTO
By April Keller-Macleod, Monica Rojas, Juliann McCandless
Photos by Jenna Ledger
Cuntmafia’s Contessa Stuto is Brooklyn’s wild boss bitch. The stylist, performance artist, rapper, and political personality took IRL around Bushwick to deliver her sermon of realness, discussing cultural appropriation, gentrification, hypebeasts, the misogynist nature of fashion, and why she deserves to get her money too.
You talk a lot about realness. Is it hard to find it in our day and age, because of how much saturation there is?
The saturation of the internet is destroying everyone’s identity, because you’re being told to be a specific fuckin thing – like there is one specific style when I think of Instagram, this hypebeast urban. I call it the Miley Virus aesthetic; I think especially with white girls [wearing it], it’s pretty demeaning the way we’re being portrayed. And black women are getting the rough fucking end of the stick, because they’re not being represented in the media anymore. Why is the MTV Music Awards held in Brooklyn, when I think not even one black person won. And you’re in fucking Brooklyn; that shit should’ve been front row.
I just wanna let everyone know that I’m political – I’m not just a personality. I’m a political punk identity, and that’s why I’ve been getting all the awards, cause I notice shit that’s been happening. I’m over-the-top, ‘say it’ – no holds bar, and people are like ‘wow’. I’m shaking the Babylon of this fake downtown New York. The downtown entities are killing New York completely. They’re only soul sick for money, while I’m out here at this fucking check cashing place…when I fucking created this swag. I’ve been here since the get-go. They’re ruining New York. And honestly I get it, you gotta make bread; I’ve styled celebrities before, but everyone knows that when you style that person it’s that person’s aesthetic. When you work with me or when you work with Nicola Formichetti, you know what you’re getting. But [the entities] are fabricating this clown suit of downtown New York.
What can you say about finding your individuality in this place that’s so oppressive?
See, this is the problem! It’s not about what you wear, it’s not about how you look. It’s about you, your person. These people are just fabricating everything. I know every designer – I’ve watched them all come up for almost 10 years. You don’t need to show me fashion with this same urban look some harness and drop crotch with a patent leather bubble jacket. I don’t need to see that, I don’t fucking care. It’s also male misogyny; they’re running the game, and they’re placing these safe female pop industry puppets to style, cause they’re cute, and they’re nice, but they show up in some Instagram style that they jacked. Obviously there are a lot of talented people regardless of looks and race. Maybe I have something against certain things – that’s just me, but when I don’t see anything original, I feel like I’m gagging. Why is this shit happening? I think the originals just started being quiet and didn’t really revolt. We didn’t take our place, and now I’m finally doing it, and people are starting to come out of the woodwork. The OGs are starting to band together. And it’s not just about fashion. We’re consumed with the most stupid shit right now – nobody’s reading a fucking book. Nobody’s opinion is based off of anything. It’s based off of a fucking Twitter.
The other day, someone was like ‘Oh this is how you do Dubai well’, and it’s Rihanna in whatever that KTZ bullshit is. First of all, those people were at my video shoot and my Muslim roommate was in head-to-toe burqa, and she’s a Muslim trans woman. I thought that was a little fishy. So ‘how you do Dubai right’ is basically you co-sign Donald Trump, you co-sign slave wage, you co-sign poverty and racism, and you get Rihanna in an all white ‘Dubai’ look; she’s the puppet of the industry. People say she supports independent designers – no she supports saving money in her pocket and getting free looks and disposing of you when the next independent designer comes along, and she’s never going to call you again. I’ve seen it all – these people think celebrities are going to make them. She’s not a boss bitch, she’s a pretty bitch with a lot of money on auto-tune. This is what I see with every celebrity. I don’t even know what they sound like, they don’t say anything. She has a right to be like that, but other people have a right to be against that kind of shade. There are instances when [celebrities] do help [independent designers], but usually they’re the people they started with that they bring with them like Azealia Banks writing a song about me, and this that and the third about my legacy saying ‘muscle Mike can’t protect you from the storm’ – that’s about me. You cannot come to my house or my party and tell me you’re not seeing something special. So when people say that you inspire them, that’s all I need to hear. I’m not trying to be some skinny ass pop star; just give me my moment to shine and my money – I want money too. So I’m gonna go in here (check cashing building) and get my money!
Where do you want to see yourself in a year?
I wanna be respected and making my money. I don’t wanna be cashing checks at the Cash-In. I think it has a lot to do with me being wild and crazy for many years, and it’s time to get that business bitch back.
What do you think is a common misconception people have of you?
I think people think I’m mean, because they don’t know what my politics are. Or [they think] that I’m too aggressive and over-the-top, which I am, but I’m a teddy bear as well. I just have a passionate soul, and some things don’t feel right to me
What’s one big change you’ve seen in Brooklyn that you want to get back?
One thing is the desolate feeling of Williamsburg. I miss that abandoned feeling of lofts and industrial areas, where you could lurk and squat and throw parties. I miss the way it looked before the Williamsburg waterfront was established, when it was this dingy ass feeling. You just go smoke weed and hope cops don’t catch you, and the Hasidic men who try to pick up prostitutes – that real New York shit. Now everything has been taken over and turned into a condo. And what’s real Brooklyn? Is it being in the cut, in the hood, where you have to worry about your shit? That’s not real Brooklyn to me either. I don’t wanna have to worry about that; I liked it when it was weirdo artists everywhere, before co-signing and good credit. But I was a real estate agent too, and I was part of that and it made me good money, so I’m kind of the enemy within myself.
It can get arrogant here when you find your community. When I was in Europe working with Peaches, the artists were working on set design and making fashion together, and it was inclusive, not like, ‘I’m that bitch. I’m going to walk in looking the best already and be that bitch’. People are looking to have some kind of aesthetic, and even if you find your community, it might not be the right one for you. Right now, for me, I’ve been more punk, more political, more feminist. And I’ve been surrounded by women, meeting smarter women. I’m around people I wanna be around. Before that, I was in this club kid atmosphere that was a gay male driven, drug driven, and a superficial fashion driven atmosphere. I don’t prescribe to Fashion Week; I don’t care. You can’t name one fashion magazine I haven’t been in or been quoted in. I’ve been in $30,000 [Alexander] McQueen in V Magazine, but then I do these start up things too. I believe in art, and I believe that no one is better. Anyone can be that next thing. I believe in no shade – credit what should be credited, talk about your inspirations, but also have a problem with the passive aggressiveness about the way women are acting.
What exactly is Cuntmafia?
I would compare it to the new Junior M. A. F. I. A., the new modern version of what living in New York City, especially the tri-state area, means. We try to represent and be real. I know people say ‘real’, and it means ‘not real’, so I try not to say it, but that’s what it is. I’m all about the realness. I’m real. It’s cunt, which is from the ballroom and punk scene. Cunt is just being that bitch. You can be banshee cunt, white girl cunt, but it’s a personality trait that not many people have. We have a sarcasm and humor about life that gets confusing, cause people that aren’t cunt just don’t understand. Walking around with your head up high and not giving a flying fuck, that’s cunt. I grew up in the punk rock scene of it and growing up in New York and seeing the ballroom girls and being queer, I saw many different versions of it, but at the end of the day, it’s a personality trait. Cunt is in your DNA.
Who is in Cunt Mafia?
Right now the core group that I work with on a weekly basis is Cakes Da Killa, Jay Boogie, Krizz, Quay Dash, and Meaghan Helene. That is the core, and they all do different things; Megan is my graphic design person, Quay is my female rapper, Cakes Da Killa is just the fucking lyricist of the world.
What is Cunt Mafia working on right now?
Right now, I’m working on my own music and performance art. My first single is ‘Raining Ratchet’, which is a rip off of Slayer Raining Blood. I’m taking things seriously – it used to be fun and throwing raves and getting fucked up, and now I’m about my business. It’s time to figure out what’s going on for the next chapter really. I’m working with Quay Dash on her EP; she’s the Lil’ Kim of the Mafia, and I’m sort of the Diddy. My performance art is just me. I have a forte for comedy, and I wanna make people laugh, but it’s also political. I call people out, regardless of who you are – I see if you’re fake or not.
Who are some people who inspired you?
Growing up, at 13 years old, I was obsessed with Betsey Johnston, of course, Courtney Love pre-Celebrity Skin. I saw Hole in concert at 11 years old in 1994 – that’s that shit; Marilyn Manson, Trent Reznor; Lil’ Kim was my gateway into rap, the Lunachicks, Kathleen Hannah, Patricia Field, of course. At 13 years old, I lived at Pat Field’s on the weekends, because fashion was my first calling.
…I can’t right now with the fashion industry. It’s too gay male driven; there’s no respect for women. Where are the women? Where’s the next Donna Karen? It’s nothing to do with the people, but they probably can go at least a week without having to deal with another woman who’s on their level. I have to deal with this so much with men in general. Doing raves, it’s so much harder to be respected; one, by the way I look, and then when they realize I mean business, there’s a problem. If I was some white man walking into the venue, they would do anything. But if something doesn’t work out for me once they want me out of there, they think I can’t do it. They’ll just have some generic white guy do it.
Why do you think it is that way?
There’s just no respect for women. Every female celebrity right now is portraying a negative appropriation of what a woman is. Why do these Disney girls all the sudden have to start acting crazy, from Amanda Bynes to Miley Virus, to start getting talked about again? Why was all of Lindsay Lohan’s entire career off of tabloids? It’s because you’re only cool if you’re a mess. Where’s the boss bitch? The only reference you could maybe make is Beyoncé, but even she started wearing those ratchet earrings, and you could tell she was being told to go that way. Azealia Banks gets so much shade for speaking her mind and not being some basic bitch, because we’re told to be quiet; ‘You can’t say that cause you’re going to burn a bridge’. Who cares? If you’re not gonna fuck with what I have to say, then I don’t need your bridge. I’m still gonna be in the Louvre in Paris someday. People get famous playing the ladder game, but I just can’t do it. When you give them everything, in a year you’ll have nothing to give. They want it all in five seconds, and you’re replaceable. I’ve been in the game for a long time, and I’ve seen it all. So, I don’t wanna release music, it makes me nervous. I don’t wanna be put in the category of some white trap princess and be expected to twerk onstage cause I can’t, I just can’t.
I remember when I was thinner, when I was in that club kid scene and there was this idea of being sexy and this and that, and it make me think that I had to keep losing weight. That was another thing I had to overcome as a woman. The first thing someone reverts to, out of jealousy, is my size, but at the same time that’s something that sets me apart.
Let’s cash your check and see what you do next.
You better, cause I’m carrying.
If you're in New York check out Contessa's weekly party at The Flat, #CherryBomb featuring DJs like Lil Internet, Mess Kid, and Will Gates. She might even let you know where to head for the after party you probably wont remember, but wish you did.