January 10, 2012

Brain Picking: Jessica Rajs (creator / model Gorgeous & Gory)

(creator / model Gorgeous & Gory calendar)

Despite the overabundance of hot vampires on TV, I've always considered zombies to be way sexier than those damn blood suckers. Don't believe me? Then maybe you'll take it from Jessica Rajs, the art director of Gorgeous & Gory (www.gorgeousandgory.com) a yearly zombie pinup calendar featuring 12 months of gorgeous and ghoulish girls. Not only is Jessica a zombie-lover with an eye for zombies that possess both beauty and a taste for brains, but she is one herself. The Zed Word joined Jessica back and her calendar crypt to talk zombies, pin-ups, and the sex appeal of the undead. 

Jessica knows a bloody good pinup when she sees one
ZED WORD: What's your background as a zombie fan and artist?

JESSICA RAJS: I have been in love with zombies and monsters for as long as I can remember. Watching zombie movies, going to horror conventions-what could be better? Dressing up like a zombie and scaring people maybe!? I love doing that too... I went to my first zombie walk in 2009 and found I was not alone.

A year later I joined the organizing team behind the NJ Zombie Walk and became involved with planning and running zombie events. I was working as an editor at Rebel Ink Magazine at that time. I guess I must have mentioned zombies a few (hundred) times a day, because this past year they decided to dedicate a few pages in each issue for me to expound upon my obsession. Since the column combines tattoos and zombies I decided to call it "Dead Flesh".

ZW: What was the inspiration for the Gorgeous and Gory calendar?

JR: The aesthetics of the traditional pinup photo are something that I am very drawn in by. Most people are. I think that's why it's considered a classic look, and is still so popular. I had been doing pinup modeling and photography for a few years, but I was still focusing on my other passion-experimenting with ways to replicate flesh wounds. When I joined up with the [NJ] ZW they had been talking about doing a calendar. I was coming up with all sorts of ideas so Jason [Meehan] handed the project over to me. The organizing team was made up of so many talented people-makeup artists, photographers, designers-so we all worked on it and ended up with something really great. We got a lot of good feedback and I knew we had to do another one…this year being the end of the world and all.

Model and Photo Editing: Jessica Rajs
ZW: What aesthetic vision did you and your collaborators have for this year's calendar? How did you choose your models / settings?

JR: Last year we had a classic 1950's pinup theme. It looked great, but I didn't want to do the same thing over, so we followed the natural timeline and progressed towards the look of the late 60's. Not to be mistaken for synonymous with hippies -- zombies generally do not advocate for peace. By late 60's, I mean the era of the original Night of the Living Dead, the tormenting vixens of early Russ Meyer films, smoldering burlesque starlets and lounge lushes...just on the cusp of grindhouse. This year the girls look a little meaner and tougher too. They're still stylish, lovely, and dead, just with a little more attitude....like they really want to kill you.

A very lively Jessica Rajs
We went to places like the Camp Evans military base and the Circus Drive-In which haven't been changed since the 60's, but we also used Roxy & Dukes and Verve Lounge-new places that were designed with a retro style. We had to do less hunting this year, because a lot of the locations actually invited us in after seeing the first calendar. We found a few of the models that way too, but most of the girls were friends and models that I've worked with before. About half of them were in the first calendar, but with the difference in style you can barely recognize them!

ZW: What is the appeal of sexy zombies?

JR: Sexually, I like to think it is the idea of raw animalistic instincts being unleashed in a violent, uncontrollable way. Who doesn't want to be lusted after and ravaged now and again? Or to have the freedom to express their impulses? There's also the idea that being vacant of all thought is appealing, or as with the classic voodoo zombies-being subject to total mind control. I don't see the girls of Gorgeous & Gory that way. They are too enticing and definitely seem to show intention...

As for being a zombie, even the most beautiful girls seem to feel self-conscious over something, but as zombie imperfections don't really matter. They add to your zombification or are distracted by it, which is very freeing.

Also, zombies tend to rip their clothes off.

When Jessica Rajs demands, "Brains!" you ask, "How fresh?"
 ZW: Tell me more about the Zombie Beauty Pageant in February.

JR: Beauty pageants are as much a part of our country's heritage as the "never say die" spirit! In keeping with the tradition set forth by Miss America's foremost pageant director, Lenora S. Slaughter, we will be holding a competition that celebrates that insatiable hunger for both beauty and brains! In our own zombified way of course! We will dig through a pile of undead contestants to find that special corpse who enshrines the image of our ideal zombie beauty!

The pageant will be February 18th, 2012 at Roxy & Dukes -- it's an amazing place, and it's where we shot a few of the calendar photos. I hope to see lots of you zombies there!!

Order Gorgeous & Gory at www.gorgeousandgory.com