Iconic women, with an Emerson update

by Anna Buckley / Beacon Staff • March 19, 2014

Sophomore performing arts major Serena Kassow models as Sacagawea.
Photo courtesy of Kelsey Davis
Sophomore performing arts major Serena Kassow models as Sacagawea.
Photo courtesy of Kelsey Davis

Some images are everlasting: Lucille Ball posing as the title character from I Love Lucy, with her red lips puckered and her eyes wide with mock surprise; Jacqueline Kennedy standing poised with a modest smile on her lips, her eyes calm, radiating composure; Coco Chanel smoldering at the camera, her fierce elegance captured forever in a black-and-white still. 

Recently, in honor of Herstory Month, members of Sigma Pi Theta embodied these iconic women in their own re-creations of such classic photographs.

Herstory Month, taking place from March 10 to April 5, is being hosted on campus by the sorority Sigma Pi Theta. Brought to Emerson for the first time last year by the group, this assortment of events serves to honor National Women’s History Month.

To kick off the celebration, Kelsey Davis, a senior visual and media arts major and the chair of Herstory Month, compiled a list of 35 inspirational women ranging from Amelia Earhart, to J.K. Rowling, to Janis Joplin, and photographed 35 Emerson women with the goal of recreating the icons’ likenesses. By doing so, Davis said that they are celebrating women who were pioneers and who should be thanked for the progress they made in civil and women’s rights.

These images will be displayed at the Herstory Photo Gala April 1 in the Beard Room, and will showcase all of the famous re-creations photographed by Davis and styled by Kristen Garrett, Lizzie Swerdlin, Emily McClure, and Lia Brouillard.

“You’ll be able to really take in all the powerful women we’ve been celebrating this month,” said Hannah Kole, junior visual and media arts major.

Kole, the sorority member in charge of marketing the events of Herstory Month, posed as Lucille Ball. Kole said that it was an honor to represent a woman who was so accomplished in television, as Ball was the first female studio head in Hollywood, and paved the way for women executives in the film and television industries. Kole grew up watching the show, she said, and her red hair and tendency to make distinct facial expressions made her a good fit for representing Ball. 

“I got to bring Lucille back to life,” Kole said. “Once someone recommended that I model for Lucy, I was anxious to say ‘yes’ because she is such a fantastic, positive, hysterical red-headed character. Although all of the women represented in Herstory Month are wonderfully inspirational, Ball is a familiar person who I connected to most.”

The resulting photograph shows Kole with her red hair pinned up in curls, her eyebrows raised, her lips painted red and puckered in typical Lucille Ball fashion, alongside red and blue lettering that reads “I Love Lucy.”

Davis said that each model was chosen because she captured an icon’s spirit or personality, and was then styled similarly.

Sophomore performing arts major Serena Kassow said she was invited to a Facebook event for the two-day photo-shoot, and the opportunity spoke to her as an actor. She was chosen to portray Sacagawea, the Native American interpreter and guide for Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Kassow said she did research before the shoot so she could understand Sacagawea as a character and the hardships she went through, instead of treating the experience as merely a fashion shoot.

“As an acting major, its really cool to get to portray a character that actually lived as opposed to a fictional character,” she said. “They’re big shoes to fill, but it was cool to take on an interpretation of someone who actually existed.”

Davis herself chose to embody writer, activist, and feminist Betty Friedan, who is a personal inspiration for her, she said. 

“As a feminist embodying one of the most influential feminist authors, I felt a strong sense of connection to her and everything she had to work and fight for,” Davis said. “For the other models, I’m hoping that they felt a similar sense of appreciation and respect while also learning more about the successes of their chosen woman.”

In regards to Herstory Month itself, Davis said their efforts are key for Sigma Pi Theta because it allows the group to let students know what they’re all about.

“It’s important because we’re such a small sorority that’s only at Emerson, and so we’re often overlooked,” she said. “Doing something that gets the whole Emerson community involved is really important for our representation, but also so we can give back to the community and say exactly what we believe in. We want to be a support group for Emerson women on campus.” 

Sigma Pi Theta has hosted three events thus far: a sex ed talk that discussed women’s sexuality and safe sex; a night filled with screenings of the movie But I’m a Cheerleader and two episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to celebrate females as lead characters; and “The Feminist Games,” which is a spinoff of The Hunger Games that focused on self-love and teamwork, according to Davis. 

When the celebration wraps up with the Herstory Photo Gala in April, Davis said that she hopes attendees will get a wider picture of what women’s history looks like, from Jackie O. to Tina Fey. Ultimately, she said she feels that the portraits of iconic women being represented by modern Emerson female students suggest that anyone can be a strong feminist figure if they dedicate their lives to the cause.

“Any Emerson female can grow to be just as influential as these women are,” she said.