Jacques: mixing nostalgia with realism
Anyone with an interest in erotic print publications has surely come across Jacques, a high-end erotic magazine from America. The tone is a nod to Playboy’s retro past while its models are girls who can take pride in their natural beauty.
“Well just because I like sex doesn’t mean I don’t like other things. Besides I enjoy having sex while watching movies. Unless it’s a Stanley Kubrick. You shut up and watch his films.”
Originally created by Danielle and her husband Jonathan Leder, the two have recently split up and now Danielle Leder, a former model, herself is planning to re-launch the magazine.
Interview by Jeremy Leslie.
Portrait by Jesse Shadoan.
Why did you launch Jacques?
For numerous reasons. I missed modelling, I missed working. Exploiting myself sexually, if you will. It was also a way for me to get back in touch with a world my husband forbade me to be in. He couldn’t take my $10,000 a day jobs, and me working with photographers on a level he could never be. He’s very controlling like that.
When I became pregnant with Jack, then after giving birth to him, I felt I became trapped. My husband trapped me, not sure why I let him, but I did. I was not allowed to do anything really that didn’t focus on his career. I did hair, makeup, styling, showed his models how to pose, made them feel comfortable. Found locations, etc...
I guess, you could say he used me, but in a way I used him too.
I simply wasn’t doing anything. Again, I had just given birth to my son Jack and was bed ridden for about 6 months due to massive blood loss. My husband was not working. He was struggling with his photography. He was only doing few editorials here and there. Nothing substantial, nothing to feed a family.
So I thought well, let’s start a magazine, let’s take our future in our own hands. Why sit around and wait for people to come knocking when I could produce something, get his name out there. With absolute creative freedom.
When I started modelling every agency told me my hips were too big, my boobs were too big. But I was comfortable with my body – I’d been a stripper for three years in Tampa, Florida and started doing burlesque when I moved to New York – and the photographers loved me. Bruce Webber loved the way I stripped.
So eventually the agencies had to give in, but I hated going on castings. It was awful seeing all these girls with no boobs, butt, body or personality. I wanted to start a mutiny and bring back the 90s supermodels.
Americans are so crazy when it comes to nudity. Too many girls are growing up feeling bad about themselves, feeling ashamed of their sexuality, their body type. We’re not perfect; we all have scars, tattoos, freckles. We’re black, white, Indian, Mexican, Asian. Where is that in the media today? All I see is a bunch of skinny white girls, and I can say that because I am a skinny white girl. I would like to see more of a variety in today’s media.
Why produce a printed publication and not a website or other digital service?
I’m really anti-technology. I only just got a cell phone, and that was only because I was living on a mountain with two kids and no landline. I also have an obsession with books. I love the way they feel. They’re real. You can’t get that personal with the Internet. But I’m coming around. I’m actually working on a website now.
What magazines inspired you to make Jacques?
Vintage men’s magazines like Ritz, Screw, pre-80sPlayboy. As I grew up I really wanted to be one of those girls in the magazines. I guess you could say I did become one. I always identified with the vixen or the over the top bombshell, I watched a lot of old Hollywood movies and musicals.
Somehow, I made a detour to be a mom. But that should never stop us. Being a mother is beautiful. I would say we’re better than single, childless women. Don’t get me wrong, I love my young single ladies. But we can cook, clean, do your laundry, and we have a sex drive that’s out of this world! We’re legal ‘experienced’ sex workers. I bet you I could teach a guy my age (25) a few tricks. Oh yes, and you don’t need alcohol to get us in bed. We are ready and willing.
Who is Jacques – where did the name come from?
We wanted to name the magazine Ritz in the beginning, but the Ritz Carlton threatened to sue and in the end they bought our domain name and we took the cash. It took us 6 months to come up with Jacques. Jacques is my son, Jack.
How do you find the girls? Do you deal with the big model agencies or rely on smaller ones?
The big don’t like us because we fight against them and their skinny models. We work with the smaller agencies no one knows about. They have the all-American curvy girls. But we also use girls who aren’t “models”, just your girl-next-door. Not saying they are any less beautiful, sometimes they really were the girl down the street from us.
Are most girls comfortable with posing topless, or do many say no? Are they surprised at castings or do they know the magazine? Do they turn you down?
Topless seems to be ok, it’s the full nude with the bush that makes them stop and think. But generally after they shot topless with us, they want to do nudes. I think it’s because America has them brainwashed. Funny for a country so filled and driven by sex.
Do you avoid using professional sex models/pornography stars?
We have in the past, but I think it’s something I’m now interested in doing. There’s nothing wrong with the sex industry. It’s just the way they’re portrayed that I don’t like.
What criteria do you use in selecting models for the shoots?
Being able to hold a conversation is important! If you show up to meet me on your phone it’s rude. I don’t care how big your tits are. I’m really a stickler when it comes to manners. I may enjoy being sexual and seductive and having my girls do the same, but I like my girls to be ladies. I would never ask a girl to do something I wouldn’t do myself. Not unless she really, really wanted to.
How do you describe the magazine: a magazine about sex? erotica? soft-porn? fantasy? fashion mag? Something else?
Jacques is an extension of my life. It’s part of who I am.
I have a million different ideas come in and out of my head every day. This gives me a chance to get some out for good.
It’s really a magazine of things I like. Unfortunately because of my abusive husband (we’re now getting a divorce) I really suppressed it for 5 years. I’m not going to hold it back any longer. I thinkJacques actually suffered because I was not allowed to be who I really am. I am a really sexual person.
Why do you include non-erotic features (the issue I’m looking at has an interview with Oliver Stone)?
Well just because I like sex doesn’t mean I don’t like other things. Besides I enjoy having sex while watching movies. Unless it’s a Stanley Kubrick. You shut up and watch his films.
Is Jacques an exercise in nostalgia, looking back at a more innocent time (Playboy, Oui etc) or is it reflecting contemporary concerns about fake bodies and retouched imagery?
Are there other magazines investigating similar themes?
There are now. I love it. I like to compare Jacques to Vanilla Ice. We may make fun of him now, but he did open the door for Eminem and others alike. But I thinkJacques will have a different outcome then Vanilla Ice did.
Sex is everywhere today; music videos, mainstream magazines (Terry Richardson), advertising. Plus websites and TV. Does a magazine about sex still have a role?
Funny you mention Terry. I’ve always been a huge fan of his work and when I was modelling I was sent on a “go see” to meet him. I got really dressed up, made my entrance and sat down and talked to him for a bit. He knew Mons Venus (the strip club I worked in) and he asked if he could take some Polaroïds of me. Sure, I said. I showed him my boobs. He asked if he could take a picture with me (what he was really asking is if he could take a picture with my tits). He got right next to them and I saw my chance. I grabbed his head and gave him a motorboat. His face turned bright red and I told him I always wanted to do that. Who says Terry’s the one you have to watch out for? He’s a teddy bear compared to me.
I gave him my number and a few weeks later he wanted to hang out. Ugh, I know he does this to all the models, so I don’t feel special or anything. It’s just funny. I’m an ex stripper. Who did he think he was playing with? I know how to get what I want. I told him‘you’ve had your taste, you want to see me again you have to book me for a shoot’. The very next day my booker called to let me know Terry booked me.
The shoot was not that great though. I was having a miscarriage (I didn’t let him know, I put a smile on my face and pretended nothing was wrong). But I still got what I wanted.
I would die for two things in life. My art and my children.
What is that role? Is the point of the magazine to sexually arouse readers, or are you working in a vacuum of nostalgia?
I like to turn people on. It’s what I do best. I just do it in a different way.
The design of the magazines feels retro. Is that a deliberate direction?
Well my soon to be ex husband is 14 years older than me. What can I say? I like old.
Personally I could do older. The young bloods get too excited. But my therapist says I need to stop. So I’m trying new things. My third child’s father (the one I’m pregnant with now) is only 5 and a half years older than me. It’s actually inspired me to make a few new changes to the magazine.
Jacques has more in common with sex in advertising; it’s a tease rather than hardcore digital porn. Is there a point at which an image becomes too explicit for Jacques to publish? Pubic hair? Genitalia?
I’m planning to challenge this in my new beginnings with Jacques. My husband made me feel really bad about spread legs. He talks about empowering women. But now that my eyes are really open, I see that with him it’s actually about control. It’s not because of our pussy, it’s what makes us woman. I still prefer hair, but why be ashamed. Is it dirty? Is it vulgar? I don’t really know... but I intend to find out.
Do you have a favourite shoot that best represents the mood and tone of Jacques?
I love them all. They’re all my babies.
Who buys/reads Jacques? Men and women?
It may be the men who buy it but as soon as they get home, the girlfriends/wives snatch them.
How do you picture readers enjoying and making use of the magazine?
Hopefully how I do. On my boyfriends chest when I’m...
The traditional frame of reference for sex magazines is that it’s a male business exploiting women. How does Jacques differ from this model?
I don’t believe that crap for one minute. Trust me. Some women, including myself, love being sexual and powerful. I think Jacques portrays women as real, as what they are.
What fantasy THEY want to be for the day. Jacques differs because I am giving them a chance to be in control of what they want. Not what the men want.
But at the same time it is nice to bow down and please. Maybe the magazine has a nice compromise to it that I am unaware of?
Would you ever add men to the shoots?
I plan on it now that Jonathan is gone. But, I have weird taste. I like a good hairy chest and real muscles. You know, the kind men get from building stuff, lifting furniture, etc. Not fake gym muscles.
The magazine was launched by you and Jonathan Leder as a male-female team. Do you anticipate significant changes now that you are the lead editor?
I was always in charge. My husband just put restrictions on me and I would back down because we had children and he would get physical with me. Now that I have broken free I expect it to be better.
What are your future plans for the magazine?
Not sure. I never really had plans for the magazine to begin with. I just do what I want, cross my fingers, hope it works.
Any other comments/points you’d like to add?
In five years and two kids later and pregnant with my third I haven’t been in front of the camera. I am now returning. And I’m taking it off for Jacques.
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This is a #reprint of a contribution originally published by the magazine Nico in 2012. We #reprint it with the kind permission of its publisher, Luxembourg-based Maison Moderne (Luxembourg).
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