Satirist Suki Singapura talks about why the art form is more about clothing than nudity

In the words of the late Tempest Storm, the iconic satirical artist, the key to the expressive art form is to “always leave something to the imagination.” For London-based Suki Menon (stage name: Suki Singapura), who works tirelessly to dispel misconceptions surrounding the comic, the meaning of this quote is the crux of her message. “It’s all about the art of eroticism and not nudity. This is how clothes and costumes become very important,” says Suki, India’s first comic artist.

Ski Menon |  Pic: Rob Terrell
Ski Menon | Pic: Rob Terrell

Sukki got started in the colorful world of the vaudeville art form through her love of vintage fashion. “Growing up, I was always artistic and wanted to follow my heart, but decided to get a stable job. I was working in IT, working a very regular job, when I heard about this performance art one day and did a Google search. I realized it was all I wanted to do So I went to audition for the gig, after I taught myself by watching YouTube videos, and was selected,” she recalls. Soon she was booking several gigs a week, and a year later, she quit her nine-to-five job to make her dream come true.

One can’t think of it when someone sees her, but Skye reveals that she wouldn’t call herself the epitome of “cool.” However, this is not something to be ashamed of. Sukki says, “I’m the most unwitty and smartest person I know, but I have.” For someone who grew up feeling inappropriate, because, in her own words, she was “too brown to British and too white to be Indian”, her confidence in being herself speaks volumes for how much she has achieved and how far she has come. “That’s what I love about comic. It’s about women celebrating their bodies and controlling their sexuality,” shares the 32-year-old, who was born to a Singaporean Indian father and an English mother.

Stocking on stage
Stocking on stage

Sartorial speaking
Since performance hinges on the clothes, a great deal of attention is given to how they are made. Clothing typically consists of multiple layers of clothing ranging from a robe to a dress with detachable components to a minimum, and the costumes are more than just randomly selected corsets, gloves, feathers and lace. Artists carefully curate and create their own appearance, which somewhat defines their personality on stage and sets the tone for the performance. According to Suki, it can sometimes take months for a costume designer to do one.

“It is an art that requires artists to be multifaceted. We make our hair and make-up, sew our clothes and design routines ourselves. That is why it is art in the truest sense of the word,” the artist explains.

Ski Menon |  Pic: Frieza Hafez
Ski Menon | Pic: Frieza Hafez

Suki’s own style on stage is classic and elegant, with a hint of her Indian heritage. She skillfully pairs traditional Indian fabrics with Swarovski crystals and fur. When she started with the goal of expressing herself through her collections, Suki’s looks were initially extreme, sweet treats designed to grab and hold your attention. “I’ve been taking the ‘more means more’ approach. Instead of 10 feathers, I’d use 100, instead of 50 crystals, I’d go with 500. But lately, I’ve found myself wearing the nude—no pun intended—because I want to celebrate my natural beauty,” he reveals. Unveiled by Suki, who was involved in the four-year battle to legalize the comic in Singapore. “Before the Covid hit, I was at Elton John’s Oscar party, and if you look at the pictures, you’ll see a long, rainbow-colored wig. But now, I’ve switched to a more natural look,” she adds.

Sarris and Swarovski
One of her favorite costumes is made from the sari that her mother brought from Thrissur, where her father’s family still lives. Another costume, also made from a sari, is adorned with 50,000 Swarovski crystals and is being presented for induction into the Comic Hall of Fame. “I love to play with silhouettes and the geometry of the piece. I am that person who, in a new place, will look under the table because that is how curious I am as I apply that curiosity to my fashion,” Suki shares, adding that she is inspired by emotions, life, and memories. As an artist, she also finds inspiration in the work of Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, and Gucci. But I try not to be influenced by anyone. For me, inspiration can come from the most unusual places. Just last week I was driving and saw a road sign showing you the road ahead. It was an odd shape, like a donut with spirals sticking out. I remember looking at it and thinking maybe I should use that in my next outfit,” she recalls.

Ski Menon |  Pic: Rachel Sherlock
Ski Menon | Pic: Rachel Sherlock

out of service
Away from the stage, Sukki likes to remain eclectic – a mix of vintage and high quality and unique finds from charity shops. “I don’t want my clothes to be ordinary because it reflects my soul. I have traveled to New York, Florida, Germany and Paris and own vintage clothes from all these places.” Kim Kardashian’s all-black outfit with matching masks at the 2021 Met Gala might be polarizing, but Suki thinks it was nothing short of genius. “I love the idea of ​​expressing my identity through my clothes which is why I thought Kim’s Balenciaga collection was a stroke of genius, because it tells you she’s Kim Kardashian by accentuating her body shape,” she said excitedly. Talking about how the comic has permeated every level of fashion, Ski said that there has always been an overlap between art form and fashion. “Look at Gaultier and Louboutin. You can see the influence of the comic in its aesthetics. Even Gucci, with its feathered blouses and corsets, makes reference to this ancient art form. I think it’s a powerful influence. It’s about making women feel sexually empowered. And in the new comic style, it’s a copy The kind that is practiced today, you can see the influences of modern fashion,” she explains.

Stocking on stage
Stocking on stage

Asia in the spotlight
Suki is one of a handful of Asian comic artists and hopes to lead the way for Asian representation in the field. Barbara Young, a Chinese-American artist who performed from
From the early ’40s to the mid ’70s, he was one of the people who adored Suki. Her Chinese silk ensembles were synonymous with her actions, and as a tribute, Suki created a similar set for herself, but with Indian weaves. “I had the opportunity to speak to the legend on the phone and asked for her blessing. She said, ‘I watched your videos and just want to say thank you for reminding me.’ I was due to meet her six weeks later, but a week before the meeting,” Suki recalls, who was invited to tea at Buckingham Palace in recognition of her contribution to the arts.

In sight
Having traveled the world extensively and giving as many shows as possible, the artist is now looking forward to spending more time off the stage and exploring the medium of TV, movies and OTT shows. Suki who was a cast member of Singapore Social, a 2019 documentary series on Netflix, has now set her sights on Bollywood. “I’m definitely coming to India sometime this year. I have two movie projects connected. I grew up watching Bollywood and now I have the opportunity to be a part of it. It feels totally surreal,” she says, anticipating.

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