The Celebreality Interview – Annie

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Initially, the prospect of speaking to Annie about her time on A Basement Affair was daunting because she’s said so much already. Her two blogs for BUST have explored her feminist interest in the reality TV genre, as well as her complete subversion of the concept of “being there for the right reasons,” as she openly discusses going on the show as a performance piece. (That, in turn, was subverted when she fond herself unable to give the intended performance: “What I believed would be contradictory to the reality television model would be for me to be my awkward, shy, cynical and bashful self—the person production never would have cast,” she writes.)

Being the true VH1 original that she is, it turns out that there was plenty more to discuss with Annie. Below, she talks more about her performance, the elusive ideas of persona and reality, her refusal to treat people like pawns and she also reveals that rap that got her in so much trouble.

I know that you went into this show as a performance piece, but it seems that wasn’t all. You had an agenda, too.

I sort of went in with an open mind. I saw it mainly as research, I guess. In terms of my life as a performance artist, I see myself not as performing all the time, but more as inserting myself in places that I feel I don’t belong, or in a place someone like me typically wouldn’t venture into, as a way to investigate that space.

Your writing points out the irony of going in as a performance artist and then finding yourself surrounded by performance artists.

It was a mix. Some of the girls on the show, their performances are flawless, so flawless that you probably can’t even guess who I’m talking about, and I’m not going to say who I think they are. Other girls were very sincere. But regardless of that, and how sincere they are, everyone changes on camera. I think it’s inevitable. But just being “wacky”, or playing a part, to me it just doesn’t seem all that interesting in that context, because so many people have done that on other shows.

But you did write about the “character” you put on to enter the house.

I knew that I had to be that in order to get on the show. That was very clear to me. As for what happened once I got on the show, I didn’t know. The plan was to continue the character. I did know that I would have to alter the performance based on what I was feeling. So I knew the performance was going to have to change in some way.

Even though you found yourself unable to be this character, do you still consider your time on the show to be performance art?

Oh, of course. I guess my definition of performance art is a lot more open than other people’s definitions. For me, a lot of my performance is just performing myself. The only thing that changes is the context in which I’m performing myself, and who I’m performing when. The performance I’m doing for you right now is very different than the performance I would give to the other girls on the show. They’re both me, I’m not putting anything on. It’s just another side of me.

Mainly it seems that, beyond the strange context for your character, it seems to me that you really got out of it with an education in Reality Production 101.

Yeah. And that was what I was after. I was very curious, because I didn’t realize until I was a contestant how blind we are to the editing on these shows. And I think the savvy viewer says, “Oh, I know what’s going on with editing.” But looking back on my own savvy viewing, you really have no idea. You’re blind to 90 percent of the construction of these shows, and it’s so easy to buy into the characters and situations that are created.

I love that you went in there with the interest you had. Regardless of the statement you made, your anthropological interest seemed a lot less selfish than most people’s motivation to appear on these shows…

Um, I don’t know about that…

Well, at the same time, there’s the argument that your motivation is not very different from the average girl’s. Now you have a story to tell, and now you have this angle that’ll set you apart from everybody else, something that you’ll be getting attention for. You’re just more culturally interested than most of the people on these shows.

Yes. That’s probably the statement that I would agree with.

After all, you embrace the “famewhore” label.

Yes. My problem with the fame whore is not that she exists, but that people hate her and she’s shamed for it. Our society cultivates that desire for attention in us, so we want it, but then we’re shamed for it. I don’t see what’s so bad about people wanting attention. People are like, “You want attention, you should be humble!” But I never understood why that was such a bad thing.

If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to go over a few of the negative comments you’ve received regarding your analysis of your performance. On Bust, someone wrote, “How is pursuing fame via Bust different from pursuing fame via VH1? Slapping a performance art frame and an edgy label on this doesn’t really separate Ann from the other contestants. The fact that the author sees herself as so different from the other women due to surface features (‘the look’) and what seems like class bias is disturbing. She states that she was the only cast member who wanted to ‘legitimately compete for his affection (rather than camera time). And that was what no one else was really doing.’ But how does she know?”

First of all, I don’t think I am different than the other girls on the show. The only thing that I was commenting on was I felt that people were looking at me and thought I was out of place. I didn’t feel out of place, that was something that I read other people picking up on, and generally that was based on my looks. In the situation, I didn’t really feel that out of place once I got over my initial nervousness. As far as what I said about competing for Frank’s attention, that statement I guess, is very loaded. And what I meant was that it was a decision of mine to approach the situation in a very naive way and say, “Hey, I’m actually going to play this game the way that viewers at home actually believe it’s being played.”

As opposed to what, though, really? I mean, you have to participate in the challenge they’re giving you.

Well yeah, but every girl there, including myself, went on that show to be on TV. The assumption that anyone went on to find love is utterly ridiculous [and] pretty much impossible. I mean, it’s complicated. I can say that maybe a few of the girls I do think were maybe more genuine. But ultimately, you’re still there to be on TV. And so, my goal at the time was shifted from wanting to be on TV to not caring about being on TV and to supposedly try to cultivate a legitimate relationship. I hope that readers of the BUST blog can see that even within those pieces of writing are a performance themselves, and attempt on my part to create a mythology around my meaning, which may or may not be based in reality.

So there are layers to the layers.

Yeah. I mean, I believe in the things I wrote, but they’re much more complicated than just that. I had to simplify it for that forum. Does that answer the question?

Sure. Someone wrote on our blog, “Do we really need to delve into the deep seeded philosophies of reality television? REALLY? I mean, anyone who doesn’t see the big picture of these shows and doesn’t see the obvious lack of reality is, truthfully, an idiot. OH and then she actually fell for him which was TOTALLY unexpected! So doesn’t that then simply PROVE the point that these shows are saying, ‘you really CAN find love on t.v.!!!’ which then makes her entire analysis moot?” [sic]

I didn’t fall in love on TV, what I was saying was that I genuinely like Frank as a person, and I didn’t want to play him or mislead him in any way. To me, what happened was that I wasn’t able to disconnect myself and feel that the people he was interacting with were just pawns, or not real people. I have respect for everyone on the show, and I didn’t want to be misleading in any way, even though obviously I already was.

In general, do you just find the entire concept of reality, not reality TV, but “reality,” complicated?

Oh yeah, of course.

It seems like you pay particular attention to the elusiveness of the truth.

Well, with that comment, it seems that the viewer really does believe that they can discern the falsity of the show, where really my belief is that they cannot and that we’re never going to be able to see through that illusion that production creates. Between the editing, and all of the personal and political elements, it’s impossible.

Did you ever talk to the other women about the idea that they’re being shamed for what they’re being brought on the show for?

Not usually, because when it was happening, it was usually happening during the exit. Like Jenny. None of us saw that one coming, and when it did we were all like, “Oh my god!” And then she left. I think that was the worst situation we’ve seen on the show so far. But no, I found that being a feminist and asserting that, a lot of times that can repel people from you, because feminism has become a dirty word. So that’s not something I’ll dive in to with people I don’t know.

Have you talked to any of the girls after the point? Have any of the girls read your BUST blog and have you gotten any feedback from them?

Jessica read it, and she sent me a message that said she agreed and that she appreciated it, which is great to hear. Because, oh my god, the portrayal of Jessica…She’s a very smart girl, and all of my friends who watch the show think that she’s a complete idiot. She was probably one of the more intelligent girls there. She’s very artistic, and into some pretty neat things. So her portrayal was pretty weird and damning. And the other girls, they know…I hung out with Melody lately in Nashville, which was great. She’s an amazing woman. And it was sort of mentioned, but it’s not really a big topic of conversation, I think. I don’t know if the other girls can handle it.

They’re not interested in art in that way really, right?

No, I don’t think so. I think it being about me started to make more sense when more stuff started coming out about me. Like the Scandalicious stuff first, and then the blog. I think people were more like, “OK…” And since the show, there’s been more realization between the girls of who was there for what reason. And my reason just happened to be this random thing.

It feels weird to go over particulars in light of all of the things you’ve said, but do you remember the rap that you performed on this last episode? I think everyone’s curious about that.

Yeah, I posted it on celebritiesfarting.com.

Were you shocked at everyone’s shock?

I did not know that Dana was going to become so upset, and then I was getting this really weird vibe from the other girls. They were kind of really thrown off, they didn’t know what was going on because it was such a break of character from me. No one expected me to do that. I hadn’t been acting like that at all, even though for me, that’s totally something I would do. But then they started questioning me, like, “What’s going on? Is she for real? Is this some kind of a big joke? What’s the deal with Annie?” After that, they were all sort of on guard with me, being like, “We don’t know what your deal is, really.” And then the situation switched very quickly from being about me to being about Melody. I felt bad it was to Melody, because she’s such a sweet girl.

What did you think of that: Dana’s threat of violence because of what you said or because of what Melody did?

Melody was an easy target! I will say from my own perspective going in there, I didn’t know if I could trust Melody. At the time, in my head, I thought, “Oh, Melody’s trying to be that friend to everybody,” or whatever. Now, stepping outside the show and having interactions with her, she’s so f***ing nice to everyone. But in that setting, it’s like, “Oh, you’re being nice to her, and you’re being nice to me, and you’re saying the same things to me.” That was circumstance in when that happened. So I think Dana was actually taken aback by Melody. But she obviously blew it up very big.

I know that you wrote about it, but that rap was self sabotage, right? You were ready to go?

Yeah, even having to watch myself every week, I’m really glad. I couldn’t watch myself anymore.

Why?

I just hate it. I hate it. Every Sunday I’d just be a big ball of nerves. Like, “What are they going to have me do this week?”

Do you feel like you were in control? It seems like even when you reevaluated and decided to give this up, you were still very much in control of this situation.

But I was so not though, really. Because they’re editing you, ultimately, and they’re really painting a picture of you. The way I was in the interview was not the way I was with the girls. They barely showed me interacting with the girls at all. Probably because I didn’t really do much. I pretty much kept to myself. Or said a few things here and there.

So what do you think of the portrayal of your portrayal of yourself?

It wasn’t what I expected. I thought I was pretty boring in the house, and they made me seem much more entertaining than I really was. I think that may have been surprising to some of the other girls, too. But overall, I think the character was funny.

So aside from a document and a greater understanding, are you taking anything else away from this experience?

Umm…Fifteen new friends! (laughs) No. I am grateful for all of the people I met through the show. I learned a lot about myself: there’s been too much of me, and I’ve been looking too much at myself lately. But I hope to make art about this for a little while.

Will it involve plungers?

(Laughs) Maybe…maybe that’ll be a performance piece. “Getting Freaky With A Plunger.”

Keep up with Annie via her MySpace and her Facebook, and follow her on Twitter. Oh, and don’t forget to read her blogs for BUST (Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here), which are at the very least, fascinating.

Related content
Annie, Unmasked
Frank The Entertainer…In A Basement Affair – Cast Reveal
Frank The Entertainer…In A Basement Affair show page
Frank The Entertainer…In A Basement Affair videos and extras
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  1. JoAnna says:

    HOLY CRAP. Annie’s rap was LOLworthy…

  2. ihaveneverbeforeinmylifeyelledatagirllikethis says:

    Really thought-provoking interview — another page in the long debate of what “reality” TV means. I feel like Annie’s perspective isn’t all that revolutionary, particularly when you think back to VH1′s beginning of the “celebreality” genre — especially the early versions of the Surreal Life. There’s no question that those celebrities approached their participation in the show the same way Annie did: portraying the character of themselves but balancing that with a feigned sincerity in the show. (Annie’s difference being that her feigned sincerity later became real.) Those shows, to me, raised some of the same perspectives & questions that Annie’s participation on this show has raised.

    Also can I just say how astonished & pleased I am to read this sentence on a VH1 (or any pop culture) website: “It seems like you pay particular attention to the elusiveness of the truth.” Nice job, Rich.

  3. What??? says:

    Oh my–that rap was hysterical! Just awesome-

  4. A Plunger is Not Art says:

    We REALLY don’t need to complicate a fun dating show that much. Basically, this girl thinks she’s a complex artist and I don’t agree. I am not impressed. She went on the show to “perform” an act is a performance. Actresses perform. She’s not better than any of the girls. She’s less attractive, has a very annoying voice, and I really wish this “feminist” would not have stepped into this reality dating genre, the way she did. There is no need for this girl in this realm of TV entertainment. We all know that these shows are edited. So what? We didn’t need her to let us in on this big discovery!

  5. Sam says:

    Annie is the coolest person ever to be on reality TV.

  6. subkennedys says:

    Thanks for using my quote, and I stand by it. I think Annie’s foray into the reality of the reality of reality television was, in a word, pointless. Never the less I still enjoyed her ‘rap’. She truly went out in a blaze of glory!

  7. haileyJay says:

    I loooooove Annie!!!

  8. SilkBeauty says:

    Wha? Oh! Sorry I dosed off for a minute. {YAWN}!

  9. lmao says:

    OMG! I find it funny that these girls claim they are so blinded by editing. Hello!? These dumb @)%@*#$`%$##%($ girls know that you go on a show you are going to be edited the way they create you to be idiot. Well, I’m glad she’s gone; she’s stupid and disgusting to look at.

  10. Helane says:

    I read this blog with interest..however, Annie should never have been on this show.
    It is my opnion that she does not make the cut in any way other than weirdness..at least when she did the “rap” she gave a bit of excitement..and as the attention immediately moved away from her to Melody..it shows that she was never even in the running. Frank would never in a trillion years choose someone with her “looks” maybe if she got a boob job, nose job and learned how to act…yes.under no cirumstance do I think she was acting…however..her looks supercede all..I agree with her when she said that she never thought she would be there that long..in my opinion she should have been the first to go..unless Frank left her there for a time to use as a person to kick out when he needed a week more to decide against another true competitor. She did get to leave with her dignity intact and that should be enough for her.
    I sincerely hope I never see her again.

  11. blah! says:

    maybe she can use her 15 min of fame money and get herself a nose job! I can’t even pay attention to anything she has to say because I can’t get past that ski slope!

  12. TV_watch-r says:

    Annie is so sweet she just drives me absolutely gaga. I would eat her alive. Her sweetness really turns me on. Her personality makes her more beautiful than any super model I’ve seen. I don’t understand why that didn’t turn Frank on or drive him crazy with passion to please her.

  13. Beaus Mom says:

    Well, Annie certainly has a very good sense of self esteem! She wanted to be on television and she did, so good for her. But I don’t know if this is much of a platform to a real show business career. Although now that I think about it, Frank has done pretty well just exploiting his life in the basement, so I guess it could be done. I will be interested to see if she goes any further with this.

  14. Reality Watcher says:

    TV WATCHER – You can’t be serious. What an A*()(*&^^%% to think Frank is completely blind like you. You’d probably be attracted to a male buffalo. Enuff said >>> YEW! No offense Annie, but you did not belong on this show.

  15. unknown says:

    Reality Watcher is right that comment about the male buffalo is priceless. TV_watch-r how the hell can that turn you on she said all that stuff in front of his parents.

  16. speakdatruth says:

    Cathy Nardone was in a hip hop video this past summer where she showed alot of “skin”. She was a total bimbo there just like on the show…poor girl. The link to the video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKjAkG38pVA You gonna have to log in to youtube cuz the video got flagged for “inappropriate content” so you can imagine what the hell she was doing in that video

  17. caro b says:

    this is the most idiotic s#!t I have ever read. performance art, please! there is nothing new or different about what you did, you can barely even explain yourself. moronnnnnnn

  18. david says:

    Hi Annie – Enjoyed the interview. Lots of interesting questions. I delved into those misty realms of meaning when making videos and other art in college and later. Occasionally I feel like conversations on epistemology, existentialism, etc. lead somewhere useful, but for the most part, I’ve lost interest as I’ve gotten older (not that I ever understood any of these topics). But, art as an endeavor to enrich the human experience has never ceased to interest and excite (although I do get more critical as I age).

    In the end though, the thing that interests me most is what interests other people most: people and story. The young women in the series are intriguing folks for various reasons (Frank and his parents are not as interesting as for the most part they are merely stand-up figures creating a context for some lively improv by the amateur actresses).

    Here are some interesting – interesting to me at any rate – people observations (although, these are simultaneously “media” observations, as I am all too aware of the filter through which I observe these young women):

    1) I don’t even remember Jessica, the one you refer to as having been portrayed inaccurately via the editors’ scalpel. I do remember Tammy and how a two second take of her mumbling something unintelligible followed by a poorly done double-take/mildly incredulous eyebrow raising by Frank became the summation of who she is. The pandering to the majority of the audience’s racism worked well as can be seen in blog comments +&)`&+!@&$*@#@~ ociated with Tammy’s photo:

    “I felt bad for you honey, Maybe they’ll have an Asian show for you. Yoursweet.”

    “Maybe she’s a mix of Asian and White? Whatever, she looks good. I’ll share a cup of noodle with you dear!”

    “I think that she could have tought frank how to do nails or do hair oreven try to teach him how to cook. She would have been his maid.”

    Apparently these sentiments are nothing new and VH1 does nothing to discourage them as we learn from this blogger, also found under Tammy’s photo:

    “… but I hate howvh1 keeps casting stereotypical asians who either: can’t speak properenglish, work at massage parlors or strip clubs, or are just way tooawkward.”
    This from a young Asian female.

    It should be noted that Tammy came across in her five or ten seconds of soliloquy time as well-spoken and +&)`&+!@&$*@#@~ ertive.

    2) Kathy has a lot to say using language (as in spoken words), but says a lot more when she is silent. She has a charismatic smile and expressive face. Kerry’s is a close second. Sexually, body-wise and otherwise, I perceive Kathy as the one most sexually compatible with the male protagonist (at least up to this point which for me is episode eight as I won’t get to see nine until it is computerized). Other than Mandy, who I still suspect is somehow connected to Frank and/or the Marascas in a family or other intimate manner, Kathy seems to have that genetic fit that makes couples couple.

    3) Dana doesn’t attack Melody because she is easy prey as you indicate. I think Melody shows she is quite capable of defending herself once she gets her balance back after the initial surprise attack. Melody is Dana’s “shadow” in a Jungian sense. Dana has been raised to believe that people compete or die. Melody’s whole being expresses opposition to this concept. That is why she appears “fake” to Dana. If Melody is real, then Dana is fake. Melody however, is very real as she proves by her limitations. Despite her strenuous efforts to be the nurturer, she is as quick as any of us would be under the circumstances to bare her fangs and reciprocate Dana’s nastiness (to her credit in my view).

    4) As much as I enjoyed Mandy’s mature, luscious and mellowed (probably by alcohol consumption) approach to Reality TV on the Marasca set; Melody in the end is the most complex and interesting character developed in the piece so far (other than yourself of course, Annie). There are two reasons I respond to her in this fashion. I’m sure you remember the librarian in the Music Man. Very bookish and all that, until the Music Man starts to swing with her and she lets her hair down. The first time I noticed this Hollywood level of character capacity in Melody was when she joins Frank in the photo booth at the bowling alley. What an appropriate, all-American venue for showing one’s sexually adventurous side! Her technique (or perhaps the show’s make-up peoples’ technique) begins with the hair which, instead of falling limply to each side is now dynamically arranged so that one side is brushed over and across the forehead and cascades whimsically down the opposite side of her face. It really does make for a dramatic shift in personality.

    This observation leads me to a whole set of other considerations. At risk of sounding prudish and out-of-touch (which I most certainly am) there is an interesting interplay between the following sets of issues: “being real,” jealousy, feminine sexual prowess, feminine submissiveness and fear of germ transmission. (I fear I may have over-stretched myself here. Hopefully I can somehow manage to make the connection between all these coordinates in the three-dimensional graph of human interaction.)

    First of all my prudish reaction: how do all these females kiss the same man in the presence of other females kissing the same man and not get disgusted with themselves for all the reasons given above?

    “Being real,” “really being there for Frank,” etc. are very highly valued behaviors in this series. I don’t have to preach to the choir by pointing out the absurdity of this in the context of a Reality TV show. But is this irony a short-coming? Considering the fact that the issue of authenticity is a very legitimate and traditional theme for theater from at least the time of the Greeks and their exploration of the mask as a theatrical element, I would say absolutely not. Modern theater goes even further in exploring human identity, deception, truth, absurdity, language and even theater itself as it mirrors, honors, dissects, defiles and defames the lives of the audience members. “Life is but a stage and we are all the players” is the first step in this modern theatrical adventure. With that line, we the audience become aware for the first time that we are part of the play and the play is the thing (even when we aren’t watching it).

    I recently saw what I felt was an excellent example of modern theater’s exploration of these themes. The poster shows what appears to be a plastic jug of Cheer (or Tide or Whisk) detergent with the label on it proclaiming “The Believers.” In some respects this was Reality TV on steroids at the same time that it was as masterfully written as Shakespeare (which definitely can’t be said of Reality TV).

    I digress. Back to Melody and Frank in the photo booth. As they passionately kiss while the other daters roll their hapless balls down the alley, I get this uneasy feeling. Melody represents the virtuous woman that is true to herself, and wouldn’t behave in such a manner as to pander or prostitute for self-gain. Certainly female sexual prowess and joyfulness, in my modern liberated and even somewhat feminist view, are positive characteristics. The bookish librarian’s liberation is a deeply archetypal image of the feminine soul’s release from the boundaries of patriarchy and matriarchy. But I know, as you point out, that people don’t apply, interview and audition to be on a TV show to find a lifelong soulmate.

    Didn’t Melody, at least once during the course of these eight hours of TV drivel say, as every other contestant has in one form or another, “I really am here for Frank”? And in some form even you, Annie, say the same thing in your interview: “… what I was saying was that I genuinely like Frank as a person, and I didn’t want to play him or mislead him in any way.” While I know this is a perfectly sincere statement and one which has been borne out by your post-Reality TV behavior, taken out of context (as it is above), your words could easily be used to support the thematic refrain. You are determined to prove you, more than any other contestant, are the one that is really “here for Frank.”

    In the end, +&)`&+!@&$*@#@~ uming the scene wherein Kathy joins Frank for a romp in the basement is not faked, (or at least they really pretend to have good sex off camera), there is only one contestant that is truly there for Frank and that is Kathy. The rest are all fakers, until they too have intercourse with the man. This is when they will become real. This underlying theme is created by the editors with a great deal of help from the contestants who frequently are shown repeating that all they want is to get at least one date with Frank so they can show him how much better a partner they would make, or something along those lines. In this sense, the whole structure of this show is very Freudian/Old Testament/Patriarchal. The woman is not complete without the man.

    For my own part, in my fantasies at any rate, I would take Frank’s job in a flash. On the other hand, I would not be able to handle all that kissing and hanky panky with strangers and simultaneous partners. How the hell he does it, I have no idea. Am I jealous of him for this capacity? Well, he’s only acting anyway, isn’t he? I don’t know if he’s really enjoying it. Do I? On camera at any rate, it often looks like he feels burdened. Trying to keep one’s harem happy is quite a weight even on the broadest of shoulders. However, I do get the sense his sexual arousal is most real with Ms. Kathy. He seems a bit forced with the others. Yes, my perceptions are subjective and most likely biased. We’d have to test my theory with a marketing survey. Maybe VH1 already has and that is how the “winner” was selected?

    Congratulations, you’ve won! Now we can go home and the play will begin again. Next week, same time, same channel.

  19. Tyrone says:

    Annie’s is more than a double bagger, maybe a quad bagger. She is the girl that you have to do doggy but if she turned around, you’d turn to stone.

  20. krayzieprincess says:

    You guys asked her too many pointless boring questions. I love reading these blogs but the boring-est one yet

  21. Bee says:

    It’s funny she’s trying to come off as some sort of intellectual… but she was a CONTESTANT ON “BASEMENT AFFAIR”- come on now! She’s so damn ugly & nerdy and a plain ‘ole ATTENTION `!~^%`$~_$%&!~!(* just like the rest of the skanks!