Infamous Grammy 'Gun Girl' on Why She Wore Automatic Weapon Accessories
Four years ago, pop and EDM musician Sasha Gradiva weirded everyone out by showing up to the Grammys in a pink gown and a cyborg-esque sleeve made out of machine guns. We caught up with the recording artist to talk about why she did it.
Photo by Joe Klamar via Getty Images
When the platinum blonde, Russian-born pop and EDM musician Sasha Gradiva showed up to the 2012 Grammys in what looked like a poofy pink prom dress and a cyborg-esque arm made out of machine guns, the tabloids had a field day. In the frenzy of viral sharing and worst dressed lists, the then-emerging artist was labeled "the gun girl," earning her a place among the most bizarre red carpet moments ever.
At the time, Gradiva was disappointed: She feared that the political message that inspired the outfit was totally lost. But almost four years later, in light of America's epidemic of gun violence, it seems, if not less strange, at least still relevant. Since then, the singer has kept busy, speaking out on her native country's anti-gay legislation and donning clothes that might have even made 2009 Lady Gaga uncomfortable. We spoke to Gradiva about the "gun girl" outfit, where she see politics and fashion intersect, and the larger point she intended to make.
BROADLY: What's the full story behind the "gun girl" outfit at the Grammys?
Sasha Gradiva: I traveled to Israel and Palestine with an organization, Kids Creating Peace. I saw a lot of women carrying guns. In Israel, women go into the army, and you very often see on the streets a young girl with a huge machine gun.
I came back to LA right before the Grammys, and I talked to my creative friends. I was like, "I'm going to do something about it." So I came up with this ridiculous outfit—it's technically a wedding dress. The machine gun was created by a designer from New York.
Half my team told me I was crazy for doing this. I understood, but I was like, "I actually am trying to say something by wearing this outfit." This clashing pink Barbie dress with this machine gun—this is what's happening in the world. This is what we're having as humanity right now, and I want to talk about it.
Every time I have an opinion about something and I am given the opportunity, I try to express it.
And, of course, at the Grammys a lot of the media outlets are more gossip press. Usually it's the E! channel and all of these weekly magazines. They are not so interested in asking about your message. They just saw me and said, "Oh, she looks ridiculous, let's talk to her." Only a couple of outlets even asked me, "What does this mean?"
Do you feel like at this point the message behind your outfit has been communicated?
I would say we didn't succeed in saying the message. We didn't. Honestly, it was probably only a couple of big blogs that mentioned the whole story behind the outfit. Everyone else, like People magazine, In Touch, and all the weeklies just wrote about the ridiculousness. Even Rolling Stone wrote something like, "It doesn't matter what this girl will do later, she will always be remembered as the 'gun girl.'"
Beyond the "gun girl" outfit, you've spoken out against anti-LGBT laws in Russia. How has being politically outspoken impacted your career?
When I spoke out against Russian president Putin for [the country's] LGBT discrimination, even my Russian fans who are proud supporters of Putin respected me still. I think they felt [like], "This is your opinion, you're an artist, and we like your music."
I would hope that my fans are conscious people and mindful people. It's okay to have disagreements—it's okay to have different opinions. But if someone feels the urge to defend a certain group of people, or an idea, or they feel that something is unfair, I think they should express it, and they should put it out there. I want to see more artists doing that.
I've been an artist for pretty much all of my life, professionally since I was 16, and I think that speaking out is the purpose that I found for myself. You have to be the voice, because if you're not going to do it, then who is going to do it? In politics people don't do it—they don't say the truth. In business and in corporations, there is no truth, either.
This clashing pink Barbie dress with this machine gun—this is what's happening in the world.
Of course, I love to perform. I love to dress up, I love to be with my fans. But there should be something more fulfilling to what you do as an artist. That's important to me. Every time I have an opinion about something and I am given the opportunity, I try to express it.
Why do you think many pop stars don't voice their political views?
I don't judge people for not being political. You can't just say [being political] is your obligation and everyone has to do it. But I do have deep respect for people who [are political]. I have respect for the people who use their popularity not to just make money or get some endorsements, but also to reflect what's happening in the world. It doesn't require you to go and do something ridiculous, as we live in the age where social media makes it easy to share the news and spread the truth.
How much do artists and entertainers have people on their team saying, "If you voice this opinion, you might isolate fans or lose business opportunities?"
That happens all the time. You hear it from your publicist, and from your manager. "Don't say that," or, "This sponsor's not going to like that," and "That's not really your area to comment on."
I have many friends who are artists, and they are all about art—they don't really care about politics. But it's not even about politics, because politics is just part of what humans do. If someone wants to sing about " let's just love" and do the motions, that's fine. But if people have the guts and they have artistic impulse to do something about it, I think that's great.
What are you hoping to accomplish in terms of combining activism and the arts moving forward?
I want to break this perception of [the] artist, especially me as a female. I'm not a rock star, and I don't do punk music. My show looks like Britney Spears mixed with Madonna mixed with Nicki Minaj—it's very pop. Even though there are people who would put tags on me, "Oh, you're blonde, then you're this," or, "Oh, you're wearing, I don't know, panties on stage, then you're this." My wish for the art, the artist, and the entertainment is that people would put [fewer] tags on everything. I miss that era of music I grew up on, with all those amazing artists. It was something else.
I do love fashion, but it doesn't have to be everything that you have. You must have more. Fashion is an art for me. It is art—it's art you put on yourself to express yourself. It's not just tags, and it's not just beautiful or prestigious brands. I want to break that stereotype of a "pretty woman" who is just giving a show, because that very same woman can also tell you the truth.