The ‘I'm Wanita’ Interview | The "Queen of Honky Tonk"

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Matt directing Archer and Wanita with Kathryn. Matthew sitting with Archer and Wanita during filming in some motel café somewhere in USA – Photo credit Scott Blackley ![Matt directing Archer and Wanita with Kathryn. Matthew sitting with Archer and Wanita during filming in some motel café somewhere in USA – Photo credit Scott Blackley](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472d4a2797bf8730c86c61b_9.%2BMatt%2Bdirecting%2BArcher%2Band%2BWanita%2Bwith%2BKathryn.jpeg) Matt directing Archer and Wanita with Kathryn. Matthew sitting with Archer and Wanita during filming in some motel café somewhere in USA – Photo credit Scott Blackley A refusal to conform and to comply makes someone special, and Wanita is a woman who stands out from the rest. With her curly flame-red hair, fabulous technicolor fashions, voluptuous body and sultry voice, the Australian self-crowned “Queen of Honky Tonk” is a sight, and sound, to behold.  But audiences worldwide would have been oblivious to Wanita’s beauty and talent had it not been for fellow Aussie filmmaker Matthew Walker. Walker was approached by an old school friend of his, who had heard one of Wanita’s friends say at a party “crazy shit happens around her all the time, someone should be filming her!” So Walker’s friend called the filmmaker, Wanita’s connection gave them 1,500 Australian dollars, Walker made a short film at first, then embarked into the feature, _I’m Wanita_, which would go on to have its world premiere at this year’s HotDocs.  The film is clearly a labour of love, a documentary that cuts deep for anyone who has ever tried something and didn’t, at first, succeed. For the past twenty plus years, Wanita has been doing her best to survive in a world that simply wasn't ready for her. She says often throughout the documentary that she was born in the wrong time, but really, she appears to have been born in the wrong country, as America, deep in the heart of country music, is where she best belongs.  Wanita dancing on the street after her recording session with the band in New Orleans. Photo Credit: Kathryn Milliss ![Wanita dancing on the street after her recording session with the band in New Orleans. Photo Credit: Kathryn Milliss](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472d4a2797bf8730c86c617_4.%2BWanita%2BNOLA.jpeg) Wanita dancing on the street after her recording session with the band in New Orleans. Photo Credit: Kathryn Milliss In Walker’s intimate rockumentary, at first we watch Wanita at home, along with her Turkish husband—a sort of Mediterranean cowboy silent type who only speaks words of wisdom, in Turkish. At the end of the doc, there is a goosebumps moment about Baba, which you’ll have to watch the film to discover. Then Walker’s film quickly turns into Wanita’s quest to finally fulfill one of her dreams, to go to Nashville and record the ultimate country album. When she succeeds and makes it to America, it is in Nashville and also New Orleans where Wanita appears at her best, a mix of Janis Joplin’s incredible spirit and Stevie Nicks’s fashion sense—with her own unique twist thrown in. “A drunk Mother Theresa,” says Archer, one of her collaborators, a young man with a voice bigger than him whom Wanita picked up while he slept under a bridge.  There are many angles to Wanita’s story—she refers to herself as autistic and has no qualms mentioning her experiences as a prostitute. Mother, daughter, wife, country singer, survivor, and ultimately winner, Wanita is the kind of woman we all secretly wish we could be if only we had her guts.  Following is an exclusive interview with Wanita herself, accompanied by some pearls of wisdom from Walker chiming in. But a word of warning, this is not a PG interview. **How did you become “Australia’s Queen of Honky Tonk”?** **Wanita:** I think the misconception is I actually never did call myself that. There was other people that called me the “Queen of Honky Tonk” and I elaborated by saying that since the age of three, I always knew I was the queen of Honky Tonk, you know, I was in latter years and at a concert where there was some quite famous musicians bowing in front of the stage saying hail the queen of Honky Tonk… **Matthew, I saw some David LaChapelle influences, for me, like in the final video with Wanita that comes right before the credits. Were you inspired by him and what are your cinematic inspirations?** **Matthew:** If I have been inspired by him, I'm unaware of it. As far as cinematic inspirations go, like, a lot of this film was all about kind of haphazardness and making do with what was available at the time and not trying to change anything like we literally wouldn't. I wouldn't remove things from shots and stuff you know even if the light was at the wrong position or something. I would always try and keep it totally as natural as possible. **Wanita:** Yeah, he’s not known as a glamour photographer that is for sure. **Matthew:** There are lots of cinematographers who worked on it. And so it wasn't just me that was shooting it 85% of the time, it was other people. Everyone had their own aesthetic I guess. For the ending, that was very much inspired by, well there's a Kitty Wells film clip “It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” so that was kind of the aesthetic we were trying to pay homage to at the end. Aesthetically it was pretty random.  **So you're not only are you a rockstar, but you're also a fashionista, and you use your costumes, the way that you dress to pay homage to these country singers who are really iconic and legendary for you. So how do you work fashion into your life and into your work, Wanita?** **Wanita:** I’m a country singer with a rock and roll persona. Anything with color that's ladylike, long, flamboyant… I've never been into miniskirts or really low cut dresses, you know, showing a lot of cleavage. A woman's a woman, a man's a man, and I don't know, despite my persona, I'd like to think there's elements of me which are ladylike. At the core of who I am, I'm actually very ladylike and I don't follow any fashion… There could be something worth 50 cents from a thrift shop or secondhand shop, as long as I liked it or there could be something worth $1,000, as long as I could afford it. And as long as it's colorful. I'm an artist as in I paint and I think anyone who is an artist, it is in everything you do, whether it's art, literature, how you present yourself. And I believe I'm just a typical artist, you know. Everything I do is theatrical, colorful, what we see is literally me, you know, what you see in the movie is me. The rest of time, I get around in vintage white nighties, white cotton nighties, vintage lace and that’s it, that’s what I wear around the house. **Matthew:** It is extraordinary, particularly in America, depending on the day and what we were doing, Wanita would just emerge as if she'd been styled by a team of stylists. We went to George Jones's gravesite one day and Wanita emerged in this beautiful kind of black dress. Photo taken at Baird Studios in Nashville. Photo credit: Kathryn Milliss ![Photo taken at Baird Studios in Nashville. Photo credit: Kathryn Milliss](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472d4a2797bf8730c86c613_3.%2BWanita%2BLying%2Bdown.jpeg) Photo taken at Baird Studios in Nashville. Photo credit: Kathryn Milliss **What's amazing is that you're such an over the top personality, but what I kept thinking while I was watching the film is how natural you are. You can wear your hair in this incredible style and you can wear these wild fashions, but yet you're a natural woman. How do you feel about being a woman?** **Wanita:** I'm proud to be a woman. As far as women's lib goes for me, if a woman is doing the same job as a man she gets paid the same, or vice versa, If one's working and the other does the housework — but that's as far as it goes for me, women are women, men and men. I like the idea of it being with a strong man, I'm a pretty big woman so pretty heavy, so I like the idea of a man being stronger than me and me being like a little feminine. I like being feminine and ladylike. I'd love a man to pick me up and throw me on the bed. That’d be it for me, no need for any foreplay! I wouldn’t need any assistance…  **Your dream Wanita, was to go to Nashville, and your other dream is to meet Loretta Lynn…** **Wanita:** Which probably won't happen given her age. I would love to meet Loretta Lynn and sing on the Grand Ole Opry. If I could do those things, you know, you could take me out tomorrow, just put a gun to my head and that'd be all, I would have fulfilled my dream. Let's face it, I've recorded one of the great country albums in Nashville, they’ve made a movie about me, which has gone this far and I get to speak to beautiful people like you… The two things that I haven't yet fulfilled is meeting Loretta Lynn and singing at the Grand Ole Opry, and I realize, the chances of those two things are very slim. **But you never know. I mean the Grand Ole Opry, why not. Loretta Lynn, maybe by Zoom.** **Wanita:** No, it would have be standing on stage, doing the real thing—not pasteurized, or adulterated. It has to be the best or not at all. Yeah, go hard or go home. **If they made a feature film, not a doc about you Wanita, who would play you?** **Matthew:** Someone on Twitter suggested Juliette Lewis. **Wanita:** I could play myself in the later years, I reckon I could be a good actress. **Matthew:** And you’re a big Clint Eastwood fan. **Wanita:** Big Clint Eastwood fan, if he walked in through the door, look I wouldn't require lubricant. I just wouldn't even wear bloomers. **So is Clint the director or does he play the love interest as well?** **Wanita:** Oh, he’d have to be my husband, or he’d have to play every client that walks through the door when I was being a prostitute. Wanita while she is recording in Baird Studio, Nashville. Photo Credit: Kathryn Milliss ![Wanita while she is recording in Baird Studio, Nashville. Photo Credit: Kathryn Milliss](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472d4a2797bf8730c86c61f_5.%2BWanita%2BSinging%2BStudio.jpeg) Wanita while she is recording in Baird Studio, Nashville. Photo Credit: Kathryn Milliss **How would you describe yourself Wanita?** **Wanita:** I’m shy, I'm very insecure. And I'm confident when I'm reassured like getting to talk to you, I'm confident with everything. A lot of people crave attention for vanity. I don’t. I crave it for reassurance and for validation. I don't feel any special or different. I do feel different to other people, I always have felt different. I always have felt a degree of separation. That could be the autism… As far as I'm concerned, I've been a star since I was born,  I've just always felt that way. **That’s obvious in the documentary, when you're recording you only need one take. You are so consistent!** **Wanita:** That's it one time, that's it, no fucking about. If you can't learn a song in 50 years, and you have to go over and over again you can't sing. I believe during those periods, I become possessed by people, and when I say possessed I don't mean demonic, or the devil or anything because I love the Lord, I love God. But I believe I become that person or that persona—I believe I actually become that. And I believe I am that. **Wanita, how was it to have all these people around you, filming you?** **Wanita:** Natural, totally natural—I'm in my element. That's what I was supposed to do. That's it. I love it. And I love the fact that people are so humble and gracious towards me, and I'm hugging, kissing everyone, and I just love people and I just want to squish everyone. I felt at home, I felt at ease. I thought, finally, my dream job is reaching fruition. And that I'm being accurately represented. I felt relieved throughout this whole thing, I've never really felt anxious. I felt relieved that I’m documented in history, documented. I don’t want to be one of these poor bastards that die, unrecognized in some way, you know—some fucked up genius that slipped through the cracks. **A couple of quick questions to end with. Do you have a favorite film?** **Wanita:** One of my favorite films is _An Affair to Remember_ with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. That's one of my favorite films, given. **What qualities do you prefer in a man?** **Wanita:** Well I'm a pretty big vivacious strong woman, so I want someone that's bloody stronger than me. I want him to be rugged, older, and manly, like “come here woman, get over here woman” but affectionately, not violently domineering, but domineering.  **And finally, what a quality that you prefer in another woman?** **Wanita:** Independence. Again, strength. I believe every single person on the planet is equal. In a woman, I like a woman to have pride in herself and be a lady, you know, and be dignified. * * * For more info and upcoming screenings of _I’m Wanita_ check out the film’s website: [http://wanitathemovie.com.au/](http://wanitathemovie.com.au/).