BlackBook Interview: Traci Lords Tackles Cult Movie Queendom and Motherhood

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Jason Tidwell for Pinup Girl Clothing


Traci Lords recently celebrated her 16th wedding anniversary in San Diego. Long since solidifying her status as a Hollywood cult icon, she’s taken to marriage and motherhood like a natural. She speaks of her husband and son with the fondest sense of pride.

“My son now is 10 years old, and he’s incredibly bright…but he’s got a sheltered life,” she says. “That’s very intentional on our part, because I just think kids grow up so fast now. They’re forced to. They’re forced into situations that they’re not necessarily ready for, and my feeling as a parent has always been, be young for as long as possible. You’ve got time for all of the rest of this. And I think that comes really from my own life, knowing that when things happen to you before you’re ready for them to happen, it’s just complicated. There’s nothing good that comes from that.”

Anyone familiar with Lords’ early life knows her own childhood was anything but conventional. As described in her 2003 autobiography, Traci Lords: Underneath It All, and other countless, sensational tales, she became a household name when she started posing nude and starring in adult films at 15 years old. Scandal ensued when it was revealed that she was underage, sending shockwaves through the entire industry.


Traci Lords as Wanda Woodward in John Waters’ 1990 film, Cry-Baby.


After her subsequent retirement from adult films at 18, she began to pursue mainstream acting. Starring in such films as Cry-Baby and Not of This Earth, she became a cult movie queen. Her résumé now includes working with such iconic filmmakers as Kevin Smith, Gregg Araki, and John Waters, someone she considers a true confidante.

“He was this filmmaker that was gay, and it was the ‘60s,” she says. “And that was something that you could get killed for in those days – not that you can’t now. But it was just really a dangerous time to be an openly gay person. The fact that he made those films in alleys with his best friends, those were the original warriors. And I have so much respect for him.”

These days, she continues to act. She can currently be seen starring alongside Keanu Reeves in the comedic detective series Swedish Dicks. She also appears in the popular web series Eastsiders as Val, a fiercely devoted mother of two young adults. It’s a role she definitely relates to.

“She just really wants her son and her daughter, her family to be okay,” she says. “That’s something that just appealed to me as an actor, to play that role. So, it’s just been a great experience.”


Traci Lords stars as Val in Kit Williamson’s web series, Eastsiders.


Starring Kit Williamson and Van Hansis as a gay couple in an open relationship, the series has remained popular among LGBTQ audiences. It’s a testament to her role as somewhat of a queer icon, a title she naturally fell into.

“I don’t think I was ever really aware of that until maybe well into my 30s,” she says. “It wasn’t something that I ever really thought about. It was just always a world that I was in.”

In addition to acting, she’s released a fashion line with Pinup Girl Clothing, inspired by her character in Cry-Baby, Wanda Woodward.

She’s also hard at work making new music. In 2013, she recorded “Stupidville,” after the rape of a young woman in Lords’ hometown of Steubenville, Ohio made national news. It resonated with Lords, who’s been vocal about her own sexual assault in the past.


Traci Lords models her line for Pinup Girl Clothing. (Jason Tidwell for Pinup Girl Clothing)


“This is nothing new in the world,” she says. “And it’s nothing new in Hollywood, certainly. This has been going on my entire life. I think that it’s an interesting moment in time where what was acceptable is no longer. And how that will end up is anyone’s guess.”

As she remains outspoken about her experience, she channels it into her work. She takes pride in playing strong women, and is currently working on a film in which she portrays the head of a cosmetics empire, a role she compares to Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada.

“It’s like I found myself going from one comedy to the next these days,” she says. “And I guess that’s really great, because I think more than anything, it feels like people really need to laugh right now. It’s really hard not to get into a negative mindset. It just seems like we’ve been bombarded with things that are so heavy. So, I do keep looking for ways to let off steam and be ridiculous and still be plugged into what’s going on. And to also be unplugging a bit at the same time.”

This fall, Lords makes her feature directorial debut, with details to be announced. Meanwhile, catch her in Eastsiders on Netflix and Swedish Dicks on Pop.