Linda Perry Interview: "Men Will Always Discriminate Because Most Are Intimidated by Women"
Image attributed to Linda Perry
Singer-songwriter and producer Linda Perry joined the band 4 Non Blondes in 1989, and their debut album, Bigger, Better, Faster, More! spawned a hit single, the Perry-penned “What’s Up?” She left the band in 1994, and in the years afterward founded two record labels, composing and producing hit songs for several other successful female singers including Christina Aquilera (who had a worldwide hit with Perry’s “Beautiful”), Gwen Stefani, Pink, Joan Jett, Alicia Keys, Celine Dion and Grace Slick, just to name a few.
The legendary artist/producer will take the stage at the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation’s 40th anniversary Gracie Awards gala on May 19, 2015, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. The awards recognize exemplary programming created by women, for women and about women in radio, television, cable and web-based media, including news, drama, comedy, commercials, public service, documentary and sports. The evening will honor such luminaries as Julia Roberts, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Olivia Munn, Mae Whitman and Cicely Tyson (Lifetime Achievement) among many others.
"Let’s start changing things. It might take a long time, and it might take shows like the Gracie Awards to really highlight this."
Perry and actress/talk show host Sara Gilbert (The Talk) married on March 30, 2014, and the couple welcomed a son, Rhodes Emilio Gilbert Perry on February 28, 2015. Gilbert has a son and daughter from a previous relationship.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Linda, you are performing at the 40th Gracie Awards. Is that sort of rare for you to be doing these days?
Linda Perry: I don’t perform much, and it’s not really what I wanted to do, but once in a while I’ll do it for a special occasion. Kerry Brown is a very good friend of mine and just an awesome guy. He’s helping out with the show to try to grow it, to make it bigger, wants to start doing more with the event and asked me if I would perform. I thought it would be really great because it’s all about empowering women, so I said, “Of course.”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What songs will you be doing?
Linda Perry: One might be “Beautiful.” I’ve been so busy that I haven’t even had time to think about that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you worked with the Alliance for Women in Media before?
Linda Perry: No, I have not. I do my own stuff. I do a lot for the LGBT community like “An Evening with Women” for the Los Angeles LGBT Center. For six or seven years, I’ve been the producer of that show. This year I just couldn’t because, you know, we had a baby.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Congratulations on the birth of your son!
Linda Perry: Thank you very much. When I do focus energy on events or producing or charities, I’ve usually put it toward the LGBT community. I’m always about everything out there to help out, but I’ve never done anything with the Gracies. Obviously it sounded right up my wheelhouse when Kerry brought it to my attention. I’ve heard of it, but honestly don’t know much about it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I understand that the members of the Alliance for Women believe in lifting women up with support and helping them on their journey. Did you have any female inspirations early in life?
Linda Perry: I’ve never been that type of human. Ever since I was little, I’ve gotten my inspirations from everything. Of course, my mother was a big inspiration to me. “Inspiration” is a tricky word because you can be inspired by negative things, too. You can get inspiration to be the best human you can, so I gravitate toward finding things, sometimes making the wrong choice and then fixing it and being inspired to make the right choice.
I’ve been inspired by jealousy. I’ve been inspired by weakness. I’ve been inspired by strength. I’ve had happy moments and sad moments. I was inspired by Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra as well, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Janis Joplin, Carole King, Aretha Franklin. I know this is a woman’s thing, but it’s not just a women thing. This is a life thing.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The ACLU just came out recently and accused Hollywood of discriminating against female directors. Have you experienced sexism or discrimination in the music business?
Linda Perry: I’m not sure because when I’m looking at my life and career, I have a great one. I’ve never had someone say I can’t do something just because I’m a woman. Whether I’m not getting certain jobs or artists because I’m a woman, I don’t know. There could be situations where you say, is it because I’m a woman or is it because somebody doesn’t like my style? Are we searching for what the real problem is? I don’t invest in that. I just move forward.
If I’m not getting a job, my best thing to do is sit with myself and go, “Okay. Am I the right person for this job, and if not, how can I be better?” That’s my answer to everything. How can I improve? Like I said, even in negativity, I will find something positive. When I was younger, my mom’s first go-to was to sue. If the doctor didn’t do something right or the market gave her moldy bread, my mom’s conclusion to everything was to sue instead of looking past it. Did you really feel like you told the doctor everything? Did you maybe have the bread in the cabinet a little too long before you actually got to it? I don’t harp on the problems. I look for solutions. This is a longwinded answer to your question, and I’m so sorry.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): No worries, Linda.
Linda Perry: In my career, I don’t know if I haven’t gotten a job because of discrimination because I don’t focus on those things. I don’t know what people are saying behind my back. I don’t want to know. I don’t care. That’s not going to fix me in any way. So if women are having a hard time directing, my first thing is, let’s find the solution for that. Let’s look at what’s happening. Are women getting the best scripts to direct? Are they choosing the best things? Are they fighting hard enough? Are you the best director for this job?
I’ve seen some women’s directing, and it sucks. I’ve seen a lot of men’s directing, and it sucks, too. A lot of women won’t get involved in production because their first go-to is, “Oh men won’t hire me. I won’t get the job.” To me, it’s like, “Oh my God. What a fucking opportunity to prove them wrong. I’m going to get the job.” I’m going to make things happen, and I’m going to be the best fucking person to do it. That’s what I focus on.
Is there discrimination against women? Of course there is. There will always be. Men will always discriminate because most are intimidated by women. Women can do a lot more than men can do in a lot of areas, but men can do a lot of things that women can’t do. It is the nature of the beast. Instead of going back to the age-old reference in 19 hundred and blah when women were being discriminated against, I say who fucking cares? We’re in 2015.
Let’s start changing things. It might take a long time, and it might take shows like the Gracie Awards to really highlight this. But let’s focus on moving forward and doing the best that we fucking can do. Let’s not focus on why the problem is showing up. Let’s focus on fixing the fucking problem.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What can the average person do to help in the fight for women’s equality?
Linda Perry: I’m an oddity in my business. There are not many women music producers at all, and if they are, they really aren't. They’re the star “claiming” the label because they want to act like they can do more. That’s what I’m talking about. Is this a case of some bad apples in the barrel like the one bad apple is a bigger backlash than we actually realized?
There are a lot of women, just like men, that go around and take credit for things that they don’t do, and when they’re put to the test for their skills, they don’t bring it. Therefore, you go, “Oh there goes another case of the diva wanting credit.” There’s a lot of that going on in the music business. A lot of women say they write when they don’t. A lot of women say they produce when they don’t. They say they do a lot of things when they don’t, and then when put to the test of their skills, they don’t deliver. Then women get labeled.
If somebody put me to the test, I can deliver. I do engineer all my projects. I play drums, bass, guitar and piano. I am a force. People don’t label me woman or male because I can outshine a lot of dudes, and I don’t even care to put myself in that category. Barbra Streisand is fucking awesome. Nobody’s going to touch her or Jodi Foster. There are a lot of key players, just tough, badass women that people just aren’t going to fuck with.
Then there are women that are trying to get their bearings, are extremely talented, but for some reason there’s a backlash there because someone might not have had the best experience with a woman director. So the lead actor decides he doesn’t want to work with a chick. He wants to work with a dude. We don’t know the things involved, do we? That’s the part that’s frustrating.
You don’t know because in this business, there’s a bunch of people that will smile in your face, and then as soon as you walk out the door, they’re like, “I hate her. Fire her. I’m not working with her.” They want to save face, so they blame it on the producers, on somebody else. So is it women being discriminated, or is it just people being assholes, and they don’t know how to be honest, and they’re being judgmental? Is it discrimination or people being judgmental?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Those are certainly very valid points. Is it sometimes a struggle to get an established artist to see eye-to-eye with you in the studio?
Linda Perry: Well, yes, because my job is to complete someone’s vision, help them do what they want to do with a particular song or album. Sometimes what I see is hesitation or fear, insecurity, vulnerability, somebody not wanting to be vulnerable so they kind of shut down. My job is to get them to be the best that they can be in the song, and I just help them discover things they don’t want to acknowledge. It’s usually something that’s going on with them emotionally, and they shut down.
Take Celine Dion for example. She is a powerhouse. That women is ready to make everybody in her audience happy, and she would focus on each and every individual in there if she could.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Celine is phenomenal.
Linda Perry: Every show, every single time she brings 100% no matter what. After the show, she’s entertaining her crew, she’s being polite to the guests that visit her. Probably when Celine breaks down is when the lights are down. Everyone’s asleep, and that’s when she has her moment. It’s that window right before she falls asleep herself. With that she can only break down, only discover enough about herself emotionally to try to deal with about what’s going on emotionally. Then she’s back up in the morning and doing it all again. A pleaser. She’s an entertainer.
Entertainers need to heal, too. They need to be fueled, so it’s very hard to be in that position and remember to eat. My job is to help them stop, break down and refuel. Let’s figure out what’s going on emotionally and get it out. It’s where we talk out our shit. When I see a friend feeling like she can’t get more acting gigs because guys get better roles. I think, “Are they?” I’m naïve, to be quite honest, so everything I’m saying could be completely … everybody could be totally mad at me right now because I’m naïve about acting roles and movies.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I don’t think anyone would be angry with you for just stating your opinions.
Linda Perry: Well, I’m thinking maybe there are just more men. There are always just more men in a field. There are always just more men in general it seems like all over the place. The wonderful thing about women is we’d make good soldiers because we don’t want to fight. We don’t. That’s just the truth. Our instincts are to create peace. I bet a lot of women would rather just bow down, get out of the business and go raise their families and be happy rather than fight this monster.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What about your fight for all people to be treated equally?
Linda Perry: Who knows if I’ll be alive to see the day when everybody is treated equally. With white Christian men in power of the world, I doubt I’m going to see that day as long as I’m alive. As long as there’s some white fucking dudes in power, we’re not going to see it because it’s all about money. When you come down to it, it’s always about money.
Rich guys don’t want to put money into the film that the chick is producing or directing. They want a big action thriller because that’s an instant payoff. They’ll invest in that. Women should start changing their names to male names when they want to direct. I wonder if they’d get more jobs. I wonder what would happen if a female would change her directing name to a male name to see if that alters anything. The investors would see “James” instead of “Jane” Smith. Who knows?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Very interesting thought.
Linda Perry: But are we really selling out by changing our names or if it helped, could we be contributing to solutions? “Hi. I’m Jane. I directed that Oscar-winning movie you invested in.” Maybe it would trickle down to people thinking that women are equal. Maybe its just men being judgmental and pompous. Most of the time it is.
Guys in power are assholes, so let’s get some more women in power, but then the women in power really don’t want that kind of power. That’s where it gets tricky. The women that can do these things don’t want to because they’re not interested in that kind of shit.
It’s like if you take a couple of lesbians and a couple of gay guys and watch them, you’ll see that the gay guys are always at the bars every night, going out, supporting the community. That’s why when you go down Santa Monica Boulevard, there are 100 dude bars right next to each other, and they’ve never closed down. They stay open because the guys are out there supporting it. Women run around and complain, “Why don’t we have bars?” When they do open a bar, the women go there for a week, maybe a month, and then they stop going because they’d rather be home watching movies with their new puppy and new girlfriend, eating popcorn in bed. They don’t want to go out drinking every night.
What happens is the bars close, and there’s the women again complaining there are no bars. Well, you should’ve gone to the fucking bar every day. Do you think they were just going to stay open one day a week for your until you’re ready to go out? It doesn’t work that way. Life does not work that way. If you want something, you have to support it every single day, and that is time consuming. It’s tiring. Women don’t want to do that. So my thing is, stop fucking complaining.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Since my time is about up, Linda, have a blast singing on the Gracies!
Linda Perry: I’m really honored that Kerry invited me to do this at the Gracies, and I hope I do an awesome job. All I can do is try my best, and I hope, in no way, I offended anybody in this interview. I can only speak the truth, and today I’m being more honest than I should be, so there’s that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The world needs more honesty … and more hats I think.
Linda Perry: (laughs) I was born in hats. I’ve worn hats my whole life. I don’t know why. Somebody told me it’s because I have so much energy I take in that I have to protect it because I’m very sensitive to people. It really made sense to me. Like this person said, “People who wear hats all the time instinctively do that because they know it is a protection. That’s how you protect from too much energy coming in.” I’m like, “Oh that’s so interesting.”
I’ve been doing that my whole life, and when I don’t wear a hat, I do feel more energy come into my system, so I get overloaded. So there is a reason. I wear it to protect myself.
© 2015 Smashing Interviews Magazine. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written consent of the publisher.