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JBP's 6th Cheesecake Queen: Gigi Valiant

Gigi Valiant
    One of the best parts about doing the Java's Bachelor Pad Cheesecake Contest is that it introduces us to so many new and amazing pin-up gals. One such gal is our newest Cheesecake Queen Gigi Valiant. This beauty had only been modeling for about six months before she entered the contest. And this was her very first pin-up contest to boot! Well, it didn't take long for her to win over the hearts of the Cheesecake Group members. When it was all said and done, this gal gathered up 27% of all the votes cast. Here now is an exclusive interview with our latest Cheesecake Queen, Gigi Valiant. And don't forget to check out Gigi's photos at the bottom of the page!

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(Interview from January 2006)

Java's Bachelor Pad: Well, congratulations on being voted Java’s Bachelor Pad latest Cheesecake Queen

Gigi Valiant: Thank you.

JBP: How does it feel to wear the crown?

GV: The crown—oh wow—it’s a bit overwhelming I suppose because, one, I didn’t expect it. And two, the woman who handed it down to me, Kay (O’Hara), is just amazing. So, to be in her footsteps is a wonderful privilege. 

JBP: Yes—she is an amazing Cheesecake Queen and she has had a marvelous rein as Cheesecake Queen.

GV: And she’s an intelligent and sweet lady too. 

JBP: So, one of the things that amazed me was that homage to the Cheesecake Group picture that you did very early one—actually before the voting started—where you took that image of the blonde with that champagne glass and the cane and the top hat and recreated it perfectly.

GV: I saw the image when I signed up for the contest and thought it was phenomenal. I saw myself in her—it was probably just something as simple as her hair. I thought how fun it would be to pull off duplicating it. So the idea ran through my head and I spoke to a few  people about creating it and copying  the costume. I wasn’t sure how exactly I would do it. Finally at the last minute, one Saturday, my daughter and I ran around between vintage stores, costume shops and craft stores in order to get everything together. The next day we went into Jeff’s (Cosmic Frog’s) studio and did the shot. Originally I had a different outfit I was going to wear, but it didn’t work well. The outfit I ended up wearing is actually a red lingerie piece. Jeff just altered the color so it matched perfectly. The best part was that my daughter was there with me during the shoot and she directed. You know—“Mommy, hand up. Pinky out. Tilt the cane…” 

JBP: So, she had the picture in front of her?

GV: Yes, she did. We worked off of it exactly. One thing you may notice if you go back and look at the picture—at the time I could not  sit the way she was where you would be able to see both knees. It’s almost impossible and not comfortable at all. I could not get it. So, Jeff went in and cropped my front knee and photoshopped it so that it was at the right angle. 

JBP: Wow! I was amazed when I saw that. No contestant before has done something that creative. Now I know Miss Ana, who was a Cheesecake Queen a few times back did a post-contest picture where she actually created a crown, a tiara, and a sash that said “Java’s Bachelor Pad Cheesecake Queen” and took photos of her wearing that ensemble.

GV: Very cute… For me it was the challenge and the creation process of it. It wasn’t even so much as trying to promote the contest…but in the end, I think it worked really well for me. However, it was just me seeing this great image and thinking I wanted to do that. I  was very excited and it came out better than I had imagined. 

JBP: Now, you’re relatively new to pin-ups…correct?

GV: Correct, I am brand new. 

JBP: Yeah—I had not seen you around. Was this your first pin-up contest?

GV: First and last most likely.

JBP: Really? Go out while you’re on top?

GV: No, it’s not that at all. It’s more to do with my overall perception of contests as a whole. I think yours was absolutely the best contest for me to choose to do though. It was a good choice for me to get people to see my photos and hopefully become familiar with my name. I admire many of the girls who are doing pin-up right now. Still, I always have issues with the whole concept of contests based on appearance. 

JBP: Wow… Well, I understand what you’re saying about the nature of contest and I do agree with you on a certain level. The contest does bring out a level of competitiveness in people. And I’ve weighed that myself while doing these. Does that competitive behavior cancel out any good the contest can do promotion-wise for both the girls and for the website?

GV: I think it can, most definitely.  However, you’ve done a fantastic job where you have created a very positive environment for the girls and the fans. All the girls are so supportive of one another. As you know, I had two very good friends in the contest with me. We cheered each other on.  Something you’ve done with JBP has created this environment where people want to see each other win and do well. My hats off to you, Sir.  But unfortunately, not all contests are like this. 

JBP: I realize that and I’m very lucky that the people who have come by and stopped and have made the group their pin-up home have worked into...collaborated...congealed, if you will, into that mind set. That makes me happy beyond words.

GV: You have a website full of fun girls… I believe everyone does it for the art and the history of pin-up. And that’s where my mindset is—rather than just producing T&A pictures. 

JBP: A lot of people have mixed opinions when it comes to these pin-up contests because they put these women out in what some people would consider sexist roles. The classic pin-up as being an unempower, anachronistic image of a woman that never existed, doesn’t exsist—however you want to phrase that. And a woman of the modern age is degrading herself by doing something like this.

GV: Given the way our society has come to view the female form, I see their point. However, I will say that I disagree because, for one, that woman does exist. I am that woman. The majority of my pictures are not touched-up or altered. And the few that are, it was done to get a certain effect to the photograph, not to hide any flaws.  That’s me—with of course, beautiful photography, lighting, and great make-up. However, “that woman” does exist in each of us. And it goes back to the uniqueness of each and every girl. Cheesecake embodies women embracing themselves and who we are and how we naturally are. Look at the many full-figured girls who are taking beautiful pictures and who are stunning as compared to so many modern-day women who have manipulated their bodies so much in order to conform to someone else’s idea. Who knows where it came from. And it’s not going to be there twenty years from now. It will be something else completely. So Cheesecake, in a way is saying, “This is who I am. These are my curves. This is my body. This is what God gave me. And I am fully woman. I’m fully sexual. I’m fully whole.”…But it’s not degrading because you’re still holding yourself and holding your sexuality to a higher standard. Now, when I think of the feminist movement in its beginnings, I feel, it was something quite different and it was very stern because it had to be. It had to go in a whole other direction saying you had to hide your body and deny that part of you. Whereas now, you look at someone like Kay (O’Hara), who is a very intelligent, career-driven, activist female. Look at her--she’s gorgeous and she knows who she is. That to me is more powerful than denying it or going the other way and putting it all out there. I try to raise my daughter in an open environment where she knows my professional life and my personal life. She knows a variety of my female friends from both work and the pin-up world.  She knows Mia (Vixen) and Anneliese and she adores them. She knows that she is expected to go to college and she can become the veterinarian she currently dreams of becoming. And she also knows that if she wants to take beautiful, artistic photographs of herself she do that too. She doesn’t have to choose one over the other and neither solely define her as a woman.

JBP: That’s beautifully said. These are issues I am asked and have discuss quite often with people in a social setting and they ask “what do you do” and I have to explain it. And then these questions come up. I’m sure they come up with you as well.

GV: Sure. I work in finance and investor relations and it’s an extremely conservative industry.  I also come from a very hard-core Irish-Catholic background. Mostly, everyone knows what I do outside of my professional life. I don’t believe in doing anything I have to hide. I  think people find it very intriguing. I’ve had many professional women say to me, “You know…I need to do this. I need to get a photographer.” And I say by all means do. It’s so empowering to have a beautiful image of yourself that’s uniquely you. That’s not some external ideal out of a random men’s magazine.  And Cheesecake does that, I think, perfectly. 

JBP: So, how did you get started? Since you’re band new (since) July, how did this happen?

GV: It was a fluke really. I have been going to Viva (La Vegas) and other car shows with my boyfriend and became familiar with various pin-ups. Personally, I hadn’t stepped in front of a camera since I was a baby. Then I was doing an article on burlesque and its resurgence. I’d spoken with Vienna La Rouge and Sabina for this article and it started my wheels turning. I thought, “I want to try doing this.” Originally it was going to be just for my boyfriend,  I thought I’d like to have some sexy little shots to give to him. So, I found a local photographer, Brian Lanting. He’d never shot with the retro concept before either, so he loved the idea and the challenge of it. We shot for about five, six hours one day. In fact, the photo on the red throw, that was from the first shoot I did. I later posted some of the shots from our shoot and I received wonderful response from people like Marco (Patino) and Don Spiro.  I was then lucky enough to line shoots up with each of them after that. It’s been amazing. It’s opened up this world of wonderful people and creative types. It’s been fun…And now I’m Cheesecake Queen (laughs).

JBP: Well, I know you found me early on. I think it was with MySpace or just with the Cheesecake Group and you asked me to take a look at your photos and give you my “professional” opinion. And I really liked them. What I like about your photos is you do very well emulating that “good girl” vibe that you see in the 1940’s…

GV: I am a good girl, Java! (laughs)

JBP: But…but…as respectable as you appear there’s that devilish side. There’s that rock and roll, juvenile delinquent who’s just itching to come out.

GV: Amen for Catholic schoolgirls. (laughs) Exactly—and that’s I think, that’s what Gigi Valiant embodies. She’s the girl you can bring home to mom. She’s the girl-next-door you had the crush on. And at the same time, you know she’s just a little bit naughty behind closed doors. That’s what I hope to bring out in the pictures. And I’ve been very happy with having been able to portray that this far. 

JBP: Now, some girls they approach the art of pin-up as a recreationist. And some girls approach it as this is the starting point, the foundation and I’m going to build on that with my own perspective. Where do you fall?

GV: Both. It’s fun to copy the Elvgren painting and the Vargas’s that I admire. At the same time, I think everyone wants to see something new happen. Creatively, I wouldn’t want to get locked into one thing. I’ve been very fortunate with all the photographers I’ve worked with. It seems in the scene they want the girls to bring their own personality to the images—their own take on it every time. They say, “Well, what do you want to do? Let’s shoot what you want to do. What’s your idea?” And that’s great because you can pull things out of your imagination and create it. I think there’s guidelines so that it stays pin-up and it stays cheesecake. It’s definitely in the tease and a keeping a sense of innocence to the photographs. But I think there’s also room to put a modern flair to it. To put our own spin on it. If you look at that collage you did of all the girls for the contest, you can see there are so many personalities. What did you have? 25 girls? 

JBP: 25 girls. Yeah.

GV: So many different personalities. 

JBP: And I love that too. I love the fact that within the style—the whole milieu—everyone is distinct. And everyone has their own sort of take and personality and spark.

GV: Absolutely. 

JBP: So, what is next for Gigi?

GV: A couple of things. I’ve been really fortunate this far. Besides winning your contest, I’ve also been able to secure print work. I actually have a shoot later this month for an industry magazine for models about models and they wanted to do something on pin-ups. An interview will coincide with that shoot as far as “why pin-up.” It’s still pretty unique and small if you look at the modeling industry on a whole. I also have a few surprises that I can’t disclose right now, but you will be the first to know once I get the green light! But, the biggest thing I’m hoping for is that once my website is compete—which is aValiantLady.com—then I will have an on-line store. The store will have your typical calendars, cards and whatnot, but the kicker is all the profits will go to a non-profit, which I’m currently researching. It will be a non-profit organization that supports low-income single mothers and offers career training so they can achieve a better quality of life for both themselves and their children.  So, that’s my ultimate goal for Gigi Valiant

JBP: Wow.

GV: Yes. I’m excited.

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