Wild Style @ 25: LADY PINK

If you possess even a passing fancy with graffiti, you’ve probably heard of Sandra “Lady Pink” Fabara. If not, the short version is she’s a storied graffiti artist who has gone from bombing trains to seeing her work exhibited in museums and galleries across the globe. Born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, by the […]

If you possess even a passing fancy with graffiti, you’ve probably heard of Sandra “Lady Pink” Fabara. If not, the short version is she’s a storied graffiti artist who has gone from bombing trains to seeing her work exhibited in museums and galleries across the globe. Born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, by the tender age of 16, Lady Pink snared a role as the protagonist Zorro’s love interest in the greatest Hip-Hop flick of all time, Wild Style. Despite her role in the cult classic film, Pink just does not consider herself “Hip-Hop”. It’s nothing personal. In fact, when you hear out her rationale it happens to make sense. Nevertheless, AllHipHop.com still felt when looking back at Wild Style we just had to speak to this artistic icon. With candor and a proud feminist posture, Pink spoke about her experiences and thoughts about the film, and Hip-Hop too.  AllHipHop.com: How did you meet Wild Style’s director Charlie Ahearn?Lady Pink: He was kind of just hanging in the scene, meeting everyone and filming everyone. He wrote his script and the movie itself about the things that he saw and the people that he met, so I just happened to meet Charlie at some point and he wrote me into the script. AllHipHop.com: So was the script already in the works and after meeting you he put you in the film?Lady Pink: I think he already had the idea of making some kind of film. It changed up as he went along meeting new people, seeing new things; he had never seen breakdancing before, when he saw it he wrote that into the script. As he met [these people] his movie started to shape up. AllHipHop.com: Where you hesitant to participate at all?Lady Pink: I was 16, I was that age and as a teenager I don’t think I knew any kind of fear. I was willing to try any sort of new, ya know, exciting thing, sure why not?AllHipHop.com: Any particular memories from filming the movie that stand out?Lady Pink: When we rented the train yard, the N yard. It’s a small train yard but they rented it to us for one night and they had a lot of security over there and they were keeping an eye on us. But we managed to slip behind the security and sneak into the trains in the back of the yard anyway. And by that I mean we like Dondi and Zephyr and Iz the Wiz and all these old timers that I never had the opportunity to paint and bomb with them because they’re from an older generation. We were inside the trains with little markers and we’re tagging up on the insides just like toys. Just like when you first begin like little children and we’re in there writing inside the train and giggling like kids and just having a good time and happy as hell that we slipped by security.That kind of stands out. I don’t have too many memories of the filming, I was very young. AllHipHop.com: You were real young but did you realize the influence this film might have?Lady Pink: No, absolutely not. We just thought this is another kooky white person with another scheme and it’s going to go nowhere. There was a lot of that popping out of the woodwork. Everyone had a plan, some kind of scheme to help us make profit, or to exploit us or to just bring us exposure and things like that. There were just all kinds of crazy white people popping up and it was difficult to trust them all. But very few you could genuinely tell that they have a good heart. That they are not there to rip you off in any way and they really love what you do and want to help you out and collaborate with you somehow. That was Charlie A. I think everyone picked up on that, that he’s just a sweetheart. He’s just very loveable, very gentle and kind and generous and all of that. So we helped him out as much as we could. But no, we never imagined that it was gonna go anywhere. Certainly not still be here talking about it now. We thought it was some crazy little artsy independent movie and no one would ever see it. AllHipHop.com: Looking back immediately and over the years how has it affected you as far as your career?Lady Pink: Well when it was released back in the early ’80s they did a lot of publicity for it. I got the opportunity to travel to different countries and act like a celebrity, which was kind of fun. You get mobbed by fans and you get treated like a star, that was a lot of fun early on. Overall it’s only the kind of impact that it has pigeonholed me into a little niche of being “Hip-Hop”. I’m still not sure about what is “Hip-Hop” and how am I Hip-Hop? That was the first film and it coined that phrase and the marketing companies have run off with it and re-packaged it to the masses but I’m stereotyped as Hip-Hop and I still don’t know the meaning of what that is and how am I that.That movie has not done me any favors, that way. But otherwise it has brought me a lot of exposure. Most everyone that is into graffiti has definitely seen that movie. It’s a must if you’re serious about what you do whether it’s music or dancing or art, that’s a must see movie because it was the first and it was so real, so true. Everyone in it was not a real actor, everyone was living their part. Including the muggers, they were actually muggers. [Laughs] Scary.AllHipHop.com: Is it that you don’t consider yourself  Hip-Hop or being labeled…Lady Pink: I still would like somebody to give me a definition of what Hip-Hop is, how do I fit into that? I’m an artist. I don’t consider myself Hip-Hop in any way. I’m just a visual artist. I paint, that’s it. So if someone could define Hip-Hop, what is that? AllHipHop.com: Some people consider Hip-Hop’s four elements to include graffiti, B-boying, deejaying, emceeing.Lady Pink: That’s because you’ve been told that graffiti is Hip-Hop. Graffiti predates this by well over a dozen years, 15 years before they ever coined the phrase Hip-Hop. Graffiti was thrown in there as just the background art because in order to make a round culture, a nice thorough subculture that is, you need the fashion, you need the music, you need the dance and, Oh, you need art. Let’s throw in the graffiti writers. Graffiti writers are single minded bombers, painters and they listen to different music, wear different fashions, behave differently, I don’t see how we are being stereotyped onto this “Hip-Hop.”

I’m not too big on the music. I don’t listen to that, I listen to other stuff. I don’t know who the musicians are. I don’t know them by name. I’m not really that interested. But people assume that you know all this. And that you want to listen to this music, no. I’m good with Metallica, ya know, other stuff. It has been that way since the beginning of graffiti. It depends on what neighborhood you lived in, that’s the kind of music that you listened to and that’s the kind of stuff that you’re exposed to.Now, Hip-Hop does not make it exceptionally endearing to me by the attitude that the menfolk have towards the women. It’s very difficult to hold your head up with dignity when guys are looking at you like you just some b*tch or a hoe. It’s not exactly a fun kind of subculture for the women. It’s all good for the men that get to be machismo and posture and strut about, that’s all good. But the ladies…it’s very hard. I was the only female coming up. Which is probably why I’m in that film. I was the only girl available. [Laughs] There was no other chicks. There had been in the ’70s though when I came along I was the only one, so they picked on me. AllHipHop.com: So you believe graf and Hip-Hop are mutually exclusive?Lady Pink: I think a lot of the graffiti writers would rather not be labeled Hip-Hop. It stereotypes us into something we’re not, really. We’re artists. When we focus on our artwork, whether it’s legal or illegal, we’re single minded visual artists. All we do is talk about paint, we look like slobs, we don’t talk in some particularly chosen Hip-Hop language and we don’t listen to all the same exact Hip-Hop music. We’re just artist and we’re very focused on that. Kids that are DJs one year, and then they’re breakdancers and then they want to be graffiti writers, we call them Hip-Hop groupies. Their heart is not in it, they’re  just doing it cause its fashionable and it’s the rage and you cannot take any time to be teaching these people. It’s a waste of time. Next year they’ll be skateboarding or something. An artist that is focused and their heart is fully into that, is not swayed by any of this marketing or labeling. If you’re a graffiti writer you have to listen to this music and you gotta dress like that, uh uh—it’s got nothing to do with that. You’re just worrying about getting the art up there, one way or the other. AllHipHop.com: What are you up to now?Lady Pink: Doing the same thing I’ve always done. Painting, exhibiting, [conducting] workshops with students. I have a mural company with my husband Smith [PinkSmith Designs, www.pinksmith.com] and we do commissioned jobs, all kinds of freelance art. What I have managed to do and not a lot of graffiti writers can do—maybe it’s my girl status—I can organize community walls. I get big commissioned walls and I can rustle up and motivate other artists to come out and donate free work and just kick it. Have fun, paint what you want. We’ll do up entire blocks of the city and beautify them. We’re a big asset to the city really. We’re prolific painters, we don’t need no funding, we don’t need much, but we beautify the city. I rally other artists that way and because I could, I do it. I get permissioned walls, I do that. That’s all donated for free kind of work. Like we did back in the beginning. It doesn’t benefit anyone if we just keep our talents to the museums and our galleries. Originally we started painting for everyone, on the trains. So I like to continue that public art kind of thing still. Without the part about running from the cops and going to jail. That wasn’t any fun at all. [Laughs] That’s what I’m up to. Still painting the city and stressing out the vandal squad.