Over the last couple months, I started noticing that I was being tagged by friends from all over on images from an unfamiliar meme account, Goth Shakira. When I finally settled in and properly explored the account — created by a Montreal resident who goes by Dre and has self-anointed herself the High Priestess of Dank Memery — I flipped. Goth Shakira represents, alongside @scariest_bug_ever and @sensualmemes, a new genre of meme, one steeped in mysticism and astrology, alongside cutting cultural commentary and a strictly intersectional feminist agenda. They make memes that will fuck you up but make your day. They make memes the world needs now. Using the dumbed down meme format, Goth Shakira spits serious truths, about family, about sex, about self-care, and sluttiness. Here, Goth Shakira explains how a freelance social media marketer becomes 10,000 followers' favorite administrator.
What do you do by day?
DRE: I don't want to speak too specifically, but I do freelance social media marketing. I'm the content editor for this lifestyle blog, the Girl's Club.
How did you get into making memes?
Winters in Montreal are very long and very cold. I’ve struggled with seasonal depression for a while now. I was going through a pretty bad batch of that this past winter. I was only talking to two people, spending so much time in my apartment smoking weed, and being on the internet all-the-fucking-time. I just started to be really obsessed with memes. Around springtime, when I started to snap out of the funk, I just started making memes about living in Montreal, 'cause I thought they would be funny for my 200 followers, whom I knew in real life. And people just started hopping on, and I kept making memes, and it just evolved into this crazy thing.
Do you have a personal account as well?
It's still my personal account. I post selfies, I post things about my life. We're a packaged deal! Love me, and love my memes. The idea is that no one could make these memes but me. They're specifically about my life, the life of my friends, what life is like in Montreal, and what it’s like to be a second generation immigrant in Montreal. It doesn't make sense for me to be behind some sort of facade when this is truly who I am.
Your account deals a lot with being a female in Montreal: dating, dealing with culture.
I do a lot of memes about dating. Montreal is a really interesting city for that: it’s very transient. You have a lot of young people coming in and out. It's like a training ground, you know, where people come to hone their creative or artistic craft. It creates this atmosphere where it's very open, and sexually free — at least from what I've experienced. A lot of young people use [Montreal] as a stepping-stone to New York, L.A., Toronto, sometimes overseas, and because of that it's a very low-commitment kind of style. That's the way I interpret it. I mean I've only been here for two years, but that's what I've experienced. It's very interesting: you have all of these people who are very open, and very into [polygamy], and queer spaces, queer identities and sexual fluidity — it's really beautiful. But there's also that side, "How can we be genuinely intimate with each other," especially in the age of the internet.
The memes I find on my explore page are sometimes criminally misogynist, and it was really refreshing to find voices that were unapologetically female. Do you see yourself as a part of a group or are you just operating as an individual?
I think I see myself as both. I have a lot of influences, but right now I don't think anyone is doing what I'm doing. Nut as for feminist memes — @scariest_bug_ever and @sensualmemes, like the history of that, we're homegirls, we have a group chat. But I'm hesitant to say, "I started feminist memes," cause that's a broad claim, but I do think I was one of the first people who was doing it in a very overt and intentional way.
Astrology plays a huge part in your memes and in your sense of humor. When did you start getting into that?
I grew up in a very conservative, evangelical Christian home environment, so the information that I could consume was very tightly controlled, so I didn't have any initiation into mysticism, or New Age spiritual practices or teachings until about three years ago. In the past couple years, I've been taking it more and more seriously. I just practice on my friends, doing everybody's natal charts. I'm not a professional, but I love it.
What have you learned over the course of making these memes, and developing an identity behind them?
I've learned that the most powerful words in the world are "me too." That there's nothing more beautiful, and honest, and attractive than you being exactly who you are. I think we live in a world where we feel the need to obsessively curate every single part of us, and there's so much going on under the surface that we never share. It's terrifying. Everyday I open Instagram, it's terrifying because I'm an introvert, and I'm an intensely private person in my day-to-day life, but I think what I say has value and power. The DM's that have come into me: "Your memes help me beat depression," "They help me talk to my peers about sexual assault." It's just been very empowering, and it was a huge lesson because I don't have the highest self-esteem. When I finally took the pledge and was vocal about these very painful, and real things that've happened to me, that helped other people to.
I love the fact you use Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lopez, etc.
Yeah! I started doing that because I saw a lot of people of color, especially black people, being used as reaction images in memes, and you don't know who’s behind the computer making that meme. And that’s so problematic, and that's something that needs to be talked about too. I chose these women because they're recognized and known, but they’re also Latina. Shakira especially is half-Colombian, like me. I end up using a lot of JLo and Selena Gomez 'cause they're expressive.
Do you find your memes reaching a lot of teenage girls?
It's mostly women. I find that they're mostly younger than me — they're in their late teens, early twenties. I'm 25. They're young, smart educated, they read, they love music. Girls who've heard of feminism, are seeing it gain traction, and are getting acquainted with it. I think that memes are so powerful in sense because they glorify low culture. It’s a breakdown of these barriers of pretense or "Oh, I have to look a certain way or feel a certain way, or be tasteful." Everything I do is in poor taste, but that's who I am. There's nothing wrong with binge-watching Netflix, just like there's nothing wrong with going to a show; there's nothing wrong with enjoying these forms of high culture, but it's OK to laugh at a Kardashian meme because we're human.