The Blessed Virgin: “Changing your name was a very Catholic experience” | The music

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When I meet Blessed Madonna at her home, she has a spectacular morning. Her remix of Dua Lipa’s Levitating, starring Madonna and Missy Elliott, dropped the night before, causing fan hysteria from all three stars. At 7 a.m., she was half asleep, “spreading her emotions” to Kanye West producer Mike Dean, who worked on the song. By the time she was standing it was higher in the UK iTunes charts than Drake’s new single.In recent months, the DJ, producer and owner of the American label – real name Marea Stamper – has secretly organized a remix album of Dua Lipa, which will be released next Friday under the name Club Future Nostalgia, from a selection dance artists worthy of a festival. including Mark Ronson, Moodymann, Paul Woolford, Midland, Jayda G and Masters at Work. She says “99.9% of the lockdown” was spent working on it in pajamas in a studio on the top floor of her east London terraced house, complete with a laptop, speakers and her dog. From time to time, she received food and water from her husband. Overall it was “weird. You do that thing that you are passionate about and you can’t tell anyone.

Sitting at her kitchen table in gray sweatpants, a black t-shirt and signature NHS-style glasses, Stamper – who was previously called the Black Madonna – says she typically spent the summer playing games. festivals around the world. However, she hasn’t played since March; a tour of Australia was halted to allow him to return to London while the UK was on lockdown. With no sign of a return from clubs or festivals, Lipa’s remix album became a tribute to that dancefloor experience, something she found no substitute for during the lockdown: “It’ll never be the same.” – not until I’ve been somewhere and it smells like Vicks VapoRub and armpit. “

Charting high… watch the Blessed Madonna remix video from Levitating.

Stamper, 42, is an avid dance floor follower who went to her first rave at age 14. At the time, with her blue hair, her “butch” outfit and her backpack full of tapes for her Walkman (“I look back and I was already absolutely myself”), she was a target of choice for bullies. She dropped out of Kentucky high school after six months. Ostracized and miserable, she threw herself into the Midwestern party scene, finding solace in the utopian vision of rave. She sold DJ set mixtapes, became a breakdancer, and worked for one of the region’s top promoters to stage massive illegal raves.

She rarely saw her family and ended up moving in with a boyfriend when she was 16. They had no more money. “If you’ve been a homeless teenager, it doesn’t go away,” she says. “Face the fears and know what is possible, violence, it stays with you.” She has seen friends die in a car accident; she has seen unscrupulous promoters endanger people by using high-risk illegal locations; and hard drugs started to take over the scene and take their toll. Stamper broke away to study English at the University of Louisville, landing a show on college radio.

In a few years, the rave scene pulled her out. She became a resident DJ at the Chicago Smartbar club and started making her own music. In 2012, his track Exodus caught the attention of DJs, including Derrick Carter, and got Stamper his first European reservation, at Berlin’s famous Panorama Bar in Berghain. In four years, she was named DJ of the year by Mixmag. Success pushed her into the grueling world touring DJ lifestyle, but her Catholic faith kept her down to earth: “It wasn’t something I could verify because I felt without- shelter. As I got older, I needed to feel like I was part of something. She avoided afterparties, got married, and moved to Leyton, drawn to homes large enough to accommodate a studio, long-term rent, and green space.







“I always felt that I was not a woman, but I never had a term for it. Photography: Stephanie Sian Smith

But she struggled with the scale of her success. She has suffered from depression and anxiety all her life; she has an “expensive medical team” and continues to take prescription drugs. “A day like today, when I know there is going to be something [stressful], I’m not waiting for Tony Soprano’s great panic attack, I’m taking my ‘Christian pills’ and getting ready, ”she laughs.

Stamper’s sex wasn’t an issue when she started DJing, but since becoming famous she has been accused of using ghost producers to make her music, along with a whole range of others. insults often aimed at women in dance music. “As a woman, when you cross a certain threshold of power that people think you should be ‘allowed’ to have, there is a punishment,” she says. She highlights artwork for a record by Ukrainian artist Vakula who portrays Stamper with dance stars Nastia, Peggy Gou and Nina Kraviz as astronauts in a penis-shaped spaceship.

Since Levitating fell, Stamper has suffered online abuse from Lipa fans unhappy with his remix. “It’s really interesting to receive a death threat from someone who has Taylor Swift as an avatar on Twitter,” Stamper says. “It’s like, StreamFolklore1969 [says]: “Go kill yourself. Even when you know it’s not real, receiving this death threat is never pleasant.

It’s hardly the utopia that she encountered as a teenage raver – and the trolling, anxiety, and unwanted attention just got too much. “I had to go to therapy because I was really losing it,” she says. “Even when you do whatever it takes for a living, you still have to be a person.” Then, in July, she faced more anger online, as tension mounted around her then name, the Black Madonna.

In addition to targeting police brutality, the Black Lives Matter protests after the death of George Floyd have scrutinized the racist or racist-insensitive elements of a larger culture. Food brands Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima have announced that they will stop using stereotypical images of black people in their logos (and, in Aunt Jemima’s case, change the brand name); the Washington Redskins NFL team said it would change its name; and country groups the Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum changed their names to remove connotations from the days of slavery. White dance artist Joey Negro was also interviewed, as was Stamper. Monty Luke, a Detroit-based producer, has started a petition claiming that she is appropriating the “black Madonna” icons of the Virgin Mary used by black Catholics and that in 2020, “a white woman telling herself” black “is very problematic”.

Stamper duly made the change last month, stating in a statement that its original name was “a reflection of my family’s deep and lifelong Catholic devotion to a specific type of European icon of the Virgin Mary who is dark in color ”, but acknowledging that it was“ a point of controversy, confusion, pain and frustration ”.

“There was no way that my name didn’t go through the lens of race,” she said now, still visibly unstable. “In the end, I decided to let go of what is, in some ways, the deepest part of who I was and show people who I am. She describes the whole process as “a very Catholic experience. I was thinking of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane… he knows he will catch him tomorrow: “All my friends will turn against me. It’s relatable because you know what’s going to happen, you know it’s going to suck, but it’s the right thing to do. Even though it was difficult for me to be a Catholic, the faith was also what said it was OK to change.

Changing its name reiterated its commitment to act on its principles. In 2015, Stamper led the Daphne Festival at Smartbar to spotlight female and non-binary artists; in 2019, she pulled out of the Intersect festival in Las Vegas after finding out it was backed by Amazon. She also helped Ugandan DJ Rachael, his girlfriend and their son by hiring a legal team to get them permanent asylum in the United States after they were forced to leave Uganda due to homophobic persecution.

The fight for LGBTQ + rights is particularly relevant to Stamper. When she was in college, she flexed under social pressure to settle down, tying the knot with a college lover she calls her “rookie husband.” She is now married to another man, but does not define herself as straight; she is what her friends once called “average sex”.




DJ Marea Stamper, alias to Vierge Marie



“It’ll never be the same – not until I’ve been somewhere and it smells like Vicks VapoRub and armpit.” »Photography: Aldo Paredes

“I always felt I wasn’t a woman, but I never had a term for it,” Stamper says, quoting Virginia Woolf, who wrote of an “androgynous spirit” in which “two powers president, a man, a woman ”. On the outside, however, her experience is that of a woman. “I know what it is to be hated because you are a woman, I know what it is to be raped, I know what it is to fear violence from men,” said -she. “No matter how nebulous, complex or changing my mind and spirit is, I live in fellowship with half the planet.

With Dua Lipa, Madonna and Missy Elliott on her remix Levitating, this fraternity is palpable. It’s a dream lineup, especially since she has always idolized Madonna. Missy Elliott has also long been a favorite of the Stamper family. “Missy reached out and said, ‘You did a great job.’ I showed the tweets to my mom and she cried, ”Stamper says. “I think my mom even has a Missy Catholic votive candle, to give you an idea of ​​what she means to us.

In the end, something is missing: the love she whips in a room when she’s on decks. “My butt is kind of a metronome,” she says. “I let people enter the cabin; I give my bottle to the public. Such scenes are now unimaginable. With social estrangement preventing the return of clubbing, rave lives in his imagination – and the clandestine gatherings taking place across the country. “I have to say, there are a lot of illegal parties going on right now and it’s totally irresponsible…” She stops, with a wry smile on her face. “But I kinda like children.” Despite the beatings, his outlaw spirit endures.

Dua Lipa and the Blessed Madonna Future Nostalgia Club Releasing August 28th on Warner Records

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