Soak up the origin story of our project. Best paired with brie and a strong red with a nice body.
A brief message from Helen America:
This song is a great cure-all. Need something for a wedding? Piaf! Need something for a dinner party? Piaf! Need something while you’re stuck in traffic? Piaf!!!
AN ORAL HISTORY
In 2014 I was a junior at Vassar College and the idea of the KLEAN came to me as simply a word. I had been thinking a lot about how distant and disconnected I felt from most publications. Part of the reason the KLEAN got its name was because it evoked this idea of cutting out the bullshit. Visually, there was something striking and powerful about the name. It felt strong, aggressive, and I liked that it was a word that did not previously exist.
I was on my way to London to study abroad for the semester at Goldsmiths College where I began to meet other women who were interested in the project. We staged a few shoots and writing pieces began to trickle in but the concept did not feel fully developed. I was only twenty years old at the time and my vision for the magazine outpaced my ability to get it all together.
My time abroad in London was full of high highs and devastating lows. I somehow managed to meet the magazine buyer at the TATE Modern and pitched him the idea. He was interested but said it needed further development. I began getting worried that I had bitten off more than I could chew - which I had - and slowly more and more issues became apparent.
Part of the reason I went abroad was to take some time away from Vassar to avoid a past abusive relationship. As they say, hindsight is 20/20 vision and with the space I desperately needed I began to have flashbacks. Eventually, I came to the realization that I had been sexually assaulted. The majority of my time remaining in London, I was consumed by panic attacks and it became increasingly difficult for me to properly lead the fledgling project.
When I returned from my time abroad, I had landed an internship at Marie Claire as an editorial intern to Nina Garcia-who happens to be friends with Helen America's old landlord. I literally hopped off the plane at JFK and went to her apartment with one day of rest before starting my internship.
My internship was everything I had hoped it would be: engaging, challenging, and slowly but surely exhausting. Waking up at 5:45 am three days a week to take a two hour train to the city from Upstate New York became increasingly more difficult. I decided that I needed to take the time to pursue my case to the fullest extent possible. This meant ending my internship at Marie Claire a month early and watching the KLEAN disband.
I threw myself entirely into my case, knowing I could not stay on campus for another year with the person who had assaulted and abused me. I am proud to say that he was found responsible for two counts of sexual misconduct and eventually was suspended.
A few years have passed since that crazy awful shit-show and looking back, the KLEAN was not ready. More importantly, I was not ready. After the election this year, I felt this intuitive feeling that the KLEAN was not yet done. I was having problems getting out of bed and was going through a depressive period (I have been diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder). I had talked to several other friends of mine-several of whom are also survivors - who were having similar issues: not being able to eat, feeling unsafe, isolating themselves, etc. One friend actually vomited after seeing the election results....
To quell our feelings of complete terror the day after the election, we went to this fantastic restaurant called Blockheads. Our post election tonic was to talk it out over tequila shots. Every time we started to get sad/angry/upset/anxious/confused we ordered another shot so we could continue talking. At least three or four shots were ordered that night. Shout out to our waiter Zeus for putting up with us! Thoroughly intoxicated, I realized how badly we needed to talk like this and the impact of creating such a space.
This entire project is a tapestry of the women I have known, women who have moved me through the toughest periods, and is a testament to that incredible power. In this magazine I want to celebrate women we actually know and learn more about ways that women are living today. Part of my frustration with most magazines today is that there is a narrative being created that does not reflect the lives of almost any of the women I know. We read about of extraordinary people pretending to be ordinary but we don’t talk enough about the exceptionality of everyday women. In this publication we will feature: the women we know, women we meet, and women from the past who deserve more of our attention. We are all a part of that shared history. Its our choice about how we want to place ourselves in that narrative and the actions we decide to take.
The KLEAN is a space that lives in the digital world but its purpose is to create real world communities. I want the KLEAN to be a home for women to find comfort, understanding, and most importantly a good laugh. There’s nothing I love better than a dinner party with a great group of women and here we are doing just that!
—Margot Mayer, KLEAN Editor-in-Chief
Helen America's Recollection
I first met Margot in September of 2014 - she was about to move to London for her semester abroad and our mutual friend brought her by my apartment. Our friend had told me that she was working on “something” that I might be interested in, but she didn’t formally approach me about the Klean until a few weeks later.
I don’t really remember the formal “pitch” moment, only that by October/November of that year we were in the thick of it - ideas were flying. I was researching zine printing at McNally Jackson. But we didn’t even have formal staff, or really an outline of what the hell was going on!
After her semester abroad ended, Margot came and crashed on my couch for a few days and we spent a lot of time wandering around New York, talking about the project. The ideas we had were radical, and amazing, but when 2015 came around, it fell apart. We kept in contact, and stayed friends (Margot’s 21st birthday celebration coincided with the news that she had won her case against her ex-boyfriend. I came up to Poughkeepsie and we had a blast!) but the Klean had seemingly died.
In the time since, I wrote my thesis, graduated from Barnard College and moved back home to Los Angeles to start my post-collegiate life. By December of 2016, spiritually hungover from the recent election and aimless as far as adult life was concerned, I made a pit stop in New York to visit my friends after a weekend of Art Basel Miami Beach revelry (you are welcome to think that I’m an asshole after reading that sentence. I won’t blame you.) Margot sent me a text that she wanted to get together to discuss reviving the Klean. And with that, here we are…
JuicY Meat, Stinky Sweet
Ah, the meat and cheese board; an emblem of indulgence and celebration, the centerpiece of any sumptuous social gathering. This sociality is key – no one eats a charcuterie and cheese plate alone. Sure, you can totally eat cheese and cured meats alone. If you don’t already, you probably should. But the cheese plate is an intrinsically communal entity. It’s collaborative; when we cut into a wheel of brie or break off a hunk of parmesan, there is an expectation that the people sitting around the table with us will help themselves, too. This is why, when assembling our own platter, we decided to extend that invitation a bit further, by serving our cheeses, charcuterie, and accoutrements on a ouija board, thereby summoning femmes past, present, and future to join in the feast.
INCANTATION FOR THE PERFECT PLATE
Drunken goat cheese, black wax-coated aged goat cheddar, melty-gooey mont d'or, cured meats made from fuck boi's past, plump red grapes, crisp apples, candied nuts, a honeypot. Enjoy with reckless abandon; chase with Lactaid.
DRUNKEN GOAT: Semi-firm, sweet and smooth, this Spanish Cabra al Vino is wonderful layered atop apple slices and paired with medium-bodied, fruity reds.
VACHERIN MONT D'OR: Decadent, delectable, ooey-gooey spreadable joy. This incredibly soft and rich thermalized cow's milk cheese is just scrumptious smeared on good bread or crackers and paired with an aromatic, sweet white wine.
CHÈVRE NOIR: This Canadian black beauty is an aged goat's milk cheddar, coated in a layer of ebony wax that makes it a showstopper on any plate. Firm, crumbly, and nutty, this baby is best with something soft and sweet, like pears or dried apricots, and an earthy, full red.
You don't need an infinite budget to create infinite combinations. Markets with more robust cheese selections will often offer promotions on featured crackers, nuts, charcuterie, and other accompaniments. Throw together a combination of salty, sweet, crunchy, and soft. Also, be sure to bear in mind the different ways these cheese sidekicks can serve as vehicles for the main event. Some dippers, some firm, flat surfaces for layering and spreading, and a some stuff to chase with. When it comes to meats, we leave it up to you... the more the meatier ;)
Goals for the Publication
I can't wait to get the site off the ground and publish our first editorial issue! For me, my process has always been to create then revise and rework. Every idea, in theory, seems cohesive and well thought out but it my experience until you have actually created content or produced a shoot, you can’t predict the outcome. I think part of what is exciting is that we are a group of women working together to create something new and as part of that journey changes will be made and concepts will evolve.
Once the site is up and running, will be to expand the voice and reach of the Klean. Our team is very small right now and by no means complete. I can't wait to add other members with voices different from my own. It's not only something I want to do but something that is essential to the fundamentals of the project.
In the near future I plan on organizing events with our various contributors to expand the reach of our individual communities. I want to yank millennials out of the digital space and get us to become more actively involved in our physical world. Whether that means providing a space to create signs for a protest, having a call party to give our senators a piece of our mind, or getting a group of women together for a night of self-care.
My personal goals for the Klean are pretty simple right now… considering its history, I’ll be ecstatic to see it up and running in a capacity beyond our massive team Google Drive. I’d love to get more contributors going here in LA, and beyond, because I don’t think that the Klean should rest so heavily on the personalities of a few people - it will be stronger with a broader range of voices. Eventually get some dollars invested, so we can pay our contributors (and ourselves!!!)
But mostly, my goal is to get something up and running that will be read by strangers. I think that once people I don’t know start getting into it, I’ll know we’ve made contact with a broader audience.