Luxury Music for Surplus People (Ep. 124 - Madonna & Prince)

What makes you feel ugly, and do you try to hide it or highlight it? My guest this week is Thomas Hårdell, a Danish student-teacher and musician. Growing up, he was told to blend in like a stalk of wheat, and to avoid standing out like an oak tree -- which is ironic, given that he's well over six feet tall. There were times that standing out put him at risk, like when a host family found out he was gay and left him stranded in a foreign country. But over time, he's learned that standing out and being an oak tree allows you to provide shelter for others.

By the way, if you're in London, come see me at Nine Worlds, the geek culture convention from August 4th to 6th. I'm doing a panel on cosplay and another on queer Star Trek characters. And then on Sunday, August 6th, I'm presenting video highlights from interviews with LGBT gamers -- that's part of my documentary project Playing with Pride, which is all about what happens when queer culture and game culture collide. You can get more info about the panel and the project at

Also -- throughout the month of July, The Sewers of Paris needs your nominations to win a Podcast Award. Just go to and nominate The Sewers of Paris in the LGBT category. It's open July 1 through July 31, so if you're enjoying the show I'd be very grateful if you could help it win a Podcast Award.

And a big thanks to everyone supporting the Sewers of Paris on Patreon, including brand new patrons Thomas, J, Patrick, and David. If you're enjoying the show, you can help keep it independent and ad-free with your pledge of support. Just go to and click support the show on Patreon.

This Week's Recommendation: Modelland

My recommendation this week is not going to be for everyone. But if the subject of beautiful ugliness and precious imperfection is of interest, you might want to take a look at Modelland, the fantasy novel written by Tyra Banks. Yup, as in America's Next Top Model Tyra Banks.

Modelland defies all explanation, expectation, and reason. It's long, and every page is more bizarre than the last. The story concerns a young girl named Tookie De La Creme who yearns to travel to a magical place called Modelland full of the prettiest girls, which are known as intoxibellas. Her mother, who is named Cremalatta Defacake, thinks she's ugly and imperfect because she happens to look just like Tyra Banks, which will doom her to a lifetime of being enslaved in a factory. But -- you can probably guess where this is going -- Tookie eventually discovers that her imperfections are what make her beautiful. 

But that platitude is not why you read Modelland. You read it for the legitimately batshit bizarre ideas of Tyra Banks, such as the magical power of being aged thirtynever. There's the time a character named Chris-Creme-Crobat blinds himself by bowing too deeply over a sword. Nurses have scissors growing out of their heads, and pretty boys live in a place called Bestosterone. Maybe the strangest thing of all is that Tyra said she worked so hard on the book her hair fell out.

Now, put yourself in her position for a moment: as strange as Modelland is, there's no denying Tyra's lived a bizarre life herself. She's been a profesional model since she was 15, which essentially means she's been paid exorbitant sums of money just to be looked at in strange locales all over the world since she was a child. What we get in her book is what she sees when she looks back at the world. And it's real strange, confusing, off-putting and imperfect -- but it's imperfections are what make it beautiful.

Clips of Stuff We Talked About


Parisian Kevin MacLeod (
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