Blue Blood was launched by Amelia G in 1992. The counterculture lifestyle magazine was the first to widely showcase the beauty and sensuality of the emerging eclectic underground populated by gothic, punk and pre-Internet cyberculture. "Back then, it was radical to say that a girl with purple hair and a nose ring was sexy and not just a freak show," Amelia G points out. "I think Blue Blood has helped change perceptions; it's broadened the definition of what's sexy." Indeed, the seminal magazine played a formative role in determining what we think of as a hip, urban, sexy lifestyle today.
Back in the days when World Wide Web was just starting to become a household term, Blue Blood's initial Net presence was a bare-bones promotional site with a few pictures from the groundbreaking magazine of counterculture erotica, information about contributors and teasers for upcoming issues. "At some point, scavengers starting taking the pictures from the site and posting them on what were some of the earliest paid-membership sites," Amelia G recalls. "People were stealing our stuff and making that their business," says Blue Blood art director Forrest Black, whose official tenure began with issue #3 of the magazine. "We realized pretty quickly that we needed to make that our business and do it in a serious way in order to protect what we cared so much about."
BlueBlood.net was launched as an entertainment portal covering music, fashion and events (it remains the non-adult-oriented incarnation of the Blue Blood brand). Frustrated by the limitations of freelance work and encouraged by the creative community blossoming around their project, Amelia G and Forrest Black spun off the alternative erotica sites GothicSluts.com and BarelyEvil.com around the turn of the millennium. GothicSluts.com is the more likely of the two to feature corsetry, fishnets and heavy eyeliner. Asked about the name, Amelia G explains, "It's partly about the transgressive, punk-rock humor of it, but it's mostly about reclaiming terminology; it's for all the women who ever got called sluts for owning their sexuality." BarelyEvil.com has more of what Forrest Black describes as a "crazy-punk-rock-arsonist-bad-girl" feel. He says both sites were created as showcases for the extraordinary, aggressively sexual club girls and uniquely beautiful rebellious individuals he and Amelia G met, not only on the local Washington, D.C. punk scene, but also in their travels far and wide.
Now based in Los Angeles, Amelia G and Forrest Black have recently aggregated all Blue Blood-related content under the aegis of BlueBlood.com, which is as fiercely independent as its components. Unlike some of the imitators Blue Blood has spawned, it has always operated independently - no corporate funding, no venture capital, despite many such offers - so as to preserve the integrity of its mission.
As a result, Blue Blood, Gothic Sluts, Barely Evil, Rubber Dollies (comely lasses in latex couture), Sweetest Drop (shadowy boys) and various other offshoots remain pure manifestations of a growing, tight-knit community committed to self-discovery, self-expression, questioning of the status quo and generally shaking things up.
Moreover, for Amelia G and Forrest Black, community is not limited to BlueBlood.com's tattooed, pierced and colorfully coifed photographic subjects and their fans; it extends to the couples and even families who've grown up in this demimonde. "You should be able to embrace adult life without giving up everything you enjoy," says Amelia G. "You don't have to stop being who you are to be part of society." Forrest Black puts it this way: "You can stop living in your mother's basement and excel in your career and still keep your edge, and it's good to have a community to come home to that supports that."
Amelia G began to make her presence known in D.C. in 1990 when she started hand-distributing her snarky punk-rock zine, Black Leather Times. Having just graduated from Wesleyan University - her thesis was titled "Cross-Cultural and Historical Vampire Legends as a Paradigm for Aggressive Human Sexuality" - she found herself drawn into the D.C. punk scene, which integrated several of her passions. In the mid-Atlantic, the dissident music milieu was also ground zero for the local fandom network, which Amelia G had been exploring via the convention circuit since her teen years, and to a lesser extent the fetish community. "The D.C. underground was a huge source of inspiration for Blue Blood," she says. "I wanted to share that multifaceted lifestyle with the world."
Amelia G also found inspiration in the punk-rock group house where she lived, a legendary creative hotbed called Cambodia that provided quarters to as many as 13 pals (and any number of couch surfers). She met Forrest Black at a gothic-industrial club while she was working on some music journalism. He soon began contributing art and design to BLT and moved into Cambodia.
Born in a haunted house with 13 black cats, Forrest Black came to D.C. from San Francisco. Though he received no formal training in design - instead earning degrees in computer science and project management - Forrest Black was raised in an artistic environment, his aesthetic sensibility galvanized by San Francisco street culture and the coalescing SF punk scene. The flyers Forrest Black made for Cambodia's epic parties were resume enough for Amelia G. "I always thought of Blue Blood as a showcase for untapped talent," she notes, "and I was thrilled by Forrest's multitude of abilities."
She says the primary impetus behind Blue Blood was going to the newsstand and not seeing a magazine for people like her. Amelia G struck a chord with Blue Blood because the idea was to celebrate all the cool people she was discovering and to provide an alternative to the homogenized sex titles then populating magazine racks. Amelia G and Forrest Black's desire to share their findings with others - to shine a spotlight on not only the "it" girls, boys and couples they capture in the stylish photos they've been publishing for more than a decade, but also the work of other photographers, writers and artists - is a cornerstone of BlueBlood's mandate.
And Amelia G and Forrest Black don't just share the content wealth; they share the actual wealth. Their SpookyCash.com affiliate and banner-exchange programs enable like-minded online impresarios to benefit from Blue Blood traffic and vice versa. "The banner program facilitates 3,000-plus sites trading banners on fair terms," Forrest Black affirms. "And many of the Blue Blood girls who have their own sites, blogs and journals make a lot of money through our affiliate arrangement," which sees Blue Blood splitting affiliate-referred subscription proceeds on a 50/50 basis. The respect inherent in these business practices, coupled with Amelia G and Forrest Black's personal conduct, has spared Blue Blood the charges of exploitation leveled at some of their competitors.
It's not surprising that Blue Blood's network of friends and supporters has grown exponentially. Amelia G and Forrest Black's credibility as the godmother and godfather of counterculture erotica is based partly on the quality of their productions, but mostly on their honest enjoyment of the culture and longstanding commitment to sharing with the world what they see as it's finest and most beautiful points. Blue Blood's editorial voice has always been intelligent and irreverent, compelling and cheekily funny. And though the Web destination boasts more than 103670 images, there is an emphasis on quality over quantity, with multiple photos of only the most exceptional subjects, rendered with uncompromising glamour, careful attention to lascivious detail and rare insight into the persons depicted.
Ever since it's inception, Blue Blood has been about taking an inclusive view towards a wide variety of what could be considered fringe cultures, melding them, and sharing the best, most creative, and most inspiring aspects of them all. There is no unified look, no uniforms handed out at the clubhouse door. Blue Blood has always brought a great and eclectic mix of creative cultures together. Clearly, these ideals hold broad appeal, as Blue Blood's fans and supporters have always been an impressive mix of both men and women from a variety of backgrounds with diverse attitudes. Some are new to their scene, be it gothic, punk, deathrock, fandom, fetish, or otherwise; other's came of age during Siouxsie Sioux's heyday and the dawn of the punk rebellion and even the golden age of comic books. All value a dark but vibrant aesthetic orientation and an open mind. Many would be considered seekers, reflecting Amelia G and Forrest Black's own penchant for discovery.
"What's most important to me is to communicate to other people that it's okay to feel the way they feel; it's okay to embrace their outsider status and learn to prize what makes them unique. And we want people to have some fun - despite the stereotype, being depressed is not our resting state," says Amelia G, adding: "For many years, we did this for personal expression and to foster the community, and I have to admit there were definitely sacrifices made for art. We never compromised our integrity for a buck, and I'm still really proud of that. There was an activist element to what we were doing, and that kept us going." Amelia G's gale-force of will and the tenacity she and Forrest Black share likewise kept them on track when cash-flow was barely a trickle.
She and Forrest Black continue to express themselves and cultivate their community through BlueBlood and it's various offshoot projects. Their staunch independence ensures that they will be able to celebrate that community - on their own terms - for many years to come.