“Just be cute and don’t worry.” That’s the life motto of Sydney-based artist Bei Badgirl. Known for her distinctive style, Bei has toured the world with her exhibitions featuring body positive femme fatales and her favourite fantasy figures — mermaids. Her unique feminine, candy style has allowed her to collaborate with big name brands like Hello Kitty, My Little Pony and Red Bull, and the multi crafted artist has just stretched her talents to a new endeavour – jewellery. Seem that a carefree kawaii attitude has payed off for this particular self-described “Merdashian”.
How would you describe your style?
Cartoon Merdashian, sometimes with a little vintage Playboy bunny.
Do you have any consistent messages that you’re trying to convey with your work?
I love keeping it fun, sexy and playful, and paying attention to smaller details. I love drawing thick babes. I’m really influenced by [Takashi Murakami’s] Superflat movement, as well as my tastes, obsessions, and life experiences. I tend not to overthink my work – but I’ve come to realise that in itself it conveys strong messages to do with body positivity, female sexuality and kawaii intent.
You paint a lot of mermaids. What fascinates you about them?
I love mermaids – I could go on about this forever but in short I love that they are fantasies, representations of women, and total femme fatales. I also love their aesthetic – demure, flowing hair, and beautiful curves.
Your artwork and lifestyle seem heavily intertwined, how do you separate one from the other?
Where does your aesthetic sense come from?
The origin definitely lies in anime – I was raised in a strict Chinese household so I spent most of my time locked up watching cartoons and playing video games. As an adult, I’m inspired by a lot of different spaces and people – I travel constantly! I love the internet. I go through small and large obsessions constantly, so it shifts.
Have you always been so body positive?
No! Actually I had eating disorders in high school. I love my body now. I think mainstream media, especially in Australia, really needs to catch up and start celebrating different body shapes and sizes. Considering that most people don’t look the same it seems crazy that what’s considered “normal” or “ideal” is just the one body type. We are pretty much conditioned to doubt ourselves, or feel like we shouldn’t love ourselves, but women need to learn to trust themselves and feel confident, happy, and love their bodies no matter what media tells them!
You stated David LaChapelle to be one of your earliest influences. What drew you to him at such a young age?
I didn’t have a very Australian upbringing so I couldn’t relate to stuff like Dolly or Girlfriend magazine, which was what everyone else was head down in at the time. The internet wasn’t like how it is now, although I still relied on it heavily. I kept creating art and becoming more immersed in my own world – I was definitely the art weirdo in high school. One lunch time my art teacher at the time was like, “Bei, come here, I have something to show you,” and handed me Hotel LaChapelle. David LaChapelle’s super saturated, fun, sexy, pop glamour imagery was the first thing I could relate and belong to as a teen. He’s been my favourite photographer since then, and I’ve been lucky enough to have my picture taken by him.
Your art and style looks super Japanese influenced. What’s your favourite thing about Japanese culture and style?
I’ve been spending a lot of time in Japan – one of my favourite things about their culture is that “cute” has a place in the adult world, with proper intention. Japan stays playful. I think it hosts some of the best style in the world – the way their culture operates allows for people not to feel restricted fashion-wise, and everyone I meet is so sweet. I think because they haven’t given up on cuteness and whimsy it allows a lot more room to move. Having said that, their style isn’t just dolly faces and petticoats as Harajuku is usually solely represented – they have a huge spectrum of styles ranging from minimal and monotone right to the craziest and most colourful. A lot of it’s brand heavy, and all of it is on point.
What’s coming up for you?
I’ve just launched my store which features my luxe kawaii jewellery line. I also just collaborated with Hello Kitty for their 40th anniversary celebration in Los Angeles. I’ve got a few cool projects coming up… but you’ll have to stalk me to find out!