“I don’t sleep.”
That’s how Mandy McGee says she fits in all the creative projects she juggles on a weekly basis. McGee is a photographer, burlesque dancer, DJ, blogger and “crazy cat lady,” among other things.
“I have so many projects and things that I want to accomplish that really, I can’t see myself only doing one thing,” McGee said. “It’s not how I’m built; it’s not how my brain works.”
McGee’s passion comes from her interest in storytelling.
“I like telling stories,” she said. “Most artists do like telling stories — even if it’s like a moving picture or a still shot or a painting, there’s a story there.”
McGee’s primary passion, photography, began when she was growing up in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
“I was always stealing my grandparents’ camera to take photos of random things,” she said. “Then my grandpa gave me his old Canon AE-1 Program, and then it bloomed from there.”
McGee joined her high school’s photography club and became drawn to the darkroom, where she could work with chemicals and watch something she created come to life. She later became a photographer for Warped Tour during her college years. After graduating from Northern Virginia Community College, she decided it was time to get out of Virginia.
“So I moved to Seattle. It will be nine years in November,” McGee said. “Even though I basically had to start over and it’s taken me a long time to make my way around the city and do the things I do now, I’m in a much better place than I was in Virginia.”
While attending The Art Institute of Seattle for commercial photography, McGee and a couple other students were asked to take stills for the Lynn Shelton’s “$5 Cover: Seattle,” an MTV show that involved local bands.
“I was like, ‘I’m in heaven. I get to photograph musicians and also learn how to photograph around filming,’” McGee said.
McGee’s photography has continued to branch into different directions – she mostly photographs bands, but also does editorial work, such as photographing weddings, families and babies.
McGee’s interest in burlesque started when she volunteered to model nude for a photographer friend. It was for an Art Institute class project focused on the shape and form of the body.
“I was never really comfortable with my body,” McGee said. “And I was like ‘Okay, I think I’m getting used to being naked. This is kind of fun because it doesn’t have to pornographic or anything.’ Not that there’s anything wrong with porn, but for me, I was just trying to get comfortable in my own skin, and it was actually helping.”
In 2010, she met Seattle burlesque dancer Betty Fish, who encouraged her to get involved and create her own act. So she did.
People often incorporate their own talents into their act, such as belly dancing or sketch comedy. It took McGee some time to develop her character, but then she realized she could use her ballet dancing background into her act.
“I was like, ‘What other skills do I have? My ballet. Duh.'”
Now, she develops her acts around her ballet and being on pointe, which her friend from Atropa Productions calls “ballet-esque.”
“Being on stage, you can’t shrink yourself. You have to be big and bold and use your body and all your skills that you have. So I incorporate my ballet skills into it.”
McGee also DJs, a hobby she formed in Virginia where she’d take over her friends’ music playlists at parties.
In Seattle, she DJs on the second Thursday of every month at Goth club Mercury at Machinewerks.
“I call it Transmission – if you know Joy Division, you know why I named it that,” she said.
She correlated it with the community event Blitz Capitol Hill Arts Walk because she also curates Mercury at Machinewerks’ art wall. With her DJ partner, McGee plays shoegaze, post-punk, “the old school Goth stuff.”
McGee enjoys DJing because she exposes people to music that might not have heard otherwise.
“I’m so heavily involved in the Seattle music scene that I know a lot of the local bands and so I like sharing the music, and DJing is one way to get that out there.”
In high school, McGee participated in a program where students were able to write for the local newspaper’s magazine insert called “It Magazine.” Punk musician Dave Smalley — former lead singer of bands DYS, Dag Nasty, All, and Down by Law — was one of McGee’s mentors.
Today, McGee runs her own blog called “Extollere,” where she reviews concerts and albums, promotes art gallery openings, and interviews independent artists.
“I’m always trying to push independent arts, so I started the blog with that intention,” she said.
Other projects McGee is involved in can be found here:
Photographer, Web Design, PR:
PR, Content Contributor: