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2008 Interviews : Sugar Plum Fairy Interview

Christmas Interview with the Sugar Plum Fairy

By Molly Anderson-Childers

Fairy TalesThe Sugar Plum Fairy, first popularized in "The Nutcracker," is an interesting figure. Granted the power to make wishes come true, and charged with creating visions of sugar-plums to dance in the heads of sweetly sleeping children, it might seem at a first glance that her life is carefree and happy, a simple existence in an enchanted land. But further research into this evocative creature's more recent adventures reveals that life in a magical kingdom isn't all it's cracked up to be. According to certain sources, she left the land of Sugar Plum Fairies behind to strike out on her own a few years ago, and never looked back. What happened? Why did she leave the Land of Sweets behind in favor of the human world, seeking real life and love on the streets of LA and New York?

Lou Reed's famous song, "Walk on the Wild Side," reveals a darker side of this sweet fairy's tale:

Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets
Lookin' for soul food and a place to eat
Went to the Apollo
You should've seen 'em go go go
They said Hey Sugar,
Take a walk on the wild side…

It certainly paints a different picture than I had first imagined: a joyful, sweet fairy, granting wishes in a land of candy-canes and gingerbread. After years of dancing in puffy costumes and dancing with handsome princes, Sugar Plum Fairy rebelled against her lot in life, and decided to make her own wishes come true, for a change. She was sick of mistletoe and eggnog and nutcrackers, and tired of living "The Perfect Christmas Fantasy" all year round.

When I finally tracked down the Sugar Plum Fairy, she was living in a basement apartment on New York's Lower East Side. We met at a tiny soul food restaurant near her place, where, she told me, "They make the best chicken fried steak in the world!" We settled in at a rickety corner table, and I began the interview by asking her the question that mystified me most. When asked why she abandoned the Land of Sweets for this place, which is anything but, she explained that she wanted to experience "the grit and grime of real life, not candy-cane forests and gingerbread houses."

"I wanted to see subways…parking lots…taxicabs…junkies in the park…graffiti scrawled on brick walls…bag ladies talking to themselves on street corners. When you're raised as a Sugar Plum Fairy, you're only allowed to see the silver lining, not the cloud. It's not all sweet dreams and dancing with handsome princes, you know. There's a real focus on perfection, on keeping a smile on your face no matter what. Imagine always being 'on'— constantly watched and judged by the other fairies. Who has the brightest wings, or the pointiest ears, or the smallest feet. It's sickening. This type of competition gave me some serious body-image issues, and I ended up in therapy. I had a hard time making friends — the other fairies were jealous because I got to dance with the handsome prince." She sighed and lit a cigarette. "I didn't have the heart to tell them he was gay — he only had eyes for The Nutcracker."

We both laughed at this, and she flagged down the waiter to order more coffee. She drank it black — no cream or sugar — which was also a surprise.

"I'm so sick of figgy pudding and eggnog and candy canes and sweet things I could puke," she said cheerfully, announcing that she never ever wanted to eat anything sweet again, having been raised on candy and Christmas cookies.

"That's why I like this place. You can get grits, red-eye gravy, cornbread, collard greens, hot biscuits with real butter…in the Land of Sweets, there is no decent soul food. In fact, there's no soul food at all. Cotton candy, yes. Barbecued ribs, no."

We laughed together, and then she said: "Besides, it's a beautiful concept, isn't it? Food for the soul…"

"I heard you were in L.A. for awhile, before New York. What did you think of Los Angeles?" I asked.

"I tried it for a couple months, but I was miserable there," Sugar Plum Fairy admitted. "It was pretty, but completely fake — like a beautiful wax apple with a worm inside. I had to find something real, you know?" She leaned forward, eyes burning, intense.

"Yes. I do," I said simply, then asked, "Why did you leave the Land of Sweets? And why did you finally choose New York as your new home?"

"I left because I felt like I was going insane. Do you know what it's like to have to smile all day, every day? It's bad enough granting wishes, that's a real pain in the ass, but the constant smiling is enough to drive anyone nuts. In New York, you don't have to smile unless you feel like it. I had to wear a mask all the time, a happy-face mask, to cover up my true feelings. You know what people expect from Sugar Plum Fairies: always cheerful and kind, always generous and good, completely selfless…it's exhausting.

"L.A. didn't work for me at all. I felt I was required to wear a different sort of mask entirely — but it was a mask all the same. The 'Blonde Bimbo' mask, I'll call it, for lack of a better term. I felt suffocated, depressed, claustrophobic. There's so much emphasis on surfaces, being pretty-on-the-outside. In the Land of Sweets, something that separated me from the other Sugar Plum Fairies was my ability to see beauty in the ugly, real, dark and grim parts of life, as well as in the more 'traditionally beautiful' things they valued, like puffy dresses and Christmas trees. This made it impossible for me to fit in back at home…not to mention in L.A., the Kingdom of Cosmetic Surgery.

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