How many times have you been misunderstood or judged without cause? A lot of us have… but when it’s your career or your business, that’s an entirely different kind of wrong! We live in an instant reaction society and the old responding society – where we would listen, we would observe and we would learn, seems to be trampled on and replaced by a digital mass of opinions. We (they) get our news from the internet and we/they swallow it like a vitamin. The world is changing but it’s not all bad.
Naughty is acceptable amongst the water cooler conversations these days and even the word ‘kink’ has been tossed around when nobody was listening. As we evolve, so does our language and experimentation. We’re pushing the envelope in sports, drugs, Rock n Roll and sexual fetishes… right? I feel like I lost a couple of you, so I’ll wait. We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘what happens in your bedroom is your business’, so why are we still painting sex workers all with the same brush? Although millions are participating on their computers with the curtains closed and the music up, we can all agree that there is a need for sexual escapism, for porn, for role play and for a dominatrix!
“It’s just a job I do”, doesn’t just pertain to the cop handing you a ticket or the artist selling his paintings – it can also apply to a dominatrix too. Whistler might have showed up with bells, but it also had a leather whip in the bag. A Wicked Eden is a documentary, starring Alexandra Snow, Daddy Des, Alexis Kim and Sydney Lee. If you’ve ever wanted to be a fly on the wall, there’s no need to track down a mad scientist with an experimental machine, you can just watch the film… it’s much easier. The film is still available on the WFF website until Dec. 31. I had the luxury of watching this film and it really answered a laundry basket of questions that I had… for a friend of mine.
As it turns out, men that seek out a dominatrix do it in private because they’re either too embarrassed to share their kink with their partner or the partner can’t put themselves into the shoes of the dominating one. It’s all very simple and acceptable once you begin to peel away the layers. Don’t judge until you’ve observed and listened is what Wicked Eden is saying. Open the closed mind and invite the curious, the unabashed, the free and the anonymous. Your secret is safe with them and you can trust them entirely… imagine the possibilities.
This film was directed by multi-talented anomaly Naddine Madell, known for Who Is Whiley Oakes and The Parent Council. Naddine has had her finger on the pulse of women’s issues and rights forever. She wants to flip the script on labelling and what femininity looks like through multiple lenses. A Wicked Eden found its place in the Whistler Film Festival because the crowd needed an education and they needed a reality check.
I was extremely fortunate to speak with the director Naddine Madell and dominatrix star and founder of A Wicked Eden, Alexandra Snow. They were absolutely fabulous, roll the tape!
HNMAG “How was the idea of this film conceived?”
NADDINE “It really stemmed from all things I’d learned about in 2015/2016 – the rape and murder of an Indigenous woman in Edmonton, where her murderer was acquitted in a Calgary courthouse, using the ‘rough sex’ defense. Then there was the Jian Ghomeshi trials in 2016 and I think I shot the Safe Haven prostitution commercial then. All of the things I was experiencing and learning about. I then went to Las Vegas and had attended a film festival just outside of LV, which is where I had met several people loosely connected or not connected at all, to brothels… the oppression of women. I knew that there had to be women out there working in the sex industry that felt empowered and were making a choice. I chatted and networked, I found out how brothels worked… before more conversations had led me to Alex. I hadn’t seen anything on TV or film that represented the sex workers voice authentically or where it wasn’t marginalized. The negative and salacious side had predominantly been the focus and I wanted to explore the other side.”
HNMAG “What was the conversation like Alex, once Naddine had reached out to you about the idea of a documentary?”
ALEX “It’s certainly not the first time I’ve been approached to do a documentary. This was probably the third time and before that I’ve had 4-5 offers to do a reality show. I always say no to them, because as you know – the media likes to use us as sensation pieces rather than human beings. It’s always out of context and it’s never represented by a sex workers voice; instead, it’s always about a sex worker to be consumed by the media. I was really impressed with Naddine and the approach they were taking and I was impressed that she was willing to give me full veto power over anything that I thought was incorrect in the film – which was huge.”
HNMAG “Naddine, considering this is a delicate subject to cover, would you have used a small crew, made up of all-females?”
NADDINE “Yes, that was part of the whole pitch. I felt it was very important to have our crew all female and I was able to do that – with the exception of our sound person but he’s definitely one of the gals (laughing). Filling the role of a sound person with a female is hard, but I’ve worked with Alex Mitchell in Calgary on multiple projects before. He’s lovely, he’s very helpful and when he told me he would do it, I was over the moon.”
HNMAG “What has the audience reaction been to this film?”
NADDINE “Quite positive and surprising because people do see things in the media but after they hear their voices and learn who these women really are, they think they’re awesome human beings and a human connection is made. I wanted to explore my curiosity about the profession and how eye-opening it’s been. These women are smart, they’re businesswomen and exceptional human beings; I think the audience is seeing that.”
ALEX “We did a private viewing for a sex worker retreat and many of my friends and colleges were there. I was quite nervous about it, because sex workers are the harshest critics on these things, but the response has been overwhelming. There were people crying in the audience, so for me – I felt like we were doing this the right way.”
HNMAG “What would be some of the more common questions from the audience?”
ALEX “The question I get asked most from the fans and external people is, ‘what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?’ I try not to answer those questions. From the audience though, we’ve gotten asked about the ethics of the film and if there will be others, which always feels encouraging.”
HNMAG “After watching this film, I could definitely see a sequel or series produced, to continue the conversation and to continue to demystify the profession. Have you considered the idea?”
ALEX “I believe we might be heading toward a short series.”
HNMAG “Having been a dominatrix for a number of years now, do you ever get recognized on the street?”
ALEX “Oh sure. I seldom think that I’m recognized in my own city but it’s usually when I’m travelling. I do try to travel fairly incognito (plain hoodie, sweats) and usually wear sunglasses. If people do recognize me, they’re not likely to come up and tell me, ‘I’ve been jerking off to you for the past decade.’ Not usually a conversation starter, but I’ll get the emails later. I do get recognized by other sex workers, especially if I’m travelling in Las Vegas or LA, and that feels pretty good.”
HNMAG “Was it initially difficult to shut off the character of the dominatrix after leaving the dungeon/studio and going home?”
ALEX “In the beginning, I would say that I didn’t fully understand the depth and complexity of the person that I was allowed to be. I thought that I had to maintain a strict image and voice that matched the fantasy character that I was playing. In fact, when I first began, my tagline was Winter without remorse! However, if you get to know me, it’s not at all who I am. I’m a warm, loving and encouraging kind of person. It took me the better part of 5 years before I became frustrated enough, from not having the choice to personalize any of my brand. I slowly started to do so but my ex was probably the loudest voice behind the direction of the company. I was young and didn’t know any better, so once I found my voice, I also found my professional voice. I began to say ‘No, I’m not really into that.’ The longer you do anything, the easier it is to let it go… but as an entrepreneur, I don’t think I ever stop working.”
In one of the scenes in A Wicked Eden, Alex pulls out a unicorn patterned dress from her closet. It truly shows a stark contrast between dominatrix and girl next door. Naddine also mentions the dress.
NADDINE “That unicorn dress is a fan favourite. When I finished the rough cut for some filmmakers, the dress came up at least 3 times. People were like, ‘Oh my god, that unicorn dress is amazing! Whatever you do, don’t take it out.’ Of course, I knew that it was staying in 100 percent.”
HNMAG “Being a dominatrix seems to play into a lot of psychology. Are you any closer to discovering why men would seek out a dominatrix?”
ALEX “There’s a lot of psychology in seeking out a dominatrix. It is a great place to experience and explore different parts of their sexuality that they otherwise couldn’t, in front of their partner because they weren’t comfortable or felt shame with. We are the neutral zone inside the warfare of someone’s head. The other aspect to this is, that our culture is starting to catch up. We see a dominatrix in the news media, in the movies and even the representation of them is changing. I get more requests for Mr. and Mrs. Smith than I do for Catwoman. The more the world becomes disconnected from the use of digital communication, the more there is a hunger for personal connection. Since I do straddle both the online world and the offline, it offers them an entrance to experience something, without having to necessarily commit to a lifestyle.”
HNMAG “Are you still performing as a dominatrix or are you focussing all efforts on running the company?”
ALEX “I am still an in-person dominatrix and am still a fetish-media producer. I’m slowly phasing out my POV videos. I just finished my 2800th video clip and 2800 of anything is a lot. I’d like to move into a more cinematic style of storytelling that’s adult related that empowers more women in the medium.”
HNMAG “Naddine, what have you learned most about this profession in making this film?”
NADDINE “I’ve learnt so much about the profession but am no means an expert. I’ve learned quite a bit about running a business (laughing) to be honest. I remember a lot of discussions around banking, different accounts, taxes and listening to Alex talk to Raevyn about. I questioned why we weren’t taught this in school and why I was just learning of it now. I also learned a lot about life in general, myself and humans. I love humans, I love psychology and I love learning what makes people tick. I learned a lot about it and I’m very grateful.”
ALEX “I’d like to add, that I have a background in Sexual subversive psychology from John Hopkins; it’s where I started but I certainly haven’t stopped since. One of the biggest reasons for someone to see a dominatrix is because of the fantasy of not being in control. When in a submissive role, your familiarity with your partner can disrupt that fantasy. If your fantasy is to be treated harshly/cruelly by someone, within the context of the fantasy itself and you’re trying to do that with your partner – after eating dinner and snuggling after watching a movie together… it can seem a little disjointed and your partner may have a hard time stepping into that role because it’s so different. When you see someone that specializes in it, although there is a connection – it allows them the separation to explore it.”
HNMAG “Naddine, how long did you shadow Alex and the other employees in the making of this film?”
NADDINE “We first started in July of 2016 before going to Columbus in January of 2017 and then onto Las Vegas. I was building a relationship with Alex, Des and Jackie throughout the year, as well as planning and going down 4 times to film in 2018, which is when we filmed the bulk of the film, with a couple of pickup shoots.”
ALEX “I would like to add, that it was initially awkward in the beginning, being followed around by a camera. They would tell me to act natural; I hadn’t acted natural in front of a camera in my life – it’s not a skill that I have.”
NADDINE “It was kind of funny, because Kara and I really got to know Alex and when we watched the footage, we would point out when we could see Alex coming out or we’d see Jamie (real name) and we could see the difference in the footage. It was amazing, especially being able to see her in person.”
ALEX “In general, I am a huge goofball and I’ve only gotten goofier as I’ve gotten older. It took me the better part of a year before I started to open up to the team and especially the interviews.”
HNMAG “What is your hope for audiences to walk away with after watching this film?”
ALEX “My biggest hope is that some of their misconceptions and stigmas around sex work will begin to crumble a little bit. I’m hoping they’ll have a more open mind when it comes to sex work regulation or issues that we face. Most of 2021 was met with enormous financial discrimination. After the pandemic hit, there were record numbers of people entering the sex industry, primarily through ‘only fan’s’. Part of what I was doing was providing these classes in workshops. For the audience watching this, chances are that you already know someone that is a sex worker or does some sort of sex work… and now they can have more open conversations about it and see it through a new lens. That’s when we make the best change, when there’s a personal connection.”
HNMAG “I like to end most interviews with a fun question. If you could own a ride at Disneyland, which ride would it be?”
NADDINE “I’m completely unfamiliar with any of the rides at Disneyland. I do want to go because I haven’t gone since I was 12… so I have no idea – maybe Splash Mountain? Is that a ride?”
ALEX “(Laughing) I’m a little biased here because I don’t think any of their rides qualify as rollercoasters. Here in Ohio, we have Cedar Point, which is the number 1 coaster park in the world. They have one ride with heavy metal music playing through the headrests and it has a very sensory deprivation quality to it. You’re rocking through space with music pumping in your ears, that’s probably me.”
HNMAG “Everyone’s done karaoke at one time or another, what’s your jam?”
ALEX “It’s all you Naddine.”
NADDINE “Mine is Pat Benatar and I have more than one song that I do. It’s probably been a decade, but I’ve done Invincible, Hit Me With Your Best Shot and one more… I think We Are Young. I go Pat Benatar every time.”
ALEX “I’ve done karaoke… on two occasions and 1 was because of a bet that I lost. The second time, I had a lot of sake, so if there’s enough manipulation involved. I have a tremendous number of skills and talent… but singing is not one of them. I would prefer not to torture my friends (laughing).”
What a great conversation and education. Naughty is not necessarily a bad thing when done in a controlled environment, and why shouldn’t you be allowed to express your deepest darkest fantasies to a professional that’s been open-minded for much longer than the rest of us.