Believe it or not, it's been five years since then-Durango High School student Sydney Spies was thrust into the national spotlight, making appearances on the Today show and numerous other outlets after her senior pictures were rejected for inclusion in the DHS yearbook because they were deemed too sexy. And she's got plenty to say about the experience and everything that's followed.
Today, Sydney and her mother, Miki, live in the Netherlands, where they are involved in various media-related enterprises outlined on their website, SpiesGirls.com, including pay-per-view web reality videos and the Miki-penned book Fashion a Fairytale: An Inspired Methodology for Manifesting Fantasies.
Still, passing the five-year mark of the controversy has put Sydney in a reflective mood, as she describes to Westword via e-mail exchanges accompanied by recent photos even less likely to win approval from a yearbook staff. As you'll see below, the images of Sydney, who refers to herself as a "spiritual care giver," range from subtly erotic to NSFW.
Here's the original shot Sydney submitted for the 2012 yearbook at Durango High.
The resulting uproar over the photo still feels fresh to Sydney, who reveals that "I am more passionate about the 'scandal' now than I was then."
In her view, "Society attempted to oppress me. They wished to tame my wild spirit. The majority of humanity told me I was not 'allowed' to be sexy. At the time, I thought the controversy was a legality issue about my freedom of expression. But the world only saw one thing: a young, seductive girl in a scandalous photograph."
She stresses that her battle over the photo "was never about my senior portrait being unfairly discriminated against by the administration. The real issue was that society did not want me to showcase my sexuality. "
How did critics respond to her self-advocacy? With extreme nastiness.
"Haters tried their very hardest to drag me down, to shame me," she recalls. "I received thousands of e-mails calling me a slut, a whore, telling me to 'just do porn,' etc."
Sydney adds that "the hateful messages came from diverse groups of people. Humanity is a fucking mess, particularly Americans. They are divided in many ways. They spew hate and judgement as a hobby. Sexuality surrounds us. Hollywood, advertising, the music industry use sex as a tool to sell."
Not that she rejects such an approach.
"Some would argue that is a bad thing, but it is not," she stresses. "We are all sensual beings. This piece of ourselves should never be repressed. When a woman like me flaunts her sexiness, the majority of our culture freaks out. Most do not object to a celebrity's sexual expression, but perish the thought that someone they know is free with theirs."
Over time, however, Sydney came to view the backlash differently.
"I am thankful for the vast amount of hate I received," she writes. "Without it, I would not have discovered my life calling. I am on a mission to raise the energetic vibration of the world. My mom, the only person that consistently supports and encourages me, is my business partner. We are best friends, life coaches and forces to be reckoned with. We are strong, brazen women. We own our beauty and sexuality. We walk in the fullness of our power. It is not a matter of being 'right' or 'wrong.' Good and evil is only perspective. It is an archaic ideal taught by religion as a method of control."
As for her own philosophy, she maintains that "everything is energy, and energy is everything. It is a vibrational frequency connecting all things. If mankind can come to recognize this fact, embrace the magick of the universe and release their negative habits and mindsets, the planet will be at peace. But until then, I will never conform to the close-minded majority, regardless of how I am treated. And I will always, always do what I please."
Although Miki and her daughter are happy living in a village outside of Amsterdam, "we have an inclination the States may be calling us back," Sydney allows. "As for SpiesGirls' upcoming projects, we are in communication with producers and network executives all over the globe. We are exploring ideas with creative and influential people about starring in a ‘buzzworthy’ reality show, documentary and/or talk show."
Meanwhile, Sydney stays connected with folks in the U.S. via social media, including Facebook. "My fan page mostly consists of men," she acknowledges, adding, "I recorded a live feed on ‘How To Approach Women Based On Astrology.' I teach men how to treat women like the Queens we are."
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She's come a long way from Durango High School. Here are additional photos of Sydney Spies.