Isolated at her parents' house in rural North Wales, the drag artist reveals herself without retouching, enhancements, or apps
Salvia (A.K.A. @salvjiia) is named after the opioid-like plant of Oaxaca, Mexico. She has been labeled an influencer, a fashion icon, a beauty icon, a goth diva, the Illuminati, and a Satanist.
That’s a lot to live up to at age 19. But if Instagram is the language of 2020, Salvia is Rimbaud.
As a creator, Salvia wears more hats; still photographer, designer, director, graphic artist, FX artist, make-up artist, stylist, filmmaker, and GIF artist.
In a world of apathy, fear, and loathing, an original voice stands out. Good art is created by those who are inspired by whom they admire, but don’t imitate. Salvia and her partner Parma Ham have dusted off the once-considered-dead goth genre, and brought it back from the eternal grave to a severely beautiful online life. This is Salvia’s world… for now.
A self-described recluse living in North Wales, Salvia doesn’t approach beauty in the conventional way. She’s as far away from Anna Wintour’s world as one could possibly be, yet Vogue did a profile on her beauty routine. The ‘established’ voices know raw talent, even when they can’t put their finger on it. When Salvia felt ripped off by current fashion maven Rick Owens, she brazenly called him out in the forum she knows best, Instagram. Davida stood up to Goliath.
For my Virtual Photo Series I’m forced to adhere to during the harsh 2020s, I asked Salvia to model for me like she’s never done before; without retouching, enhancements, or apps. After all, I’m old school granddad goth, so black-and-white hard glamor is my niche.
I chose four post-modern classic looks:
PLAIN: No make-up or enhancements.
MACHO: Definitely not her interest, so a real challenge.
DAINTY: In her way, it becomes something totally different.
KINKY: Fetish we both know well. Perhaps this is our bond.
The series was created on Zoom, with screenshots, so the quality is substandard, but I like it.
It reminds me of the zine era of the ’80s, a time with limited forums through which to connect with like-minded people, one of the few ways to not feel isolated and feeling ‘other.’ In the harsh 2020s, with quarantines in effect and real-time relationships on the brink of extinction, virtual is the norm. I embrace it because I have to. Salvia embraces it because this is all she has known.
I asked Salvia basic questions so we can get to know who she is in a primal way. The rest will be through her art, wonder, and magic of things to come.
Rick Castro: How do you like living in North Wales?
Salvia: It’s very beautiful but very lonely.
Rick: What’s your fave thing or place where you live?
Salvia: I love being in my garden.
Rick: Who do you live with?
Salvia: I live with my parents. I love them but I want to leave as soon as I can.
Rick: Where would you like to live?
Salvia: I want to move back to London.
Rick: Are you a recluse?
Rick: Are you a goth?
Salvia: My style has swayed quite far from goth, but my heart will always be goth, even if I only wear white and listen to pop music.
Rick: What do you identify as?
Salvia: A bad bitch.
Rick: Snap! Who inspires you?
Salvia: Leigh Bowery.
Rick: Who’s your fave artist?
Salvia: Francis Bacon.
Rick: Who’s your fave writer?
Salvia: I don’t read enough, but I like Sylvia Plath.
Rick: What’s your fave book?
Salvia: Hell by Jake and Dinos Chapman; it’s mostly pictures.
Rick: How has the plague affected you personally?
Salvia: I am extremely lonely. This has been a blessing and also a curse. I have been able to focus on things, but it has made me sad.
Rick: What do you think life will be like post-plague?
Salvia: I think there will be a phase of everything feeling heightened and fresh and then everything will go back to normal after a year.
Rick: When did you start taking self-portraits?
Salvia: When I was around 10 I would photograph myself and print it off, cut it out, and place myself into my drawings—kind of like an extremely primal version of Photoshop.
Rick: Do you create images every day?
Salvia: Not every day, but very often.
Rick: What is the most off-the-wall response you’ve received from your portraits?
Salvia: Nothing shocks me. I know there’s people who masturbate to my pictures and it makes me laugh. For some reason, people are convinced I’m in congruence with the Illuminati and Satanism. I have no idea why, or what they even mean.
Rick: What would you do without Instagram?
Salvia: Keep living and making art, probably be relieved.
Rick: Where would you like your talents to take you?
Salvia: I want to make the most fulfilling art I can. If I make enough money from it to be able to have an okay flat and buy myself food, I would be beyond happy.
Rick: What do you think of my photography?
Salvia: I like it, my favourite image that I’ve seen is the one of someone tied to a motorcycle.
Rick: Why did you consent to being photographed by me?
Salvia: Because I like your work and I enjoy pushing myself and experiencing new things.
Rick: What would you like to be doing in one year’s time?
Salvia: I really want to release music and make videos.
Rick: What’s your view on the current unrest and violence gripping the world, and on what now seems to be the Amerikkkan Revolution? What do you think will be the outcome?
Salvia: I think we are currently in a very important time of change. I think white people really need to pay attention and not just think, ‘Oh, I’m not part of this, the rest of the world will figure it out.’ We are all part of this, and we all need to be involved because racism was created by us and we are the ones benefiting from it. We are the ones who need to listen and unlearn. I think it’s also important that we are not only fighting for the Black men being killed but also the Black trans women who are being killed all the time but don’t get nearly as much attention. We should also be fighting for Black non-binary people and Black disabled people. Activism will never work unless it is intersectional.
Rick: Thank-you dear.