Oakland, California (EastBayDaily) — What do you get when you combine the brains of a university instructor with the auburn-haired good looks and comedic knack of Debra Messing and a quirky and endearing tendency to periodically speak like Fran Drescher? You get Noemi Zeigler, the creative force and performer behind her sexy alter ego Madeline Minx, star of the new music video “Feminem.”
“I’m Noemi Zeigler, a self-doubting, irreverent, insecure, Jewish girl with a critical mother; my inner superhero is Madeline Minx, a confident, sexy, fully-empowered superstar,” says Zeigler, a musician, comedic actress and filmmaker who holds an MFA in Film Directing from the American Film Institute.
The premise of the music video centers around Madeline Minx, initially a self-doubting aspiring pop star, who gets a temporary teaching gig at an inner-city community college in Oakland, California. Things go awry when Minx tries to win over her students by emulating her idols Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Eminem and Madonna. The students ridicule Minx because she’s trying to be someone other than herself. Roles become reversed when the students become the teacher and inspire Minx to embrace her own unique talents rather than imitate others, resulting in Minx’s mantra “I am the Feminem. No compromising who I am.”
In real life, students from Laney College in Oakland, where Zeigler is a media instructor, were not only supportive but inspired “Feminem.” Zeigler says she had become financially and spiritually bankrupt after years of chasing fame, when she took an interest in her students’ rap music. Her students taught her that great rappers tell the truth about their fears, failures, hopes and dreams. Spurred on by her students, Zeigler began penning “Feminem.” “My students said I was gassin’ and had flow. At first I thought that was a bad thing,” laughs Zeigler. In a moment reminiscent of the movie “Fame,” soon Laney students were dancing and freestyling and the initial concept of the music video “Feminem” was conceived.
“To think about a Jewish woman who is my teacher rapping was at first inconceivable to me,” says Laney College student A.J. Bozeman. “But to see the music video process, hear the beat, and see the creative juices that flowed into this project is better that matzah ball soup at a Bat Mitzvah!,” jokes Bozeman, who is a featured freestyler in “Feminem.” “I’m a fan of hip-hop, and although “Feminem” has a pop feel to it, it’s definitely worth listening to,” adds Bozeman.
Zeigler says daily survival can be tough for some of her Laney College students who face poverty and violence on a daily basis. On top of that, there are pressures to fit in — and some students struggle to define themselves as openly gay or different in some way from their community’s values, subjecting them to ridicule, ostracization and bullying. Nevertheless their spirits soar. “It can be far more satisfying to touch and inspire other people than the sometimes lonely pursuit of my art,” Zeigler says. A portion of “Feminem” sale proceeds will be donated to provide scholarships for Laney College media students.
Zeigler recruited professional Director of Photography, Devon Taaffe and her crew to shoot “Feminem” using the cutting-edge Red MX Digital Cinema Camera. The cast and much of the remaining crew — Set Designer, Costume Designer, First Assistant Director and Production Assistants — were all college students. By the end of the shoot, everyone on the project became a family.
“The common thread running through my work is the quest to integrate various facets of my psyche into a coherent whole — masculine/feminine, self-doubting/fully empowered — much like Clark Kent and Superman express different aspects trying to assimilate,” Zeigler says. Zeigler’s feature script “What Do You Thinx of Madeline Minx?” — also about a character in search of her identity — won ‘Best Farce’ at the Broad Humor Film Festival in Los Angeles and ‘Best Fresh Voice’ at the Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto.
On the heels of the “Feminem” music video release, the project caught the attention of Hollywood Producer Wendy Kram (“Mad Money”). Kram and Zeigler are collaborating on a TV series inspired by Noemi’s real life story. “Noemi is not your every day school teacher. Her character is a cross between “I Love Lucy” with her quixotic efforts to break into show biz and Mr. Kotter, the teacher everyone wishes for in real life. Kram sees the series as an inner city version of “Glee” with elements of “Welcome Back, Kotter” for a whole new generation.” Zeigler hopes to cast and shoot in Oakland, and draw from the incredible pool of local talent, including her students.
Zeigler says, “I’d love people to embrace “Feminem” as a catchy song. The real message is to embrace your authentic inner weirdo, be okay with whoever you are. That’s what I am working through as an artist and how I hope to inspire others both as a teacher and a performer.”
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