Carla Garlaschi, a visual artist and transmedia-storyteller also known as Princess Prada, contributed the following text to our thematic focus “Opulence.” Blending autofictional, diaristic, and confessional elements, she narrates her daily life in Chile and reflects on sex work, identity politics, and materialism. The text is accompanied by visual material created exclusively for V/A.
Garlands on the six-meters-high ceiling on my palatial room crown me with their plaster leaves and petals. ‘Ah! I’m living in a patrimonial building! Oh! I’m dreaming in my double bed! Uh! Feeling that genital heat.’ I go up and down the dramatic spiral staircase. A Paco Rabanne-smelling and combed fuckboy, a Y2K local B-lister celeb in a midlife crisis arrives with a bottle of Chilean wine and stays the night. In A Room of My Own, my hands adorned with pretty nail art, a full-length mirror, black shiny platform boots, thongs, and bras ‘How tacky to talk about money!’ Text my 50+ Submissive Dog. He calls me Mi Señora and pays me some greedy 35.000 Chilean pesos (37 euros) for sexting. I make him imagine that he is an altar boy in a Catholic cathedral. I suddenly appear as the incarnation of Lilith. He says that he has no idea who Lilith — the mother of all dark creatures — is. His horn-dog ignorance repulses, offends, and infuriates me. I destroy his wanker’s altar; I spank him; I order him to clean the mess on his knees. I laugh stridently. The sunset in downtown Santiago. I am no longer afraid of walking down the street; I act as if I had always been there. I don’t look at the vitrines and people with those anime eyes or with that tourist expression that I wore in the first months after arriving in Chile with the full-body biohazard safety suit financed by Swedish and Chilean funds, for my overly flamboyant artistic research Telenovela and Social Transformation ‘Oh yeah, what a sexy title! Baby, give it to me!’ You can say whatever you want: I am here, you are there. This swirling track is my divine comedy, my heart weighted against a feather to prove if I can live beyond the mundane or not.
Nah! I’m not going to talk about my projects; explaining myself is such a bore. I mean for real — what did you expect? I know I am ungovernable, naughty, and wicked; a total Latin American diva: I’m Princess Prada. Last year I was Carla Garlaschi. Go write her a I hope this email finds you well. Carla performed the damsel in distress while I dealt with lonesome dull nights. I won’t argue, she is the breadwinner. Regardless, her tedious bureaucratic money is not enough to live on in this country in recession. ‘Oh girl, everything is so expensive!’ But I, on the other hand, am I the one who lives well! ‘Do I need something?’ I take it from the supermarket, ‘a salmon burger? Mmm… Nah, better a tuna steak, peeled Ecuadorian shrimps, humus, olives, Camembert, Edam and Rochefort cheese. We have friends coming over today.’ I just pay for the lettuce, apples, carrots, and celery ‘OMG!’ Something inside of me is shocked, but if get caught I’ll show off my Swedish ID to the guards and tell them I thought this was a cooperative, a food bank, like in Europe, you know. Candy, one of us at the club (yes, that kind of club — a strip club), tells me that a homeless man got killed in that same supermarket yesterday just because he was suspected to shoplift. After bleaching my black roots DIY blonde, the hairdresser gives me more details, and retouching my goth tomboy’s undercut, she says the man didn’t hurt anyone; he collected cardboard boxes and sold them. The hairdresser locks the door behind me. I already knew that mine was a white girl’s game craving that adrenaline kick that kleptomania gives me whenever I’m sad.
Us girls at the club are tall, medium, short, brunettes, blondes, redheads, with Karol G blue lace wigs, hair extensions, shiny dollar sign earrings, garter Valie Export-tattoos, barbwire tattoos on that bootylicious fold between the butt-cheeks and the legs. Green and blue contact lenses, nail art with virgins and little angels, decorated with plastic gems, femmes with and without implants, natural or sculpted culos, with Russian lips, cherry lips, or foxy eyes. All on high heels and red lips is the rule. ‘You know this is a cathouse?’ Asks Juan Esteban, a former dancer at the Municipal Theater of Santiago. He is in charge of us all. He is our fashion and body inspector after his mother, a widowed compulsive gambler, lost the penthouse he was to inherit.
Compared to Europe, my sexual capital increases exorbitantly in Latin America: revenue four to five times the local minimum wage. I monetize my privilege. I’m a white Latin American CIS woman. European ancestry. No great economic hardships as a kid. Fancy universities. I do what I call: A Proportional Consumption of Sexual Capital. I could be teaching art at some Chilean university. I don’t even try. I don’t want to be a professor. I don’t want to be teaching a vertical subject with disciples because I already had a professor that I fell in love with; because inevitably the apprentice becomes the master; because I got my hands stained with blood alla’ Artemisa Gentileschi leaving behind a canceled man. Such a gory scene. I just cannot write about contemporary Chile if I’m not there, here. Terrified, in April 2022, I catch a flight from London to Santiago in the middle of the writing of a new Chilean constitution.
A Warner Brothers expat gringo producer told me: “rule number one: never spend your own money on the film,” but I burn all the project money and my savings in my telenovela. An iconic actor is going to play a role. The producer will be kidnapped. My bank account on a diet. I try too late to ask for help — but I don’t know how to ask for it, so I cry me a river. I contact a Brazilian art collector, but I talk to him in PDF and he seems to get lost in my academic lingo. Because I… ¡No! I was the researcher, the scriptwriter, the director, the music producer, the performer. I open Tinder and a married woman says that she’s willing to pay 300.000 pesos (319 euros) for a girl to do her while her husband watches. I don’t have a peso and it hasn’t worked for me to date anyone in Chile so it can’t hurt to get laid. ‘Ahá! Yes, of course! Let’s call it research!’
I take an Uber to the fancy executive buildings side of the city. YSL, Channel, Hermès, Prada, I have my first date at the Luxury District of the wannabe American shopping center. I know I am the unicorn; they treat me like if I was on the edge of the unreal. They: Armani, Dior, Tommy. They pay attention to how I unfold the cloth napkin and lay it in on my lap; they inspect how I use the cutlery while I order a sparkling wine from the waiter because here we cannot say Champagne. I talk about sex positive parties. She’s the same age as me but her dreary life makes her older. I have a drink. I don’t care. I hide in the backseat of a BMW convertible to get into the motel. On the way out, the husband scratches the yuppie car against the wall. I hide a smile savoring how expensive it’s going to be for him to repair it. I have never made so much cash in that little time. I am a gigolo. I take a leave from being Carla Garlaschi. Back home I light candles and invoke Lilith with my roomie, a street-smart TV sales manager babe I also met on Tinder. ‘Let’s celebrate, let’s go dancing, my treat!’ Chilean Kitsch music in the club, postpunk, new wave, papier mâché gargoyles, fake castle walls, a huge dancefloor, a bohemian older gay couple likes my butch vibe and buys me a full bottle of spumante.
A sunny afternoon. I draw the thick, red theater curtain and get inside. I go three floors up a spiral of black walls. I am on time. I open my locker. I change into a black latex dress, heels, buckles, chains, choker, black faux-leather thong. I am all shaved. I am pussy confident. I enter the club’s hall and I walk slowly to the bar, as a swan swims in a lake, the disco light pierces my green eyes’ vitreous humor, bouncing off rhinestones, my glitter-covered skin glows like plankton. My bleached hair is now neon. A red smudge-proof lipstick outlines my naturally heart-shaped lips, and in the mirror I see the apparition: it’s Lourdes Neon. Like the virgin, but I only do miracles from dusk till dawn.
My prejudice explodes like a huge window and money rains down. Life has never been easier. My body is my food, I have reached autophagy. I was so bored. Now clients at the club want me, pay me, touch me, kiss me, squeeze me, invite me for whole bottles of bad but expensive Argentinean sparkling wine. My commission is always a third. The girls at the club are cute, stylish, some taky, some funny, some sad, some enraged. I enter into a fight with one over a client because she wanted to steal my Peruvian phone company manager. Another girl who took me under her wing has four kids, her own apartment, tells me she has anger issues. I understand why I might get awfully triggered at times. The police inspect the club. Management gets rid of the girls with no papers, one of them cries loudly. I am a local. I am no immigrant in Chile. I even capitalize on having lived in Europe for seventeen years. I open-up about sexual work on Instagram, on chats with some presumably progressive local art people that end up putting me in the “slut” box. I understand that in giving up a stainless reputation, I have gained a filter against classism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, fake woke people and stupidity. I am in Chile, but I have never been so far from the family I was born into.
I won’t lie — I like what I do. This adrenaline has put fire in my blood. I was lethargic in Europe like if I needed a transfusion. Now, I am alive. I write to you, people there, from here, my palace, crowned by my verified artist Instagram blue dot, Versace sunglasses, the hippest hairdressers, medical check-ups, weekly therapist sessions, psychiatric meds, magic shrooms, dinners on hotel roof tops, king crab entrees, excellent service, vervain scented hand lotion in the restroom, transactions, SPF 50 sunblock for a yearlong +11 UBV radiation, hyaluronic acid drops, Botox. I am that star. There are flashes, photoshoots with my babes: a separatist female-identifying production team; my girls smiling when they look themselves at the mirror and see so much beauty, glorious make-up, reckless styling.
This baroque buckle makes me ageless. I predict what text comes next; I give coherent sentences to what my clients want to talk about. I am flexible. I learn. I am becoming an AI. I adapt to what clients need me to be: model-like social butterfly, good girl gone bad, edgy art girl, mothering wife, double-your-age-MILF, strong daddy, tarot masseuse. I need a digital body to fit the girlfriend experience. I talk about it to my London-based music manager. I commission a CGI. I dream of one day being scanned. I’ll no longer live in a territory; I’ll live in a time zone. After the October 2019 Chilean social uprising, when people got killed, blinded, tortured by the police; after the September 2022 rejection of the new constitution written by the Chilean people’s representatives turned out to be a product of a mirror Cambridge Analytica tool; after 50 years of the Chilean coup d’état, the locals and I — I dare to say we after a year here — we can only find solace in fiction.