by Margo Stilley
My decision to go to Burning Man this year was a last minute booking on a flight by the seat of my pants. Feeling the need to go feral, one evening a week ago in a sushi restaurant on Beverley Blvd in Los Angeles, alone, I called to cancel my 25th of August retreat to a friend’s Italian Palazzo, borrowed a pen from a waitress, and begin writing my check list of must haves on my placemat.
With my categories broken into: Survival, Food and Costume the list read something like this:
Camel Pack, Goggles, Sunscreen, Fur Coat, Giant Bear Head, LED Batter powered lights, Water, Erergen-C, 6 zip lock bags for 6 pairs of washed and pressed crisp linen pajamas dabbed with lavander oil, earplugs, eye mask, valium, a bicycle and some spray paint.
Whether or not you understand a great deal of that list will depend greatly on how much time you’ve spent camping or in a desert, so I’ll skip all the specifics of how I’m going to avoid sunburn and dehydration and move on to the good parts.
For your average fashionista, spending a week camping in a desert will be your worst nightmare, luckily Black Rock City is something different. The bigger, better, brighter and more obscene your outfit, you can rest assured that there will be someone there with more and it will somehow be inexplicably on fire.
As my trip this year is completely impromptu (and all of my gear is in London while I am already on the West Coast) I decided to make a list of all the resale shops in the gayest areas of Los Angeles that mostly cater to cross dressers. Unfortunately for me, the only thing I managed to snag during my trips to Boys Town was a little cultural insight that is this: There is no Queen in the Hollywood Drag. As I found myself shifting through the racks at “Crossroads Resale” shop on Santa Monica, looking the least feminine of all the customers with my eyelashes fluttering without a hint of mascara, I felt more as if I was shopping in my little sister’s closet from high school. Mini skirts and Abercrombie abound for these La Femmes but not a sequin in sight!
Deciding, rather reluctantly, that Less is More, I changed my mindset and decided on a very Out of Africa look with tanned platform riding boots, a selection of cargo shorts, cut into hot pants with the pockets left dangling down the sides of my thighs, a couple of vibrantly coloured pieces of muslin to wear as a scarf, turban or face guard in the event of a sand storm and of course, some multi colored parasols I nicked from a wedding on Saturday.
The unforgiving desert environment sitting 4,000 ft above sea level isn’t exactly the place one would like to arrive for a weeks long camping trip unprepared, but I’m hoping for the giving nature of The Playa to provide.
Originally from North Carolina, before beginning her career as an actor, Margo Stilley started out as an artist and was offered a full scholarship to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design for Photography, which she declined in favor of traveling.
Arriving in London at the age of 20 she accepted the lead role in Michael Winterbottom’s independent art house film, ‘9 Songs’ that suddenly thrust her into the limelight, gracing the best dressed lists and solidifying her name as one of the industry’s most fashionable young stars.
She has most recently come full circle collaborating again with the Bafta Award winning director Michael Winterbottom on a BBC2 improv comedy, ‘The Trip’ co-starring with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.
Margo currently lives in Hollywood, California.