Michelle Olley

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Michelle Olley
Michelle Olley, hosting talk with Adam Curtis and Alan Moore, at Cosmic Trigger play event, London 2017 (photo: Beccy Strong)
Michelle Olley, hosting talk with Adam Curtis and Alan Moore, at Cosmic Trigger play event, London 2017 (photo: Beccy Strong)
Background information
Birth nameMichelle Olley
BornWarrington, Cheshire, England
GenresJournalism, magazines
Occupation(s)Writer, journalist, content editor
Years active1984–present
Websitewww.adultswim.co.uk www.facebook.com/Michelle Olley

Michelle Olley is a British writer, journalist and magazine and book editor.

Michelle Olley attended the University of Westminster in London where she attained a BA (Hons) in Media Studies, specialising in print journalism.[1] She began her career in journalism at TW Publishing Ltd when writing and feature-editing Skin Two magazine (along with co-founders and editors, Tim Woodward and Grace Lau) – interviewing, amongst others, Jean Paul Gaultier, Tim Burton, Marilyn Manson, The Cramps, Marc Almond, Terence Sellers and Clive Barker[2] – before becoming associate editor and director of TW Publishing Ltd at only 23 years of age.

Skin Two Rubber Ball[edit]

Michelle Olley, Neil Albert and Andrew Mann at the Skin Two Rubber Ball she co-hosted with Chi Chi Valenti

In 1992, Olley instigated the now-famous fetish club night the Skin Two Rubber Ball, which in the 1990s went on to become the largest and most high-profile fetish party in the world.[3][4] The original Ball was held in aid of the MS Society and Cruisaid (the 1995 Ball alone raised £16,000 for the latter).[3] Guests on the opening night included John Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood, Leigh Bowery and Mick Jagger disguised in a fake moustache and Muir cap. Olley hosted, ran and MC-ed the Ball from 1992 through to 1996. In that time it became an international event with people coming from all over the world to attend and to participate in the increasingly elaborate fashion shows and performances.

Of the inception of the Rubber Ball, Olley said:

"We decided that we wanted to do a 'public' fetish party because in the early 90s there was a lot of tabloid/police interest in fetish clubs and people were getting closed down by raids in the summer of 92, so we decided that instead of hiding and going quietly, the thing to do would be to hold a more open event, invite the press, let everyone know that the press were there, get them to show up in the mood for a fun party rather than anything more full-on and have a public celebration of dressing-up and general sauciness.
It grew from an event for 2,000 people in 1992 to a bursting to capacity 4,500 people crammed into Hammersmith Palais by 1994."

Club Nights[edit]

Olley also ran a club night called Disco Scum – an electro-punk night that was held in a gentlemen's club in Piccadilly – which she ran in 1993 with Mark Carter (who also ran punk club Penetration and managed the band Superblond). And, in 1995, a club night called Street life that Olley ran with her band Salon Kitty and which was held at the Brixton Academy.


From 1992 to 2000, Olley was vocalist with the electronic band Salon Kitty, composed of Olley on vocals, Simon Hoare on guitar, Neil Albert on keyboards/backing vocals, Andrew Mann also on backing vocals, Robert Michael on keyboards and Cliff Hewitt on drums . In 1995, the band released the single, Freak (written by Olley/Hoare)[5] on Liquid Gold Records, and in 1996 signed to Epic Records. (Simon Hoare later went on to become a member of the bands Raymonde[6] and RPLA.[7])

The tumultuous history of Salon Kitty was described in their own words as: "9 lives, 8 years, 7 members, 6 near death experiences, 5 Countries (if you include Wales), 4 Managers, 3 record deals, 2 arrests, One hell of a ride." [8]

Alexander McQueen[edit]

Whilst at Fable, Olley was chosen by the British designer Alexander McQueen to be the main model for what became one of his most celebrated creations: the centre piece tableaux of his 2001 spring/summer collection, named VOSS. The centre piece – which featured Olley within an enormous, moth-filled glass box, the sides of which fell away and smashed – was based on the Joel Peter Witkin image Sanitarium.[9] The show also featured Kate Moss and Erin O'Connor.

Olley also modelled for Nick Knight's Sister Honey series created for Dazed & Confused with British designer Peter Saville. It was the McQueen show that brought Olley to Nick Knight's attention, as he later said of it on his SHOWstudio.com blog:

"The girl in the box was Michelle Olley. She modelled for me in a story I did called Sister Honey... She was a writer and I remember she wrote a great piece on being the Butterfly Girl in the middle of that (McQueen) Glass Box show. I was sat on the front row, in between Alexandra Schulman and Gwyneth Paltrow. It was is probably one of the best pieces of Fashion Theatre I have ever witnessed."[10]

Alexander McQueen later described his thoughts on forcing his audience to stare at their own reflection for over an hour:

"Ha! I was really pleased about that. I was looking at it on the monitor, watching everyone trying not to look at themselves. It was a great thing to do in the fashion industry—turn it back on them! God, I’ve had some freaky shows." [11]

In spring 2011, Olley was asked by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to contribute to their Alexander McQueen exhibition, Savage Beauty.[12] She was interviewed by The Met and the interview included in the audio guide to the show. Also, Olley's detailed diary/journal of modelling for McQueen – written between Sept18-27 as the show was being planned and staged – was included in the Met Museum website coverage of the Savage Beauty exhibition.[13]

The diary relates details of the show and encounters with McQueen, ending with the account of when Olley returned home after the VOSS show to find "...a MASSIVE bouquet of flowers has arrived, with a note saying, "Thank you for everything – you were beautiful! – Lee xxx" "[13]

Olley was interviewed for the documentary on the life and work of McQueen,[14] directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui,[15] released in 2018.[16][17][18]


Michelle Olley, PH.UK, circa 1997

In 1997, Olley was brought in as deputy editor to help helm the now rather notorious relaunch of Penthouse UK (or PH.UK, as it was newly christened) as a modern redefinition of the traditional adult magazine, partly via the vision of designers and Face and Vogue fashion photographers such as Corrinne Day,[19][20] Iain McKell and Ben Westwood garnered from Olley's formidable black book of contacts built through her previous editorships at fashion and fetish publications; and from the sexual politics brought from the same. Olley's vision of empowerment through sexual expression rather than exploitation soon ran into the more trad-view of owner Bob Guccione. The relaunch generated much medias interest but failed to reposition the magazine. The resultant implosion was recorded by a Channel 4 camera crew, making an early reality TV documentary series about the magazine's relaunch, and also featured in The Independent in a feature titled 'From the Penthouse to the Street', which opened with the line 'If anyone could have done it, it should have been Michelle Olley.'[21]

Olley worked as deputy editor of So magazine, features editor at gay lifestyle magazine Attitude, in 1999 became editor of P.U.R.E magazine, followed by the deputy editorship at Fable and contributing editor of the Arts Council quarterly, Upstart magazine. As editor at Carlton Books, Olley has edited and written for several photographic anthologies, including the work of Herb Ritts, Derek Ridgers, Tracey Emin, Jeff Koons and Nick Knight.

As a freelance writer, Olley has contributed to The Sunday Times (cover feature, 'More Is More'[22]), NOW, The Independent on Sunday, The Guardian, i-D, The Fashion, Minx, Looks, DJ and Attitude.

After being appointed content editor of The-Hotel.com, in 2003 Olley became website editor and media consultant at Faith Inc, before moving to Turner Classic Movies at Turner Broadcasting, London.

Olley is a contributor to Bonafide magazine, which covers hip-hop, electronic music and street art.[23]

Alan Moore[edit]

Michelle Olley, Rubber Ball, London, by Derek Ridgers

For the Skin Two Yearbook 2009,[24] Olley was granted a very rare interview with author and graphic novel writer Alan Moore (of Watchmen and V for Vendetta fame), widely regarded as the most innovative writer of the genre, and one of its most celebrated. The occasion of Olley's interview with both Moore and his partner, Melinda Gebbie, was the publication of Moore's and Gebbie's book Lost Girls (written by Moore/illustrated by Gebbie).[25][26][27] Fifteen years in gestation, Lost Girls was much anticipated and eagerly awaited by Moore fans and graphic novel aficionados.

Robert Anton Wilson and Cosmic Trigger Play[edit]

Michelle Olley, London, 2012

Olley became involved with bringing Robert Anton Wilson’s popular counter-culture work, Cosmic Trigger,[28] to the stage in 2014. After volunteering to help with the initial crowdfunding phase of the production, Olley handle the press and curated the art gallery at the show’s debut and 'Find The Others' event in Liverpool in November 2014.[29][30] She was also the co-producers and director of marketing for the 2017 London run of the production.[31] The play, written and directed by Daisy Campbell, ran for 23 performances, and also hosted special events with speakers including John Higgs, Ru and Claire Callendar from the Green Funeral Company, poet Salena Godden, Shardcore, David Bramwell and Adam Curtis with Alan Moore - a discussion event which Olley hosted.[32]

Adult Swim[edit]

Michelle Olley was content manager of Adult Swim[1] for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). Adult Swim (EMEA) is the non-U.S version of the hugely successful American Adult Swim channel/website – home of, among others, Venture Brothers (written by Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick), and Robot Chicken, the popular satirical show co-created by actor Seth Green (voice of Chris Griffin in Family Guy) and Rick and Morty.


Olley is married to Howard Gray, the British musician, music producer, composer, re-mixer and founder member of dance rock outfit Apollo 440.

Olley appeared in the video for The Spice Girls debut single "Wannabe" dressed as Nico of the Velvet Underground with her bandmates from Salon Kitty.[33]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b LinkdIn career information
  2. ^ "The Official Clive Barker Website - Interviews 1990 (Part One)". Clivebarker.info. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  3. ^ a b "The Rubber Ball". Citypaper.net. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  4. ^ "Skin Two Rubber Ball Weekend". YouTube. 8 September 2007. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  5. ^ "Salon Kitty (2) – Freak (Vinyl) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  6. ^ "Raymonde Discography at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  7. ^ "RPLA Discography at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  8. ^ My Space – Salon Kitty
  9. ^ "DC's: Justin presents ... The Alexander McQueen Kit". Denniscooper-theweaklings.blogspot.com. 10 March 2010. Archived from the original on 19 December 2010. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  10. ^ "McQueen Spring/Summer 2001 Show". SHOWstudio.com. SHOWstudio. 24 March 2007. Retrieved 28 May 2011.
  11. ^ 'McQueen, The Showman' interview Archived 14 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alexander McQueen show 'Savage Beauty'
  13. ^ a b Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alexander MqQueen show 'Savage Beauty': Michelle Olley 'VOSS' diary Archived 5 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Dazed & Confused: McQueen muse Michelle Olley
  15. ^ IMDB.com: McQueen documentary
  16. ^ "McQueen: critics reviews". metacritic.com. 10 June 2018. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  17. ^ "McQueen â€" MISFITS entertainment". Misfitsentertainment.com. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  18. ^ British Council Film: McQueen
  19. ^ Hartley, John; Rennie, Ellie (1 November 2004). "'About a Girl' – Journalism". Journalism. Jou.sagepub.com. 5 (4): 458–479. doi:10.1177/1464884904044205.
  20. ^ Corinne Day: Diary: Amazon.co.uk: Corinne Day: Books. ASIN 3934923011.
  21. ^ Feay, Suzi (24 August 1997). "From Penthouse to the street". The Independent. London.
  22. ^ "Thinking big living large". The Times. London. 23 April 2006.
  23. ^ Bonafide Magazine
  24. ^ "MySpace-blog | Skin Two van Skin Two Online". Blogs.myspace.com. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  25. ^ "Released at last". The Guardian. London. 5 January 2008.
  26. ^ Jones, Jonathan (24 September 2008). "Alan Moore knows the score". The Guardian. London.
  27. ^ Moore, Alan; Gebbie, Melinda (13 September 2006). Lost Girls (9781891830747): Alan Moore, Melinda Gebbie: Books. ISBN 1891830740.
  28. ^ Cosmic Trigger Play
  29. ^ "The Cosmic Trigger Experience — Two Days That Shook The Wirrall". Historia Discordia. 28 May 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  30. ^ "The Gathering of the Cosmic Fools | Cosmic Trigger". Cosmictriggerplay.com. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  31. ^ "Michelle Olley | Cosmic Trigger". Cosmictriggerplay.com. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  32. ^ John Higgs writer: Cosmic Trigger Play
  33. ^ Michelle Olley's 'Voss' diary at the Metropolitan Museum, New York Archived 5 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine