Hurricane Girl

Unless your idea of a pop star is that of a whirlwind with a ponytail who swears like a trooper, Karen Marie Ørsted does not quite fit the common expectations.

It would have been a school day like any other in suburban Denmark, had she not decided to wear black that morning. She was in 7th grade and went not just a little black. She went all black, from her sneakers to her make-up. It was not just a teenage fashion fad coming from a 13-year old with an iconoclastic mind, although it probably was that too. But from that day on, she immersed herself in black, as if carrying a pirate banner that, in years to come, would label her the school weirdo. An outsider by choice, she embraced it.

The outfit was not an obvious choice for Ubberud on the island of Funen in central Denmark, a town so small that a Google search will show little else than vestiges of an elementary school and the local parish church. Going all black and gloomy here was not just bold – it was downright freakish.

”People thought I had a mental disorder,” Mø says, laughing before she continues. ”I wasn’t one of the pretty girls, the ones the local boys wanted to kiss. I was definitely a little off growing up. By the time I hit puberty, I felt a hurricane inside me. I just wanted to smash everything up.”

So she did. Following her radical wardrobe decision came a full-on engagement in the punk rock subculture of the nearest big city, Odense. Here, in an otherwise sleepy provincial capital most famous for being the birthplace of Danish fairy-tale author Hans Christian Andersen, she met not only teenagers with a matching taste in fashion, but people from all walks of life; leftist activists and squatters, drunks, poets, and musicians. And suddenly she felt a sense of belonging.

”I loved everything that had to do with punk and political activism. I wanted it. It felt like choosing a path, choosing to break out and becoming an outsider, a rebel. It was all about having something to say, about being young and fucked up, about taking a political stand and challenging conventions,” she says.

At age 14 she went to punk rock concerts at Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen, a house that doubled as an underground venue for concerts and rendezvous for leftist groups. She drank herself into oblivion, watched her favourite Danish punk bands at the time, such as Under al kritik, Guddommelig galskab and Hjertestop, made new and very unorthodox friends, and slept on bedbug-infested mattresses. She thought it was the coolest thing in the world. She still carries circular burn marks on her knuckles from when she and her friends would test their pain thresholds by putting out cigarettes on each other’s flesh.

Today she has no idea where all that fervent, feral rebellion came from. Growing up in a typical middle class family with loving parents, there really was not much to rebel against. But maybe that was exactly the point.

”Perhaps I was just a little too comfortable. Perhaps I just couldn’t stand nothing happening, the ennui of middle class contentment,” she wonders.

Continue reading in Oak volume Two