Heleen van Royen: more than a phenomenon

Heleen van Royen: more than a phenomenon

by marlies|dekkers

Dutch bestselling author Heleen van Royen is the Amelia Earhart of writing: thrill-seeking, groundbreaking, not afraid to risk it all. On top of that, Heleen loves to cause a stir. So much so, that it sometimes overshadows the brave message of her work. Time to put a spotlight on the artist behind the phenomenon.

Marlies: Heleen, this will be interesting; interviewing one of my dearest friends.

Heleen: (laughs) I know! Very curious to see how it works out.

Marlies: Well, today, I would like to focus on you as an artist. You know that I have always been a great fan.

Heleen: I do. As a matter of fact, you were one of the first people to really believe in me.

Marlies: I admire how you break taboos for a very broad audience, using yourself and your own experiences. Whether it’s a selfie show or a sex diary, your work always has an element of controversy, which can at times cloud people’s judgement of you as an artist. There seems to be no middle ground: you are either for or against Heleen. Yet your art is so layered and nuanced! Let’s talk about your bestselling debut novel The Happy Housewife. You used many autobiographical elements in it, like your own postpartum depression and psychosis.

Heleen: People who have lived through a psychosis are rarely able to write about it. I felt it was hugely important to share that experience.

Marlies: When I asked you as a friend what it was like for you, your answers were always pretty vague. Yet you were able to write about such a great book about it. Can you explain that process to me?

Heleen: I actually remember all my delusions very clearly; they were just really hard to explain to other people. I believed time stood still, and I had to solve all these problems to make it run again. My daughter Olivia couldn’t be in the picture for that. In the weirdest way, there was something almost pleasant about being stuck in this long trip. I remember my senses being heightened to the point where I would be lying in bed and clearly hear all the conversations taking place outside. And I said to myself: ‘Okay, either I go completely crazy and will be committed involuntarily or I am going to preach God’s love and become Jesus.’ (laughs) Well, I got committed.

Marlies: You also described the horrors of childbirth in detail. Which was simply not talked about when the book came out almost 20 years ago!

Heleen: I remember my editor saying: ‘Heleen, that’s a crazy amount of contractions. Let’s leave a few out.” And I said: ‘We’re not taking out a single one.’ I just felt this conviction, this inner fire to talk about the brutality of labor. At moments like that, nothing can stop me.

Marlies: I really respect that. As uncomfortable as the subjects of your work may be, you never shy away from confrontation. Let’s talk about your selfie project: Selfmade. The selfies you made were sexy, often taken in the mirror, often nude, vagina and all. But rather making them merely as a boost for your self esteem, they were part of an important journey of self discovery.

Heleen: Yes, they were raw, unpolished pictures. But I took dozens of each, and while doing so, a very clear theme emerged: the impermanence of everything. We’re only getting older, right? It’s an irreversible process. But as long as I can make art out of it, it has a purpose for me. It’s a way for me to reconcile with the fleetingness of life.

Marlies: When we did our book project ‘Stout’ together, we were barely 40 years old and I didn’t really think about aging at all. But you were already keenly aware of our next life phase, when we would be entering our 50s.

Heleen: Yes, and now I am already planning my next Selfmade show for when I turn 60! My boyfriend Bart isn’t exactly over the moon about it, but I believe it will serve a higher purpose: to break another important taboo for other women.

Marlies: You quite recently made a heart-breaking documentary about your mother, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Heleen: As soon as one of your parents becomes in need of care, you enter a whole new phase of your life. I knew I had to document such an important process. Since I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my mother, writing about her wasn’t an option. Besides, my mother was such a character, I don’t think my writing could have done her justice! I had filmed her before, on my iPhone, and as a professional I could tell that she would make a beautiful subject for a movie.

Marlies: It’s definitely one of your strengths: to be able to rise above a personal situation and see it through an artist’s eye.

Heleen: Well, as an artist, I also saw a taboo topic that I really wanted to be address. Alzheimer’s is often seen as an ‘inhuman’ disease. Coming from fear and ignorance, we prefer to pretend that mental diseases aren’t part of our experience as humans. But it can happen to any of us, and it doesn’t make us any less human! With my documentary, I wanted to show that when someone is suffering from dementia, it is actually an opportunity to help and connect, to get closer to that person.

Marlies: It was a beautiful, very intimate portrait. Talking about intimacy, your latest project was as intimate and controversial as it gets: your sex diary. Your relationship with your boyfriend Bart, who is 21 years your junior, was controversial to begin with.

Heleen: Yes, Bart is younger, that’s a fact. But we had been together for nearly 5 years at the time, and I really wanted to give an honest, stripped-down account of our sex life. Plenty of – mostly male – writers have kept diaries, but the actual act of sex is rarely described. I felt it was very important I do this.

Marlies: As your friend, I knew how passionate you were about this project, but I also saw the people around you struggle with it.

Heleen: Even my publisher had some serious doubts! I was really glad that my daughter supported it, from a feminist point of view, even though she refused to read it. Her best friend however, a girl in her twenties, did read it and felt totally inspired by it.

Marlies: Which makes it totally worth it, right? As innovators, you and I take big risks, shaking up the status quo, going against the grain. But we both have the same need: to follow our inner fire, no matter the price.

Heleen: It’s what gives my life purpose: to create. A while ago, I was at the funeral of my friend’s aunt. She had been a big lady, who loved sweets. And that’s all I found out about her from all the speeches: she loved sweets, she loved to hand out candy. No mention of a passion, a cause, a job. Nothing. Just the sweets. And that depressed me to no end. How can you not leave any legacy? What’s the point?

Marlies: That’s exactly how I walked out of my own grandmother’s funeral actually. I remember it as the beginning of my life as an artist. But I can guarantee you, Heleen, that the speeches at your funeral will be anything but boring!

Heleen: (laughs) They better not be!

Read more about Heleen and her Sex Diary here.

 

Most loved
Governed by NO ONE

Marlies Says

Governed by NO ONE

by marlies|dekkers

Flame-haired, brave-hearted and always dressed to dazzle, Elizabeth the First, also known as England’s ‘Virgin Queen’, is one of the most unforgettable women in history. Her glorious reign is known as The Golden Age ~ a period that saw the birth of Shakespeare, the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the emergence of England as a world power. It lasted almost 45 years; Elizabeth’s legacy as a feminist icon however, has already spanned nearly 5 centuries. “My sex cannot diminish my prestige.”

Quiet Power

Blog

Quiet Power

by marlies|dekkers

Only 11 days after he beheaded his second wife (the flamboyant Anne Boleyn), King Henry VIII married a pale, fair-haired maiden called Jane Seymour. Who exactly was this girl, and what had made the king so besotted with her? To this day, historians don’t quite know what to make of her.

Glamour, the magical power of persuasion

Marlies Says

Glamour, the magical power of persuasion

by marlies|dekkers
This season, more is more as glamour is back with a glittery vengeance. But was it ever really away? Not for me! From Marlene Dietrich in a top hat to Beyoncé shaking her booty in glittery thigh-high boots; to me, glamour is timeless and has many faces. It is the magical dust that gives everyday life that golden sparkle. More importantly, when used well, glamour can actually change your life. It has definitely shaped mine…

“Dare to be the CEO of your own career”

MD Friends

“Dare to be the CEO of your own career”

by marlies|dekkers

Who run this (digital) world? For Saskia Van Uffelen, the answer to that question is crystal clear: women. And what better role model for these women than the passionate CEO of Ericsson Belux herself? Named ICT Woman of the Year in 2011, Belgian-born Saskia is a great inspiration -not only as a digital visionary but also as a top manager who gracefully combines a hectic job with a family of five children. “In disruptive times, we need women.”

marlies|dekkers lingerie

Marlies|dekkers heeft een grote variëteit aan lingerie wat gedragen kan worden door iedereen en voldoet aan iedere vrouw haar behoefte. Naast het aanbieden van producten op onze webshop, houden we een blog bij in de categorie ‘Maison Marlies’ waar over verschillende onderwerpen geschreven wordt zoals; Waarom 50 worden fantastisch is, een 5-stappenplan voor het kopen van lingerie voor jouw vriendin, vrouw of partner , hoe je lingerie als deel van je outfit maakt en andere leuke onderwerpen.

Maison Marlies

In Maison Marlies blog kun je van alles lezen over het leven achter en rondom het bedrijf. Of je nu wilt weten waar ze haar inspiratie vandaan haalt voor het ontwerpen van een nieuwe collectie, of dat je interesse hebt in haar levensstijl, gezonde recepten, of haar smaak in bijzondere kunst, je kunt het vinden in de blog. Deze zakenvrouw krijgt het voor elkaar om met een knipoog te schrijven over haar zakenreizen, shop avonturen, haar collega’s, vrienden en familie en zelfs over haar vakanties waar ze even helemaal tot rust komt. Wanneer je even niet meer weet hoe je jou goede bh maat kunt vinden, biedt Maison Marlies een aantal richtlijnen zodat je je boezem kunt schudden zonder dat je borsten eruit floepen. Comfort voor je buste is een combinatie van de juiste maat en de juiste kwaliteit. Je wilt toch geen onhandig ondergoed, terwijl dit eigenlijk heel makkelijk voorkomen kan worden door het dragen van hoge kwaliteit lingerie?! En wanneer je voorgevel goed op z’n plaats gehouden wordt kun je eindelijk volledig je vrouwelijkheid vieren. De blog geeft advies over het mixen en matchen van lingerie, over het stimuleren en inspireren van je eigen stijlgevoel en houdt je op de hoogte van de laatste trends.

blij met marlies|dekkers lingerie

Haar celebrity vrienden zijn ook erg blij met de perfecte pasvorm van de bh's van marlies|dekkers. Deze vriendinnen laten met trots hun sexy lingerie van marlies|dekkers zien in fotoshoots voor tijdschriften, en tijdens optredens, tv-shows of zelfs in films. Maison Marlies wijdt een speciaal gedeelte van de blog aan gerelateerde nieuwtjes en ontwikkelingen zodat je altijd op de hoogte blijft van de laatste ontwikkelingen rondom de speciale missie die de visie van Marlies’ ademt voor de toekomst.