Cartoon sensation takes aim at world’s most selfish mum
- Credit: Archant
Before she moved to London for love, Denise Dorrance’s life in New York was “like Sex And The City – one hundred per cent”.
Working as a picture editor on glossy magazines in the early ’90s, like the fictional Carrie Bradshaw and co, she hung out with the fashion crowd at glamorous parties and spent her salary on clothes and shoes.
“I watched the series. That was my era, work, boyfriends, clothes and fashion. It was a very hedonistic time. I loved it
“I had beautiful places to live, lofts in Greenwich Village, my life revolved around fashion and design. Everything was very beautiful and cost a fortune. I had a good salary, but I spent money as fast as I made it, when I think how much now, I feel a bit ill.”
But after meeting British-based documentary maker Paul Yule she realised she wasn’t’ attached to all this “stuff”.
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She sold her designer wardrobe, moved to Highgate, and had a baby.
“When I met my husband I was ready to go, ready for something new, like a relationship and three step children, which was good training for being a real mum when I had Louis.”
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It was while taking three years out to focus on motherhood that she picked up a piece of paper and started sketching a study about the yawning canyon between her old and new life.
The resulting satirical cartoons, featuring a black-clad self-regarding fashionista named Mimi, mine a rich seam of dark humour about the clash between high-maintenance design-conscious career women and self-sacrificing motherhood.
Think a less hands-on Victoria Beckham, rocking up to a fashion show in skyscraper heels with fully accessorised child on her hip.
In one cartoon, Mimi’s hapless baby sits disconsolately in a corner of her vast minimalist apartment with just a single building brick.
In another she ignores the screaming child while uncorking a bottle – then silences him with the cork as she gulps wine.
Denise said: “In the late ’90s New York changed, suddenly hip restaurants had baby chairs and menus. Mimi came out of the idea; how would these very stylish women in designer clothes living in chic interiors adapt to the mess of a baby?
“They wanted designer nappy bags and were certainly not going to push around an ugly pram. In some cases the baby became a mini them.”
Beneath the sharp humour lie truths about the ambivalence women feel about losing themselves to motherhood.
“I struggled when Louis was very little. I had given up everything to really focus on him.
“Mimi is the world’s most selfish mum. She has to fit a baby into her world so what does she do? She doesn’t change a thing!
“I suppose Mimi was a way for me to cope. It gave me an outlet to go into those dark places you go to as a mum. She’s extreme but there’s truth there about feelings you might have but in real life don’t act on.
“There are times when you want to ignore your children and get on with your own stuff. It’s a struggle sometimes.”
Dorrance, who originally studied art and nurtured an early ambition to be an illustrator, showed her sketches to a friend who thought others would be interested.
The cartoons have since appeared in The Spectactor, Red magazine, The Sunday Times and The Mail on Sunday.
With her timeless monochrome attire and non-specific location, Mimi translates universally to many western societies and sells well in Australia and America.
Dorrance, 54, whose own son is now 16, has no plans to let Mimi’s baby grow up.
“He’s only ever said one word – “help”. He may get smarter or speak finally, but I love him as he is.
“Mimi still makes me laugh too - she’s endlessly enjoyable to write.
“I am always working, I am a magazine junkie and have to keep up with what’s going on. I have a notebook and my antennae out all the time. You really have to be a spy to be a cartoonist.”
n It’s All About Mimi, a collection of 100 of Dorrance’s cartoons, is published by Idlewild Publishers priced £11.95.