In high school, Michael Lucid was an artsy, friendly kid who floated around from one campus clique to the next. “I was more approachable and kids felt comfortable talking to me,” he says of his time at Santa Monica’s Crossroads School, where he graduated in 1996.
Because Lucid was likeable and trustworthy, his teenage peers granted him the kind of insider access into their lives that most filmmakers only dream about capturing on film. Filmmakers like Larry Clark (Kids, Wassup Rockers), Catherine Hardwicke (Lords of Dogtown, Thirteen) and Penelope Spheeris (Decline of Western Civilization, Suburbia) all launched their careers by making films that depicted the harsh realities of American teenagers’ lives, but Lucid had an advantage over all of these filmmakers: he was himself a high schooler when he shot his gritty, painfully intimate documentary Dirty Girls, which has now become an instant cult sensation ever since it was uploaded to Youtube this month.
It was initially shot by a 17-year-old during the course of just two school days. Maybe you’ve seen the still frame of two messy-haired young girls being interviewed in a high school auditorium — an image that’s become ubiquitous after having been reblogged thousands of times by fans on Tumblr.
Lucid’s short documentary starts out with the following text: “In Spring of 1996, my senior year of high school, I documented a group of 8th grade girls who were notorious for their crass behavior and allegedly bad hygiene.…” The eighth grade girls he’s referring to are the film’s eponymous dirty girls, a clique of feminist riot grrrls led by sisters Amber and Harper, who became campus legends when they put on a punk rock show at the school’s beginning-of-year “alley party” and smeared lipstick all over their faces. Lucid remembers the performance being provocative and angry, so much so that it sparked an ongoing flurry of gossip — and the coining of the term “dirty girls” — that continued throughout the school year of ’96.
That Dirty Girls is Lucid’s biggest Internet success is ironic, considering his day job writing, performing and uploading web videos for World of Wonder, the production company behind shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and features like The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Party Monster. And, in an oddly fitting twist of fate, he’s returned to interviewing and reporting — but through his drag persona, Damiana Garcia, whom he refers to as “an intrepid lady reporter,” appearing in World of Wonder videos online.