Mary Beth Patterson, known by her stage name Beth Ditto (born February 19, 1981), is an American singer-songwriter, most notable for her work with the indie rock band Gossip (previously known as The Gossip) and whose voice has been compared to Etta James, Janis Joplin and Tina Turner. She is often reported describing herself as a "fat, feminist lesbian from Arkansas".
Life and career
Ditto grew up in a poor family in Arkansas in the southern United States, with her mother, various stepfathers, six siblings (two older brothers, an older sister, two younger brothers and a younger sister). She was raised Southern Baptist and Pentecostal. At age 13, she moved out of her mother's house and went to live with her aunt. She moved to Olympia, Washington in 1999; then to Portland, Oregon in 2003, where she lives as of 2014.
She has fronted the band Gossip since their formation in 1999 until its dissolution in 2016. In addition, she has been involved in other musical projects. In 2008, she contributed vocals to the Crisis charity single "Consequences", a collaboration between various artists. In 2010, she sang on Simian Mobile Disco's track "Cruel Intentions" for their album of collaborations Temporary Pleasure. In 2011, she released her own 4-track Beth Ditto EP, produced by James Ford and Jas Shaw of Simian Mobile Disco, on the re-launched Deconstruction Records. She sang on Blondie's "A Rose by Any Name" from their 2013 album Ghosts of Download. Harrod Horatia, writing in The Telegraph, has said, "Where the stripped-down three-piece Gossip play propulsive, garage band blues, Ditto's own stuff is melancholic, soulful dance music, inspired by 'Eighties disco soul jams' that she loves, and the up-tempo pop-R&B of I Wanna Dance With Somebody-era Whitney Houston."
Ditto, who is openly lesbian, is well known for her outspoken support of both lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), and feminist causes. She has been an advocate for large women being body-positive and has been regularly photographed as an editorial model. She is known for her stage dances and her unique and revealing image. She classes herself as a punk, and thus neither uses deodorant nor shaves under her armpits, having once remarked, "I think punks usually smell." She has cited Cyndi Lauper and Boy George as overall influences and Grace Jones and Peggy Moffitt as her beauty icons. She considers her favorite song to be "Oh Bondage Up Yours!" by X-Ray Spex.
She courted mild controversy in 2006 when, during an interview for NME magazine, she claimed to have eaten squirrels as a child, saying that "people in Arkansas just do – they'd think you were a freak if you ate squid there!"
In 2007/2008 Ditto contributed a fortnightly advice column on body image to The Guardian newspaper entitled 'What would Beth Ditto do?'.
In 2007 she was featured posed nude on the front cover of music magazine NME. Germaine Greer, writing in The Guardian, said the magazine had "enough courage to put the coolest woman on the planet on the cover" whilst acknowledging its limits. Greer also praised Ditto for her motives, saying her "intention is to force acceptance of her body type, 5 ft [1.5 m] tall and 15 stone [210 lb; 95 kg], and by this strategy to challenge the conventional imagery of women". In February 2009 bi-annual British style magazine Love featured Ditto posed nude on the front cover of its premiere issue, with prominent public advertising. Emily Hill, writing in The Guardian, was cynical of Love magazine's intentions, writing that "Beth Ditto on Love magazine is not evidence of fashion's new acceptance, but a diversion before emaciated normality returns".
Ditto launched her first plus-size collection for women's clothing retailer Evans on 9 July 2009, in collaboration with head of design Lisa Marie Peacock. Ditto provided sketches and drew inspiration from her favourite vintage and charity shop clothes as well as bands like Blondie, The Slits and Grace Jones, and Art Deco movements. Her second collection for Evans launched in 2010 with just over 20 individual items. Marianne Kirby, writing in The Guardian, said the "collection struck a nerve with its iconic pieces" and that it was an "international success".
She opened (modeled) and closed the Jean Paul Gaultier spring 2011 fashion show during Paris Fashion Week in October 2010.
In June 2012 Ditto collaborated with MAC Cosmetics to create a make up collection.
Ditto released her memoir in 2012 called Coal to Diamonds, which she co-wrote with Michelle Tea. It was positively reviewed in The Guardian and NME.
In July 2013, Ditto married her girlfriend and best friend since she was 18, Kristin Ogata, in Maui, Hawaii. Both were outfitted entirely in white for the occasion; Ditto wore a gown by Jean Paul Gaultier and went barefoot while Ogata wore a jacket, a shirt, shorts, and shoes.
In December 2014, seventeen months after the two first walked down the aisle in a wedding, the couple legally married in their home state of Oregon. having to wait until same-sex marriage became legal there to make their marriage official.
Books by Ditto
Coal to Diamonds: A Memoir. Co-written with Michelle Tea.
New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau, 2012. ISBN 978-0385525916. Hardback.
London: Simon & Schuster UK, 2012. ISBN 978-1847372161. Hardback.
London: Simon & Schuster UK, 2013. ISBN 978-1847392466. Paperback.
Books with contributions by Ditto
Riot Grrrl: Revolution Girl Style Now! by Nadine Monem. London: Black Dog Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-906155-01-8. Ditto contributes an introduction.