The New York Times Profiles Cindy aus Marzahn

The New York Time profiles Ilka Bessin, the obese former welfare recipient from East Germany who created a stage persona called 'Cindy aus Marzahn' and has parlayed it into massive success. 'Cindy', by the way, is a typical lower-class German name, as you can tell from its American provenance. Other names that instantly evoke the German (not Turkish) Lumpenproletariat are Kevin, Dakota, Darryl, Montana, Jasmin, and a few others. Although lots of these stereotypes are increasingly outdated, since I've had plenty of high-achieving Jasmins and Kevins in my classes. Here's a bit of the profile: 

Out of the crucible of humiliation emerged Cindy, crass and cagey, driven by appetites. She hides a bratwurst in a banana peel and asks the audience for chocolate, then eats what they throw onstage. “I have Alzheimer’s bulimia,” Cindy likes to say, stomach bulging under her pink sweatshirt, tiara perched atop her wig. “I eat everything in sight and then forget to throw up.”

Critics call her act offensive, lowbrow and worse, mixing high-minded attacks on her with patronizing depictions of her supposedly benighted fans. Those fans answer by buying her concert videos and turning out to her shows in droves, where they scream and applaud like mad, many wearing their own tiaras and pink sweatshirts emblazoned with the words “Alzheimer’s bulimia” on the front.

Cindy regales them with tales of her time as a member of the Socialist Children’s Television Ballet or her efforts to get adopted by Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt. Her performances are marathons with musical numbers. Fans often bring her presents and handmade cards. She is a star but also a hero, one of them, one who made it.

“I win,” Cindy sings in one of her songs, “although I’m not a winner.”

I've watched her, and Cindy is actually pretty funny. She knows that some of the people watching her show are proper bourgeois urbanites who are laughing at not with, but she doesn't give a flying fuck. In fact she gives as good as she gets, mocking organic food and viola lessons and hybrid cars and multi-kulti tolerance and other shibboleths of the educated urban bourgeoisie. It's one of the things I find honest and refreshing about German culture: everyone knows that classes exist and always will, and that they're always going to be in conflict. Yet merely acknowledging that fact doesn't doom society to centrifugal self-destruction. This means you can speak openly, even vulgarly about social classes without employing all the enervating euphemisms Americans often resort to (example here).

By the way, the fact that Cindy aus Marzahn was profiled in the New York Times was big news in Germany. It was all over the airport news monitors!

2 thoughts on “The New York Times Profiles Cindy aus Marzahn

  1. the fact that zündi aus marzahn was mentioned by some american media is proof that zündi is comedy auf weltniveau. so you have to watch it. watch it! Oh du fröhliche ….

    learning from the usa means learing how to win


  2. @Stella:
    Cindy is not of german origin. But as fashions come and go during the 1980’s and 1990’s it was in some areas and social groups fashionable to use american names like Cindy, Sandy, Mandy, …. The largest groups where the east Germans and many of the lower classes.

    BTW: Stella is a latin name!

    Ad astra,


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