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Erin Teresa is Here for The Cake Boys

ERIN TERESA IS HERE FOR

THE CAKE BOYS

KNOCKDOWN CENTER, QUEENS

BUSHWIG 2021

Bushwig is such a beautiful event and it is amazing to see it grow year after year, bringing more and more people together. They come to celebrate their individuality through performance and dress, bringing their most imaginative selves to life surrounded by a community of love. The best moment from this year, for me, was when my favorite people, performers, and producers of the Drag King Collective, The Cake Boys took to the stage. This collective has opened up stages and opportunities to Drag Kings, Things, and non-binary performers not often seen in NYC, not since the eighties. We all love to see the queens strutting on the stage, however, for this community to be completely inclusive, an appreciation must be made for such incredible performers as The Cake Boys, and that is what they have worked so hard to create!

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Erin Teresa

Photographer

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Bushwig 2021 – Day 2 (NSFW)

BUSHWIG DAY 2

(NSFW)

09-12-21

KNOCKDOWN CENTER, QUEENS

Looks and performances from the first day of Bushwig featuring Casey Spooner, Dahlia Sin, Evah Destruction, Jasmine Kennedie, Kevin Aviance, La Zavaleta, Maddelynn Hatter, Miss Malice, Neon Calypso, Rify Royalty, The Dragon Sisters, and much more.

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Alexey Kim

Founder

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Bushwig 2019 – Day 1 (NSFW)

BUSHWIG DAY 1

(NSFW)

09-11-21

KNOCKDOWN CENTER, QUEENS

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Alexey Kim

Founder

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Events Festivals Nightlife Timeline

Spectrum Formosus Carves Out Space For Techno Loving Queers In Mountainous Outskirts Of Taipei

EVENTS | EDITORIAL

Spectrum Formosus

Taiwan’s music label Smoke Machine carves out space for techno loving queers in mountainous outskirts of Taipei.

In 2019, Taiwanese-based music label and event organizer Smoke Machine celebrated 10 years of success in the music business. The label is mostly known for its annual techno Organik Festival. The 3-day event is celebrated on the black beaches of Hualien County on the east coast of Taiwan, surrounded by a stunning mountainous vista.

In 2017, Smoke Machine launched another festival, queer-centered Spectrum Formosus. The label didn’t stray too far from keeping it in nature: every year the 3-day techno / art / queer festival is held on a hilly Wen-shan tea plantation, just 30 minutes away from Taipei proper by car. 

“In an age in which nationalism and closed-mindedness seem to prevail globally, we offer a counter space. A safe space for all of those who support and cherish liberty, openness, love, and inclusiveness. A Space where all are welcome, regardless of race, background, class, sexual preference and gender identity,”

Smoke Machine offers explanation to Mixmag Asia for their latest venture.

Spectrum Formosus was originally intended to be an LGBTQ+ geared festival, but only became its queerest self the third time around. In 2019, the organizers of the event decided to involve queer collectives from Hanoi, Chengdu, Beijing, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and its Taipei home base.

On the Resident Advisor page of the festival, Smoke Machine states,

“The edition of this year will be a regional festival, celebrating the unity and shared visions. We asked these local collectives to join forces so we can share colorful experiences, learn from each other, celebrate and build a community reaching beyond the borders of our beautiful island.”

counter space

The festival included a stellar DJ lineup, matched with queer-centered activities, discussions, and performances. While Smoke Machine’s resident Diskonnected was playing on the Forest stage of the farm, on the other side of the farm a dozen attendees were peacefully creating watercolor portraits of live models—local drag queen by way of New Zealand Popcorn, and Mx. Vagabond who flew in for the festival all the way from New York’s Hudson Valley.

Over a hundred tents were sprawled in the middle of the tea farm, some of the visitors staying for the whole three days of the festival. On Saturday night DJs started spinning as early as 10 AM and went on until 5 AM the next day. One of the headliners of the festival, Paris-based Shlømo, played hard beats for the entranced eye-rolling, gum-chewing, lollipop-sucking, dirt-stomping barefoot crowd for over three hours.

Most of the people in attendance looked like brief visitors, just like me. Shockingly, 99% of the people I spoke to resided in Taipei. After what seemed to be the 100th person’s confession about living on the island, I almost grabbed him by the shirttail and demanded an answer why.

His response was simple:

“It’s beautiful, the people are nice and it’s safe.” 

There might be a few more reasons why Taiwan is a hit with expats though: the cost of food and accommodations is very affordable compared to major Western cities; English teachers are in demand, racking up a salary high enough to afford comfortable living; excellent public healthcare if you are a student or on a work visa. Another undeniable draw of Taiwan is tolerance towards the LGBTQ+ community; not only was it the first nation in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage in 2019, it also introduced the Gender Equity Education Act to schools in 2004 following the mysterious death of 15-year-old Yeh Yung-chih. The Act was “formulated in order to advance genuine gender equality, eliminate gender discrimination, safeguard human dignity, and soundly establish education resources and environments that epitomize gender equality.” The Act requires all public and private schools to “provide safe and gender-fair campus learning environments, and respect and give due consideration to students, teachers, and non-teaching staff members who have different genders, gender traits, gender identity, or sexual orientation.” Even though a large chunk of the population still opposes same-sex education in elementary and junior-high schools, Taiwan is leaps and bounds ahead of even the most progressive countries when it comes to LGBTQ+ legislature and education. 

The festival itself attracted a slew of interesting people from all over the world. I spoke to Lenny Naakt, who was the only nudist and exhibitionist at the event. Lenny is adamant that people understand there is a distinction between nudism and exhibitionism. He identifies as both.

“Most nudists would not like to be associated with exhibitionism,”

says Lenny,

“In my case it’s both. Nudists just enjoy pure freedom of being without the burden of clothes. I grew up as a nudist (my parents would prefer ‘naturist’ but I don’t make that distinction), but I figured out the love of exposing myself and the effect it has on others when they notice my nudity. The exhibitionist would be enjoying when somebody watches them naked or could potentially see them unexpectedly. That’s more of a sexual aberration.”

Isabella, a Brazillian model turned drag king who currently resides in Taipei, shared that the reason she started dressing as a man was to escape harassment on the streets of her home town. Birmingham-born Esta Ricardo moved to Vietnam to find/mother GenderFunk, a queer collective that creates inclusive spaces for drag performance in Ho Chi Minh City. JC found himself stuck in the middle and not being able to build close relationships with people from the drag scene as a guy doing male drag:

“Some people wanted me to be a drag queen, but I just think that I already have this JC brand and if I will do female drag people will want to see more, and my drag guy career will fade out. I really don’t want that to happen, because this is my unique side. Actually, I just found out there are people out there who are doing the same thing and calling themselves Drag Prince.”

Lenny Naakt

The personal highlight of the festival for me was the “Taipei Is Burning” mini-voguing Ball organized by Popcorn and her husband Henry. Almost everyone from the drag and Ballroom community of Taipei made an appearance and participated in the Ball’s categories. Big Ninja, the father of Taipei’s chapter of House of Ninja, was the only assigned judge for the Ball. Right before the “Sex Siren” category, he got up from his throne, approached me in the middle of the crowd and whispered in my ear

“You betta work it kitty girl.”

I had never walked in a Ball before and I was shitting in my boots, but I couldn’t pass up on Big’s challenge. After five rounds of floor grinding, neck licking, and ultimately getting my ass naked, I secured the “Sex Siren” trophy, officially making me the sexiest person at the festival. 

Resident Advisor has put it best:

“Techno events in East Asia reflect something at the core of the region’s cultural DNA: zen philosophy. While Western parties and the artists they book tend to emphasize the heavy side of techno, their Eastern counterparts favor more hypnotic and spiritual sounds, suggesting a state of transcendence and, when heard in the striking outdoor locations where some of these events take place, a heightened connectedness with nature.” 

Man vs. Nature

Popcorn (top) with

Nymphia Wind

Mx. Vagabond (right)

with a friend

Even though Taipei hosted a 10,000-person concert in August of 2020 when the rest of the world was still reeling from the effects of coronavirus, this year’s Spectrum Formosus was cancelled.

“It relied so heavily on international guests from Hong Kong, Vietnam, Japan etc. But the group that organizes it is still holding big parties at their nightclub which opened in December, so they’re getting by okay. Obviously, they took a hit but at least we can still do events here,”

says Popcorn, who was enlisted by Smoke Machine to help organize the festival from its inception.

Taiwan has been one of the most successful countries in curbing the virus. On October 30, 2020, just one day before the 18th annual Taipei Pride, the island hit a milestone of 200 days without any locally transmitted cases of the disease.

Before Taipei Pride 2020, Popcorn predicted that the festivities would still go on, but on a more modest scale,

“Obviously it will be smaller than previous years without the foreign guests, but we can still do the parade and some parties, which is super lucky. Not a lot of people are doing major events because no one is quite sure what the scale will be… It’s all very up in the air, but I’m sure it will be special and local.”

On October 31, 2020, over 110,000 people took to the streets of Taipei to celebrate Pride.   

NOTE: The article was updated with Lenny Naakt’s quote on 11-18-2020

Alexey Kim

Founder

Categories
Events Festivals Nightlife Timeline

Wigwood IV: Contributing to Miami’s LGBTQ+ History

EVENTS | FESTIVALS

WIGWOOD 2020

Wigwood is a 3-day, biggest South Florida queer performance festival.

sidewalkkilla

Queef Latina (Day 2)

Wigwood Miami celebrated its fourth installment at the beginning of the new decade (February 7-9). The festival usually takes place the first weekend of February and, in our point of view, serves as the official opener for the must-attend LGBTQ+ events of the year. The reasoning for Wigwood taking place at this particular time of the year is actually very sound. A bearded drag queen Queef Latina, who is also a tailoring and sewing instructor and the winner of Miami New Times Best Drag Performer of 2019, is the creator and director of the festival.

She half-jokes,

“The reason why I decided to start Wigwood in early February is because I don’t want to be hot in drag. This is the perfect time to be in Miami weather-wise.”

It couldn’t be more true: in January everyone is still getting over their New Year’s blues and slumber, while in February people start to become more alive and look for things to get themselves into, especially if it warrants them to get out of the colder parts of the US and head over down to South Florida’s biggest queer performance festival. The flights to Miami in February are also very affordable, even though this time of the year is considered to be the high season. I purchased a one-way ticket from New York for less than $100.

Wigwood festival became Queef Latina’s brainchild when she moved back to South Florida, after 6 years of living in NYC. Queef cites the early years of the Bushwig festival as an inspiration. She loved how intimate it felt and she wanted to carry over the sentiment to her found-again home in South Florida. She approached Adam Gersten of Gramps about creating Miami’s own event that would mostly cater to the local queer community, and the rest is history.

Queef gives credit to her “drag husband” and best friend, local artist Sleeper, for inspiring her to keep on creating more safe spaces for Miami queers. Sleeper started the legendary Counter Corner party back in 2014, alongside Juleisy y Karla, creating the first queer space which “made people feel comfortable.”

In 2019, HistoryMiami Museum held an exhibition named “Queer Miami,” curated by Miami native Julio Capó Jr., purposefully coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The exhibit went back a century to showcase the pivotal moments in Miami’s LGBTQ history. 

“In 1930s Miami was called the Magic City, you could come here and see drag shows, they would be even advertised in the paper,”

Queef mentioned what she learned from the “Queer Miami” exhibit.

In the ‘70s, Miami’s queer progress was stunted by a powerful adversary – Florida Orange juice spokesperson and singer Anita Bryant, who started a campaign named “Save The Children” opposing Metro-Dade County’s new anti-discrimination ordinance.

She famously referred to gay people as “human garbage” and stated that,

“If gays are granted rights, next we’ll have to give rights to prostitutes and to people who sleep with St. Bernards and to nail-biters.”

“When South Beach was kind of crumbling and falling apart in the ‘80s and 90s and it was very dangerous, that was the queer hub. That’s when Adora started doing drag, there would be foam parties, and there was Warsaw and all these other great clubs, but then, as South Beach started becoming gentrified and developed, there was a big push, especially by a lot of rich sports people that were trying to kick out all the gays from South Beach. The reason Wilton Manors exists and is so gay, is because all these gays that were kicked out from South Beach relocated there. South Beach still has a gay scene, but it’s not as cool as what we do. For many years we would get a lot of hatred from the South Beach scene and the South Beach queens. And now, we’ve actually booked some South Beach girls. I tried to book them ever since the first year, and every year they either didn’t respond or they didn’t want to do it,”

says Queef, inadvertently weaving Wigwood’s history into Miami’s.

Miss Toto & FKA Twink (Day 1)

Glam Hag (Day 2)

Vex The Thing (pink face) shares excitement with friends after being kissed by Landon Cider (Day 1)

“It’s this old school mentality, where they are like ‘We are professionals, because we are entertainers and you are just a bunch of kids running around and you don’t look like a woman, you look like a monster.’ Eventually I started not giving a fuck and being like ‘Well we don’t want to be you, we want you to be with us, because we are inclusive, but I am not trying to look like a woman, I have a beard. I want to look glamorous, I want to look beautiful, but I am not trying to pass.’”

Maybe all the press and recognition that Wigwood received over the course of its existence served as a catalyst for South Beach girls to finally partake in the Miami festival. Two days before the first day of Wigwood, a new issue of Miami New Times came out with Queef gracing its cover, pouting seductively, while striking a high-fashion pose. The article’s headline, “Queer & Here!,” jumps out from the front page.

“A few years ago, if you would have told me that a bearded drag queen … forget it, a drag queen period … would be on the cover of a Miami newspaper that can reach anyone’s household, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

It seems that the “monsters” are rapidly taking over Miami’s gay scene and making it queer as fuck – hence the “Invasive Species” theme of this year’s festival.

“In Miami there’s surprisingly no queer bars and there’s very few gay bars. All of the queer parties that we have are in straight venues,”

Queef says, noting that her friend and hairstylist Patrick came up with that concept.

“Queers in Miami are the invasive species, because we are constantly invading these non-queer, non-gay spaces.”

Queef Latina is also adamant about calling Wigwood a queer party, not a gay party,

“We are trying to show that this isn’t a gay party, it’s a queer party – there is a difference. At a queer party you have a lot more transgender, non-binary people, a lot of people in drag. If you go in drag to a gay party, you are going to be hated on. It’s pretentious and not very welcoming, that’s what a gay party for me is … A queer party is come how you are, whether you are big, hairy, super skinny, or missing an arm – you are accepted. It’s a different mentality. What I like about queer parties is there’s a lot of women. It doesn’t have to be gay. I like that there’s women – all my girl cousins come to Wigwood, they feel safe, comfortable, they have fun. It’s basically about inclusivity.”

Topatio (Day 2)

When Queef says inclusive, she means it. Even from a monetary standpoint, the 3-day weekend pass cost only $35 this year. She says that she’s never turned away someone who couldn’t afford the ticket.

“Honestly I just do this for my friends. I have yet to make money from this, I barely even break even. But it’s not even about making money. I try to keep it accessible, cuz I know all the queers are broke,” she laughs, “If it’s too expensive, people are not going to come, or the people that I want to come aren’t going to come. I’m not trying to throw a party for people I don’t know. I throw this party for my friends, and I want all of my friends to come and hang out with me.”

In comparison, the Afropunk festival that first started in 2005 as a block party and was free to attend, in 2019 charged a whopping $180 for a Saturday VIP ticket during its Brooklyn edition. Queef Latina refuses to hike up the ticket prices, sell VIP tickets, or sell bottles. Making money is not the goal; making everyone feel equal is the priority.

Unquestionably, Queef is beloved in the community, and a bunch of people make a beeline to greet her on the first day of the event at Club Space. She says that if next year her friends don’t want to do the party, she simply won’t do it.

At some point during the night she walks out on stage, clutching the microphone, and humbly says,

“I just wanted to say that this party is for you guys.”

Love is in the air and it’s palpable. Is this what Queef was referring to when speaking of the first few years of Bushwig?

Someone’s adorable child (Day 3)

After the last day of Wigwood, a relaxing hotel pool party, a bunch of event attendees and performers ended up at Queef’s house, dubbed “The House of Shame,” for the after-party.

“Oh, so she wasn’t lying, she does know all these people,”

I thought.

A few drag performers that flew in for the festival from other cities in the US felt welcome and right at home, some of them even crashing at Queef’s pad.

“So Queef, how many drag children do you have?”

I lost count of the people clinging to her figurative skirt over the course of the house afterparty.

“I have 7 drag children, I told you I really am queer Miami’s mommy,”

she smiles.

Can it be that Queef Latina is one of the pioneers rewriting or adding to LGBTQ+ history in South Florida? Who knows, but it is highly likely she is already on her way in doing so. 

FULL COVERAGE

Looking Back At Miami’s First Controversial Wynwood Pride

In 2019, Miami’s 1st Wynwood Pride split local talent into 2 opposing camps. In 2020, the festival is back in digital form.

Alexey Kim

Founder

Categories
Events Festivals Timeline

Wigwood III: Disrupting Miami’s Gay Tourist Scene

EVENTS | FESTIVALS


Wigwood Festival: Disrupting Miami’s Gay Tourist Scene


Miami, FL

Even though Miami’s queer history dates as far back as 1930s, there has been a shift within its LGBTQ+ community in more recent years. A new crop of local drag talent started emerging, taking the local drag scene commercialized by tourism to more of a DIY route.

The way I discovered and got close to Miami’s LGBTQ+ community can only be described as fate. During one of my visits to South Florida in late 2018, where I usually visit my mom and my brother, I came out to my father as gay.

It was an intense exchange and a pivotal moment in my life, so the next day after what happened I headed over to a bougie hotel in South Beach where my friend was staying, in order to share the news about what happened. I told my friend that we needed to go out that night to celebrate my freedom and dragged him to the Lemon City Day School in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, to a party that I stumbled on in my Instagram feed earlier in the day.

The party was called “Build A Boi” and it seemed that it was a fundraiser for a local drag king, Sage, at that time known as King Femme. The fundraiser’s purpose was to raise money for Sage’s breast removal surgery and there seemed to be a lot of performers scheduled to appear. (Sage is still short of his goal, so if you’d like to help, click here.)

The moment we got there, we realized we were not in Miami anymore, it felt like we somehow magically transported to a DIY queer space somewhere in Bushwick. This was the first time that I encountered the local Miami drag scene in such an intimate way.

I was shaken by the performances I witnessed that night and was curious to find out more about Miami’s, what seemed to me a burgeoning, new drag scene. I ran into another flyer on my feed about a month later, but this time for a 3-day festival called Wigwood that was going to be taking place in the beginning of next year.

This was definitely my chance to dive a little deeper and learn more about this local queer community that I was so out of touch with.

I got in touch with the event’s organizer Queef Latina, and asked if I could attend as press. A couple of months later I was on my way to Miami, to the third annual installment of a festival that would eventually turn my life in an unexpected direction.

Day 1

The first day of Wigwood was on a boat. The check-in line was long and I didn’t see anyone I knew. It is a sight to be seen: it looks like the second coming of Noah, only sea monsters and queer creatures are allowed to board this time. I’m desperately thinking about where I should stuff my edibles in case they might be spotted in my bag and thrown into the marina. I finally see a couple of people I know: Remy Black is passing by me, who I interviewed for “Conversations” just the day before, and Violencia Exclamation Point, who I had previously met at Bushwig and DragCon.

I got inside of the boat to scope out the surroundings first. There was not much happening on the first level, but it looked like the second floor was where people would eventually be dancing. The top floor of the boat was open and several cabanas were on either side, covered in turquoise tinsel curtains blowing in the air.

I made my way to the front of the boat and ran into a drag queen who was wearing her own fabulous version of standard diving dress. We struck up a conversation, she told me her name was Didi and that she lived in Jacksonville. I confessed that I had no idea about the thriving Miami drag scene; in turn, she mentioned that I should look into Taipei’s drag scene as well, and to get in contact with the island’s local drag queen Popcorn. Incredibly, this quick conversations became the stimulus for me taking a trip to Taipei later the same year for their Pride celebration.

Didi

I asked a couple of people who Queef Latina was and they pointed me to a vision dressed in orange, with big puffy hair and a beard to match. I came up to her to introduce myself and thanked her for having me. “She’s awfully nice,” I thought and moved on to explore what more the boat had to offer.

Shortly after takeoff, a slew of shows started on the second floor. The first performer of the night was Karla Croqueta, who lip-synced to “My Heart Will Go On,” whipping out “the heart of the ocean” from her bra and throwing it through the window, bringing about a wild frenzy. “Titanic is one of my favorite movies and when I was told we were going to be on a yacht, I was like, I am sinking this yacht. I’ve always wanted to perform that and I always wanted to throw ‘the heart of the ocean’ into the ocean, so I did,” Karla said during our interview a few months after the festival.

The night was followed by performances from Yoko Oso, Abhora, MTHR TRSA, Regina Black, Apollo Infiniti, Dasha Dix, Bebe Deluxe, Adelaide and DJ sets by Get Face, Gami, and Keanu Orange.

To my disappointment, it seemed like the boat pulled over to the dock way too soon and everyone had to disembark. Thankfully, there were two more days planned ahead.

Day 2

The second day of Wigwood took place at Gramp’s bar in Wynwood. Milk from RuPaul’s Drag Race season 6 and All Stars season 3 was the headliner for the party. Milk was taking photos with fans in the smaller room of the venue, before performing twice later on during the night.

It seemed like the performances would never stop. I’d never seen so many scheduled acts performing onstage right after the other, except at Bushwig. What was most surprising is that everything ran right on time. I shared this sentiment with Milk later on in New York, when I ran into her at Aquaria’s birthday party. “It was so beautiful, I can’t believe I didn’t know about this festival before this year. Everything ran so smoothly and the energy was incredible,” she went on to say.

Lady Paraiso

That night I witnessed some of the best performances I’ve seen to date. Andro Gin, during his rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” showed off his villainous side along with his prowess in improv and comedic timing; Lady Paraiso undressed at the end of her performance, triumphantly revealing “Perfectly Imperfect” written as a cross on her bare torso; Kat Wilderness crowdsurfed; The Abhora scared everyone shitless performing on her stilts; Opulenceeeee scared everyone shitless once again, performing as a post-apocalyptic trash mermaid covered in blood; Queef Latina showed everyone how to deal with a breakup; Mama Celeste made a huge ham sandwich right onstage and shamelessly devoured it; Remy Black and Lana Summers shut the house down (they literally closed the show) with their spot-on lip-sync rendition of Eminem and Joyner Lucas’ “Lucky You.”

Day 3

And on the third day, Wigwood created a pool party. It was relaxed and glorious. The event was held during the day, going into the evening at the Broken Shaker bar at the Freehand hotel. Most of the people showed up in their best pool attire, ditching wigs and makeup from the previous days.

Several performance slots were scheduled throughout the day, where Abhora purposefully fell into the pool, filling it with dozens of floating balloons that were released from underneath her outfit; Celia Booze, covered in LV print head to toe, took a baby out of her purse just to throw it into the crowd; Adora gave Jinkx Monsoon and Detox a run for their money with her lip-sync to “Malambo No. 1” by Yma Sumac.

Adora

Queef Latina with Sleeper, one of the co-founders of Miami’s legendary The Counter Corner party

Wigwood Origin

“I was always connected to Miami, this is my home. There were many key people that were already doing the work before I moved back from New York. There was Sleeper, who was putting together queer parties, there was Juleisy y Karla that were already doing stuff and I kind of just jumped on board. I never did drag when I lived in NY, but I was always around drag queens in the Brooklyn scene,” says Queef Latina on sprouting her roots in the Miami drag scene. “So when I moved back, I was like OK, we need to get this moving, we need queer spaces, safe spaces, events to look forward to, and slowly but surely we started to build it out.” She says that Wigwood evolved organically, because there was a need for creating spaces for local queer communities, outside of just the tourist gay scene, which dominated Miami for quite a while. 

“I lived in NY for a long time, and I went to Bushwig in the early days. I didn’t go to the first one, but I did go to the second one and the third one, when it was very family. It still is very family, but it just evolved organically and naturally, and I still remember that sense of family and community in those early days there. When I moved back to Miami I definitely used it kind of as a blueprint, but I completely changed it in the sense that Miami is so unique when it comes to certain cultures and the way we do things, especially with music. I wasn’t just copying Bushwig, I wasn’t trying to recreate it, I was really trying to create our own version of what a queer festival would be,” says Queef on coming up with the idea of creating the 3-day festival, which started off as a 1-day party during its first year.

Sidewalkkilla is beyond excited to be attending the fourth Wigwood Miami festival at the beginning of February and seeing what Queef has up her sleeve this time around. The first day of the festival is slated to happen on Friday, February 7, at the world’s famous Club Space

Alexey Kim

Founder

Categories
Events Festivals Timeline

Why Afropunk Atlanta Might Be The Last Time I Am Traveling For The Festival

EVENTS | FESTIVALS


Why Afropunk Atlanta Might Be The Last Time I Am Traveling For The Festival

Atlanta hosts Afropunk festival for the 4th time this year, but it might be the last time I am traveling for the festival. Here is why.

The Afropunk festival has its roots in Brooklyn, starting back in 2005. British-born musical artist manager Matthew Morgan and New York born-and-bred tattoo artist and filmmaker James Spooner masterminded the first festival. Originally the event started off free of charge and as a safe space for alternative-minded Black punks, with the goal of providing the stage for Black alternative performers. In 2008, James Spooner departed the project due to the festival’s shifting focus from the original idea. 

Soon after Spooner’s departure, the former head of A&R at Universal, Jocelyn Cooper, joined the team and broadened the festival’s reach beyond Brooklyn. In 2012, Matthew Morgan set his eye on Atlanta. Morgan said in an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Atlanta’s the gateway to the South for me. It’s also a place where alternative Black music, alternative Black hip-hop and alternative Black mainstream music has been created forever… There is something in the water here that allows for this Black creativity to thrive in a way that it doesn’t in other places.”

In 2015, Atlanta was the first outpost outside New York to host Afropunk, followed by Paris, London, and Johannesburg over the next few years. These days the festival features mainstream performers and charges entrance fees.

In 2019, Afropunk Atlanta was dubbed the “Carnival of Consciousness,” and celebrated its fourth installment on the same weekend as the 49th annual Atlanta Pride, keeping busy those who were planning to attend both, like myself. Even though I assumed that I wouldn’t be the only Pride celebrations spillover at Afropunk, I immediately became conscious that I was the only person at the festival repping the rainbow flag. For some reason Afropunk in Atlanta felt less queer to me than the Brooklyn or even Paris edition of the festival that I attended earlier this year. Nonetheless, I didn’t feel out of sorts and kept receiving compliments on the tiny rainbow flag propped up on top of my hair bun.

I don’t believe I would be wrong to state that the festival has almost a cult following. I mean, look at me. I’ve been chasing Afropunk from Brooklyn, to Paris, to Atlanta, and even thinking about attending it in Johannesburg later this year. Even before entering the grounds of the festival, I saw three people that I instantly recognized from meeting them at this year’s Brooklyn installment of the event. Then, not even 100 meters after passing through security, I saw a girl out of the corner of my eye who was stopped dead in her tracks, exclaiming “Sidewalkkilla!?” That was Michelle – another person I met this summer at Afropunk Brooklyn. She told me that she loved the energy of the fest so much, that she decided to come to Atlanta all by herself. I also met a couple of new people from New York who had traveled the long distance to the festival, just like myself. Amaku, a girl from Brooklyn who was decked out from head to toe in Afrocentric robe and jewelry, told me that she rode a bus for 17 hours in order to get there, and was thinking of ways to afford a trip to the Johannesburg festival as well.

The event had two performance stages: the main one was in the open air, and the smaller one located just to the side, but under a roof. A bunch of port-a-potties lined the back entrance of the smaller stage, and the queues for the food trucks were enormous. The setting, in a cluster of warehouse buildings near downtown Atlanta behind a residential area was not as remotely attractive as its counterparts in other cities. The space wasn’t picked accidentally though. Matthew Morgan and his team selected this specific area due to it being reminiscent of Morgan’s childhood upbringing in the UK. “The reason we’re in this environment where we are is access to our people, access to the community, so they don’t have to go far out of their comfort zone. They don’t have to go far economically either. [The area] truly is the city. It’s a part of the city which would never have seen a festival until we came here,” he tells AJC.

Throughout the weekend I got to witness performances by Anderson .Paak, Gallant, Leikeli47, Danny Brown, Fantastic Negrito, FKA twigs (read about her performance HERE), Masego, SiR, and Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes.

Leikeli47 persevered through the stuffy interior of the smaller covered-up stage with an electrifying set, unlike the girl who passed out from the heat during Masego’s performance. FKA twigs miraculously overcame the loss of her voice due to tonsillitis during an hour-long show, while Brittany Howard kept me company with her soulful voice while I queued up for a never-ending line to one of the food trucks.

I ran into some other interesting figures, like fashion model Alton Mason, who struck several poses on top of a yellow stage (propped up specifically for photo ops), sending a small crowd into a frenzy. I also met Raisa Flowers, celebrity make-up artist who doubles as a model occasionally, and who opened the recent Savage X Fenty show. I also met two flamboyantly dressed guys from Columbus, Georgia. One of them wore a “MAGA” hat, “America” taped over with the word “Abortions.” We had a lengthy discussion about their experience living in the South as left-wing gay men and their encounters with the conservative side of gay male population, some of whom are avid Trump supporters.

Even though I immensely enjoyed attending four Afropunk festivals during the past year, I am not sure I will be willingly chasing the festival around the world in upcoming years. Having applied for a press pass for the third time in a row and not receiving any sort of response was disheartening to say the least. I understand that being an independent publication run by two queer minorities might not be enough for a festival of such magnitude, but seeing over a dozen cisgender, mostly white males taking pictures in front of the stage brought on a moment of reflection on the festival’s real values, as well as my own.

The contrast was especially stark after I ditched a series of free events at Piedmont Park organized by Atlanta Pride (like Dyke and Bi & Pan marches, a free concert headlined by Kesha, and the Starlet Cabaret Show – one of the largest yearly Atlanta Pride drag shows in the Southeast) in order to come to a festival whose concern might have not been about making people happy as much as they would want you to believe, but about making money from them. Having said this, I won’t deny that the festival succeeds at bringing Black businesses, music, and creatives together, creating a safe and fun space for everyone. Also, I won’t ever regret creating connections and memories with many beautiful souls drawn to this event. But sadly for me, the magic that I experienced at the first three Afropunk festivals that I attended before was gone with Atlanta’s last whispers of summer.

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RuPaul’s DragCon NYC 2019 With Naomi Smalls, Kim Chi, Gia Gunn And More

See portraits of some of our favorite queens from this year’s RuPaul’s DragCon at the Javits Center.

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Wild Things Come Out To Play


THE MIXER | EVENTS

Wild Things Come Out To Play At 46th Annual Village Halloween Parade, NYC

NYC-based photographer Erin Teresa Browning finds that the most comfortable place for her to exist is behind the camera.

More often than not, cameras serve as a social ice breaker for artists who are on the shy side. Photographers create their own worlds and oftentimes see beauty in things or moments that others would hardly pay any attention to. It’s not easy to capture the spirit of the event. You have to be able to blend in, almost becoming a spirit yourself. If Tyra Banks were the judge of an event photography competition, she might have put it this way: “It’s like you are there, but make it ‘not there.’”

Erin Teresa’s work is clear evidence of her eerie ability to become one with the energy she’s out to capture, and it’s a sight to see. We couldn’t think of a better person to capture the essence of this year’s NYC Village Halloween Parade, and are happy to be able to publish her hauntingly beautiful images. Read below as Erin describes her work and her coverage of the 46th edition of the annual parade.

Wild Thing

I am always photographing events around NYC and am inspired by the energy of group expression. I find the reasons that people come together endlessly fascinating. Sometimes positive, at times confrontational, but always a common interest running through, connecting each person. I especially enjoy those where people are expressing themselves through dress, articulating their identity or fantasy identity. There is a transformation that takes place within and radiates out. I thrive on the creativity of people that revel in self-expression, those that are brave and unique individuals. As someone that is not always comfortable in my own skin, I greatly admire people that own their identity in any capacity that makes them whole.

I am continuously inspired by embellished beauty: feathers, fringe, beads, makeup and sparkles, leather and heels, and all the varying ways of adorning oneself. Speaking to beauty – what I mean is all the interpretations of that word – beauty is completely unique to each individual and I celebrate every iteration of that expression.

I shoot predominantly with an old Nikon F2 35mm film camera. When I am out and about or at an event it is inevitable that I am approached by several seasoned, old-time photographers who want to talk to me about my camera. They share stories of the old such-and-such film camera they used way back when, and applaud my use of analog photography. I usually keep to myself when I’m out shooting, unless I’m asking a subject’s permission to photograph them, and one of my goals as a photographer is to get better at building connections with people. I love the camaraderie of photographers at the events I’m shooting and enjoy the opportunity to come out of my shell and share a love of picture making. The Village Halloween Parade was no different. I had a group of Egyptian Pharaohs who were very enthusiastic about my choice of analog photography and wished me luck and fun after sharing their amazement that I was shooting with film. An older gentleman talked to me endlessly about several people he had worked with in the past who would have loved and or had my camera, and he himself wanted to have an F2 in his collection – I smiled then politely moved on. Then there was the real camera fanatic that wanted a picture of my picture taker!

This year’s parade theme was Wild Things, and people did not disappoint. Everyone fully embodied their characters and creatively played up to the cameras. I happily accepted the death threat from an ax-wielding Patrick Bateman, the eerie eye contact of a trumpet-playing flying monkey, the hand of a larger-than-life skeleton reaching down from above, aliens and pumpkin-head monsters, Wild Things taller than the streetlights, Ghostbusters, unicorns, squirrels, zombies, ravens, and black-horned beasts. Some people chose to be beautiful Wild Things with beaded masks, some went as sequined dancers wielding snapping rope whips, snapping so close I thought for sure I was going to get hit.

Some chose the expression of sound – a trio of horn players, a solo trumpet blower, the Demolition Brass Band, The Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps marching band, drummers keeping beat as the living dead. In any event of this magnitude there is inevitably a waiting period throughout the evening for marchers and floats. The booming music coming from the idling floats, live musicians, drumming troupes, the Ghostbusters theme song on repeat, a culmination of all the noise and music whirls all up into a fervor keeping the energy high as participants await their chance to strut their Halloween best. Spirits were high, murderous, creepy, sinister, innocent, and fun. It was a night to be out in NYC!

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How Fka twigs Overpowered The Loss Of Voice At Afropunk Atlanta

EDITORIAL

FKA twigs

During Afropunk Atlanta, the artist confides in her fans that she has lost her voice due to tonsillitis, but still delivers an outstanding performance.

sidewalkkilla

FKA twigs was the headliner for the first day of Afropunk Atlanta on October 12, 2019. The dancer-turned-singer rose to fame shortly after launching a series of creative music videos back in 2013. FKA twigs started learning pole-dancing a year before the release of “Cellophane,” the first music video off her upcoming second full-length album Magdalene, where she masterfully shows off her pole-dancing skills with seeming ease. In an interview for WeTransfer’s WEPRESENT, the artist confessed that pole dancing was one of the hardest things she’s ever done.

FKA twigs came out on stage wearing a large feather hat à la Marie Antoinette, 10 minutes after her allotted performance time, with a microphone in hand, sans any fanfare. In a low raspy voice she announced to the concert-goers that on the way to Atlanta, she lost her voice due to tonsillitis. Half the crowd audibly gasped, terrified that the pole installed earlier at the back of the stage wouldn’t see any action, while the other half uttered concern for the singer’s well-being. But no one lost complete hope, as the stage was all set to go and the performer was all dressed and looking ready to slay.

“Today I had two options,”

she went on to say.

“I felt I could either not come, because I really, genuinely have no voice, or I thought I could come and I could be here with you. The angels have my voice right now, but I have other skills – I can dance. So I decided to do that, and I hope that you are happy with that decision. This is very wild for me, but I’m gonna leave it all on stage and thank you for accepting me the way I am tonight.”

“That’s fine!,”

a girl from the audience screamed.

“We’ll take anything!”

– someone else added to that.

FKA started off her set lip-syncing to her first single “Water Me.“ Right after that song she inquired if there was anyone in the audience that could sing.

“Come on, be confident. You can do it, come on”

– she urged in a low, shy voice.

Someone volunteered their friend and the girl was ushered to the stage. FKA’s single “Pendulum” started playing and the volunteer was joined by one of the backup dancers who accompanied the girl with backing vocals, while FKA joined the rest of the group in the role of a backup dancer herself. There were several girls in the audience joking about the girl who just performed in front of thousands of people, bragging about performing with FKA twigs to her grandchildren.

Some time towards the end of her set, twigs did a quick stint on the pole, sending the crowd into a hysterical frenzy. The last song of the night twigs performed was “Cellophane.” The performer asked the crowd to help her sing the song live, and she performed beautifully, no matter the “missing” voice. After the song was over, FKA announced that she would be hosting a “13 Whore Moon Ceremony” with Queen Afuaoutside tonight” and was hoping to see everyone there.

Where?! Where?!

was all you could hear from everyone around.

It didn’t take long for them to find out, as bright luminescent lights lit up in the middle of the crowd and FKA joined Queen Afua for a healing moon dance “for all virgin whores in celebration of the feminine divine.” The announcement about the ceremony came in the form of an Instagram Story that twigs posted on the day of the performance.

Alexey Kim

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My First Time At Bushwig

THE MIXER | EVENTS


09-07-19

My First Time At Bushwig Festival

You are definitely in for a treat if this is your first time attending Buswhig. Read about Mark Minton’s experience.

The first time I even heard of Bushwig was just before it started last year. I had just moved to New York less than a month prior and was paying rent to sleep on a couch in a one-bedroom in the South Bronx. Trekking to Brooklyn usually took me longer than an hour, and at the time I was so rattled by the impulsive decision to quit my job in Kansas and move to NYC with minimal savings and no income that I decided to stay home and cry instead of going to what is arguably the best drag fest in New York City.

I now live a 30-minute walk and a seven-minute Uber ride from Knockdown Center, the event space that hosts Bushwig. So this year staying home really wasn’t an option. I had already secured a press pass after accosting Horrorchata at the Bushwig On Top takeover a few days prior at Le Bain, and I was ready to attend a festival dedicated entirely to the art of drag for the first time in my life. 

Molestia Child

The weird thing about Bushwig is that it starts early in the afternoon at around 1 p.m. So when I got out of my Uber five hours later at the corner of Flushing and 55th St., wearing Puma sneakers, a short golden dress I got at a thrift store down the street for eight bucks, no makeup, and the signature patent leather tufted beret I rescued from a stock room at Bloomingdale’s in Soho, I felt strange. There was a draft between my legs. The evening light had not yet waned. Shadowy drivers catcalled as they passed me in their cars. Pedestrians whistled at me from across Flushing Ave. I didn’t want to wear pants to a drag fest, so I wore a dress, but to me that was the bare minimum. I thought I would get out of my Uber, disappear into a swarm of drag queens and kings and in-betweens, and reemerge into the comfort of a moonlit darkness where social norms seem to disappear, or at least sleep. 

It took a moment before I even saw Knockdown Center. I started walking the wrong way, and then I turned around. As people waved and whistled I smiled bashfully and wrapped my arms around my waist to hug myself in reassurance as I crossed the street. The smile said, “I’m in on the joke,” but the body language said, “Holy fuck why does this shit start at 1 p.m.?” But just as soon as I was lost, I found myself in that magical crowd of people in full face and look in the day’s last, gloaming light — wigs down to the ankles, lips overdrawn to the cheek, pads and bodysuits and choruses of “Hey sis!” I had found safety, but now the embarrassment was less that I stood out too much and more that I didn’t measure up to the legions of drag artists who had all shown up with something to show.

Charity Kase

Bimini

Georgia Tasda

After I feverishly gulped down a pair of diminutive $15 tequila sunrises, I lingered by the stage and watched from the back of the crowd as the “London Takeover” segment of the festival got underway. The first artist I watched was Georgia Tasda, who walked the stage with a giant white flag graffiti’d “Fuck Brexit.” My favorite picture of the performance only got the “Fuck” part of the message. The silhouette of the crowd obscured the rest. But “Fuck” to me said it all perfectly enough. “Fuck.” It felt right. Other queens in the act such as Bimini and Charity Kase gave some of my favorite performances of the night and got me thinking about a trip to the UK (feel free to book me for any big upcoming events, London ladies). It was a reminder that drag is like a universal language, bringing people together from all over the planet.

Most of what I do is photograph parties and, more specifically, the attendees of parties. The performances at Bushwig were nonstop, back to back, and after standing stageside for what must have been at least two hours, I felt sated by some of the amazing numbers by artists such as Blake Deadly, God Complex, Violencia Exclamation Point, and Tammie Brown.

Violencia Exclamation Point

I decided it was time to get some food, so I followed some friends to the food trucks in the outdoor commons. The lines were long, the turnaround times were long, and I’d been drinking for about 30 hours straight and had neglected to feed myself. So I left Knockdown with Willie Page and found a cluster of bodegas a few blocks away. On the way we passed a big white clown face built into a white wooden wall. Bushwig felt like it extended beyond Knockdown Center. It somehow seemed like all of Brooklyn, maybe even all of New York City, was eclipsed by the happening of Bushwig. Cashiers asked if there was a party going on. Somehow it was a hard question to answer.

When we got back, I milled through the crowd and found a few friends. Luka Ghost wore his quintessential white Deer Goddess regalia and crouched in a creepy nook I couldn’t divine the purpose of. Basit Shittu and Kylie Smith from the first fully queer season eight cast of Are You The One? just so happened to be wearing neon-green spaghetti-strapped garments that perfectly matched a neon-green spaghetti strap dress that West Dakota wore. They posed for a photo together and talked like old friends, but I think it was truly a coincidence that they were all wearing neon-green outfits with green spaghetti straps. It might have been planned though. I might have been drunk(er) by then. 

Candy Sterling looked hot. Her dancers looked hot. They all posed against a wall with their asses out. It was hot. Serena Tea was dressed like cocktail fish and I snapped a photo of her on the metal stairs of a storage (barn?) unit. She didn’t know and I didn’t know and nobody else knew (I don’t think) that the next night she would be crowned Miss Bushwig 2019. I didn’t know anyone was going to be crowned Miss Bushwig, though. I’m learning more every day.

Luka Ghost

Kylie Smith, Basit Shittu & West Dakota

Candy Sterling and dancers

J Rosa

When we got back, I milled through the crowd and found a few friends. Luka Ghost wore his quintessential white Deer Goddess regalia and crouched in a creepy nook I couldn’t divine the purpose of. Basit Shittu and Kylie Smith from the first fully queer season eight cast of Are You The One? just so happened to be wearing neon-green spaghetti-strapped garments that perfectly matched a neon-green spaghetti strap dress that West Dakota wore. They posed for a photo together and talked like old friends, but I think it was truly a coincidence that they were all wearing neon-green outfits with green spaghetti straps. It might have been planned though. I might have been drunk(er) by then. 

Candy Sterling looked hot. Her dancers looked hot. They all posed against a wall with their asses out. It was hot. Serena Tea was dressed like cocktail fish and I snapped a photo of her on the metal stairs of a storage (barn?) unit. She didn’t know and I didn’t know and nobody else knew (I don’t think) that the next night she would be crowned Miss Bushwig 2019. I didn’t know anyone was going to be crowned Miss Bushwig, though. I’m learning more every day.

MTHR TRSA

Overall, the first night of Bushwig was a night I’ll never forget. As I left, MTHR TRSA (pronounced “Mother Theresa”) was lying in the parking lot eating pretzels with her mouth full, the sharp signature contour of her cheeks dancing to the motions of her insatiable masticating maw. We left Knockdown and J Rosa posed next to corrugated sheet metal and a graffiti’d rape van in a long-sleeved black Calvin Klein shirt and a clown beat. All the way home, Bushwig kept going and going. 

I didn’t make it to the final night of Bushwig because I foolishly decided to stay in Manhattan, and I also didn’t know a Miss Bushwig 2019 crowning was a thing, but throughout the weekend I was amazed by the talent and bravery I witnessed both online and in person at that festival. It was such an amazing space for so many drag artists to come together and show how wide-ranging, diverse, and intrepid the art of drag really is. Let’s just say it’s the actual NYC DragCon.

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