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EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Movies With Matvey Cherry: Harry & Meghan

THE MIXER | EDITORIAL

Movies With Matvey Cherry

Harry & Meghan

Illustration by Paco May

The rating of the documentary about the life of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on IMDB is only 4.6, but, according to rumors, Netflix has already paid several million in advance for this shit show. Twitter users called on Meghan Markle to apologize for this passage where she mocks the traditions of the British royal family.

I watched the first episode at a speed of 1.25 and have to state: it’s VERY boring. A mix of a slick glossy interview with footage that we’ve all seen. Before the conflict with Buckingham Palace–the most interesting part–it’s 3-4 hours of torment for sure.

The British press expectedly disassembles Harry and Meghan into microns. In addition to vindictive quibbles, journalists noticed several really strange inconsistencies in the most innocent little things. For example, Harry and Meghan used to declare that they met on a blind date organized by a mutual friend. In the Netflix documentary, they say they met through Instagram. Then there’s the proposal . . . As we remember, Harry made it casually, while cooking chicken. But in the documentary we see footage from the garden, a blanket, electric candles, roses, and Meghan FaceTiming her friend during this moment. Suspicious. Why lie about it? And yet . . .

Harry and Meghan came out with a disclaimer that the Royals refused to comment on the documentary. The palace also claims that no one has sent any requests.

Earlier, the corrosive journalists of The Times found out that the scenes from the trailer for Harry & Meghan, with the paparazzi allegedly chasing the couple, were taken from completely different events. One of them (immediately after the shocking shots, a crying Markle) shows journalists at the doorstep of the court hearing for the drunk driving Katie Price (scandalous model, TV presenter, reality show star). Another clip from the trailer allegedly shows journalists chasing Donald Trump’s lawyer caught up in tax fraud.

It was worth subscribing to The Times, if only because they publish funny recaps for every episode of Meghan Markle’s Archetypes podcast. Of course, God himself ordered to laugh at Meghan, because she seems to be a walking book of quotes on the topic of wisdom, psychology, esotericism, a conscious lifestyle, and a hundred ways to cook avocados. At home, Meg has a motivating painting: “Human kind: be both.” While The Times columnist is trying her best to be human, and not some kind of subspecies of invertebrates, Meg goes “to the first pages of her true story,” recalling her school years. She comes to a thoughtful conclusion: “You’re not just a human being, you’re a human — just being.” Umm… In the end, Meg advises everyone to “sit in your authenticity.” Yeah, you can get on a private jet flight London-LA and you sit in this very authentically!

Long before the podcast, Markle had been running The Tig blog for 3 years since 2014. The Tig is an abbreviation for tignanello, an Italian wine which Meghan tasted once and made her understand everything about life. Since then she began to consider any insight as a “tig moment.” In the blog, which seems like a distant relative of The Goop, she was posting about food, travel, fashion, and her communication with inspiring people. There were tips on packing a suitcase, conversations with the Princess of Libya (“I had to pinch myself that I was emailing the princess” lol), and Heidi Klum, as well as a column about a month in Italy, styled as an adaptation of Eat, Pray, Love (well, it was 2016).

Once upon a time, President Bush’s PR team began working with Angelina Jolie when her reputation in Hollywood seemed to be beyond repair. As a result–children, the UN mission, charity, and family values. Not life, but a fairy tale. Who now remembers heroin, an affair with Ethan Hawke, married to Uma Thurman (Uma did not accidentally make friends with Jennifer Aniston), kisses with her brother, two suicide attempts, and everything that a professional team had to clean from the internet.

Now another very professional team has taken on Meghan. But if Jolie had energy and charisma, which she managed to put in a beautiful wrapper, then everything with Meghan is flawlessly beautiful, but sincerity is not detected. Meghan is not a person, but a living press release.

Matvey Cherry

Artist

Paco May

Illustrator


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EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Movies With Matvey Cherry: Bullet Train

THE MIXER | EDITORIAL

Movies With Matvey Cherry

Bullet Train

Illustration by Paco May

In a recent interview for GQ, Brad Pitt, melancholically contemplating the summer of our anxiety and the autumn of his life, told a journalist that Bullet Train, which broke into the world as a rental at full steam, was developed during the pandemic. When there was absolutely nothing to do. Sadness and longing gripped even Los Angeles. From Pitt’s revelations, we learn that tricks and jokes were written in between art modeling sessions and cooking classes through which the actor tried in vain to distract himself from thoughts of suicide. Perhaps this explains, frankly, the grassroots level of cinematic culture and humor which put the most unpretentious viewer at a dead end. It is awkward to follow what is happening on the screen because of the collective attempts to entertain the viewer. I remember, at the height of covid, everyone was talking about how this new life would not leave a stone unturned from the old. Now it is clear that nothing new has happened on the planet, it’s just that everything bad has become even worse.

Of course, director David Leitch, who served a significant part of his career as an understudy for Brad Pitt, hardly inspired anyone with high hopes, but with the beginning of Bullet Train, Leitch made the audience lose their last illusion–there were no such bad pictures in the filmography of the most intelligent Hollywood star yet. Even out of friendship, Pitt shouldn’t have taken part in this medley of old songs.

At first, Antoine Fuqua worked on the film adaptation of Kotaro Isaki’s novel of the same name. He planned to shoot the darkest B movie with a lot of violence and rare inclusions of black humor. However, Leitch, also the writer behind John Wick, resolutely moved in the opposite direction. Therefore, his version looks like a remake of any Guy Ritchie film, but terrible.

The plot of Bullet Train is blatantly primitive. On the Tokyo-Kyoto high-speed train, by coincidence and through the stupidity of the screenwriters, several hired assassins are simultaneously competing with each other for a case with cash. All flags are represented on a visit to the Japanese railways. Here is a desperado from Mexico City who wants to avenge the death of his bride, poisoned right at the wedding. And two British gentlemen, naturally dressed in tweed three-piece suits, incompetently cosplay as Jules and Vincent, but instead of quotes from the Bible, before every bloodshed their discourse is full of references from anime for first graders. As part of the naive advertising of feminism, there are as many as three female characters armed with a cobra, TNT, and walkie-talkies. And, of course, pretending to be a kind old man who has read esoteric literature: Brad Pitt. In the end good triumphs over evil, but not over bad taste.

Honestly, we are ready to look at Brad Pitt under any circumstances, except for the above. A man who once bore the proud name of Tyler Durden, and yesterday responded to Cliff Booth, now agrees to the cartoon nickname Ladybug? Brad, take your smoothie, let’s go home, ’cause you’re smarter than a bullet.

Matvey Cherry

Artist

Paco May

Illustrator


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EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Portrait of Unstoppable Jack Powers

THE MIXER | EDITORIAL

Portrait of Unstoppable

Jack Powers

by Matvey Cherry

Illustration by Paco May

Like a bolt from the blue, Jack Powers has once again burst into the vastness of the Internet with the “Cupid Landing” music video release. 

In May, Jack impressed the New York underground scene with the incredibly catchy song “Finally Perfect.

“I wanted to create something that would be special to my friends and New York downtown. Something that honors who came before us but is also important for the future.”

The actors in the first music video of his 2022 era – the heroes of the gossip columns and friends of Powers: Sophia Lamar, Sean Ford

“I’ve been just so lucky to meet different kinds of people through different types of connections, sometimes just going to a nightclub and meeting someone on a dance floor or being in a creative environment. I like to go out and explore.”

Continuing to talk about important people in his life, Jack switches to modern culture and mentions Lady Gaga.

“I connect to her as a New Yorker. We’re both native New Yorkers and I can hear the vibe of this city in her music.”

Unable to control my emotions, I tell my interlocutor that I hate Gaga. Jack smiles sweetly and says,

“that’s ok.”

“I love Peter Berlin’s self-portraits. I think he was great. And I used to perform at a cabaret in Paris using Queen songs,”

he answers my question about comments on social media that make comparisons with the legends of queer culture. After all, who wasn’t inspired by others at the beginning of their path?

Matvey: You started your career in Paris.

Jack: I actually started my career in London.

Matvey: Hmmm…

Jack: Yea, I grew up in New York City and when everybody ran up to college I just decided to go to London. I definitely went through a very interesting and transformative period there. I met a lot of amazing underground artists there and they inspired me to dress and find a completely new way of expression.

Do you understand? He’s a Londoner-dandy, he’s a Parisian-libertine, he’s a New Yorker-glam rocker.

“I traveled to Paris for a fashion week, in London a lot of fashion enthusiasts do it. Then a friend told me that I could get a promo show there. It was a spontaneous decision, I remember I did my makeup on the Eurostar, then was sneaking in at the parties, lived in a hostel, and after a lot of auditions, I sort of convinced a manager at the cabaret to hire me.”

Matvey: How did you start to write your own songs? 

Jack: I felt that I have a lot to say, I wanted to tell stories and express myself.

Matvey: Don’t you feel that it is harder to perform and promote your own songs when there are a lot of people doing covers and lip-sync numbers at every club? The audience already knows these songs and can support them but you have to make them get into your art and make them interested in it.

Jack: Perhaps. The audience can be confused when they hear something new, but is it bad? I kinda like it. I would like to do covers though, I have a few ideas.

Matvey: Lady Gaga?

Jack: Maybe

Matvey: Queen?

Jack: Maybe.

Matvey: Tell us!

Jack: Oh well, just stay tuned!

Jack says he doesn’t plan anything, never dreams, and lives one day at a time. I don’t believe him.

Matvey: I thought that because you spoke about Lady Gaga and Freddie Mercury, extremely ambitious people, you have a certain plan… 

Jack: Well, no. I live in the moment. It’s not about me trying to get something, it’s about me trying to give something. Love… But what is love?

Matvey: What’s your version? In my version, it’s not about happiness, something bloody and what leaves huge wounds on you.

Jack: I think love is something that holds stars in the sky. But I don’t know.

We ended our conversation with small impromptu rapid fire questions:

Matvey: What’s the happiest song?

Jack: Madonna – Holiday.

Matvey: What’s the saddest song?

Jack: Some piano music, classical music, not necessarily because they’re sad but because of the emotion they hold.

Matvey Cherry

Artist

Paco May

Illustrator


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EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Movies With Matvey Cherry: Elvis

THE MIXER | EDITORIAL

Movies With Matvey Cherry

Elvis

Illustration by Paco May

According to Baz Luhrmann, Elvis was killed not by pills, not by Colonel Parker (his fraudulent manager), not by time, but by his eternal antagonist – love. Love for all of us.

Therefore, the Elvis movie is unlike, for example, the biopic about Morrison by Stone. It is not about drugs, not about a painful relationship with a mother or the shadow of a twin brother who died at birth, not about the injuries inflicted by the entertainment industry, which sell so well. This film is only about music and an integral part of it – the show.

Austin Butler, who plays the king of rock ‘n’ roll, at first only poses with his mouth slightly open (and resembles Justin Bieber), symbolizing either confusion or lust. It seems that the actor does not know how to play at all, but this is only at first. When the director gives him a guitar, and B.B. King a couple of philosophical tips, then it becomes clear that he is the anointed of the Muses. Priscilla is also good, looking like a dead bird. Tom Hanks is grandiose, though unrecognizable in makeup.

Luhrmann is clearly at his best. The author’s courage is hardly restrained by the facts of Elvis’ biography. In the end, Baz, of course, puts documentary footage from Elvis’ final performance in Vegas. “Unchained Melody” plays, Presley’s face already resembles a mask, but not his voice, not the passion that thunders inside of him. The earthly captivity is over, the king is ready for the Lisa Marie jet to take off towards eternity, just like a superhero.

I don’t know if it’s possible to die of love, but if so, it reconciles us with the fact that time goes by so slowly. Time can do so much.

Matvey Cherry

Artist

Paco May

Illustrator


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EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Movies With Matvey Cherry: Fantastic Beasts 3

THE MIXER | EDITORIAL

Movies With Matvey Cherry

Fantastic Beasts:

The Secrets of Dumbledor

Illustration by Paco May


What I saw in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledor deeply offended my intellectual dignity. How can anyone older than ten like the ridiculous clowning of Mikkelsen and Law filmed with the chroma key? It is absolutely unclear to me. However, there was not a single child in the cinema!

Respected, serious actors talk about good and evil and the responsibility of the wizard to the universe while stroking some platypuses and grasshoppers. 

Mikkelsen plays Hitler of the magical world. He’s in Berlin, while around him is the appropriation of all cultures at once. Jude Law is a mix of Churchill and Miss Marple. Eddie Redmayne is again playing Oliver Twist but he’s over forty. A long time ago, let’s be honest, he got out of the age of The Danish Girl. The cozy British five o’clock is mercilessly exploited, all the good heroes are with freckles. All the bad ones come from The Night Porter, including Alexander Kuznetsov in the role of a stereotypical gauleiter with only a single line in this movie. 

In short, it’s time to let a lot of Hollywood screenwriters go. All this is unbearable. I think Johnny Depp should be glad that he has been canceled

In most films like Fantastic Beasts, the world is constantly being saved from villains, yet it should be from idiots. First of all, they bring the villains to power. Secondly, they provide an insatiable demand for shitty cinema.

Matvey Cherry

Artist

Paco May

Illustrator


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Hysteria, Longing, and the Eros of Open Mouths

THE MIXER | COLUMNS


This column is by nature bisexual. A literary meeting place between critical theory and poetics, Hysteria, Longing, and the Eros of Open Mouths embraces a multi-genre sensibility as an embodiment of linguistic in-betweens, as a vocalizing of inarticulation. In other words, this column approaches language as it does erotics: fluidly and multiplicatively. Fundamentally an exploration of gender and sexuality, Hysteria orients itself towards the many instances of desire within culture specifically for their deconstruction, for imagining anew the relationship between language, gender, and sex. This column is suspicious of popular gay discourse, LGBTQ+ identity politics, and homonormativity in all its forms. Instead, Hysteria articulates a radical queer politic which advocates for contradiction, abundance, deviancy, complexity, and holisticness, born from the marginality of bisexuality and transgenderism. Ultimately, this column attempts to redefine our relationship to language where cisgenderism, heterosexuality, and masculinism have limited its potential and to find language where there is none.

Chase Isbell

Writer


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Filmography Portrait of Keanu Reeves

THE MIXER | EDITORIAL

Filmography Portrait

of Keanu Reeves

by Matvey Cherry

Illustration by Paco May

— along with Pitt and Depp —

belongs to the last generation of real stars,

but seems more accessible,

closer to a coming-of-age story.


Pitt smiled too widely, Depp was unattainably cool. And Keanu, with the gait of a provincial bumpkin who had stumbled into the cinema from the Canadian frosts, from the hockey arena without taking off his skates, turned out to be very important as an alter ego and a secret best friend. Everything about him appealed to empathy: complex ethnic provenance, fatherlessness, and clubfoot. But the main thing that was felt instantly was his kindness, before the memes about him, before the photos from the subway or the city square; Keanu crushed by existence, but not dropping humanism from his hands. Katherine Bigelow was not mistaken in choosing Keanu. He looks more like a sea deity, though clean-shaven. He is the only one on earth who can wear a denim jacket with jeans. He has a very deep voice as if he has just woken up from the oblivion of Elysium and doesn’t choose words after the fall, as befits the first of people or, maybe, the last. No one knows for sure at all. Up on the crest of a wave, Keanu drifted with the flow. He hung out between roles – the son of my mother’s friend, a neighbor’s boy, one of your teenage friends, someone who reality bites from time to time.

In 1991, Keanu worked with Gus Van Sant, who had already become a singer of the youth, the main Peter Pan of independent cinematography. But My Own Private Idaho became mine much later, to be honest. Scott Favor is probably the best of people and therefore hesitantly wanders from words to deeds, trying to talk about the Quietest, but already felt. It’s good to be someone who can try. It’s bad to be Mike Waters, whose on-screen fate was almost repeated frame by frame by River Phoenix, who, contrary to his last name, never resurrected in the parking lot in front of a nightclub. The myth of the Phoenix is comparable to the legend of James Dean; he became immortal, leaving Keanu and Joaquin on the banks of the River Styx, crying out — let us also be swallowed up by these waters, we agree even to oblivion.

Life is about long send-offs and short meetings. On October 31, 1993, for the first time, Keanu was orphaned. Exactly then, on the eve of All Saints’ Day, when the dead rise from their graves to remind us: we were like you and you will become like us. But Keanu has already become. It was already too late for him to read Rilke, who advised young poets to live only with questions. And what if the answer is received?

In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, he struggles with hell (in his head, not in medieval Transylvania); Bertolucci brings up a Buddha. Everywhere his face bears the seal of mourning — for dreams that lead nowhere. He is becoming more and more like an evil god from the Indian pantheon. In these years, it would be just right for him to play the transgression of Anakin Skywalker. On the other side of the permissible, because death is unacceptable in general.

The apotheosis of this transformation, of course, is The Devil’s Advocate, a mockery of America, which in 1997 didn’t yet need either justification or repentance. This was the America of our childhood which we said goodbye to forever. It bristled with skyscrapers as if it boasted a healthy, reinforced concrete erection. In this America, only the dollar deserved beatification.

The Devil’s Advocate today looks like an extremely naturalistic caricature, a repulsive, truly terrible sight about the temptations of this world, about the relationship with conscience, about the madness of capitalism that divorced ethics from aesthetics. The mourning is over, it’s time to fight. With everything in general, just in case.

1999 was, according to Brian Raftery, the best year in the history of cinema. The twentieth century gave mankind a scattering of masterpieces at parting. The Matrix is among them. All this cinema, all that jazz that we watched and listened to for almost a hundred years, was not what it seemed. Keanu guessed it first again. No matter how naive all these metaphors of the crisis of faith from 2022 were, The Matrix, of course, helped viewers who were trembling on the eve of the millennium to leap into a sad and dark future. Another thing is that The Matrix needed neither a reboot nor a revolution, much less a resurrection.

In the new Matrix, the screenwriters still persuaded him to lie down on the couch – Freud and Marx are still the most alive. But is Keanu alive? Does he really need it? Isn’t this a projection instead of a man of flesh and blood? Did he swallow the blue pill by mistake?

Matvey Cherry

Artist

Paco May

Illustrator


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Ukraine 2022: “Is This Happening?”

EVENTS | ACTIVISM

Ukraine 2022:

“Is This Happening?”

Foreword by GiOD.

Interviews/photos by Alexey Kim.

02-26-22

Seven hours

is the difference between

local time in New York City and Ukraine.

While millions of New Yorkers laid their heads to rest like on any normal Wednesday, the Russian Federation was celebrating the Soviet Era holiday, Defender of the Fatherland Day. This holiday has been historically held on the 23 of February since its creation in 1919. Ukraine, though it is a previous Soviet Republic, no longer celebrates this historical holiday. In fact, the holiday is not even recognized and Ukraine has in response created Defender of Ukraine Day, held on the 14th of October. Russia celebrated with its usual display of fireworks from Moscow to Kazan. The celebration was interrupted by a televised broadcast of Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation. Though the broadcast was in Russia, the whole world tuned in for this special announcement. The announcement was concise, short, and widely received as one thing; we have declared war on Ukraine. Soon after the announcement, residents of Ukraine woke to blasts and flashes in the sky. Sounds of Ka-52’s, a large helicopter with the Russian nickname “Alligator” because like the alligator, it is strong, powerful, scary, and is meant to kill. In the digital media age, videos began circulating on all the popular social media applications.

“Is this happening?”

Confused and unaware of the severity, Ukrainian citizens began conducting their days as normal. For a country that has known nothing but battlegrounds, scrimmages, and body bags, an overwhelming number of citizens have become desensitized to the sense of danger. Just a regular day. It was not long before some cities in the most eastern regions of Ukraine were flooded with Russian military vehicles, tanks, personnel, and convoys of weapons. In Russia, things also appeared as normal, with the curtain pulled over the media. Citizens suspected nothing. That same curtain veiled the media from what was going on in the Eastern Bloc. Russia’s war extended all the way from the cold, muddy slosh of Ukrainian forests in the winter, to the censorship of news, media, and information from being released to the world. Stateside, the informed public knows that mainstream news is no longer credible and is much too versed in Russian Cyber Tactics. A war was waging in Eastern Europe and in an attempt to find credible sources, people all over the world had to conduct a personal treasure hunt for news. Once again – Is this happening? The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, addressed his country and delivered the grim news that their eastern neighbors had declared war on Ukraine, but not only on the country – on the Ukrainian people. This sent chills down the spines of Ukrainians who fought for their land and to be recognized as a group of people. Recognition of nationality and sovereignty sparked a war nearly seven centuries ago. It is this very same war that has dehumanized and discredited the Ukrainian people today. Ruthenia, a historical kingdom that dates back to the Middle Ages, developed into what you recognize today as Russia and Eastern Europe. A kingdom once united, was divided by differences in nationality, sovereignty, moral, and religious views. Freedom eventually came but it was not long before a new “kingdom” was invented: the United Soviet Socialist Republic. Under the USSR, WWII left Ukraine in ruins with the population massacred and the culture ethnically cleansed. Ukraine saw a rebirth and rebuilding period after the country was recognized as a sovereign state. Though the birth of a nation is always a struggle, Ukraine was more susceptible to the influence of its former Soviet neighbor because of their intertwined economies and geographical resources. In usual form, the Russians influenced individuals by means of media to cause political insurgence against a pro-Ukrainian government. As a result of constant influence, people began to see the familiarities in their current government and the government it fled from. Corruption was abundant amongst the Ukrainian government officials and the public no longer recognized their president as their leader. The Ukrainian people fought for their sovereignty on the streets of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, against a Soviet martyr. A successful election was held in 2012, and the people of Ukraine elected a president to represent them. As Ukrainians began to look to the future for Ukraine, Soviet nuisance once again challenged its comrade. Crimea, a 24,000km peninsula connected to both Ukraine and Russia, was invaded by the Russian Federation nearly two years after the insurrection in Kyiv. Ukraine once again was left robbed, discredited, and with a loss of sovereignty.

Nearly seven years later, on the 23rd of February, on Defender of the Fatherland Day, Putin looks to unite the people of Ukraine with the people of Russia. The same unity that has stayed weft into the fabric of society for more than seven centuries.

Meanwhile, on February 26, 2022 New Yorkers gathered at the historic The Stonewall Inn to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NOTE: Citations linked within interviews are also used as a sourse for the foreword.

Bogdan holds up a Ukrainian flag in front of The Stonewall Inn.

SWK: Are you the organzier of this event?

Bogdan: Yes.

SWK: I’d like to find out a bit more about this event and why we are here today.

Bogdan: I think there are two ideas here. One is to show solidarity to the LGBTQ+ community of Ukraine. The main reason why is because many of them didn’t have a chance to leave Ukraine. It’s a real war there and most of the day they are hidden somewhere because Russians are bombing them. They don’t have any internet or electricity, it’s very tough there right now. They need to see that we care about them. They are so happy when I call them and tell them,

“Hey, we are holding protests in New York every day, we are doing sanctions, we are pushing the government to take action.”

They need that feeling, to feel like someone is fighting for them and they are not alone. The second idea was to mobilize our human rights community. It’s a very powerful community, we know how to work with Congress, with the White House, we know how to do advocacy, how to push things forward. It’s a very powerful movement and I think now it’s the right time to protect the Ukrainians – in a few days hundreds of them won’t be with us anymore, we are running out of time. It’s real shit there. If Russians will take over the territory they will then start hunting down all these activists and they have no way out of the country. It’s so complex and there are so many problems, so I think it’s a good opportunity to think about this, to bring attention to that, to mobilize. I believe many people today will go home and will do something- push their representatives, contact some organization, help in some way. And in a few weeks, this will be another problem in New York, there will be a huge amount of refugees coming from Ukraine, so we need to help them. So right now we will need to think about an infrastructure- how to give them shelter, food, clothes. Most of the people don’t have money, because the bank system doesn’t work in Ukraine anymore. They are limited with what they can do.

SWK: What does your organization do when outside of what’s currently happening in Ukraine?

Bogdan: We were founded several years ago. First we started in New York with social events for the Ukrainian LGBTQ+ community here, we were the first group to organize the Ukrainian pride group during New York Pride. We do panel discussions, photo exhibitions, bring discussions about the LGBTQ+ situation in Ukraine, lectures in universities. We also work on Capitol Hill with political advocacy helping our folks and we also try to help those who come to America- navigating the process of settling, helping them find a job. This is a grassroots social organization.

Man holds up a poster that reads ‘LGBTQ+ Untied Against Putin.”

SWK: Why did you want to do this event at the Stonewall today?

Bogdan: It’s a spiritual place, I believe it has a lot of connections because The Stonewall symbolizes how a small group of LGBTQ+ community fought for their freedom, and from there it started a big LGBTQ+ and human rights movement in this country and how we ended up with gay rights, with legalized marriage, with all of this protection, with a happy life, with all of this infrastructure in our social life and to be free. I believe that this is the same as what Ukrainians are doing right now. They are fighting for their freedom, Russians want to take away their freedom, and now there is this small group of people fighting in Ukraine and I think this is kind of a connection spiritually.


Polina (on left) stands next to Ivanna who holds up a poster that reads

“Save Ukraine. linktr.ee/RazomForUkraine Stop Putin”

Polina: Both of us are Ukrainian. We are from Kyiv. We have family back home, so it’s incredibly important for us, as any global Ukrainians, to stand together, to bring our spirits together, to raise awareness, to shout about the situation and influence people and ask them to take action, to help us immediately.

Ivanna: Most importantly, to ask for urgent aid for Ukraine, for NATO to close our skies, they’ve already closed the skies above Ukraine i think[8], but to continue actually providing aid that’s immediate, not just sanctions, because sanctions are incredibly helpful for long term progress but they are not stopping Putin from bringing the army to our country and from rockets flying into civilian homes.

SWK: How is your family in Kyiv?

Polina: I mean it’s self-explanatory, everyone is terrified, but they are trying to stay strong. We try to be as much in touch with them as possible without adding any additional emotional burden. It’s stressful, some are in the bunkers, some are in a subway, the word stressed doesn’t even do it any justice. It’s actually hard to even find a voice to describe what they are going through right now.

Ivanna: And that’s why it’s important to come out on the streets in your city and help those who can’t really see the daylight right now.


Larissa looks into the camera. She is wearing a traditional Ukrainian headdress called “Vinok.”

Larissa: My family is Ukrainian, various and immediate family have been murdered by Russians or were driven out for fear of being murdered. That is why I grew up in the United States. And I am here because there are so many fucking horrible issues. I can’t speak to it as well as the journalists, but I know that what Russia plans to do to the queer community in Ukraine[1] is gut-wrenching, heartbreaking- literally rounding up and killing people. We have to stand up for humanity and this is a human rights issue. It’s one that I’m really concerned about.

SWK: I saw this post circulating on social media, a friend actually sent it to me. I asked him what he thought about it and he said it’s not hard to believe after what happened in Chechnya in 2017[2].

Larissa: That’s literally what’s going to happen. Russia is spreading so much disinformation about Ukraine like what they stand for are drugs and gay people, so you definitely should hate Ukrainians. There’s been an information war happening for a decade[3]that has deep roots, you know it’s real, you’ve seen it happen in other countries[4]. This is a very small thing to do but this is the least I can do right now.

Slava Ukraine. [Glory to Ukraine]


Taya H, 27 & Luca Iwasykiw, 24

Seattle and NYC

Luca has his arm around Taya. Luca wears a jacket made out of Ukrainian flag colors, Taya holds up a small Ukrainian flag, while the larger one is wrapped around her shoulders.

Taya: We are friends, I was born in America, my parents were born in the States, but all four of my grandparents were born in Ukraine and they all came over here during WWII, so we are happy to see so many people out here. We were out last night as well in Times Square. Really just want to spread awareness, it’s great that there are so many people watching Ukraine and Russia right now. We are just hoping things calm down, hoping that our family that still remains there is safe. It’s shocking to watch what’s happening.

SWK: Are you in contact with your family there? How are they doing?

Taya: Yes, they are in western Ukraine, so it’s a little bit calmer on that side, they are outside of Lviv. So I think the worst of it is in the east and in Kyiv. In Kyiv, we had an awful night last night, an awful day yesterday, but somehow repelled the Russian army which is incredible. So my family at this time is staying put, but hoping it stays OK where they are.

SWK: My great aunt is in Dnepropetrovsk, she said that they are still OK there, although last night there were sirens going off. What brings you here, Luca?

Luca: I’m kind of in a similar position, my parents were born here as well, my grandparents are from Ukraine, they moved here after WWII. We are involved in a Ukrainian scouting organization [Plast] which we’ve been a part of since we were children and that’s kind of an interesting phenomenon. When you think of diaspora and you especially think of people whose parents weren’t even born there, you think that, oh you don’t really have that much of a cultural connection. But there was no Ukraine when our grandparents[5] were fleeing so they brought everything here and they’ve spent all their energy fostering it in the younger generations like ourselves, so there is that sense of pride and it’s that sense that we’ve been feeling for a very long time. I’ve been trying to get people to understand the plight for a very long time and now it’s just pretty hard to see especially in this protest. A lot of non-Ukrainians are here which is something we’ve always wanted to see – an investment and a sense of caring about what’s going on there and what has been going on there. It’s unfortunate it’s under these circumstances, but there is definitely a morale boost that I think a lot of Ukrainians and Ukrainian Americans are feeling which we’ve never felt before because of that, so we are very glad to be at this particular protest for that reason.

SWK: And obviously The Stonewall Inn is a historic place[6] for the LGBTQ+ community, so it’s a special place to be for sure. Can you tell me more about the scouting organization you are a part of?

Luca: Think of Boy Scouts of America except co-ed and the main activities are related to spending time outdoors, learning camping skills, all that kind of stuff. It’s been a cultural thing for a while. The organization was banned in WWII by the Soviet government, so it was not only a scouting organization, but it was a sort of dissident organization for quite a bit of time and when the Soviet repression was at its most brutal. That was kind of the way that organizations here supported people back home, through organizations like this.

“PEACE” written in Ukrainian/Russian over the Ukrainian flag.

Taya: It is an international organization, it is in Ukraine, in Poland, as far as Australia, Germany, it’s huge in Canada and America so it’s really kind of a finding thing for a lot of us that were born in the States but this is kind of like how we stay close to the culture. Like Luca said, it’s our grandparents that fled and brought it all over the world after WWII.

Luca: So thankfully its function as the opposition movement has been less important since things in Ukraine have been relatively calmer until now, but in other terms it’s just a sort of a cultural thing for you to stick with your community as we get further and further from people that were actually born there.


unknown

Germany

unknown: I feel that Putin’s aggression and invasion of Ukraine is not only a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, this moment in time really changes everything in the world. I feel like the world is now waking up to a new situation where democracies and autocracies are facing each other. I feel it’s the beginning of the new Cold War-style era where we see the big blocs of Russia and China on the one side cracking down further and further on the freedom of their citizens and a democratic western alliance on the other side. I feel that many other countries will fall into either of these two camps; so while we have seen that for a long time progressing at a slow speed I think it is accelerated dramatically overnight and we all need to be aware of it. This is a really fundamental shift in how the world works and we need to take action to be prepared for what is yet to come. It’s very much a wake-up call for everyone.


Maxim Ibadov, 25 ; Yerkenaz Bayetova, 28 & Didar Sarsenov, 29

Moscow; Kazakhstan

From left to right: Maxim Ibadov, Dina Pimenova, Yerkenaz Bayetova, Didar Sarsenov and Anuar Kubiyev.

Maxim: I am an activist and a nightlife organizer, I am part of the collective WE Together where we do LGBTQ+ events for the entire post-Soviet community. We do events, parties, we are actually doing an event on March 20 at 3$Bill. We are doing this event in full support of Ukraine. 100% of proceeds are going to go to various Ukrainian organizations. I’ve been here for ten years now, even though I’m from Russia I am anti-Putin, I’ve been anti-Putin, that’s why I’m here. I’ve been in support of Ukraine for the last eight years so it’s great to be here even though the circumstances obviously are atrocious, but it’s been escalating for eight years[9] and it’s nice to see that people are finally uniting all together against Putin, doesn’t matter if it’s Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, we all know what it’s like to be oppressed under those crazy old white men, well Putin. And that’s what I’m here for.

Yerkenaz: I work closely with Ukrainian guys, my offshore team, they all work in Ukraine. In the past year I’ve gotten so close to them, they are like a family to me. I really want to show my support and solidarity to them and my heart really breaks just imagining that these guys who are engineers who have no military training, they are on the streets right now fighting for their lives, fighting for their motherland. They have no arms, they have no ammunition and they are fighting for their land. This is the least I can do right now – show the support for my fellow Ukrainians and show that all my thoughts and prayers are with them.

Didar: The reason why I’m here is because what’s happening in Ukraine, invading the countries’ sovereignty is not right, from a human perspective. The other reason I am here is to support the LGBTQ+ community because I am a part of that as well. Also what’s happening is we know how crazy Putin is and what he might do if he invaded Ukraine. He wants it to become a part of Russia again and restore the USSR, next will be Kazakhstan, it’s for sure. I believe that it has to be stopped at the beginning and that the community in every part of the world should act, and they shouldn’t wait until the sanctions are going to do something. They have to pressure their government officials and the world organizations like the UN to make sure that they do something. This needs to happen as soon as possible, we can’t wait until the voting is going to happen. While these things are happening, many people are dying. I’m here with solidarity, I’m here to tell the Ukrainian people that we are supporting them and we are family, because we share the same history, the same path. In this case if Russia invades, the LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable social group. So this has to be stopped.

Man holds up a poster that reads “Queer People Are Responsible For Queer People Everywhere.”

SWK: Do you think a similar thing can really happen to Kazakhstan?

Didar: If you look at the foreign policy of Kazakhstan, the strategy is multi-vectorism[1]. Multi-vectorism states that you have to be in very good standing with all the countries. If there is escalation you cannot go into the war. You have to be able to solve the problem in a diplomatic way. In this case, we cannot choose, we cannot replace our neighbors. That’s why if we are thinking in the way that (former Kazakh president) Nazarbayev was pro-Russian and the new administration, whether they would be pro-other countries, not even necessarily Russia, I think that would reflect negatively on the country. It could be that the same history could repeat itself with Kazakhstan, in this case, they should be really careful in exercising diplomatic negotiations while at the same time protecting the sovereignty of all countries. But again, since the country is very young, it doesn’t have much experience, it doesn’t have much support from the international community, it’s kind of hard for Kazakhstan. It’s right between Russia and China. At the same time, we need to understand what exactly is happening there, we can’t just say,

“Hey you can’t be friends with Russia!”

We cannot do that. Because the same thing might happen to you. It’s best to think about those details depending on the situation. In this case, what I would say for (current Kazakh president) Tokayev, is he has experience in diplomatic missions, he could find a balance between Russia and Kazakhstan, I think he could be respectful but at the same time achieve his own mission while still holding authority over Kazakhstan.


Shane faces a poster that he is holding, which reads “No War. Stand With Ukraine.” Shane’s pink kippah is out of focus in the foreground.

Henry: My name is Henry Shane, I am a 19-year-old political activist. I’m a freshman at The New School, I’m a political science major, and I’m a gay Jewish American. What brought me out here today? First of all, my father’s ancestry is Ukrainian and what is happening in Ukraine is not just affecting the Ukrainian people but this is affecting every single person on this planet. Political warfare is what we are seeing and this was all started and led by Putin and his regime of people. This is not good for anyone. I’ve been so empowered and inspired by the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian activists here today in New York City and The Stonewall Inn. I found out about this on social media, but really I haven’t been involved with anything in the Ukrainian community, but today is the beginning of me going out here to educate myself on the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian history, and heritage. It’s really easy to start a war but it’s very difficult to stop a war, but if we all come out here and show solidarity and march hand in hand with the Ukrainian people together, that is gonna be how we stop this war.


Katia Love, 33 ; Luka Love, 7 & Derek Love, 41

NYC

Couple and their son holding up protest posters.

Katia: I have family in Ukraine. There are Ukrainians from the LGBT community who are here today because they know what it’s like to be oppressed. In Russia, you can’t be open and people in Ukraine fear that if Russia has invaded, bad things are going to happen to their friends and minority communities. People are just trying to gather here, spread awareness and do what we can to pressure the government to ask people to donate, to pressure your congressmen, president Biden, so they can somehow help Ukraine, because right now we are left alone. No one in Ukraine wants to be a part of Russia. There is all this false information about it, no one asked them to come. Even people in the east. I know lots of people in the east who fled when they invaded them, no one wanted Russians.

In Crimea, lots of my friends lost their homes, they cannot come back. It was a beautiful place and it’s all gone because they decided that it’s theirs. It’s scary. Right now Ukraine needs to show that they are strong. The rest of the world needs to show that we are fighting for this. Because if it’s not us this time, next time China gets Taiwan[10], because they are going to be like,

“Oh look, Russia can get Ukraine, now we can do anything we want.”

We need to show that there is a place for democracy and no place for Putin and his autocracy.

Derek: Americans need to stop hiding. They need to come out, support, and show themselves. We need to support Ukraine.

SWK: And you brought your kid here today.

Katia: Oh of course.

Derek: He’s part Ukrainian, Luka.

SWK: Why is it important for our young ones to know about these things?

Katia: Because we are trying to raise him in a world where there is freedom of everything and it’s important to stand for your freedom.

Man holds up a poster that reads “Putin = Hitler. Treat Him Like One.”


Olena Shkoda, 39

Kyiv, Ukraine

Olena holds up a poster that reads “Putin go fuck yourself together w russian warship! #stopthewar.

Olena: I was hoping for more support from my American friends, cuz I have some but I expected even more.

SWK: What do you mean?

Olena: I mean in the protest.

SWK: What about your close friends?

Olena: No, they are here but I thought I had more friends that would support. I went to all of these protests like BLM, Palestine. And here I am where people offer to talk to me, I don’t need to talk. I need support.

SWK: It’s a sobering realization to have.

Olena: Yeah, it’s not a joke for us. My friend is in the subway right now with her mom and everybody.

SWK: In Kyiv?

Olena: Yeah.

SWK: My family is also right now in Ukraine. I was hoping for a bigger turnout myself.

Olena: I know. Times Square too. There was a moment when there were a lot of people, but I was expecting them to block the fucking streets. We want to organize a movie week to collect money for the army and we already started collecting artwork to sell.


Izabele Lucena, 36 & Lydia Malinova, 30

Brazil & Moscow

Isabele (left) holds up a poster that reads “Stop beign a bitch Putin,”; Lydia holds up a poster that reads “I am Russian and I stand with Ukraine!”

Izabele: How unfair is the war? It’s disgusting. Putin wants to control everything. He wants Russia to get back the territory [Ukraine] without any thinking- he wants to kill everybody. That’s not natural, that’s not humane, it’s awful.

Lydia: I’m Russian and I have to say I am really ashamed of what the president is doing now. And I’m going to cry. Wars like this shouldn’t exist in the 21st century. I hate that people are dying and I want it to stop right now. And I want freedom for Russia because we are all trapped with this psycho [Putin]. And of course, I want them to leave Ukraine immediately, leave them their territory, their country, and their freedom too.

Izabel: I’m from Brazil and my country is not the best but from what I see in the works right now, we need to do something. We need to protest, at least we need to make other countries interfere and I think the protest is a good way of doing it. That’s why I ended up here- even not being a part of the countries that are involved, I want to be part of a change.

SWK: I think it’s important for everyone to be aware because today it’s happening over there, tomorrow it’s happening here. I was talking to my mom about it yesterday and she said that she was talking to my aunt in Ukraine and my aunt said something along the lines of,

“We are paying for who we elected as our leaders.”

And I told my mom,

“Well not really because these are the leaders that are putting themselves in power for decades. Those are police states, there are no fair elections.”

How much can people really do? I read a news report[7] how some people in Russia went out on the streets to protest and were all immediately arrested with criminal charges brought up against them. It’s fucked up and it’s scary. Let’s hope for a better world.


NOTE: Henry Shane’s and Maxim Ibadov’s quotes were changed per their request on 03/04/22.

Alexey Kim

Founder

GiOD

designer


Categories
EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Oscars Portrait of Adam Driver

THE MIXER | EDITORIAL

Oscars Portrait

of Adam Driver

by Matvey Cherry

Illustration by Paco May

is likely to be nominated

for the Oscar.


He really did a lot last year to impress us (and it’s not just a Burberry ad). A similar effect could have been assumed ten years ago when he masturbated in front of Lena Dunham. After this, he gave Lena twenty bucks for watching, plus cab money. By then Adam had become a crush for many.

Driver is a creep, he has perfect milky skin with just a scattering of moles, and not a single hair on his sternum (which he once broke while riding a bike). Dunham came up with the idea that Driver would be a sociopath with comic potential. He either smiles or yells like an out-of-tune musical instrument. Very tall, blatantly unsexy, and yet you want to cuddle him.

Adam Driver takes time very seriously, so he has a perfect filmography. There are no questions. He mixes Jarmusch’s Patterson with The Dead Don’t Die or the BlacKkKlansman. In The Marriage Story, he is unbearable, but this is the director’s fault. In Star Wars, too. Driver in a helmet and with a blaster looks like Santa Claus hired for an hour to entertain children. In Annette, he’s amazing. Driver finally plays a really bad person. Rage suits him. He masterfully shows how a murderer is born out of the abyss of selfishness. He understands everything and still kills. Self-love is colder than someone else’s death. House of Gucci, thank Ridley Scott. Cashmere – from the word Cash. Unfortunately, it’s not a TV series and he won’t be able to wear a white sweater for several weeks, which by today’s standards is almost an eternity.

Among the Brooklyn guys, it turned out that there are true demons found. They can not only jerk off to Scorsese, mutter Cassavetes and sourly regurgitate Allen, but also at the last breath, on the edge of a knife, on the front line, be a genius of the screen, a star of the time. Adam with the seal of Cain. I am grateful to him for this.

Matvey Cherry

Artist

Paco May

Illustrator


If you enjoy Paco’s work, please consider donating:

Matvey will accept tips through Sidewalkkilla (please mention “For Matvey” in notes):


Categories
EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Team Japan: We Are Family

THE MIXER | EDITORIAL

Team Japan:

We Are Family

Hey y’all

This is Ducky Sheaboi.

I’m part of a duo with my drag wife, Patsy InDecline.


Together, we program events and plan our fabulous YouTube channel as collaborators with a drag team from Japan. Their names are Aya, Michael, and Yuka and each of them adds a unique component to how Ducky & Patsy present as a duo. We’ve come to call ourselves Team Japan. If you’ve been to our events, you’ve likely noticed a strong Japanese influence that also blends with showcasing the overall diversity that is present in New York City. Team Japan has programmed over 25 unique shows since 2019. Our team has presented hair & makeup, styling, content generation, and entertainment throughout New York, as well as taken the show on the road to Charleston, South Carolina where we hosted a queer adult prom. There was also a weekend performing for a bachelorette party in New Hampshire. We’ve never seen so many bodies simultaneously on the literal floor lapping up spilled liquor! Our drag family is oddly making moves yet still a little off the radar. Nothing makes us prouder than to see how essentially five people’s ideas can blend into a final format that an audience enjoys. It’s a fulfilling experience to say the least. Each member of Team Japan is from somewhere different, both in Japan and the US, but we all bring different yet relatable experiences that shape collective final decisions. It’s been an interesting journey these past three or so years, and I’m so excited to share some insight into the dynamics of our drag journey with Sidewalkkilla’s readers.

The Beginning

To start, I have to go back a little further back, before there was a team. I remember in 2018 when I started doing drag seriously, I was in season one of a competition called ICONIC (curated by Michael Block & Lindsey Kay, hosted at ICON in Astoria by Heidi Haux). During the flyer photoshoot, the photographer asked

“Who is Ducky?”

What a question. Up until that very second, drag had been about the party. What did he mean, “Who is Ducky?” I’ve come to realize over the years that the drag Patsy and I strut around in is really a culmination of so many life experiences. But in retrospect, if a photographer is asking you who you are, you’re likely not going to win a competition (I didn’t).

Styled by Michael, DDNYC, Ducky Sheaboi, and Patsy InDecline at Bushwig, September 2021. Photo by Izzy Berdan. See all Bushwig photos by Izzy HERE.

But by the time the competition concluded, it was time for Bushwig 2018! Patsy and our gaggle of queers were so excited to get fancied up for our second time attending the festival as a group. We went by the name Haus of Guiou (pronounced like gyoo) and we were WILD! The Haus of Guiou hosted gender bender ragers at our apartment as kind of our launch as drag queens. While our Haus did not technically survive, Bushwig created a magical space for us to meet Styled by Michael and DDNYC aka Aya.

It didn’t take long for all of us to start attending more events together, which then turned into being styled for the events by Michael and Aya. Patsy and I are BLESSED to have their support. They are the glam squad sent from rhinestone heaven! Michael can take a wig and style it into art. He’ll take a flat wig and create such dimension, along with volume. He has also painted every single face we’ve done since early 2019. Aya has a way of making things sparkle; you just can’t help but feel gorgeous. Her custom nail gloves add sensual, rich diva vibes to any and all looks. Both Michael and Aya are fashionistas on missions. I don’t think any of us thought that the next few years would become what they have. We started to form this organic creative understanding. The pair styled Patsy during ICONIC S2. Patsy also mentions how the competition was a defining moment in figuring out her drag persona and how influential Michael and Aya were in figuring out aesthetics. It was astounding to see the art that was created and brought to the stage. After that, we all really latched on to the idea of getting more bookings. We would perform whenever and wherever we had the (paid) chance. Straight bars, queer bars, breweries, bachelorette parties, birthday parties, that one time at House of Yes, and so many restaurants. Michael and Aya would not only take care of styling us, but they would also attend shows nine times out of ten and cheer the loudest. We chased that dollar and programmed shows throughout late 2018 and into 2019. Our focus was getting into spaces and working that crowd with comedy and a dash of bizarre.

Haus of Guiou, Bushwig 2018. Blurry photo by Alexey Kim.

Moving Into Cyber Space

By February 2020, we started to hear more and more about the coronavirus and the possibility that it would be a force to reckon with. Nobody wanted to acknowledge it. We were all working well over 40 hours a week between day jobs and drag. This is New York fucking City and none of us could afford to stop the grind. Plus, we were really feeling good about where we were with hosting shows! Things felt like they were on the up. There would be no way that some virus could slow New York down, right? Cash up or go negative in that Chase account – that’s how this city works. Then March 2020 came along.

I feel like most readers that gravitate to Sidewalkkilla have a strong connection to nightlife. You likely work in nightlife or you go out and support your friends who do. Y’all understand that nightlife isn’t just face value partying. There’s much more life within it than only the party. We all live for the love and glamour that is found there. We have the potential to form strong community connections in queer nightlife. It’s what makes living in a city more manageable. The realization we all had when venues shut down, meaning no nightlife, was a harsh one. Remembering how many queer artists and queer venues were impacted in the first couple of weeks in March still gets me. Ducky & Patsy’s last live show until that point was February 23rd, 2020, at an amazing, community-focused restaurant called the Queensboro in Jackson Heights. Our drag family saw so many opportunities and potential dollars disappear on exactly March 13th. Over seven upcoming gigs were canceled in a matter of hours. Then came the news that our day jobs were also shutting down in various capacities.

We kind of just sat in our feelings after March 13th. We didn’t pursue drag at all. I’m a self-proclaimed workaholic. Drag is a focus for me and a way to grow the quality of my life. It provides a lot for our household. Although at this point drag’s focus was merely entertaining and making things fun, it really had become a business for all of us. Sitting around our apartment in Queens watching, reading, and internalizing the despair occurring in the world was a moment. But y’all know the drag artists are going to find a way to serve a show!

On March 25th, we debuted Ducky & Patsy’s IG LIVE! For two months we created looks based on themes like anime, horror, and grandmas. Probably the coolest thing about our IG LIVE was that we were giving away thousands of dollars worth of free shit. Custom jewelry and accessories, apparel, sex toys (lots and lots of sex toys), hair care, CBD, skincare, drinks delivered by Brooklyn-based Shay’s Punch. It was an absolute rush playing trivia with viewers and figuring out who to reward the giveaway to after realizing there was a chat delay. Honestly, sometimes looking into that camera from our living room felt like some form of the abyss. The biggest challenge as performers was trying to incorporate something new into a number that just doesn’t work in a living room. Where were the affirming voices and cheers from a crowd? It really felt like this altered reality was here to stay. Add in whiskey and you have a situation!

Photos by Luisa Madrid as part of LIVE! From Woodside documentary, 2020.

But probably one of the coolest things that did come out of lockdown is The Ducky & Patsy Channel on YouTube, curated by Team Japan. Our director and editor in chief, Yuka, is stellar. She knows how to take a video and add a flair to it that makes you feel like you’re watching Japanese television. Audio is typically in English and we include Japanese subtitles. Aya translates the entire English script into casual, queer-friendly Japanese. Their combined efforts propel the channel and keep our drag fresh. For over a year now, we’ve produced 50+ videos that have some element of Japanese culture or a Japan-meets-NYC focus. Well, sometimes the videos are just Aya, Ducky, and Patsy acting absolutely ridiculous, but all in good fun. Our main viewer base is directly in Japan while a strong second base of viewers is Japanese folks living in New York. In early videos, we filmed things like reviewing Japanese porn, eating bugs, and smashing our faces into flour searching for Hi-Chew candies. Team Japan initially filmed once a month in our dining room, in front of a green screen. We now hit the streets to do impromptu interviews with folks, filming about twice a month. The most recent shoot was at a ramen shop in Alphabet City called TabeTomo and everyone got to enjoy a massive bowl of Tokyo-style tsukemen noodles (and sake from Niigata). YouTube is now an essential part of our drag with big plans to come!

Unlike YouTube, one thing that I and Patsy were never really sold on is purely virtual performance gigs, especially during the lockdown. When viewers were first tuning in, the virtual lens definitely felt adventurous. But virtual requires such hype from the hosts and performers. Without immediate engagement from the audience, it’s easy to feel like there’s no point. There was one virtual show in particular that really created an emotional set, our “HEY! Big Spender” virtual auction. There were tech issues, major chat delays, and too much whiskey. Everyone in the apartment was feeling burnout from keeping up with COVID and the increasingly critical social climate. The ultimate virtual experience produced was “Pool Party for a Cause”. Our sis, Gorgina, had expressed wanting to fundraise for Stop AAPI Hate so plans were made! The show was absolutely bonkers. We filled up an inflatable baby pool with balloons containing challenges. Zoom audience members (someone from Japan even woke up at 4 AM to join!) would pick a balloon color for a queen to pop. There was beer funneling, wet t-shirt dancing, bug-eating, and best of all a group rendition of “Milkshake” by Kelis. Looking back, we really did host some cute virtual shows, though.

Pride

Towards summer 2020 the world bore witness to the murder of George Floyd. The NYPD was showcasing brutality in a very public fashion. Money seemed to be the root of so many conversations. We regrouped and decided to tone down the giveaways. Need and visibility for mutual aid seemed like it was at an all-time high. The pandemic had begun to shine a light on many realities. Our drag family was making minimal money off the virtual drag. Paychecks started to feel the inflated prices on household goods and sanitation products. The city was making emergency food deliveries to us. Some days the food was great, but mostly it felt like a last-ditch effort. Probably the most impactful form of help we received was through Shangela’s Feed The Queens fundraiser. That provided healthy, fresh food to our household at a critical time. But overall throughout 2020, we had food, we were housed, and we had a sense of purpose, first through virtual shows during the initial phases of lockdown and then in life during an ongoing pandemic. With this in mind, we shifted the focus to putting drag funds towards mutual aid.

Pride 2020 really provided a sense of community and a source of light to navigate a crumbling world, through practicing engaged drag. We’ve always donated to organizations we believe in, but never really promoted what we were donating to. One of the biggest takeaways from 2020 is the need to be visible about where money is shifted. We started partnering with the Proud Mary Network & Hot Rabbit to raise funds for the Brooklyn Bail Fund to get at-risk queer folks out of jail during the protests. A lot of people in our network started to touch base with their needs. An out-of-state teacher, whose current state labor laws make it a fireable offense for them to be part of a union, needed more classroom budget to provide PPE while their school enforced in-person learning as national COVID cases skyrocketed. A food pantry in Chicago asked if we could help raise some money for their setup as their supplies were not lasting the night due to demand. We had the privilege of working virtually with some of New York’s finest talent to raise funds. Performers like Gorgina, Freeda Kulo, and Victoria Williams served show after show and brought their unique backgrounds and art to these fundraising efforts.

Mind you, Michael and Aya had been heavily involved in producing our virtual content. We were also working with our upstairs neighbor, Luisa Madrid, a photographer and videographer who captured much of our lockdown experience as drag queens. As the apartment turned into a studio set, it was amazing to see what Michael and Aya could do, from curating styling for our show themes to helping us with something ridiculous throughout the show like throwing a giant inflatable penis into the mix. “Pool Party for a Cause” would be the last virtually-based gig that we curated. As summer progressed, we slowly began seeing signs that a return to live, in-person performing could be possible during Pride 2021.

Photos by Luisa Madrid as part of LIVE! From Woodside documentary, 2020.

A smidge before Pride season, sometime in the late spring, Patsy mentioned that she would like to find a way to still express her persona as a queen without having to be in front of a camera, or even an audience. She and our good Judy, Christine, chatted about putting together a podcast. Christine had recently moved to Michigan and we all wanted to find a way to not just stay in touch, but also feel like we were all still hanging out in the same room together. She had also attended basically every drag show we were involved with. There was no telling how many times she had seen us perform the same numbers at brunch in Astoria. Her relocation and Patsy’s spark, along with my distinctive speaking voice, launched the Oddities Podcast. We’re currently in season one, with topics like “Gender” (featuring Mx. Lex Horwitz), “Home Town Crime Stories”, and “Hauntings”. Our goal as podcast hosts is to talk about things which typical media avoids and provide a platform that can destigmatize topics. Oddities releases an episode about once a month and this proved to be a nice release rhythm as Ducky & Patsy started to hunt for a Pride venue.

There is an art space in Long Island City called Culture Lab that we visited during the lockdown. Their parking lot serves as an outdoor performance space and it was probably one of the only places in all of New York City where you could hear boisterous live music playing during the early stages of the pandemic. We chatted back and forth with Culture Lab about getting drag into the space. Of course, venues experienced so many ups and downs throughout 2020 and early 2021. But with numbers slowly easing and a vaccine on the horizon, we set Pride 2021 as our launch. The idea was absolutely fabulous. A Pride festival featuring a unique range of talent to showcase the queer community and its allies in the city. Months of preparation took place but we had the privilege of working with talent such as members of The Cake Boys (Richard, Senerio, and Sweaty Eddie), a Japanese dance troupe called Dance Cat NY, and the first openly gay dancehall artist, Demaro. For three weekends in June, the shows occurred outside in Culture Lab’s parking lot, with LIC’s and NYC’s skylines embracing us in the hot, hot, HOT summer weather. The opportunity to be around so much talent again was breathtaking.

Featuring: Gorgina, Ducky Sheaboi, Patsy InDecline, Styled by Michael, Dot DeVille, Aria Derci, Krea Tine, TB the Dancer, Swag, JoJo, Dinho Aragão, Jazzy Baby, and Yanne Almeida, Cissy Walken, and Dance Cat NY. Footage by Luisa Madrid.

Drag Song Battle

As Pride concluded there were more opportunities blooming as the vaccine made it possible for more venues to open and travel to slowly resume. In August 2021, Team Japan was able to live their total J-pop fantasy through working with Aiji Tanaka aka IG, the Japanese talent who is the creator of SEXERCISE. IG invited Ducky & Patsy to perform at their SEXERCISE Live event at the Triad Theater in Manhattan. Aiji is a powerhouse. She’s a pole dancer, yoga instructor, choreographer, singer, and TV personality. She brought all of these elements to her show in NYC. It was so inspiring seeing so much energy and positivity coming from her stage. The sold-out audience was majority Japanese and the vibe was right. The show felt like such a win for everyone involved.

While opportunities were becoming more available, there was still a need to finance ideas. A theater connection we made during a Pride event proposed the idea of applying for grants. Patsy has a background in arts and nonprofits, so after SEXERCISE we started looking into a grant through the City Artists Corps. Each grant was worth $5,000 and required a free-to-the-public engagement component. The ideas started turning as to what we should submit. We knew that our YouTube project needed funding and we also wanted to positively impact as many queer artists as possible with coin. We created a YouTube special at Aquihito Bar, which is NYC’s only Japanese-owned gay bar. This event focused on bridging our Japanese YouTube viewers with our New York following. Then came the biggest idea yet. We wanted to tie in Japanese culture, queerness, small business vendors, art, and performance into one event. This formulated the base for Drag Song Battle aka Drag Utagassen. The Song Battle was based on an annual music industry competition in Japan called Kouhaku Utagassen (Battle of the Red & White) where female entertainers, typically wearing red, battle male entertainers who typically wear white. Of course, we wanted to challenge those gender norms through drag.

Patsy InDecline, Miyabi, Aiji Tanaka aka IG, Tomoe, and Ducky Sheaboi at Triad Theater, August 2021 for SEXERCISE NY. Photo by Triangle NY.

Another element to the Song Battle that was important were the kimono styled by Kimono NYC, founded by Chisa Sakurai. If you check out any of the team’s social media, you’ll find fabulous content featuring kimono styled by Chisa. She went above and beyond when she was approached to style two queens on the Drag Song Battle roster, Ducky & Gorgina. Both brought their performance plan to Chisa and she matched fabrics, obi ties, and colorful pops through accessories to the overall presentations. Chisa is a true professional who crafts memorable, sophisticated looks. She provides a much sought-after service in NYC. Hear from Chisa in the quote below (English translation by Ducky Sheaboi):

北海道からニューヨークに来て約10年、ニューヨークで着物に携わって9年近く経ちました。

-I moved to New York from Hokkaido ten years ago, and have been involved with kimono styling in NY for a little over nine years.

着物は元々大好きでしたが、ここニューヨークで着物姿の人々を見るのがとても好きです。日本文化の素晴らしさ、着物の美しさを再確認できる気がします。 今現在、主なお客様は日本人の皆様で、七五三や結婚式などトラディショナルな着付けをすることが多いです。

-I’ve always loved kimono and enjoy seeing people wear kimono in NYC. It feels good being able to capture amazing Japanese culture and the beauty of kimono [while in NYC]. Currently, my main clients are Japanese who are celebrating traditional ceremonies like Shichi-Go-San for kids and also weddings. These ceremonies are examples where the clients will wear specific, traditional kimono.

コロナ前は小学校や大学で着物デモンストレーションも行なっていました。また、色んなご縁で着物を使ったファッション系のお仕事をいただく機会もあります。

-Before the pandemic, I would go to American elementary schools and colleges to demonstrate kimono [with emphasis on the correct way to wear]. There are also a lot of opportunities to style kimono as fashion, which gives kimono an edge.

初めてダッキーとパッツィーに振袖を着付けた時は、ずっとやりたかった事だったのもあり、また初めてのチャレンジでとてもワクワクしたのを覚えています。 その時のテーマは花魁でした。

-The first time I styled Ducky & Patsy, I chose furisode kimono with an oiran theme (courtesan in the Edo period of Japan). Styling drag queens was something I had always wanted to do. I remember being super excited for the opportunity [to get the chance to style a queen].

Special note: 花魁 (oiran) styling today is Japan’s example of a boudoir photoshoot. There is still a form of oiran in Japan, but it’s a symbolic role that preserves the traditional dances of oiran. It is not the same as geisha. For more information on the distinctions and history between the two, please check out this website.

先日の紅白のダッキーの振袖とゴージーナの色無地の着付けもそうですが、日本人として常に誰に見られてもガッカリされない着付け、スタイリングを心がけています。たまに、これって絶対着物を何もわからない人が勝手な日本のイメージでスタイリングしてるな。。。と、げんなりする事があります(好みの問題もあるかと思いますが。。。)そうならないようにイメージを聞き、実際に着物を見てもらい、トラディショナルに囚われ過ぎず、でも品があり、彼女たちの良さそして着物の良さが引き立つような着付けができるよう頑張りました。

-When I styled Ducky & Gorgina (neither of whom are Japanese) for the Drag Song Battle, I wanted to make sure that Japanese audience members would know that the stylist is Japanese. We see more people who are not Japanese styling kimono through imitating Japanese culture. I question their level of taste. I don’t want my clients to be part of an imitation but also don’t want a non-Japanese client to come across as too traditional. It’s my goal as a stylist to showcase the beauty and goodness of both the kimono and client.

櫻井知紗 Chisa Sakurai. Photo courtesy of Chisa.

センシティブな問題になりますが、日本人以外が着物を着るのって、、と懸念される時もあります。私は着物を着ている人が私たちの文化を好きで、楽しんでいるのならなんの問題もないと思います。むしろ日本や日本の文化に興味を持ってくれてありがとう!もっと着物を着てください!と私は思います。また、着物は私たちだけの物!とはせずに、大いに世界中の人に着物の素晴らしさを知って欲しいと思っています。

-The question of whether only Japanese people should wear kimono is a sensitive one. For me, seeing other cultures wearing kimono who love Japanese culture and are having fun while in a kimono, is not a problem. I appreciate people taking interest in Japanese culture! Instead of thinking kimono is only for Japanese, my view is that kimono is a way for me to share something beautiful with the world.

そして私のスタイリングを見て、着物って美しいな、着てみたいなと思っていただければ本当に嬉しいです。

-I’m really happy when someone thinks the way I’ve styled a kimono is pretty and wants to wear one.

これからも色んなことにチャレンジして、より多くの人たちに着物を知ってもらい、着てもらえるよう活動していきたいです。

-I would like to continue to challenge myself and style as many people as possible in kimono.

We knew that with such an amazing style team and lineup, we would also need a magnificent host. Patsy would act as team lead for the Gold Team (Gorgina, Megami, and Patsy InDecline) and Ducky would lead the Pink Team (Ducky Sheaboi, Freeda Kulo, and Paris L’Hommie). But there had to be a more impactful moment to celebrate Japanese culture. There had to be a fuller tie-in that would be more meaningful with our following, especially the Japanese community living in New York City.

Life has an odd way of presenting answers. At the Pride festival finale, we were introduced to the stunning, beautiful, and amazingly kind Kubo Junko, who had hosted Kouhaku in years past. I actually saw 1999’s Kouhaku at a friend’s house in January 2000 (their grandparents had recorded it on VHS and sent it from Japan). I remember Junko in her stunning red kimono, her voice adding an uplifting quality to the large stage she was presenting on in front of a 4,000-person audience. 1999 was a major year for Japanese pop as the country’s entertainment industry boomed and record-breaking superstars were made. It was a total fangirl moment meeting Junko. We connected at a couple of Japanese community events where Michael was styling hair. Once she heard the idea, she was on board to host the Drag Song Battle at Culture Lab in Queens. To have such a star say they would host our event meant the world. Junko truly became the beacon throughout curating the event. Her input was very insightful as her career spans years of production, hosting, interviewing, and translating within television, internet-based outlets, books, and printed magazines. I remember her face lighting up during the event as audience members jammed to Japanese music artists like MISIA, Southern All Stars, and Hibari Misora.

In terms of affirmation, the only other moment that would come close to that was when the emails came through saying Patsy was awarded $5,000 and that I had also been awarded $5,000. Team Japan had a $10,000 budget to produce memorable, impactful events where artists came first. Michael created stunning wigs, beat glamorous makeup down upon our faces, and helped keep track of audience ballot votes with another friend throughout the show. Aya not only created Patsy’s nail gloves, but also stoned over 10,000 rhinestones onto the jumpsuit that included a cape with Patsy’s name fully stoned onto it! Yuka captured the entire show and presented a final video on YouTube. Everyone on Team Japan looks back on that night as an evening we’ll never forget because we did that! We were able to pay our team, support Aquihito and Culture Lab, book talent at a decent rate, fundraise for Black Girl Tutors & GLITS Inc, plus provide free space for vendors all thanks to the grant. Over 40% of the $10,000 went to paying artists for their contributions. This included photo documentation by Maryanne Braine, who’s taken quite a few of Ducky & Patsy’s portraits throughout the years. The remainder went to equipment needs and transportation. The grant process was a way for Ducky & Patsy as a duo to say thank you to our community and amazing team.

The cast of the Drag Song Battle: Ducky Sheaboi, Paris L’Hommie, Freeda Kulo, Junko Kubo, Megami, Gorgina, and Patsy InDecline at Culture Lab, October 2021. Ducky & Gorgina were styled by Kimono NYC by Chisa Sakurai. Patsy’s jumpsuit was made by Nicholas Mendoza and customized by DDNYC. Hair & makeup by Michael. Photo by Maryanne Braine.

Our Drag Family

It truly was an impactful experience to be able to re-enter performing live with a festival and end the year with such an influx of funding to host even broader reaching events. Our drag family knows what it’s like to stretch going full speed ahead on an empty tank. But, thanks to Michael & Aya, we present a rhinestoned drag fantasy that has an uplifting goal. Working with artists from fellow drag performers to folks like Yuka, Kimono NYC, Luisa Madrid, Maryanne Braine, Nicholas Mendoza creates a fabulous outlet for living life via art. Through virtual and in-person shows, Ducky & Patsy have performed for well over a thousand people in 2021. Both of us come from conservative South Carolina hometowns. Performing for that many people as queer artists wasn’t meant to happen. Our drag family continuously goes against the grain as gracefully as we can. Sometimes we take corners on two wheels, but it always works out. To have a chance to better showcase our capabilities really has inspired us to prepare for an even fuller 2022. Drag is that one thing that can bring together so many unique minds. It’s our version of hope and a method for us to be entrepreneurs. The New Year is already gearing up with Michael being nominated for a Glam Award for Best Hair. We’ll also return with more Snack Mama events where we continue to explore incorporating cooking and drag. Plus, all the images that were taken by Luisa are part of a larger documentary project that we’re hoping to premiere in Fall 2022!

I want fellow drag performers and nightlife folks to see our team as a resource. Every one of us is available for a gig, to a commission for some form of styling or a shoot – we don’t always have to come as a packaged deal. We are a unique powerhouse of talent! Nobody is the boss and we all put in the hours to reach a goal. Nowadays, if a photographer asks who we are as a team, we answer that we’re family. Who knows, you may catch us all in Japan within the next year or so, continuing to share moments of queer joy with as many people as possible. Nothing but excitement for things to come!

Home sweet home. The purple hue of the plant lights on the disco ball is how many clients, drag family, and friends recognize our apartment as they walk up. We consider our home both a queer sanctuary and a working studio. Photo taken by Luisa Madrid as part of our LIVE! From Woodside documentary.

Ducky & Patsy

Drag Wives


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