EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Team Japan: We Are Family


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.


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):


-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.


-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.


-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.


-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.


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


-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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EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Ryan Rudewicz: RudePolaroids




This was my very first Bushwig! I was blown away and so grateful to be there. Everyone looked amazing. What really stood out to me was the community of people Bushwig brought together. You could feel the energy bouncing off the walls. I think my favorite moment was seeing Laurel Charleston. I saw them walk by in that exquisite white and blue look, I HAD to take their polaroid. It wasn’t until after the photo that I had asked their name and realized it was Laurel! I’ve been a HUGE fan of theirs forever so it was really special to meet them.


EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Birthday Portrait of Timothée Chalamet


Birthday Portrait of

Timothée Chalamet

by Matvey Cherry

Illustration by Paco May

That a brown-eyed squishy boy

with a sharp, fragile chin

like a porcelain espresso cup

would very soon come at night

to every teenager that languishes from lust,

I guessed almost immediately after watching Hot Summer Nights (2017). The trivial pop drama feels like the classic Aerosmith and Bon Jovi music videos and smells like bubblegum and One by Calvin Klein. Timothée plays Daniel, a clumsy, insecure kid who has just lost his beloved father. Grief blurs his eyes, so that he goes through life like a blind newborn kitten. From scene to scene, his initiation (defloration) lasts, and every viewer of it feels like an old pedophile-fetishist.

In the same year, Call Me By Your Name was released. Not a film, but THE FILM. Outwardly, all decency is observed, but in fact it’s not a movie, but an ode to unclouded joy and the recognition of a voyeur. Luca Guadagnino can’t take his eyes off Chalamet, like the rest of the world that has learned to call this little prince, the child of vice, by his name. He is not your Anglo-Saxon Timothy, he’s Timothée. Only French pronunciation, accent on the last syllable! Like any idol, he needs a mysterious overseas fleur. And, of course, Call Me By Your Name is not about peaches. It doesn’t matter who exactly poured out the juice, who tasted the forbidden fruit. It’s obvious that Timothée’s cheeks are silkier than any gifts of nature. However, Guadagnino, as an experienced aesthete, didn’t fail to place an exotic fruit in a suitable interior — there are lutes, antiquity, brocade, and velvet — the arrangement is composed according to all the laws of the magnificent eloquence of classical painting. Surprisingly, Chalamet didn’t become a gay icon after this film, which is more a Power Point presentation of pre-Raphaelite art. Same-sex love is idealized there, all the sharpness of the dish is muted by sweet dressing. Guadagnino’s film tries to be a manifest, but it’s not. It’s far from the transgressive antics of Alain Guiraudie or the feverish visions of Derek Jarman. Homosexuality of Call Me By Your Name is a candy-bouquet, with Mozart and Brahms, quotes from Rousseau and curtsies to Bronzino. Those gays have descended from the pages of Architectural Digest magazine. Nevertheless, Elio’s tears at the train station or at Christmas in front of a crackling fireplace are real. Finally, Chalamet made us believe that his lips are not only to lick foamy milk or steal kisses. He can bite them until they bleed, having fainted from the blow below the belt.

In the films of Wes Anderson and Denis Villeneuve, Chalamet is again in the image of an irresistible boy. No matter what outfit he is wearing, whether the mantle of an intergalactic aristocrat or a sweater from Haider Ackermann, he is allowed to do everything — to make fun of May 68th or to decide the future of the planet Arrakis.

Matvey Cherry


Paco May


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EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Patrick Arias: “Bushwig is Like a True to Life Family Reunion”




My favorite part about Bushwig is how it feels like a true to life family reunion. Every circle of NY nightlife and beyond come together to dress down and leave it all on the stage and support their friends and lovers. It moves way too fast to document all at once, it’s a total whirlwind of drag and laughs and stunts!

EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Movies With Matvey Cherry: The Hand Of God


Movies With Matvey Cherry:

The Hand of God

Illustration by Paco May

The outstanding director

didn’t betray his style and has,

skillfully and with pleasure,

created a masterpiece again.

He uses references to the classics of Italian neorealism by Fellini, but without turning his film into an imitation of the genius of the past. A chaotic jumble of moments from youth are remembered by the author, passed through the filter of his adult outlook, ironic but touching . Memory acts like a magnifying glass, turning a half-forgotten reality into something grotesque. Every person is obliged to turn around one day, as Orpheus and Lot’s wife did.

The risk is great, because either the past will disappear forever, or the memory carrier will turn into a pillar of salt. A personality is born out of a million insignificant details which leave scars for various reasons. The main character has silence in his cassette player until the end of the movie, because music can’t replace those who are not with us. This is how teen dramas become adult traumas. The Baroness, like the goddess of fate of the Park, lets Fabietto into her super pussy before cutting the umbilical cord that connected the boy with the past. She gives him the most important lesson: look at this life and think about your own. Think about what you like in this life. In this life there is already everything that is needed, everything that death will take away.

Matvey Cherry


Paco May


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

EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Bec Steighner Focuses on Details




Bushwig was an amazing event to witness and experience. I really enjoyed watching everyone’s performances. As someone who has danced for many years of my life, a passion that later translated into drag performances, I know how difficult it is to command a crowd. When the performer can do that successfully, magic happens. The moments when the crowd and performer were in sync were my favorites of the weekend.

Bec Steighner


EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Movies With Matvey Cherry: The Velvet Underground


Movies With Matvey Cherry:

The Velvet Underground

Illustration by Paco May

Shots flash by in a confused rhythm:

Winston cigarettes,

a black-and-white Mickey Mouse cartoon,

newspapers, late night shows,

Elizabeth Taylor.

Guess what? American mainstream culture of the 60s. But as soon as we get under its skin, the sensuously hypnotic sound of Venus In Furs is bumping. This cyclical melody rhymes with the noise of New York, where everything is not the same as everywhere else. 

Todd Haynes‘ filmography, imbued with a nostalgic melancholy for decades long gone, is proof of his unconditional and devoted love for the exalted and magnetic musical aesthetics of the 20th century. Stories about famous people and significant events abound. The Velvet Underground documentary in fact doesn’t fit into any genre and is perceived rather as a mosaic portrait captured on camera, assembled from video chronicles, archival photographs, interviews and fragments of experimental cinema of those times. At the emotional level, Todd Haynes’ film works with the audience in exactly the same way as the American underground cinema of the last century, in the spirit of Jonas Mekas or Andy Warhol (both, of course, are in the film). Andy was an artist and a producer, a conceptualist with a mission, a celebrated figure of the world of nightlife and fashion journalism. He knew the price of pain, appreciated scars and declared his love for everyone. His red carpets lead to eternity, where he will stay forever. The music of The Velvet Underground mixes an experimental search for how to sound elegant and brutal at the same time. Lou Reed knew what proud despair meant. Later in his life he recorded “Sad Song” for his great Berlin album. It mentions the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots and narrates a story of the suicide of a beloved girl, also providing some incredibly euphoric overtures replete with cascades of arpeggios and a chorus of people endlessly, very lightly repeating “sad song, sad, sad song”. That’s how sadness may have looked when viewed through the lens of the countercultural festivities of the 60s.

Events Festivals The Mixer Timeline

Erin Teresa is Here for The Cake Boys





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


EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Myanmar: All Quiet on The Western Front


All Quiet On

The Western Front:

Examining Western Media’s Surprising Lack in Coverage of The Fight for Democracy in Myanmar.

Mar 24, 2021 (Wed) – this day marks 52 days since the Myanmar military, the Tatmadaw, seized power from the semi-civilian, semi-democratic government in a violent coup d’état. The Tatmadaw claimed that the National League for Democracy (NLD), which won the election with over 82% of the votes, had committed voter fraud. They raided the homes of elected officials before dawn on the day they were supposed to start a new term in Parliament (Feb 1, 2021) in the capital Naypyidaw, and declared a one-year state of emergency. An 8pm to 4am curfew was later implemented in major cities, large gatherings were outlawed, and there have been nationwide internet outages between 1am and 9am for the past 37 nights, while some parts of the country are now under martial law. Since the coup, citizens have poured into the streets in millions in fervent protest for the release of their elected leaders and against the military coup. The Tatmadaw have cracked down on the protests in violent fashion which escalated from the use of water canons, tear gas and rubber bullets, to machine gun fire, arson and destruction of civilian property. Night raids and arrests without warrants have continued in addition to the daytime crackdowns, resulting in the deaths of over 300 civilians – the youngest being 7, and the eldest, 70. Thousands have been displaced due to different forms of persecution, and thousands more remain missing due to arrests and kidnappings – including the elected president, Win Myint, and the leader of the NLD party and state counselor, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Despite brutality from police and soldiers, the people continue to voice their dissent in different and creative ways – by banging pots and pans at 8pm every night for 15 minutes, by forming a temporary government known as the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), by refusing to go to work in the case of government employees in what is called the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), by building barricades in their neighbourhoods and assigning night guards, by starting mutual aid funds for community welfare programmes, and by creating peopleless protests using traditional toys and other inanimate objects. In a stunning turn of events, after 51 days of relentless protests and 51 nights of civil unrest, the country went silent for the first time. And this was accomplished by design: people needed to recharge; state media has been insisting on TV that all is fine; and the crisis within the country goes largely unnoticed by the world due to a lack of in-depth coverage by international media. The people wanted to symbolically express how they are oppressed and silenced, and also highlight the silence and inaction from Western world powers – since they are very often the most vocal when it comes to human rights and democracy. On closer examination of the interests and motivations of media, political powers and businesses from the West and the international community at large, I have found clear reasons why these entities would choose to silently and cautiously observe what the Myanmar people are calling the “Spring Revolution”, instead of actively choosing a side in the struggle or intervening in any capacity. I would like to explore these reasons below from the standpoints of geopolitics, economics and human rights.

People from San Chaung spell out “Spring Revolution” with lit candles, remembering those who passed away and the detained Aung San Suu Kyi on March 2, 2021.


—I will be using “Myanmar” to describe the country and everyone in it as a collective, and “Burmese” to describe the language or the majority ethnic population native to the flatlands of the country – although “Myanmar” and “Burma” are interchangeable linguistically and historically, and the latter is anglicized.

—A lot has happened within Myanmar over the past 70 years and over the past 50 days. My summarization of 20th and 21st Century Myanmar history and the recent happenings may seem oversimplified or reductive, but I have made an earnest effort to include all information that is relevant to the current situation in the country.


This coup and subsequent uprising are not the first. The military regime first came into power in 1962 under General Ne Win. There have been multiple changes in military leadership over the decades and different uprisings opposing various leaders and policies. Every uprising brings hope of change, freedom and progress as well as vicious crackdowns. The 8-8-88 Uprising brought about the 1990 General Election, the results of which were annulled, followed by new military leadership. The Saffron Revolution (2007) brought about the 2008 Constitution, and then came the experiment with a semi-civilian, semi-democratic government for two election terms from 2010 to 2020, which leads us to the present day.

Myanmar had stayed impartial throughout the Cold War despite its adoption of Socialism, under Ne Win, thanks to his policies of isolationism and rejection of Cold War politics, among other things. However, as leadership changed in the Tatmadaw, Myanmar opened its borders to trade with China and started receiving substantial military aid. This was right after the violent suppression of the 88 Uprising, which also coincided with the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests. The two neighbours found camaraderie in the quelling of political dissent and in being shunned by the international community as a consequence. This camaraderie has remained intact over the past 33 years: China remains the biggest trading partner and economic investor in Myanmar. For the Chinese government, the Myanmar military junta is a political and economic entity that unequivocally supports them, and one they can support and trade with conveniently. With similar pro-democracy movements at their doorstep, in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Chinese leadership maintains support for the Myanmar military and its leaders. On Feb 3, China vetoed the UN condemnation of the Myanmar coup at the Security Council. Again on Mar 9, the UN Security Council failed to release a statement condemning the coup, due to opposition from China, Russia, Vietnam and India. So far, the UN has only released statements regarding use of deadly force from the Tatmadaw but no official condemnation of the coup. After some China-financed factories burned down in the crackdown of a protest in an industrial zone outside Yangon on Mar 14, the Chinese Embassy called for the persecution of those responsible without mention of the death of 18 unarmed protestors at the scene.

The situation is similar for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The military junta is all the ASEAN member nations have ever known. Myanmar military rule actually predates the founding of ASEAN in 1967, and Myanmar did not become a member till 1997 under Than Shwe, the country’s third military leader. Over the second half of the 20th Century, Myanmar has become a source of cheap labour due to ethnic minorities fleeing persecution by the Tatmadaw into neighbouring countries. ASEAN has a non-interference policy for internal affairs of member nations, has always worked with different military leaders after coups happen in the region, and are willing to resume such a relationship with Myanmar. In mid-February, Indonesia proposed a plan to hold Myanmar military leaders to their pledge of holding a new general election within one year of the coup – which the Myanmar citizens contested – and Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi proceeded to meet with military-appointed Myanmar foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin on Feb 24 in Bangkok, Thailand. On the very same day, Malaysia deported 1.086 Myanmar immigrants on three Myanmar Navy ships, despite a court order from the Kuala Lumpur High Court and pleas from human rights organizations to halt the deportation. The focus of ASEAN has always been maintaining diplomatic relations among its member nations – since the region has experienced instability over the past several centuries due to internal conflicts and Western Colonialism. And ASEAN, by constitution, is an economic union and not necessarily a champion for human rights.

In the West, the UN is very limited in its powers and capabilities, despite its well-meaning principles, due to veto powers from member nations like China and Russia. (Myanmar has military ties with Russia and North Korea as well.) The Myanmar people have been asking for UN Peacekeeping Troops to be deployed since crackdowns against the protests started, as they have seen in the past how these tend to escalate. The UN remains unable to reach a consensus in condemning the coup thus far. As for the US, the situation in Myanmar seems to present the Biden Administration an opportunity to flex its foreign policy prowess and get on the all-American pro-democracy soapbox. However, the US is in the midst of dealing with the disastrous legacy of the Trump Administration: Trump had actively antagonized China since before taking office; there had been threats of war with Iran and North Korea, as recently as 2020; the Coronavirus Pandemic had been severely exacerbated due to longstanding issues in public health and healthcare; the second Trump impeachment just wrapped; and the Capitol itself had been under seige in early January. In addition, the Biden Administration has already failed and/or faced delays in fulfilling campaign promises of $2,000 stimulus checks, no deportation of immigrants within 100 days of taking office, and the $15 minimum wage. Disapproval and condemnation from Washington of the Tatmadaw and their coup could easily be read as a challenge to and undermining of a sovereign foreign power, albeit an illegitimate one. And sending any US troops into Myanmar would add one more to the long list of wars the US has engaged in and could result in China facing a situation akin to the Cuban Missile Crisis. This would be a threat to world peace at large.

The EU seems to be pretty much in agreement with the US in its approach to the situation in Myanmar. Both entities have released statements condemning the coup and its use of violence against peaceful protestors, and have implemented sanctions targeting military leadership and affiliated entities.

In essence, the East has made up its mind that they are willing to work with the Myanmar military junta again, and they have been vocal about it, even if not explicitly so. The West, however, has yet to decide what their relationship with Myanmar is, especially since China has overwhelming influence not just over Myanmar but also in international politics. To navigate this precarious situation, the CRPH appointed Dr Sasa, an ethnic Chin medical doctor turned politician and philanthropist, as the special envoy to the UN. He has been meeting with local ethnic leaders making sure the country is united under a pro-democracy banner, and meeting with international leaders making a case that a democratic Myanmar will be an asset and ally to the international community – so that the Myanmar people can ask for more drastic intervention measures.

Protester gives three-finger salute to the police at the “22222 Revolution” protest by the Embassy of China in Yangon on February 22, 2021.


Right after the coup happened, on Feb 2, the Myanmar people came up with the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) as a means to protest in a safe manner during an ongoing global pandemic, and as a way to completely stop the Tatmadaw’s State Administrative Council (SAC) from functioning. It is basically a labour strike where government employees don’t go to work, as a refusal to work under a military government, with the chant, “ရုံးမတက်နဲ့၊ ရုန်းထွက်။” – which means, “Don’t go to the office! Break free!” Myanmar is a very poor country where most wage workers make less than US $2 per day and a majority of government employees make less than US$250 per month – a situation that has been worsened by the Coronavirus Pandemic. People took a great economic risk by choosing to abandon whatever means of income they have to protest the coup.

On Feb 23, Mary Callahan, an associate professor of international studies at the University of Washington who has done research on Myanmar, wrote a series of tweets from her now deactivated Twitter account criticizing the CDM. She called the movement “inhumane” for stopping means of income for the majority of the country’s population and implied people will resort to savagery if they don’t get paid by the end of the month. (I called her a Karen in a response, which may or may not have played a role in the disappearance of her Twitter account.) Yet here we are after almost two months of non-stop protests, and the people are still going strong. The Internet is out for 8 hours every day, most bank services aren’t functional, a large portion of government employees from different sectors are out of office, and somehow the people are still well-fed and housed – with the exception of those who have been ousted from their living quarters by armed forces, of course. They continue to march in the streets in the name of democracy and in opposition to the military junta. Since the beginning of the protests, those with financial means have been distributing water and meals for protestors. As the crackdowns turned violent, people have pooled together resources to make protective gear for those marching on the frontlines, to create make-shift defenses for their own neighbourhoods and to cover medical bills. As people are forced out of their homes and families lose their breadwinners to arrests, kidnappings and killings, carts and tables full of produce and groceries have popped up across the country bearing the banner “လိုတာယူ၊ ပိုတာလှူ” – meaning “Take what you need! Donate the excess!

Personally, I find none of this surprising: I’ve always known my people to be kind, generous, resourceful and resilient. Even after living under an oppressive totalitarian dictatorship over the past half century, they still refuse to give in to despair and are committed to taking care of each other. This form of community welfare, however, does not bode well for any capitalists who are looking to invest in Myanmar for cheap labour. The “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” that is synonymous with Western (American) Democracy is accompanied by the unwritten clause that you have to earn your keep, by working 40 hours a week, if not more. The fact that working class people, who are very poor already to begin with, have been able to not only sustain each other without paid work for almost 2 months, but fight ardently for a social and political cause they believe in, while not plunging the entire country into utter chaos, is an inspiration to the proletariat everywhere and a direct threat to the capitalist institution.

Myanmar is a major supplier for fast fashion brands like H&M, Zara and Primark, with its US$4.59 billion garment industry constituting over 30% of the country’s exports. Garment workers have joined the protests since early February, and their union, Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar, has taken steps to ensure the workers can participate in the protests and can return to work without negative consequences. However, those represented by the union remain a minority. On Feb 18, GY Sen, a Primark supplier in Yangon, held up to 1000 of its employees against their will in a factory for several hours, to stop them from participating in protests. Currently, there is an ongoing campaign for Adidas, which runs 6 factories in Myanmar, and Beyoncé, an Adidas partner, to publicly support their almost 20,000 employees and the people of Myanmar.

At this point, Western investors are in a tough position. If they vocally support the Myanmar people and their movement – and should they prevail in this fight for democracy – there is possibility of stronger labour laws and stricter regulations on foreign investors, which will interfere with their ability to outsource cheap labour. They also invite open hostility toward their properties from the armed forces, which would worsen if the Tatmadaw manages to assert dominance over the people. Much like the political powers from whence they came, most of the foreign businesses in Myanmar remain silent regarding the Spring Revolution. As for Eastern investors, just like those from ASEAN members and China, they are biding their time to work with military leaders again, but China-owned businesses don’t necessarily have a bright future in a democratic Myanmar, as people have started boycotting them, as well as products made in China.

Pro-democracy fighter who lost his life from gunshot to the head during Hlaing Tharyar protest is surrounded by mourning family. March 14, 2021.

Human Rights

Myanmar is notorious for its human rights violations. Even under a semi-civilian, semi-democratic government, the Tatmadaw managed to carry out the Rohingya Genocide in 2017. With military officers in charge again, persecutions of ethnic minorities are back in full swing, in addition to the well-documented use of excessive force on protestors, medics, and civilians who are not involved in the upsiring. Nevertheless, without action taken by governments or businesses, any documentation of crimes against humanity won’t even go into history books but will devolve into hushed whispers warning the next generation of what despots are capable of. Nowadays, many governments and businesses will not openly criticize the human rights abuses in foreign nations because they are responsible for similar abuses themselves. Over the past few years, criticisms of human rights violations from one country by another have been rendered essentially ineffective due to the adoption of “whataboutism” in international relations. This tu quoque logical fallacy has been expertly deployed by Russia specifically to deflect any inquiries on its human rights issues by the media, by bringing up unresolved issues in the US and EU – a technique Trump quickly adopted to avoid accountability for actions taken by his administration. And it seems no government or business has the moral authority to chastise the Tatmadaw for its offences.

During summer 2020 in the US, the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum and people took to the streets after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor among many others at the hands of law enforcement. Police exercised extreme brutality toward those who were protesting police brutality, and politicians overwhelmingly backed the police and ignored the demands of the people. Airstrikes in the Middle East have continued from the Obama Administration, through the Trump Administration, to the Biden Administration. And the list goes on for human rights offences the US has committed within its borders and throughout the world. In the East, China continues to put their Uyghur population in internment camps, maintains its domination of Tibet, violently suppresses the uprising in Hong Kong, and regularly threatens to invade democratic Taiwan. In India, the Modi Administration is running a fascist regime that has been redefining citizenship laws to exclude and persecute Muslims. In 2020, Thailand concluded a five-year military rule with the military head, Prayut Chan-o-cha, leaving the military only to become the civilian Prime Minister – the same exact move pulled in Myanmar just a decade earlier by Thein Sein, who went from being an army general to a uniformed Prime Minister, then civilian President. The Thai people’s demands were rejected, and the military and royals have only grown more powerful since. In the Philippines, the Duterte Administration has been carrying out extrajudicial killings in an aggressive war on drugs. Myanmar, over the course of its post-colonial history, has had similar issues to all these aforementioned countries. But none of their governing bodies will hold or are in a position to hold the Myanmar Tatmadaw accountable for the crimes they are guilty of as well.

Although the Myanmar people are unable to rely on governing entities in the international community, they have found friends in similar movements. Myanmar has become the newest member of the Milk Tea Alliance, which consists of Asian netizens in different parts of the world engaged in different pro-democracy/liberation movements for their own people and/or opposing Chinese imperialism. Milk tea has become their symbol, since most tea in South and Southeast Asia contains milk but traditional Chinese tea doesn’t. #MilkTeaAlliance has been widely used on social media by netizens with origins in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, India and Myanmar. Many of the measures to counter brutal crackdowns by armed forces actually come from fellow Alliance members. The pro-democracy movement in Myanmar has also adopted the three-finger salute from the “Hunger Games” franchise – a phenomenon started by protestors in Thailand in 2014 when their military coup happened. It was first used by medical workers, spread very quickly among Myanmar citizens, and has now been seen at the UN.

The positive, I should state, is that despite the reluctance from the international community, including our nextdoor neighbours, the Myanmar people are now willing and ready to resolve issues that have long existed in the country. Since the time of the kings, the Burmese population of the flatlands have exerted dominance over ethnic minorities of the highlands, of which there are over 130 different tribes. We gained Independence from the British thanks to the Panglong Agreement signed by ethnic leaders along with the Burmese. This agreement stipulates that these ethnic groups would have self-determination and self-governance under a federal government after gaining Independence – a promise gone unfulfilled since 1948. On Mar 17, the CRPH released a draft of the new constitution for a federal democracy, which fulfils this promise. The CRPH, thanks to the efforts of Dr Sasa, has been able to galvanize ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), which had been fighting the Tatmadaw since the late 1940s, with the promise of forming an ethnic Federal Army. Buddhist dogma had been the prevailing ideology in the country’s spirituality since its early recorded history in the 11th Century. Amid the protests, due to lives and livelihoods lost as a result of brutal crackdowns, leaders from different religious groups have come together to hold interfaith vigils and prayer circles. When the boycott of China-owned businesses and made-in-China products started, the people were quick to clarify that they are against the CCP and not Chinese immigrants in Myanmar. (For a third-generation Chinese immigrant in Myanmar who has had to hide their Chinese ancestry growing up due to xenophobia, this brings me a lot of joy.) During protests, many have been seen carrying signs apologizing to the Rohingyas for the 2017 genocide. The CRPH has also put forth a plan to take the current military leader, Min Aung Hlaing, to the International Criminal Court for the crimes committed by the Tatmadaw.

Myanmar’s LGBTQIA+ community protests on February 19, 2021.


As things stand, the Myanmar people are on their own. The East has its allegiance pledged to the military leaders, who are easy to please and easy to deal with, unlike a yet-to-form truly democratic populace. The West has yet to make up its mind, and the Myanmar people are quickly learning that foreign powers that so often profess values of democracy and human rights can be hypocrites acting out of self interest. Still there is no choice but to keep reaching out to the international community, out of principle, that perhaps someone would care and take the initiative to intervene in the interest of the Myanmar people. There is, of course, great comfort and encouragement in being part of the Milk Tea Alliance and knowing they are not alone; any victory won by the people in any of the Alliance nations can lead to victories for others.

Given the damage done to them by the Tatmadaw since the first coup in 1962 – including the lives and livelihoods lost during the recent protests – the Myanmar people are coping surprisingly well. Since day one of the coup, the people have come up with strategies and tactics to counter whatever action the new regime might take to keep them oppressed and obedient. Some plans, like the new constitution, had been in the works since before the coup – since the 2008 Constitution was designed to legitimize any potential military coups. In fact, it was the people who made the first offensive move against the new regime by initiating CDM. After almost 2 months, military leadership is still unable to fill administrative positions at the local level due to people’s refusal to cooperate. Naypyidaw is just a bunch of generals calling themselves kings with no peasants to pay tribute to them. They can keep sending soldiers and police officers to shoot citizens and loot their homes and businesses, but that can only last for so long until their subordinates defect or turn against them. The fact that the violence keeps escalating means the generals are desperate, and we have already started seeing defectors.

Currently, it may seem that the Tatmadaw and the Myanmar people are evenly matched in this struggle for control over the country. However, the people clearly outnumber the soldiers and police, and they can’t kill or put everyone in jail – unless Min Aung Hlaing is really committed to becoming the king of ashes. The people don’t have guns or ammunition, but they have control over all the resources in the country, and the means to transport or freeze them. And they have the most important and necessary resource of all: each other. The people of Myanmar are more united now than ever, like never before in history. They had, in the past, come together under leaders they trust, with Aung San Suu Kyi being the most recent example – and her father, the pro-Independence leader Aung San, had been one before her. Over the course of these recent protests, the pro-democracy icon has not even been in the picture at all, and yet the people continue to fight for their own future and for each other. This is a movement with no designated leader, which makes it much harder for the Tatmadaw to stop. The Myanmar people had experienced some freedom and progress over the past 10 years under a semi-civilian government. They want more, they don’t ever want to go back, and they are determined to depose anyone who stands in their way.

Perhaps, a lack of interest for the Myanmar people or inaction regarding their plight from the international community may not be an entirely bad thing. With the ongoing brutality from soldiers and police, many more will fall unfortunately – and I will personally say the international community is complicit in these tragedies, since their inaction is a calculated choice. However, given all that the people have accomplished over the past several weeks, I have absolute faith that they can rebuild whatever has been lost, heal their collective traumas, and come back even stronger. Myanmar may even turn out to be the Milk Tea Alliance member that accomplishes its goals before other members do. As a clear winner emerges toward the end of this struggle, the international community may finally take a side in the interest of their future business prospects in Myanmar, and may even take credit for the people’s victory. In that case, I insist we celebrate it explicitly as the people’s victory: it will be hard earned and deeply appreciated, and the rewards of a new federal democratic union should be their own.

ADDENDUM: Since the writing of this essay, the Tatmadaw has escalated its rule of terror. The youngest recorded casualty is age 5. There have been airstrikes on villages in Karen State. On Mar 27 – once called Revolution Day that commemorates the fight against Japanese fascist forces and now rebranded by the Tatmadaw as Armed Forces Day – 114 lives were lost, including a 40-year-old father of four in Mandalay who was burned alive. The CDM has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and the death toll stands at 573 as of Apr 1.

Emi Grate


EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

#FreeBritney Bitch!

Paco May



#FreeBritney BITCH!

An MTV news segment from 1999 encapsulates that time for me. It was a report from a shoot of MTV’s TRL “1999 Class Photo”. John Norris introduces the segment and passes off hosting duties to Brian McFayden, a newer VJ who looks like the 6th member of NSYNC as he sits with the boyband at the table. They are all ogling Jennifer Lopez, who is seated behind them and clearly aware. Fred Durst is floating around, as is Tyrese. But the segment changes tone when McFayden gets a few seconds with Britney Spears before the shoot starts, as if to say, “OK, here she is.” She tells him she expects craziness from David LaChappelle, the photographer. When the segment transitions to the photo shoot, it does so with a close up of Britney walking, looking at the camera and beaming as the iconic 3-note opening of …Baby One More Time plays. She then takes her rightful seat in the front of the class of 1999.

I was a TRL kid. I didn’t watch any of the teen soap operas or the adult cartoons marketed at kids that were the height of pop culture at the time. Pokémon passed me by. I was all MTV. My obsession was borne out of a seismic shift in music culture and marketing; the messy, “dangerous” MTV of the 80’s and 90’s was making way for something glossier and with more dance moves just as I was hitting puberty. Teen pop replaced alt-rock as the dominant money maker, and MTV evolved to meet the moment, focusing on a younger, brighter aesthetic throughout. The VJs no longer looked like music journalists, but pop stars. Unplugged was replaced with Making the Video.

This new crew of teenage stars was sold to us through their relatability. MTV made sure we not only idolized them, but also got to know them; these were our classmates. A whole new set of documentary-style shows debuted that allowed fans to feel closer to our idols. With each promotional cycle, we didn’t just get a new song and visual, we watched them Making the Video. We weren’t meant to interpret their updated image, we heard the “truth” from them in the supposedly candid and raw Diary series (“You think you know…but you have no idea”). The teen pop marketing tropes of sharing favorite colors, embarrassing stories, and backstage jokes was as old as the genre, but MTV expanded it into primetime programming.

Britney Spears was the most popular girl in the MTV class of 1999. She was as good for them as they were for her, as shown through the multitude of Britney-specific programming they would air when she had a new album to promote. She didn’t just get the standard Diary and Making the Video episodes, she got full days of programming where they would all air in a marathon, culminating in live events where she’d perform and give an interview. There was even a First Listen special for her Oops…I Did It Again album where she sat in a room filled with fans to listen to 30-second clips of each song on the album and tell us stories about how the album was “edgier” and “more personal.”

While watching the New York Times’ Framing Britney Spears (available to stream on Hulu), it was jarring to view this era of her career documented from a distance, without the personal connection fostered by MTV, and with an updated cultural understanding of misogyny and patriarchy. Each of the tests and expectations placed upon Britney felt normal to me, because they were all part of the narrative in her most recent Diary episode. Her breasts, her relationships, and her sexiness were all on the table and she was made to answer for them apologetically or defensively depending on the high school narrative of the moment. It’s particularly unsettling to watch the way Britney’s breakup with Justin Timberlake was framed universally in the media:

“What did she do to him?”

These things were normal to all of us in the sex-obsessed late 90’s. In the documentary, critic Wesley Morris helpfully contextualizes Britney’s rise in the time of Monica Lewinsky, another young woman who was ceremoniously torn apart by the culture. We were in a moment of 2nd wave (white) feminism controlling the conversation and an extreme panic among adults about the sexualization of “our young girls.” This was also the time of Sex and the City and The Vagina Monologues, which were met with equal adoration and ridicule, with women demanding that they be less frivolous or less self-serious. The greater culture, however, hated women as much as always. The general perception of Sex and the City was that the ladies were stupid and slutty and of The Vagina Monologues, that they were weird and unsexy. Progress was being made in women’s autonomy, especially in the way they were telling their stories, but it was met with a resounding “that’s girl stuff” mockery from the culture at large.

The respectability politics of sex in the 90’s was fraught for any woman who reached a certain level of fame because she could only get there by violating them. Young women across the entertainment spectrum were expected to strip down and pout to promote their new projects and those images were then widely disseminated so we could both shame the women and remark with awe at how they were “not little girls anymore.” It was a deeply gross rite of passage for any young performer and it spared no one, including Melissa Joan Hart and both the daughters from 7th Heaven. Even Michelle Branch had a Maxim cover. 

It should be no surprise then, that Britney Spears received the same treatment. It was normal then, which made it all the more confusing to me that adults decided to place the entire morality of a generation on Britney Spears’ shoulders when she was merely doing what was expected at that time. Her Rolling Stone photoshoot from 1999 is problematic to my 2021 eyes, but back then I remember being genuinely confused as to why this bra and hot pants was somehow different. Maybe she sold sex too well for them, or was too popular, too magnetic.

What they missed was that her fans were responding to her power, not her chest. Britney’s sexiness was athletic and suggestive, not pornographic. When she performed at award shows, she would often remix her songs to have more breaks, more industrial metallic clangs or cymbal smashes during which she would throw her hips or flip her hair, as if the sheer force of her movements was forcing the song to stutter. It’s worth noting that during most of these “controversial” performances, Britney was wearing some version of a crop top, pants, and sneakers. Even her famously scandalous school girl outfit reads more cheerleader than seductress.

It was gutting now to watch Britney from a distance and not as a peer in my MTV high school. The chorus of bad faith that followed her was cruel and targeted, and we all laughed it off, we all participated. This is exemplified in a scene in Love Actually that I came across completely by accident after viewing the documentary. Bill Nighy’s old rock star is asked who his best shag was, to which he replies:

“Britney Spears….no just kidding…..she was rubbish.”

Cue laughter. Britney was 22 then.

While the elements of her current conservatorship discussed in the documentary are illuminating and shocking, what stays in my brain is the way the media and culture treated young women at the turn of the millennium. It really can’t be examined enough. Britney was the one we chose to take down and obsess over – her generation’s Diana or Marilyn – but she was far from the only one. For more than a decade, we watched girl after girl get blonder, skinnier, and more dead behind the eyes as she ran from a mob of men chasing her with flashbulbs. And we loved it. We didn’t even think it was strange to love it. We thought they were out of touch when they complained about it. “That’s your problem?,” we all eye-rolled. We gleefully shared their mugshots and pictures taken up their dresses without their consent. And we blamed them for it. We called them “crazy” when it affected them.

A key moment not featured in the documentary also comes from the famous Diane Sawyer interview. She asks Britney if regrets any of her sexy photo shoots, to which Britney says she has no regrets. Sawyer then pulls out an 8×10 glossy image of Britney from a recent magazine and insists, “Not even this one?” Watching Britney’s face as she was forced to concede that she had gone too far filled me with a mix of rage and sadness I am only beginning to understand as I look back on that time. It makes me happy that the culture has evolved to give us Billie Eilish, a young woman who refuses to conform to the impossible, almost cartoonish beauty ideals of today, who talks about her mental health struggles, and still sweeps the Grammys.

I’m also happy that we’re reevaluating Britney. At her peak, music journalism was full of men who wanted nothing more than to make her the avatar for bad music, bad culture, sissy stuff, fake stuff, lame stuff, uncool stuff. Now, pop critics can’t escape the influence of Britney’s music and performances, which were increasingly adventurous, weird, and forward-thinking. They also can’t escape her power. Every girl in my high school was trying to serve Britney. Low rise jeans were Britney, lip gloss was Britney, those shirts that said ROCK STAR in rhinestones were Britney. She’s too much of a force to ignore or to trivialize. She was lightning in a bottle and everyone who came of age during her reign knows that no one else could do what she did with a hair flip and a purr into a headset microphone.

Paco May


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