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The New Normal, Or How Creatives Stay Creative

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New Normal, Or How Creatives Stay Creative

sidewalkkilla

Coronavirus kills, but life streams.

According to a March 24 article in The Guardian, around 20% of the world’s population is currently under some form of a lockdown due to COVID-19, or coronavirus. With the disease quickly spreading and affecting the entire world, as of March 25, 2020, around 2.6 billion people (about one-third of the world’s population) are under government-mandated lockdowns and quarantines, with half of those people being in India, according to data provided by Statista. Some countries are implementing stricter lockdown laws than others: Jordan’s residents are not allowed to take walks or even grocery shop – anyone caught outside could face a jail term of up to one year; while in Italy, which quickly became the epicenter of the pandemic after China and currently has the highest death toll from the virus, people are still allowed outside for a limited time and only when necessary; Puerto Rico, one of the unincorporated US territories, implemented a mandatory curfew until April 12, from 9 PM–5 AM – certain professionals are excluded from the curfew, and others can only leave their home during that time for emergency purposes only; anyone who breaks the curfew and doesn’t meet the mandated criteria will face a fine of $5,000.

While the US was ranked #1 in Global Pandemic Preparedness, according to a pre-COVID-19 report, the 2019 Global Health Security Index, the Trump administration’s dismantling of the team in charge of pandemic responses in early 2018, and downplaying the coronavirus threat from the very beginning, didn’t do us any favors. WHO’s morbid prediction on March 24 about the United States possibly becoming the next coronavirus hot spot has now in a matter of days become the reality – as of today (March 31), the number of COVID-19 infections in the United States has surpassed China and Italy, with over 171,684 confirmed cases (live numbers here) and counting, with the death toll quickly approaching ,4000.

With over 172 million people currently under an at least partly enforced lockdown within the US, and with the virus that is well on its way to 1 million officially confirmed infections all over the world, Trump’s initial plan to get back to usual business by Easter was very ambitious, if not laughable. On Sunday, March 29, Trump announced extension of federal guidance on social distancing through April, with the peak death toll still two weeks away. In their turn, infectious-disease researchers recommend that the public continue to practice social distancing until some genius invents a vaccine, which could take 18 months.

A large number of people who have been laid off or simply not allowed to go to work due to closures of all non-essential businesses have found themselves wondering how the fuck they can afford to live another day. The recently approved unprecedented $2 trillion relief package aimed to help affected individuals with a one-time payment of $1,200 at most (based on a sliding scale) will also be used to expand unemployment benefits and help small businesses stay afloat. Even though the stimulus package can greatly help a certain chunk of the population (good luck getting through the unemployment call center), many freelancers and artists who depend on odd jobs are left in the dark about their own future. For many creatives, $1,200 can only go so far (forget about seeing this money if you are an immigrant without a social security number); with many businesses closed indefinitely and with the US stock market almost failing every other day, there is no telling when freelancers will get any commissioned jobs even when we are past the days of quarantine.

But leave it up to the artistic community to make the best out of a shitty situation, keep themselves busy and, hopefully, paid. Livestreamed shows have become as ubiquitous as the absence of toilet paper in supermarkets. These days it’s impossible to turn on your Instagram and not see at least half a dozen livestreams happening at the same moment. After only a matter of a few days into quarantine, people figured out that they could use the very available livestreaming services that a myriad of platforms offer for free to share their art with digital fans and, in some cases, earn a coin.

Amongst the first few live shows that we were able to catch were Charlene Incarnate and Tyler Ashleys Baby Tea Brunch that was livestreamed from a rooftop in Brooklyn instead of from its usual site, lesbian-owned farm-to-table Superfine restaurant; Miami’s Counter Corner party that was hosted by the Ultimate Miami Drag Queen 2019 Karla Croqueta from the comfort of her home; and The Rosemont’s Oops! that was livestreamed right from the living rooms of the party’s creators, Juku and West Dakota.

Just before Juku’s and West Dakota’s first number, the pair expressed how this was already their biggest Oops! showing, with around 300 people tuning in to what the girls had in store for the night. The girls, known for their sharp wit and out-of-the-box creative performances, kept the viewers captivated, and the performance garnered a write-up in Vice magazine.

Biqtch Puddiń, the winner of Dragula Season 2, came up with the very first Digital Drag show, livestreamed on Twitch, the world’s leading platform for gamers. During the streaming of the show’s first installment, at some point during the night the viewership went up as high as 10,000 people watching the stream at the same time. During the broadcast Biqtch Puddiń confessed that she didn’t expect her Digital Drag show to gain such momentum on social media.

During these digital drag shows, a performer’s preferred payment information is displayed and the viewers are free to tip if they wish to support. It seems that for many drag performers, this has become their livelihood now that no more bar and club appearances are being booked. Biqtch Puddiń stated that the reason she wanted to do the Digital Drag show was to help out performers in trouble. All of the tips donated to the general account were promised to be distributed evenly between the performers, but everyone was encouraged to tip their favorites personally as well.

Within the first week of the closure of all non-essential businesses, Sidewalkkilla started a fundraiser on its Instagram page, inspired by queer writer and speaker Fran Tirado’s tweet. After receiving a few donations, we decided to split the total donated amount into $50 payments to people who have provided their payment info in the comments under our Instagram post. To our surprise, one of the randomly chosen benefactors, Laurel Charleston, passed up the donation in favor of another trans performer. She expressed that she received a good amount of donations from performing on Biqtch Puddiń’s first airing of the Digital Drag show, which helped her get out of a “fucked” situation. In turn, Laurel was inspired to give back to the community herself and is hosting her own first livestream drag brunch show on Sunday, March 29.

MTHR TRSAs Hole Pics made its digital debut on Saturday, March 21, with an almost half-hour long opening performance that involved a lot of weed, drama, and clever camera work.

“What happens when we get back to actual clubs, like it’s gonna be live, but not on our phones, it’s gonna be so weird,”

MTHR TRSA, also known as New York-based artist Dylan Thomas, exclaimed at the end of the 2-hour livestream.

Not all creatives use livestreaming for drag shows. There are makeup tutorials, gossip, DJing, games, Q&As, yoga, workouts, and meditation – you name it, you will find it.

One of NYC’s drag staples CT Hedden started a live show called Makeup Hour, inviting all the high-profile people he knows for a quick beat and tea-spilling. His guests so far have been supermodel Winnie Harlow, actress-turned-activist Rose McGowan, American Ballet Theater prima ballerina Misty Copeland, and an indie pop star Allie X.

“I think it’s gonna last a lot longer than people think,”

said Rose McGowan during her Makeup Hour with CT.

At the time of the stream Rose was quarantined at her friend’s place in Atlanta, saying that she would be leaving soon to wait out the pandemic in Mexico.

CT Hedden with Rose McGowan during Makeup Hour

“A couple of days ago DOJ was seeking to suspend constitutional rights. I’m not staying in this country during a military coup,”

Rose went on,

“this is like a cultural reset, a lot more people will understand what refugees go through.”

Miley Cyrus during Bright Minded IG show with Alicia Keys

MTHR TRSA drowning in weed during Hole Pics

Juku as a top and West Dakota as a bottom during Oops!

Just a couple of days before LA ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses and mandated social distancing by the public, Miley Cyrus started a talk show named Bright Minded with the help of her own Instagram account. From Monday to Friday, Miley hosts special (all of them obviously famous) guests to talk about “staying LIT in dark times.”

In the latest episode, Miley had a question for her special guest Alicia Keys:

“How do we come out of this? We don’t want to come back to the pre-COVID-19 world, we want to go back to a better world, one that’s more connected, one that’s more compassionate. Right now everyone is stopping everything that they got going on just to protect the vulnerable and we don’t always do that, that’s not a part of our everyday routine. So we actually might be becoming better people through the virus. Or actually even saying, ‘Hey what we got going on in our life isn’t actually worth jeopardizing someone else’s health’ and we don’t always do that – we drive in big cars and pollute the environment. . .  What positive effect would you like to come out of this experience and what world do you wanna step back into?”

This was a deep question, throwing Alicia off for a minute, but undoubtedly making everyone watching contemplate on it as well.

In the current climate it seems that everything is pointing towards people spending more time inside their homes in the near future, whether because Netflix just dropped all 10 seasons of your favorite show, you are afraid of being blown up to bits at a crowded place, or simply because you are living in the current reality of World War III with the invisible and, at least for now, invincible enemy that is COVID-19.

Without a lie, this stay-at-home directive was sort of fun in the beginning, it was almost like someone let you play hookie and relieved you of all adult responsibilities, well, like going to work for example. Queef Latina, the creator and director of South Florida’s biggest queer performance festival Wigwood, expressed that she was happy to sleep and relax.

When we suggested that maybe, nowhere to spend = no need to earn, she retorted,

“Very true, except we still need to eat.”

Damn, forgot about that one…

Paris-based fashion photographer Michele Yong shared,

“I stay in so often that there is not much difference to me. We need a document to go outside just in case of police checks, but I haven’t been checked yet, because I mostly go out to walk my dog. It’s nowhere as strict as China. People are still allowed to be outside an hour a day or exercise.”

Even if we do turn into couch potatoes in the near future and have robots serving us freshly baked pizza out of their ass, most people are eager to be freed from this lockdown, if not for the love of socializing, then at least for the sake of earning money to pay the rent and buy canned tuna for their cat.

Nightlife photographer Mark Minton losing it, after moving to Tennessee and narrowly escaping the virus in NYC

One of the questions that begs the answer is, will the livestream shows continue its momentum after the coronavirus is a thing of the past?

Dynasty, an eclectic Asian drag queen and writer for The Cut and New York Magazine, doesn’t think so:

“I don’t think streaming will continue after quarantine because they’ve sprung up out of necessity. Drag relies so much on a live audience and being with the community in real life. So I think everyone will be super excited to get back into real-life shows and being able to experience that together again.”

Dynasty’s close friend that shared the stage with her many a time, West Dakota, seems to be in the middle,

“I think that quarantine is forcing us to explore how we are connecting with our audiences and is going to open up new avenues for us to do so. Our weekly show that we’ve taken digital since the quarantine is reaching a lot more people than our physical space can accommodate. That being said I think that sharing space, intimacy, and touch are all irreplaceable parts of performing. I don’t think things will ever return to ‘normal’ but we’ll have new understandings of what it means to connect.”

“Having an audience is always nice to feed off the energy of the room. I think after quarantine the girls, myself included, will definitely consider more online shows, but I will be so excited to be back in a bar,”

says MTHR TRSA.

Even though most people are adapting to “the new normal” or the current reality, some performers seem to have a hard time imagining digital communication as humanity’s future fate.

Brooklyn-based trans self-appointed “post-drag priestess” Charlene Incarnate shared in one of her Facebook posts, just after Baby Tea’s rooftop livestream performance,

“I’m seeing the narrative being woven of the resilience and adaptability of drag queens to take their shows online, that video and streaming is ‘the future’ etc. and that happy hour with your friends on Zoom isn’t so bad. BUT I have to say that it’s a completely untenable and unsustainable practice – for my art and for me personally. I can deal with change, I have my whole life. I can deal with stock markets crashing, an impending ‘next great depression,’ the end of the world as we know it – hell, I’ve been turning nothing into something for a decade. But a world without live gathering is truly, truly not one I care to be a part of.”

Whichever way this is headed, only time will tell, but for now it looks like we will have to assimilate into the new reality and stay in contact mostly through the digital medium. As nightlife photographer and Sidewalkkilla contributor Mark Minton, who moved to Tennessee right before the shit hit the fan, simply put it,

“I just want to work without killing my parents.”

P. S. Sidewalkkilla has created Live-Stream scheduling platform. See the upcoming streams and submit your own event here.

Alexey Kim

Founder

Categories
Events Festivals Timeline

Wigwood IV: Contributing to Miami’s LGBTQ+ History

EVENTS | FESTIVALS

WIGWOOD 2020

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

sidewalkkilla

Queef Latina (Day 2)

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

She half-jokes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miss Toto & FKA Twink (Day 1)

Glam Hag (Day 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topatio (Day 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone’s adorable child (Day 3)

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

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

I thought.

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

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

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

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

she smiles.

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

FULL COVERAGE

Wigwood 2020: Portraits

Portraits from Day 1 with Queef Latina, Amanda Lepore, Lady Paraiso, Opal Am Rah, Sleeper and more.

Wigwood 2020: Day 1

Day 1 with performances by Amanda Lepore, Landon Cider, MTHR TRSA, TP Lords and more.

Wigwood 2020: Day 2

Day 2 with performances by Queef Latina, Jupiter Velvet, Daisy Deadpetals, Serena ChaCha and more.

Wigwood 2020: Day 3

Day 3 with performances by Abhora, Yoko Oso, Moxie Mopp, Vex The Thing and more.

Alexey Kim

Founder

Categories
Events Festivals Timeline

Throwback: RuPaul’s DragCon 2018 with RuPaul, Aquaria, Alyssa Edwards And More

EVENTS | FESTIVALS


Throwback: RuPaul’s DragCon 2018 With RuPaul, Alyssa Edwards, Aquaria & More

Ornacia was the first thing I saw once I got to RuPauls DragCon 2018. She was comfortably propped up on top of Vivacious’ head. Vivacious was moving about the floor with her signature strut.

At one point I’ve noticed a sudden commotion. RuPaul was walking through the crowd and everyone went bananas. Mama Ru got on stage and was shortly joined by Alyssa Edwards. Alyssa sashayed on stage to enlist RuPaul to help promote her then upcoming Netflix show “Dancing Queen.

The rest happened in a blur. Aquaria is in front of us. She is blinded by her white-out contacts. Marti Gould Cummings is prompting her with lines. The famous drag queen is adorably not able to keep up.

Next thing you know, Monét X Change’s manager is telling us not to take photos while she is chewing gum, even though I all admit its hilarious. Then Vanessa Vanjie Mateo reads us for filth for taking her pictures from below. Which is totally awesome.

After that, Alyssa Edwards is done shooting for press for the day. Which I totally ignore and just do it from the distance anyway. Swear she knew she was being photographed though, just look at her pics.

Our favorite moment of the day though, was when Abhora was walking around on her stilts and scaring the crap out of everyone. Then all of a sudden Nicole Paige Brooks calls her over. The stilted scary drag queen transformed into a puppy in a matter of seconds. In other words, it was one of the most touching moments I’ve ever witnessed.

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Alexey Kim

Founder