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Nightlife The Mixer Timeline

Susanne Bartsch Is Back On Top (Virtually)

THE MIXER | NIGHTLIFE

Susanne Bartsch

Is Back On Top (Virtually)

A notorious NYC party producer has taken to the internet to keep the rhythm going despite the coronavirus pandemic

It has been roughly two months now since the unthinkable happened: the city that never sleeps found itself in a veritable coma amid mass shutdowns aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

As people fled New York City and countless lives that once thrived on the crowded rituals of urban life were upended by the pandemic, America’s most populous and vibrant metropolis was drastically and perhaps permanently altered. The MTA emptied out, the bright lights of Times Square danced for no one, and the throngs of nocturnal creatures that propelled the working hours of the city around the clock were robbed of their sanctuaries.

It was almost inconceivable in January that the virus that had thrown China into a state of utter panic would ever overwhelm New York City. For many, the alarming early coverage of COVID-19 was simply another online spectacle depicting a catastrophe an ocean away. Six months ago, New York was alive as ever on New Year’s Eve with its usual flurry of raucous parties packed with people hopeful for a new year and a new decade. No one could have known what was coming.

One hundred years ago, America and the rest of the world were gripped by a different pandemic, the Spanish Flu, a virulent influenza virus estimated to have infected approximately 500 million people, a third of the world’s population at the time. From April of 1918 until December of 1920, the virus killed as many as 100 million people, with more people dead in 24 weeks than HIV/AIDS killed in 24 years. The virus came in three waves and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, created the most severe pandemic in history. After the postwar economic boom delivered Americans into a more prosperous era, the virus became a distant memory – until now.

Aquaria, April 23

Top health officials have predicted that COVID-19, much like the Spanish Flu, will come in waves, leaving Americans mired in perpetual uncertainty. For industries such as nightlife that thrive on crowds of people, the ultimatum is clear: adapt or die out. With the virus spreading rapidly worldwide, the internet is the last redoubt. Enter Susanne Bartsch. As downtown queer nightlife’s perennial maven and one of New York City’s most notorious party producers, Bartsch has taken to the internet to keep the rhythm going. This year’s season of On Top, Bartsch’s much-anticipated summer/fall party that usually takes place at the Standard Hotel in Chelsea, was relocated to Zoom, an online video conference platform where club kids and drag artists from all over the world have begun to use their aesthetic tastes to create an extradimensional cyber party under the auspices of Bartschland.

“People at The Standard don’t even know when they’re opening, and it’s already about to be June,”

Bartsch said.

“It’s devastating. It’s very uncertain, very, very uncertain.”

But party producers aren’t the only ones hurting in nightlife. By keeping the party online, DJs, hosts, and entertainers are given another opportunity to make money. Bartsch said her 2020 calendar has been completely wiped clean, an indicator of what so many others in the industry are probably facing as well.

“From Las Vegas to Vienna, I’ve lost every job there is,”

she said.

“Other than bringing together the community and supporting this nightlife community, it’s also to help and pay people so they’re able to buy food for the week.”

This week marks the online party’s seventh Thursday installment after its launch on April 16, and each week brings with it a different set of competitive look themes and a rotating cast of hosts, guest hosts, and entertainers. In addition to the usual staples such as glamour superstar Amanda Lepore, makeup mastermind Ryan Burke, downtown it girl Linux, performance art genius Thee Suburbia, burlesque bombshell Lola Von Rox, and a cast of other provocative personalities (Gottmik, CT Hedden, Jeffrey Scott, Kiss, Candy Warhol, Muffy, Chlamydia, Mateo Palacio, Adventure Dave, and Bob Bottle to name a few), Bartsch also books special guest talent that has already included RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Aquaria, Crystal Methyd, Detox, Nicky Doll née Karlize, Brooke Lynn Hytes, and LA trans idols Gigi Gorgeous and Love Bailey, among others. DJs have included crowd favorites such as Vito Fun, Mazurbate, Tom Peters, Ty Sunderland, Aquaria, Amber Valentine, Tommie Sunshine, and London party impresario Jodie Harsh. This week, Bartsch is adding Trinity the Tuck to the roster, which promises to make for an interesting evening.

Fashion photographer Steven Klein celebrating his Birthday, April 30

Though we are separated by distance together, the remote platform has given artists the opportunity to customize their virtual surroundings in a way that augments their sartorial and cosmetic looks. Bartsch’s parties have always served as a gallery space for artists to showcase work on their bodies, and now that space extends to their virtual presentation as well. Whether it be libertine displays of communal nudity or watching renowned fashion photographer Steven Klein blow out the candles on his birthday cake, each week has brought something fresh in what is quickly becoming a new global age of New York nightlife. There are still online after-parties. People still get high. DJ sets still guide the sonic tempo of the night. The events bring all the trappings of a regular party with none of the crowded congestion one might experience in the Le Bain bathroom (God bless it) during mid-May.

This may be the first online party of its kind – one that took an existing weekly party that became impossible in the face of the pandemic and preserved it in cyberspace, where for the first time anyone with an internet connection can attend from anywhere in the world. Queer nightlife is something special that needs to be preserved during these times of blinding uncertainty. In New York City, which became the pandemic’s epicenter in a meteoric contamination, nightlife will probably be facing a depression for some time to come, especially if the virus moves in unpredictable waves and makes event planning and coordination impossible.

Still we press on. Even though the NYC Pride Parade was cancelled this year, along with the gauntlet of regular Pride events, mark your calendars for June 28. Bartsch is planning an international online Pride party on Zoom titled “On Top of the World: Pride,” featuring a bevy of headliners such as Allie X and talent from cities all over the world, including New York, LA, London, Tokyo, Paris, and Berlin.

“I never even did a FaceTime call before all this,”

Bartsch said.

“I’m going all the way.”

These times are historic, and so the ways that we choose to party and continue to celebrate life will take on a historic significance as well. The relationship between party and partygoer will be more symbiotic than ever. The parties offer respite to those taking quarantine seriously and give glamorous people everywhere a continuing opportunity to show up and show out. In exchange, we have to keep logging in and supporting these endeavors. As we now know well, nothing is promised. But we can still fight for the right to party. 

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Categories
Activisim EDITORIAL Events Nightlife Timeline

Opinion: What Is Your Responsibility When Representing Your Community?

EVENTS | ACTIVISM


Opinion: What Is Your Responsibility When Representing Your Community?

A non-binary drag fixture in the Brooklyn queer community, Thee Suburbia, held a fundraiser for the Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC), a nonprofit organization based out of Washington, DC, and helmed by black trans activist Dr. Lourdes Ashley Hunter. What was meant to be a supportive and uplifting event took a sudden turn due to unexpected hostility and verbal abuse directed towards the attendees by Dr. Hunter throughout most of the night. 

Thee Suburbia living for one of the performers

The fundraiser’s lineup included over 30 performers, most of whom were trans women of color. Thee Suburbia had the idea of starting The PoC Drag Art Collective for a while, and it took  physical shape in Suburbia’s home, during Thanksgiving dinner, when she invited fellow queer creatives and announced her intention of holding the first PoC Drag Art Collective. “She just kind of posted up a sign-up sheet and told us to sign our names if we wanted to perform,” one of the night’s performers J Rosa reminisced about that evening. 

Before we even figured out who we wanted to give money to, we were already creating awareness to support trans women of color, hence why the event’s lineup was mostly comprised of trans women,” Thee Suburbia stated in explaining the importance of creating this project. “We wanted to show how much we cared about people who might need more help; we also wanted people to experience the connection we are creating for each other.”

The event was held at a DIY space called Hartstop, located in the Bed-Stuy (short for Bedford-Stuyvesant) neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn queer community is not new in creating DIY spaces to hold events – those are the spaces where everyone feels the safest, it seems: the Casa Diva party that used to be held at Charlene Incarnate’s industrial loft has achieved almost legendary status, while the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards 2019 winner for “Best Party,” Oops!, takes over The Rosemont bar every Wednesday to do whatever the creators Juku, West Dakota, and Magenta desire. 

Thee Suburbia reached out a week prior to the event, asking me to attend her first fundraiser she worked so hard to arrange. It took me over an hour to get to Bed-Stuy from Harlem, but I didn’t dare miss an event with such an amazing lineup that also was supporting a good cause. The performances were scheduled to start at 6 pm and go on until 12 am. 

I was about an hour late, but I got there just in time to catch a few performers from the earlier lineup. Dr. Lourdes Ashley Hunter showed up just a few moments after me, wearing a yellow African print dress. Soon after that, Suburbia invited Dr. Hunter to the microphone to introduce herself. Dr. Hunter started off her speech by advertising a book that was made for her by “a white woman” who wanted all of the proceeds from the book’s sales to benefit the TWOCC. “I got books for sale and I am not taking any of them home with me, so all of you hoes will purchase a book tonight…” Dr. Hunter proclaimed to the crowd’s cheers and laughter. She wrapped up her speech by noting that a black trans woman was murdered in DC “three days ago,” and that on the way to New York she learned that another trans woman had been murdered two days ago “three miles away from here.” “And it’s a bit much,” she continued, “so we are here to celebrate black trans women.”

During the first break between the performances, I wandered over to the side of the room where Dr. Hunter had set up a poster with photos and a quote that read, “I don’t want to be visible because I am trans. I want to be seen, affirmed and celebrated as a whole damn person… I want to wake up without a threat of violence! I want to fall in love, raise a family and pass down traditions my grandma and mom passed to me. I want to thrive without fear! I don’t want to have to tell you all about my pain for you to then journey towards an understanding that trans folk deserve to breathe, to live and thrive in a world that celebrates all of who we are… Humans.”

Dr. Lourdes Ashley Hunter

Moved by the inspiring quote, I turned around to find Dr. Hunter standing right in front of me. “Are you buying the book?” she inquired, to which I replied: “Sure, but I will get it a little bit later.” 

Dr. Hunter looked me dead in the eye and said, “So you are not buying the book?

I will, but I wanted to ask you a couple of questions first about the work that you do.” I perceived an immediate shift in her attitude the moment I said I wasn’t going to buy the book on the spot.

Why are you asking me this, do you wanna date me?” – which she didn’t say in a funny way; it felt like I had asked someone a question that I had no business asking. 

No… I just wanted to find out a bit more about your work,” I proceeded cautiously. 

She made a frustrated puffing sound, simultaneously flipping up her hair and pointing both of her upper extremities to the poster behind me: “Well, go to my website and you can read what you need to know there.”

I prefer to hear it directly from the source…,” I continued, even though I could feel the ground was getting shaky.

Well then, you should have already known what this event was about before coming here, this event is for me!” she said, starting to lose her cool. 

I made a mental check that she emphasized that the event was for her and not for her non-profit, but I went on: “Well, I am writing an article about this, so I thought…” 

I don’t give a fuck what you do! This event is about raising money! I don’t have time to explain! Black trans women are dying! We don’t have time to explain shit!” – she went berzerk.

I started shaking. This was so unexpected and the exchange was making me feel uneasy and unwelcome, all at once.

Junior Mintt

I withdrew myself from the argument and stood to the side. One of the performers of the night, Junior Mintt, a Black trans woman known for her funny yet politically charged performances, approached Dr. Hunter at that moment to chat, only to be met with: “Tell him sis! We ain’t got time to explain shit! Black trans women are dying!” At that moment I just got really pissed off and couldn’t stay quiet. I turned to Dr. Hunter and asked her if she really thought it was wise to shut someone down when they come to her with a question about her cause, to which she became even more unravelled, screaming: “You are a cis gay man! Don’t start with me! I’m a Black trans woman!

With that statement I felt like she had just invalidated my entire existence. It made me feel small and unimportant, almost like an outsider that dared to invade a space that wasn’t built for me. At that moment I was ready to leave. I had gone to the event with the aim of uplifting the work that Suburbia and TWOCC were doing together. What was I supposed to write about the event now?

I went up to the rooftop to catch some fresh air. Thee Suburbia was standing there talking to a couple of other performers. She turned to me and asked me how I was doing. I told her what had just transpired. She showed instant concern and a flicker of a shadow appeared on her face. “I’m so sorry that happened,” she said. “It’s not your fault, maybe she is just drunk,” I responded.

After staying up on the roof for a bit, I decided to stay for the rest of the talent that was slated to perform later in the evening.

Zenobia, Charlene, Islaya, MTHR TRSA, Dai Burger

Throughout the night, over 30 queer PoC performers have taken the stage: Jayse Vegas, Dezi5, Showdolliana, Junior Mint, Robert Garcia, Xtain, La Candelaria, J Rosa, John Mateo, Zenobia, Charlene, IslayaMTHR TRSA, Senerio, Foxy Belle Afriq, Sir Charles, Juniper Juicy, Kenzi Coulee, Denime The Queen, Xunami Muse, Paris L’Hommie, Caribu Vague, DJ Hard Candy, Thee Suburba herself, Dancer On Probation, Tina Twirler, Glow Job, Onyma, Skittlez, J’Royce Jata, Dévo Monique, Jypsy Jeyfree, Marcel, B Hawk Snipes, Mojo Disco, and the headliner of the night Dai Burger.

Even though Dr. Hunter was living for everyone’s performances, she kept on sprinkling the crowd with violent verbal outbursts. At one point she snatched the mic from MTHR TRSA, the second host of the night, and asked for a chair. When the person manning the mix board moved a stool towards her, she commanded: “Bring its height up, white person!” The audience responded with uncomfortable laughter. At another point of the night, she snatched the mic from MTHR TRSA again while she was in the middle of introducing the next performer, responding to the host’s polite protest: “I don’t give a fuck about the next performance! Listen to me!

Several times throughout the night she grabbed the tip bucket and ran around the room demanding that people put money into it: “I know you got coins, cuz I see you buying drinks at the bar!,” “Come on you white motherfuckers, I know you got money!,” “If you are not donating money, then why the fuck are you here!?” The barrage of verbal abuse towards the crowd went on incessantly. Right before Charlene was about to perform, Dr. Hunter misgendered her: “You are a white cis woman, what are you doing here?” By this point, no one was trying to cover up the uncomfortable situation with laughter any more, and many people were leaving. Finally, during one of Dr. Hunter’s attempts to extort the crowd, in a sign of defeat she rested her elbow on MTHR TRSA’s shoulder and pronounced: “You know what, I don’t need this.”

Eventually Suburbia came up to me and told me that she and a group of other people staged an intervention and asked Dr. Hunter to leave. The atmosphere significantly lightened up after that, and the people who showed up after this point were clueless about the night’s earlier episode.

Suburbia said: ”We just told her that this is the party we are putting together, we don’t know how many people were going to come or what it was going to look like, we just knew that we wanted to give her something and quickly it turned into her saying that we agreed to pay her.” I asked why the PoC Drag Art Collective chose this specific organization as a beneficiary. “I looked her up,” Suburbia responded, “I read about things she was doing, I read a lot about her collective. That night, a lot of people came because of her workshops. It really looked great on paper. In the beginning a part of me wanted to give to the Ali Forney Center, The Trevor Project, Audre Lorde, something like that, but I wanted to do something for someone that’s smaller, someone who could actually appreciate that we do something for them.”

It didn’t feel like Dr. Hunter was appreciative of anything. She treated the entire event with a palpable sense of entitlement, like everyone in attendance owed her something and was supposed to shower her with money at the ready. For her, if you were not a trans woman of color, you didn’t exist.

The insensitive and hurtful approach exhibited by Dr. Lourdes Hunter, regarded as a representative of Black trans women, raises many questions and concerns. Should we be more mindful of people that we invite into the safety of our communities? Should people that represent a certain group be accountable for their actions? Just because someone is passionate about an issue, does that mean they are properly equipped with the right tools to represent their community?

Glow Job

As one of the night’s performers Glow Job perfectly summed it up: “I was giving Suburbia a pep talk upstairs cause she was pretty devastated. But we all still showed up, and we were all there because we wanted to be a part of this and do some good, so that when we do it again and then again, it’ll get bigger and better and we’ll look back on this first one that started it all, and reflect on its craziness. It’s epicness in a way. There is an opportunity to grow and to come together stronger as a group that really drives that conversation even within the community. There was a lot of energy, attention, and time that people put into this night, and I personally hope it could keep going and should only be bigger and better from this point on. If anything, there is more drive to protect this group and make it something worth fighting for for next time.

It’s almost impossible not to compare the two completely opposite approaches taken by Dr. Hunter and by Thee Suburbia. At the end of the day, we have to be accountable for our actions when we take on the responsibility of representing a group or a community, and we must make sure that our approach doesn’t hurt the message. The wrong delivery can push people further away or tune them off completely, even possibly perpetuating stigmas about your community.

No one wants to be belittled or made to feel bad based on ignorant assumptions that you’ve had it so much better based on your race, sexual preference, experience, or gender. Love, kindness, openness, and willingness to educate will always be the only right approach to getting your message across and drawing people in to care about it. Thee Suburbia exhibited all these qualities masterfully, and I cannot wait for the next PoC Drag Art Collective gathering and to support her in her incredible work. 

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Alexey Kim

Founder

Categories
Nightlife Timeline

Retro Factory On Uplifting Queer Marginalized Communities

NIGHTLIFE


Retro Factory’s Journey On Uplifting Queer Marginalized Communities With A Series Of Throwback-Themed Parties

Carlos Armesto and Zach Job are the team behind Retro Factory – the retro-inspired immersive parties that are held roughly twice in a year. Retro Factory is fairly new to the party-throwing game, but Zach and Carlos believe they have a niche to fill.

With the first event launched right before Pride, during summer 2018, Carlos – who is Producing Artistic Director of Theater C – was looking to bring his form of hybrid theater to nightlife, while Zach – who may be better known to some as his drag queen alter ego Glow Job – was looking to make his mark as a party host/producer, as well as introduce his drag persona to more people. 

As a drag queen, Glow Job felt that she had to use her platform to start conversations about bigger issues than herself. “Here I saw an opportunity to create something that isn’t addressed in nightlife: intersectionality in our queer spaces and real support for the marginalized communities within our LGBTQIA+ family,” Glow Job says.

The very first party was called “1983.” Glow Job goes on, “It was a pre-Pride party and an homage to the Pyramid Club. Our first event set out to create something missing in New York City nightlife: a space for queer people of every demographic that could be celebrated and who could witness their story reinterpreted through dance and a party with a throwback twist. In this one we had pop-up performances that reinterpreted music videos from the ‘80s with queer leads instead of the heterosexual story lines we were given at the time.”

Since then, Retro Factory has had three more editions: another “1984”-themed party, a Moulin Rouge-themed “Voulez Vous?,” and the most recent ode to Studio 54, “Le Freak.”

We like going back in time and using some key moments in history and allow a queer voice to be heard,” Glow Job expands on why the fascination with the past. “It’s powerful seeing and feeling a story we know but now through a queer lens. What if we had witnessed that kind of a history? What if these stories were told back then? The thing is, the stories were there, they just weren’t shared and uplifted. Now is our chance to celebrate our community and bring to the forefront OUR story. And not just the white cis-gendered kind of story. That is why it is super important that we involve our queer and marginalized family in the production, the crew, the talent, and our audience. This is powerful to witness as an art form, but also it creates a space where we own that world, and we can feel safe and supported truly. The honesty and openness that I see at our parties is truly breathtaking. Watching our guests dress up, express themselves, and twirl with total abandon is the beauty we strive to create.”

Zach cites Riis Beach as one of the spaces that inspires the mood and energy for his events:

“People there are free. That love, that feeling of safety and freedom to be your authentic self, that radiant energy – to me, this is what we are striving to create in nightlife.”

And that showed during “Le Freak.” The party was thrown at 3 Dollar Bill, on an off-kilter Thursday night, managing to bring out a colorful lot of people. The first thing that greeted you once you walked inside the venue was a wall covered in a reflective material and a flattering ring light, allowing guests to take photos without having to use Facetune. There was a stripper pole and a mini lifting crane doubling as a platform for go-go dancers.

From 9 pm until 12 am, drag numbers were alternating with flash-mob dances that would interact with the crowd every half hour on the dot. At some point Glow Job walked around with a huge bowl of sour candy, giving it out to anyone who needed half a carb to keep drinking.

The organizers pulled no punches on the entertainment level, and they spared no expense in creating the ambiance. It was almost like your extravagant friends throwing an over-the-top, well-produced, lavish birthday party in their dad’s shipping container warehouse. It’s rare to see a party where most of the people are throwing it down on the dance floor and almost no one is standing around feeling left out.

Thee Suburbia, Iman Le Claire & Glow Job post performance

FULL COVERAGE

Alexey Kim

Founder

Categories
Events Festivals The Mixer Timeline

My First Time At Bushwig

THE MIXER | EVENTS


09-07-19

My First Time At Bushwig Festival

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

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

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

Molestia Child

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

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

Charity Kase

Bimini

Georgia Tasda

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

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

Violencia Exclamation Point

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

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

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

Luka Ghost

Kylie Smith, Basit Shittu & West Dakota

Candy Sterling and dancers

J Rosa

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

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

MTHR TRSA

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

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

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