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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

Wigwood III: Disrupting Miami’s Gay Tourist Scene


EVENTS | FESTIVALS

Wigwood Festival: Disrupting Miami’s Gay Tourist Scene


Miami, FL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 1

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

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

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

Didi

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

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

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

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

Day 2

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

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

Lady Paraiso

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

Day 3

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

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

Adora

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

Wigwood Origin

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

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

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

Alexey Kim

Founder