Queer artist Michael Phillis realized that “his worst day as an artist was still better than his best day as a tech manager.” So, he quit his day job, not just to create art, but to connect with other artists, many of whom work in jobs similar just to cover the cost of living in America's expensive queer mecca.
Thus, Baloney, the performance troupe, was born -- a classic variety show combined with burlesque, using theater, dance, and strip tease to explore and celebrate queer sexuality and life experience. Michael, together with his life partner Rory Davis, have been delighting and surprising audiences for years, and this documentary offers up an under-the-covers look at the real life people who create and perform the show, and a behind the scenes view into all of the hard work that goes into putting on this powerful and beautifully produced professional theatrical production.
With Baloney about to be released to the world, co-creators Michael Phillis and Rory Davis shared, "After doing the show live onstage for the past 8 years, it's thrilling to see Baloney reach an international audience through Joshua's documentary. Our hope is that young queer adults will see the movie, connect to the show, and know that they're not alone. There's a wonderful world of underground queer performance out there and your chosen family is waiting for you." Ahead of Baloney's VOD debut, director Joshua Guerci shared what Baloney means to him as a filmmaker and a human. "Looking at the world today, I’m proud of Baloney because it challenges the prevailing narrative that sexuality is something to be ashamed of. Opponents to equality want to push LGBTQ identities back into the closet and this film demonstrates how queer identity is the entire lived experience of a person beyond what people do behind closed doors. I hope when people watch the film, it sparks a conversation about how we learn to be more like our authentic selves. I made Baloney to look beyond the coming out and the process. The Baloney journey explores not just who you love but how we love each other and ourselves." While moderating the screening at Outfest Los Angeles, Drag Race star BenDeLaCreme enthused, “Baloney feels very much related to drag. There really is a relationship between Baloney, drag, and indie filmmaking that’s all about being scrappy and making everything happen yourself and being all hands on deck to make the art be what it needs to be. That’s something really beautiful and relatable and exciting and I love that it’s uniquely San Francisco.”
Baloney was directed, produced and shot by Joshua Guerci in his feature debut. Marc Smolowitz (Being BeBe, Transfinite) produced. It debuts June 7 across North America and will be available on a number of digital and cable platforms, including iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Spectrum, and inDemand.
Mothé is not your average run-of-the-mill musician - they are an artist. Pulling from life experiences, Mothé creates a perfect fusion of rock and pop covered in a tasty layer of synths. Their latest project, I Don’t Want You to Worry Anymore, is an album of healing and an intimate look into the type of power social discomfort and the need to find a place one has on one’s soul. With songs like Dancing on an Empty Floor, Everyone is Everything, and Breathe The Air on the Moon - the album has a real sense of what they were releasing into the universe - making a connection with fans, letting us know that living on this planet is not an easy feat. But, others like you feel what you feel, and you will make it through. Mothé shared a little about the process behind the album and what they discovered about themselves in the experience.
You shared that I Don't Want You To Worry Anymore is an album about healing, documenting moments of hurt. Some artists would find the process of creating this type of album challenging. What was your creative process for this project?
I didn't know what kind of album I was making in the moment, so I didn't find it particularly challenging to go back to those feelings. I would have felt a lot worse if I had sat down and decided to make it, but I was just in a period of time where I needed a lot of healing and compassion from myself, so the process ended up feeling more comforting than challenging. The process was really long. I was basically bouncing back and forth between my apartment and Robert's apartment for months during covid. I would start an idea at mine and finish it at his. I wish it were a little more glamorous to be honest. It was just the two of us approaching it in a healthy way during office hours.
What did you discover about yourself during the creation of this album?
Having an entire album gave me a lot of room to experiment with new kinds of music. There's a pretty big difference between a song that plays well on its own and a song that plays well in support of a larger body of work. This was the first time I've ever made an album so it was a chance for me to experiment with less "in your face" songs. I got to discover and begin a new voice in my songwriting and production that I'm incredibly excited to continue. On a personal level I gained a lot of confidence and security. The creative direction of the album gave me a supportive window to be more expressive in my queer identity, and I am a lot less afraid to be myself. It's changed a lot for me for the better.
Tell me about the camaraderie of your collaboration with producer Robert Adam Stevenson.
Robert is a wonderful person. I love working with him. We met in a studio when I first moved to LA, and we were writing for other artists, but we clocked each other immediately and started working together outside of the studio. He's my closest collaborator, it's really amazing to have someone who's as interested in the vision of the project as me. He just cares, even when he's working on projects he doesn't like all that much, he puts in so much energy and effort. I lean on him a lot. He's really the only person I work with, so it's amazing to have this sort of intimate "closed door" creative situation. We grew together and have started producing other people's records as a duo, so it's a relationship I look forward to continuing. He's had a lot of real success since we met and has always left room to make music with me.
The sound is powerful. Was there an inspired musical influence that went through your mind when working on the music?
I've always been into really harsh and loud albums, I read a study recently about people with anxiety connecting with Shoegaze music because it's a wide-range blanket of frequency. I wanted to make something like that but with a sincere pop structure. Even though the album is powerful, you'll find that it isn't all that loud compared to the digital-leaning rock bands of the modern times. I was trying to create a more comfortable kind of loud, using a lot of valve distortion and minimal compression. I've always been trying to find the middle ground between classic indie bands and today's modern party pop. It's an attempt at crossing Radiohead and Charli XCX, really.
What do you want listeners to walk away feeling when they listen to your album?
My favorite thing about making music is that I don't get to dictate this. It's my album and my experiences, but as soon as I put it out into the world, it's everyone else's. I love this, it's a community buffet, so I want people to take what they need from it, or even just what they want from it.
For more information on Mothé, their music, and tour, visit https://linktr.ee/motheworld.
Albuquerque author Ronin Romero has written a gripping, epic sci-fi series named Glyph, starting with book one, Revelations. Set in a futuristic world where demigods have battled and left humanoids in a desperate bid to save their world before the chaos demigods destroy it.
Heading up the fight is Lady Mercelle, on the hunt for a famed and possibly mythological demigod that can turn the tide of the war against Chaos. In addition to Mercelle, there are different characters, including a leading trans character, with their motivations, goals, and secret deals.
I asked Mr. Romero what inspired the idea of this book series. Ronin says, "It is a storyline I had envisioned since I was a teenager. It was a culmination of plots that intermingle perfectly and within the same universe! Through learning who my characters were, I learned a lot about myself. The whole telling of the series is pretty much a different version of me finding myself. I believe that all deep stories come from the author's subconscious, which can be very difficult to navigate."
Difficult? Yes. Impressively epic? Definitely. A reviewer from Reedsy Discover gave the book four stars and said, “An interesting read with action-packed scenes and enjoyable characters.”
Books two & three are in the works. If you love post-apocalyptic sci-fi, you can find Revelations on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Revelations-Ronin-Romero/dp/1735582670.
Sonja Dewing is a multi-award winning author, creative writer, book writing coach, and self-publishing guru. She's also an award winning publisher and founder of the Women's Thriller Writers Association. She loves adventure, and living in Albuquerque with her giant puppy, Bo.
Happy Pride! June is a great time to celebrate. In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled that same-sex couples had the right to marry, just in time for Pride celebrations across the country. SCOTUS generally releases the most important and impactful cases in June of each year. This year is no different. Except for this year, with the right-wing supermajority, they are taking our country BACKWARDS. They plan to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that made abortion legal. This constitutional right, the right to privacy, is found in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So was the same-sex marriage case, and cases that overturned sodomy laws gave interracial couples the right to marry and access to contraception. This right to privacy has moved the country forward. Now a right-wing SCOTUS is taking us backward to pre-1973 when none of these rights existed. A woman’s right to have an abortion is about to be lost. Based on the flawed and incorrect “reasoning” that there is “no right to privacy” found in the Constitution, all these other cases and many other rights we currently take for granted could be lost if the leaked SCOTUS opinion becomes law.
Elections matter. When you vote, you exercise one of your fundamental rights as an American. But even this right is under attack by the right-wing. How do we prevent all of this? WE VOTE! No matter your age, your vote matters. It matters because Supreme Court Justices are appointed by the President. It matters because federal and state legislatures make the laws that most directly govern our lives. It matters because most of us want our country to move forward. But a small minority wants to tell the rest of us how to live based on their own very flawed interpretations of the Bible. Do we want to live in a world where a woman doesn’t control her own body? Or gay men or women are imprisoned for being gay? Different races or same-sex couples couldn’t get married? On this last point - it would directly affect my marriage as I’m Latino and my husband is white, and we’re gay. Or no one can get contraception, so those condoms you see at events will disappear, women can’t get the pill for birth control, and we’ll have a lot more unwanted kids because women can’t get an abortion either. If the worst happens and Roe v. Wade is overturned, we can change it. How? By VOTING! Vote for your values and your freedoms! We celebrate Pride every year. Why? Because we were oppressed and called all kinds of names and even jailed for being ourselves. All that changed because people voted because many of us sacrificed to get these rights. We worked hard to make gains for our community, and Pride is a celebration of that. But it’s also a reminder of how fragile those rights are and how determined homophobes can take those rights away in an instant. We CAN NOT let this happen! So I urge you to vote in November, especially for younger folks. Go to Pride, stand up for what you believe. Wear your Pride everywhere. When you’re out celebrating the Pride parade, festival, and parties, remember the reason for Pride. It came from our struggle for our rights. This Pride season, let’s preserve those rights we have fought hard for! Stay safe and HAPPY PRIDE!
Mauro A. Walden-Montoya, Esq., is a recovering attorney who's worked with the People with AIDS legal program at the Whitman-Walker Clinic (Washington, D.C.) and The HIV Legal Clinic at the D.C. School of Law. He’s past President and board member of the New Mexico OUT Business Alliance, on the boards of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, Wheels Museum and the ABQ Leather Daddies and a Minister in the Universal Life Church. Mauro lives in Albuquerque, with his adoring husband, Andy.
Kalvinn Garcia, 25, of Sedro Woolley, Washington, pleaded guilty to one count of committing a hate crime for the Feb. 24, 2020, arson at Queer/Bar, a nightclub and event space in Seattle, Washington. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Nick Brown for the Western District of Washington and Special Agent in Charge Donald M. Voiret for the FBI Seattle Field Office made the announcement.
According to documents filed in connection with the plea, Garcia set fire to the contents of a dumpster in the alley directly behind Queer/Bar on Feb. 24, 2020. Garcia was arrested only minutes after setting the fire. Garcia admitted to law enforcement that he set the fire and that he targeted Queer/Bar because it angered him to see a sign that said “queer.” He also told officers, “I think it’s wrong that we have a bunch of queers in our society.” A few weeks after the incident, Garcia told a stranger that his intent in setting the fire was to trap and hurt the people inside.
“The defendant targeted the patrons inside Queer/Bar, a known safe space for the LGBTQI+ community,” said Assistant Attorney General Clarke. “Hate crimes have no place in our society today and we stand ready to use our federal civil rights laws to hold perpetrators accountable. All people deserve to feel safe and secure living in their communities, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“Garcia endangered countless people who he did not know and who were simply trying to live their lives, solely because of his own hatred,” said U.S. Attorney Brown. “We must stand up to this hate at every opportunity, to demonstrate to our community that acting on hate will not be tolerated.”
“Garcia’s hateful act endangered and spread fear in the LGBTQ+ community and caused damage to this business establishment,” said Special Agent in Charge Voiret. “Fortunately, our partners at the Seattle Police Department were able to respond quickly to this arson. This case shows our commitment to investigating civil rights violations with our partners.”
Garcia faces a maximum sentence of 10 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by FBI and the Seattle Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Cohen and Trial Attorney Angie Cha of the Civil Rights Division.
Love has always been at the core of POSE. Go behind the scenes for an inside look at Angel and Papi’s wedding and its significance to the cast and crew.
San Francisco to declare country’s first Queer and Transgender Asian and Pacific Islanders (QTAPI) Week May 22nd-May 29th
San Francisco became the first city in the country to honor the Queer and Trans API (QTAPI) community with a designated week of celebration and recognition on Tuesday when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution by District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman to declare the week of May 22nd through May 29th, 2021 as Queer and Transgender Asian and Pacific Islanders week in San Francisco.
“QTAPI San Franciscans have been shattering glass ceilings and bettering our city for a long time,” said Mandelman who is the only LGBTQ+ member of the Board of Supervisors and represents the Castro District. “Amid a spate of heinous anti-AAPI attacks in San Francisco and around the United States, and with state legislatures across the country targeting the LGBTQ+ community, this will send a strong message of support and solidarity to QTAPI people everywhere. Thank you to the Bay Area QTAPI Coalition for all of their work to create the first ever QTAPI Week here in San Francisco.”
The Bay Area QTAPI Coalition formed in 2017, when Miss GAPA 2016 Juicy Liu saw a need to celebrate Queer identity and bring visibility to QTAPI’s during one of the most important times of the year in many Asian cultures, the Lunar New Year. The Coalition’s first event, Enter the Rooster, was held at Strut in the Castro to celebrate 2017’s Year of the Rooster and was followed up in 2018 with New Year, New Tricks at Oasis, When Pigs Fly Over The Moon at Salesforce Tower in 2019, Leaping Rats, Hidden Histories at Origin Night Club in 2020, and Ox Talks on Zoom in 2021. This working coalition of many QTAPI organizers and community organizations recognizes their interdependence, collective strength, and power in unity.
In response to the murder of six Asian women in three massage parlors in Atlanta on March 16, 2021, the Bay Area QTAPI coalition mobilized thousands of people for two direct actions – Castro to Chinatown: an LGBTQ+ Solidarity March and Rally Against AAPI hate. The Bay Area QTAPI Coalition conceived of QTAPI Week to celebrate their diversity and strength as a coalition, individually organizing supportive spaces that are not luxury items, but essential spaces for survival. QTAPIs expand these spaces from virtual to in person, and through the formal recognition of QTAPI Week, the coalition celebrates its power.
“Growing up in Plano, Texas, I rarely saw anyone Queer or Trans and Asian or Pacific Islander (QTAPI),” said Michael Nguyen, lead Organizer of QTAPI Week, Chair of GLBTQ+ Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA) and Co-Founder of the Bay Area QTAPI Coalition. “I am hopeful that QTAPI Week inspires all those in our community, especially our family and allies, to live their most authentic selves and see our collective strength and resilience in these turbulent times. Like Harvey Milk once said, you gotta give ‘em hope.”
"As a South Asian woman of trans experience, I have often had to navigate out of my cultural identity to ascertain my gender identity,” said Anjali Rimi, President of Parivar and Co-Founder of the Bay Area QTAPI Coalition. “I am grateful for the visibility for QTAPI folx in the city of San Francisco and to be able to bring my whole self to this world.”
“As May is a month for Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage and June is a month for Pride, both also represent the necessity to recognize that our struggles and liberation are inextricably connected,” said Nick Large, one of the founding partners of the Bay Area QTAPI Coalition. “Our QTAPI week is a proclamation not only that we will take up space, but also that we will not allow ourselves to be under voiced and have our diverse community ignored as a monolith. A racist model minority narrative dictates that we are all worker bees, void of individuality and material differences. It hides that Pacific Islanders in our community experience the highest rates of homelessness in the country, that refugees with no connection to their government listed country of origin are being deported, and that Chinatown has one of the highest rates of poverty in the city, in addition to a strong documented history of queer nightlife and refuge. Instead of shrinking ourselves, we choose in this moment to expand ourselves.”
The resolution details the rich history of San Francisco QTAPI community leaders like Margaret Chung, the first American surgeon of Chinese descent who wore “mannish attire” and had several romantic relationships with women, and Vince Crisostomo, a gay Chamorro HIV-activist who became the first publicly out HIV-positive Pacific Islander at World AIDS Day in 1991. It also shares the history of important organizations that were formed by and for the QTAPI community like the Gay Asian Support Group, Asian American Feminists, and the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance, now the GLBTQ+ Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA), to create QTAPI connectivity, power and access to essential services like health care.
“Thank you to the city for making public the value of queer and trans Asians and Pacific Islanders,” said Dr. Amy Sueyoshi, Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies and Professor of Race and Resistance Studies and Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University. “Let us devote at least one week to explicitly declaring to queer and trans API folks that they are seen and loved. As we celebrate this recognition however, it is simultaneously a charge for us to continue to better serve queer and trans BIPOC across San Francisco if not the larger Bay Area. In a racialized economy that privileges heterosexuality, queer and trans BIPOC in particular face economic insecurity, even for those in the middle class.”
The Bay Area QTAPI Coalition and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman will kick-off QTAPI Week this Saturday, May 22nd, with a press conference at 11am in Jane Warner Plaza in the Castro District. Community chats will be held that weekend online, focusing on combating anti-AAPI hate crimes and the power of allyship with communities of color on May 22nd as well as API Equality Northern California’s (APIENC) launch of the Queer Asian and Pacific Islanders Cis Allies Project (QAPICAP) on May 23rd, an intergenerational project to unlearn and end transphobia within our LGBTQ+ Asian and Pacific Islander community. During the week, the community and allies are invited to the GAPA Membership meeting on Monday, May 24th from 7:30pm-9pm, focusing on GAPA’s actions in the face of anti-AAPI hate and preparing for GAPA Runway, the annual pageant extravaganza showcasing QTAPI talent and identity. The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) LGBTQ Committee will present a conversation with community activists online on May 26th from 6pm-7:30pm where Drag Activist Juicy Liu will sit down with Harvard Professor and LGBTQ+ legal scholar, Alexander Chen. Additional support groups and online meetings will hold space for our Queer and Transgender Asian and Pacific Islander communities, sponsored by the San Francisco Community Health Center.
The closing celebration of QTAPI Week will happen on Saturday, May 29th, with a solidarity dance party in the parking lot on 18th Street and Collingwood in the Castro District from 11am to 4pm. Headlined by reigning Miss GAPA, Mocha Fapalatte, with appearances by Miss GAPA 2000 Chi Chi La Woo and Miss GAPA 2017 Ehra Amaya, emcees Estée Longah & Kristi Yummykochi of the Rice Rockettes, San Francisco’s only all-API drag troupe, and DJs Confetti Canon and Chico Chi will help unite our intersectional AAPI and LGBTQ+ communities in solidarity and celebration to bring much QTAPI light and love and show the world the power and resilience of QTAPI community.
In the land of minority stories being told by those who don’t know the struggle, “Pose” smashed the narrative. The show made history by not only creating storylines that truly expressed the lives of the LGBTQ community, but by creating a diverse cast, including the largest transgender cast to appear on television. As the series prepares for its third and final season, the creators, cast and crew, during a press conference, reflected on the filming of the final season and the overall experience of taking part in something that has changed so many lives. We had the opportunity to ask the cast if they were encouraged to offer input in development of their character or storyline.
DOMINIQUE JACKSON, “Elektra”
Immigrant, Black, woman, trans. Never been on set, right? Other sets, but not sets that celebrated me or validated me or acknowledged me. And to walk on to that set of "Pose" and to hear Mr. Murphy go -- say, "Is that how it's done?" that was -- it was validation in itself. When Steven says, "Listen, I've been a part of this" -- and it was so amazing to sit back, because as I am ballroom and as I get to sit back and watch as everything happens around me, I see the passion, the compassion, the care, the want to know that it's being done right. When you have directors like Steven and Janet, and even though Janet is one of us and is us, the beauty of her saying, the validation of her saying, "Listen, is this right?" when Steven says, “I don't know about this," the consultants that were brought in -- Twiggy, Leiomy, all of them -- this was not a place, for me personally, where I felt -- and being a part of ballroom, being ballroom, I didn't have to say anything. Only when we had that last scene with the -- going into the 42nd Street and Elektra coming back into show world, that was the only time I had to walk on set and really say, "No. We were not sleazy. We were not degenerate. We were not" -- "we were fetishes that were loved, and we brought the best even in the worst of times." So, all of it, it was amazing. So, to have all of that, yeah.
INDYA MOORE, “Angel”
Steven and Janet Mock particularly, as a Black trans woman in the writers' room, it was perfect. I think that there were so many different parts of this story we're all telling and using our own lives to make a reality, details from our own experiences and lives. And I think that Janet did that brilliantly and beautifully, and Steven did that brilliantly and beautifully. And we were all able to relate and see ourselves in the lives of these characters so respectfully because of the way that the writers' room was organized so intentionally and the people who sat in it and, you know, who had the focus and centering on our characters. Their lives and the parts of their experiences that they used came so closely and reflective to ours and is just a true reflection of what the experience is to be trans or queer, that I can't remember a time where I ever felt like I needed to say, "Hey, this doesn't feel right." And Janet and Steven frequently came to us and checked in with us about the content and made sure that things felt right and were congruent and felt natural for us. But I think that that dynamic of the writers' room and the producers checking in with the actors to make sure that the story is being told right, that wasn't even a thing that needed to happen on this set. I think that that is something that's really important. When you have trans and queer characters on a show and you want to tell the story truthfully and you don't have writers who are a reflection -- who aren’t reflections of those experiences can be really difficult to nail right. So I would hope that in those circumstances, in the case where we don't have people who reflect us in a writers' room and who are the creators of our show, that they would check in on us, check in with us to make sure that they're telling the stories right and that they don't believe they can get it all right in their own minds, because they don't have the experience to come up with the imagination to tell that story. So, I think that the way that Steven and Janet put the story together was brilliant. And I think that that is the mechanism of the writers checking in and asking the actors, that is something that feels so necessary for productions where the writers and the creators aren't trans or queer. Like, that level of cross-talk. But here we're all together. We're all reflections of each other, creating. So, we don't navigate -- we're not navigating those same challenges. We're not navigating those challenges in that kind of way on our set in getting our story told truthfully.
DYLLÓN BURNSIDE, “Ricky”
I distinctly remember on my first day of filming not having, like, an idea about who Ricky was, where he came from, and what was, sort of, the idea around who he would become on the show. And I asked Steven those questions. Like, who do you think he is? Is there any insight you can give me as to how to play him? And Steven looked at me point-blank and said, who do you think he is? Where do you think he comes from? Where do you think he should go? And that kind of collaboration and open line of communication was there from day one and has existed throughout filming all three seasons. And I think that -- that instance speaks directly to what Indya's talking about. It's like this -- this -- we were a reflection of each other, and we allowed each other to speak to each other in a way that breathed life into these characters authentically.
HAILIE SAHAR, “Lulu”
Steven and I first season had a conversation. I would meet him during lunch break and say, "Hey, Steven. Can I talk to you?" And I would say, “You know, Lulu has obtained all this information. She's second in command to Elektra, ambitious and intellectual. I don't think she would just want to be in this house forever.” And that's when that conversation happened. And I guess they went into the writers' room and something came out of that, because then Ferocity was also born. But I remember speaking to Steven and him allowing me to have that space to tell him how I felt about Lulu. And then, Janet, the brilliant, iconic Janet being of trans experience and a woman of color just effortlessly creating these characters and really, truly being authentic was just the icing on the cake. And that was my experience.
MJ RODRIGUEZ, “Blanca”
So, I had been a part of the industry at a very young age, and what came with that was me feeling like I had to be limited in what I had to say and how I had to speak or if I had even opportunity to speak up. So, I was always this closed-off person. But with being involved in the industry, there was, I guess, this grooming that came with me. And I was naturally just afraid to ask questions. I was just the person, the girl to show up and just do the job. And I guess that most actors and actresses -- I'm sure I can say for all of my friends here that we usually do that. But I never had an opportunity like this on a television and film -- a television show where I got to actually have the range that I never thought I could have in the other productions or the other things that I was involved in. I think that's what the best thing for me was, is that I was able to have the liberty to speak even when I was afraid to speak. I had the liberty to delve into the character like how I wanted to and not be questioned, but still have small notes here and there. "Well, how about you speak it here, MJ?" Or, "How about you do this?" Or, "No, this is how it needs to be done." And sometimes that's what you need in order for you to fulfill the journey of the character that you're creating or the process that you want to put into the character. And I never had the -- the outspokenness. I never was able to speak up like how I was able to speak up in this show. And it's taught me a lot from first season until third season. I feel like not only did Blanca have an evolution, but I, Michaela, Mj Rodriguez had as evolution too. She's learned a lot. I mean, she's always been able to learn, but with these two, and also with Ryan Murphy, there was a great space to just quickly learn and really appreciate it while being able to be free in what you do naturally, which is the craft. So, I thank them tremendously for opening that space for me. Because now, moving forward, I feel like I'll be able to do that in any other project I go into. So, I thank for them that, and I think that's -- for me specifically, that's what opened me up in feeling like this is the place I feel comfortable in. This is what I want more of and I hope to go into more.
This year, #Pride will be done from a distance - celebrated in individual homes. We were saddened to hear that Albuquerque Pride was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now we’re left with the question - when will we be made whole?
We here, at Pride & Equality Magazine, were affected by the decision. Some advertisers immediately pulled ads. They felt that without a parade or festival, the publication doesn’t work. With that, it was more important to move forward with publishing this year’s issue. We thank the businesses who stood by and helped get this magazine out, even if we had to push the date to make it happen. You will see articles from this year's issue posting on our social media. Take a moment to read and share.
This year’s issue rolls in another set of honorees of The Vincent R. Johnson Models of Hope Award. This year we are proud to celebrate the contributions of Ryan Perrigo, Nic Sedillo, and Terra Fox. Our cover story is a woman coming into her voice. Carmen Carrera, who made a name for herself as a contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race, has become an advocate for the #LBGTQ community. She is extremely vocal on issues that affect the community and will not put up with bullshit rhetoric. We had the opportunity to discuss her career and upcoming projects. We also had the opportunity to talk with actress Jasika Nicole of The Good Doctor. Nicole talks about her inspirations as a child, growing up biracial and queer, and her time on one of ABC’s hottest running shows. Actor Dan Amboyer chats about fatherhood, marriage, and projects.
The return of bathhouses in San Francisco piqued our interest. It led to our featured story of what this reoccurrence means for the community. Mauro Walden-Montoya talks about the effects of Pride events being canceled throughout the country, and Jason J. Carter brings us our Final Word for Pride 2020.
We are excited to bring another issue to the community, especially during this trying time. Happy Pride, everyone. Stay safe. We are all in this together.
PRIDE & Equality Magazine
While in Utah for the Sundance Film Festival two years ago, I bumped into Carmen Carrera coming out of the AT&T tent, after addressing her public, and looking fabulous while doing it. I haven’t seen her since she performed for Trés Chic back in 2013. Looking at her that night I had to ask, “How can this woman be any more gorgeous?” We took a photo, hugged each other, and promised to get together for an interview. Two years later, it came to fruition. Carrera had plenty to share.
Carrera captured America’s eyes when she first appeared on season 3 of Rupaul’s Drag Race in 2011. Carrera’s beauty shined on the reality competition. While many watching the show saw what they might have felt was just another drag show, Carrera knew deep down who she was, identifying as a transgender woman in 2012. Her time on the show is remembered with both highs and lows, but Carrera used this moment as a catapult for her career. She took every opportunity that came her way, including a feature in W and an appearance on What Would you Do? But it would be her community that would benefit as she became an activist for HIV/AIDS awareness.
Carrera always knew that she was unique, even if she didn’t know why. “I was so self-aware than most kids around me. I was so fascinated with learning about who I was and why I wasn’t just like everyone else,” shared Carrera. “I think that’s been a lot of my experience. But, once I graduated, that’s when things clicked. I got to experience the world and meet people like me. I didn’t know what I want to do, but I thought I would figure out when I get there. That’s been my story. I never knew exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to create this space.”
The goal of creating this safe space came from discovering self. For Carrera, the world of drag was a catalyst for realizing her authentic self, but she also knows that many factors lead to her development. “I discovered myself through drag," shared Carrera. "That freedom of expression is what I felt as a teenager. It’s been a journey, but I wouldn’t say it was like one revelation. It’s been a series of experiences. I would say after I got my modeling contract, I knew the real me.”
Carrera became a fresh face when she appeared as a contestant on the show “Rupaul’s Drag Race.” The exposure catapulted her to next-level status. But she didn’t want to rest her laurels on this one experience. She took what she learned from the show and moved forward in her career, achieving a lot of first. For Carrera, she shared what she felt were her greatest “firsts.” “I was the first trans model to ever be signed to Elite Model Management, a very prestigious modeling agency in New York,” shared Carrera. “My relationship with my husband on television was another big first. Looking back, I cringe because I was so transparent and so forthcoming. I felt like people needed to realize that our relationship is as complex as any other relationship. I know that influenced many people. That was important to me.” Carerra also talked about being the first trans model to walk in Miami Swim Week. The history of the organization was that only naturally-born women were allowed to participate during this event. If a trans female was exposed, it would lead to her expulsion from the model community. “I was one the first openly trans models they asked to walk and connect with the trans community,” expressed Carerra. “There was a big meeting with the production and my agency. I was so happy because that opened the door for so many trans models in Miami.”
One of the biggest decisions Carrera made in her career was sharing her transition on social media, knowing it might lead to ridicule. She knew youth in the community would view her struggles and realize they were not alone. “I was the first of my kind in the public eye. I was expressing myself and coming from a place where I thought there must be others like me. I was going to be completely open and not think twice about what other people felt," admitted Carerra. "I was labeled as a trailblazer and an inspiration, but, looking back, I wish I didn’t tell so much. I was still working things out in my life. You feel freer as an adult. I just wanted to "tell on the mountain." I felt there was no way I could have avoided that. I felt the world needed to learn about our community. So, if my drive was the kick-off to that, I was asking for it. I’m a little more reserved about some things that I share. People are so clouded by their judgment. I try to open up their eyes in specific ways. I don’t regret it though.” Success leads to misconceptions. When people see you in the limelight, they automatically feel that they know you. Carrera is not a stranger to this. “There are people that believe I’m jealous and upset and expect me to be a crappy person,” shared Carrera. “Then there are others that feel I’m a "look at me, look at me" type of person.”
One thing that is not a misconception is her need to call out behavior she knows is wrong for the community. Even if it means going up against someone who helped give you your start. Carerra is very vocal when it comes to statements made by the Queen Bee of Drag herself, RuPaul. She shared why Ru pushes her buttons. "RuPaul is older and has more wisdom. If you’re in a position of power, I feel it would be smarter to consider the community as a whole. I know personally, just working with RuPaul, she grew up in a different time, but in the same place as I did,” expressed Carerra. “She’s very aware of hate crimes. She’s very aware of what happens when you’re not yourself or deny who you are. She has seen the struggles. I feel like, when he was as a producer, trying to influence the fact that we deserve proper representation in the drag community. Knowing her influence on the hetero market, she continues to deny trans people their place. With her history in the drag shows, I feel it’s selfish. She continues this mindset that drag should only be one thing versus what it has become, which is entertainment. We have drag queens, drag kings, drag queens that are comedians. We have so many layers. So that’s the reason it pushes my buttons. I feel it’s unfair and selfish and a very misogynist way of thinking.”
Her thoughts for Rupaul didn’t stop there. I shared with her a quote that RuPaul shared a few years ago during an interview. When asked if drag will become mainstream, she replied, “It will never be mainstream. It’s the antithesis of mainstream. Listen, what you’re witnessing with drag is the most mainstream it will get. But, it will never be mainstream because it is completely opposed to fitting in.” Since this quote, Drag Race has gone on to win multiple Emmys, move to a more broad audience channel, VH1, and open the show to a new generation of not only LGBTQ youth, but straight as well. Carrera shared RuPaul’s statement makes her question what's the reason for doing it. “I feel you create your reality. If Ru thinks it will never be mainstream, it won’t. She’s almost getting in her way. People who have that mindset, I feel, are not expecting to be trailblazers. I’m into normalizing drag as a form of entertainment and showcasing LGBTQ artists that have amazing talent,” stated Carerra. “It is becoming mainstream. I thought she was fighting for it. People are stepping up to make a platform for change. If she can get past her mental blockages, she'd be more welcoming to people who've worked to be accepted and loved. If she was trying to use art to influence that, that’s amazing. But, if that’s not what she was doing, then what is her agenda? What's the goal? It’s not right when you’re trying to create change for a large group of people. You can’t be selfish. This is bigger than her. So that’s what my problem is. I don’t know if she’s ever going to see it or realize it. I’ll keep an eye on it, but I have to focus on my things.”
Those other things are coming down the pipeline. With the coronavirus putting quite a few performances and projects on the back burner, Carerra was excited to share what coming down the road once things settle down. “I want to be able to share my stories, so I’m focusing on my YouTube channel and just starting to build an empire. I’m also working on a cosmetic line. I don’t want to say too much, but we’ll see what happens.”
Carerra has gone from just another pretty face to a force in the LGBTQ community. Her voice has changed the lives of many trans youth. When it’s all said and done, Carrera would like the world to remember her as someone who made a difference. “I would like to be a trailblazer. I want to leave a legacy behind of inspiration - just being sure of who you are and being brave enough to make that change. Look back, even though I wasn’t quite sure of who I was, I felt encouraged to make a change and make people see the connection in differences. So, I really want to be known as someone who’s created that shift, not only in my community but within the culture.” Carrera is becoming a force in the community. We look forward to witnessing what else she does in the future.
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