Photos from the first "Yalla!", a new monthly queer Arab, Middle Eastern, and North African dance party
You can be queer and Middle Eastern/North African. Did you know that? It's rough because society wants to see you as one or the other, which is fucked! Alex Khalifa, an old friend of GAYLETTER, has often used his own Egyptian heritage as a funnel for his art and drag, and now — with the help of his good friend Assia — parties! They’re starting a brand new party on 4/20 called Yalla! — which is Arabic for “let’s go, c’mon, move” because they saw a hole that needed filling. Their mission is to create an inclusive, brown, positive and generally supportive space where they could bring all of their friends, and their friends’ friends, plus whoever might wander into Friends & Lovers, together for a grand old evening of dancing. “We basically just want to create a shared qtpoc space where our community can celebrate their identities and feel supported,” they told me. “Especially in these tricky times / current political climate, where immigrant rights and Muslim and Middle Eastern people’s rights are being needlessly challenged.” Bring your best vibe, because they said you should expect lots of hugs, kisses, dancing. All kinds of wind and shake vibes. It’s refreshing to hear about a party that sounds welcoming, rather than cliquey… or just downright ragey. I guess how could it not be? The bar is called Friends & Lovers after all.
"Being tattooed and muscled in a dress is my drag."
Dame to Brooklyn and New York City nightlife, and soon to be even more known beyond her 24,000 Instagram followers, Rify Royalty has been bringing muscles, tattoos and, at one point a ubiquitous mustache, to club-nights and drag-cabarets for the last six years. “The mustache was a Rify staple,” she told me over email, “but once people start expecting me to deliver a certain thing, I like to catch them off guard. For years people only knew me as the queen who wore a jock strap and heels, but now I’m in floor length gowns.”
Rify’s got some new images, out exclusively with GAYLETTER. She made them in collaboration with photographer Fred Attenborough and creative director Elvis Maynard, explore her more sophisticated, high-profile side. After all, Royalty is her name. Her performances are typically bold, and her looks operate within a sort of deconstruction-couture. It’s D.I.Y. drag fashion for the crowd with a sense of humor and who isn’t afraid of a loose hem. I’ve always seen her as rather rock and roll. “Being tattooed and muscled in a dress is my drag,” Rify said. “There’s no illusion here. I think queens should make choices that feel authentic to them. For me, not padding or trying to make my body appear more ‘femme’ is authentic to me.”
Using David LaChapelle’s famed image of pop culture femme-fatales — Donatella Versace, Lil Kim, Missy Elliot and Rose McGowan (who tells the hilarious story of Donatella fussing over her presence in the shot) — Rify, Attenborough and Maynard extracted themes of strength, timeless glamour and power to raise Rify into new heights. …
This is a big one. I can hardly believe that this party is 10 years old. Nuts! Started by Amber Martin, John Cameron Mitchell, Angela Di Carlo, PJ DeBoy and Paul Dawson, Mattachine happens once a month at Julius’ — one of the oldest gay bars in the country, if not the world. The point of the party is pretty straightforward. They “spin vintage vinyl from queer yesteryear” and encourage those in attendance to have a dance, have a drink and have a good time. There’s not much space in this tiny bar for bad attitudes so please come correct. The bar serves food from its improbably placed kitchen throughout the night and the crowd is always wonderfully mixed. Young, old and everything in between. I have run into all kinds of queens at this party, from Dita Von Teese, to Nicole Kidman, Liv Tyler, Parker Posey, Michael Stipe, Drew Barrymore and Zach Quinto. It’s really one of those parties where anyone could show up. Congrats on 10 years of carrying. That’s a long time when it comes to a party. Can’t wait to help them celebrate!
How a small town boy went from jock straps to pop stardom
Before a celebrity begins writing a memoir, they need to decide who they’re writing for. Is it for fans, or a general audience? For any gay or LGBTQ+ identifying celebrity there’s another layer of consideration: Is this for the community?
In Boys Keep Swinging (Atria), Scissor Sisters‘ front-man Jake Shears claims “I don’t make music just for gay people,” but his brutally honest memoir delves into nuances of queer existence that are rarely seen in print. For example, when Derek (aka Del Marquis, lead guitarist for Scissor Sisters) makes an off-handed remark about “trashy bottoms” it leads to a physical confrontation with Jake:
“A jealous animosity had spewed out of me that I had been shoving under the rug. I felt threatened by Derek’s fascination with representations of masculinity: the utility van he drove around, the butch-worship. I thought that because I was a freewheeling fag, it somehow made me less-than. I allowed myself to wear sequins and prance around the stage, performing queenery. But I told myself it was twice removed, an act. I still carried shame about who I was.”
It’s a powerful moment of self-awareness that most gay men can relate to. At its heart, Boys Keep Swinging is the story of an effeminate boy realizing he is an outsider. He’ll need to learn to harness the anger, and hidden mental anguish that are often supplemental to being a fag.
Often as I was reading, I wanted to reach through the page, grab Jake by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. …
A new romantic short film about nostalgia and memory
My introduction to NYC-based artist Marcelo Gutierrez was last spring. I had just moved to New York and one of my first GAYLETTER assignments was to chat with him about his previous film, Tender Roses for Tough Climates. Its kaleidoscopic visuals stood out to me as well as the degree to which Marcelo holds his craft, which includes make-up, directing, writing and cinematography. In the year separating then and now, Marcelo has finished his latest project, another short film called Hiraeth.
“Hiraeth; (n.) a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.” So opens Marcelo’s latest, two years in the making. After this definition introduces us to the film, we get three things almost immediately. First, a bright but twisted twinkling original score by Brooklyn artist Liam Benzvi. Second, a subtle self-reference to his last film via a Titanic screenplay that, if you blink, you could miss. And lastly, an unpretentious bologna sandwich.
Hiraeth is a film rooted in the artist’s obsession with biographies, memories, and how they’re retold. Beyond the glitter, satin, warm pink hues, and letters written and recited, those roots are the essence of the film — memories and how they warp over time. It’s up to the viewer to decide if the character — played, written, and co-directed by Marcelo — is delusional or imaginative; if the memories are real, fictionalized, escapist, or puerile. …
At the home of James LaForce and Stephen Henderson, toasting the upcoming Callen-Lorde Brooklyn.
The first time I ever heard of Cardi B was in 2015 when she was on Love and Hip Hop New York. My then-boyfriend introduced me to her and I’ve been hooked ever since. (My first ever drag performance was a lip-sync to her iconic “Foreva,” which itself was co-opted from an iconic moment of hers on the show. The performance was as extra as you can imagine.) I’ve been waiting ever so patiently for new music from this “regular degular shmegular” queen ass bitch from the X. “Bodak Yellow” last year got me so thirsty and then “Cartier Bardi” was a nice Christmas gift. Four months later, here we are, finally with that new album, Invasion of Privacy, a record with a little bit of everything. We have those lead singles, a couple features (Chance the Rapper, Kehlani, SZA to name a few), some pop a la “Be Careful”, trademark slays, “Knick knack patty whack, give a dog a bone / Ima flex like a board, I’m a 10 she a toy / Stupid hoe, unimportant, unattractive, unemployed,” in “Bickenhead” and “They said by now that I’ll be finished / Hard to tell / My little 15 minutes lasting long as hell, huh?” in “I Do.” There are some self references, which I always love, particularly in the opening track. We even have a rap ballad — “Thru Your Phone” — that is the source of the album’s title and, presumably, a personal account of how she found out Offset was cheating on her. “I Like It” is a veritable Latin bop, one of the album’s highlights for sure. The standout though has to be “Best Life” with Chance the Rapper. His verse is solid but Cardi’s flow is too good, there’s so much internal rhyme that I can’t help but keep it on repeat. I could keep going but I’m not going to, go listen for yourself!
BUSHWIG took over the Beaux-Arts Court for a special Bowie-themed showcase
A hard-hitting homage to disco divas and ragers everywhere.
Serving CEO of Kunt, Inc. on the cover for her new single, “Anna Wintour“, Azealia Banks has fully returned after three years of chaos and controversy, handicapped throughout by mismanagement and a market-wide blacklisting that associated her name with everything befouled, wicked, and just plain unsavory. She has persisted, however, receiving universally positive reviews for her acting in Love Beats Rhymes, and independently releasing some standalone tracks to keep her head above water with her fans. These projects have been limited by the constraints of her previous behavior. But this is Azealia’s first label-backed release since Broke With Expensive Taste, and it hits hard enough to remind us why we know her name. Beyond the art, she has asked to be forgiven for the harm she committed to the LGBTQ community (and others) in the past. She’s acknowledged her faults, and evidently matured over her years in the public eye. I believe her, because a song like this creates space for us, specifically, to breathe and to live. You can hear the queer presence, acceptance, and celebration in the fabric of its making. I also believe her because she spent most of 2017 on her soap-shop Twitter handle @CheapyXO, giving her Kunts the tools to reupholster their bussies, which is certainly more than Dan Savage has done for the community.
“Anna Wintour” fulfills every lack we’ve complained over since disco died – the dance floor now usually defaced by tepid beats and wide-eyed suburbanites who all got their outfits from the same mall on Long Island. …