A conversation with our latest cover star on the queer influences that shaped him, the joy of rock climbing, and what he wished he'd done when he met the president (not this one, the last one).
Intuition is a big word for Frank Ocean. It’s been a guiding star in his uncharted course to success. His trust in it has led to various awards, beloved albums, even a surprise magazine filled with two years of globetrotting adventures.
Believe it or not, intuition also told us that one day Frank Ocean’s path would cross our own. So when the opportunity arose to collaborate — on the cover story for our 10th issue, no less — we were, on some level, not surprised. We were, nevertheless, nervous, excited and well aware that we needed to create something special. Frank is one of those people who makes you want to be your best.
As Collier snapped her frames at a furious pace, we stood by trying to take it all in. At one point, Frank looked over and, for whatever reason, we responded with enthusiastic thumbs-up. A cheesy move, yes, but once we chatted a few days later for the interview, we quickly realized that Frank is not the kind of person looking for a slick performance from everyone he encounters. He was thoughtful, open and earnest. It was a delight getting answers to the questions we’ve wanted to ask him for years.
Hey, Frank. How is 2019 treating you? Everything’s cool. Everything’s good. Been keeping busy.
What’s been filling up your days lately? Same old: making things, a lot of time in the studio between here [New York] and L.A. I split my time. …
A field trip to Austin, TX, with creative superhuman Paul Soileau
Back in 2012, I saw Christeene perform at her very first gig in Brooklyn at Glasslands Gallery. It was a high-energy terrorist drag show with lots of mooning and stage diving. The crowd went wild. By that time, I was already familiar with her music, videos and filthy lyrics:
I am your new celebrity
I am your new America
I am the piece of filthy meat
That you take home and treat to yourself
— “African Mayonnaise” (2012)
But it’s Christeene’s live show that won me over and left a real impression. The audience interaction I found poignant and sincere; same with her no-bullshit approach to issues of gender politics, censorship and the policing of our queer community. It was raw, dirty, entertaining and enlightening, all at the same time. Enchanted, I decided I’d never again miss a chance to see her perform.
Christeene and I met socially a number of times, in typically late-night affairs, before or after her appearances. We’d even had our pictures taken together. But I knew very little about the person behind the act, an Austin-based native of Louisiana named Paul Soileau. So when an invitation arrived from the Museum of Human Achievement in Austin, I knew right away that I needed to go on a field trip with Christeene, to document and investigate.
When Paul and I met on my first night in Austin, it felt like déjà vu, like maybe we were separated at birth. …
In pursuit of pop stardom, the German-born singer left the suburbs of Cologne for the promise of Los Angeles. Soon, she’ll need no introduction.
“It’s crazy to think my first single came out only a year ago.” Kim Petras took a breath to consider the whirlwind. Six years ago she left Germany and headed to L.A., where, like countless others before her, she assumed her celebrity status awaited.
She wasn’t wrong. Within the last few months alone, she attended the MTV Video Music Awards for the first time, performed her very first stadium show (at Arthur Ashe Stadium) and took the stage at Billboard’s annual Hot 100 Festival. Now, her full-length debut is set to drop in 2019. This may all sound like the candied precursor to a glorious pop career, but despite the synthetic, sugary goodness of her music, arriving wasn’t a cakewalk. “What I have,” Kim said, “I worked for it.”
Following an absurdly busy August in New York, Kim returned to L.A. in time to celebrate her 27th birthday, at Disneyland no less. She spent the day with close friends and a bunch of gummy edibles, shutting off her phone for an adventure in the park. She needed to unwind before what might be an even busier autumn, including an upcoming tour with Troye Sivan. “It felt great to just be a person,” she told me, remembering the edibles. “I just needed a day to be stupid.”
She says all this without an ounce of irony — a key facet of her brand. As we chatted, she called herself “basic,” citing her abiding interests in Pumpkin Spice Lattes and ramen noodles. …
Our favorite photographs that went to print in 2018
Creating an independent print publication in 2018 means lots of challenges, especially when it’s queer focussed. Producing stories for it, self-sustaining it, finishing it on time…it’s a trying, complicated process to turn ideas in your head into a high-quality finished magazine. Thankfully we have no lack of ideas (we have too many!) that we want to turn into stories.
This year we put out two printed issues, with 4 covers, photographed by Mickalene Thomas, Vivienne Maricevic, Luke Gilford and Ben Zank. It has brought us much satisfaction to print and share with you so many powerful photographs featuring LGBTQ people from around the world, captured by some of our favorite artists and creators. Each one contributes to the GAYLETTER legacy.
We decided at the year’s end that it might be nice to share some of our favorite images that we produced and commissioned from the past 12 months. It was tough narrowing it down to just 15. We love every image we print, but you can’t have a ‘best of’ without narrowing it down to a handful of the best.
So without further ado, here are our top 15 photographs from GAYLETTER Magazine from 2018. See you in 2019!
CHARLENE PHOTOGRAPHED AT HER HOME — THE INFAMOUS CASA DIVA IN BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, 2018. PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOMMY KHA
MARKUS, SY, HECTOR AND JAN CARLOS PHOTOGRAPHED IN THE LOWER EAST SIDE, NEW YORK, 2018. PHOTOGRAPHY BY CODY CHANDLER
AMANDA LEPORE PHOTOGRAPHED AT THE GAYLETTER OFFICE IN THE LOWER EAST SIDE, NEW YORK, 2018. …
Featuring Deon — Hair by Greg Cooper Spencer — Photography by Vincent Dilio — Directed by Boswell Scot and Abi Benitez — Music by Gess + 88MPH
For GAYLETTER Issue 9, we were inspired by the brave artists who never let censorship compromise their creativity, so we decided to publish two covers. The ascending pop star Kim Petras has advocated for transgender visibility since adolescence, becoming the youngest German to undergo gender confirmation surgery. Vivienne Maricevic spent the early 1980s photographing male burlesque clubs, and her photo of a naked young man with legs bent over his head is a remnant of a time when self-expression was in all it’s glory in the heart of our city. (A limited edition cover). Also featured in this issue is an essay by Gio Black Peter, titled “Your Post Has Been Deleted.” Gio, an expert in censored social media, has lost 10 Instagrams, 15 Facebooks, two YouTubes and four Vimeos, all because he dared post nude photos of himself — God forbid someone might see a naked body on the internet. And of course we must mention Penny Arcade, whose 1990 one-woman show Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! Was a blistering, and hilarious, indictment of our culture’s fear of sex and nakedness. A Warhol girl, Penny expounds upon the fight and fun in trying to understand yourself in a world eager to say no. Also, in this issue featuring original artwork, photography and stories by Mickey Aloisio, Rodrigo Alvarez, Arshy Azizi, Michael Bullock, Daniel Cavanaugh, Lia Clay, Vincent Dilio, Katt Fox, Benjamin Fredrickson, Luke Gilford, Agustin Hernandez, Alexey Kim, Benoit Loiseau, Landon Gray Mitchell, Slava Mogutin, Matthew Morrocco, Leo Racicot, David Benjamin Sherry, Pacifico Silano, Michael Stipe, Cyle Suesz, Patrick Sweeney, Daniel Trese, Stephen Velastegui, Brian Vu and more. As an independent magazine, we’re allowed the luxury of never censoring ourselves. We’re glad we can offer space and ink for the people who, in their work and lives, show us all how to be free. Get it here.
"Clowns have made a comeback!"
When we were casting “The Clowns” to be photographed for GAYLETTER Issue 8, we looked for queens who’s makeup operated within the vein of what is visually understood as clown. Happy, sad, goofy, kitschy, macabre. Even if queens weren’t explicit in their clowning, their beats are paintings, and we read for gestures that pointed toward the ubiquitous performance style. Some of them knew they were clowning, and some didn’t think to much about it, but if we saw a clown, we called the queen.
Some of the clowns flew in for the shoot, some of them rolled over the bridge from Brooklyn. And some came straight from the gig. Before they touched up their hair and sharpened their frowns, we asked them to step into frame for testing. It’s not like we’d never seen a drag queen half-out of drag before, but the particular mixture of sweatpants and sneakers, or overalls, or knitwear represented what Tyler Akers, writing for Issue 8 calls the “complex, colorful relationship between queerness and clown culture.” He posits there has never been a better time to debate the conjoined politics surrounding the art forms considering the omnipresent the national conversations around LGBTQ+ issues, and the rise in popularity of queer phenomena like RuPaul’s Drag Race.
We wanted to hear from the queens who became clowns. What was their inspiration? Is clowning kind of important? “Since court jesters,” HinkyPunk said, “clowns have been a voice of truth veiled in humor or farce. …
Moments between the frames on set for GAYLETTER Issue 8
Early on a Sunday morning last December, we met at our Lower East Side office. It was cold and overcast that day, hardly inviting weather for a shoot. But it was a shoot day nevertheless! With models Markus, Sy, and the twins Jan Carlos & Hector, we set off deeper into the Lower East Side with cappuccinos in hand and a few pastries and arrived on set to shoot with fashion photographer Cody Chandler.
Designed by Neil Patrick Grotzinger, Nihl applies ornate sensibilities to traditional menswear. Using Swarovski crystals, his Parsons’ MFA collection (Spring / Summer 2018) calls upon beaded singlets and leotards to deliver a glittering wrestling fantasy.
It was an intimate set, no stylist (except for us), no hair and makeup team (obviously the models didn’t need that because they arrived all natural) — it was perfection. the only thing that we forgot was The wine. As you can imagine, 75% of our shoots come with a toast because we are gay and as you know we love a celebration.
Check out the behind the scenes photos below, and to see the images that made it to print, buy GAYLETTER Issue 8.
Come join us this week, starting this Thursday, September 20 at 6:00PM (for the preview) as we head to the Printed Matter‘s Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1 — We’ll be at Booth N27. The book fair is one of our favorite events of the year (Click here to see photos from the last year). Not only is it a wonderful chance to meet our readers, but we also like to sneak off from our booth, when if we get the chance, to go roam around the floors of the fair to see all the amazing printed matter available from other publishers and galleries from around the world.
There is an overload of incredible stuff to look at. In its 13th year the fair features 365 exhibitors. It is also the first fair since the death of it’s curator Shannon Michael Caine. It won’t be the same fair without him…On Sunday at 3:30PM we’re going to be talking on a panel about BUTT magazine — It’s the US premiere of the film ‘After BUTT’ by Ian Giles (Here’s the Facebook page with more details). Come to the Art Book Fair to support print and help us keep our publication alive by buying one, or ALL available issues, nothing wrong with owning the entire collection!
Thursday (preview night) 6:00PM-9:00PM, Friday 1:00PM-7:00PM, Saturday 11:00AM-9:00PM, Sunday 11:00AM-7:00PM. MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave. Long Island City, NY. …
Just in time!
Pride month is here again, and while we celebrate our community year round, it’s wonderful to have a commercially recognized month. (Cause it certainly isn’t federally recognized!)
Originally designed by Gilbert Baker for San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day in 1978, the flag — which symbolizes peace, happiness, and among other things, pride — has certainly grown in popularity. For GAYLETTER Issue 7 we asked several working artists to recreate their own interpretation of the flag, in whichever medium they pleased. Kostis Fokas‘ photograph graced our cover.
“The most important values of the human existence. For me,” he said, “there’s no difference between women and men, races or sexual orientations. We are all equal, we have the same rights, and we should celebrate this. The rainbow flag is a celebration of life!” — Kostis Fokas
In collaboration with PAOM we decided to put this image on a handful of items most perfect for summer and celebrating Pride. This collection is most certainly what you should be wearing this June and beyond! To help make the shoot even more queer and proud, we casted exclusively with New Pandemics, the first ever casting management agency dedicated to increasing LGBTQ+ visibility.
Featured in GAYLETTER Issue 8. Starring: Imp Kid, Aquaria, Harajuku, Monét X Change, Mango Sassi, The Blair Bitch, Hinkypunk, Jarry-Kate Olsen, Harry Charlesworth & Sussi.
For this issue, No. 8, we felt it important to share the kinds of queer stories and images that you can’t see anywhere else. By this we mean louder, brighter and more celebratory than we have ever attempted. GAYLETTER Issue 8 features a kaleidoscopic assortment of brilliant people from the first trans model Tracey Norman to the always radiant Amanda Lepore. There’s a feature on clowns and jesters, some cocktails, an almost naked trip through Europe and a reflection on the artist David Wojnarowicz. Plus so much more. Making a magazine is a long, loving journey, but we’re grateful we get to work with friends we’ve made over the years, and emerging talent looking for space to make enriching work. Collaboration is a big part of our editorial mission, and that includes the conversations we open up to readers. We encourage you to share the stories that catch your eye with your friends and lovers. We hope you find some inspiration in this issue. This issue also features original artwork, photography and stories by Tyler Akers, Lia Clay, Francesco Dama, Vincent Dilio, Andrej Dúbravský, Boy George, Matthias Herrmann, Tommy Kha, Naruki Kukita, Bruce LaBruce, Troy Michie, Slava Mogutin, Gio Black Peter, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Ben Zank and many more. Enjoy it!