Abi and I first met designer Jonathan Anderson on the dancefloor of the iconic Twist nightclub one December during the annual Art Basel Miami Beach. It was hot and sticky and Kylie was playing on the speakers. Sardined together on the tiny upstairs dance floor he seemed as happy as we were to be escaping the real world for a moment.
This September when we met in Paris to shoot this cover, I wasn’t sure if he remembered our South Beach encounter, but he was in equally good spirits. Considering he was in the middle of preparing his Loewe Spring 2020 show, only a few days later, and had just shown his latest collection for JW Anderson in London days prior, his calm was especially impressive. With our cast arranged around the spacious, high-ceilinged showroom his eponymous brand uses when in Paris, Anderson walked onto set and announced: “Just tell me where to stand, I’m easy.” For the rest of the shoot he happily traipsed from room to room as we improvised (in true GAYLETTER style) each set up.
If you spend more than 10 minutes with Jonathan, you can’t help but notice he has a great sense of humor. There’s an irreverence in him that is reflected in many of his designs. Shirts with extra arms, leather bags that look like baseball caps, and his update to the classic Chuck Taylor All Star High Top sneakers that adds at least an extra two inches to their soles are just a few examples of the playfulness and originality that has made him such a coveted designer. …
The Boulet Brothers, Swanthula and Dracmorda, are the delectably evil hosts of Dragula, a competitive reality show shining a light on the freakish corners of the drag world. As fans of the duo and their show, we had a few questions we were just dying to ask.
How did you become interested in the macabre? Any dark, early memories?
DRACMORDA: We have both been interested in darkness, mystery and magic since we can remember. It’s interesting you ask that, because we recently moved, and I came across a collage I made when I was in school — sort of like a dream board. Our personas today, and Dragula, are literally everything that was on that board. It was a mix of 1950s sci-fi movies, haunted houses, 1930s dark movie starlets, extreme avant garde fashion — I mean it was literally Dragula.
How did you meet, and how did the Boulet Brotherhood begin? Do you have drag mother(s)? Who helped along the way?
DRACMORDA: Well, we don’t really do the drag family thing, so there are no mothers or daughters or thrice-removed cousins to speak of.
SWANTHULA: Much like the mythological story of Athena, who emerged from the forehead of Zeus, fully grown, the Boulet Brothers just appeared as completely realized beings.
Who are the Boulet Brothers separately? Who is Dracmorda and who is Swanthula, before the hair and makeup?
SWANTHULA: I have always felt that the great and powerful Oz’s fatal mistake was allowing anyone to see behind his curtain. …
Hustlers, cocaine, depression and then some — quite a weekend, but also the subtitle to The Rest of It, an autobiography from acclaimed biographer, historian and activist Martin Duberman. In particular, Duberman focuses on 1976 – 88, the darkest, most difficult period of his life. His book offers an intimate view of the intense personal struggles that ran parallel to the professional successes for one of the LGBTQ movement’s most important figures.
It opens with depression, the void Duberman fell into after the death of his mother. From there, in search of inclusion, acceptance and some kind of solace, Duberman careened among various therapies, eventually returned to the theater, and overindulged in the titular hustlers and cocaine. Drugs, sex and an extraordinary book deal temporarily lifted him out of despair, before a massive heart attack and growing depression pushed him into rehab and a reevaluation of his life.
Duberman paints a raw, honest portrait of his struggle to find balance between his desire for excess and his burgeoning career as a history professor and prominent gay activist. He doesn’t shy away from the undignified aspects of his life, nor in the gossipy passages do his gay, activist and literary co-conspirators go unnamed (Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Vivian Gornick and Kate Millett each make an appearance).
When this chapter of Duberman’s life comes to a close, he is working to found the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) at the City University of New York, the country’s first university research center dedicated to LGBTQ issues. …
Arthur Less is the kind of character I didn’t know I had been longing for. A midtier novelist, he’s self-deprecating, spontaneous and charmingly ignorant of his own charms. This eponymous novel (the one he’s in, not the one he wrote) starts with Arthur mourning the imminent arrival of his 50th birthday, since he’s convinced he’s “the first homosexual ever to grow old.”
Having recently broken up with his younger boyfriend of nearly a decade, Arthur is at a loss as he tries to neatly define what his life has amounted to, and what lies ahead. He reflects on and laments his “exclusion from any list of best writers under thirty, under forty, under fifty — they make no lists above that.” Then on a whim, he accepts a handful of invitations that will take him far away from the one invitation he’s avoiding: his ex-boyfriend’s wedding.
The mixed bag of invites includes a literary festival in Mexico, an award ceremony in Italy, a teaching assignment in Germany, a retreat in India, an article for a men’s magazine in Japan, and a friend’s birthday in Morocco (chapters are divided up by each location).
Throughout his travels, Arthur finds himself in a string of compromising, ego-crushing encounters that seem orchestrated to pick apart what’s left of his paltry self-esteem. Yet as the novel unfolds, the encounters reveal themselves as machinations designed not to break him, but to break him open.
In Mexico, he sits on a panel in which he’s casually asked by the moderator, “What is it like to go on, knowing you are not a genius, knowing you are a mediocrity?” …
The renowned illustrator on redefining sex and fashion, the Manhattan dreamscape and the end of bitchy.
Robert W. Richards began his career as a fashion illustrator, traveling the globe and sketching runway shows, both enamored by and afraid of the clothes he drew. But it was when he returned home to New York for good that he began focusing not on couture clothing but on what lay beneath. Long, lean, sculpted male bodies became the chief characters of Robert’s drawings — all isolated images devoid of background and unnecessary detail. “A good drawing should speak for itself,” Robert told us. His drawings do.
Plenty of nods to fashion or labels are illustrated with whimsy and lightheartedness, yet the boys Robert depicts are often strong and severe. His most recent work — a series of nude boys with designer shopping bags — encapsulates his perfect intersection of fashion and sexuality. Here they are: simple line drawings, sexy yet soft. We spoke to Robert about his arrival to New York, his imagined-turned-real lover, and how he escaped the fashion world to illustrate a world of his own.
How did you land in New York City? I left home, in Maine, when I was very young. Just a little bit shy of 16 in the late ’50s. I went to school in Boston, but always I was conscious I wanted to live in New York. Boston was just a stop along the way for me.
Was it difficult leaving your family and small-town life? My mother didn’t want us to dream, because she had had a lot of disappointments in her life. …
Behind the scenes during our florals shoot for GAYLETTER Issue 10 featuring Andro Gin, Baby Love, Desmond is Amazing, Honey Davenport, Luka Ghost, Ryan Burke and Yuhua Hamasaki
With Performances by Baby Love and Christeene — music by DJ Hannah Lou
Artist Michael The III and his beau, Xavid, present us with a selection of vibrating looks perfect for our next pride celebration.
What does pride mean to you?
Xavid: Pride to me is when we as the LGBTQ+ community come together as one to face bigots, bullies, politicians, institutions and media who disagree with who we are or want to put us in a box and throw us into the chimney just because we don’t fit into their “mould”.We are here, loud and proud, to celebrate who we are, who we love and the ride of our life.
Michael: Pride for me, at least this year, has been a time to reflect on the achievements and progress of our community. I’m less interested in rainbows for the sake of rainbows or viewing us all from a distance. I’m interested in learning and educating myself on the individuals who have got us here. And when it’s not time to look backwards, Pride is a time to remember that if we aren’t throwing bricks, we need to be laying them down on the ground, paving a road for more people to tread, giving more opportunities, empowering more individuals of all types, and making sure it’s love that binds each bring together.
What was your thought process behind the looks in Issue 10?
Xavid: I just wanted to have fun, I wanted it to be colourful, vibrant and with a personality that represents how I am as a gender-nonconforming individual. I wanted to exude “flabulousity” from head-to-toe.
Michael: Well Xavid did a great job styling the looks, and my thought process as the photographer was to reflect the mood of the clothing in each scenario; to imagine the clothes as part of the narrative and of course make it gay, queer, fun, everything we love for pride. …
Hosted by 10 Corso Como with looks by Loewe
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. …