Brooklyn-based Diego Montoya creates extravagant masks and headpieces using beads, gems, pearls, broken jewelry, dismantled clocks, animal bones...Everything. His decadent facades have been donned by queens such as Jinkx Monsoon, Bob the Drag Queen and his No.1 muse, Sasha Velour.
The director of the Werq the World docuseries shares his stories and photographs of the queens from behind the scenes
How did the Werq the World series come about? After moving to LA from New York in 2016, I got connected to World of Wonder via filmmaker Billy Luther. I was 27 and had just gotten gay-divorced (can’t start early enough right?) and was frankly feeling a little down and under and not happy in LA. I’m from The Netherlands and this car driving flatland wasn’t giving me the same excitement as New York – which felt like home on Day 1. I felt a connection with WOW because its founders Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey built that company in New York City and have been trailblazing for decades since.
They asked me if I wanted to shoot a new “Day In The Life” series with some of their queens, spending an entire day with them from waking up until a performance at night. This became the “Follow Me” series on their then brand-new streaming service WOW Presents Plus. The first queens I worked with were Gia Gunn, Aja, and Vanjie (right after her first elimination). I loved making those first episodes. I opted not to use any sit-down interviews and simply let the action unfold in front of the camera. I wanted to get to a space with them where they’re not “entertaining” for the camera, but just being themselves. The best moments happen when they either forget they’re being filmed, or the camera becomes more of a friend in the room.
I think WOW appreciated this sort of raw and real take on these drag stars, so they asked me if I wanted to go on tour with the cast of Werq the World. …
Dancer-choreographer Erik Cavanaugh moved and grooved from a pizza parlor in Pittsburgh to some of the biggest stages in the world. The former dance major ended up on America’s Got Talent and in the pages of Oprah Magazine after a video of him pirouetting and backbending went viral in 2016, eventually racking up tens of millions of views. His mission has always been to change how we imagine the “dancer’s body,” urging us to celebrate each others’ bodies because they are one thing we all inhabit. Today he continues to spread this message posting performance videos to his loyal fanbase on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, showing that dance is a language we all share, speaking to the heart and soul of who we are. We caught up with Cavanaugh to hear him translate, to words, his body talk, and get to know the mind behind the movement.
How would you reflect on the media coverage you’ve received? At Dance magazine, they voiced frustration that mainstream media centered on the spectacle, rather than your art. When I read that, I teared up because I believed it: Rather than focusing on me as a dancer, they focused on what my body looked like… mislabeling me as a ballerina. A ballerina is a female professional ballet dancer, which I’m not.
I liked when they asked if the media was missing the point. While I appreciated all that was given to me, I didn’t like being labeled as “burly,” or “linebacker,” or all these images that they used to create this persona of who I am and what my body looked like. …
Michael Love Michael is an independent musician and writer based in Manhattan, whose latest single, “6 Jaguars,” holds up a magic mirror to wealth inequality. Enchanted, we had to catch up with them to ask about their reflections on crafting music as a lens through which to see what money makes of us.
How do you navigate the relationship between storytelling and selling stories? We don’t have another system right now. This is where we are, and I’m a person who has a certain amount of ambition. I’m putting music out there, which is an ambitious endeavor on its own, you know? I’ve worked within corporate hierarchies, so I can make a living. I understand this is necessary until we invent a new way of living and being, and supporting ourselves. But my desire to tell stories comes from a place disconnected from the idea of making money. I lead with my heart. I try to not live my life based on what’s gonna make me the next quick buck.
Like the film Parasite, “6 Jaguars” is a portrait of someone in their high tower while we suffer below, but there’s a certain luxe appeal. You end up wanting it, but also knowing that it’s awful. I’m really drawn to that juxtaposition, always. I’ve been binge-watching a ton of TV, like everyone, and I’ve been watching a lot of Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy shows. I’m obsessed with how they have these central characters who on the surface are corrupt, but you find goodness within them. They’re complex. And that’s how real life is. Nothing is one way or another.
At the end of “6 Jaguars,” as you repeat that phrase, “Bitch if they don’t like me / Cunt if they despise me,” it transforms in meaning. …
The artist creates a fantasy world where creatures of all kinds are free to explore their most primal instincts.
Pabllo Vittar was born in São Luís, Maranhão, on the northern side of Brazil but she spent most of her childhood in an area close by called Caxias, Pará. At 17 Pabllo moved to São Paulo to pursue a career in music and entertainment. From an early age Pabllo considered herself a true performer, “I was always a show off and loved the spotlight! I used to sing in the church choir as a kid, and as a teenager I used to do everything I could to be on local TV shows, perform as a singer or dancer anywhere and everywhere I could.”
Pabllo considers herself a drag queen, but she is just as much a pop singer and songwriter. It’s her music that has catapulted her to such enormous fame both in Brazil and now around the world. Currently she has over 10 million followers on Instagram, and she was just featured in Calvin Klein’s latest ad campaign. Her song ‘Timida’ with Mexican icon Thalía (which came about after connecting through the DMs) has been watched over 15 million times.
We asked Pabllo to collaborate with us on creating a cover story and were at first unsure exactly how we would pull it off given the restraints of a global pandemic and subsequent quarantine. Turns out with the right amount of creativity, beautiful things are possible.
Where do you live now? Now I live in Uberlândia, Minas Gerais! It’s not a big city as São Paulo and I love that! …
Janelle Monáe has always felt ahead of her time. She’s an artist who seems made for every era she’s in. Janelle released her first music (a demo titled The Audition) in 2003. Three years later she formed a joint venture with her own label Wondaland Records and P. Diddy’s Bad Boy Records. She’s been nominated for eight Grammys but has maddeningly not won any even though her 2018 album Dirty Computer is considered a masterpiece by many critics and fans. In recent years, Janelle has stepped into acting with roles in Moonlight, Hidden Figures, and the Amazon series Homecoming. She’s also stepped more into herself. After a transformative skydiving experience, Janelle decided to open up publicly about her sexuality.
We spoke to Janelle in two conversations, one mere days before the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and then another time after the protests against his murder and broader police brutality had erupted in cities across the country. On both occasions we found her to be thoughtful, open, and fully engaged. She is “building and squadding up” and ready to work as hard as ever to demand justice for the thousands of black people killed by police each year. She was crystal clear about the message she wanted to share with the world during our conversation and during this Pride month: “All black lives matter.”
How are you doing? It’s so hard for me to answer that question, honestly. But I just ate, so that’s good. In general, I’m not in a good space. …