Thursday, 20 November 2014

TRANS DAY OF REMEMBERANCE: Octavia St Laurent's last interview

November 20th is TRANS DAY OR REMEMBERANCE, when we take some time to think about our trans borthers and sisters who have passed, many at the hands of bigotry and violence. But it's also (I like to think anyway) a time to celebrate and appreciate those who are still living, and more generally the impact the trans community has had on our queer cultures and pop culture at large.

It should go without saying that vogue culture is very heavily trans influenced and inspired. From the different "realness" (passing) categories at balls and functions, to the current "femme" and "dramatic" styles of dancing popularised by performers like Leoimy Moldano, Sinia Ebony and Feminine Destruction Revlon.

Anyone who has seen Paris Is Burning will know about the intimate bonds between trans people of colour and vogue culture. I'd also hope that anyone who has seen that documentary will remember OCTAVIA ST LAURENT, one of its stars, and coiner of the immortal phrase "Wicked Beauty".

 I had the pleasure of remixing Octavia's track "Be Somebody" with Stockholm's HOUSE OF WALLENBERG a couple of years ago, and when Petter Wallenberg approached me to find someone to publish Octavia's last ever interview, I was glad to help. Thanks to the good people at DAZED DIGITAL, we managed to get the piece up in time for TDOR, a fitting tribute to one of the first true stars of vogue and ballroom culture, and a true trans icon: 

Hi Octavia! How are you?

Octavia St Laurent: Iʼm blessed because youʼre still interested in Octavia St Laurent! Iʼm blessed because the children are still talking about me, Iʼm very fortunate.
 I wanna sing. Singing is everything to me, and itʼs a part of who I am. My uncle was Louis Armstrong, I donʼt even know if you know who Louis Armstrong was. He was married to my grandmother. My mom used to sing with Sweetheart and the Crystals. And I am ready to be out there and just do Octavia St Laurent, bring her alive, like sheʼs never been alive before.
I canʼt do anything right now because of the cancer. Iʼm just resting in Syracuse, which is a quiet place from the start. My stomach is really big from the steroids, it feels like Iʼve got something strapped to my stomach. I feel large. My arms and legs are still slim, but my butt is real big.
I gotta get back to normal. I donʼt wanna be seen by the public until then.

What are the doctors saying and what time frame are they giving you?

Octavia St Laurent: Theyʼre not giving me any time frames. I've had time frames my whole life, OK? You know how many times these doctors been telling me Iʼm gonna die? Child please, Iʼm not going nowhere. I don't pay attention to human beings, itʼs God I think about.

How would you introduce yourself to people that donʼt know who the legendary Octavia Saint Laurent is?

Octavia St Laurent: I don't know if you know this, but I am very open about my genderism. I'm always willing to educate everybody who feels different, and help them understand that you gotta love yourself, honey. Iʼm a very powerful man, and Iʼve always used the beauty of a woman and put them together. Itʼs got me quite successful through the years. And itʼs also kept me alive. Basically I love who and what I am, and I wouldnʼt be anything else.

Have people tried pushing you into being anything else?

Octavia St Laurent: Well, I wouldnʼt say they tried to push me, but a lot of transgendered and pre-op transgendered are a little shocked about my attitude in regards to not wanting to be a woman, and taking that role of womanhood. Iʼm no damn woman, donʼt wanna be no woman. I stand up and piss in the bathroom, I donʼt sit down, you know what Iʼm saying? Iʼm not trying to be a woman. Just beautiful.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

VOGUING in The Guardian

How voguing came back into vogue

The dance, invented on the streets of Harlem in the 1980s and given cult status by the documentary Paris is Burning, is back in the mainstream. Who are the new stars?
FKA Twigs (Tahliah Debrett Barnett) performs on stage at Tolhuistuin on October 15, 2014 in Amsterdam, Netherlands
FKA Twigs (Tahliah Debrett Barnett) voguing in Amsterdam last month Photograph: Dimitri Hakke/Redferns via Getty Images
The Mugler Ball, which took place in Queens, New York last weekend, was probably the most fabulous party you weren’t invited to. A sea of gay and straight scenesters gathered at a ballroom to watch a mix of new and legendary vogue dancers compete on stage. It featured all that one would expect from the drag event of the year: theatre, excitement, drama, scandal and sequinned catsuits galore. But beyond these hallmarks, it revealed that vogue ballroom culture has reached a new level of cultural influence. FKA Twigs, who has been training with the vogue dancing legend Jamel Prodigy, took the stage for a 30-second routine of classic hand illusions before gracefully sliding to the floor into a dramatic dip, which is to voguing what the triple Salchow is to figure skating (ie, very difficult). Later that night, Rihanna got on to the stage to do a little preening of her own. Afterwards, pictures from the ball went viral thanks to the stream of famous guests such as Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing, who gushed, in all caps no less, on Instagram about his “FIRST VOGUEING [sic] BALL”. READ THE REST.
Hmmm *reading glasses* full of flaws this article. I left these comments:

Crystal LaBeija is not in Paris Is Burning (that's Pepper) and didn't host the pageant in The Queen, she stormed out.

And as much as I love Mykki Blanco and Joey Arias, they do not represent vogue ball culture. I'd say RuPaul's Drag Race has had more of an influence than them, particularly voguing queens like Shangela, Milan, Vi Vacious and Gia Gunn. For a more accurate representation of ballroom 2K14 look up: MikeQ / Qween Beat Productions, Vjuan Allure / Elite Beatz, Vogue Knights (NY weekly club, often have live streams on a Monday night/morning), Kevin Jz Prodigy, Divoli S'Vere, Jack Mizrahi (who hosted that Mugler Ball), Luna Luis (of The Luna Show), Pumpdabeat (Philadelphia), Ballroom Throwbacks YouTube channel, Streetstar competition (Sweden), House of Melody (Germany) and House Of Khan (France). Here in the UK you've got the annual House Of Suarez Ball in Liverpool and Vogue Brawl in Manchester, and the monthly House Of Trax parties in London keeping it locked down with some excellent voguers. I wrote a two part article last year for FACT magazine about the history of vogue in the UK: and regularly update my vogue and ballroom culture blog CVNTY

Monday, 17 November 2014

FKA Twigs vogues down

Hats off to Twigs for not only getting some real voguers involved in her videos (like UK's Benjamin Milan! check the google glass clip above) but for actually walking at Vogue Knights herself!

Friday, 14 November 2014

DJ DELISH (Pump Da Beat, Philadelphia) INTERVIEW

One of the best, up-and-coming young producers in ballroom right now is Philidelphias DJ Delish. His productions take the genre's cut-up house style and add a grimey, percussive twist that ftis right in with all things Night Slugs/Fade To Mind. Wanting to know more, I fired Delish some questions about his style, influences and the vogue scene in Philadelphia...

Who is DJ Delish?

I would say Delish is another extension of my musical talents. I think Delish is still finding his way but I think he's done a good job of that so far. He's still young and learning but far from an idiot and a newbie. He's someone that I'm glad I was able to create for this world, someone who's name I wanna see in lights one day, someone who has all the passion in the world for the music he generates. DJ Delish is also someone who comes to the club/ball eager to make the night a memory.

I know you walk balls, or have done anyway – what is your category?

Well, voguing was what I was doing before I really got into the scene so I always had an itch to get out on the floor. I have walked a few balls, mostly First Friday's for fun, though. I've walked Virgin Performance which is basically the beginning stage of becoming a vogue femme in the ballroom scene. I've been walking that category for close to a year and a half.

How did you get involved in the ballroom scene in the first place?

The story behind the beginning of my involvement is strange to some. I was born in a Baptist, Jamaican household so one could really wonder how I ended up doing anything that involved a "spin" and a "dip". I was at a good friend of mine's house one day, in Northeast Philadelphia, and she played "I Don't Like That Bitch" by Jay X (Karan). The tempo of the song made me think it was a Baltimore Club song but when I went home to look it up and listen to it again, I found out that wasn't the case---at all. I found a plethora of vogue clips and just went through each one, becoming more and more interested as I went along. At the time, I was still in highschool so I wasn't able to attend any balls, as they would take place after my curfew so I continued to 
absorb the scene, or however much YouTube would allow me to absorb, and started teaching myself how to vogue, practice commentating and even make a vogue beat. Once I turned 18 and was allowed to be out of the house past a certain time, I befriended a few ballroom participants who began to teach me some of the terminology; like "Shade", "Read" and the forever famous "Work!" As time marched on, I started making more beats, becoming better and better and before I knew it, I was asked to DJ a ball in Richmond, Virginia; the first ball I'd ever attend. After that ball, I took a slight break from everything and moved back to Philadelphia, a huge "ballroom city", where I soon joined Pumpdabeat and became one of the resident DJs for the Breakfast Club which has been host to the ballroom scene since 1998. 

And how did you get into djing and producing in particular?

My father has been a DJ for the past 25 years so I'd like to believe that the want to DJ was already in my blood from birth. I would sit in his basement and listen to him play for hours and be amazed at what I'd see him do. How he would DJ would inspired me heavily as a child and that same excitement carried on into later years where I would have eventually started learning to DJ myself. I would desire to move the crowd the same way he did. 
My producing started at the tender age of 13. As a teenager, home computer music programs helped me learn how to produce music, make music edits for performers and create voiceovers. Those experiences have made me do what I do now. 

You're developing quite a distinct sound – who are your biggest production influences? What sets you apart form other ballroom producers?

I would have to say Chocolate Puma, Todd Terry/Black Riot, Masters at Work/Bucket Heads, Green Velvet/Cajmere and Vjuan Allure are my biggest production influences. Each has such a unique style that is so innovative and interesting, it motivates me to think of something that I wouldn't even think I could do. 

The thing that I think sets me apart from other ballroom producers is where my inspiration comes from. I usually don't get inspired by past music, I get inspired from sounds; regular, every day sounds, like a bird cawing or a car tire screeching. I find the rhythm in those things that have no rhythm at all and make one for it. 

What are your non-ballroom musical influences?

It's so many. Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Jhene Aiko, Erykah Badu, Nina Simone,  Queen Pen, Foxy Brown, Queen Latifah, The Gap Band, Skyy, Lil Kim, Craig Mack, Busta Rhymes, Chip Fu, Curtis Blow, Ludacris...and the list goes on.

Tell me about Pumpdabeat – who is in it and how did it get started?

Pumpdabeat is a musical cross section of ballroom consisted of active ballroom participants. To me, it is what you need for your cars, your headphones on the local transit system, in your speakers as you're in your dorm room. Basically, Pumpdabeat is for your vogue inside and outside of the club/ball. Our sound gives you the ability to allow the ball to be wherever you are. All of us, at one time or another, have walked a ballroom floor and that has permitted us to understand the passion behind the rhythm in the music. 

What can we expect from DJ Delish in the near future?

Simply put, the best that I have. I'm working on more new music with my PumpDaBeat family members and working on a CD with Kevin JZ. I'm also putting together another album that will be out in the springtime of next year. In the meantime, I'll be putting out battle beats, vogue session "Ha's", R&B songs, Live sets and more. In the meantime, you can check all of my live sets & hottest track on my Soundcloud ( and Mixcloud (

Wednesday, 5 November 2014


Everybody;s talking about last week's Mugler Ball - mostly cos of guest appearances from Rihanna and FKA Twigs, but don't let them distract you from the real talent:

not least host Jack Mizrahi:

Monday, 3 November 2014

CVNT TRAXXX @ World Series label launch

Cheers to Matt Thomas for this footage! Me spinning Vjuan Allure and MikeQ/Sinjin Hawke and SPF666 for dancers Benjamin Milan and David Magnifique: