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.


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