Backstage at Escuelita night club with Harmonica Sunbeam
In our last part, Harmonica Sunbeam spoke about acting in several movies. Here, she sees opportunities for the Ballroom scenes in other major U.S. cities to empower themselves through independent filmmaking.
LF: Wolfgang's film had a work-in-progress segment, meaning, when he started it, he showed it in different stages before it was completed. In all your other film and TV work, there is no such thing. Like you said, you were in Uptown Girls. It was shot, it was edited, and then it was the end result. And with Wolfgang and his film, it sort of evolved.
Harmonica Sunbeam: Well, it was because it was a documentary. And if you want to document something, you need enough information to support the message you are trying to get across and also to offer the different views that come along with that setting. And you can do How Do I Look in so many different formats, and I think Wolfgang – his attempt was to try to include as many people as possible, so certain people didn't feel left out. And now that the Ball scene has branched to so many different cities and states, you can actually do a How Do I Look: California Style. Kind of like the Real World, how it evolved: Real World: Miami, Real World: Philadelphia. Everyone, they all have their own history now, at this point, where they started, and how they filtered into the New York City scene.
LF: I like that. So, you are sort of looking at the progression: like, the Ball community started, and then it's become something bigger, and it's spreading out, like you said.
Harmonica Sunbeam: Yes.
LF: Like Giselle, she's now getting into modeling.
Wolfgang Busch: She got a job because an agent at Elite saw How Do I Look, contacted me, I put them together, and she just told me she got a job.
Harmonica Sunbeam: I think it's great. And I think it can be like that for more people in the Ballroom scene, but they have to put themselves out there in more ways than one. It's great that more mainstream people are coming to see it, and it may be able to offer the opportunity to have those individuals who are creative and talented enough to be pulled out. But don't just let your talents rest here. Continue to take your talents elsewhere, so they can be appreciated and compensated for. The bottom line is the whole thing with the Balls: the most you are going to walk out with is possibly some cash and a trophy, and notoriety – but eventually in the end, the real world comes into view, and you still have to survive in that.
LF: Sort of like with you. You said you started out doing shows, and then hosting, and now you are in TV and film.
Harmonica Sunbeam: Right.
LF: So, do you see a parallel in that?
Harmonica Sunbeam: Well, yes, because I think that most of the kids in the Ballroom scene don't – I've always looked at it as a hobby, and then I've parlayed it, so to speak, into a career for me. And not everyone has that mindset to do so, but the potential is so easy. You take what you do best in the Ballroom, and you see how I can take it into the real world and make it happen for me. When I was in high school, in my yearbook picture there's no sign that says, "Most likely to be a drag queen" underneath. This all just happened. I took it, and I ran with it. And I made it my own. And if more people can do that, it would really be an exciting thing. And it would also bring attention back to the Ballroom scene, because this is where your roots are. It would make other people focus: "Well, if these three individuals came from there – if Giselle the model came from there; and Harmonica the comedian came from there; and this one, the dancer, came from there, who else can we pull out from there?" So, I spread the message all the time. This is where my start was as far as the Ball scene was concerned.
LF: What do you think How Do I Look has done for you?
Harmonica Sunbeam: I think it has broadened my horizons, and it has exposed a lot of people who may have heard of me or who may have never heard of me and to see me in a different light, especially for people who have seen me perform but who have not gotten a chance to meet me personally or see another side of me offstage, casually talking to the camera, as opposed to the diva on stage. I guess it exposed the human side as opposed to the star side of Harmonica.
LF: What is the feedback that you have received from your fans about How Do I Look?
Harmonica Sunbeam: For people who do not know that I am actually in it, they are quite surprised when they watch it. They just had a screening last month in Jersey City, and one of the people from JCLGO, which is the organization that hosted it, he said, "Oh, we are showing your movie tonight." I was like, "My movie?" I said, "No, I'm just one of the few in there." He said, "Yes, but we are all going to see it, because you are in it." And that made me feel good, it made me feel special and proud, especially because I live in Jersey City. It's my hometown, and JCLGO is my hometown organization.
Read the next installments of this exclusive interview:
For another unique experience with Harmonica Sunbeam, please watch the independent documentary, How Do I Look, directed by Wolfgang Busch.
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