Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fashion and Innovative Dance: Runway for the Ballet

Dancing off the Runway

The law firm of Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft LLP sponsored the second annual Runway for the Ballet program, a fashion show benefitting the North Carolina Dance Theatre. An edited video presentation of the benefit was posted on YouTube.

During sections of the video, the "innovation part" of art direction, music editing, and choreography came together by exhibiting excerpts of the North Carolina Dance Theatre's popular works inbetween segments of the fashion show. This mix of great music carried over nicely from the fashion show portions to the ballet portions. I found this video of their March 2008 benefit extremely inspiring for its ingenuity.

According to Runway for the Ballet, the Spring 2008 fashion was provided by Neiman Marcus.

For awesome photographs of the March 2008 fundraiser, please visit Christopher Record Photography's blog.

In 2006, the first Runway for the Ballet program produced an inspirational video

In 2006, the North Carolina Dance Theatre launched Runway for the Ballet as a benefit program. Here is their first video presentation of that benefit program.


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Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Conversation with Harmonica Sunbeam, the Queen of Comedy: Part 1

Backstage at Escuelita night club with Harmonica Sunbeam

One Sunday evening earlier this month, before her popular show at New York City night club, Escuelita, the actress, singer, and female illusionist Harmonica Sunbeam sat down in the dressing room at Escuelita with the activist and director Wolfgang Busch and I for an interview about her beginnings, artistic development, and gratitude.

Harmonica Sunbeam

LF: Wolfgang has told me so much about you. I looked on your website, and I see that you have this history in show business. What was your start in show business?

Harmonica Sunbeam: I don't know the exact year, but, when I first came out, I got involved with the Ball scene. I walked a Ball at the Paris is Burning Ball at Trax, First Time Up In Drags. And that started my drag portion. I won, and then I would do it occasionally. Sometime after that, I went to a show, and I decided to give that a shot. And that worked out well, which usually does. Anytime you do anything for the first time, your friends are there for support, hopefully. So, I would do a show from time to time in addition to the balls, and then I started hosting the shows, and that's where it blossomed from there.

Wolfgang Busch: What year was that?

Harmonica Sunbeam: I'm going to say it was about 16 or 17 years ago.

Wolfgang Busch: So, 1990-ish?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Yeah.

LF: Where do you find inspiration for what you do? Like hosting, you saw somebody else do it, and you said, "I can do that as well?"

Harmonica Sunbeam: No, that's not how it happened at all. I saw the show, and I said, "I can do that." But as far as the hosting part, I was just always just a guest in the show at this small bar in Newark called First Choice. And one day, the hostess didn't show up. So, I was just kind of thrust into the position, because I was the only one that wasn't as shy to do it. But my inspiration, I enjoy comedy, I enjoy making people laugh, because I just feel that there's so much – even back then, we have so many burdens on our shoulders to bear on a daily basis that it would feel great to take some time away and forget our problems and just enjoy ourselves. So, I approach my performance from that part: making everyone feel welcome and in a festive mood.

LF: How did you come to be known as the Queen of Comedy?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Well, it's kind of self-proclaimed, because I used to call myself the Queen of the West Village, because I had a long-running show in the now-defunct Two Potato in the West Village. And I thought that it localized me, and it made me too location specific. So, I wanted to make it more general, where it wouldn't be so Point A to Point B.

LF: How did you get to know Wolfgang?

Harmonica Sunbeam: I guess from How Do I Look. I didn't meet you before How Do I Look?

Wolfgang Busch: It was for How Do I Look, but through whom and where and when, I have no clue.

Harmonica Sunbeam: Yeah, I'm sorry. At sex parties, O.K.?

LF: LOL! Do you remember how you were selected for How Do I Look? How did that happen that you got to be in the film?

Harmonica Sunbeam: I guess I'm going to assume that after Wolfgang talked to people, my name probably popped up a few times, he decided to seek me out from that point on. I would say that.

LF: Tell me about the filming.

Harmonica Sunbeam: Well, we shot – I think we shot here. I think we shot here, yeah we shot here. It was pretty short, and it didn't take a lot of time. Basically, it was me speaking from the heart and my thoughts on the Ballroom community and how it's progressed or what needs to be done to make it better.

LF: Was that your first experience in film?

Harmonica Sunbeam: No, I've done some film and TV work.

Wolfgang Busch: What was your film work before?

Harmonica Sunbeam: The first film I did was one called, Party Girl. It was an independent film with Parker Posey. And then I've done Honey, The World Trade Center, and --

LF: -- and you've been on TV, too?

Harmonica Sunbeam: -- there's a movie called, Uptown Girls, that I did, but got cut out of, with Brittany Murphy. So, I'm unionized and everything like that.

Wolfgang Busch: That's an accomplishment.

LF: You know, Wolfgang had a purpose for How Do I Look, which was to empower the Ball community and to give some respect and acknowledgment to them. How do you contrast that – that purpose – with the personality that people come to expect of you , which is to be quick-witted, sharp, have panache – like, it doesn't really meld?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Well, I think so, because the personality gathers their attention. And from that point, once you have an attentive audience, you can tell them anything. And if people respect you, they will listen. And the whole thing about educating people – like, when they have the Balls that are sponsored by these big AIDS organizations. It's like an entertainment situation, but they are also throwing in some educational value, as well. Putting out their message, that they want to get across, as well, in a subliminal way, so as not to turn people off or make people think twice like, "Oh, here it goes again."

Read the next installments of this exclusive interview:

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI

For another unique experience with Harmonica Sunbeam, please watch the independent documentary, How Do I Look, directed by Wolfgang Busch.


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Artistic Progression: Our Conversation with Harmonica Sunbeam: Part 2

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:

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI

For another unique experience with Harmonica Sunbeam, please watch the independent documentary, How Do I Look, directed by Wolfgang Busch.


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Roll With It: Our Conversation with Harmonica Sunbeam: Part 3

Backstage at Escuelita night club with Harmonica Sunbeam

Harmonica reveals how she approaches female illusion with originality: through a personality she can call all her own.

LF: How do people from the Ball community relate to you?

Harmonica Sunbeam: I guess a lot of people, the ones that know me, they look up to me. They recognize me as someone who's been there from the old school days, so to speak, and also as someone who has made my way through the ranks there, and as someone who has taken the art of female impersonation and brought it to another level, and brought it to a more mainstream level.

LF: So, you have been in other films and TV, how did that happen? How did you get unionized? How did you discover this opportunity to go into acting?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Well, it came to me. Right, it's not very often. There was a customer, who had a friend, who worked for an agency. The name of the agency that represents me is Hans Walters, and they brought one of the representatives to the show. They liked me a lot, and they felt that they could use me for some of the calls that they get. It was just as easy as that. I know a lot of times people go looking for agents, but I didn't have to do that footwork.

LF: Oh wow, that's good. Congratulations.

Harmonica Sunbeam: Just being somewhere and putting yourself out there, you just never know....I don't know who's going to be in the audience tonight, who might say, "Hey, I could use this individual to market tampons."

LF: LOL! So, where is it that you get this comedy?

Harmonica Sunbeam: I guess I've always had it for quite some time. I've always been kind of like – not necessarily a class clown, but always just quick-witted and sharp-tongued to an extent. The sharp tongue part of it you kind of need in this scene, because people always have something to say. So, I guess it all stems from that, and just finding a way to capture it and make it entertaining without being offensive to an audience. There's a fine line.

Wolfgang Busch: How much is improvised, and how much is scripted?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Improvised: 99%, scripted: 1%. Basically, I may think of what I want to say, but once I get out there, the whole show may take another course, because of the audience, because of their energy, and no audience is ever the same. I may plan the same show, but it will never be the same.

Wolfgang Busch: One comment can change everything?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Right, one weird person. Like the lady who was Crystal Gayle, yeah, you see, you know what I mean? One of the many characters who happen to show up at the show when you least expect it. And you just go with the flow. Someone else may get thrown off base or become upset by someone else. I roll with it. That's what happens when you are so scripted that something like outside in the audience happens that you can't get back on track to your script, that's not a good thing. Even when people say, "You know, it's so-and-so's birthday." I say, "You've got to write it down." Because if it is written down, I can come back here in-between sets and think…but to just tell me something before the show starts and think I'm going to retain that? Because once the show starts, I'm on, and I'm in show mode. And my goal is not to try to remember things that I was supposed to do. It's just, "Okay, let's just do this show." And what happens, happens. Sometimes, after the show, I come back here, I'm exhausted, I sit down, and I think, "Damn, I forgot the joke about….!" Oh, well, you know?

LF: You don't seem to be impersonating somebody else. You are who you are: you are into comedy.

Harmonica Sunbeam: Right, Harmonica Sunbeam is a personality.

LF: Right, you are not imitating somebody else?

Harmonica Sunbeam: If I do someone's song, it's Harmonica Sunbeam doing a Whitney Houston song – not me trying to be Whitney Houston. Times have changed have a lot, but I remember when I first started out, people would always say, "Who do you do?" It's always about characters, about you imitating someone else, so to speak. Because I don't feel like I particularly look like anyone, I had to find my own niche. That's the whole thing about the whole drag industry, in a nutshell, is that in order to survive in this scene, you're going to either look exactly like someone and you'll always find work, you know, La Cage-type stuff, you know, plus in a lot of straight venues as well, because it's easy. Or you have to have some gimmick to your act, and that creates the longevity, because if you don't have that gimmick, you don't stand out. With so many people saying, "Oh, I'm a drag queen," it's like what do you have to offer that's going to make us say, "Let's hire her instead of her."

Read the next installments of this exclusive interview:

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI

For another unique experience with Harmonica Sunbeam, please watch the independent documentary, How Do I Look, directed by Wolfgang Busch.


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The Sky's the Limit: Our Conversation with Harmonica Sunbeam: Part 4

Backstage at Escuelita night club with Harmonica Sunbeam

Fans are posting some of Harmonica Sunbeam's comedy material on YouTube, we discover.

LF: So, how hard is it for you to keep this individuality and creativity?

Harmonica Sunbeam: It's not hard. You know, you get inspired. As far as the comedy portion of it, anything can be – I enjoy doing different things just to gather the experience of being somewhere. And I can take that same situation, no matter how wonderful or how bad it is, and use it as a story on the stage. So, that's why I never turn down any new experiences, because you never know what you can get out of it.

LF: Being who you are, you are this personality, I looked on YouTube, and I found a couple of videos. One of them, that is my favorite, is your Bedtime Story. It's on YouTube. I don't know if you remember it?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Yes.

LF: It was really funny, I loved it. So, you have this fan base that take video of you, and then they go home and put it on YouTube.

Harmonica Sunbeam: Yeah, I mean, the YouTube stuff is great, because it is great for exposure, but the only thing is that sometimes you don't have any control over what people are putting up there. It might be, like, "Oh, gosh, I looked a mess that day." You know, I would not have personally put that up there. None of the stuff that's on YouTube I personally put up myself. I'm such a perfectionist that if it was something that I wanted to put up there, it would have to be right-right. But nowadays, I mean what can you do? With technology comes great things, and also things that can backfire on you.

LF: How do you feel about that? There are all these people out there, talking about you? They see you as a public person, because to a lot of people you are. You live a public life.

Harmonica Sunbeam: It comes with the territory. There's not much you can do with it. The only thing that I can say is that you don't let it get to you where it gets out of hand, or where you are taking it the wrong way. As long as it is not, like, a malicious situation, then I am fine with it. But people are going to have their views. When you post something on YouTube, two people might say, "Oh, it's fabulous, she looks great." And another one says, "Oh, I've seen better." It's like, Okay, these are people's opinions. That's what happens.

LF: What would you like to do in your career? You are based here. You've been doing this now for 10 years.

Harmonica Sunbeam: A little bit more.

LF: So what do you see next?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Well...?

LF: Or what do you see that you can do now?

Harmonica Sunbeam: What I would like to do – because I am approaching 40 next year, and I enjoy performing, but I would like to take it to the next level in terms of Broadway or more film/more TV. I'd like to get my old cabaret type stuff and not necessarily clubs stuff, and not as often. I don't want to be 43 doing 2 am shows for 20-year-olds, and I don't want to perform because I have to perform. I want to perform because I like performing and I enjoy it. So, I would like to broaden my horizons in that respect, like possibly a TV show or with the advent of gay cable shows, to progress my career even further.

LF: With this explosion in reality TV, is there something in reality TV, or were you thinking of a comedy show?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Like a Mad TV-type show. They have something like that, it's called Laugh Out Loud, a big gay sketch comedy show on Logo. Something like that, or people always say, "I think you'll do very well with talk show. I don't know if mainstream TV is really ready for a drag queen hostess doing a talk show?

LF: RuPaul did that for a while, didn't she?

Harmonica Sunbeam: She had a cable show.

LF: Right, on VH1?

Harmonica Sunbeam: On VH1, yeah.

Wolfgang Busch: And the one from Australia, what's her name, the one with the big glasses?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Dame Edna. I mean, the sky's the limit. You never know. And I always use RuPaul as an example, too, because, she started out as a drag performer, and then she did the song, and she had a recording career. And then from the recording career, she came to the acting career. She used to host on a radio station. She was a jockey on one of the radio stations for some time. The cable show. The film and TV part. So, you just never know. If people think you are marketable enough, they will hire you. Look at how many rappers turned actors. Put them in the role, and the role works. People respond to it, and the next thing you know they have more and more. I went to school with Queen Latifah. We went to high school together.

LF: You did?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Yeah. It's just amazing to see from when we were in high school.

Read the next installments of this exclusive interview:

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI

For another unique experience with Harmonica Sunbeam, please watch the independent documentary, How Do I Look, directed by Wolfgang Busch.


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Around the World: Our Conversation with Harmonica Sunbeam: Part 5

Backstage at Escuelita night club with Harmonica Sunbeam

Harmonica talks about going to high school with Queen Latifah and about other celebrities, who come calling on Harmonica at Escuelita.

LF: Did you know Queen Latifah back in high school?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Uh-huh. We hung out. Sitting in the lunch room, with her rapping and doing the beatbox, and stuff like that.

Wolfgang Busch: You did beatbox?

Harmonica Sunbeam: No, her. And years later, for her to be this, you know what I mean, this woman of all this: where she started with just a little rapping, to her own TV show, to producing, directing – it's just wonderful, wonderful. Spokesperson for all these commercials. Wow! It makes you know that it can happen to the little people, because everyone thinks that, "Well, it all happens overnight." And I think it's a journey, and that journey makes everyone humble. And in that, there are going to be ups and downs and trials and tribulations. And it just keeps you humble.

LF: Did you know that Queen Latifah did a video where she had vogue dancers? She hired Willi Ninja for the music video for Come Into My House.

Harmonica Sunbeam: I've seen quite some stuff, because she's always been gay friendly. Even in some of her lyrics, you can hear some gay slang. In some of her earlier lyrics, you hear some gay slang, which shows that she was in touch with the community. And then we lost – she lived in Jersey City for some time, and we would run into each other – and we kind of lost track with each other, and stuff like that. But it would be nice to hear from her.

LF: What kind of celebrities come visit you hear, to see the show?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Well, we've had a few and far between – just people in the industry, like there's a stylist that comes every once in a while, his name is Phillip Bloch. And also Frenchie Davis has been here in the past, Freddie Jackson. And people just pop in. You know, I try not to make a scene, because I know when I go somewhere, and I'm just trying to enjoy myself, I don't want to be noticed. And some people don't mind, and some people do mind. The director of Noah's Ark comes through every once in a while, as well as the cast members of Noah's Ark.

Wolfgang Busch: What's the director's name?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Patrik-Ian Polk.

LF: Where did you find influences in your stage performance and in your music?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Well, comedy wise, I've always been a fan of Carol Burnett and Rita Rudner. And show-wise, there's a lot of great female entertainers that I feel really give a show and put in 110% into a show, like Tina Turner, and who just go all-out for their audience. And that's my aim each and every time I get on the stage. I'd rather not do a show than half-way do a show, because the audience will never understand. If I came out, saying, "I'm not feeling that great tonight, so I'm not going to do this, this, this, and this." Some people will say, "O.K., we understand. You give us 120% each week." But there will always be somebody in the audience who will say, "Then, bitch, why did you come out?"

LF: You don't only play in New York?

Harmonica Sunbeam: No, I go wherever the money is.

LF: Where have you gone that's been interesting for you? Where has your career taken you?

Harmonica Sunbeam: To Bermuda. To Manchester, England; there's a festival up there called It's Queer Up North. And I've performed in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, as well as Lyon, France.

LF: Lyon, France?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Yeah, because I tour with a dance company called Evidence.

LF: When you go on the road, do you do your show from here over there, or do you do something else? With Evidence, you are doing dancing?

Harmonica Sunbeam: No. My friend, who is the choreographer and director, Ronald K. Brown, he wrote a piece called, Dirt Road: Morticia Supreme's Revue. And I play Morticia Supreme, and I host the show. And I kind of like fill the audience in as to what is going on, with the dance piece. So, basically, when I travel, I'm either doing my own one-woman show, so to speak, or I'm a guest or a part of a show with other people involved.

LF: For all the time that you've been here at Escuelita, over 10 years, obviously you have a very loyal following. How does that feel to have people who are very loyal to you, follow you, and support you?

Harmonica Sunbeam: It feels wonderful. It's nice to know that you have people on your side, people who care, people who will be there for you in more ways than one. Even some of the, quote-unquote, fans, I develop friendships with them on a more friendship level than opposed to me entertainer, you fan. A lot of people invite me to their different family events, and I can't always go because of my own schedule, and they understand that, as well, but it feels nice that people want to get to know more of you than just the stage persona.

Read the next installments of this exclusive interview:

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI

For another unique experience with Harmonica Sunbeam, please watch the independent documentary, How Do I Look, directed by Wolfgang Busch.


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Power of Community: Our Conversation with Harmonica Sunbeam: Part 6

Backstage at Escuelita night club with Harmonica Sunbeam

Harmonica tells us about the marketing aspects of being a famous female impersonator; she also gracefully lets us know who Willi Ninja was to her.

Wolfgang Busch: How is Myspace affecting your audience?

Harmonica Sunbeam: I've heard of Myspace for quite some time, and I was totally against it only because I had my own website, and I was like, "Well, that was sufficient enough." And I didn't know the whole workings of the whole Myspace site.

LF: And wasn't there someone at some point trading on your name?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Right, there was someone who had opened up a profile with my name and my pictures from my website – on Myspace. And people were saying, "Oh, I sent you a message on Myspace." I said, "Well, I'm not on Myspace." And they said, "Oh, yes you are." And in order to get that person off, I joined. So, that's why my Myspace is under the Real Harmonica Sunbeam. And I didn't realize that Myspace was a community within a community. It really helps to get you in touch with long-lost people. And as an entertainer or artist with something to offer, it works out well for anyone, because it's free exposure. And who doesn't want that?

Wolfgang Busch: It helps to build an audience.

Harmonica Sunbeam: It's 24 hour exposure. You know, Myspace has also gotten me some bookings, so it works out.

LF: What does gay pride mean to you, if I can ask that kind of question?

Harmonica Sunbeam: It means accepting what you are and who you are, and not letting anyone bring you down about those two facts.

LF: How do you relate to other performers, other drag queens? Do you see yourself competing, always having to be better?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Well, I don't compete with other people. I compete with myself. I'm always trying to improve myself. I don't worry about other people, necessarily, with what they're doing. I focus on myself and making my own situation better. I think that there are a lot of people who use the term drag queen or female illusionist or female impersonator, and you have to do what you need do to in order to stay on top and keep your name out there. And keep the people – the managers and the owners of these clubs – calling you. And I think I try to be a better drag persona, because I opened doors for people. I helped other people, who are just coming into the business. I give them the chance that I had to fight for when I was just coming up. Some people are very insecure and don't want their light, so to speak, stolen from them, and so they won't give you a chance. There's enough light and stardom and money for all of us. And whatever you're going to get is what's coming to you. So, if you stop me from being in your show because you're jealous of me, you're not going to get the accolades if you don't deserve them, anyway.

LF: Just one quick follow-up: what you said about helping other people, didn't you help organize or host a mini-ball here?

Wolfgang Busch: That was in reference to the Eric Christian Bazaar -

Harmonica Sunbeam: - right.

LF: - yes, what did you do there to support the Ball community? What happened? Was that you being an example of - ?

Wolfgang Busch: - because there was a team from the BBC, and we needed an event, and we kind of tied that in?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Look, we are all part of the community, and it's all about us helping us. And if no one is going to help us, then we need to help ourselves. And there are many people who have come and gone and … we need to acknowledge and remember that it could be us. And you would want the same treatment for yourself as you would give to someone else. We all want to be loved and remembered and supported, and in order for that to happen, it has to be a give-and-take type of situation. So, I am always doing what I can. I can't always do much, but it's the thought that counts. So, we had this event. And it was a mini-ball, and we had the ball here.

Wolfgang Busch: And Willi was working coat check. And I don't know who was M.C.-ing, Kevin or somebody, called him out. And he came out.

LF: So, did you know Willi Ninja?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Yeah. Willi worked here on Thursday nights as one of the door people. Well, I had known him from the Ballroom scene before I started working here.

LF: What did you think about him?

Harmonica Sunbeam: I think he was an inspiration and a role model for a lot of young kids in the scene, and for many more to come. And I think his name and legacy will always live on. And it's good that we remind the upcoming kids of who paved the way – the people who helped pave the way, that were there. I'm not one of the people. When I first started coming out – I graduated high school in 1987 – and I started coming out about '88, '89, these were the people that I saw when I was just going to the Balls and sitting in the audience, as opposed to before I stared walking. This is back in the days when everything was basically located in Harlem.

LF: What Balls did you go to up there?

Harmonica Sunbeam: Pretty much it was at the Elks Lodge. It was such a fascinating culture for me that, as often as I could and being a young person having a mediocre-paying job and stuff like that, I couldn't always afford to go. And transportation, curfew, and so many other issues, that when I did go, it was a fun and enjoyable event.

LF: Good. Thank you for allowing Wolfgang and I to come visit you here at Escuelita.

The activist and director Wolfgang Busch and the man behind Harmonica Sunbeam in the dressing room of the New York City night club Escuelita on March 2, 2008. Photography by Louis Flores/Connaissable

Go back and read the previous installments of this exclusive interview:

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI

For another unique experience with Harmonica Sunbeam, please watch the independent documentary, How Do I Look, directed by Wolfgang Busch.


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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Jonté's 'Make-Up:' Pop culture trends begin by being inspiring

After the dancer and singer Jonté performed to the song Make-Up by Vanity 6, he began a new trend in dance, fashion, and performance.

Inspiring performance by Jonté to Make-Up at Webster Hall in 2007

I invite you to watch this video from 2007, and to see for yourself how performance can be a fusion of dance, fashion, and attitude. Watch as Jonté turns it out. And then see how he has been able to influence others with this song, his fashion, and his style.

Music Video for Make-Up by Jonté

Having met so much success, Jonté recorded his own music video for Make-Up, increasing the connection his fans make between Jonté's dancing and fashion with the song.

"Make-Up not only combines dance with creative styling but it is daring and so inspiring and it raises the bar for the people in the scene that would like to venture in the same area (video making)." Read the complete interview with Jonté by Gazelle.

Fashion model Marco da Silva shows the influence Jonté has had in his dance and choreography

Marco da Silva posted a video on YouTube, showing himself in a dance studio, where he was learning a choreographed dance set to Jonté's popular song, Make-Up. That a model takes Jonté seriously enough to study dance is recognition that Jonté's act is original enough to be inspiring the most recognised form of flattery: immitation.

On this video, possibly made sometime in 2007, de Silva credits the routine to Shaun Capewell (Dance2xs); however, the influence is undeniable. The video was taped at Pineapples Pineapples London.

Do you think a trend is created only if other celebrities pick up on a new dance or fashion style? Or do you think the mass culture has to be in on it from the beginning?

KOOan s/s 2008 collection

And then at a fashion show for KOOan, not only did the designer feature dancers on the runway, but there was the song Make-Up playing as music during a segment of the fashion show. Can you guess who showed up?

I invite you to check out a beginner page on Squidoo that aims to track new trends in Pop Culture Trends. Post your comments if you think Jonté's performance to Make-Up has already started to show signs of becoming a pop culture trend on its own.


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