Whew. We did it and survived. dapperQ went on a whirlwind tour in March, hitting Vegas, Austin, and Harlem to advance queer style visibility. Preparing and traveling for the tour was a bit exhausting with full-time jobs, but the community building, learning experiences, and opportunities to create platforms for queer style were worth the sleepless nights and cramped airline seating. Our first stop on our tour was ClexaCon, an inaugural LGBTQ women in media and entertainment conference hosted in Vegas.
Photo by The Street Sensei
The ClexaCon inaugural LGBTQ women in media and entertainment conference was conceived out of a response to the consistent killing off of queer women characters in television and film. A GLAAD study found disparate killing of queer women television characters, usually to serve the purpose of more fully developing and advancing the narratives of “central,” straight characters. This toxic message proves once again that writers are not invested in developing LGBTQ women as robust characters, but see them as completely disposable, which has harmful ramifications beyond the world of television.
ClexaCon aimed “to empower media creators to produce and distribute more positive LGBTQ content, providing educational resources for the community to aid in the push for better representation. ClexaCon will strive to lay the foundation for improved visibility within the media while encouraging more LGBTQ women to participate in creating the stories they desire.” The name ClexaCon was inspired by the queer TV characters Clarke and Lexa (‘Clexa’) from the CW’s The 100. When fan favorite Lexa was killed after the CW “queer baited” viewers into following the story line, ClexaCon organizers sprang into action to address the problematic “bury your gays” troupe.
The event had a number of panels, film screenings, workshops, meet-ups, celebrity autograph signings, and an after party to build community. dapperQ produced two panels:
Queer Style as Visual Activism
Queer style has immense emancipatory potential that extends beyond the LGBTQ community. It is rooted in a rich history as style as activism and an important tool in our fight for liberation. The panel will explore queer style as an enigmatic art form that is the new fashion frontier and examine queer style as visual activism that creates positive social change.
Moderator: Anita Dolce Vita
Panelists: Danielle Cooper, Charlotte Glasser, Debbie-jean Lemonte
Queer Women’s Fashion in Media: From Trope to Empowerment
Queer style thought leaders discuss queer women’s fashion representation in media, including television, film, print, and online sources, and how these representations both limit and liberate us.
Moderator: Anita Dolce Vita
Panelists: Merika Palmiste, Margeaux Simms, Zara Barrie, Debbie-jean Lemonte
dapperQ’s Anita Dolce Vita also spoke on a business panel. When asked by audience members how they could support queer businesses on a budget, she emphasized the power of social media following. Vita explained that many online queer publications receive sponsorships and advertising dollars based on the number of readers and social media following the publications are able to amass. Advertisers are attracted to these numbers. Top performers are then provided with fiscal support that enables queer content creators to publish work that is for and by the queer community, allowing us to control our own narratives and how we present our own bodies.
We expected some bumps in the road given this was an inaugural convention. Comparing ClexaCon to South by Southwest, which is very established, wouldn’t be fair. However, there were some very simple things that could have been better planned to improve the speaker experience and ensure that the mission was truly intersectional.
Before we even arrived in Vegas, a number of panelists noticed that the Queer Women of Color and Trans Women’s panels were booked on the very last day, at the end of the day, in small rooms, and at the exact same time. Given that these groups face unique forms of layered oppression and erasure, it was highly problematic that attendees – especially what few who were still in Vegas at the very end of the event – were being forced to chose between hearing the voices of Queer Women of Color and Trans Women. Furthermore, the lack of understanding by the ClexaCon producers that women can be both trans and POC; that QTPOC women are portrayed negatively in the media; and that QTPOC women are experiencing violence at epidemic rates contributed to the exact erasure that we had hoped the conference would be helping to actually eradicate. Anita Dolce Vita of dapperQ, Alex Berg of Huffington Post, and others contacted the producers, who switched the times of the panels. But, the two remained at inconvenient times. the Women of Color panel was set bright and early on Sunday after the Saturday night after party, and the trans panel stayed scheduled on Sunday afternoon for the very end of the conference.
There were also some pay disparities that were not made transparent when QPOC, QTPOC, and transgender panelists were asked to participate. Some media groups, speakers, and performers were paid, provided flights and/or hotel accommodations, and/or were offered high levels of visibility, while others were not. Beyond the fact that ClexaCon sought out “celesbians” who demanded to be paid, there was no transparent standard criteria for compensation that was applied fairly and consistently across all participants. It didn’t help that some volunteers who paid for their own flight and hotels and waived their usual speaking fees to participate on panels were not compensated, but were then asked to pay for entry into the ClexaCon after party, which paid other talent ClexaCon felt more useful. Between the erasure of POC and trans women and the demands for free labor to generate money to pay for celesbians, this conference at times feel like it was run by white, cis, hetero men who did not have a grasp on intersectional activism.
From a branding perspective, ClexaCon seemed to not have a solid identity. Many activists and members of the press were there to discuss statistics on the erasure of LGBTQ women in the media; the impact it has on our lives and on society; and approaches to making media more inclusive. However, there was also a significant contingent of people who were there for a fandom con, dressed as TV characters and celebrating primarily white characters in sci-fi shows. There is definitely space for both conferences to exist, but the expectations of some panelists and attendees alike were not congruent, which left the conference feeling disjointed at times.
SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST
dapperQ was honored to return for a second year in a row to be part of South by Southwest Sxstyle! Last year, we were the first ever queer style panel to present at Sxstyle. This year, we returned with an official dapperQ panel meet and greet + dance party produced by Lesbutante and the Boss of Plezzure Island and Lesbians Who Tech. The local ATX community and other [email protected] from all over the globe visiting SXSW were able to meet queer life+style influencers Sara Geffrard of A Dapper Chick, Debbie-jean Lemonte of The Loc’d Bella, Anita Dolce Vita of dapperQ, Peche Di of Trans Models NYC, and Danielle Cooper of She’s a Gent.
L&B + Lesbians Who Tech + Dapper Q Official SXSW Soiree 2017 from Michelle Kelly Lesbutante on Vimeo.
Party images by Lisa Hause
After a night of epic debauchery Lesbutante and the Boss style, we all recouped with lots of Texas style (and Texas SIZE) food. Recharged, we were ready to take on our official SXSW Sxstyle panel: Selling Out: Anti-Oppressive Queer Style Marketing. Queer visibility in mainstream fashion is often presented on platforms that cause harm to the queer community, such as those that erase diverse identities or support anti-LGBTQ legislation. Mainstream fashion has been increasingly leveraging the digital networks of out LGBTQ fashion entrepreneurs to reach queer markets. Should queer style entrepreneurs lend their talents to mainstream platforms to change the industry from within? If so, how can they earn profit while delivering positive social justice messages to transform imperfect platforms and how can mainstream fashion develop anti-oppressive marketing to better support the community? Is it possible to sell OUT without “selling out?”
Moderator: Anita Dolce Vita of dapperQ
Panelists: Casey Legler, Sara Geffrard, and Peche Di.
Photos by Jaimie Marie Estrada
Some of the biggest and most impactful takeaways from the discussion were how queer style entrepreneurs can vet mainstream brands and have more agency in how their bodies are leveraged for marketing. For example, model Casey Legler, the first woman to ever be signed to Ford Models on the male model roster only, stated that she will not allow brands and media to run images of her without text to provide context. Peche Di stated that she had some hesitancy about participating in the Barney’s groundbreaking campaign ad featuring 17 transgender models because the campaign came in such proximity to accusations of Barney’s employees racially profiling a customer. Though Peche continued with the contract because she felt the trans visibility campaign was important, she also remained critical of Barney’s employee training policies. Additionally, Barney’s campaign worked to donate a percentage of sales to the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. It was through these same organizations that Peche later was able to receive assistance in changing her gender marker on important documents.
As always, SXSW was committed to ensuring a positive, seamless speaker experience. Unlike the disarray at ClexaCon, where tech support was nonexistent and moderators had to lug around our own laptops all day from room to room with the hope that cords were compatible with the each room’s tech infrastructure, SXSW provided a laptop with a tech assistant (ours was from the community and FIERCE to boot). And, being that SXSW is now a major sponsored beast, there was no lack of free meetups, refreshments, drinks, virtual reality experiences, gift bags, brunches, and more, at no additional cost to the speakers.
One of the biggest honors during SXSW was at an unofficial event that the panelists spoke at. Out Youth, serving the Central Texas LGBTQ+ (lesbian/gay/bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning) youth and their allies with programs and services to ensure these promising young people develop into happy, healthy, successful adults, invited us to speak at during their youth drop in hours. The youth shared incredible stories of what fashion means to them and how it shapes their identities. They sent us these awesome pins to support trans youth:
One of the highlights of my visit to Austin for #SXSW was being invited by @outyouth to speak during their drop in hours and hear the youth’s stories of how style shapes their identities. I was so happy to arrive home last night to this lovely thank you note signed by the youth, who also sent me these dope pins to show my support in NYC! #outyouth #ATX #atxlgbt #transyouth #sxsw2017 #speaker #takemyhand
The only miss was the weather. Austin, why’d you pour down rain on us for three days straight? That is all…
NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH AND HYGIENE:
Women’s Health and Activism Summit
In honor of Women’s History Month and recognition of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the Women’s Advisory Board hosted a summit with the theme of strength and beauty and a focus on wellness and community. This event provided emotional and professional support to women in HIV/AIDS organizations and people of color justice organizations as well as best practices in reaching women through activism and health, while fostering new relationships across sectors to bring awareness to HIV testing and linkage to care, education, and PrEP for women.
dapperQ presented a self acceptance and beauty interactive discussion and panel featuring:
Anita Dolce Vita, Owner, Creative Director, and Editor-in-Chief, dapperQ
Charlotte Glasser, Partner, Hot Rabbit
Danielle Cooper, She’s a Gent
Peche Di, Founder, Trans Models
The audience shared their experiences with presenting their authentic selves and finding strength to self-love in the face of pressures to conform to capitalist beauty standards.
DAPPERQ 100 FEATURED AT INTERNATIONAL CENTER OF PHOTOGRAPHY
dapperQ was honored to be included in a new exhibit at New York City’s The International Center of Photography (ICP), the world’s leading institution dedicated to photography and visual culture! The dapperQ 2016 Most Stylish 100 was featured in the ICP’s “Perpetual Revolution: The Image and Social Change.” It is a remarkable and moving exhibit that will be going on through May 7th. The images are powerful, ranging from Black Lives Matter protests to government propaganda to refugees making their way to safe havens, and even platforms like dapperQ challenging gender binaries.