Love, Simon tells the story of one teenager’s coming out and the struggle to find your identity as a queer person.
Let me tell you, I’m a crier—and not a pretty one, either. But when it comes to films, it takes something particularly special to cause me to audibly sob in a dark theater surrounded by strangers. In this case, that something was Love, Simon.
After unceremoniously missing the advance press screening weeks ago due to showing up at the wrong theater, the About Magazine staff was given the chance to see the film (thanks to gay actor Matt Bomer). The film, adapted from Becky Albertalli’s 2015 novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and directed by television writer/producer Greg Berlanti of Dawnson’s Creek fame, stars Nick Robinson as titular character Simon Spier, a high school senior who is so determined to hide his gayness that he goes to extraordinary lengths at the expense of those he loves. And if that story sounds familiar to any of you queer folks out there, that’s because it probably is.
Simon has a good life. He has parents who adore him (played by actors Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) and a little sister he actually likes. His friends, Leah Burke (Katherine Langford of 13 Reasons Why acclaim), Abby Suso (Alexandra Shipp of X-Men), and Nick Eisner (fairly newcomer Jorge Lendeborge, Jr), have a Brat Pack-like ritual involving morning drives to school punctuated by classic rock, iced coffee, and stories about Nick’s dreams from the previous night. At school, he blends slightly into the foreground, neither exalted by his peers nor taunted by them). On the outside, one might presume that Simon Spier has a perfectly normal life. Only, he has one very big secret:
He’s a flaaaaaming gay.
After another closeted (read: masc) gay student (“Blue”) posts anonymously to the web that he’s keeping the same secret about himself that Simon is, Simon sends an email to the student’s alias Gmail account. And as the two begin to share their back-and-forths about all the good and all the bad that they have had to deal with since discovering their queerness, Simon finds himself falling in love with someone he’s not only never met, but whose identity is just as much a secret to Simon as Simon’s is to Blue. The forays that follow, however, are less lovely. When Simon’s schoolmate, Martin (Logan Miller) finds Simon’s open email account, he decides to blackmail Simon into helping him win over the affections of Abby, who until that point had only been a nuisance to her. In doing so, Simon must pry Abby and Nick away from one another, trick Leah into believing that Nick is in love with her, all while trying to discover the identity of his new love. However, when Martin is displeased with Simon’s efforts, he publicly outs Simon to the entire school. The domino effect to follow results in Simon losing his friends, coming out to his family, and Blue telling Simon the pressure is simply too much for them to continue their conversations.
However, the most compelling thing about this film is neither its story nor its characters. In fact, it’s what they present by telling story as characters—the feelings. I, as mentioned, found myself sobbing at what others may have thought were silly moments in the story. And why? Because I could relate to them.
True, most of us didn’t have the perfect, John Hughes upbringing bestowed upon Simon in the film. But when you scale back those elements and look at the intensity of the emotions the actors are conveying, it’s relatable. I mean, Christ, who doesn’t remember that panicked feeling of not knowing what the next day at school would bring as a pubescent teenager?
There’s a specific moment in the film when Simon decides to come out to Abby before anyone else in his life—a girl he’s known only a few short months. Later, when his best friend, Leah, asks why he came out to Abby instead of her, Simon explains that it’s because Leah has known Simon for so many years that he wasn’t ready for their entire dynamic to change, and that he wasn’t worried about that with Abby. This was reminiscent of my own coming out to a friend I’d known a handful of months who was also close to my oldest friend. The doubt of telling those closest to you certainly comes with a fear of rejection, but also with the fear of being unable to adapt to the new climate, whatever that may be. Then came the moment when his mother told Simon she’d been watching him for the last few years walking around as though he was scared to take a breath. In a tear-evoking moment on screen in the weeks following Simon’s outing, his mother tells him, “You get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in a very long time.” The simplicity of the scene is what creates its beauty. For those of us who were lucky enough to have parents that accepted us after coming out, it may flood the emotions back that we felt in that moment. And for those of who weren’t so fortunate, it’s a reminder that there is still good in the world, and that there are people who still love and care.
Everything from Simon’s father struggling to find the right things to say down to the moment when Simon is publicly ridiculed by his peers in front of the entire school following his coming out is a reminder of some part of what binds us together as queer people. In different ways and at different times, we’ve all been there: loved, ridiculed, scared, afraid to breathe, and maybe once or twice, if we’re lucky, in love. Sure, most of us didn’t have the good fortune of finding our one-true-love at eighteen just weeks before graduation after a stellar performance in an amateur production of Cabaret, but that’s cinematic hyperbole for you. It tends to pander to the pathos.
While true, Love, Simon is a film that isn’t a stark mirror of all of our experiences, there are little nuggets of hurt and heart in it that we can all relate to in some way. From the fear of what will come upon returning to school after being outed, to the emptiness in your gut that comes from having your friends tell you they don’t want anything to do with you. Our stories are all so unique, as is Simon’s, but none of them are perfect.
The cast (particularly Robinson, Garner, and Shipp) is stellar in bringing this movie to life. Their performances are honest and uncanny. They lack pretense while also still mustering up some of the nostalgia these YA books-turned-teen flicks tend to bring about. But the film is also well-written with a reserve of snide one-liners that fans are sure to be quoting for weeks to come, (“You look like you were gangbanged by a TJ Maxx”) and is extraordinarily directed. The ability that Berlanti possesses to make this film feel like a Breakfast Club for a new generation is nothing short of remarkable. And true, Simon may be a little bit more masculine than many of us watching the film or even reading this review, but that’s just Simon. He’s a representation of one kind of a gay person. And in the film, as a handful of other gay people are introduced, we learn that there are more effeminate gay men, as well as those who fall somewhere in between.
Where the film does lack, however, is in its inability to cast more LGBTQ actors and actresses. Certainly, Robinson makes an amazing Simon and plays the part in a way others probably could not, but it does beg the question: were there no gay kids in Hollywood that we could have asked to do this? Might they have been able to evoke emotion more strongly than Robinson based on their experiences? It seems a tad bit antiinflammatory of the film’s point to preach on about coming out and gayness when most of the cast is made up a cis-gender, heterosexual actors and actresses. That, however, does not change the fact that the film does hit the high note it ambitiously aims for, then drones off with a soft and relaxing decrescendo that will bring fans of the movie back to watch it again-and-again for years to come.
As a whole, I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to Love, Simon, About Magazine is All About It.
Love, Simon is now playing at a theater near you.
Country Superstar Ty Herndon To Perform At Rich’s Friday Night
Country Music’s Sexy Cowboy Ty Herndon Returns To Houston Friday Night For Special Performance At Rich’s
HOUSTON – It’s rodeo time and one of country music’s biggest hearts and brightest stars, Ty Herndon is heading to Houston for a ‘one night only’ performance at Rich’s in Midtown. Herndon, known for hits like “Living in the Moment,” and “What Mattered Most,” garnered three number ones, four top ten hits. Beyond charting more than 18 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs, Ty Herndon makes his return to Texas tomorrow night.
In an exclusive interview the day before his Houston concert, About Magazine sat down with Ty in his downtown Nashville condo. From the open patio doors sounds of tourists and bachelorette parties can be heard drifting up, Ty sits across the room in a wingback chair; he’s wearing his trademark black t-shirt and skinny jeans and has a big smile. It’s 8:20 am and he’s full of energy.
“I absolutely love Houston,” he says when asked about his return. ” I might as well be from Texas! I feel like I have spent half my life there.” Ty explains he has a deep history, passion and love for Texas. “I have two of the most amazing little God-sons in Houston with the most affirming parents.” Ty hits that stage at Rich’s Houston on Friday, March 15, 2019.
Though his performance is not part of the official Rodeo Houston concert series, Herndon will headline “The Stockyard at Rich’s,” an LGBT country music-themed night hosted by Al Farb. “It’s going to be an exciting show, I am excited to be performing for all my LGBTQ brothers and sisters,” Ty says.
“I ABSOLUTELY LOVE TEXAS, I FEEL LIKE I AM FROM THERE, AND EXCITED TO RETURN TOMORROW!” -Ty Herndon
In its first-ever country night, Rich’s has pulled out all the stops to ensure Herndon’s performance and the crowd enjoys rodeo season. “My love for country music and country bars for more than 15 years has lead me to tomorrow night,” Jeff Harmon, owner of Rich’s says. “One of the most amazing country music DJ from the Round-Up in Dallas, DJ Jeff Doll will be here to keep the music alive.”
Recently Herndon returned from Las Vegas after being invited to sing the National Anthem at the National Finals Rodeo. “The NFR just had an openly gay dude sing the National Anthem on the world stage,” Ty is referring to the progress made by the LGBT community.
As an outspoken LGBT Advocate, Herndon, along with GLAAD and CMT produce “Love & Acceptance,” a concert held in Nashville during CMA Fest each year. “We will announce all of our talent in the next few weeks,” Herndon says. ” We have had everyone from Vince Gill to Tanya Tucker to Michael Ray in the past.”
This year is gearing up to be the biggest yet. Love & Acceptance takes place on June 6 at the legendary WildHorse Saloon.
Can’t Take the Trailer Park Out of Vicki Barbolak
Comedienne Vicki Barbolak — who appeared in the thirteenth season of America’s Got Talent and made it to the top 10 performers — is in Texas for the next 3 days, visiting Houston, Addison, and San Antonio with her Trailer Nasty comedy routine.
“America’s Got Talent could really change my life. This could take me from a trailer park in Oceanside to … a trailer park in Malibu.”
These were some of the first words America heard from stand-up comic Vicki Barbolak just before she took to the America’s Got Talent stage in season thirteen, and they were likely some of the truest to Barbolak’s “Trailer Nasty” persona. After making it all the way to the finale episode of AGT (the show where she also met friend of About Magazine and Houston’s very own Christina Wells), Barbolak finished in the top ten, but unfortunately did not make it to the finale show. That small fact, however, has done nothing to deter her from a successful career in the short months since her appearance on the TV show. The trailer park queen is currently booked solid at comedy clubs and theaters across the nation from now until the end of May 2019 with few pauses in between shows. Tonight, at 7:30 PM at the Improv Houston, Barbolak will be hosting the first of her three Texas shows, followed by gigs in Addison outside Dallas (Wednesday, 19 December) and San Antonio (Thursday, 20 December). And just hours ahead of her show, About Magazine got the chance to talk to Vicki about her successes, her long road to get to them, and her thoughts on comedy and what the world needs now.
Barbolak on the phone is just as funny as she is on the stage; and just like with that of her stage persona, her jokes are as effortless as her next breath to follow. As we talked about our families — myself the eldest of ten children, she a mother of two daughters and herself the daughter of a former Pittsburgh Steelers player, Pete Barbolak — she remarked that children should, “[…] come out as medical students. Or like … plastic surgeons!” But the woman from the Oceanside trailer park wasn’t always out on the comedy stage cracking jokes. In fact, Barbolak’s career didn’t begin until later in life, after having married more than once and raising two daughters. She notes that it all came about when she found a flyer for stand-up classes at age 38 and decided to take a chance — albeit one that many would have dismissed as a pipe dream. However, for Barbolak, this wasn’t just a pipe dream; and she invested everything she had into making a career for herself and her family out of comedy. She said, “You know, I did move into a trailer about five years after I started doing stand-up. And just because of that — my character is just who I am. My real life sort of turned into that character. […] My character on stage is really close to my real life, and [vice versa].” Now she’s been doing it for roughly twenty years, stating to me on the phone, “I literally started in the gay bars in San Diego — that was my first paid job at Flicks […] and then Mitsy [the owner] saw me from the Comedy Store […] but I was almost 40 when I started; meaning the industry in LA would have nothing to do with me. So the show [AGT] brought America and the industry to me and now my life is like I always dreamed it would be, in a way.”
But that life hasn’t always been a dream for Vicki. While America’s Got Talent showed off her story as an overnight success, Barbolak agrees that the process by which any artist becomes a sensation is anything but — especially for women past a certain age in LA. “Even now, with getting a little bit of notoriety, I was booking a gig in Las Vegas and mentioned that I wanted a woman to feature with me. And the guy goes — in a text! — ‘I don’t book two women in the same show’. And I just thought, Really, dude? You’re gonna put that in writing?!” This standard isn’t uncommon in show business, and certainly not in comedy where the appeal of women is diminished due to the lack of glitz and glamor that often accompany movie and pop stars. “But I think that these are better times [for women],” she shared. “We still have [chuckles] so, so far to go, though.” But the ever-present ageism and misogyny of Hollywood didn’t stop Barbolak. She was bound and determined. She had moved into a trailer park in California with her two daughters and was taking gigs wherever she could to make a livable wage for her family. Barbolak even became an ordained minister and began taking what would soon become her Trailer Nasty version of Vicki to perform wedding ceremonies. Whether jokingly or not, the comedienne added a bed to the back of a van she’d bought for her newfound business venture and offered couples a short, honeymoon quickie in the back for an additional $30. Regardless of whether she was performing at the altar, at a bar, or on stage, Barbolak says, “I got here through twenty years of never giving up and just loving what I do.”
In a certain bit of irony, Barbolak takes her comedy quite seriously. As we talked about her new material vs. her short sets on AGT, Vicki cited the late comic Bill Hicks — who began his career working at Houston’s former Comedy Workshop — as saying, “[…] material is what you fall back on when you have nothing else to say.” Now that Barbolak is back to performing longer sets than her TV stints, she added, “So, after twenty years, I’ve gotten to this point where I can just riff. But to pull back from that and to write-write-write […] it was a big shift. But I think it was really good for me.” And this funny woman is no stranger to learning to do something new or to approach comedy differently. When asked who some of her inspirations were, Barbolak stated, “Sam Kinison. […] For me, he’s my favorite and the most close to my heart. And when I was really little, I used to watch Totie Fields — but I didn’t remember that until I grew up. I went to the Museum of Television and saw her, I thought, Oh. When I was a tiny little girl, I used to look up to that fat, ugly thing that everyone loved. I remember sitting on the floor when I was five-years-old […] watching her. […] And, of course, Joan Rivers.” Barbolak also went on to tell me about her admiration for other comedians she’s had the opportunity to work with, including a personal favorite of mine, Kathleen Madigan. While talking about Madigan, Barbolak recounted a conference of women comedians she attended where Madigan was asked to perform a set. She stated how much she regrets the event to this day, because when Madigan took the stage to perform her set, not a single woman in the audience laughed at her jokes. She shared how this moment made her all the more supportive of women comics and how she wishes she could change what happened in that room now, even apologize for it.
“When you’re onstage, you have to be kind of … all you. And I don’t want to be that off stage. I want to be a part of everybody else.”
Rivers, Kinison, Fields, and Madigan are all are very in-line with Barbolak’s comedy; and their inspiration can be found by the careful, comedically-trained ear in her sets. Kinison, a former Pentecostal preacher gone rogue, used to mimic the shouts and screams of evangelical pastors in his comedy routines, often about religion and politics, can be heard in Barbolak’s voice as she rails off idiosyncrasies in her act. The late Rivers’ shock humor can be heard largely at play (on AGT the comic lamented about how she’d driven all the way to a men’s prison for a conjugal visit while in LA, only to learn that for a conjugal visit at this specific prison, “[…] you have to know somebody. Can you believe that?”). And even the slight, observational humor of Madigan, whom Barbolak told me she adores, as well as the former’s near-perfect comedic timing and delivery, is similar to that of Vicki on the stage. But nevertheless and no matter how much of her inspirations you can see within her own act, what makes Barbolak successful is her uniqueness. It’s not the uniqueness of being “trailer nasty” — although that does really add a great deal to it. The uniqueness Barbolak has is that of something she asked me about comic-to-comic:
“As a comic, do you think — because I’ve become convinced of this — that empathy might be one of the most important traits to being a comedian?”
This quote spiraled us into a much deeper discussion about the state of the nation, the vast separation of the right from the left, and the subjectiveness of comedy. After sharing a story about my first stand-up performance and listening to a story of hers about a fan encounter she’d had a while back, what we seemed to land on was why audiences connect so with comedians in ways they may not with actors or musicians: comedians get up on stage and tell you everything about themselves without metaphor and often without playing a different role. They become your new best friends. “They think it’s just you and that one person,” she added, “They don’t understand.” It seemed, as we discussed it, as though people need that more now. We referred back to a quote from our mutual hero, Joan Rivers, that goes, “Comedy is about making people laugh at everything [in order] to deal with things.” And that’s what Barbolak said she’s here to do. As we went on, she said that a large part of what she loved about AGT was its 50/50 demographic to both the red and blue parts of America, and how it had brought both peoples to her audience. But Barbolak’s appeal is just that — nonspecific. Maybe it’s because she reminds everyone of someone, or maybe it’s because she’s just that fucking funny. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s both of those things, but also because she cares about bringing people together. Again on the topic of women (and now the LGBTQ+ community), she had this to say:
“Let’s face it, the gay community has always been way more supportive when it comes to women. In the same way that we got to go to the prom because we had gay friends to take us, a lot of us [comediennes] make it because we have gay friends that get people to come watch us [and] because there are gay rooms willing to have us.” The LGBTQ+ could arguably be one of Barbolak’s largest demographics. As mentioned earlier, it was in gay bars that Vicki got her start, and she hasn’t forsaken us on her road to success. She even notes that she had a homecoming following AGT with the LGBTQ+ community in San Diego that was attended by many, including “people who had been with me all twenty years just hoping that something good would happen. The gay community has been pro-women forever.”
As for what’s to come for Vicki, it seems as though she has no plans of slowing down now. If America’s Got Talent was the big, show-stopping, act one finale of the show that is her life, act two, in which she hits the road with her personal brand of funny, is sure to leave fans on their feet applauding. Vicki is one of the performers on America’s Got Talent: The Champions, which will premiere on January 7th on NBC. The Champions features the most memorable acts and extraordinary performers from previous seasons returning to the stage to compete in hopes of taking home the first-ever winter title of AGT Champion. When asked what was to come, Vicki shared that she wants to stay in the TV realm, that she’s been working on sets for late night shows, and that eventually she’d like to be a part of a sitcom — whether that be someone else’s or her very own. And by the looks of things, Trailer Nasty Vicki Barbolak has a lot of character to share on the screen.
Get Tickets to Vicki’s Texas Show by Visiting Her Website
And Make Sure to Follow Her Social Media:
MUSIC REVIEW: “Honey” by Robyn
Robyn released her new album, Honey, last Friday. Wade in the Sonic Joy is here to give you their review of the the LGBTQ icon’s new music.
Robyn is back to annihilate the music industry with yet another timeless masterpiece. ‘Honey’ came out last night and it’s quite the treat. It’s been 8 years since Robyn’s legendary audio bible, ‘Body Talk’, was released and although ‘Honey’ is a slight departure from the loud, club ready anthems people have come to expect from Robyn, it is quite a gorgeous work of sonic art.
Released on October 26th, under the full moon in Scorpio, Robyn unleashed ‘Honey’ to her fans to consume. At its core, ‘Honey’ is a pop record; however, it is beautifully subdued and ushers in elements of deep house, disco, r&b, and lo-fi. While these genres aren’t completely out of Robyn’s realm, she definitely used the components to introduce a softer sound, with even more sure-of-herself lyrics to uplift the masses. With the stripped back production style, the vocals and lyrics are at the forefront to grab you, and take you into Robyn’s journey since her almost-decade long absence. You’re no longer lost in the electro beats, dancing and crying; you can sit back and soak up the rich yet sweet songs.
The first single, and opening track, ‘Missing U’ is a melancholy segue that acts as a gateway between ‘Body Talk’ and ‘Honey’. It is a brutally honest, yearning heartthrob of a track that has splashes of nostalgia from Robyn’s earlier works, with gentle healing lyrics. ‘Missing U’ is not representative of the production themes on the rest of the album, yet it feels seamlessly cohesive. Robyn has stated that this song has multiple meanings, one meaning being she has missed her devoted fans for years. Another meaning involves the loss of her friend and collaborator Christian Falk, as well as her recent personal breakup. This track contains the essential Robyn-esque synth patterns we have all come to know and love, but it keeps its pace. The song never takes off; it keeps the listener in the blurry haze of missing someone and needing that absent space filled. “All the love you gave, it still defines me” fills that empty space with self love as the album unfolds and the story develops.
‘Human Being’ is here to remind listeners that we are all human. We are all guilty of fucking up at times. We have natural desires that need quenching and we can all benefit from being more understanding of human behaviour during our short stay on Earth. Another aspect of this album that really stands out is that Robyn’s music and persona have always been robotic yet humanlike, and with ‘Honey’ she is at her most organic, pure, and raw form. Robyn is expressing her vulnerability, with more reflection on her interactions and how it affects her and those around her.
With the title track, it’s almost the antithesis of her incomparable hit ‘Dancing On My Own’. The Robyn in ‘Dancing On My Own’ is a heartbroken, lonely woman longing for someone who can’t care enough to see her standing alone at the club. The Robyn in ‘Honey (song)’ is in total control of her destiny. She is confident, no holds barred, and ready for whatever the future has in store for her. “Come get this honey,” she says authoritatively. She’s no longer that sad little bird in the corner, she’s ready to take what’s hers and give what she’s got. “No you’re not gonna get what you need, but baby I have what you want.”
Other standout tracks such as ‘Ever Again’ and ‘Because It’s In The Music’ offer up deeper glam disco beats, tinged with a gorgeous array of string instruments. Collectively, you can feel the pain and heartache Robyn has experienced in the 8 years since ‘Body Talk’ was released, but there’s endless strength and confidence throughout these subdued tracks. “Never gonna be broken hearted ever again (that shit’s out the door)” swirls in and out of the speakers from left to right sinking deep into your mind that pain is what you make it. Recovery is in our own hands and the choice is either to wallow or to move onward. There is enough strength inside us all to discover our own sticky, sweet honey and exude the same unstoppable assuredness that Robyn is showcasing on this triumphant record.
From beginning to end, this album is one complete thought with a clear message. Through pain, sadness, and heartbreak we have the capability to use these negativities to our advantages. Pain makes us stronger, and Robyn is the vessel voicing that to the listener. She found her honey, and she is here to offer her voice to help everyone find their own. Robyn offers up hope during these scary and uncertain times that we can steer our lives towards the light, towards the honey we all deserve.
About That Movie: The Miseducation of Cameron Post
A film review of the new LGBTQ film The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which stars Chloe Grace Moretz as a young lesbian at a conversion camp.
Though it’s had a limited release, even by indie film standards, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is mandatory watching material for any queer person raised in a conservative state.
The film, starring Chloe Grace Moretz and directed by Desiree Akhavan, is a movie adaptation of a book of the same name by Emily M. Danforth. The award-winning YA novel follows the life of teenager Cameron Post, from her parents’ death through high school and to her stay at God’s Promise, an LGBTQ+ conversion therapy camp in Montana. While the book explores Cameron’s life at a leisurely pace, the film focuses primarily on her time at conversion camp, where she meets fellow rebels Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) and Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck). The scope of the movie is limited in comparison to the book, but that scope allows the reader fully to absorb the lives of the dozen-or-so teens at God’s Promise.
The movie and book are both set in the early 90s, and director Akhavan captures the period with earthy colors, grunge-y costuming, and a killer soundtrack. Stars Moretz, Lane, and Goodluck all put in compelling performances as a misfit band of queer teens trapped at the camp and struggling to hold their true identities dear. On the opposite end of the film, conversion center leaders Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.) and Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) delivered performances that landed somewhere between chilling and heartwrenching; their words will ring as uncomfortably familiar for LGBTQ+ people raised in the conservative South. Though the film shares themes with cult classic But I’m a Cheerleader, this new movie explores the trauma of a conversion center in a way that is more earnest and less tongue-in-cheek. There are plenty of lighthearted moments of rebellion, angst, and teen longing; but the overall effect is far more serious.
Although the story takes place over two decades ago, the core message still feels timely and important. The continued existence of conversion therapy camps is a worst case scenario for LGBTQ youth; but you don’t have to be at a conversion therapy camp to suffer from the effects of homophobia. I was raised in the church, as were all of my friends growing up. We heard it all — that being gay is a choice, that it’s best to ignore those impulses, that a true Christian would abstain from romance and attraction by any means necessary. It is no wonder that so many of us weren’t able to come out until our 20s, when we had the independence and safety of adulthood. Many teens aren’t lucky enough to come out when the time is right. To see that experience honored on the big screen was validating and necessary.
The greatest disappointment about The Miseducation of Cameron Post had nothing to do with the quality of the film itself but rather with its release. Though the movie played to Sundance and won the Grand Jury Prize, its theater release has been incredibly limited. At the time I am writing this, the movie is not available at any theater in Texas, despite the fact that it is gay young adults trapped in the South that need this movie the most. Additionally, its limited release began rolling through theaters in August and September — hardly primetime for a movie to gain traction when most major releases are scheduled for the beginning of summer and winter. Perhaps because of the poor release timing, the film still hasn’t grossed it’s first $1M in profit. There is no word yet on when this movie will be available to rent or buy.
I wish that movies like this could break through from indie to mainstream. Perhaps I am still waiting for the lesbian equivalent to Love, Simon, although this movie’s decidedly more somber setting doesn’t have the same romantic dramedy appeal. I’m still waiting for a lesbian movie to garner the accolades and fans that Call Me By Your Name found easily. Again, this is no fault of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, nor do I say this to bemoan the success of other LGBTQ films. I just want to see a lesbian-centered film succeed in a big way, dammit.
I’ll keep waiting for the lesbian box-office hit of my queer dreams, but The Miseducation of Cameron Post provides a great step in the right direction. I look forward to more WLW representation in movies and literature in the future.
Hear the Queer: “Chris” by Christine and the Queens
Review of the new album Chris from gender-bending, queer musician Christine and the Queens which features new music, new vibes, and a new persona: 4 out of 5 Stars
Gender and sexual fluidity are more widely discussed today than ever before. That being said, this discussion of social construct could be greatly improved, although we’ll take the little victories where we can. We look for representation in the media to dictate what is “the new normal” or for what “hot buzzword” those “millennials” will be using next. It is here that we send out the signal for our hopeful heroes: who will answer the call to break down heteronormative stereotypes and tear apart the constructs of gender and sexuality?
Enter French-born singer, songwriter, and producer Heloise Letissier, performing under the stage name Christine and the Queens, is no stranger to the front lines of queer-dom. The “Queens” portion of her name is in reference to her early days of performing in Europe with a backing band made entirely of drag queens. With origins like that, you can imagine what kind of subject her music might address.
If you guessed visual and musical explorations of the depth and intricacies of living and loving authentically, you’d be correct. With her full-length debut album dropping in 2014 Chaleur humaine(re-released in the US in 2015 as a self-titled album) we saw affirmations and unapologetic anthems of the difficulties and triumphs of love and life as a queer person(?) such as “Titled”, “Saint Claude”, and “Narcissus Is Back”. Each of these songs was accompanied by stunning music videos complete with beautiful dance numbers, as well as poignant and thoughtful artistic direction informed by Christine’s university background studying theatre and movement at ENS Lyon in Paris.
Thankfully, none of this is lost in her latest release, Chris. However, the music has gotten a sensual, funky, makeover. While still performing and recording under the moniker Christine and the Queens, this new album introduces a new “character” and “expression” of Christine that is simply just Chris. She was quoted as saying “Chris is a survival technique; a character created out of exasperation…” Surely she is referencing the exasperation of how women are still viewed in our society. Men still take issue with strong women or women who may embrace their “masculine” side in personality traits or outward expression. Whether that be a shorter hairstyle or more masculine dress, this is somehow still deemed alien and unattractive to men who are not secure in themselves or who have other issues that we could spend pages addressing.
However, in this album, the concern is not pleasing men; quite the contrary, in fact. Christine is more concerned with using “Chris” to grab the attention of women, or really whoever she sees fit in the moment. It’s much less about the binary, and more about embracing all the facets of gender expression and identity. In the making of this album, Christine said that she “became obsessed with being a macho man, but still being a women” and “making this album like the cinema” With this in mind, the first single, “Girlfriend”, seems to be the perfect fit. A sensual, cool, crooning tune set to a synth-funk soundscape produced by the Cali G-Funk master Dam Funk, “Girlfriend” sets the tone for the album’s overall vibe. The track is a call to action with Chris seeking the affection and attention of both the boys and girls and struggling as to why what pleases one does not please the other. A fair question indeed. A fresh and funky music video accompanies this single, as well. Set in a construction site with Fosse-style dance moves and cinematic nods to Newsies and West Side Story, it plays like a queer spin on iconic movie musicals.
The lust and romance doesn’t stop there. Getting into the album itself we open with “Comme si” or the full French title “Comme si on s’aimait” which roughly translates to “As if we loved each other”. Another lustful and sensual track asking her lover to just “focus on her voice and let go” and to “play her loud and fast.” This is just a taste of the departure of this album compared to its predecessor. It’s much less sensitive and a lot of more up-front and confident in its approach. In one of the following tracks, “The Walker”, this confidence appears shaken and examined. A tale of taking a walk to think about the ailments of the body and mind and what to do when you can’t hold your head high. Yet, just as we felt down, we get back to taking control and exploring our sensual desires on playfully flirty tracks like “5 Dollars”, “Damn (What Must a Woman Do)”, and “Goya Soda”. The latter track is of particular interest in it’s familiarity for fans of Christine’s older art-pop and synth-pop sounds on her debut and older releases. Fans of that sound will find a follow-through in this track and should seek it out.
Christine hits the home stretch of album with a look back into her past on “What’s-Her-Face”. This track is another relatable anthem to those that have lived the queer experience and remember being taunted or uncomfortable with themselves in childhood or their adolescence. We then conclude the album with a call back to the funky opening with tracks “Feels So Good”, “Make Some Sense”, and the bouncy closer “The Stranger”. At about 45 minutes, this album luckily does not overstay its welcome. Christine tells the story of this facet of her being in a very concise and powerful way. While Christine always divides her time singing both in French and in English, you can also listen to this album entirely in French, if you’re into that.
The album is cohesive and even on a casual listen it all blends together well and no song seems out of place in this universe. Chris delivers a message of empowerment and sexual liberation. You can express all the parts of yourself on all ends of the spectrum. Some days, you may want to embrace your feminine side; some days, you want to embrace your masculine side. Or, maybe all in one day, you’d like to embrace both. Or maybe a little bit of both every day. That’s the message of Chris: it doesn’t matter! But what does matter is that the never-ending quest for authenticity and owning every part of what makes you you.
Favorite Tracks: “5 Dollar”, “Goya Soda”, “The Walker”.
If you like Christine and the Queens you may like: Perfume Genius, Blood Orange, Dam Funk, Solange, Chromeo.
Queer Pop Music Duo Space Kiddettes Releases “Low Impact Aerobics”
Houston Popstar Duo Space Kiddettes Sparkle In “Low Impact Aerobics” Music Video
Space Kiddettes premiered their shimmering 80s-inspired music video for their brand new single “Low Impact Aerobics” last week, which was directed by Chris McElroy and co-directed by Michael Cotaya.
Hot off the presses and freshly cut from the upcoming E.P., DOMESTIC ADVENTURES, Houston-based electro-dance-pop duo, Space Kiddettes, unleashed their latest bop, “Low Impact Aerobics.” The song has an uplifting, crystalline-synth sound that reminds the listener of artists such as Devo, Duran Duran, and Erasure. An updated spin on Jane Fonda, at-home workout VHS tapes, the music video captures the campy, inspirational smiles, “blood, sweat, and tears” that can be seen in Netflix’s Original Series GLOW, as well as in The Knife’s iconic video for their classic 2003 hit “You Take My Breath Away.”
Space Kiddettes hope to give viewers high-results with “Low Impact Aerobics”.
Speaking on the message of the video, co-singer and instrumentalist Trent Lira “wanted [the music video] to be fun and dancey with an 80s, new wave, and dance-pop vibe. Lyrically and thematically, in the video, we wanted to draw parallels between how people treat mental and physical health and how they can work in tandem. Knowing that if you are struggling you can make it through and trying to keep grounded in difficult times [sic]. We wanted [the video] to be campy and fun, juxtaposed with an edge of dissatisfaction on our faces”
Singer and front-femme Devin Will “wanted to create something that really embodies Space Kiddettes: surreal, tongue-in-cheek, and vaguely nostalgic. “I think we draw on a lot of nostalgia while at the same time mocking how ridiculous some of the trends of the past (and present) are. My biggest hope is that some geek out there sees our work and says, ‘Thank God there’s someone as weird as me.’”
This is the debut music video by Space Kiddettes with more accompanying videos coming soon to continue the story in this album cycle. DOMESTIC ADVENTURES will be arriving on November 2nd. Check out the glam-tastic video below:
5 Times Beyoncé Proved She Is Definitely a Witch
In light of the recent accusation by former drummer Kimberly Thompson that Beyoncé might be a witch, I find that there may be some possible validity in these claims. Let’s investigate.
If you worship Beysus as much as me, then you probably stay updated on the latest tea. In this case, that means that you’ve most likely gotten wind that Yoncé may or may not be a witch. As it stands, former drummer Kimberly Thompson has filed a restraining order against Queen Bey that claims Beyoncé practices “extreme witchcraft” and has used this supernatural abilities to sabotage Thompson’s career, as well as claiming that there were spells of molestation cast upon her. And … I mean … I’m not gonna lie to you, toots; I believe it.
How can one human be so talented? So revolutionary? So ahead of the curve without sacrificing kittens in the name of Satan (another claim by Thompson)? Well, she must be a witch; right? I will confess: there have been a few times that I myself have questioned her otherworldly powers. So let’s cut to the [feeling] chase and dive right into it all. Here is my rather convincing list of 5 times Beyoncé proved that she is definitely and irrefutably a witch.
1. The Last Hairbender
Remember when Beyoncé used her mind (ugh) to make her hair magically do choreography? This is clearly an exhibition of levitation. You can’t tell me this snatched-by-the-gods braid is being controlled by wires. “It’s levioh-yes-Mama-sa, not leviosa.” Light as a feather, stiff as a surfbort. Am I right? Or am I right?
2. Queen Supreme
The “Formation” music video accompaniment to the song from Beyoncé’s album Lemonade is a 21st century cinematic masterpiece and I will fight you on that if you disagree. In the iconic video, Beyoncé poses with her very own coven of witches in sickening witch garb that would have Ryan Murphy himself shaking in his last season Prada shoes. And that headbob action going on? Honey Bey is for sure doing some kind of witch’s dance that only fellow witches know about. Stop interruptin’ her grindin’, mere mortal! Your fave could n-e-v-e-r. Need more proof?
3. Beyoncé Knowles and the Goblet of FIRED
A strong witch gets what she asks for the first time; and if you don’t heed her commands, you will suffer at the hands of her almighty powers. Published in 2010 is a video of Sasha Fierce herself performing her hypnotic and hyperbolic incantation “Diva”. At the 45 second mark of the video, she demands that the lights for her performance be lit up. The light person fails to do so, then Bey shouts, “Somebody’s getting fired!” To make a long story short, the trifling light person who failed to do their job ended up getting fired (allegedly). Did she predict the future? Is she clairvoyant too? WOW! Can you believe?
4. Single Lady in the Water
Only the strongest witches can harness the power to control and move water. Bey always uses water imagery in her videos and live performances (she is a Virgo, after all). Remember that Japanese Crystal Geyser commercial from 2009 in which Beyoncé is controlling the water around her with her super witch powers and it totally wasn’t CGI? Honestly, she’s been letting us have it for years with actual proof that she is 100% a witch.
5. Sisters of the Moon
On May 20th 2001 (my 9th birthday FYI), Destiny’s Child released their legendary chart topping sound-spell “Bootylicious” (which I totally had on Hit Clips). You are a liar if you said this song doesn’t slap. The basis of the song’s production comes from a sample of the 1982 classic “Edge of Seventeen” written by The Ultimate White Witch herself, Ms. Stevie Fucking Nicks.
Hmm … I wonder whose idea it was to use a prominent sample of a fellow witch’s song …? Beyoncé is not afraid to reference, sweetie. And get ready for this jelly: The White Witch even appears in the music video for “Bootylicious”. So, if you’re not convinced Mama B is a witch yet, then you’ve got a big storm comin’.
There you have it folks; and bow down witches. The Supreme Queen Bey is here to remind every single one of you that she is a force to be reckoned with. She has showcased her abilities for years and guess what? She ain’t sorry! Boy, bye. And to Kimberly Thompson: Good luck with that restraining order. Make sure to sprinkle sea salt around your home and smudge yourself with sage to keep evil spirits at bay.
Or should I say, “at bey”?
Our Truth Isn’t Your Trend
Highlighting non-binary people in the media is important and is slowly happening more-and more; but what’s also important is realizing that being non-binary isn’t a fun fashion trend.
Recently, there has been a huge rise in non-binary representation in the media. Models, musicians, and actors who identify as non-binary/agender/genderfluid/non-conforming are getting the buzz they deserve after not having been represented in mainstream media for such a long time. It’s refreshing to see non-binary folks presented to the public on a larger scale; but something that needs to be said is this: non-binary existence is not a temporary statement, and our truth isn’t your trend. Thinking positively, this rise of representation should continue to skyrocket in months and years to come.
What prompted this piece was the backlash aimed at the August 2017 issue of Vogue which featured Zayn Malik and Gigi Hadid on the cover with the tagline, “Shop Each Other’s Closets”. Styling cis people in a gynandrous way is nothing new — this is fashion, sweetie — but the choice of the models that was made by Vogue made being gender-fluid or non-binary seem as though it were the newest, late-summer/early-fall trend. The August cover would have been more refreshing to see celebrities or models who actually identify as non-conforming grace the cover of Vogue (*cough*,Anna Wintour … girl. You approved this?). A simple Google search of genderfluid/non-binary celebrities could have steered the Vogue editorial staff in the direction of hiring actual non-binary people to grace the cover. Nevertheless, it is exciting to see non-binary individuals gain tons of positive attention in different areas of the art world; and in the images below, I’d like to showcase a few.
Ruby Rose — an Australian, genderfluid actor, model, and DJ that presently prefers to use feminine pronouns — has most recently been cast as the leading role of Batwoman in the the CW Network’s forthcoming series of the same name. (Fingers crossed that the show does not flop and is actually a success!) Rose landed some of her largest fame when she appeared in seasons 3 and 4 of Netflix’s original series, Orange Is The New Black. Mind you, Rose appeared in only 9 episodes:
Alok Vaid-Menon from College Station, Texas rose to fame as one half of the poetry duo, DarkMatter with Janani Balasubramanian. Alok has been a vocal social and political activist for feminists and the LGBTQ+ community for many years. Alok now has a book of poems entitled, “Femme In Public”, which was released in 2017 and has been featured on LogoTV, in Out Magazine, as well as in Vogue. (Hello, Anna? It’s me again … Put Alok on the cover. *wink*).
Rose McGowan recently came out as non-binary identifying. Rose has been a vocal proponent for the #MeToo movement (founded by Tarana Burke in 2006) and shattering what was left of the glass ceiling in Hollywood by speaking out against sexual assault and harassment towards women, men, and the trans community. Rose’s book Brave was published in January 2018 from Harper Collins imprint HarperOne., The memoir focuses on the experiences McGowan had in Hollywood both professionally and with sexual assault. Rose recently won GQ’s Man Of The Year Award for her activism — a kind affirmation of non-binary identity from a publication that largely panders to cis, straight audiences.
Angel Haze is a rapper from Detroit who identifies as agender. Angel has become a huge name in hip-hop and has been nominated for a GLAAD Media Award as well as an MTV Video Music Award. Angel is currently working on their sophomore album. Angel Haze recently changed their name to ROES, but still remains on social media under their original stage name.
These are just few names of many non-binary/non-conforming/agender/genderfluid people that are making big waves presenting themselves to the public loudly so that they are being seen. No one will soon be forgetting a single one of them anytime soon, because, again, our truth isn’t your trend. These non-binary/agender people are beacons of light, giving people within our community hope that they can achieve the same level of exposure, fame, and greatness that these folk have. Their presence just affirms that we can change the way we are displayed in the media. We are here to be seen, to grace magazine covers, lend our voices and our images to the masses.
Many non-conforming individuals have been subject to bullying and prejudice throughout their childhoods; and most still experience it in adulthood. It all comes from people with a lack of exposure to, as well as a lack of education on the subject of, people who neither label themselves to meet a certain gender-specific criteria that is the summation of eons of destructive societal constructs. Because in spite of what the LGBTQ+ community’s flag may boast, the lives of non-binary people are not all rainbows and glitter for most of us. That being said, however, increasing the visibility of our community by seeing people from it become big-name stars is an important thing as it not only inspires us to make sure ourselves are being represented, but also exposes cis people/straight people who do not identify the same way as non-conforming folks to the lush diversity of this community. They can see that we are all human and that we are all going through life just as they are with very similar difficulties, trials, and tribulations. It also aids in educating them by increasing visibility of the way we present ourselves to the world by showing them that this is not a scary thing. It’s not terrifying at all. It’s our truth and it isn’t their trend. The point begins and ends here: we nonbinary, agender, non-conforming, and genderfluid people are here, we exist, we are making change, and we aren’t afraid to take charge. We are carving out our space in pop culture and the media, and we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
That’s Teresa Zimmermann with No H, 2 Ms, and 2 Ns
Houston’s very own Teresa Zimmermann talks to About Magazine about starring in the titular role of Violet at the Queensbury Theatre, life as a professional actress, her role in The Anthony Project, and her love of the LGBTQ community.
(HOUSTON) – If you’re an avid theatre-goer or at least an enthusiastic karaoke-er, you’ve probably seen her face around Houston a time or two. But even if you haven’t, you’ve certainly heard her voice, whether it be at Guava Lamp, Stages Repertory Theatre, and now in Violet, where she stars as the titular lead, which opened just last night at the Queensbury Theatre. Her name is Teresa Zimmermann; that’s Teresa with no H and Zimmermann with two Ms and two Ns. She’s the host of Sunday Karaoke — affectionally referred to by its regulars as Theatre Karaoke — at Guava Lamp on Waugh from 8 PM to midnight, and has been acting in the theatre scene of Houston for years.
But Zimmermann wasn’t always so sure that the stage was her calling, in spite of the fact that she grew up in a strong performance family. For a long time, Teresa was convinced she’d go to beauty school and learn the ins-and-outs of hair and makeup. But her life took her down a different road to Sam Houston State University, where she graduated with a degree in musical theatre, and eventually led her to live performances everywhere from here on the land in Texas to in the sea as a cruise ship singer. Now, as previously mentioned, she stars as Violet in new Queensbury Theatre’s production of the Broadway sensation of the same name. And before About Magazine goes to see the show tonight, we got a chance to talk to Teresa about her life, her career, the show, and what we can expect coming up.
Anthony Ramirez: If you could sum up who Teresa Zimmermann is in three words, what would those words be?
Violet opened at the Queensbury Theatre last night and continues performances through Sept. 23rd. You can then see Zimmermann in the About Magazine stage reading of its forthcoming sitcom The Anthony Project on Sept. 29th, as well as every Sunday at Guava Lamp hosting karaoke. A full review of Violet will be available from About Magazine tonight.