Nightlife has historically been a space where the LGBTQ community comes together, allowing each other to freely explore the complex potentials of queer identity. Newcomers flock to the scene to be inspired by longtime club legends, and begin taking steps toward self-realization with hopes of one day becoming an influential figure themselves.
But as inclusive as queer nightlife can be, for many it's also a serious business, especially in NYC, where careers are actively born, fostered and eventually launched. Parties can be an effective hub for marketing yourself, and they can also be an operative means for networking—essentials for LGBTQ people pursuing creative careers in an overwhelmingly large place, such as New York.
We called upon our friend, Nay Campbell, who's become a staple in the NYC club circuit, to reflect on his experience navigating queer nightlife. Below, Campbell's created for OUT a 10-point guide to achieving New York stardom, from shoes to sisters and accessories.
Never wear something off the rack, unless it’s Balenciaga. I’ve always had a Carrie way of dressing, mixing the chic with street, costume with couture. If you have a friend that makes clothes, support them by incorporating and always crediting their work. Nightlife and vintage go hand-in-hand, so resell clothes the next day after wearing them out, and use that money or credit for your next look. That’s how real New York girls get their looks: borrowed or stolen, created or scammed.
Know your parties. During this era of New York nightlife, it’s so much more about the hosts and fashion moments, than just the music. It’s really amazing to be able to go to a party almost every night and be able to express and establish yourself in some way. When it comes to parties run by the queer community, it’s only fair to pay the first few times you go, I guess until you’re cool enough to get on a list. Always tip your bartenders, always respect your door girl and never use someone else’s name.
Once you're in the club, hold back. Whether you’re looking for a slice to bring home, dance floor to escape on or some fantasy to pursue, you need to first establish yourself at the party in order to get that respect. Posting about the event helps, but really embracing the crowd and energy is what brings the party to another level, just as much as your look.
Shoes. Every girl below 14th Street needs a pair of Pleasers, if not a few. Kate Moss relied heavily on platforms in her early years of runway in order to mix in with the other girls, and if Lady Gaga and 2008 taught us anything, it’s that a good pair of pumps can really step up the gig. I always loved Naomi’s look and wanted long legs, but what God didn’t give me I got on St. Marks.
Sisters. During these very hostile, violent times, it’s so important to be around your girls and have a safe space. You have every right to create whatever kind of look you want, but if outside the club someone tries to objectify or harass you, it always helps to have a sister in your corner. Split a cab or get a daddy to pay for you, but never ditch your sis at the gig.
Accessories. Chanel taught us less is more and that a strong person needs a strong look. Establish your core pieces and formulate your world, because this is the time to be it. If you’re look is supermodel off-duty, she better have cute handbag. A headpiece is essential to a look queen, along with taking up half the room. No matter if it’s Gucci or garbage, you need to own it.
Free drinks. If there’s anything to get out of the night, it’s a few vodka Redbulls. However, if you don’t know the hosts or anyone in the scene, say your hellos and introduce yourself—nobody owes you a free drink. Don’t get too sauced up before the gig, either—stay fresh for photos and check your lipstick, you never know who you’re going to meet.
Never mix business with pleasure. It really does depend on why you’re at the function, but this is a very small city, so watch your track if there's someone special you're trying to pursue. People love to be petty and you never want to cross a sister over a dude. Nightlife can be a tricky place to foster serious friendships, but these relationships tend to be much more lasting than some beautiful stranger.
Find your signature beat, no matter if it's subtle supermodel or full on party monster. Also, set in spray is everyone’s friend—you never want your face melting off in the middle of the club. Shaving or bleaching your eyebrows can really step up your look with makeup. Very importantly, if you’re performing or plan on carrying, please glue down your lace front. That dim lighting is not the place to readjust.
Always carry. It's important to leave the party with some cute photos and business cards; remind the haters tomorrow you came to stun.
Photography: Andrew T. White
Styling: Sam Bates