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The Renaissance of Ballroom Legend Kevin Aviance

The Renaissance of Ballroom Legend Kevin Aviance


The Renaissance of Ballroom Legend Kevin Aviance

The singer talks how Beyoncé's album helped skyrocket him into mainstream music and beyond.

For over three decades, Kevin Aviance’s indomitable spirit and charged vocals have raised a generation of ballroom kids, drag performers, and queer individuals. Through music, fashion, and live performances, Aviance’s body of work has been a foundational building block for modern-day LGBTQ+ culture.

Aviance became a queer superstar with the release of the legendary 1999 album Box of Chocolates, which included the hit song “Cunty.” However, his music career took a downturn when he signed to a new music label that didn’t understand him. This led to the release of 2004’s Entity, an album that Aviance would rather not even talk about.

“My mom told me before she passed, ‘Life has a way of serving you up an army, but you’ve always denied your army,’” says Aviance, explaining that his mother originally wanted him to be a pastor. But before she died in 2006, she had a revelation, telling him, “What are you going to do when you get your army? What are you going to stand up for? You’re not going to be the same person you are now. You’re not ready for that now.” None of it made any sense for Aviance at the time. “This woman is passing and she’s telling me all this stuff,” he notes. “And I’m just like, ‘Mom, what is this vision you’re talking about?’”

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As the years passed, “Cunty” became a staple of ballroom culture, despite the lack of success that Aviance had previously experienced in the scene. “It was very sad, they chopped me all the time, and I got very discouraged,” Aviance says. “I was a club kid first, OK? And when you’re a club kid, you come through with all your madness and you’re not there to get judged.” But ballroom fell in love with the powerful message and sound of “Cunty,” elevating Aviance into a queer icon and enabling him to travel the world as a recording artist and performer.

As the pandemic hit and the world became chaos, a voice inside Aviance echoed that this was a time for him to expand his horizons. “I said to myself, ‘You need to calm yourself and come out [of this] as a butterfly…or be a wreck.’ Some people who were very close to me did not come out of this pandemic. Like my best friend, Ari Gold, who had severe cancer. If I was still here, and I was healthy, I had to learn something.”

This was the start of Aviance learning how to DJ and produce music while also exploring new sounds and slowly upgrading the sound equipment he owned at home. In an almost mystical way, Aviance was preparing for a new chapter in his career — though he had absolutely no idea what was coming up in his future.

In 2022 Beyoncé released her seventh studio album, Renaissance, which featured inspiration and samples from several LGBTQ+ artists. Among them was a sample of Aviance’s “Cunty.” Alas, Aviance was completely unaware that his hit song was being considered for the project. When Renaissance dropped, Aviance had a friend at his place who alerted him. “I woke up at 3 o’clock. My friend said, ‘Girl, you need to listen to this album.’ And I said, ‘All right, play it.’ People had already sent me messages, but I didn’t check my messages.”

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Aviance started listening to the album, track by track, and got so excited about the queerness in Renaissance that he wanted to listen to the first few songs multiple times. “My friends said, ‘Girl, you have to keep going with the album.’ I said, ‘What is your problem?’ They said, ‘You need to hurry up.’” And then “Pure/Honey” came on, with a sample of Aviance’s “Cunty” throughout the song.

“I felt the blood go to my head, and I pass[ed] out in the room,” Aviance recalls. “I woke up, my friend is gagging. I said, ‘What just happened?’ He went, ‘This happened.’ So we played it again. I got mad, upset, happy. I was crying. I was screaming. And then my phone started to go crazy.” It turns out that the Strictly Rhythm record label approved “Cunty” to be sampled on Renaissance but didn’t give Aviance any notice of it. And just like that, Aviance’s voice and song were now embedded into the biggest album of the year.

An entire new generation of music fans became aware of Aviance’s body of work following the release of Renaissance, far surpassing his well-established status as a queer legend. “Cunty” took over TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and beyond. Think pieces were written; YouTube explainers were created. This might have been Beyoncé’s Renaissance, but it was renaissance for Aviance too. Suddenly, he understood the vision his mom had shared before her death. And the next phase of his career — which he had unknowingly been preparing for during the lockdown — was now set into full motion.

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Now signed under Voss Events for talent management, Aviance is working on new music and an EP. “It’s borderline an album, but it’s not, you know what I mean?” Aviance explains. “It’s a singles-driven world out there. We need to keep the momentum going and not shoot our load so fast. I’m definitely going to be…what is it that they call it? Edging! Maybe that’s what I should call the album. I think I’m going to call the album Edging.” While the title is still a work in progress, Aviance is ready to unleash new music for the children to dance to and get their life. And with the release of new music, Aviance is hitting the road with the Cunty Ball, a brand-new tour that he is shaping to be like a “religious experience.”

“I want there to be an anointment that happens at the Cunty Ball, in which anyone can come and get a sort of baptism into the realm of our world, in a sense that makes you feel that you are a part of this community,” Aviance says. “You have a role to play, and a role to give back. A role to help, to educate, and to be mentored. I want this to be a place where people can come, especially our people — gay, lesbian, transgender — all of us. And you might not like everything I do, but you can at least come there, take what you can, and leave the rest there. A safe space where people can let their spirit intertwine with other spirits. An immersive queer anointment experience.”

Celebrate the legendary Kevin Aviance's birthday at the sex-positive dessert shop Sugar Wood (157 Prince St., New York City) on Thursday, June 22, where he’ll be DJing from 7 to 9 p.m., then doing a meet-and-greet with a special performance. Sugar Wood is offering a special deal to Out readers for a buy one, get one free "Cunty Waffle" available at their store in SoHo from June 22 to June 25; use the promo code OUTCUNTY at SugarWood.co.

talent KEVIN AVIANCE @kevinavianceofficial
photographer ROLAND FITZ @rolandftz.me rolandftz.net
stylist XANDER C. GAINS AVIANCE
executive producer & creative director TIM SNOW @snowmgz
production manager STEVIE WILLIAMS @beingstevie X2production.com
lighting & digitech MYLO BUTLER @mylob.productions mylobproductions.com
makeup TIM MACKAY @timmackaybeauty mackaymakeup.com

XANDER C. GAINS AVIANCE Earrings

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Bernardo Sim

Bernardo Sim experiences and explains the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim experiences and explains the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.