7 LGBTQ+ Creatives Bringing Queer Joy to New Orleans
Meet the LGBTQ+ krewe bringing creativity and queerness to the Big Easy
New Orleans, much like the LGBTQ+ community, is no stranger to adversity. The Louisiana city has braved many storms throughout its vibrant 300-year history. But time and time again, NOLA is resilient while remaining a haven for Southern art, music, and expression.
This Pride, Out celebrates the queer creatives who help keep this color and magic alive. Meet Franky Canga, Phlegm, Bouffant Bouffant, Stuart Sox, Blaine McGowan, Fatsy Cline, and the Queen of Bounce herself, Big Freedia. Below, they share their favorite memories of Pride and the Big Easy.
ALL PORTRAITS shot on location in NEW ORLEANS at the HOTEL SAINT VINCENT. A jewel of architecture in the city's Lower Garden District, this 1861 property boasts 75 reimagined guest rooms and a host of elegant public spaces: verandas, a Saltillo swimming pool, bars, and two posh restaurants, San Lorenzo (coastal Italian cuisine) and the Elizabeth Street Cafe (a French-Vietnamese bakery). The interiors of the property exhibit 20th-century Italian design combined with modern elegance and mid-century furnishings. Don't miss the grand staircase, which was preserved from the original property. @hotelstvincent saintvincentnola.com
BOUFFANT BOUFFANT: DJ, PRODUCER, PARTY STARTER
Favorite Pride memory? Getting to DJ at Oz, the mainstream gay bar on Bourbon Street. Coming of age and going there, I always dreamt of what it would be like if they weren't playing the Top 40 circuit remixes. My DJ collective at the time, known for organizing raucous warehouse parties, was asked to work with New Orleans Pride on its party. And in exchange, we asked them to get us in to DJ Oz as it's very difficult to break into their insular DJ rotation. All of our friends showed up, and we got to play the music we always wanted to hear at Oz. I show my Pride by doing my best to facilitate free and queer spaces for people to be themselves.
BOUFFANT BOUFFANT AKA BRETT LABAUVE in the LOUNGE wearing ROLAND FITZ 1950s CATALINA Checkered Jacket, URBAN OUTFITTERS Astrology Pants, LIMA HAHN Shoes @limahahn with NEW ORLEANS JAZZ FEST T-shirt.
Favorite NOLA memory? My first Mardi Gras. Riding my bike home from a party through the French Quarter just after a rain as the sun rose. Everything was shiny and twinkling, and I realized I'd found a place to be, like I'd always dreamed of. It was beautiful.
New Orleans has influenced the way I approach DJing and organizing parties immensely. Having a good time and expressing yourself freely is paramount to any type of intellectual, critical, or analytical nature of the experience. I love to take this perspective with me when touring and hope to bring a piece of New Orleans with me when I do. @bouffantbouffant
On the streets of NEW ORLEANS wearing ROLAND FITZ Vintage Teal Trench Coat, URBAN OUTFITTERS Astrology Pants, ACNE STUDIOS Sweater LIMA HAHN Shoes @limahahn
PHLEGM: MULTIDISCIPLINARY ARTIST
Favorite Pride memory? [It] actually falls outside of the traditional Pride Month. I can vividly recall a warehouse party on New Year's Eve 2017. It was 7:45 a.m. and the DJ ran the a cappella to "Rain" by SWV over the speakers as someone flung the barn doors open and the first light of 2018 bathed the entire room. It was truly a religious experience.
Favorite NOLA memory? Being a kid at a Mardi Gras parade, having so many beads around my neck that it's impossible for me to look left or right. Turned out off cotton candy, candy apples, funnel cakes, and youthful adrenaline; in pure bliss.
New Orleans is also my birth home. The influence of this city is part of my DNA, [and] I cannot separate myself from the city, the people, the food, or the energy. This city will always have a piece of me and I, a piece of it. The strong Black community ties here tether me to this city and show up in my work all the time. My artistic practice is directly tied to the Black history of -- and the Black influence on -- this city. @mynameisphlegm
PHLEGM in HOTEL SAINT VINCENT wearing ALLAN HERRERA Custom Coat @allancostume, ROLAND FITZ 1970s Houndstooth Pants, ASOS Zebra Print Boots
BIG FREEDIA: RAPPER
Wildest Pride memory? Vegas Pride in 2018. They had about 20 dudes come out with socks over their dicks. They were shaking and twerking, and it was quite a spectacle and crowd-pleaser!
Favorite NOLA memory? One distinct memory I have was during Katrina, when everyone was traumatized and hungry and trying to find family members. I was with my sister and her baby and our uncle. It was so hot, and the baby was crying. But I saw many acts of kindness and help by regular people. I gave a woman with a baby our last diaper because she didn't have one for days. I saw a man take his own boat and rescue people. That encapsulates New Orleans. We are very mobilized when we need to be.
The world is opening up again! What was the experience like for you to perform live again after lockdown? It was amazing! Performing is my bread and butter, but it's also something that I need to do for my peace of mind. Performing, connecting with my audience, feeling the crowd's energy. I feel totally renewed!
You recently released a single called "Ella Baker Shaker." What inspires you about the late civil rights activist? Ella Baker was brilliant! She was an incredible community organizer and helped African Americans during the civil rights movement. I love being able to revisit that time, and her, and celebrate her life.
The single is part of the Black Joy Experience, Vol. 2, which educates and celebrates Black LGBTQ+ youth. How did you become connected to this album and cause? Jonathan Lykes, an activist and artist from Atlanta, reached out to me and asked if I wanted to be on a compilation he was putting together. I love what he and his organization are doing for LGBTQ+ youth, so I was like, Oh, yes!
As part of the collaboration, you visited schools and community centers in NOLA. Tell us about this experience and how it impacted you. Visiting the schools was really a moving experience. To see how kids learn, how curious they are, was really special.
How can Out readers help support youth from marginalized communities? I think anything you can do, whether it be a mentor or support a charity that is doing work.
What makes you proud? I think just how far the LGBTQ+ community has come. Today we have LGBTQ+ stars and trans actors. It's a scary time, but we can't forget all the wins that are happening too!
What's next for you? Some new music coming this spring. I'm on tour (bigfreedia.com/tour), and I will be in Europe this summer. @bigfreedia
BIG FREEDIA in HOTEL SAINT VINCENT wearing ROLAND FITZ 1990s ESCADA Cardigan, ROLAND FITZ 1980s Pants
FRANKY CANGA: PERFORMANCE ARTIST
Favorite Pride memory? Performing for my first Pride in 2016. I remember feeling so empowered to be a part of something that validated who I was, and the love I received helped to wash away so many childhood fears.... I love that the creative community here thrives on individuality and that we are not afraid to take risks on and off stage.
Favorite NOLA memory? Getting to perform in a show at Le Petit Theatre for both weekends of Jazz Fest. I've admired this theater for a long time [so] getting the opportunity to perform there was a dream come true.
New Orleans is one of the last remaining original cities in America. It has its own heartbeat, and the love of the people here really showcases that. There's no way that same love wouldn't influence my work. New Orleans makes my work raw, emotional, and daring! @frankycanga
FRANKY in the HOTEL SAINT VINCENT CHAPEL CLUB wearing ROLAND FITZ 1970s Vintage Blouse, Vest, Pants, and Shoes
BLAINE MCGOWAN: CREATIVE DIRECTOR, SNEAKER DESIGNER FOR SNEAKER POLITICS
Favorite Pride memory? I'll never forget my first time going to a drag show. I remember watching the queens perform to "Let's Have a Kiki" and just [being] captivated by their energy. I knew after that night that gay bars were where I belonged. To me, showing my Pride just means being my authentic self and not boxing myself into stereotypes based on who I like.
Favorite NOLA memory? Dare I say it, I live for Mardi Gras.... New Orleans feels like a city made up of people who don't belong anywhere else. There's something magical about this city and its traditions that just make outcasts feel at home and makes us all a weird dysfunctional but beautiful family. @oleblaine
BLAINE in HOTEL SAINT VINCENT wearing ROLAND FITZ 1980s Corduroy Pants, GOORIN BROS Hat, STANDARD CLOTH Shirt, and CAVENDERS Boots
FATSY CLINE: DRAG PERFORMER
Favorite Pride memory? The first time I marched in Pride a few years back. My church, St. Anna's Episcopal, is very involved in the LGBTQ+ community here in New Orleans and always marches in the Pride parade. We had just finished the march and everyone was disbanding and walking to their respective destinations. I just so happened to be walking past one of the gay bars when I walked past this beautiful man in leather chaps and a harness and had to do a double take. I heard someone say loudly, "So that's what you're into, girl?" I whipped my head around, and lo and behold, it was my priest. I had been clocked by my clergy!
Favorite NOLA memory? Mardi Gras 2017. I just won the Bourbon Street Awards for Best Drag, and I was standing on the street chugging a beer with my trophy in hand when this gorgeous woman comes up and congratulates me for winning and proceeds to call me gorgeous. Mind you, I don't wear my glasses when I'm in drag (and I'm blind as a bat), so I can't really make out who she is, but as soon as she leaves I look over to my boyfriend at the time and he is dumbstruck. I ask why he looks like that, and he responds, "Babe, that was Solange Knowles, she just called you gorgeous!" @fatsyclinedrag
FATSY in HOTEL SAINT VINCENT wearing COQUETRY CLOTHING Jumper, LOLLY COX Jewelry, LASHITUDE Lashes, and WIG STYLED by MICHAEL MALDONADO
STUART SOX: FILMMAKER OF 'TO DECADENCE WITH LOVE, THANKS FOR EVERYTHING!'
Favorite Pride memory? Seeing Big Freedia perform at New Orleans Pride in 2019. I brought my camera and filmed throughout the day and ended up creating a cute little highlight video that went viral on social media. I feel really grateful that I get so many opportunities here in New Orleans to use my talents in filming and editing to show my pride and express how much I love being queer.
Favorite NOLA memory? If I had to choose just one I'd have to say my first Red Dress Run years ago -- before I moved to New Orleans. Red Dress Run is an annual summer event here where everyone in the French Quarter does a run for charity...in a red dress. I remember being there and thinking, OK, I get it--I need to live here. Plus, finding the perfect dress for RDR always feels like you're finding your perfect prom dress! @sox_andthecity
STUART in HOTEL SAINT VINCENT wearing ROLAND FITZ 1970s Paisley Shirt, GUCCI Belt, ROLAND FITZ 1980s Pants, PUMA Teal Suede Sneakers