Metro Weekly

Kevin Aviance Is Back In The House

The legendary Kevin Aviance makes a triumphant return to D.C. at the Project GLOW Festival's Secret Garden.

Kevin Aviance -- Photo: Thomas Evans
Kevin Aviance — Photo: Thomas Evans

Kevin Aviance has stomped stages the world over, but Washington, D.C. will always be where the baby drag queen, born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, became the ferocious nightlife being who’d transfix crowds at clubs from Tracks to Clubhouse.

“D.C. was Chocolate City, man. It was hot,” Aviance recalls, savoring the memory as we dig into his nightclub past. “That’s what I loved about it.”

As for D.C.’s club scene, Aviance helped make it hot, according to his longtime friend, the DJ and promoter Ed Bailey.

“Kevin’s presence at Tracks, where I started working and my whole career started, led to my excitement about the scene and my involvement in the scene,” says Bailey.

“He is a very important part to the reality that I’ve been able to be successful in what I do, because he was right there at the beginning and a very important part of making what I was doing seem fun and popular and cool.”

Since Aviance decamped to New York, further evolving into an internationally-known dance music artist, with three No. 1s on the Billboard Dance Club charts, he and Bailey have found precious few opportunities to work together again.

“He came back to D.C. when I did the Tracks reunion at Town years ago,” says Bailey, co-owner of D.C.’s dearly-missed Town Danceboutique. “But before that, it had been years and years since we’d been able to work together.”

Well, the time has come for these two dance music masters to sync up their beats at this month’s Project GLOW, the 2-day dance/EDM party filling the RFK festival grounds with three stages of music, performances, art, and loads of ecstatically happy festgoers.

Aviance will headline Secret Garden, curated by Bailey. It will also feature The Carry Nation, DJs Lemz, Keenan Orr, JJ202, Wess, KS, PWRPUFF, and Bailey himself. The goal, says Bailey, was to showcase local LGTBQ talent, “but also…to have Kevin Aviance involved because he does represent a lot about the history of club culture of this city. He cut his teeth here. And obviously, his career has taken a great turn this past year with his involvement on the Renaissance album.”

Oh, yeah, that — early one morning last summer, Aviance awoke to find his voice booming out from Beyoncé’s culture-shifting Renaissance album, courtesy of a sample from his club hit “Cunty.” By happenstance, he’d only months prior released a new house track on Nervous Records with DJ Gomi called “I’m Back,” and suddenly he was indeed, in a bigger way than he could have anticipated.

“It changed my life. It changed everything,” marvels Aviance, who recently signed a new deal with Voss Management, and is at work on a new EP. “It’s just that when someone hears you, man, and sees you — someone like Bey, a Black woman, a billionaire. A billionairess, a prolific, Michael Jackson-ish diva. When a Black woman sees you, this little Black faggot. A queen, man!”

Stunningly confident in his element, Aviance still, like anyone, has struggled to feel seen — in his profession, in the full expression of his art and person. He’s also weathered the staggering losses of his mother who was “the template” for his sense of style, and of his dear friend and one-time NYC roommate, Ari Gold, the dance-pop singer-songwriter who passed away from leukemia in 2021.

Aviance felt broken, as he’d also felt broken after surviving a violent hate assault by a group of teens outside a Manhattan bar in 2006. He still bears scars from the attack, though refuses to let that incident define his story.

“You know, you go to Japanese houses, you’ll see these little tea cups all with gold in them, because they’ve been put back together, you know what I mean,” he says, referring to kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken things with gold lacquer. “That’s what I did.”

In fact, as he describes here in detail, healing has been a process, but the stars seem to be aligning. So, as he raps in his latest song, Aviance really is “Back,” and still evolving, now that he’ll be performing and DJing during his set in the Secret Garden. “I’m so excited about the whole thing,” he enthuses, acknowledging that though some of his Tracks sisters won’t make this reunion, the party won’t forget them.

“A lot of my friends have gone, and so they’re not there with us anymore,” he says. “But the ones that are still here, please, girls, y’all dust yourselves off. Get on in here, girl, let’s shake our tail feathers. Let’s do this, girl!”

Kevin Aviance -- Photo: Thomas Evans
Kevin Aviance — Photo: Thomas Evans

METRO WEEKLY: I was speaking with Ed Bailey, and he was saying that your presence at Tracks, when he was first starting his career at Tracks, led to him being excited about the scene. Take me back to your days at Tracks. Where were you in your life? And what did that club mean to you?

KEVIN AVIANCE: Tracks nightclub was where I was born. I remember a Thursday night, I was in the volleyball court, and I heard the song by Ram Jam called “Black Betty,” and I jumped into a trash can. It was full of trash, and there was a lid. I took the lid off, put the lid on top of my head and went, “Whoa, Black Betty, Bam-ba-lam, Black Betty had a child, the damn thing gone wild.” That was the first day of Kevin Aviance.

That’s where I started my whole thing, in that volleyball court. I remember going to the club, and it was a Saturday night. No, no, no, no, because it was Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and then Sunday, right? So Thursday was alternative night. What they called their alternative night. And then Friday and Saturday — if you were lucky to go both nights, because you had to go Sunday, since Sunday was the Black night — Friday and Saturday was definitely a one or the other type thing, you know what I mean? So I would find myself probably going to another club, or would go either or both those days, Friday or Saturday. So weekends at Tracks were very important to me. Very important to me.

MW: Before we talk about “Cunty” and Renaissance, I want to talk about a recent track. I was just listening to “I’m Back,” which I really enjoyed, because it’s deep, deep house, and that’s music that I love. How did that single come together? And are you planning to make more music with Gomi and Nervous?

AVIANCE: Yeah, Gomi and I, we have a new single coming out. “I’m Back” came out of the pandemic. So we were working on it before we had to all go back to work. Gomi had this idea of doing “I’m Back,” and I said, “Okay, let’s do it.” He said, “It’ll be great. The clubs will be opening up.” I said, “Okay, fine.” Little did I know that, once again, the universe and the stars, alignments and all that stuff. I can’t believe I just did a record called “I’m Back,” and I’m gagging, because I’ve been staying with this Beyoncé thing coming out, and I didn’t know anything about it. So it was just really weird. All this was just really, really strange. You couldn’t even write it, you know what I mean? It was one of those moments where I’m like, “Okay, how am I doing this?” It was just weird. Weird. It’s just very strange, strange, strange synergy things were going on.

Gomi and I, we have a new single coming out called “I’ll House You,” which is an old Jungle Brothers record. It’s so hot! We did it with Karmina Dai. She’s the girl on the track, and she is phenomenal, a great talent. And the track is so hot. Also, working on my album too. A surprise EP coming out really soon.

MW: Will you be serving all this at the Project GLOW Festival?

AVIANCE: Yes, I am. I’m serving it up lovely, darling. I’m so excited about that. What a thing to come back to D.C. on, you know what I mean? I’m so excited.

MW: Absolutely. I’ve been to lots of music festivals, but not a dance music festival. Have you performed many? What’s the vibe you expect? And what’s the vibe you would want for an event like that?

AVIANCE: Oh, just come to thump, come to dance your butt off. Come to wear your colors and just be lovely. And just come, and let me turn you out. You know what I mean? I’m very excited about this. I was working on my set last night, actually. I was trying to find those right records and everything like that. You get, I think, 90 minutes, so I’m just very… Whew!

Kevin Aviance -- Photo: Thomas Evans
Kevin Aviance — Photo: Thomas Evans

MW: Do you want to hint at all what else you might be bringing?

AVIANCE: I’m bringing something with me. Because I feel entertainment doesn’t just start and end with me. So I’m going to bring some extra new energy with me, too. And they are… Well you’ll see. I just live for what I’m bringing with me, they are… You’ll see, they’re just fab. And in the sense also of just having that entertainment around. Because I’ve always been that girl to rev up the audience, or do that with the DJ. And this time around I’m the DJ, so I’m going to — in the good old Kevin Aviance way — I’m bringing Aviance, A-V-I-A-N-C-E, 400-fold. They’re going to gag, really.

MW: It also sounds like you’re excited about being in a position to uplift these other artists that we might not know. Whoever you’re bringing.

AVIANCE: You’re not in this world by yourself, first of all. And you are only as good as your last dance record. You know what I mean? And then we’re all energy, we’re all balls of energy. We just came out of a pandemic, we came out of this other stuff. Honey, if I have a platform and I can be able to lift people up, girl, yes, I love it. I love it. Especially if I live for them. If I live for them, forget it.

MW: Now, speaking of this platform, the Secret Garden is, for all intents and purposes, a queer space within the festival. Ed Bailey’s point of view is that he applauds Project GLOW and the Insomniac people for being intentional about that inclusion. I applaud that too. But I also look at it as crazy that any dance music festival has to make a special effort to include queerness, because queerness is so fundamental to dance music.

AVIANCE: It goes back to the chicken and the egg, you know what I mean? That’s where it all comes from. I don’t want to cut my nose off to spite my face. I don’t want to say something wrong here. I’m glad we are included in this inclusivity of this dramatic first-time type thing. So it’s like, “Wow, thank you. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of the dance. Thank you for taking time to give us a dance floor. Thank you for…,” Okay, you see where I’m going with this?

MW: Yeah.

AVIANCE: So I think we as gay, LGBTQI, ABCDEFG, whatever, we need to reclaim our dance floors, we need our spaces, we need our music, we need our identity back, we need all this stuff back. I think that one of the biggest problems right now with our community, worldwide, I think we just go to these holiday parties or circuit parties, da da da da. I remember the weekly party, the weekly dance floor. You take it out on the dance floor. Going to D.C., the Clubhouse. Oh, Miss Thing! Oh, it was everything, girl. That place was everything to me. Like everything to me. And I will never forget being on the dance floor, when they used to let the thing up and… The church across the street, people would just be going to church and we’d come piling out of the Clubhouse.

Come on, those things need to happen. There needs to be those weekly places, Tracks, and all that stuff. It’s very important. It’s very important for us that we have our music. I think we’ve become, I guess, a bit like everybody else, which is fine because we pay taxes, too. So we should see us be equal with everybody else. But I think that our joy or wanting to have joy or wanting to work our problems out with each other on the dance floor is such an important thing. Besides the going and having a drink at a bar, there’s something about the dance floor, just to work it out, it’s just amazing.

Kevin Aviance -- Photo: Thomas Evans
Kevin Aviance — Photo: Thomas Evans

MW: Yes. I love that you feel it. A lot of people don’t feel it. A lot of people, they go to a club and they have their different purpose, and some of them it is not to feel themselves on a dance floor. For me, that is always what I was there about, among other things. There is one place we do have in common, because I did not make it to Tracks or Clubhouse, but I was a Sound Factory kid back in the day.

AVIANCE: Okay! Okay!

MW: Speaking of weekly parties, describe your relationship to famed NYC nightclub Sound Factory and to Junior Vasquez.

AVIANCE: House of Aviance, we’re from DC. We’re from 14th and Harvard actually, okay? That’s our house. So we used to get caravans together, we got buses together. We started with one bus. We got all the way up to three busloads of people. Big old buses, like from a church. And we did it only so we could have the entry of the price taken care of when we got to the club. We take all the people with us, so that could be taken care of for us.

Sound Factory, that was the Holy Grail, that was Mecca, that was Jerusalem. You know what I mean? And Junior Vasquez was, I hate to say it, he wasn’t Jesus, but he was Moses, exactly.

Junior was something that I had never ever experienced before, and it was amazing. The first time I went to Sound Factory, I could not believe it. I remember walking down that long aisle with the red light, pin light. And you go in and just stand underneath the pin light and come off the ramp. And you could watch people do that each and every time. And it was just like a fashion show.

And then people standing in line to get their accoutrements. And then around 4 a.m., that’s when you got there. So around 6 a.m. or 5:30 a.m. — woo, ow, oh my God, [singing] “Don’t you want some more? Ohhh yeaah!” It was amazing! Amazing.

Junior and I worked together for almost 25 years after that. I was his queen and entertainer or whatever you want to call me, host. He’s come back into town recently, and I assumed that I would be working with him. And they were, “Yeah, we expect you to come, do a number and stuff. But there’d be no money for you. We can’t afford you,” da da da. I was like, “Wow.” And I know that’s not Junior, that’s the people that… That’s not Junior talking. I mean, Junior is somewhere, I’m there. I don’t know. I don’t know how he’s going to do it. But I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t know if I’m going or not. I wish him well. But it’s really… I don’t know, I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth.

And I’m just older now, where I’m just… That shouldn’t even be a discussion, because I can’t remember a day with Junior doing it without me. So I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how I’m going to be feeling that day. I don’t know what’s going on here. So please don’t expect me to be there, guys. If you go there, to see Junior at this new whatever he’s doing, don’t expect me to be there. I might be there. I don’t know if I’m going to be there. I just don’t know yet. I do love the man, I respect him.

Kevin Aviance -- Photo: Thomas Evans
Kevin Aviance — Photo: Thomas Evans

MW: We can tease people with the mystery, until they show up.


MW: People love to say that nightlife isn’t what it used to be. It changes and it’s going to keep changing. Is nightlife still alive for you? Where do you go out when you go out?

AVIANCE: Well one thing I was having a problem with was music. I found myself not hearing the music I wanted to hear. And so I started DJing, and it was a process because you want to be true to your art and everything like that. But I had a love for music, and I didn’t know I had a love for DJing. I didn’t know if that could happen. And with technology today and with the things that are out there today, it made things a little easier than using vinyl.

So I dibbled-dabbled in it during the pandemic, and started doing my little Instagram Lives and stuff like that. I was messing up online, everything, doing it in front of everybody. And I was supporting myself that way. It was really interesting. People were really helping a lot. It was amazing. And then finally I got my equipment and started to really home in on what I wanted to do and stuff like that. And then started doing dates. And it has been major.

Got a little job working at a bar here [in New York] every day for a supper club type thing. So I was getting my bones and stuff like that every night. And then the pandemic happened, and they closed. So I found myself in that predicament, doing the Instagram Live thing and then doing after the fact. During the pandemic, I wanted to be a butterfly when I came out of it. I wanted something new for myself.

The kids weren’t letting me through before. They weren’t letting me come back to the city to…come back to my place and everything. So there was five, six years that I was lingering out there, and it wasn’t good. And I just was upset. I was still pushing the pavement, but I was queen number 86 in the city, you know what I mean? You know me, I ain’t going to be 86 too long. So I didn’t know how I was going to do it. But God has a… When you put one foot in front of the other, you just can’t keep a queen down. And things just happened to work out. And I’m just so blessed with the whole thing. I’m just humbled by it.

MW: So is GLOW going to be a DJ-performer set?

AVIANCE: Yeah, of course, that’s what I’m about. A DJ-performer set, yep.

MW: Cool, cool. Now I want to ask you about Ari, because we were talking about the foundational importance of queer artists in dance music. I understand that EDM and rave, and gay club music are not always synonymous, but it’s a space that really wouldn’t exist without people like you, without Sir Ari Gold. So I’m curious, how did you two meet? And what do you think will be the legacy of artists like Ari, who have fought homophobia even in this really supposedly gay space?

AVIANCE: The most incredible person I’ve ever met in my life was Ari Gold. We met at Champs nightclub. He was the coat check boy and I was the host of the night. And I went to go check my coat, and I see him and I’m like this, “Damn, you’re cute.” And he was like, “Hi.” I said, [flirtatious] “Hi. What’s your name?” “I’m Ari.” I said, “I’m Kevin.” He goes, “Hi.”

And so I would do the show. And the show was called Jock Package Competition. So people used to come and show off in their jock straps. And there was a back room in the club, and it was just like a sports club. And so that was my whole thing, “Jock Package Competitioooon!” So that night, Ari and I, we went to his house afterward, and we listened to music all night. There was a bond that… The worlds broke up and collided. That’s what happened. And he was my number-one supporter. He was the one I could work something off of. He’s the one that made me feel…to make me understand the music industry even more. He championed me.

We wrote together, we spent time together, we got boys together. We were bad boys together. We were good Judys together. We were everything together. There wasn’t a time he didn’t invite me to everything his parents were at. And the last thing he did for his parents, for the last anniversary, he gave me as a present. He wasn’t feeling well, so he gave me as a present to his family. And we worked out something, I did the song, I sang for his family and stuff like that. But he was always throwing me in his mom and dad’s face. [Laughs.] He was always taking my big Black ass and throwing me in front of that family, for some reason. Ari was beyond an angel, beyond…

When he was getting really sick, it’s just one of those things when you feel somebody leave you. And I had been through this with my mom. So it’s withdrawing from you. Literally when you don’t have that human touch and all that stuff, it fades. You know what I mean? And you want it back, you want it back, you want it back.

And I can tell you that, to this day, you think it’s going to go completely away, like he’s not going to be there. And then that thing happens, that’s with you forever. And I know that he’s right here next to me. I know he’s right here, slapping me upside my head. I know that he is. He’s helped to catapult me further in my career. He has his hand in me right now. And totally, with the gurus and everything, all my little gayngels up there, and just directing this thing.

MW: Thank you for sharing that. I think people who knew Ari will appreciate it. I guess he would’ve really, really loved this Renaissance moment.

AVIANCE: Oh my God. “Kevin, what are you doing?! Let’s go. Let’s get going here. Let’s get it going. It’s over and done with, let’s do this. Come on, come on, let’s go!”

MW: Love that. When Beyoncé said, “I can get your song played on the radio station,” you probably didn’t think she meant you. I know you’ve told this story, but for our readers, how did you hear that “Cunty” had been sampled on Renaissance?

AVIANCE: So the night before, or the eve before, yeah, that’s how you say it, I went to sleep and I woke up in the middle of the night, and my friend was here. So I’m listening to the album and I’m like this [bopping his head]. And I’m just waking up, I’m, oh, this is cute. First song. I said, “I’m that girl. Werk. I’m that girl.” And I listened to the second song, and the third song, fourth song. I’m just, okay, this is cute! What is going on here? I’m almost welling up a little bit… They get to “Cozy,” and then “Plastic Off the Sofa,” and I’m like, “Plastic Off the Sofa,” oh my God, it’s everything to me.

And then “America’s Got a Problem.” And then I hear, “Cunty, Cunty...” I stand up, I pass out right here on the floor. I wake up, my friend goes, “Are you okay?” I’m like, “Please tell me that I didn’t…” “Yep, you’re on the track, girl. That’s you. Right? Is that you? It’s you.” He plays it again for me. I’m like, “What the fuck is going on here? What is happening?!” My phone then starts to go crazy — ding, ding, ding, my phone’s doing.

I’m gagging. I don’t know if I’m mad, I’m upset, I’m happy. I don’t know what is going on here! I could not believe what’s going on here. And so, my good Judy, my good friend, [earlier] that night had sent me a text and sent me the track listing. He said, “What is this? Your name’s on the tracklist.” I didn’t pay any mind to it. I just didn’t know what that meant. So I just freaked out. I didn’t know what was going on. And then that’s it. That was it. “Cunty” had been seen. I had been seen, I’d been heard. My seed had been planted, and honey it grew. That’s all I’m going to say. Who knew, man? I didn’t know anything about it. My producer knew about it. He went on vacation and forgot to tell me. Rude.

Kevin Aviance -- Photo: Thomas Evans
Kevin Aviance — Photo: Thomas Evans

MW: Very.

AVIANCE: Rude! So I cursed him out, first of all. I was so mad at him. But at the same time, I’m one of these people where it is what it is. That’s the way I found out? That’s the way I found out. And it will be with me for the rest of my life.

MW: That album was my album of last year too. I wanted to read you a quote, because it fits what we’re talking about with dance music. Vanessa Williams on the red carpet of the GLAAD Media Awards was asked what artists inspire her. And she mentioned Renaissance. She said, “What Beyoncé has been able to do with this album is not only be a pop icon…but also address the house and the dance world in an organic way, to invite those people that have been making music in that genre for years and welcome them to her pop world. That was a great move on her part.” What are your thoughts on that?

AVIANCE: Oh, my god, it was genius. These people, those naysayers and people that weren’t living for it… You’d hear the reviews and everything, especially the less-melanated children, they automatically go, “Oh, what is this?” Because it’s not, “To the left, to the left…,” not any of that music going on. And they have a problem with it. “What’s going on here? Why is she cursing? What’s wrong here? Rrrrarrrgghh!”

And I say to those people, it ain’t for you, sis. There’s nothing I can say to you. If you have a problem with this album, it’s because you have no idea or even an inkling of what she did, or what she’s trying to talk about, or who she’s trying to lift, uphold, and caress and embrace. It ain’t for you, sis. Learn it. Really learn that, because you’re not part of the club. And since you’re not part of the club, and you’re not willing to listen.

Music is the most universal language of the world. And if it can’t move you, stir you, get your emotions up, get you feeling a certain way, then, honey, it ain’t for you and that’s fine. But you are not going to choke down… There’s the Grammys. How dare you? Grammys, how dare you? How darrrre you? Just because he’s a male, you’re not going to do that again to her. That’s where she was smart, bro. She won Dance Album of the Year. She was smart. She can’t be bothered. She’s a different woman now. She’s a different girl.

When I met her, she was… I knew that woman. I knew this woman, this new woman. I knew that woman, she was just beautiful, first of all. And she had this knowing attitude that was so beautiful. And I knew her, because you know why? She reminds me of my mother when I was a kid. She reminded me of my mother. And every Black boy knows this woman that has kids. You know her. Because she’s a mother now. And she’s not this little girl anymore, she’s this — I don’t know, I just think that she was so beautiful. And this thing was around her. I just know this woman. She reminds me of my mom when I was a kid.

MW: This was before Renaissance?

AVIANCE: During Renaissance. During the party, yeah. I met her at the party. So it was just, wow, wow, wow. Love her.

MW: Yeah, she’s a walking wow moment.


MW: There’s a lot of ballroom culture on that album, and as you are somebody who I think bridges ballroom and drag queendom — which overlap, but are not the same thing — what do you think about this debate that has come up, especially around Drag Race recently, about “Noguing,” with some ballroom people, like [ballroom icon] Leiomy, for example, coming for queens who — well, it’s the idea of policing or preserving the culture, and having this criticism about how and when and who can present it.


MW: Can’t we all vogue, even if we’re not ballroom? [Silence from Kevin.] Ooh, that’s a long pause.

AVIANCE: I love Leiomy, first of all. I think that just like anything you do… I’m not one to get on the floor, okay? So that’s my whole thing. I’m not one to get on the floor. I’m from old-school vogue, the old-school storytelling. I appreciate it. I love it. And I understand why drag queens do what they do. You know what I mean? God knows, because I’m one. I do think that, instead of being a sheep, sometimes you have to be the grass. You know what I mean? And to be a shepherd is to be an amazing person. That’s an amazing thing to be a shepherd. To be a sheep is very eh. You know what I mean?

It can come out disrespectful sometimes, that you don’t care enough to learn your art better. People that learn vogue — learning vogue, doing vogue is like taking ballet class. These kids are in the mirrors, they’re constantly tuning their bodies. They’re constantly contorting and doing their things. So if you’re going to do something, be the best at it. That’s what I say.

And it is our gay dance. I think gay people have a right to voguing, in that sense, because it is our gay dance. What I do not appreciate, it doesn’t have to be the same thing every time everybody comes out. Because that makes it cookie-cutter and that makes it more of a fad and that makes it more of a trend. And voguing ballroom is not a trend. It’s a way of life.

And they have to really respect that. I appreciate the ballroom protecting themselves, because God knows they will take it and just throw it out there again, unlike what other people have done. So I appreciate the ballroom, how they take care of themselves and how they take care of the art of it. And put it out there that, “No, this ain’t for you either, girl.” So I think it’s fantastic.

It’s not for everybody. Sorry. Drag queens, we’re lucky that we can use our art and we can perform in drag, and do all this stuff performing. But I think that they should learn the difference between a dip and a death drop. There’s a difference. They need to learn what they’re talking about, first of all. They need to learn about what came before them just dropping their bodies on the ground. And there’s repercussions to all that stuff too — I hope you take care, I hope you have life insurance. I can tell you now that I’ve worn heels for 20, maybe 25 years and I’ve had my hips replaced from heels. So throw your body on the ground, honey, girls. Because you can see it’s done improperly when they do it on [Drag Race]. People that vogue it and do it in the real world, they throw their bodies on the ground, but it’s the way you do it [miming a smooth dip]. Where Drag Race girls are like, Bam! Girl, what are you…?

MW: It’s a different interpretation, I guess.

AVIANCE: It’s like, ugh, agh. How do they keep the wig on? I don’t understand.

MW: Maybe you don’t understand because you don’t wear a wig. You must have had a lot of people waste their time trying to tell you what your look should be, and where the hair should go. How have you always responded to that?

AVIANCE: Well, I used to wear lots of hair back in the day when I was a little chicken in D.C., I used to wear so much hair, it’s ridiculous. I used to work at a hair salon, so I love hair.

But what gave me my push in the stardom world, I guess, was when I was bald and I didn’t tuck anymore. And stopped wearing breasts. That was when it all came to life for me. I stopped hiding behind those things, and just came forth.

I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why. I think because my mom was very strong, and she’s my template. She was this beautiful, not masculine, but she wasn’t a small woman, but she wasn’t a big woman either. She just had this way about her that was so… A feminine manner, that was not feminine, but it was regal. And she had style, so much style. And she could put things together so well. So I grew up with that. So with that and then people telling me — my friend Cesar Galindo telling me — to take the wig off and everything. I took the wig off, and stopped tucking and tits and all that stuff. And I appreciate the girls that do all that stuff too. I was never fishy looking. I was never cunt. I never looked like a woman. I always looked like some dude in a wig. So I had to find my way, and that’s what hooked.

I tried everything, honey. I tried everything. So it was just one of those things that being bald and no lashes and just good clothing and naked half the time, and the highest heels I could find. With a purse.

MW: You’d have to be wearing the energy too.

AVIANCE: Well that comes out even more, that energy, all that stuff comes out. The less you wear, the more whatever comes out that’s inside of you. You know what I mean?

MW: On the flip side of being able to let all that out, obviously at the moment there are a lot of people who are trying to criminalize queens and drag in general. Talking about people policing a culture, these are people policing a culture that they know nothing about. You have encountered hatred, in a horrible fashion. And I’m curious, what have your experiences taught you about what it takes to be resilient in the face of all of that hate, and to keep resisting?

AVIANCE: Okay. So I have been in D.C. with a thong on, an earring, a big purse, and heels. That’s it. Okay. Broad daylight, walking up and down the streets and coming from party to club, da, da, da. Not one problem ever. Okay? Never a problem. New York, same way, never a problem. This time around that I go out, I’m in a Helmut Lang little short suit, flat boots, and bag. And it was one of my own that beat me, these four Black kids. They were showing off for some girl. A white girl they’d been tagging. And it was hard to deal with that. And it made me a little skittish and stuff like that. Me being who I am and being free, I never had problems with that ever. I don’t know. Someone touching me and beating me up and all this stuff, it’s almost… I still can’t believe that it happened to me, and that I lived.

There are people that have been attacked after me, they all died. So I lived. And I have big scars. I had the mental stuff happen to me. I had my legs fucked up. In my jaw, four places were split, hairline fractures in my jaw. And it’s crazy. You know, you go to Japanese houses, you’ll see these little tea cups all with gold in them, because they’ve been put back together, you know what I mean? They don’t throw them out. Being in Japan, I’ve seen this a lot. People have these tea cups, they get gold and put them back together again. That’s what I did. And I had to stop to accept the negative of it, the positive of it. And every time I talk about it, it brings me right back to that moment and I feel very…

Listen, moving forward in this world today, girls, I understand we have to protect ourselves, that we have to stand up for ourselves and everything like that. Some of these people don’t want to see us, and they want us dead.

So my advice to anyone in those places, make sure you tell people where you are. Make sure you can navigate your eyeballs to where things are. And people’s hatred is real. Excuse me, I’m getting emotional, sorry. People’s hatred is a real thing. And I don’t want anyone to get hurt and everything. I understand standing up for yourself and everything.

Trust me, I’m still protesting and all that stuff. And make sure security’s there, if it can be, if you’re in a venue or place that needs it. Just watch out for yourself. These people don’t care. It’s nothing, for them, to take a life. It’s sad. It’s really kind of sad. We don’t deserve that. We don’t deserve to be… That we can’t dress up, or we’re being criminalized just for being dressed up. And the real issue is just guns. You know what I mean?

MW: Exactly.

AVIANCE: They look like idiots. They look like total idiots. And I think the fact of the matter, that Joe Biden and Kamala, of all people, they need to say something more. They need to do something. These straight people that are going to see these people performing and stuff like that. People need to stand up and say something. This is ridiculous. No one’s saying anything, especially our, what do they call them, our “allies.” Girl, y’all need to come together, get this stuff together and talk to these people. Talk to your husbands, ladies that wanna come down to the brunches and see these girls perform for your little [bachelorette parties], they need to speak up!

MW: I’m seeing only drag artists get together and really talk about this. I know that next week there’s a telethon event happening for Tennessee. And I see drag performers and queer artists. We need more other people to be talking about it. Because they’re next.

AVIANCE: Yes. It’s real. It’s really real. Where are we going to be when they start coming for us, really coming for us? I mean, New York is a different place. People are not having it here in New York. We’re not having it. They don’t even try. New York is very like, “Okay, if you have enough balls.” But that’s not the rest of the country. So I don’t know. Pack your bags, girl, come to New York!

Project GLOW is April 29 and 30 at the RFK Festival Grounds, 2400 East Capitol St. SE. Tickets are $120 and up. For lineup and festival info, visit

For tickets, visit A portion of ticket proceeds will go to Sasha Bruce Youthwork to help educate and fight homelessness in the DMV area.

For more about Kevin Aviance, visit

Follow Kevin Aviance on Instagram at @kevinavianceofficial.

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