Their cosmic, witchy presence is most welcome in the Brooklyn nightlife scene, where they turn ferocious looks and numbers at the parties, create gorgeous intergalactic fashions for us all to be fierce in, and take stunning photos of us doing it. It’s Brooklyn Nightlife Awards 2017 Best Photographer nominee B. Hollywood!
Thotyssey: Hi B., thanks for talking to us! So, I understand you’re in Cali right now. Whatcha doing?
B. Hollywood: Hey hey! It’s been a long time coming, I love your interviews!
I’m in Cali for work. I work for a tech company, traveling around the world to different events, setting up and managing hashtag printing and hashtag-generated mosaics!
That sounds like one of those fun New Media jobs that Teh Oldz like me don’t understand.
[Laughs] it’s pretty simple for the client and guest to understand at the activations, but for the operator (me) involved it’s a lot of tech work and traveling!
You’re actually a Jack/Jill of all trades, well-known in NYC nightlife as a performer, designer, party host and photographer. Let’s talk about all of that, but as always let’s first start a the beginning: where’s your hometown?
I’m from good ole Tampa Florida, but more specifically Ybor City! Think, “the Bourbon Street of Florida.“
Was that wild and exotic, like I’m imagining it to be?
If by “wild” you mean all the venues are 18+, and by “exotic” you mean flip flops up in the club, then yes!
Werq! What were you into growing up, as far as interests and artistic pursuits?
Well, I’ve always been a painter. I knew from an early age that I would one day move to New York and do art for a living. Before I moved to New York, I was having monthly art shows at cafes and bars in and around Tampa; my work mostly consisted of acrylic paint and found objects, anything from 2D to 3D and sculpture.
Right before I moved to New York, I showed a collection of clothes I had designed, and paid a fashion house to sew for me. I showed the collection at Tampa Bay Fashion Week.
That’s amazing! What was that collection like?
Futuristic retro. I picked all the materials, and sketched everything to detail. It was a hit! And from how much people loved it, I figured it was time to take my life to the next level. If I could take what I built for myself out of nothing in Tampa, and do the same thing in New York, I would know that I’ve made it.
Pretty incredible! I see this line doesn’t necessarily adhere to a gender… is that generally how you design your own collections?
Yeah. I mean, I don’t think that I adhere to a gender, so why should the clothes I’m bringing into life? I’d rather be an alien than a boy or girl anyday–and wear alien clothes, for that matter!
No, on a serious note: I’m non-binary, and I think that relates and translates through all aspects of what I do.
So, how exactly did you discover New York City queer nightlife, originally?
The internet, duh! When I first started getting into nightlife, I was a 18. From the jump, I was inspired by the movie Party Monster and thought that New York was the place to be. So I befriended half the queens on anything from MySpace to Facebook, knowing that one day I could be that fabulous, and hopefully a part of that scene.
The moment I knew I should be in New York was when a friend of mine was going to visit from Florida, and I made a list of parties for him to go to, even though I hadn’t been to any of them!
Sounds like me! Who was it that you ultimately met in person after connecting first on social media?
I think the first person I met IRL was Trey La Trash.
That’s a great start!
When you finally found yourself in New York, did it live up to your expectations?
To be honest, yes and no. I expected every party to be as extravagant as Holy Mountain or On Top. And then I went to Metro and TNT, and fell in love with Brooklyn. It wasn’t necessarily what I expected–just different.
When did you start actually drag performing?
Well, I had been a look queen since, like, 2012, when I first started. I didn’t start performing until one night in October 2015. I was at my bi-weekly gig Loaded Saturdays at TNT; Raga had called out, and we didn’t have any other performer but Elizabeth James. So I figured, why not just go for it? I didn’t want to leave my sister hanging! The rest is history.
What was your first number?
Oh gosh! I think it was “Yankin’” by Lady, I was in green witch face drags and twerking my ass as hard as I could! I think it went over well because I looked like a witch, and was acting a damn fool.
Speaking of Elizabeth James, I remember last summer you co-hosted a party with her and Chris of Hur somewhere…
MAHALO PUTA! Yes!
Was that one fun to be a part of?
Such a strange venue to perform at, but working any party at any venue with Elizabeth James is a good time! I love her to bits! Through Elizabeth James, I had Loaded Saturdays, which lead me to meet my sisters. So I’m very grateful for her presence in BK nightlife.
It must’ve been a crushing blow to you, as it was to many, when TNT closed.
Oh it was devastating, I went from having work one week, to not having work the next. To be honest, it’s been a struggle ever since. A lot of places can’t afford to pay their queens, so trying to find a venue that can promise a solid budget has been a challenge. But after the busy season with my day job is over, I’ll be pursuing a night of my own somewhere in Bushwick.
It’s true that it’s a constant struggle to keep nightlife going, thanks to these damn commercial rents here, and the changing trends of people staying home and/or hooking up on apps, right?
That, and the influx of baby queens performing for buffalo nickels. Queens want a place to let loose and give a performance. The rush is addicting. It allows room for people to be taken advantage of (having people throw parties for free, not paying hosts and performers, etc.). [Then on top of that] people just stay in to watch Drag Race on VH1, or watch drag shows from people’s Snapchat stories–what’s the point?
Also, when a [venue] can’t even afford to pay for my cars back and forth–I know that it’s not really worth it, unless there are other factors involved like press or exposure.
The notion of venues knowing they need to spend money in order to make money seems to be dwindling… but I guess that’s because they can barely keep their heads over water these days.
Yeah, it’s rough in nightlife these days. If you’ve got a gig that pays well, hold on to it.
We met through Scruff/Tinder. But before that, we met briefly in person at the drag march the same month I moved to New York. I think if we started dating right when I moved to New York, it wouldn’t have been good. I was so brand new to the city, and figuring out what was good and what was bad for me. I was also heavily depressed for the first six months of living here; I was a mess. I also had to hustle so hard for the first year–I don’t know how I would have found time for a partner! I’m happy we started dating when we did.
Timing is everything! You and Azraea seem so symbiotic whenever I see pics of you two together… was that immediately the case, or did that just naturally evolve over time?
It was love at first sight! Nothing has come more natural to me than loving Dakota.
A physical condition forced Azraea to scale back out of nightlife somewhat, but I see that they did get to join in on the roast of Thorgy recently! Were you there?
I was! In full geish! I was so proud of them – also surprised that more people didn’t come out to support. Also, aside from a few of the roasters and Thorgy herself, that roast was a mess!
I heard, but in a good way! And supposedly there’s a video on the way, which I look forward to seeing.
So, how long have you been an official nightlife photographer?
I’ve been taking photos in nightlife since 2011. It started at a club in Ybor called Czar–it was the sickest party I’ve ever been to, to this day. By the time I left for New York, I was photographing at this party called Filthy Richard. 2,000+ people every Friday night, with a minimum of 300 photos. The parties up here are a cake walk to photograph, to say the least.
Since moving here, I’ve decided to coin myself as Brooklyn’s dragtographer, because when you book me to photograph at your party, you’re not only getting a photographer, but a drag queen as well. Double creature feature, henny!
It must suck, though, when you look particularly sickening that night, and the only one there taking pics is you!
Well my selfie game with my DSLR is **ON POINT**. Kiki! You like what I did there!
That’s the brilliant marketer coming through!
Thank you! Fingers crossed I get it!
Is this your first nom?
It is not! I was nominated for scene kid last year!
So, this is very different territory.
Will you actually be taking pics at the Awards?
I wasn’t asked, so probably not! I’m gonna feel my glamour oats that night and present an award. But I may bring a Polaroid!
By the way, do you have a single favorite nightlife pic you’ve taken?
Let’s go with this photo of Hystée Lauder. It’s one of my faves because of the emotion in the photograph. And Hystée is definitely one of my favorite performance artists.
Yes, she’s amazing! And it’s a gorgeous photo:
**teary eyed** We had to gracefully bow out. It was one of those situations where we were cutting into our own pockets to make the party work. And it originally it was the baby of John Lowther, so after John moved back to Buffalo it wasn’t really the same.
Oh no, our Easternbloc Bar Babe? I didn’t know he left!
Bumz. Well, I’m sure there are bigger, better and emo-er parties on the horizon! For now, you’ll be the photog for this Thursday’s installment of Ragamuffin’s “Failure” queer workshop/showcase at Bizarre. Can you describe that night for those not in the know?
It’s a fabulous night of drink and queer performance; everything from good ole drag, to heartfelt spoken word, to interpretive dance. It’s a space for performers to try something new, that they wouldn’t normally have a platform for. It’s dope! And not to mention, the theme changes every month! How cool!
I agree on all counts! Okay, final question: if you had a superpower, what would it be?
Oh Jeez! Probably the ability to teleport. Or if I could really fly on a broom, I would.
Queen, who needs a broom, you’re already flying high! Thanks, B.!