This year’s Brooklyn Nightlife Award winner for Best Scene Kid is a rising star in this town, giving us fierce looks and numbers while teaching a little social justice to the children in the process. It’s the BK-born Zenobia!
Thotyssey: Zenobia, hello and congrats on your BNA win for Scene Kid! Is this your first nightlife award?
Zenobia: Hey babes! Thank you so so much. It’s my first year attending and receiving a BNA, yeah.
Well done! The crowd received you very warmly when you won… did you basically know everyone in the room?
Yeah, people were really sweet. I recognized so many faces that night. It could sound corny, but I was definitely taken aback by the response. I started working in Brooklyn nightlife about a year ago, and since then I have been crazy-lucky when it’s come to support and getting work.
What would you say is the ticket to being a Scene Kid that everybody likes and is successful?
That is a loaded question! All I can say is that I have just been hustling, trying to find ways to improve the content I’m putting out, and work as much as I can in the meantime.
In addition, I try to be as supportive as I’m able–especially when it comes to fellow brown and black / trans nightlife personalities. And if something feels unjust or shady, try as I might, I cant keep my mouth shut about it .
Good for you! I notice that there is a lot of diversity among BK nightlife talent, but the actual patrons of queer venues there still seem to be very predominantly cis white males, for what it’s worth. What are your observations as far as that goes?
While there is a lot of diversity as far as talent goes, there is still a struggle when it comes to actually hiring POC / trans talent. I don’t think it’s necessarily an issue of malice or overt racism / transphobia, but it’s definitely systemic and habitual. As a light-skinned, half-black femme, it’s a problem when an otherwise all-white show is considered diverse when I’m added to it. Just like it’s a problem when a party’s host, performer, and DJ are all white, but their event is centered around playing black music and calling it a safe space for POCs.
Patrons that are cis and male and white aren’t necessarily bad, especially when so many of them are financially privileged and help to keep bars in business and parties successful. However, with that privilege comes a sense of entitlement, and more importantly a responsibility. Patrons that fall under that category feel they have a right to touch my hair, my body, and assume my gender. It is their responsibility to not do any of the above without consent, and take extra care to be sensitive to the marginalized people in these “safe” spaces.
Well said. Nothing worse than a basic bitch who thinks he can touch you! Take note, everyone!
Where’s your hometown?
I was born in Brooklyn, and lived in Fort Greene when I was a kid, I mostly grew up upstate in the Hudson Valley, though.
Wow, you’re a BK native, that gives you cred! What arts were you into, growing up?
I was always into performance as a kid; dancing came really naturally to me. But I also loved drawing / painting / hairstyling / photography… honestly, anything creative.
When did you become Zenobia?
I decided on [the name] “Zenobia” like a year ago. I know some people have a big divide between their stage persona and who they are in “real life,”but that’s honestly never been my experience. Like, the stage brings different things out in me, for sure. But it’s all me.
What sort of numbers do you like to you perform?
Well, I only perform songs by women / femmes of color. I decided pretty quickly into performing that it was important that I showcase the beauty and strength that comes from these artists. I draw so much inspiration from the greats (i.e. Beyoncé, Rihanna, Azealia Banks, Ciara, Eve) I’ve grown up with so many of them, and am so honored to be able to perform to their music while channeling them.
Beautiful! How about your looks? Are you designing / tailoring them, or do you just have a keen eye on the racks for what works?
It’s a combination! I always stay thrifty, and am totally capable of doing a little altering the form of some hand-stitched tailoring, or adding some stones.
Recently though, I’ve been working with my friend / designer Casey Caldwell on some custom pieces. It’s always a collaborative design process from start to end–which is so fun, and makes it so I never truly know how a piece will turn out.
What have been some of your favorite performing experiences so far?
Honestly, I love performing anywhere that the crowd is into shows. When the crowd is hype and vocal and tipping, I’m on Cloud Nine. Also, anywhere that has decent lighting! In my experience that’s often the vibe of Brooklyn shows, which is one of the many reasons I love working here.
Random question: who is your favorite cartoon character of all time, and why?
It’s definitely a three-way tie between Kim Possible, Catwoman, and HIM from the Powerpuff Girls. Kim Possible is literally a teen femme who is single and literally saves the world; Catwoman is selfish, self-indulgent, and super self-empowered (also a classic); HIM was probably the first openly-queer character that I was exposed to as a kid.
Nice picks! Finally, what is the best thing about drag for you… and what is the worst?
The best thing is getting to use and hone all of these skills I’ve acquired (or always possessed) for the purpose of connection, entertainment, and expression.
The worst is trying to find a shoe that fits, is supportive and somewhat comfortable, and isn’t totally ugly!
You need gorgeous shows for a gorgeous Scene Kid! Thanks, Zenobia!