This oh-so-pretty club kid and high-fashion event host had a truly original upbringing that has undoubtedly informed his artistry and aesthetic. And much like his friend Amanda Lepore, when you see him working the room you know that you’re in a place of singular coolness and epic kikidom. And now he has some new events coming your way, including a Monday weekly that will change your life. It’s Justin Angel!
[Editor’s note: this performer now goes by “Jessa Angel.” 2.4.2019]
Thotyssey: Welcome, Justin! It’s Halloween weekend and you have lots lined up… how long have you been planning your lewks for all this?
Justin Angel: Hey! Yeah, Halloween week is like a marathon for us nightlife queers. To be completely honest, I’m preparing the day of, or a day before, an event. I wish I had more time, but unfortunately you can’t have everything in life!
It’s true, there is only so much time in the day to devote to fabulousity.
So for those unfamiliar with you and your work, what are generally considered your responsibilities for an event that you’re hired for?
Being hired for an event is a privilege, and I treat it as such. Producing or even just hosting a party, an event, or an entire venue takes a lot of mental work. I think the number one responsibility I have is to make sure everybody else is having fun – you come last. That is, after all, being a gracious host!
Are you naturally a very social person, or is there like a mental switch you have to turn on for work nights?
A little bit of both. When I was younger, I always wanted to be in the background. I think I kind of threw myself in the middle on purpose. Now I can’t go one minute without needing interaction with another person. Being social in this city is KEY. If anybody says otherwise, then tell them to move to LA.
So, where are you from originally?
Born and raised mostly in South Florida (Miami, West Palm Beach). I attended my last years of high school in North Carolina, though. My mother got a stable job there; needless to say, I had to move.
Did growing up Floridian have any specific sort of impact on you?
I don’t know if it had to do specifically with Florida, not to say it didn’t have some sort of impact. I think the most impactful thing for me was my parents and surroundings.
To make a long story short, my parents were international drug dealers, my mother used to be a stripper, and they both were involved in the nightlife culture in Miami. I grew up around a very liberal and culturally diverse community. So from a very young age I have always been fascinated with culture and subcultures in general. I am proud to have “queer” parents (even if they didn’t have the language to express what they were doing back then).
That’s a pretty fascinating origin story! I’m surprised with a pedigree like that you didn’t rebel and become, like, a tax attorney or something. I guess it was just in the blood!
I guess so, haha!
So did you come to NYC specifically to explore that world?
I actually moved here for a job. During high school I worked for this luxury vintage store, the owner of which was from NYC. She also used to be the East Coast director for Louis Vuitton. I graduated high school, and shortly after she told me to pack my bags and move to NYC. She had a job waiting for me when I arrived. So I sold Ready to Wear runway collections for Louis Vuitton for awhile. I still want to be involved in the world of fashion, and I consider nightlife to be a facet of that.
What were your first nightlife “scenes” here, as far as where you were hanging out?
When I first arrived, I of course was in the exploration phase. You don’t realize how many different subsets there are even in a small community like nightlife. My first scene was hanging downtown specifically. Always in all black, inherently queer, but not really. Places like Sway and Bedlam.
You have such androgynous beauty.
Did you always play on that with your nightlife looks?
As a kid and especially a teenager, I didn’t know what “androgynous” meant. It was difficult when it came to how I felt, and how I identified myself. Once I moved to NYC, I realized it was something to cherish. I think being androgynous lends itself to elevated, gender neutral looks that read as higher fashion.
Are you a performer? Like, do you turn numbers at these parties at all, or elsewhere?
I think there is an aspect of performance regardless if you are lip-syncing to a song or not. For the most part though, I leave the performances to others.
You were hosting Kayvon Zand’s Saturday night party at Webster Hall frequently before that venue closed, and now you’re often working Deryck Todd’s Strut at ACME. How does somebody like you get “discovered” and start landing these cool parties?
Being discovered is a route, but I think paving your own way is better. I feel like saying “discovered” means they saw you and created you a bit.
That’s a good point. Well, I will chalk it up to just your fierceness, then!
Haha, sounds good to me!
Let’s talk about some of your events – starting with the party you host every Friday night at the Museum of Sex, which I imagine to be glamorous and a little risque. How long have you been doing that now, and how have you seen the night evolve?
Yeah, Friday nights are now very special to me. I have been producing my event at the Museum of Sex for four months or so now. The vibe, energy, and venue are all something to revere. Think chic, sexy, high energy, and queer-centric. A party should always stay constant, and that’s what I try to do on Fridays.
Have there been any highlights for you there?
A definite highlight for me would be when Amanda Lepore, one of my hosts on Friday, took a stroll in the retail shop. She proceeded to take pictures with everybody, and then just starting pointing at everything she wanted. Which of course the museum wrapped up swiftly and gave it to her for free. That was a stunt, which she definitely pulled.
If anyone can pull an artful stunt, it’s Amanda!
Yes! I will be at CREAM on Sunday. I think it will be this interesting mix of crowds that all come together. It is a disco party, and I do think [the mix is the] best element of disco. I want Sunday to be almost too glamorous in a way, which should be interesting at Berlin.
What do you have planned for this? I bet this is a gorgeous space.
That is definitely accurate. When I tell I am so excited for Monday I would be lying, because it would be an understatement! We thought of what was missing in Manhattan, and are going to try and fill that void. Think of it this way: take the music from a warehouse out in Brooklyn, mix in Berlin art thots, and add a dash of fashion people. All set in a luxurious lounge in the Lower East Side. Basically, I want this place to burn down from the music going too hard. Get ready for this new Monday carry, because it’s going to be one for the books!
Well that sounds pretty damn epic. I don’t usually go out Mondays, but I might have to make an exception here.
Yeah, I definitely implore you to come out!
So lastly, with your fascinating life, what will the title of your autobiography be?
Ugh, that’s such a hard question! I think it would be called To Be Continued.
I’d read that! Thanks, Justin!
Justin Angel hosts Museum of Sex Fridays every week (8pm), and will begin hosting the weekly party JIA at the Rivington Hotel’s Jia lounge on Monday, October 30th (10pm). Check Thotyssey’s calendar for his scheduled gigs, and follow Justin on Facebook and Instagram.