A Brooklyn-based performer and producer of popular events such as Str8 to DVD and Gender Experts Party, Heaven Ender has a cosmic weekend in store for us. [Cover photo: AJ Jordan]
Thotyssey: Hi Heaven, great to chat today! You participated in the Gender Experts Party open mic event at Metropolitan on Tuesday… how did it go?
Heaven Ender: Gender Experts last night was the amazing controlled chaos that I live for; we had almost 30 people sign up to perform! I was just doing my usual hosting duties on the mic, and enjoying watching everyone else’s wonderful performances!
I think people not in the know have a certain expectation about what a “trans and non-binary open mic night” might look or sound like: somber, political, etc. And there are those moments and beats. But mostly from what I’ve seen, Gender Experts really is a party –there’s a lot of fun being had by everyone on stage and in the audience!
Absolutely! We try our best to keep things fun and welcoming for everyone in the bar. We want it to feel like a true celebration of the trans and non-binary talent we have in Brooklyn. The best part is that people feel comfortable doing so many things on our stage — every show is such a diverse mix of performances and moods. Rion, Plush, Aster, Octavia and I all do a part to foster a space where people can express themselves to an audience of other trans and non-binary people (and whoever else wanders into Metro on a Tuesday). The group of us are all also very silly people, so I think that rubs off on the audience.
Sounds like it’s just what we all need! Well, you are busy with a lot of different shows and projects besides Gender Experts, and we’ll get to them, but first: let’s go back to the beginning for a moment! Where’s your original hometown, and what sort of arts or other fabulous things were you pursuing while growing up?
I grew up in Connecticut, on the border of Fairfield and Bridgeport. My family was a very creative bunch — one of my grandfathers taught me to watercolor paint when I was six, and my other grandfather had owned a framing shop. My mom was a knitting expert, and my dad was the person who could fix just about anything. They all fostered any creative pursuit I was interested in, so growing up I dabbled in painting, drawing, and photography, and joined in the theatre tech stuff that my sister and father were into. I spent a lot of time making art with my friends in some way; we’d do photoshoots in the woods, or make silly horror movies just for fun. All through high school I worked on stage crew for all the theatre productions, and even stage managed a production of Urinetown: The Musical my senior year.
And how did you become a Brooklynite, and Heaven Ender?
Growing up, I used to sneak into the city on the Metro North train and go to warehouse parties — so that’s how I got my first taste of Brooklyn . I ended up moving here about 11 years ago to go to school at Parsons, and haven’t left… except for a brief time when I lived in Paris. And Paris is where I was given my name by my fairy drag mother Lili Godiva, who misheard my legal name as “Heaven” when we first met in a crowded basement in Pigalle. Heaven Ender is only a few letters away from my full government name, but that will stay a secret! I first took the stage in drag as a “Mx. Str8 to DVD,” but I had been DJing house parties since about 2014 as Heaven.
These days you do a bunch of stuff: you DJ, you produce events and you perform! How would you describe what you actually do onstage as a performer? Is it considered drag?
I describe it as serving a non-binary fantasy! I do consider it drag, but in the way that wearing a tuxedo is also drag for me: when I’m on stage, it’s an amplification of myself. For me as a non-binary person, I am always exploring different aspects of my gender — and drag is a great way of doing that.
I know you did something for the recent Mx. Nobody pageant — congratulations Cuntyham! — but it wasn’t competing, right? Were you judging?
Long live the Cuntyverse! I actually wasn’t a judge, but I was a stage kitten for a couple of the weeks… and just behind the scenes, helping out as needed! I’m not sure if I would have been able to judge effectively, because all the performers were so good. but I did really enjoy helping them all with props, and collecting their tips from the floor.
[Photos: Aaron Whitman]
As far as producing goes, in addition to Gender Experts you are also a newer edition to the Str8 to DVD family alongside Sherry Poppins, Qhrist Almighty and Sam “DJ Ten Yards” Branman! That’s a showcase that presents a more cutting edge style of drag and often with very new-to-the-scene guest performers, monthly at its current home base C’mon Everybody! How did you come to Str8?
I met my Str8 to DVD family through mutual friends online, and I started attending when [the show was originally called] “1-900 Hot Glue.” About two years ago, I officially joined as a permanent member after working door here and there. I love Qhrist, Sherry and Sam so much; it’s always a fun time doing our show together. C’mon Everybody has also been really great as our new home, all of the staff are so kind and helpful. I’m looking forward to our anniversary show coming up soon! Str8 to DVD always leaves me feeling inspired by all the amazing performers that come through, so I’m looking forward to many more years together !
You’ve got some interesting events this weekend, starting with Friday’s “Post Drag” at Post Bar that joins you with Qhrist and guest Lindsay Blowhan! This is a new recurring show for you, what can you tell us about it?
Post Bar is a cute bar in BedStuy that I’ve been visiting for years, and recently my friend John (one of the bartenders) invited me and Qhrist to host an intimate drag show. There’s no formal stage, so we take over the center of the room for drag in the round living room vibe shows. I’m so excited to have Lindsay with us this month! She’s always serving incredible looks and great shows, and she’s Sherry’s daughter… so this month will be a family moment! I’ll be DJing, and Qhrist will be holding court. And something I always have to mention about Post Bar is that there is a painting of me hanging on the wall that John painted.
Then, Sunday brings a special show and fundraiser party to a Brooklyn DIY space called Wet Spot: what can be said about “Sissy Strut?”
Sissy Strut is a disco tea dance fundraiser for National Network for Abortion Funds! I’ll be giving disco shows alongside my Gender Experts cohorts Rion Moon and Plush as well as Mx. LeStrange, and Asa Metric will be on the decks. We’ve been chatting about what numbers we are all planning, and I can tell already it will be lots of fun. I’m always down to boogie for a good cause, so I hope we raise lots of money to provide abortion access!
What else might be coming up for you?
Gender Experts is happening again this coming Tuesday. I’ll be Djing a fun punk show at TV Eye in September, and I have a few more gigs in the works coming soon at Purgatory. I am also always working to provide free harm reduction supplies and resources to anyone in the nightlife community who needs it.
Excellent! Lastly: what is a very odd, random and / or surprising trivia fact about Heaven Ender?
I performed a piece with Yoko Ono once called “8 Seconds of Eye Contact on Fifth Avenue” in 2013.
GAG! Well that can be a whole other interview for next time, lol! Thanks, Heaven!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Heaven Ender’s upcoming appearances, and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.