Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2016-09-23

REALITY Storytellers: Lili, My New Inspiration for Joy-Filled Femmeceeing

Welcome to a blog series about my experience with REALITY Storytellers traveling to Israel. For more about the trip and why I chose to go check out this post. I look forward to sharing with you what I learned and the personal, political and creative growth I experienced.

I am Femmecee identified. This term, coined by Rachael in Atlanta, is for me a way in which I use my gender as a mechanism for hosting. This often means on a mic, doing what a traditional emcee does, but sometimes it is just hostessing at a party, holding court and/or introducing people and keeping an eye on folks who aren’t participating and finding subtle ways to include them.

bevinfemmeceeingbyjenacumboMe Femmeceeing the first Dollypalooza. Los Angeles come out October 29th for Dollyween: An Epic Fan Tribute to Dolly Parton! Photo by Jena Cumbo for the Village Voice (check out more pics here!).

Gender doesn’t need to play a role in the way we host things, but for me it does. This feminine flamboyance is easiest to spot in my appearance, but there’s a steady streak of matriarchal and maternal energy that flows in me that I think comes out a lot when I am hosting. 

At our first meal in Israel, I encountered a woman who is now among my role models for effervescent, enthusiastic and graceful hostessing.

We had just finished shepherding and doing a group go around, we then piled back on the bus to drive about a half hour to Tel Aviv. We got to the restaurant a little after 10PM and I was already fantasizing about getting into bed. I had no idea what time my body knew it to be and only had middle seat airplane sleep in the previous 2 days. I felt like a washed out version of myself but was trying to rally for dinner.

We walked about five minutes through tiny streets and made it to Racha, a family-owned Georgian style restaurant. I was immediately dying over the plates and decor. The aesthetic of mismatched but it really all deeply coordinates on a stylistic level is my favorite, so are tiny roses on porcelain plates and ornate light colored frames of family photos and mismatched chairs. I had to strategically choose seating, long tables close together are difficult to navigate as a fat or tall person, especially when there’s a crowd. I ended up with a seat at the end of one of the long tables.

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The food and wine started coming out. I don’t drink but I do enjoy a sip (literally a sip) of wine now and then. It’s hard to communicate even without a language barrier that you only want a splash of wine in your glass, especially when the inclination of the servers is to keep the glass full. This was also the first of many Israeli restaurants that would not have unsweetened iced tea.

After the first course this beautiful woman walked into the room. I say beautiful to describe her essence not conventional good looks, though she is a total babe. I believe an expansive definition of beauty liberates us from what the media tells us is beautiful. Lili, our host for the evening, was robust in her generosity of spirit and it glowed from within her.

liliandoakA lot of Lili’s hostessing enthusiasm involved clapping. Photo by Fabien Levy.

I noticed her long before she took center stage between our tables, partially because I was right next to where she kept her glass of White Zin (the drink of choice for my family’s matriarchs) and the ipod from which Georgian music was flowing. I watched her curating the whole experience, checking the playlists, checking in with servers and managing the feast. I recognized her work because that is work I do.

She stood between the tables and introduced herself. I love a meal with a story and history (as my friend Erin O’Brien says about her performance art sausage company, taking storytelling to the plate). We heard about their family from the Racha region of Georgia and the history of the restaurant. They had recently moved the restaurant from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv for reasons I couldn’t hear from my seat.

maggieandbillMaggie and Bill.

We had the next round of food and Lili came by my seat and sweetly scolded me for not having anything on my plate. Mind you, I had already eaten plenty of appetizers and had a couple of bites of meat but it was a new group to me and I tend to hold back among new people. Even something as simple as “pass the whatever” can be a social challenge for me in a new situation. But her urging was really helpful, and along with verbal urging she kind of just leaned over and put stuff on my plate.

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Nicholas and Rick Sorkin.

Now, it’s not the most body autonomous thing to insist on people eating, and I often encourage people to mind their own business about food. However, because of the roles women have been required to play in our societies for millennia, matriarchal expressions of love and connection often come through preparing food and feeding people. Herstorically, feasts are a creation of women.

I received her nudging to eat meat very appreciatively, in the celebratory inclusive way it was intended. I continued to wish I was dressed for celebration instead of still in my travel and now kind of sheep smelling clothes.

After the “meat course” Lili nominated a person to be the tamada, to lead a series of blessings over a horn of wine that they then drink in one gulp. She picked Oak and I would have, too. Oak is a hunk and I mean that in both the conventional Magic Mike sense and in the radiant, wonderful kind, deep, hilarious human sense that I would come to know.

Oak gave the most sincere and beautiful blessing (I wish I had it on video!) and we went around the room giving more blessings and then he drank it all. I was so glad to not have been chosen both because I don’t drink and because I don’t know how he didn’t get sick from drinking an entire horn of wine on a very full stomach.

Video by Fabien Levy.

Lili then began the dancing portion of the feast. Grabbing people from their chairs and inspiring them into a circle dance. I knew I could easily stay in the back and fade from the jumping and dancing I was too tired for, but I also was seized with inspiration from Lili’s joyful spirit and a dose of YOLO and dove in. I kind of didn’t care that I felt foolish and was just trying for the joy of it.

When we left the restaurant I took time to give Lili a sincere thank you and a thoughtful compliment about her hosting. Honestly, I will be sincerely working to replicate her level of thoughtful joy-filled hosting at all of my events for the rest of time. Among the many things I want to do in Israel when I return is hang with Lili and interview her about the mechanics of throwing a great party. And take a lot more photos in the restaurant of the homey decor, I loved it so much.

After a dreamy walk lit by yellow street lamps through tiny Tel Aviv streets to the waiting bus, we only had a few minutes until we arrived at our first hotel. I was delighted to note it was on the beach! I had no idea we were going to be beachside in Tel Aviv and it was so rad. Checking in 50 people is no joke but they had our room keys waiting for us in envelopes with our names on them and iced tea! I was so delighted I drank a whole glass without thinking to ask what kind it was (I was assuming a citrus mint). Turns out, it was green tea!!!! Green tea, for those who don’t know, has caffeine in it. And when you’re very sensitive to caffeine because you gave up coffee to address a chronic digestive disorder, and you drink green tea at 12:30AM, it doesn’t bode well for sleep.

greenteaMy Find Your Chill tea would have been the perfect iced tea to welcome folks to sleep. Chamomile, lavender, a little bit of cat nip (has a soothing effect on people) and citrus. Instead, I slept fitfully all night.

However, my roommate assignment boded well for a great experience! Megan is such a fun person and a heavy sleeper. That first night we were excited because we had already met, hung out (bonding over our middle seat angst for the flight over) and liked each other. I’m so grateful for the roommate experience of the trip because I think it enhanced everything for me to have someone to debrief with and to support and check up on each other. She was also vital to my success with some of the very confusing Israeli double shower head situations.

The Carlton in Tel Aviv is a beautiful hotel and we had a cute terrace with no time to linger on it because we were getting to bed at 1AM and having to be finished with breakfast and ready for our day at 8AM. I barely slept, thanks to the green tea and not thinking about taking a benadryl until it was way too late. By Day 3 of the trip, though, I was just popping benadryl whenever to preserve what sleep hours I could.

Next up on my trip diary, The Baller Breakfast Buffets of Israel.

14040164_10153587081925882_2258022564314620652_n-1Me and Megan above the valley where David met Goliath.

2015-05-24

Rebel Cupcake Dance Party and Cabaret Returns One Night Only June 19th

Hello beloved readers from all over and NYC friends! After a lengthy hiatus, Rebel Cupcake returns one night only for a special engagement at a huge venue with a lot of intention! This is a great event to come to town for in June! The night before the Mermaid Parade at Coney Island!

4777784616_d9d471f45b_zMe, Femmeceeing at Rebel Cupcake 3: Rebel Cupcakes at the Beach. Photo by Nogga Schwartz. You can tell it’s NYC summer in the photos for that show because everyone is glistening from the humidity!

Rebel Cupcake is not just a queer dance party, it is an intentionally body positive space where all bodies are good bodies and everyone’s flamboyance is encouraged and supported. It’s incredible dance jams with lots of room to move. It’s in an accessible space with gender neutral restrooms, a rarity in NYC nightlife venues. It has a 30 minute cabaret with three show stopping acts by diverse artists.

I Femmecee Rebel Cupcake and it is always my favorite thing to present the art I’ve curated with the crowd. When I started doing body positive nightlife I knew a show was important in setting a tone for the evening. It also really helps ease social anxiety and encourages people to mingle–I even give a moment for everyone who is looking to meet folks for make-outs or flirts to raise their hand. People have met their long term partners and besties at Rebel Cupcake! (And if you’re not looking to meet anyone and just dance, there’s space for that too of course!)

16774059314_72a62c4155_bMe and Fancy Feast, our long time resident Stage Kitten who got her start as a stage kitten for the Rebel Cupcake stage and is now a big-time burlesque artist in the NYC scene! Photo by Kelsey Dickey from the June 2012 Rebel Cupcake: Let’s Get Physical.

The theme this time around is Time of Our Lives, which is a riff on the newish dance jam by Pitbull and Ne-Yo about going out and partying even though shit in life is rough, and also a nod to Dirty Dancing because it’s a classic movie that was one of my favorites growing up. I always felt like Baby did going into that dirty dancing party back in the worker area of that resort when I started going out to bars and parties. Even now my social anxiety flares up in a new queer dance space. It’s always my hope to dispel that for folks as quickly as possible at my events!

For our June 19th show, I’ve engaged the services of the AMAZING DJ Precolumbian from Philadelphia. Here’s her bio, she’s extremely talented. Listen to her soundcloud!!

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Precolumbian is a Philadelphia-based genderqueer dj, musician, and media activist. Weaving together her Latina/Andina and Queer/Trans ancestries, her work operates as a medium for empowerment, decolonization, and community building. She has been transforming dance floors from Brooklyn to Mexico City, sharing the stage with Big Freedia, Kid Sister, Niña Dioz, A Tribe Called Red, Le1f, Cakes Da Killa and more. Precolumbian was honored with the 2013 Leeway Transformation Award for her innovative work in the club and she was a 2015 Official SXSW Showcasing Artist. Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/precolumbian, MTV Iggy: http://ow.ly/M6G71, Electric-LLama: http://ow.ly/M6GcN, The Media: http://ow.ly/MEXGi

Since this dance party is a celebration of life of sorts, I asked the artists to bring numbers along the theme of “What gives you life.” These are all folks who have done show stoppers before and I’m so excited to have them.

1492213_10201133982331866_567117264_oPhoto of Mizz June by Kelsey Dickey from Rebel Cupcake: BDSM Holiday Party.
Mizz June is one of my favorite people and her music and performance is so captivating. She’s the kind of person you see on stage and never forget.

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Merrie Cherry is on fire with charisma. She’s a drag queen based in the Bushwick drag scene. She commands a room (I’ve seen folks in bars stop their side conversations transfixed by Merrie Cherry onstage) and I know in the next couple of years she’ll be a household name. (Read this article about why she’s everything)

1266088_10200733798247514_697370623_oPhoto by Kelsey Dickey from Rebel Cupcake: The Craft. There’s been a lot of mash-ups of BDSM and witchy spirituality at Rebel Cupcake!
Miss Mary Wanna has the most unique shimmy of anyone I know in burlesque and she’s bringing ROLLER SKATING BURLESQUE to the Rebel Cupcake stage. It’s an honor to have the facilities to host that kind of epic act.

1272782_10200733802567622_84972401_oPhoto by Kelsey Dickey.

Special Guest Party Host and one of my favorite fat queers Devon Devine of the legendary Hard French party in San Francisco will be joining us!
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Party Host: DJ David John Sokolowski of Hot Fruit / Psychic Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter

When I first started flyering for Rebel Cupcake in 2010 folks asked if there would be cupcakes and I said “Of course!” Which meant before every party I was making several dozen mini cupcakes. Until I prayed to the Goddess for someone to relieve me of the job and she blessed me with Morgan. She has been the Cupcake Princess for Rebel Cupcake for a long time. She’s a gourmet chef and baker, though it is not her all the time gig. (I can imagine if she ever decided to open a bakery or cafe she would be wildly successful, but I kind of love that it’s special just for Rebel Cupcake and folks lucky enough to know her to eat her delicious one of a kind cupcakes.) We’ll have gluten-free/vegan and a boozy gluteny version, free!

131170_4067480605562_1576758754_oHaving Morgan talk about the cupcakes on stage at the Rebel Cupcake: Toddlers and Tiaras show. She’s sooo good with a theme! Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

One of my favorite memories of Rebel Cupcake are her International No Diet Day cupcakes in 2013–she riffed off of grapefruit, reclaiming it from previous bad diets!

135211_4067475925445_1999806388_oIn hindsight I should have been archiving the photos of Morgan’s cupcakes with the description of the ingredients! Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

Photos by Kelsey Dickey, our longtime Rebel Cupcake photographer.

1269191_10200733807367742_1043340212_oPhoto by Kelsey Dickey.

I was especially inspired to bring back Rebel Cupcake as a way to channel grief from losing two friends this March. Both were under 40 and one (Taueret) was a close friend of mine when I started Rebel Cupcake. She’s in so many of the photos from Rebel Cupcake when it was a monthly party, performed a couple of times and helped inspire several of the themes.

4777152381_bfe59cf329_zTaueret at the third Rebel Cupcake, adding some sizzle to Bambi Galore’s burlesque act. It was a really hot moment! Photo by Nogga Schwartz.

1417776_10201133974091660_1964427268_oTaueret at the most recent Rebel Cupcake (December 2013, BDSM Holiday Party Rebel Cupcake) with Fureigh, Vic and Dusty playing Leather Daddy Santa. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

4356548063_a3bfb905ec_zPhoto of DJ Sirlinda by DJ Lil Ray.

My friend DJ Sirlinda, who passed in 2012, was part of the very first few Rebel Cupcakes as the DJ. I wanted to honor folks who we danced with by an altar at the side of the stage. Please feel free to bring something (a photo, keepsake, token) that symbolizes a friend you’ve lose who you used to dance with to add to the altar.

Here are all the details. In case you hate waiting in line at party o’clock, advanced tickets get a priority entry line and are a bit cheaper than the door price!

Friday, June 19th, 2015 * Brooklyn, NY
Bevin Branlandingham Presents
Rebel Cupcake: Time of Our Lives
Littlefield, 622 Degraw St., between 3rd & 4th Aves, Gowanus, BK
Trains: 2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, or Q to the Atlantic Terminal, F or G to Carroll
$10 pre sale tickets–priority entry line / $13 at the door
11PM Doors and mingling / 12AM Show

Rebel Cupcake is a body positive queer dance party for all shapes and flavors! Time of Our Lives is about dancing even though things are rough. It’s about the human desire to have a great time. Dance because it feels good. Dance because the music is amazing. Dance in honor of someone you lost you used to dance with. Or just come party with your friends.

Wear: Whatever makes you feel your 100% most authentic and fabulous self. Wear that outfit you can’t wear anywhere else. Wear short shorts for the first time. Wear what gives you life.

Rebel Cupcake began on International No Diet Day in 2010 and has received the following accolades:
*One of the 50 Reasons NYC is the Greatest City in the World, Time Out New York
*Most Eclectic Party, Go Magazine Nightlife Awards
*Best Emcee: Bevin Branlandingham, Go Magazine Nightlife Awards
*But best of all, the repeat compliment, “This is the party I’m most comfortable being my authentic self.”

Accessibility notes: The venue is wheelchair accessible. There are gender neutral single occupancy restrooms. Street parking near the venue. There’s a lounge area in the front of the venue with real chairs. The stage area is standing room, the show will be less than 30 minutes and if you need a chair for show accessibility I can reserve one for you, email queerfatfemme at gmail.com

830264_4533038204211_445095766_oTwerking at Rebel Cupcake: No Pants No Problem February 2013 party. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

2014-07-22

Announcing Dollypalooza September 5th in Brooklyn, NY!

About three months ago I was in Pigeon Forge, TN on a trip to Dollywood with my friend Jess. We are both super fans of Dolly Parton but didn’t think that our adventure to Dollywood was going to be anything more than just a fun trip to check something off my bucket list. We stumbled onto Dolly’s homecoming weekend at the park and a convening of more Dolly fans than I’d ever been around at one time. The energy was intoxicating!

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One highlight from the weekend was going to Night of 1,000 Dollys at a gay bar in Knoxville. There were actually only about 8 Dollys I think, but I couldn’t tell for sure. We couldn’t make it into the bar because it was so packed, but we had a great time in line meeting local folks and taking photos with all the amazing Dolly styled queens who walked by!

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I was super inspired by the event. I’ve produced several Rebel Cupcakes around Dolly Parton themes, including a staged reading of Steel Magnolias with me performing as Dolly’s character Truvy. But I wanted to do it bigger than I have ever done before.

When I got home I booked a great venue, with a huge stage and a backstage area worthy of a LOT of queens ready to honor the glitteriest star in modern times. I love Dolly Parton and I am so thrilled to bring this vision to life!

IMG_6618I kept taking pictures of Jess with the queens and she would be like, “Are you sure you don’t want one.” And I told her, “When the right Dolly comes out, I’ll know it’s time.” This was my Dolly choice.

The event takes place on 9/5–fantastic homage to the song 9 to 5!

Friday, September 5th, 2014 * New York, NY
Bevin Branlandingham Presents
DOLLYPALOOZA: An Epic Fan Tribute to Dolly Parton
Doors 11p, Show 11:45 * $12 early advance, $15 advance, $20 at the door
http://dollypalooza.brownpapertickets.com
LITTLEFIELD, 622 DeGraw Street, Gowanus, Brooklyn, NY
Atlantic Terminal (2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q trains) /Carroll St. (F & G trains)

Dolly Parton has inspired generations of performers and we gather to salute her positivity, flamboyance and high glitz glamour!

Come one, come all, as we use drag, burlesque, live music, performance art and glitter to celebrate all there is to love about Dolly Parton!

Featuring:
World Famous *BOB* performed Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas” while distributing candy canes from her bra at a Rebel Cupcake show in 2011.

Nath Ann Carrera performs a show entitled “I Don’t Want To Throw Rice, I Want To Throw Rocks: The Early Southern Gothicism Of Dolly Parton!”

Merrie Cherrie is a glittery leader in performance communities, much like Dolly herself.

Chris (of Hur) was deemed the most avid Dolly Parton fan of the New York drag scene.

Sequinette created an act about Dolly’s secret Butch lesbian lifestyle.

West Vargina joins Sequinette in recreating Dolly’s vision of the Stairway to Heaven.

Miss Mary Wanna once performed a risquee butter double team number to Dolly’s “Potential New Boyfriend.”

Femmecee Bevin Branlandingham named her law firm after her favorite Dolly Parton movie and considers Dolly a spiritual guru.

and MANY more performers!

Interested in performing at Dollypalooza? Apply here by August 10th.

IMG_6566Examples of great Dolly fan outfits.

FAN CONTEST: Cash prize for the best fan outfit of the evening!
Nath Ann Carrera also DJs before and after the show, there will be epic Dolly dancing!

RAFFLE: A raffle to benefit Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (a literacy program that provides one book per month directly to children who need it) will feature amazing prizes!!

RSVP on Facebook!

Accessibility notes: There is plenty of street parking available. There are gender neutral single occupancy bathrooms. Littlefield is wheelchair accessible. Some seating available for folks who need it. Email queerfatfemme at gmail.com

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