Bevin's Blog I'm blogging the relentless pursuit of my joy

2018-05-06

How My Year of Ask Project Helped Me Create an Incredible First Workout Video!

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”—African Proverb

Last week I filmed the first workout video for Fat Kid Dance Party Aerobics and these words never hit so close to home. For those of you who have been reading my blog for any part of the last ten years, you know I’m on a healing journey. Healing from origins I can identify and some I cannot. The process of healing, I believe, is awakening to who you really are at your essence.

Somewhere along the line, I absorbed the idea that if I didn’t allow people to help me I could take full credit for my success. This idea showed up most glaringly in the need to control and a paralyzing fear of making the wrong decisions. I also truly hated feedback and couldn’t distinguish between loving concern and criticism.

I asked Music Supervisor Lauren Ross to wear a Bikini Kill shirt to the shoot because they donated the use of “Rebel Girl” to the video!

In the process of creating the video shoot I absolutely had to ask for help. I wanted a product that looked better than what I could film on my own and I felt like my audience deserved a truly kick-ass workout video. There are a lot of slick videos to choose from for people buying into the idea that you must be striving to reduce your weight in order to be worthy. I wanted something that stands up against the razzle dazzle afforded by the billlion dollar diet industry.

The evening after the shoot I reflected that this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It wasn’t harder than taking the bar in two states, or law school. It was certainly a difficult personal milestone, yet a million times more fun than passing the bar and getting a JD! I’d rather be doing this for sure.

All photos in this post by Jessica Hinkle, the fabulous stylist and indie designer. Check out her Proud Mary Fashion booth at RuPaul’s Drag Con this weekend!

The first big hurdle was, of course, the crowd fund. Asking for the amount of money I needed to create the thing I wanted was daunting. To be honest, I was simultaneously shocked and encouraged when it funded on the very date it ended!

I chose IndieGoGo because I was going to create something no matter how much the crowd fund brought in but I was glad that I got the opportunity to really hit one out of the park. (IGG lets you keep any money you raise, whereas Kickstarter is all or nothing funding.) I knew my crew needed to be diverse because that’s the kind of company I’m building. I believe that there is strength in diverse life experiences and perspectives and I strive to live my values as much as possible.

Marcy, Emily, my cousin Sooz and my Fiance Supreme, Dara.

I put out a call on a Women in Motion Pictures email list a friend tipped me off to (more help!) and I got a flood of responses by women who were interested in making it happen. I had no idea how to sift through them.

I asked for my friend Marcy Guevara-Prete’s help as an Executive Producer at that point because I knew she could help me make these choices and guide me through the process. She’s a TV Producer and celebrity stylist!

Marcy said to watch reels so, while on a visit with my mom in the woods outside Seattle, we tucked in and watched a lot of reels. Including some super boring reels and some that were experimental lesbian art. And some that looked expensive but were made on a small budget—-that was what I was aiming for.

I sent follow-up emails to everyone I was interested in, and asked Emily Aguilar to come meet with me because her response was the best of everyone. (I also had an intuitive hit about her.) She responded to my first email with a spreadsheet of a proposed budget and two possible locations to achieve the look I said I wanted. I loved how organized she was from the jump. Marcy and I met with Emily and I was so glad I had asked for Marcy’s help because she knew the right questions to ask to get a sense about whether Emily was up for the scope of this project. Four workout videos is not a small creation!

I cast the video as diverse as I possibly could, pursuant to my aforementioned values and also, I want people to see representations of themselves! I asked my mom to fly down for my shoot and I’m glad she did. She repped for double knee replacement recovery and older folks. I had queer, straight, cisgender, trans, nonbinary, size diversity and as much other visible diversity as I could get. I want more!

Cast includes my mom, McKay Nield, Manny Moreno, Drew Spencer, Chelsea Algarin, Whitney Brown, Drea Lara and Melba Martinez!

The music for the video was a long slog! My biggest complaint about slick aerobics videos is the terrible music. I wanted to try for really great music because my audience deserves the jams! I happened to sit next to Lauren Ross at a Shabbat dinner and she turned out to do licensing for two of my favorite songs, Hot Topic and Rebel Girl.

Lauren donated her time as Music Supervisor and secured rights to a bunch of other great songs I’m excited for you to jam out to! My friends Rick Sorkin, Austin Bisnow of MAGIC GIANT and friend of a few friends Mary Lambert all donated songs as well. To fill in the gaps I got my friend JD Samson to compose beats for the videos. Here’s the Spotify playlist of all the songs we used for the video! Please go dig deep into those awesome artists who believed in and supported FKDP!

The location was a gorgeous DTLA loft run by a really cool artist named Jonathan who was jazzed about the project. The process of planning and executing a shoot is not unlike running a major event and of course we had last minute snafoos that all worked out in the end.

Two days before the shoot I extended the time rental for the location because I could get a chalk artist to donate her time but she could only come at 8AM not at 10AM when we got the location. What a great choice I made to extend the rental because we needed that extra time and the chalk art looks incredible.

Thank you Kelly Phelan, one of my beloved regulars at Fat Kid Dance Party here in LA!

I arrived at 8 to get hair and make-up done by the incredibly talented Amanda Bourne. One thing I’ve always had a hard time with about getting my make-up done is that I don’t look like “me” and trying to describe what my make-up looks like to Amanda involved referencing Miss Piggy as my gender. It worked, I think it’s my favorite make-up I’ve ever had! I looked great. She also came backing with a wind machine to cool us off between takes and a whole roll of paper towels for blotting.

Never fear, we have some scenes where we’re all sweaty, especially by the end of the 60 minute standing workout video.

Amanda taking a selfie with my assistant Kristen! She’s serving as my LA hype person–her gender is some kind of Glitter Mermaid Unicorn Baby and we have a lot of overlap except she’s straight! It’s really fun to have her as my first assistant and build on her strengths to make FKDP continually more awesome and tour more places!

We started shooting at 10. My intern Asher Tessier was on hand as a PA and I realized pretty quickly we needed more PAs than just one. Thank goodness I had thought to hire my assistant Kristen to be on hand for the day and my beloved Fiance Supreme Dara pitched in as both PA getting lunch and motivational speaker/dancer to raise flagging energy by the end of the day.

The outfits were amazing for the shoot, mostly because Marcy the Executive Producer is also a celebrity stylist and got the hook-up from Torrid. I am so obsessed with the rose print set I wore in our stretching video!!! Thank you Torrid!!!

And thank you Marcy, who thought about bringing earrings which do, as she so aptly said, “Elevate a look.” Wait til you see the parrot earrings matching the chair in the chair workout!

My cast was incredible. It’s not a joke to film 8 hours of working out and by the end of the day my mom’s fitbit had 15,000 steps and I don’t think it picked up on the chair video. I flew my friend Drew down from Portland, OR to be part of it and I was so glad I did because there’s nothing like performing again with someone you performed with 13 years ago to bring out silliness and fun.

My cousin was the camera operator. Sooz is in the camera union and shoots TV shows, having worked her way up from a PA and later shooting commercials. She borrowed lenses from a friend that are used on a prime time TV show and the shots looks incredible. She also brought along a friend, Chris, to help shoot. I was just so overwhelmed and happy that the people who came on set and participated in making the video wildly over delivered because they cared about the project.

Emily’s friend Lauren ran sound and by the end of the day I was wondering how the crew of film and TV even handle the physical toll it takes on their bodies, since she was sitting on the floor for every take running sound.

It was Marcy’s idea to shoot a couple numbers that were “big party scenes” to make it look more like a party! We couldn’t have had this amount of shooting in one day if we had that big of a cast but it was really fun to end the day with a bunch of friends and in a huge formation! It also enabled me to do a “Diva Walk” like they have at the end of Richard Simmons videos.

I always love a Sweatin’ to the Oldies video, especially because he cast fat people. The bummer is at the end during the diva walk down a train of people on either side it says their name and how much weight they’ve lost. This reinforces that fat people are only valuable if they are engaged in weight loss pursuit. I think everyone is valuable exactly as they are, unconditionally.

I’ve got a couple ideas about how I’m turning that on its head and I’m excited for you to be introduced to the cast and crew “Fat Kid Dance Party Style.”

I’ll know next week a likely release date and will update over on the IndieGoGo site first!

Drew, Dara and Asher!

2018 is my Year of Ask (and Receive!) as I’m pushing through my discomfort around asking and receiving. I’m so grateful to anyone out there who had anything to do with making this shoot happen. It was truly one of the best days of my life and certainly the best working day of my life. Thank you for helping me make my dreams come true!

Through May 24th you can still purchase the videos at the discounted pre sale price through Indie GoGo. You will receive the videos before they are available to the general public, and the general public pays a higher price! It pays to be an early adopter.

P.S. There is a viral video about Fat Kid Dance Party that was just released by Brut! Would you be so kind as to watch it, share it, like/love it and comment? It really helps amplify the message that all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are!

I have four looks, one for each video! I’ll do a post about each look, but here the top is Torrid and the bottoms are SuperFit Hero, both brands donated these clothes to support Fat Kid Dance Party! Both fit true to size and are comfortable and resilient.

2017-01-23

What Kind of Activist Are You? Free Five Minute Journaling Exercise!

In light of the tremendous success of the Womens’ Marches throughout the country this weekend, a lot of people are feeling a strong call to action but don’t know where to start. I have a simple, five minute journaling exercise that can help!

I think this event was so legendary that our kids are going to think of it like we think about Woodstock. When I was young I always asked people who were young adults around that time if they went to Woodstock. Everyone has a good story about it, even if they weren’t there.

On Friday Dara, me and my friend Rick Sorkin implemented Love & Resistance, a Shabbat Dinner party centering activist uplift. We had a number of amazing presenters and Dara’s facilitation of ‘From Words to Action: Changing the Way we Organize with Love & Resistance’ was a hit. (She’s a professional facilitator and she’s fabulous.) I thought the content of her thirty minute facilitated discussion was a fabulous place for folks to use for self-reflection about their activism.

The pics aren’t in from the event but here’s Dara at the Madonna Inn!

Dara broke down five types of activists.

Protestor
If you are the first out on the picket line, you love to participate in boycotts, you are totally into calling your Senators and Congress folks, you might be a Protestor.

Protector
Unfortunately, Dara’s example for this type happened to her on the way to dinner. At the ATM in Silverlake, getting cash to pay for the restaurant, a man walking by screamed “Get all your money you Jew bitch.” For real. So if your inclination if you saw this happen was to roll up on Dara and find out if she’s okay and figure out how you can help her, you might be a Protector. Same if you are on a Southwest flight (where there are no assigned seats) and you sit next to a person of size to keep them from getting hassled by fatphobic seatmates. Or if you engage in other actions of one to one solidarity with folks who are vulnerable for a host of reasons… you might be a protector.

Bridge Builder
If you were invited to a meeting to talk to Drumpf supporters, would you do it? Do you want to figure out how to connect with people who don’t believe in the same things you do? Do you believe empathy and understanding can help us end racism, sexism, homophobia and the like? If so, you might be a Bridge Builder.

Healer
If your activism stems from a place of offering meditation, yoga, mental/emotional/spiritual/physical healthcare practices. If you gather people together to create healing, or practice self-care you might be a Healer.

Art Maker
If your activism is in the form of making art or music, if you hear “write for an SEO project working to make the internet more positive” and you immediately email them about it, this might be your form of activism.

The stickers are what folks in the room identified as. You’ll note glitter stars are a theme throughout the event. Photo by Tristan Taormino.

Dara then broke out groups of each type of activist (knowing that people fall into multiple categories.) I adapted the group work to journaling prompts here:

Consider the 5 types of activists. For this exercise, I want you to think about the type of activism you feel most drawn to right now. (Picture yourself doing each type of activism. Whichever one rings with the most joy, that’s what you feel drawn to.)

1. In your experience, what’s working about what activists in this area are doing?

2. What are the biggest challenges these activists are facing?

3. What could these activists do to improve the way they organize moving forward?

4. What’s one thing that you would be willing to do to improve the way you engage in activism?

If you find yourself currently engaged in a different type of activism, apply these questions to that type in a subsequent journaling session. If they are different, journal about why you’re active in an area that is not what you are drawn to!

My piece was about Mariah Carey’s Lingerie Lifestyle as applied to social justice. Photo by Tristan Taormino, who helped us by co-hosting, donating a prize and inviting folks!

Doing this simple and powerful work has already impacted how I perceive people in my life and helped me understand better how to work in coalition with them. At the event I noticed when we talked about Bridge Building there were people in the room who actively roared against it. That’s totally okay if you have a strong aversion to one type versus another, it takes all kinds! In my opinion, Bridge Building is essential work to creating change, but so are all the other types of activism. Healing is also essential—and sometimes activism means powering down, healing yourself and staying alive.

I also extra loved that there were report backs from each group. Big takeaways I loved were Protectors saying to remember to stay in listening mode and let folks be autonomous when you’re working in solidarity. Protestors saying it’s been 60 years and we’re still protesting the same stuff. Bridge Builders saying to remember to see people as people, not as monoliths as their ideas. Art Makers saying they need to make sure they are using their art for activism and standing behind what they believe.

Photo by Tristan Taormino.

Whether your activism is protesting or protecting, we need you more than ever so that we can collectively take that marching resistance energy and shift that arc towards justice under the weight of our boots/heels/wheels/loafers/sneakers/sensible lesbian sandals!

Our event was made possible with a grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. We asked our guests in lieu of tickets to donate to Project Q, a fabulous non-profit in Los Angeles that serves LGBTQ homeless youth. If this resource is valuable to you, consider a donation!

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.

plates

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.

nicholasandrick

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.

Powered by WordPress