I’ve restarted this article a couple of times now.
I first began writing a piece I’ve been wanting to write for almost year now, but I’m still not sure if I’m ready to share that story in the most articulate yet honest manner that I’d like to.
I then began writing about my pandemic birthday that was last week, but I’m also so sick of writing about this damn pandemic. Each time I write about it I find myself carrying this anger over how our administration handled it, and the callous selfishness I still continue to see every day on social media and in real life. 500,000 human beings are dead but you’re still at huge house parties maskless and partying? Trash. And pretty sociopathic. But I digress.
So I’ve decided to write about something that is a little more time sensitive and specific to this current moment. I’ll be writing about the four guest authors we brought on board for this month, why they are so important to me, and why if you have not yet read their articles, you should.
ANDREA AUGUSTUS aka POETIC BLACK GIRL:
As I wrote about in one of my most recent blogs, Covid pulled the entire rug out from under my life, as it did for so many. I had been working at and running a live music venue in NYC for a little over five years, and overnight that incredible, long, tumultuous but beautiful chapter of my life was forced close. The unemployment I was given by the state was completely unliveable, and as much as I would have enjoyed the opportunity to not have to work for the first time in my adult life, it, unfortunately, wasn’t an option for me.
Since the pandemic I’ve had seven jobs, almost all of which I’ve quit for different reasons whether it was them not taking Covid seriously, or stealing from their employees, or just not meeting me with the respect that I deserve as a hard worker and a human being.
One side note I’d really like to emphasize is that I understand so many of us are in such terrible situations that we never thought we would be in. However, I hope that this past year has taught us our self-worth and has helped us set standards of what we will and won’t accept, and who we will and won’t work with and work for. You are a treasure in your own right. Treat yourself as such and demand that treatment from others.
Anyway, one pandemic job I had was working at a venue that I was super excited to be hired at. I was excited to be back behind a bar and to be working somewhere that was Black-owned. The icing melted off that cake ruhlllll fast, and it just wasn’t the tea for me. However on my first weekend working there, it was also the first weekend of a new hostess, who to all my friends in text I always called “My Hostess Friend.”
She was kind, she was funny, she was smart, and most importantly, she knew how to do her damn job and do it extremely well. For the months that I worked there, My Hostess Friend was the one I was excited to see when I went to work, and I knew it would always be a kiki. I kept my negative feelings to myself about the job, and then one day she casually let a personal thought slip and I finally realized I was not alone and that it was a safe space for me to speak my mind cause someone was actually thinking exactly the same thing as me. We both left the job around the same time, and I know we are both better for it. My Hostess Friend was Andrea, and as I truly do believe the universe puts certain paths in our way for a reason, I do believe that my time at that job was so that I met Andrea.
She is wise beyond her years, and runs an amazing self-care business called Poetic Black Girl. While they do have some focus on products for Black women, I recommend her business for everyone, as it offers great self-care packages for anyone and everyone, and positive affirmations that are important for all of us to hear and absorb. Please follow her at @poeticblackgurl and check out her blog for The Daily Feels: http://bit.ly/PoeticBlackGurl.
I first experienced the extraordinary Grant Evan, as his stage persona, Evey Middleton, a couple of years ago while he was competing in a singing competition that my friend was guest judging for. He sang Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman, in a) the original key, b) a badass jumpsuit, and c) got a well-deserved full standing ovation while everyone simultaneously was picking their jaws up off the ground. I was shook.
A couple of weeks/months later, he walked into my venue to introduce himself to me, as a mutual friend has suggested he potentially compete in a show that I produced. Well, we somehow ended up skipping that whole competition thing, and Grant immediately became my friend and my family.
Beyond being a countertenor that will blow your mind, Grant is also one of the greatest storytellers I’ve ever met. He will tell you a story, and no matter how big or small it is, you will feel every detail, smell every smell, taste every taste, and feel every single emotion that was experienced. He’s also lived and tells the good, the bad, and the ugly with an honesty that I will constantly aspire to. I always say, if you’re going to tell a story, TELL. THE. STORY. Grant TELLS the story. And he does so with humility and grace that pierces straight to your heart. He is so honest in his truth and the life he’s lived so far, that it is filled with stories made for novels and movies if he ever decides to honor the world with those gifts.
I am pretty known for giving very good hugs. Grant’s hugs feel like the world is hugging you and everything is going to be ok. We’ve sat at numerous bars over numerous nights or karaokes or after-gig hangouts, where I haven’t always felt in the best place mentally, but Grant’s energy is so infectious that it just lifts you up. He’s the person that can convince you that you are indeed Beyonce.
Please follow him @theeveymiddleton and check out the blog he wrote for The Daily Feels: http://bit.ly/EveyMiddleton
Denise Tillman. If I was a woman I would want to sing like, look like, speak like, and have a commanding presence like Denise Tillman.
Denise came into my life almost two years ago, by way of “So You Think You Can Belt”, a vocal artist competition that I had the supreme honor of producing for 11 of its 18 seasons. She submitted through self-tape and I still remember those chords of a Whitney Houston song starting and me being like “Ugh. She BETTA be able to sing this”. For anyone who knows, I Stan Whitney Houston and my nerves get shook anytime someone dares to sing her. For the entirety of Denise’s reel submission, which included more than one Whitney song, I was making involuntary vocal sounds, cursing my laptop screen, and throwing virtual shoes.
If you are looking for a SINGER, you are looking for Denise. She will belt and wail to the rafters like the greats, and then give you a sensible soprano high C while delivering a full opera Aria, again, like the greats. It is the combination of a gift, mixed with technique, mixed with passion. I love great singers who sing because they can and because they want to, but even more so, I love great singers who sing because they NEED to, because that is the thing that fuels their entire soul and being. To me, Denise is one of those singers.
Beyond that though, she offers a story and a message. One that I can’t wait for her to truly decide when it is right to fully tell, because I know it will inspire many. She is a child educator and I always think about what wonderful hands those kids are in. This past year especially I have felt so off so many times in the way my heart, body, and soul has reacted to so much of the vitriol and actions that have gone down, yet I’ve sometimes felt almost alone in the responses I’ve wanted to give or the things I’ve wanted to or do say. Then Denise would post something and my exact brain response would always be “Wow. I’m not alone”. That was a feeling I desperately needed whether I knew it or not, especially during so much isolation. So just in case, I didn’t say thank you to her: Thank you.
Please follow her @_denise.tillman_ , stream her debut single “How About You and Me” and check out the blog she wrote for The Daily Feels: http://bit.ly/LesbianInBlackBody
Romello Rodriguez, aka Janae Saisquoi, sashayed into my life through a successful drag pageant that was on Thursdays at my venue called “Ultimate Drag Pageant”. Each UDP lasted seven weeks and was a high-caliber pageant that tested queens among various themes and challenges. It was a night where I solely served as manager at The West End and wasn’t an event producer, but part of my job was running lights and sound for the queens, and I took it very seriously. It was another outlet of creativity for me, and I just loved getting to play a small role in someone else’s art.
Janae joined the pageant last minute due to another queen dropping out, and she had only been doing drag for a couple of weeks. Yes, a couple of weeks. Now one would expect an absolute MESS to walk in the door. I know I did! But what walked in was a diamond in the rough, who was figuring out everything about her craft, but who at 22 years old as a super baby queen was courageous enough to figure it out in front of a packed house every single week and to always do it 110% week after week after week. Every week she was talented, she was better and most importantly, she was KIND.
But what blew me away the most was how passionate she was in her activism and using her voice for those who can’t always. One night after the pageant, we were having a very raw conversation with some of the girls, and Janae was speaking and I got very emotional. I am named The Cynical Dreamer for a reason. I hid it well, and I don’t think anyone knew it, but it happened. It happened because I was reminded that the world is going to be ok if people like Romello are part of the future of it.
Janae made it to the finale, and she deserved to. Since the pandemic she’s been using the time to continue working on her craft, to perform in and produce incredible virtual talent, to speak her mind, use her voice, and to remind the world that drag can be political and a form of activism. Please follow her @janaesaisquoi_ and check out her piece which premieres tomorrow!
When I threw out my 5 other ideas, I wondered what I was trying to achieve with this new article. Well firstly, yes I am trying to ensure that you read all four of the pieces linked above. But secondly, I hope that you really take a deep, broad, grand, genuine look at your life and the people that you allow into it. If all of your friends look like you, you’re doing it wrong. We are meant to fill our circles with every color and every size, we are meant to throw classism, ageism, and ableism out the door. We are meant to not only accept those that don’t look like us, but we are meant to welcome them and get to know them. Do your part to make your circle and your company representative of the world that we live in. I absolutely promise you that you will not regret it. You will learn so much, you will feel so much, and you will grow so much.
May all of us be deserving of that growth and that love. Stay strong, stay kind and stay safe.
Until next time. Xx
Peter William Dunn is a born and raised New Yorker, who is currently a freelance writer, producer, director and sometimes actor in the city.
His professional passions include: film, music, literature, helping other artists thrive and all around storytelling
His personal passions include: puppies, babies, black and white milkshakes, and attractive men with accents (he has an extra strong track record for attracting emotionally unavailable men, but don’t tell him we told you that, and don’t yell at him for speaking in third person right now).
His current loves are his dog, Domino, a whiskey neat, and in case you didn’t know, his mother is the greatest human being on earth ❤