Video, photos & text by Harry James Hanson
After I first saw Qween Amor I couldn't get her out of my mind: a twirling beacon of energy, clad in a pink tutu and fishnet spandex on the Union Square L platform. I'd never seen a drag performance in a public space take on such a spontaneous and vulnerable form. Her movements were effortless, mesmerizing, and unbridled even by five inch spike heels. Some research brought me to her social media profiles, and she was immediately receptive when I reached out about a collaboration. I asked if she would want to do a printed interview and photo essay, or a video piece, and she responded saying why not all three? Of course! It's impossible to negate her tenacity, and both her words and movements are worthy of equal representation. Throughout the course of this project both intolerant civilians and the NYPD attempted to quiet her music, and each time her resilience proved insurmountable. She inhabits a liminal space that is both transient and directive, without taking herself too seriously. The efficacy of her paradoxical self-presentation recently caught the attention of Stephen Colbert, who devoted a segment to her devilish look during a protest on the steps of the Supreme Court. She is also the subject of an upcoming documentary entitled A Journey To Love, which she will be promoting in New York this summer. Although Qween derives her energy from the feminine spirit, she does depend on tips to survive. If her work inspires you, and you would like to contribute to her journey, she does accept Paypal donations via email@example.com.
Where does Qween come from?
My imagination, that's where she comes from.
How did she arrive?
The truth would be that I fell in love with a boy, and then he broke my heart. I needed a way to relieve myself of that emotion because it was a lot and I was stuck in that hell for about a year. It was like a cycle of chaos and I didn't know how to get out. It sucked, it was the most painful thing I've ever experienced. When you’re in love with someone and you're at the very peak of that high because that love brings you to a state of euphoria- it does -and then when it's gone, OH, it's horrible. So I got stuck in it, but then I received a sizeable financial aid check, so I spent like half that fucking check on heels and hair and whatever I can find, and I took myself to a talent show at Pulse in Orlando. And ‘boop,’ let it out. And as I was releasing, I was having these epiphanies, and my ego was hanging by a thread; everything subconscious was coming out. So I started dreaming this reality, which is reality in my head, but it's not reality to the world yet. I use Qween to manifest that reality.
Has it become a new euphoria for you?
It has, it feels like I've replaced the love that I lost in my relationship with Qween. She is that inner child that I have, that part of me that is hidden and had chosen not to express. It's not that I've created this crazy persona out of my imagination, yes that's where she comes from but she was already there. I’m just letting her live.
I just realized I don't know your boy name.
Billy is my boy name… which, I haven't decided if I want to be called Qween or Billy. They're both who I am, it doesn't really bother me... I have to find a balance between Qween and Billy because Qween wants to take over but Qween is not going to help me to get laid, which is a core part of my life.
I'm trying to find resonance between the personas. Billy is my ego, I can't lose my ego completely, ego's always gonna be there. I'm just more aware of my ego so I don't have to express my ego as much. I choose to express my higher selves, which is Qween.
What’s the significance of your name?
Qween came from the time of my release, when I was having a spiritual revelation, which I can't really describe. So rather than trying to write down what I spiritually experienced, I decided to personify that experience. Qween was becoming that oneness with the feminine spirit, that energy that isn't quite understood but has been demonized for centuries. That spirit and energy includes everything from sexuality to freedom of expression and music and love; it's everything that is intangible in a physical reality, it's everything that's felt and experienced and that's the only way to understand it. So if you don't have that experience with the feminine, then you won't understand the feminine.
Have you come to understand it better yourself?
I'm still in the process of trying to understand it. There's a lot that I've experienced that I know is not rational, there's nothing rational about her, no, she's a flurry of emotion and feelings and it's a miracle to be able to think clearly through it all. That is why lately I've been connecting with earth more and meditating in my only little way and keeping myself to myself rather than being a part of the world. I mean I am in a part of the world in my own little world, just without stepping into everybody else's worlds. Though I've learned how I can step into your world and still be able to step out and not get stuck, so I can still in my world and your world. It's like bouncing through worlds, jumping into different realities. It's fun.
I want to help people understand the feminine spirit, but that means I have to be a devil in order to do it. Because everything that's been told of the feminine is seen in a negative way, like in Christianity, you have God and the Devil. What people don't understand is that God and the Devil are one in the same, they're both aspects of humanity. That's why they were created, because humans so easily succumb to this dark nature of themselves that hurts people and that's the reality they have created for themselves, so that's what they see. So they've demonized the other half of humanity, but it’s not that that other half is evil, it's just highly misinterpreted.
There's not a spiritual evil called ‘The Devil’ that's gonna suck your soul. That just doesn't exist, not in my world at least. Maybe in your world, but I wouldn't want to live in your world if that was the case. So it's more like embracing that unknown, evil entity, and once you get to understand it's not so evil and it's not so dark. However, you do have to find a certain wickedness that comes with it, which even nowadays I struggle with. I'll be walking and someone will look at me and I'll think what the fuck do you want? That's evil.
And how do you combat the evil?
I dance. I don't reject it because it's always there, it's always around, I can embody it and I can become it but at the same time I don't have to be it for the rest of my life. I want to enjoy my sexuality, I want to enjoy the experience that I'm having and being able to connect with earth. The earth for me at least is the source, a physical manifestation of that energy. It's this huge ball of feminine energy that's somehow manifested itself into this beautiful creation called mother earth and somehow it can give life and breathe life and take life and sustain life… she would be life itself. When I was having my oneness with the earth I was feeling what she feels, and I felt the misery she's experiencing because of humanity. We're inadvertently trying to kill her because we can't handle our own bullshit, including this huge disagreement over God. The God that people have created is not real, but I understand why they feel like they need God, because people need something to turn to. When I realized that my mother didn't love me and wasn't going to love me, where else do you go? You turn to God, because it's just between you and God at that point. But I can’t condone this popular notion of God... God is simply whatever you want God to be, same as like Mary Magdalene.
It's actually really aggravating to have had all of my awakenings and then to see the bullshit that we have created for ourselves in our country, and the world. It bothers me that nobody in America really gives a fuck about the fact that corporations rule politics, the people don't have a voice in anything that goes on, and the government has way too much power. They abuse it, but the people let them abuse it, so it's a give and take. It's not like I can just sit here and yell at the government, at the same time I want to yell at the people for just letting it happen. It's the same way spiritually when it comes to masculinity and femininity, you have men who have demonized women for centuries but then you have some women who have just given up their power and let the men drag them all over the place. Or when it comes to food, the people don't demand to eat healthy, everyone's just eating food from Wal-Mart even though it's full of GMOS, because it's all cheap cheap cheap, so ultimately Monsanto can get away with all this shit because people support them. And then people think ‘oh, there's nothing we can do.’ Well, educate your fucking self, research shit, and make some new choices. So the world is really out of balance, and seeing that is really frustrating. I'm a dreamer so when I see a problem my instinct is to find a solution, unfortunately I don’t yet know how to implement most of my solutions.
How long have you been dancing?
My life and the universe has prepared me for it. I never took dance professionally but I started going to the clubs when I was like 16, 17, and there's this club in Ft. Lauderdale called Colosseum, it was huuuge beautiful club. That's where I started dancing, just getting naked, stripping down to my underwear and dancing all over the fucking place and just being a little whore. Then I was a stripper for a little while so that taught me how to work a pole and how to walk on a bar. I also learned some sexual dance techniques that have served me well thus far. The way I dance has definitely evolved.
Back when I was stripping and dancing in the club it was like, I'm gonna get raunchy and booty pop and twerk my body like I know what I'm doing.
Now, I’ve moved on from just doing provocative. I make it more sensual, I can swirl and twirl like a little ballerina and I can still be sexy and erotic.
What's in your suitcase?
Everything is in my suitcase. Seriously, it's my life. When I was traveling before somehow I had this baby suitcase but the wheels broke so I was dragging it around the fucking city, and funny thing is I stole it from Wal-Mart and it was like $50 but it broke after a month. That’s another problem, things are just not built to last! Did you know the first car ran on hemp oil? And it was virtually indestructible. My suitcase should be made out of hemp. I should never have to buy another suitcase in my life. Anyway, inside I’ve got my tutus, I have one pair of my heels because I can't fit more, I have my amp, but I need a new one, she's seen the world, I have my iPod, laptop, and the rest of my wardrobe which is just a few shirts, and some spandex and I'm set. I want to make some money this week so hopefully I can revamp my wardrobe and get some new things.
So how did you wind up in New York?
I started in Florida. I bought a van, because once I decided that this was what I wanted to do- travel around and preach through music and dance and have the time of my life -I left and I came to the city, the first time was for the Occupy rally 1-year anniversary. I got involved with occupy and I became a transport for Occupy from NYC to DC, and then on one of the transports, my van blew up and I lost everything. The people who needed to make it to New York made it, but I wound up staying in DC for a few months, which is how I started developing the courage to go out and dance in public. I will tell you that it's not easy an easy thing to overcome for a man, to put on girls’ clothes and go dance in public to the gayest shit in the world. It's a huge ego bust, it really is, and it took a little bit for me to actually be comfortable with it, and I knew it's what I'm going to do, what I had to do, so I'm going to fucking do it but fuuuuck! I started doing my little street shows in DC and I was making good money down there, so I was like ‘oh let me go to New York.’ I liked performing here and I stayed because I make really really good money here.
Why perform in the subway?
Dancing on the subway gives me a stage without having to kiss ass at a bar or a club. And I don't want to work for somebody else, I'd rather just do it for myself. There's a huge array of artists and musicians on the subway platforms that are highly unrecognized. Maybe people look at them like they're just panhandlers but no, these people do their art and have chosen this platform to express it. The subway platforms are also a lot more comfortable, because it's really cold in New York. But now that it's warming up I can break free and mosey around town!
Do you have any mentors?
Mary Magdalene. She shares her wisdom with me. I can't say that I am Mary Magdalene, but I am Mary Magdalene. I feel like she's the first superstar of the modern world. She's such a mystery; we hardly know anything about her. You can create whatever story or believe whatever you want about her, but that's not gonna change her.
Is she aspirational for you?
And inspirational. It’s more like I want to tell her story, because I see it in my head and I want to relay that. Though maybe not anytime soon, because I'm still putting the pieces of her story together.
But I know that it’s going to be touchy for some people when I start coming out with my music videos featuring Mary Magdalene and her relationship with Jesus. They'll have to look at it and decide for themselves whether it's true. And those who are religious, devout, will also look at the story that's been given to them, which is not the whole story at all, and they're going to have some internal conflict about the fact that their religion is a fucking fraud. They're not going to be happy. I meditate on it every day. I want to show her in a more beautiful, positive light. I want to become her, and I want Qween Amor to be remembered as Mary Magdalene, that's what I want. Part of the show I want to start putting together for myself is Mary Magdalene singing her love for Jesus, I have an entire Mary Magdalene playlist.
Lots of Madonna?
Lots of Madonna, and Gaga in there, and Florence and the Machine is very Magdalene. But see, those are such typical gay heroes. We need a faggot in there. Like a faggot. That's what I'm becoming, that's what I want. I want to be a fucking faggot pop icon. And the children will love me. And if the children love Qween, then the parents will love Qween. And then I have my political and religious agenda which I feel like I'm not going to focus on so much until I've established my name, because I don't want my name to be that, but it will be a part of my career. Then at some point, toward the end of everything, when the dream is finally ending- because it’s only just begun -I'm going to go and dance all over the fucking Vatican. They have been calling my name for a while and I'm gonna give it to them. You want me bitch? Alright, fine.
Can I quote you on that?
Well, I don't know if I want them to know that I'm coming… then again, maybe I want them to be aware that one day it is going to happen. They just won't know when. I've even dreamt about spitting on the Pope, oh and I want to read Obama.
And Michelle. I want to read her ass too for letting her man be such an egotistical monster. Like, where's your heart cunt?
So what’s your next move?
I'm going to make my way down to DC this summer, I'm going to do a women's empowerment show at the Lincoln Memorial, and then do a one man march from Memorial to the White House. Then there’s Gay Days down in Orlando, where Disney World becomes is huge gay celebration. I get to have lots of sex and feel unashamed and it's wonderful, but that's just for a weekend. From there I'll probably make my way up to New York for another month to rack up a little bit of cash, and then I'd like to make my way to California soon. I'm working on getting sponsorships for the Bible Belt tour that I want to do. The project I'm doing right now is a journey to love, and it's my mission to spread love, promote peace and to find sustainable love not just for the world but also for myself. And I would like to take my show through Bible Belt: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, take it to all those state down under and dance throughout the whole fucking place. Hopefully they'll know who I am by the time I get there so I may not get hurt. I know if I were to go now without having established a name for myself I may not make it out alive. Especially since, toward the end, I'm going to go to Kansas and interrupt a Westboro Baptist Church service. I'm going to dance on their alter on a Sunday. I haven't decided which song I'm going to do, Maybe ‘Born This Way’ by Gaga. I want to do my show all over America! Hitchhiking, Greyhound, whatever. I'd like to save for a car but it's hard for me to save money, so I need sponsors.
Whole Foods, perhaps?
Yes, please! Whole Foods, sponsor me! Once I tour America and do my thing here I want to go to Canada, and then maybe take myself overseas. I want to dance all over the world and I'm going to dance all over the world, even if I don't get famous.