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DR. MARTENS : PRIDE GENERATIONS PRESENTS​

A CONVERSATION BETWEEN KIA AND LEE SOULJA​


“WE BRING IT TO
THE FLOOR”​

“WE BRING IT TO THE FLOOR”​​​

PRIDE GENERATIONS PART TWO: NIGHTLIFE​​ ​ READ TIME: 5 MINS​

Pride has always involved the celebration nightlife and going out for the LGBTQIA+ community. It is a way of showing up, creating space and fearlessly expressing yourself. ​

For the second episode of our 'Pride Generations' series, we put the artist and former Mother of the House of LaBaija, Kia and visual artist and founding Father of the House of Soulja, Lee Soulja, together for a conversation. In the video below, they discuss the power of the ballroom scene and community and the tragic realities that are all too common.

PRIDE GENERATIONS PART TWO: NIGHTLIFE​
READ TIME: 5 MINS​

We put Kia (artist and ex-Mother of the House of LaBeija) and Lee Soulja (dancer, performer and Executive Director of NYC Black Pride) in a room together. Below they discuss their experiences with nightlife and ballroom scene and dealing with the loss of those no longer with us.​



WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW​


Need subtitles? Click the symbols at the bottom right to select your language. More languages can be found through 'Auto-Translate'.


Below is an extended version of Kia and Lee's conversation. They discuss the power of ballroom, finding and creating their own identities, and the power and tragedy of found family in the LGBTQIA+ community.​


 

STARRING

Lady Phyll and Lucia Blayke Lady Phyll and Lucia Blayke

LEE SOULJA

HE/HIM

A dancer, performer, promoter and visual artist. Lee was a prominent member of the Club Kid scene. He has reached the status of Legend in the ballroom community as the Founder and Father of the House of Soulja. He also founded the NYC Center For Black Pride.

 
Kia and Lee Soulja PRIDE GENERATIONS NIGHTLIFE

KIA

SHE/HER

An artist who works in photography, performance, collage, and film. Previously the Mother of the ballroom House of LaBeija. She advocates for many underrepresented communities, especially those living with HIV and AIDS.

 

“IT JUST FELT RIGHT
TO BE THERE”​​

“IT JUST FELT RIGHT TO BE THERE”​​

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THE POWER OF BALLROOM​

KIA: I think maybe the first time I saw you were walking the Latex Ball. I think you had a black outfit on with a big, extravagant headpiece.​

LEE SOULJA: This was probably when I was looking like a tree.​

KIA: Yes, it was when you were looking like a tree!​

LEE SOULJA: About 13 or 14 years ago? So yeah, we've known each other for a long time.​

KIA: That was the first latex ball that I walked. And that was basically my introduction to ballroom. Before that, I think I'd been to vogue nights. That was my first introduction to the whole world. It just felt right to be there. I felt like I am Kia LaBeija.​

LEE SOULJA: There's something about walking a ball, coming down that runway, being on the stage with a couple of thousand people cheering and watching you. Once you have that moment, you always want it.

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KIA: I remember right before I walked the category, it was one for women, and there were a lot of girls. And I remember I was so nervous. I was like shaking, and I remember I closed my eyes. And I was praying, I was praying to Pepper LaBeija, and I was praying to Crystal LaBeija. And I was like, just let me do right by your House. Let me do right by this name. And I went out. And that was it. Yeah, it was like the lights were on me. And that was it. I was here. I have arrived.​

Outside of ballroom, I feel like I never get to catch the essence of who you are.​

LEE SOULJA: Who is Lee Soulja? It took me a long time to get comfortable with myself in my own skin. I didn't feel like I fit into this box. All I knew was that I had multiple feelings for different people; it wasn't specific to a gender. I began to explore what is masculine-presenting, why do we have these rules, and I started to challenge those things. I wanted to break all those rules. Who Lee Soulja is today began because of HIV and AIDS, and nightlife and people disappearing. Through mentoring young people, running the NYC Centre for Black Pride to create safe spaces for our community, and being able to create events that highlight and uplift who we are. We've got to create these spaces to teach the younger generation. At this age, I'm able to express myself with a lot more comfort, so Lee Soulja is many things right now. I feel so liberated now.

KIA: Amen.

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"IT WASN'T EVEN ABOUT MY IDENTITY. IT WAS JUST ABOUT THAT FREEDOM"​​

"IT WASN'T EVEN ABOUT MY IDENTITY. IT WAS JUST ABOUT THAT FREEDOM"​​

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SELF-DISCOVERY THROUGH NIGHTLIFE​

LEE SOULJA: My story is a little different. I don't like to say ""coming out"". I want to say when I discovered myself, you know, because I don't believe in coming out. I don't believe I have to make an announcement to anybody when I really realised about myself. But when I was 14, the first time I actually went to a gay club. We went down to go to Studio 54, And at that time, Studio 54 was the big thing. The street was blocked off. Everybody was there. It was just an amazing time. That's how I first started falling in love with house music and this whole notion of an underground gay club and stuff like that. It wasn't even about my identity. It was just about that freedom. In those days, nobody asked you about your sexuality. Young people today, you have such liberation and the way that you identify, you know, people ask you 'what's your preferred pronouns?'

KIA: It's beautiful. I always kind of wish that I had that growing up because I think I always had a lot of confusion about who I liked because I liked all different types of people and all different types of genders. I think it took me a really long time to accept that I can be expansive and I can love people for who they are, you know?​

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“RESILIENCE AND THE SURVIVAL IN OUR STORIES”​​

“RESILIENCE AND THE SURVIVAL IN OUR STORIES”​​

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LEE SOULJA: In ballroom, and the LGBT community in general, we experienced and saw so much death. And we tend to normalise it. Do you still feel the community is like family for you? Do you still feel that connection?​

KIA: I do. But I feel like we don't give ourselves enough time to grieve. You know, it's like someone goes, and then there's another function, or there's something going on. And you know, it's like, when do we have the time together to honour those who have gone, and I feel since I entered the ballroom and made all these beautiful connections, I've also lost so many of them so quickly. As fast as they came was as fast as they left me. And I think that's been really hard to deal with. And especially for me, because, you know, my mother died from AIDS-related complications when I was 14. So for me, having extra family, in my space was this amazing thing. But to also lose so much, so quick was like; oh God, it feels like it's happening over and over and over again.​

LEE SOULJA: Sometimes we tend to normalise death in this community because we face it so much and not just as a ballroom community, but as an LGBT community in general, seeing people passing from HIV, substance abuse, suicide, and now we're dealing with this pandemic. So, from my heart, I want to thank you for your transparency. Speaking the truth of your experience. It was amazing to hear that, to hear your story.

KIA: I think that's what makes our community so beautiful. That's what makes when we dance and we create things so powerful is because of the resilience and the survival in our stories. Our stories are so important. And for us to be able to tell them and have the platforms to tell them and have that support to tell them. It's just so important.

LEE SOULJA: So expressive, it even shows up in our art. It shows up when we walk the runway, even when we're voguing. We bring it to the floor. We bring it all out.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE WORK KIA AND LEE SOULJA DO AND HOW YOU CAN HELP, PLEASE USE THE BELOW LINKS ​