On Diversity in Media Representations, the Chicago Queer Performance Scene, Tonight’s LEX-I-CA, and Why I Think We Do What We Do.
Did you know that Toni Braxton played Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on Broadway in 1998? Why does this now seem like a strange and wonderful dream?
The diversity in the entertainment industry in the 1990’s was truly promising. I remember many TV shows about colored people, friends, and families - Living Single, Family Matters, Fresh Prince of Bell Air, In the House, Martin, House of Buggin’, Malcolm & Eddie, The Hughleys, All American Girl, The Single Guy, Sister Sister, Smart Guy, Moesha, the Parkers, and so many others, like that amazing multicultural Cinderella TV movie with Brandy, Whitney Houston, Whoopi Goldberg, Bernadette Peters, and Paolo Montalban (a Filipino actor) as Prince Charming.
As a child of the 90’s, and coming right from the Philippines, it seemed to me that people of color were quickly breaking down barriers, that the stage was being set for people like me to dream big and achieve those dreams, to see ourselves in flashing lights, to experience that overdue equality. But something happened on the way to the 2010’s during which those barriers built right back up without our noticing. I think this happened around 9/11 and the terrorism hysteria, after which anything outside of the typical suburban, white nuclear family became threatening. This is the frame of mind that we have been in for the past decade, but I think and hope that things are finally beginning to change again.
In the queer Chicago scene, a lot of performers are young people of color (many of whom grew up in the 90’s watching these shows, listening to the music and absorbing a more diverse art and pop culture). A friend asked me recently why I think this is, and why now. I believe we’ve gotten tired of waiting for representation in mass media. The promise of the 90’s told us that we can be anything we want to be. When we stopped seeing, or fell short of seeing, our selves reflected on screen, we began to voice our dissatisfactions and take matters into our own hands. We are now in the process of creating our own micro-media, our own platforms.
Which is why social justice blogs are so important right now. This is a movement of people of various races, gender presentations, and identities, who are creating our own representation, because the larger society has failed on its promise. And this is also why, more than ever, is it important, not to police, but to see how we are being represented, and by whom. This is also why so much light is being shed on cultural appropriation. Why we are saying, STOP STEALING OUR CULTURE. We are taking back our stories, we want to tell it ourselves. We want our voice.
Tonight’s Salonathon presents: LEX-I-CA is a manifestation of this. Looking at the line-up of my fellow performers, I see the beautiful faces of the talented beings who are ready to speak, to sing, to dance, to tell it like it is. Who analyze how gendered and racialized bodies are gazed upon, and what fantasies of exotification and other-ness still apply and need deconstructing. We need this time. We need this space to speak. Despite the oppressions we’ve faced and continue to face, having a voice is very much worth celebrating.
See you all tonight.
Kiam Marcelo Junio / Jerry Blossom
IAMKIAM.COM - brand new site for the brand new year, updated with current works.
Check it out, y’all!
I’ve been working on this for the past couple days, and it’s finally ready. My old homepage was beginning to feel too cluttered and unorganized. So, ready for the new year, here is a brand-spaniking new IAMKIAM.com.
Enjoy, and comments are always appreciated.
<3 U ALL. Happy New Year!
Sexy, Masculine, Asian hotties - something American mass media doesn’t ever show.
What is perpetuated instead? The image of the Asian male as a clown, comic relief, smart/wise but non-sexual, non-threatening, safe, weak, small penis, etc.
Lost’s Daniel Dae Kim and Naveen Andrews are probably the only exception.
Nostalgia (Kapag Tumibok ang Puso)
Kiam Marcelo Junio
Created for Kokorokoko Presents: VIDEO GIRLS, a night of burlesque and performance celebrating the video girls of the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Held on August 8, 2012 at Defibrilator Performance Space, Chicago, IL.
The current 80’s nostalgia and 90’s revival movements in art, music, and fashion are centered on Western, particularly American culture. But this era did not happen in a bubble, and to some, 80’s and 90’s nostalgia mean something completely different.
This video art piece contains appropriated clips from momentous, political, and pop-cultural events from the Philippines, from 1985 - 1995.
Jerry Blossom will be appearing at the Defibrillator (1136 N Milwaukee) for Kokorokoko’s Video Girls, a burlesque and performance night celebrating the girls of 1980’s music videos.
Wednesday, August 8
Doors at 8/ Show at 9
Jerry Blossom is the performance and burlesque alter-ego of artist Kiam Marcelo Junio. Jerry stars in Kiam’s ongoing series Model Minority, which explores tensions and interactions of racial and gender identities, specifically between Asian, American, Filipino culture, and in dialogue with contemporary queer and body politics.
About Jerry Blossom:
Jerry Blossom is an Asian person of ambiguous descent. He is often seen wearing a blonde wig, and uses foundation that’s at least 3 shades lighter than his natural skin tone. Outwardly, he seems to be desperately trying to fit in to a Western ideal image of blonde hair and fair skin, and yet he does so critically and consciously. He is not “playing whiteface” or acting as or pretending to be, a white person, but rather, embodying (or failing to embody) the standards of global whiteness.
Jerry is a social chameleon, able to ingratiate himself in the favor of people from varied personalities, gender ambiguities, and social classes. By changing his personality with each encounter, however, “the real Jerry Blossom” remains a mystery.
Jerry is also an entertainer and somewhat of a celebrity in Southeast Asia, and is the current face of Eskinol, a skin lightening facial cleanser popular in the Philippines.
(Taken with Instagram)
EVERYBODY’S FREE TO WEAR SUNSCREEN.
“enjoy your body, use it every way you can. don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it. it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own”
So much of what I’ve learned in life is in this video. I haven’t heard this song in years, and it resonates so deeply now more than ever. I’ve been trying to live my life with these principles, and it’s wonderful to see and hear them.
My good friend just sent it to me, and it reminded me of the beauty of life and the power of now.
Enjoy this and keep it in mind for the coming new year.
KIAM MARCELO JUNIO
Reflection plays a key role for the works in this collection - both the intimate act of looking within one’s internalized history, and the physical act of seeing one’s presence on a mirrored surface. In this transmutation of lightwaves, how much is transferred? How much is lost?
Latent Confrontations brings the viewer to various thresholds between personal and public, between nostalgia and obsession, between the addressor and the addressed.
Untitled (Therefore, I Am)
Paper, 36x42 in.
Letters I’ll Never Send
Acrylic, 8x12 in. (5 pieces)
“Letter to My Dead Mother”
“Letter to an Absent Father”
“Letter to the Bluest Eyes in Texas”
“Letter to a Shadow”
“Letter to the One Who Got Married
Video installation 5 mins.
A Feeling of Estrangement
Video projection 7 mins.
Acrylic, 8x10 in. (15 pieces)
Mixed media sculpture
For more info, visit www.iamKiam.com
Good looking people get paid more, do less jail time and have more sex than ugly people, and beautiful people get all that but even more so, and if you try to say ugly people don’t exist because ‘everyone is beautiful’ I’d ask you to take it up with Sartre (were he not dead), who not only believed in ugliness as a definite trait but attributed much of his philosophy to his own lazy-eyed, freakshow face and near midget status yet still managed to date feminist icon and all-around social theory genius (and sometime lesbian pedophile) Simone de Beauvoir for years and years and years, not to mention blow minds on the daily, even now, 30 odd years after his death.
There are worse things in the world than being ugly, and most of the great minds of every generation got their thinking and writing done because they weren’t beautiful enough to waste their nights having meaningless sex with other gorgeous layabouts. Very few, if any, renowned scientists or philosophers were beautiful.
All people are somewhat interesting, and most of us have rich and varied intellectual lives or great stores of compassion or other attributes that, once discovered, can make us very wonderful and occasionally beautiful to those who know us, but some people are just plain beautiful, physically, in the fucking face, and that is neither a good nor a bad thing (although studies show it’s usually good for them). It’s just a fact.
(More to read when you click the link above)
I’ve been having this conversation with someone recently, and it’s gotten me thinking about what it means to be beautiful, attractive, or ugly. We can all say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and perhaps this is true in the deepest, truest extent. But here’s my theory, which I was explaining to a friend last night:
We create our own worlds, and we create this one too. Our minds and selves are universes trapped in physical form. Where does a thought go when you forget it, but somewhere in the wide black space of your own existence?
But we have also all corroborated on creating this physical manifestation of a world we live in. The rules of physics exist because someone thought it, and we have all since agreed upon its reality. This goes for everything, even beauty. There are standards of beauty, which may change from generation to generation, but the concept of it remains the same. And it is why, as linked text mentions, beautiful people receive more privilege. They fit certain standards to which we ourselves have subscribed.
So what happens when you don’t fit these standards of beauty? I would consider myself a fine example for this. I’m short, bald, and I am not an owner of six-pack abs. I do not fit the criteria for what the Western world considers as objectively beautiful - and here we can also agree that different cultures have different standards as well. But in this increasingly globalized world, the Western standards seem to be winning out. However, I’ve learned to love myself regardless. I’ve learned to cultivate other qualities that make me a good, interesting, and perhaps somewhat attractive person.
Something that used to frustrate me as a gay man is how shallow of a culture “the Gays” seem. It always comes down to looks and to another degree, race. Years ago, while browsing through Craigslist personals, or on Adam4Adam, I would lose count of how many times I would read “no fems, fatties or Asians” or something to that degree. Do you know how demoralizing that is? Of course you can brush it away and simply say, “Wow, what an asshole.” But it doesn’t erase the fact of its existence. To be told that you are unwanted cuts to deep degrees, and makes you question yourself, no matter how much you’ve built yourself up. The ego will take a fall.
So is there a solution to this? Depends on what the problem is. For me, the issue was that I felt like a powerful, beautiful, interesting person inside, only limited by this body I was born in. What I’ve done is try to stay true to myself, find people who are willing to corroborate with me in creating a world in which our inner selves speak more to our beauty as humans than how we fit certain criteria, forced upon us by the masses, and to which we, as I’ve mentioned, have subscribed, as well. Unsubscribe! Write your own standards of beauty. Live your own reality. When you can believe in your own truth, it translates to how you operate in the larger sphere, and people take notice. I’m living this philosophy daily.