Luck Be a Lady

Ladyfag discusses her work-hard-play-hard style of party planning.

Toronto-born and raised, Ladyfag, came to New York City on a whim eight years ago. Working at a vintage clothing and antiques store back in Toronto, she got seduced by the city and has never since looked back. From her Joni Mitchell-inspired Canadian upbringing and undefinable career as a nightlife personality and producer to her elusive name, with Ladyfag, what you see is what you get.

Derek Blasberg—Can we talk about this name, please? Where did “Ladyfag” come from? Is it a joke?

LadyFag—I guess my name seems like a joke to some people, because everyone tends to laugh when I say it. But, in truth, I’d rather they think about it when the laughter dies down. “Ladyfag” actually came from a performance piece I did at an art gallery in Toronto. It was about being an outsider. It was called “Ladyfag: A Love Story.” It was a campy homage to being this female surrounded by all these gay men and living as though in a way she was one of them. It was kind of like “Clan of the Cavebear,” but with a lot of sparkles.

Derek—I didn’t know that! Tell me about this performance.

LadyFag—It was a performance in a group show curated by this amazing woman called Sook-Yin Lee. It was a cabaret-style act, complete with big sparkly-headed papier-mâché penises I made that danced around me like a Ziegfield Follies number. But gayer.

Derek—And then it just stuck? The name, I mean. Not the fake penises.

LadyFag—When I came to New York I said it jokingly to this guy, and he introduced me to everyone that night as Ladyfag. So it began …

Derek—Which guy?

LadyFag—I don’t actually remember, because everyone was new to me at the time. I didn’t know a soul in this city. I came to New York for one last hurrah before I was about to open a vintage clothing store in Toronto. Instead, when I was here I decided to go back home, pack my stuff up, and never look back. That was eight years ago.

Derek—I’ve always loved the idea of your family letting you move to the big city and now you’ve really made it and you’re being interviewed for magazines—and then you tell them your name is Ladyfag.

LadyFag—I remember the first photo of me in a magazine here. It was one of those gay weeklies. I sent it to my parents but I had to cover the other side because it was an ad for “Carlos: 8 inches, uncut Cuban.”

Derek—So they are at least amused by all this fanfare?

LadyFag—At that point, they were slightly horrified! I can understand; having their daughter move to New York knowing no one and calling herself Ladyfag was a little much for them, to say the least! But in time, as they saw all the things I was doing, their viewpoint changed. They’re proud of me. But they still refuse to call me Ladyfag!

“I like the duality of wearing a beautiful dress and then having this I-don’t-give-a-fuck armpit hair peeking out.”

Derek—Your look is, um, exotic. I’m sure people think you’re from some far-off place. What is your ethnic background?

LadyFag—I’m Canadian by birth. Not very exotic, but I used to let people think I was Mexican and never correct them. My dad is from Israel, but his family is Russian, and my mom’s side is Hungarian. When I was growing up I used to pretend I was a Hungarian gypsy. I guess I always liked romanticizing I’m something I’m not until I start to believe I actually am.

Derek—What was growing up in Canada like?

LadyFag—Like living in a Joni Mitchell song.

Derek—Have you ever shaved your armpits?

LadyFag—I’ve grown my armpit hair for over 20 years, and it’s something that seems to be a bigger deal to everyone else than it is to me. It’s kind of fascinating how people have such an intense reaction to it. Growing up, it helped me find strength in myself; I had to force myself to stand taller when I heard people gossiping about it.

Derek—Somehow, and I don’t know how, I’m sort of into the look.

LadyFag—Really? I like the duality of wearing a beautiful dress and then having this I-don’t-give-a-fuck armpit hair peeking out.

Derek—How do you define what you do? If you had a business card— and I’m sure you don’t—what would it say on it?

LadyFag—If I had a business card, it wouldn’t have my phone number on it, that’s for sure! I don’t need any more people texting me from outside parties asking me to help pull them in! In one sentence: I throw parties. But I do a lot of things that won’t fit on a business card, too. Derek, I think you’re someone who could understand that it’s hard to explain all the different things one does under a blanket career term.

Derek— You got that right, toots. In fact, didn’t you once heckle me at a vogueing ball about having a job that no one understands?

LadyFag—That’s why I thought you’d be the perfect person to do that to. I’m giving you your chance to get back at me now, though! I heckled you at that vogueing ball, yes. I was the emcee and you’re supposed to “read” the crowd. But I was actually making fun of both of us, or more like everyone’s perceptions of us, on this exact point.

Derek—I knew you were “reading” me. And I can take it. Kelly Osbourne had my back, remember? And I know what you mean. Whenever someone calls me a “male socialite” I want to punch them in the face. I have a day job. I’m a writer. And I’m kind of good at it.

“I throw parties. But I do a lot of things that won’t fit on a business card, too.”

LadyFag—I think people see us at parties having fun and think that’s what we do for a living. The truth is we both work our asses off. I produce events. A lot of work happens behind the scenes so that these people at some party don’t have to think about anything. I work hard so you can all play hard! I guess a lot of people don’t know a lot of the things that I do. I guess I should speak up once in a while.

Derek—Yes, Ladyfag. You’re so subtle.

LadyFag—Ha! I’ve been accused of a lot of things, but being subtle would not be one of them!

Derek—Fine, as the ultimate party thrower: What are Ladyfag’s top five secrets to throwing the best gay rager?

LadyFag—Well, the first thing is to not think of it as a gay party. Sure, a lot of my parties are predominantly full of gay men. But I always like to have a balance. My world is filled with so many types of people and I like to bring them all together. That said, I’m not going to lie: Having lots of hot guys around is good for business. I don’t think you come to my parties just to see me!

Derek—That is definitely true. And I don’t think you host parties just to see me either!

LadyFag—Actually, you’d be surprised. I really love walking through a party and seeing everyone lost in a sea of a good time. And when I find my friends in that crowd I actually get really excited. That’s when I get to join in and get carried away in the fun too.

Derek—Last question: What’s your real name?

LadyFag—I’ve changed my name so many times I barely remember it. The last name I went by back home wasn’t my real name. In ninth grade, I tried to get everyone to call me Winona, after Johnny Depp’s “Winona” tattoo. Well, that worked out as well as their relationship.

Derek—So I should call you Ladyfag and nothing else?

LadyFag—I think the moment I knew this name was stuck with me was my first haute couture show in Paris. It was Jean Paul Gaultier. I almost cried when there on my seat in handwritten calligraphy was a place card reading: “Madame Ladyfag”

Derek— “Madame”?

LadyFag—Yeah, like “Ladyfag” wasn’t over-the-top enough.

This conversation first appeared in Document’s Spring/Summer 2013 issue.