Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Friday, February 23, 2007


    Everyone from bloggers to Motown Records has talked about how the Motown story was robbed in the movie version of Dreamgirls. What many do not know is the movie version is strikingly different than the legendary Broadway version. From the beginning there were complaints from Diana Ross, Motown and in early February Smokey Robinson said to Access Hollywood that Dreamgirls is filled,”with a lot of false information and negativity," and that the producers of Dreamgirls, "owe Berry Gordy a public apology ... rapidly."

    This has been terrible press for Dreamgirls, especially for Oscar voters. Bad press has ruined Oscar chances from films like The Exorcist all the way to A Beautiful Mind (the old white men really didn't appreciate Russell Crow bashing someone with a telephone!). Many say in order to solidify Oscar chances for Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy the apology was paramount. Movie studio DreamWorks placed two full-page ads in Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter Wednesday, February 22nd, which said:

    "'Dreamgirls' is a work of fiction. It is also an homage to Motown. For any confusion that has resulted from our fictional work, we apologize to Mr Gordy and all of the incredible people who were part of that great legacy. It is vital that the public understand that the real Motown story has yet to be told."

    Don’t ask me why there are grammatical errors.

    Gordy quickly responded with, "I applaud DreamWorks and (parent company) Paramount Pictures for doing their part to clearly differentiate the fictional movie Dreamgirls from the real Motown. I wish them all the best in the forthcoming Academy Awards."

    For many the movie version of Dreamgirls was much more offensive than the Broadway version. According to people who saw the original the Broadway musical the Deena Jones character was not made out to be Diana Ross to the extent of the film. In addition, album covers were not copied and other aspects that were embarrassingly similar to the Supremes, did not occur on Broadway.

    Many of this boils down to what I have been saying from the beginning—paying homage, from Motown to the original cast. So often African-Americans are lost in history, even down to Broadway—Dreamgirls changed the face of Broadway. The cast of the Chicago were treated with respect—the same people who created the movie version of Chicago also did Dreamgirls so I am deeply confused why Motown and the original cast are being treated like they are separate entities. Without Motown there would be no Broadway version of Dreamgirls and without Dreamgirls the musical there would be no movie version. It isn’t surprising the creators of Dreamgirls have issued this apology after Oscar voters have already handed in their ballots.

    Tune into the Oscars this Sunday and be sure to tune into the "Countdown To The Red Carpet: The 2007 Academy Awards®," airing Sunday, February 25th from 12:00pm – 6:00pm ET/ 9:00am – 3:00pm PT" to see the original Effie Melody White, Jennifer Holliday, perform “And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going)”. After Sunday the Dreamgirls saga is officially over!

    Speaking of apologies...I wonder if the creators of Dreamgirls will issue an apology to Beyonce for turning her into a common backup singer!

    Labels:

    Posted by Clay :: 3:57 PM :: 12 comments

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    Thursday, February 22, 2007

    Ever since Christina Aguilera’s outstanding tribute performance to James Brown on the 49th Annual Grammy Awards it seems many people have had a case of the “can’t takes” for the blond bombshell. The following day WBLS, an urban radio station in New York City, played the live version of Christina’s performance on heavy rotation, which I have never heard of a radio station doing. They weren’t playing the lackluster Beyonce performance, not Mary’s emotional but tragically off-key performance, but this blond hair blue-eyed chick who paid unprecedented homage to the Godfather of Soul.

    Throughout the week many people were calling in whining that the Grammys should’ve had a BLACK person perform the song simply because James Brown is black. People were deeply offended that porcelain-white Aguilera sang for Brown. While the race card is always ironed, shiny and prepared to slam out on the table at any cotton-pickin’ moment -- I thought this was a ridiculous statement from some of my hyper-sensitive music gurus.

    First, I am not a Beyonce fan, but I have never said she couldn’t sing, I always said she is just a pop singer. Nonetheless, could anyone imagine Beyonce performing “It’s a Man’s World”? I’m feeling a wave of fatigue just thinking about it! It would’ve been as exhausting as an Anna Nicole Smith paternity test. Do people honestly think Beyonce could’ve pulled off a rough and vocally unpretty song like “It’s a Man’s World” just because she is black? Come on, people—if Beyonce isn't popping her snatch for Jesus her performances are usually a yawn-fest.

    Then we have Mary J. Blige, I love Mary, Lawd knows I do, but why do people promote bad behavior by letting her sing embarrassingly off-key then give her a standing ovation? Have black folks lost all aspects of musicality? I remember the days when rock artists would sing wildly off-key (Axel Rose, Kurt Cobain, etc.) and they would get a standing ovation because they were “feeling it." Black folks would be on the sidelines saying, “White folks can’t sing!”

    Now, so much of our music has abandoned instruments and artists have made a career out of singing over beats versus melodies. We seem to have lost melody in voice—especially with the “Mahalia Jackson of our generation” according to the 2006 Vibe Awards, Mary J. Blige. Many will whine, “Well, she is feeling it!” BAB-BAY, I listen to Janis Joplin (the second song she did "Stay With Me" was popularized by Janis Joplin in the late '60's), Nina Simone, early Tina Turner and roaring off-key is not the equivalent to “feeling it.” Mary J. singing “It’s a Man’s World” would’ve turned into the “It’s Kendu’s World” remix with her sounding a billy-goat-gruff-sizzling mess. Vocally, Mary J. Blige is the Courtney Love of R&B music!

    I have never been a fan of Aguilera until recently. I thought her first album was a lily-white, spoiled-pop, toxic waste dump. Her second album—blah! I appreciated she loved the gays but stomping around in leather chaps when she had the body of 12 year-old with oversized ostrich eggs rammed in her chest that she claimed was due to “puberty” was deeply disturbing. Sure, she could sing, but honestly—so can Jessica Simpson.

    My biggest problem with Aguilera was this delusional claim that she was “Latin.” Okay, Aguilera’s father is “half” Ecuadorian—I don’t think that equates being a Latin woman. Aguilera only stressed this “suddenly Latin” trait in 2000 when she began working on her Latin album. Before that she was a ultra-white girl from Pennsylvania —there is nothing worse than a celebrity changing their race, i.e., Mariah Carey and Terrence Howard. Christina Aguilera is about as Latin as black folks who say, “I got Indian in my family!”

    All that being said, I thought she was a good singer, but it wasn’t till I saw her pay tribute to Whitney Houston at the first annual BET Awards that I truly noticed her vocals. Christina brought it home with “Run To You” and even a sweaty, cracked out, maniac Whitney managed to ramble, “That is the best version of that song I’ve heard—next to me!” Then I saw her tear the good-God shreds out of Leon Russell’s a “Song For You” with Herbie Hancock. That is simply the best remake I’ve heard of that song next to Donny Hathaway and Gladys Knight—flawless.

    Later that summer she released
    Back to Basics, which in my opinion is a 100% R&B album. After a few listens I realized that Aguilera truly understands R&B and soul music. In her song “Back in the Day” she sang,Donny Hathaway, Lena Horne Miss Aretha, [The Real Thing], James Brown, Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Louis Armstrong, Minnie Riperton, Otis Redding, Etta James—back in the day, they used to say, play that song, get it going, and the band played, “ and “We say now, so break out the Marvin Gaye, your Etta James, your Lady Day, and Coltrane, turn up your 45's, bring back to life.” Therefore, when I heard Aguilera emote and shiver in “It’s a Man’s World” it made perfect sense.

    Hearing black folks complain that a black person, Mary J. Blige or Beyonce, should’ve paid homage to Brown is illogical. I don’t care if it’s an African woman from the Republic of Congo who survived civil war—if she cannot sing the song with power or her voice has an on-key repellent, I don’t want them to sing. Being black is not enough!

    Above all I think Brown would’ve been proud (and lusting) after such a sincere and genuine tribute. Yes, she was flat on the high note and flat on the last note, however, Aguilera still spilt the stage in three—a James Brown song doesn’t require perfect voice. Some say she riffs and runs too much trying to “sound black” and prove she can sing (that's Joss Stone!). No, I just think that is her style, just like Mary J. screams like a wild hyenea running for her life from a famished lioness in the jungle, trying to prove she can sing or is that just her style...? I suggest we all get up off Aguileria and know that vocally she can hang with Beyonce and Mary J. Blige any day. Jennifer Hudson would give her a hot battle and Fantasia would blow her out the water, but Aguilera in my opinion is without a doubt—a soul singer.

    Labels:

    Posted by Clay :: 12:22 AM :: 36 comments

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    Friday, February 16, 2007

    Between Tim Hardaway, Devon Christopher (Publisher and CEO of The BLEU Magazine) being harassed by an NYC transit worker and this incident in Jamaica the straights are losin' their cotton-pickin' mind! Of course NOT all the straights! Normally I don't repost news stories, but this story blew me away. Honestly and truly, it sounds like a scene from the Salem Witch Trials! In addition, I posted another story from almost exactly three years ago about a father who encouraged a crowd to beat his son because he thought he was gay...he smiled while watching.
    ****

    Cops save three alleged homosexuals from angry crowd
    KARYL WALKER, Observer staff reporter Thursday, February 15, 2007

    These three men, who were branded as homosexuals, are rescued by the police after being locked inside the Monarch Pharmacy in St Andrew for about an hour yesterday. The man at front ducks after being hit on the head by a stone thrown by a member of theangry mob which had gathered outside the pharmacy and demanded that the three be handed over to them. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

    THREE men branded as homosexuals were yesterday rescued by the police from an angry mob outside a pharmacy in Tropical Plaza, where they had been holed up for almost an hour.

    But even after the police managed to take the young men from the Monarch Pharmacy, one of the three was hit with a stone, forcing officers to fire tear gas on the crowd which included men, women, teenagers and small children. The approximately 2,000 people gathered outside the Kingston pharmacy hurled insults at the three men, with some calling for them to be killed.

    The crowd grew larger as the minutes ticked by and the three men and staff inside the pharmacy were visibly terrified as the mob demanded that they be sent out so they could administer their brand of justice. "Send them out!" shouted one man.

    The men, who all had bleached-out faces, and dressed in tight jeans pants and skimpy shirts, (note: Okay, they were feeling it!) were saved due to quick action by police from the St Andrew Central Division. When the officers arrived and attempted to push the crowd back from the front door of the business place they were greeted with some resistance and when they attempted to escort the men to a police service vehicle, which was parked near to the entrance of the pharmacy, one of the alleged homosexuals was hit on the back of the head with a stone as he flashed a wry smile before attempting to hustle inside the police car.

    The cops were forced to disperse the large mob by dispensing tear gas canisters and whisking the men away as the crowd scampered in all directions in an effort to escape the irritating fumes.

    One man in the crowd was determined to get a chance to beat them and hurled insults at the police when they drove out of the premises.

    "Unu can come save them nasty boy yah? Them boy yah fi go down," the man bellowed. One woman expressed surprise at the brazenness of the men who were clearly displaying effeminate behaviour. "Jamaica has lost its way if men think they can openly flaunt being gay without any consequences. We don't want that kind of open gay life in this country," the woman said.

    Homosexuality is frowned upon in Jamaica and gay rights groups have constantly branded the island as anti-gay. Under Jamaican law a male can be slapped with a sentence of up to nine years if caught in a compromising position with another man.

    *****
    Crowd Bashes Teen Suspected Of Being Gay As Smiling Dad Watches©365Gay.com® 2004 Posted: February 22, 2004 12:01 a.m. ET(Kingston)

    A Jamaican teen was beaten unconscious by a schoolyard gang after his own father stirred up the students claiming his son is gay.

    The father went to the Dunoon Park Technical High School in east Kingston and began yelling in Jamaican slang that his son is gay and that the other students should teach him a lesson. He said he had found pictures of nude men in the boy's school bag. Jamaica is notoriously homophobic, and the home of several rap singers whose music has been the subject on demonstrations by gay activists in Britain.

    The students tore boards off benches on the playground and began beating the 11th grade student while his father allegedly looked on smiling and then drove off. "Them bruck up desk and bench and beat him up badly," one Dunoon student told the Kingston Observer. "Him get nuff lick, box, kick and thump from boy and girl."

    A teacher said the gang was intent on killing the boy. "They were like a pack of wild animals who had smelled blood and if it wasn't for a staff member who jumped on top of him, you would be reporting on a mob killing." The staff member who threw himself on the teen to protect him said: "Me have to jump on him and shield him cause them was going to kill him. Me get a whole heap of licks, but me push him in the office and lock him in."

    Another teacher called police. When officers arrived the frenzied students hurled stones at them, injuring several policemen and damaging police cars and motorbikes. The police eventually were able to rescue the youngster and take him to hospital. At least a dozen students were taken to a police station but were not charged. A police spokesperson said they were given a stern warning and released.

    No charges were laid against the father. Police said it was a family issue.
    ****
    If you would like to complain about this foolishness and injustice here is the information:
    By e-mail: hc@jhcottawa.ca
    To: Jamaican High Commissionerc/o275 Slater Street, Suite 800
    Ottawa, Ontario. Canada K1P 5H9
    Tel. (613) 233-9311
    Fax (613) 233-0611

    The Honorable Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Prime Minister Paul MartinMartin.P@parl.gc.ca
    Ambassador Seymour Mullings, OJ
    Jamaican Embassy - United States of America
    1520 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W. Washington D.C. 20036
    Tel: (202) 452-0660
    Fax: (202) 452-0081
    Email: emjam@sysnet.net http://www.emjamusa.org/

    Ambassador Stafford Neil
    Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the United Nations
    767 Third Avenue, 9th and 10th Floors
    New York, N.Y. 10017
    Tel: (212) 935-7509
    Fax: (212) 935-7907 http://www.undp.org/missions

    Labels:

    Posted by Clay :: 12:30 PM :: 19 comments

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    Tuesday, February 13, 2007


    Jennifer Hudson is on the March issue of Vogue magazine. The last American black women to grace the cover of Vogue was Halle Berry in 2002 and Oprah Winfrey in 1998. The first black woman on the cover of Vogue was the legendary Beverly Johnson in 1974.

    I know Andre Leon Tally had to lock Anna Wintour in the closet to get her this cover! Wintour has said she doesn't like "fat people" in her magazine. Oprah once said, "If you want to be on the cover of Vogue and Anna Wintour says you have to be down, top 150lbs - that's what you gotta do." Tons of airbrushing helps too!

    The cover isn't getting rave reviews, but I think it is fresh, beautiful and really captures the, "This can happen to every little girl in the world if you dream big enough" look. Contrary to popular belief Hudson is NOT the first black singer to appear on the cover of Vogue--Mel B. from the Spice Girls graced the cover in January of 1998. However, Hudson is the first black female to upstage Beyonce and minimize her to a back-up singer and co-star!

    Pasted below are some legendary covers from black women on the cover of Vogue. More than I expected!
    ****

    Legendary Beverly Johnson in August 1974--the FIRST. She paved the way! There is some debate if Donyale Luna was the first black woman to grace the cover of Vogue, however, she did not identify as black and was on the cover of British Vogue. Check out the Pop Culture Junkie's site for more information. Johnson would emote on two more covers (June '75 and January '81)
    ******

    Peggy Dillard in August 1977. She would also grace two more covers.

    ***

    Shelia Johnson in March 1980.

    **********

    Shari Belafonte in her fifth and last Vogue cover in June 1986. She graced the covers of Vogue from 1982-1986. The most solo covers from a black woman.

    ***

    Louise Vyent in February 1987

    ******

    Kara Young's second Vogue cover in October 1988. She also graced the April 1988 and October 1989 covers.

    ****
    Karen Alexander in January of 1989.

    *****

    Naomi Campbell in September 1989. After this being the lowest selling Vogue cover ever, Naomi would only grace the cover one more time solo in June 1993. She appeared on the cover with white women in February 1992, April 1992 and April 1993.
    __

    ***
    Kiara Kabukuru July 1997.

    ***
    Oprah October 1998


    ****
    Marion Jones January 2001

    ****

    Halle Berry December 2002

    ****
    Liya Kebede May 2005

    Additional covers such as Stephanie Roberts in January 1991, Brandi Quinones in April 1994, Mel B. in January 1998, Iman in November 1999 and Naomi's covers were all with white women.

    Labels: , ,

    Posted by Clay :: 10:12 AM :: 37 comments

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    Thursday, February 08, 2007

    I know everyone looks at Anna Nicole Smith (Vickie Lynn Hogan) as a complete mess, but this woman has rode the storm. She is from the trailor parks of Texas, used to be an exotic dancer, shot to fame after being a Guess model and 1993 Playboy Playmate of the year. She was tore apart by the media for marrying an eighty something year-old man, had to battle for the coins in an evil lawsuit (I don't get why she didn't get it--she married him! The reality is she legally married him--people just couldn't TAKE Anna Nicole.), suffered the death of her 20 year-old son just months ago...I am sure during most of this time she was on drugs or drinking. Anna Nicole Smith leaves behind a five-month old daughter, Dannielynn, whose father has not been determined.

    Anna Nicole is a camp icon, I loved her "Trimpspa baby!" commericals and in my opinion, she was the prettiest white girl in all the land...Paris Hilton, Jessia Simpson and no other girl wants any parts from her. Even when she was a big girl she was still lovely. Looks wise, she is the Marilyn Monroe of our generation. Rest in peace Anna!

    Pasted below are some great Anna moments!



    Labels:

    Posted by Clay :: 4:48 PM :: 8 comments

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    Tuesday, February 06, 2007


    So, I'm sure you are all thinking, "What is Jon Bon Jovi doing on this blog?" Don't be no fool now--I loved some "Wanted Dead or Alive" back in the late 1980's! However, I wanted to spread the words about the on-going campaign to help the homeless, Jon Bon Jovi and Kenneth Cole are launching the “R.S.V.P. to HELP” online auction to raise money for the homeless.

    The 10-day eBay auction, which started last night at 4PM PST/ 7 PM EST and will run until February 15, features twenty-six one-of-a-kind experiences and is a continuation of their successful event held last week in New York City. All proceeds from the online offering will benefit Habitat for Humanity, HELP USA and the Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation.

    Music lovers will have the opportunity to bid on experience packages with their favorite artists, including Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake and Aerosmith. Sports fanatics can vie for unique experiences, including suites for the bidder and friends to see the New York Giants, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Lakers and other top sports teams. Fashion gurus will find many dream items, such as a package of five designer handbags and tickets to a menswear fashion show during New York Fashion Week. Travel aficionados can bid on several luxurious vacations, which will take them to places like Germany, London and Cancun.

    Here’s the link to the official website: http://www.rsvptohelp.org/test/home.php

    But more importantly, here’s the link to the actual auction: http://cgi3.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=rsvp_to_help

    Labels:

    Posted by Clay :: 10:57 AM :: 3 comments

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    Thursday, February 01, 2007

    What's Up People -

    I had to skip my monthly ballroom features for December and January because of the Dreamgirls. However, it has been worth the wait to bring you an interview with the legendary Ayana Khan. This interview will also be printed in the February issue of Clik Magazine, which also includes my interview with Maurice Jamal, writer and director of the upcoming film Dirty Laundry.

    *************

    Over ten years ago ballroom legend, Ayana Khan, entered the ballroom scene originally as a member of the House of Allure. In 1996 she was one of the first femme queens to join the House of Khan, ushering other female figures to the house and would eventually become Mother in 1999. Ayana’s reign in the ballroom scene was before balls expanded to nearly every major city, before ball clips could be viewed on Youtube.com, or before balls were available on DVD. In order to become a star, statement and then a legend, one had to prove themselves to the iconic divas before them. Snatching grand prizes and being one of the main faces to put the Washington D.C. ballroom scene on the map would label Ayana as a legend. In addition, Ayana’s success has transcended ballroom, she is a registered oncology nurse, has a Bachelor’s degree and is in her first year of Graduate school at the University of Maryland.

    On February 17th Mother Ayana Khan is paying unprecedented homage to the femme queens of the ballroom scene in her highly anticipated F.A.C.E. The Facts I Am Legend Ball. Ayana states, “A tremendous effort has been put forth to bring you this night of passion, glamour, and prestige. Please join me in honoring the women of our community. The women who have made the ballroom scene what it is today… the Female Figures.” In a candid interview Ayana Khan discusses her journey as a transgender woman, politics of the ballroom scene, transgender health, her upcoming ball and much more.

    Clay: You are the mother of the House of Khan; explain what the role of a house mother means to you.
    Ayana: Clay, actually, I’m really just now being able to understand with myself what the role of being a house mother is all about. When I took the position seven years ago I was still a baby, I was very young and my ballroom career was still primitive so I think my role back then was basically like a figurine type. Something similar to the Queen of England, she doesn’t really have power, but she is there. That’s what it was for me back then versus today…I feel that my role as a mother has turned more into mentoring and fostering a relationship with my house kids who are still connected with their families of origin, and some who aren’t. I think that my role as the mother has really just come about.

    Clay: You’re a ballroom legend. Nearly every person I’ve interviewed have commented on how people in the scene are becoming legendary way too fast—how do you feel about that?
    Ayana: Clay, do you really want me to go on that? [Laughs] Well, I have actually been around for a little awhile now and I personally felt in my own aspect it took me hard work and dedication to get out here and get what has been labeled as “legendary status.” When I first started it was identified as five or more years, nonstop, reigning on the scene and at this point in time that seems to no longer be the standard. There are some people out here who are being labeled as legends and they haven’t even been on the scene two years. I think there has been this new division, what has been labeled as "local legend." That means in your own town, in your own city, on the local ballroom circuit versus all over. When I imagined myself, or someone else, being a legend I envisioned everyone, no matter where you go and what corner of the country -- when you say this name, everybody knows. For some of these “new legends” that’s not the case. I, myself, don’t want to put any extra light, or shine, on my own name, but I still find it kind of flattering when you can have someone say your name, or speak your name, and everyone knows who you are talking about. It feels good, I think I’ve worked hard for that and I’ve earned it.

    Clay: What do you think is missing from the ballroom scene now versus ten years ago?
    Ayana: The female figure participation—it’s not what it used to be. That’s what my ball essentially is trying to do, take a flashback to those moments and those highlights. To that day and time when the whole ball was about the femme queens, the femme queen categories, which femme queens are going to be there, which femme queens were going to walk and looking beautiful, or “sitting”, as we say. On February 17th were paying special honor and tribute to those days. We have so many of the legendary femme queens who no longer participate because they’ve moved on and taken different directions in their lives, but we want to have everyone come out to return to those days because that’s what’s missing now. Everything is about the guys, or the gay males.

    Clay: That really is true, when I used to go to balls heavily back in the mid ‘90’s it was really about the femme queens. Why do you think that happened--what was that transition about to where it went to the guys?
    Ayana: Honestly, I think that any female figure, and this is true about a natural born woman, every woman wants to be adored. She wants attention; she needs to feel like there is this small sense of longing for her presence. You don’t get that anymore, I assume how you do that is the categories you have at your ball, the prizes and trophies that you give away at your ball. I, myself, have taken to having a grand prize that’s $2000 and something dollars for a category that is everything to everybody. Though it takes so much money to get prepared for this category you want to make them feel like they’re coming for a purpose, not just for the applause and adulation, but because they are going to get something out of it. That was really big for me when I was on the scene because it takes a pretty penny to get yourself together to walk a ball -- if you’re femme queen.

    Clay: Where do you see the ballroom scene going ten years from now?
    Ayana: I’m hoping that the ballroom scene really becomes more mainstream. I know there have been talks of doing balls on reality television. I'd honestly like to see that but I don’t think I’d be a part of the scene at that point in time. Though this is my outlet, I am into other things with my own personal life that the ballroom scene is a distraction at some points, not all, but at some points. I don’t have the time and commitment like I used to when I didn’t have a job and I didn’t go to school. Now that I have so many other things going on this has become a very minute portion of my life. It seems like I’m going to have to scale back even more.

    Clay: Let's talk and little more about Ayana and your transgender female experience. What were those feelings like when you first started to realize you were female?
    Ayana: It was definitely innate, just a natural sensation because nothing I did was masculine in nature. People around me picked up on that and no one can ever see, or tell, what they're doing, everyone has to tell you -- that's how you learn, from your environment. Everyone picked up on my female characteristics, my mannerisms, it was like, "You're a girl, and you act like a girl." Then you look essentially like a girl...when I actually took the time out to stop and look at myself —take myself out of the situation so I could look back at it... This was me, this was my life. Everything I did, I looked at my wardrobe, the things that I liked, the things that I didn’t like—it was just so woman-like that it was, what are you going to do, how are you going to be? If you choose to be something that society doesn’t necessarily condone, how are you going to be able to tackle that?

    Clay: How did your family and your close friends react to transitioning to being a complete woman?
    Ayana: Well, when I first got the courage to tell my mother that I wanted to have a sex change operation, my mother said, “Talk to God, ask God and when you ask Him, He'll give you the answer, He'll show you the answer.” And, I did just that. I said a prayer and maybe a month and a half later I had a girlfriend who had actually had the surgery the past summer. She just came out of the blue and we have never had a close relationship. She contacted me and started talking to me about the whole procedure and…I thought it was kind of odd. After I thought about it for a couple days I realized this was my sign, this was my answer that I had asked for. He had sent me this message, He sent me her because anyone who is a female figure always talks about wanting to be a full woman, and to go through with the complete transition, but it's just that—it's just talk till you start putting it into action and start taking actions to do things to have the surgery. I just thought when she called me that this was my cue that I was to go head and start seriously looking into doing it. Since that happened my parents have been full-steam ahead in supporting me. I had dinner with my whole family the week before I left…it was actually my dad's birthday and I had a very meaningful talk with my dad after dinner. He told me he was proud of me and supported me in anything that I did and that was enough for me to go. I came back as the new me and it has been a beautiful thing in terms of having my family and my close friends. Of course my friends were scared for me because with medical advances and technology they just weren’t sure if this was ideal, but I’m in the healthcare profession – I’m not going to let anybody do anything to me that I don’t see it as being thorough and fully developed. Also, they were afraid I was going to take this and I was going to leave and disappear with my new —it hasn’t been that. I’m actually more embedded in this thing that I’ve ever been and I’m sometimes afraid of myself because I’m like, am I too deep in this and did I do this to get out and to make a change? However, I feel good about my whole input into giving back to what so many people have given to me in my friends, my family and also in the ballroom scene because I’ve learned a lot…I’ve learned a whole lot.

    Clay: Getting silicone injections and underground surgery is a big issue in the transgender community. Being that you're in the healthcare profession, how do you feel about that?
    Ayana: Oh my Gosh… you're amazing, Clay! (laughs) Well, I get a lot of phone calls from a lot of people and a lot of people know that I’m a registered nurse. They call me and they tell me these stories about this big rampant wave of witch doctoring. I kind of feel like there's something I should do about it, but I’m not sure what I should do. Is this really of any of my concern, or am I truly the one who should be picking up this plight? There are numerous stories that I’ve heard about people having bad experiences with silicone injections, either the result, the aesthetic look of it, or quite a few deaths as well. I have spoken out at some transgender health groups in which I was very adamant about expressing my concern about transgender women allowing inexperienced, unlicensed people to perform these procedures. This is very dangerous to introduce foreign substances to your body; it’s such a big deal. People cannot imagine, having autoimmune response to these things. They can literally kill you, or just make you terribly sick that you feel like you want to die. Most of our community isn’t educated and not well informed. It's very hard to say to them, no you shouldn’t do this because look at me—I’ve had my own transformation performed. No, it has not been by a licensed professional because silicone injections in the United States are illegal, but it was performed by someone who is well experienced. You can tell that because I’m not having some of the poor results, or maybe it might just be luck. I’m not experiencing some of the results many of these transgender women are experiencing now. They're calling me; they're having difficulty with breathing if they've had their chest pumped. They’re having bruising and lumps in their hips if they've gotten their body done. You can’t help but to feel very sad for them, and knowing how mainstream healthcare view these women when they go to a doctor's office, or an emergency room, it's disparaging. I'm gong to do my doctoral dissertation on transgenders access to healthcare. When I have a problem, or trying to get someone to take care of me because I’m ill and then I go to the healthcare professionals, it is not necessarily addressed. My gender identity is a big hang up that kind of shadows everything in which I’m there for. In the aspect of this silicone, I definitely tell all of the young transgenders in my house—If I could do some things over that I did before some of the things, like the silicone injections, I would not have personally done myself. Everybody's always so concerned about how it's going to look now nobody's ever worried about what it's going to do. These younger kids they go out and they have these things done to them, they let people pierce them, they let people operate on them— do all of these things to them and no one's ever thinking about the long road, twenty years from now. God knows when I had it done I didn’t think about it. I'm thirty years old, I’ll be thirty one in February, and I know I didn’t even think that I would still be here for some odd reason. I just didn’t even have any outlook on the future. These things that I was doing to myself was when I was 19 years old—I never thought about what impact they would have when I got older. That wasn’t my concern, I wasn’t able to see that far, but now that I’m here I’m just thanking God that I’m here and I’m okay, and I didn’t do that much stuff to myself that I’m living to regret it now. Gosh...

    Clay: Thank you for sharing that. I think it's really important to talk about this and a lot of young kids will read this.
    Ayana: Clay, you wouldn’t believe these girls—they find my number, although I think I’m hiding in the cut somewhere, I’m not, I’m really not. These girls, they get my number and every time I get a phone call about something like this, it's all so unreal. It's always some new person trying to perform these procedures. This is weird, I know the human anatomy back and forth, but I would never even think to introduce silicone injections to someone because I know it's something that is not eventually going to be good. I’m an oncology nurse so I see this cancer everyday. Patients that I take care of that essentially live normally healthy lives—vegetarians, people that just take care of themselves, they look amazing and then they have this thing, this uncharted phenomenon that just comes and destroys everything from the inside out. Medical science has not gotten a handle on this, they say what you eat can cause cancer, what you do in your daily life; they say if you don’t exercise you can get cancer. So, that’s got to tell someone somewhere, knowing how cancer works, if you put something that does not belong in your body—cancer is only normal tissue turning into something bad. So, if you put something in addition to the natural risk of cancer that has got to make you shudder. Like I said, if I knew then what I know now I would not even have thought twice.

    Clay: So many people are shocked when they hear about transgenders in college. How was your experience in college and being transgender?
    Ayana: Well, my first year of college I really don’t think I had my mind made up about what I was going to do with my gender identity. I think I was pretty late compared to some of these young kids who are getting started today. I mean they’re 16 and 17, they’re in high school, or either high school drop outs. I had finished high school by the time I had fully made my transition. When I was in high school I did go to school in women's clothing, in drag as they say, maybe two or three days a week, but that was not really a full transgender transition in my eyes. I still had my birth name and everyone still knew me by my birth name and I was identified in the male gender. I actually did my first year of college and then I just stopped. I gave that a rest, I put it on the back burner then I worked on getting me together. I took my time to formulate myself into the person I am now. So, it's a self determination thing with education and your pursuit of goals because when I was maybe 19 or 20, there weren’t very many places that were amiable to having transgenders in their work environment.

    Clay: Your ball is the same day as the Karan Ball in Philadelphia; well, the Karan Ball is during the day, are you concerned about pulling the Philly and New York crowd?
    Ayana: You did your research! (laughs) Well, Clay - I will say this... I have been talking about this ball since the summer. I had my noticed posted on essentially the biggest outlet for the ballroom scene, which is http://www.walk4mewednesdays.net/—I had my ball posted on their events calendar since August of 2006. There are actually two or three other balls that have since made their way on February 17th. Though I would think most people would be worried having another ball on the same day as theirs -- I'm not. I think those who are close associates and friends of mine that I have come to be close with over the last ten years—we have such good rapport that those who know me, or who have heard about me would essentially just want to come and support. Not just because I'm me, but what we're coming to do. We're coming together to pay tribute to some of the most interesting, the most beautiful, the most talented figures on the ballroom scene and that's the female figures. I know everyone has their own favorite female figure and we have set out to pull in the female figures. I’ve been mainly pulling on the female figures; I’ve made personal phone calls and emails to female figures. I’ve haven’t even begun to solicit the participation of the general audience and that's because my concern is getting the ladies there. If the ladies are there I would just be satisfied. Everybody else, if my friends are there, my loved ones, and I have so many close relationships with so many people in the ballroom scene, even if they’re just there that would be enough. I wouldn’t even think about letting a low turn out ruin this night that I set out to do. I’ve personally worked very hard on this Clay, and so it definitely means a lot to me.

    Clay: If you weren’t in the House of Khan what house would you be in?
    Ayana: I couldn’t see myself being in any other house other than the house in which I am. Why? Clay, the House of Khan is my family. They are my family, my friends that I’ve grown up with and I’ve come out with. I was telling you in the beginning that I started out in another house. I started out in a house in which there were more femme queens because I didn’t want to be the only one. I needed someone to teach me the ropes, to put me in the right track, in the right direction and show me all that needed to be shown. All of my true friends were in a house in which I wanted to be, but I wasn’t going to get nurtured like I needed. I had to make a decision on what I was going to do. Yeah, I caught a lot of flack from that but it was a very intricate decision to just make me into me, by being connected to someone who knew the ropes. If I didn’t have a female figure mentor how was I going to do it? There were none in my house; I'm essentially the first female figure in the House of Khan. When I did come over it was me and my best friend and that's how we got more female figures. No, I really couldn’t see myself being in any other house, but the House of Khan.

    Clay: When I interviewed Jazmine Blahnik she said, “As many trophies as I’ve won, I feel like I can still get spooked.” Although you are "real as rain" as they say—do you ever worry about getting clocked, does that even cross your mind anymore?
    Ayana: Yes and no. In a personal aspect I worry about it, on a dating aspect with a male suitor, yes. Professionally, no—ask me how backwards that is and I know it is! But, I am so confident and so secure in who I am that I’ve laid all of the foundation building my self-esteem to a point where in my professional life I can never worry about anybody judging me for who I am. At the end of the day I have a professional duty, a license backing me up with education backing me up to say that no matter what you think of me— there is nothing you can take away from who I am professionally because I am transgender. On a personal level, who wants to deal with all the negative of being outed by a guy? It seems sort of shallow to me, but like I said, I’d be more worried about being spooked on a personal level than on a professional level. It's like, you are who you are, the person is trying to get to know what they ultimately think is a natural born female, which I’m not. I think on a professional level that really doesn’t have anything to do with it. At the end of day I’m a person there to perform my roles and responsibilities; I don’t see that at all being jaded by my gender identity.

    Clay: What else should we know about the F.A.C.E. The Facts I Am Legend Ball?
    Ayana: This is my very first ball that I’ve thrown with my name on it…with my hard work, my sweat, and even my tears. Believe me because I didn’t realize that giving a ball was so hard in terms of putting my own money out there, my hard earned money because there's nobody here helping me with this. I work 36 hard hours a week and I’m putting my own funds into this. To be able to do this and to have it come out the way I want to would essentially be the best reward. I just encourage everyone to come out and enjoy this night with us as we come to commemorate, like I’ve always known, the most influential part of the ballroom scene, what makes the ballroom scene…and that's the ladies.

    If you have never been to a ball now is the time to experience the drama, glamour and creativity!

    F.A.C.E. The Facts I Am Legend Ball
    Knights of Columbus Bryne Manor 1501 Southern Avenue Oxon Hill, MD 20745
    Saturday, February 17, 2007
    Doors Open @ 10:00 p.m.
    Stars , Statements and Legends promptly at midnight

    Admission:
    $20.00 before Midnight
    $30.00 after Midnight
    Table Reservation: $125.00 in advance

    Contact Info:
    FACEtheFacts2007@gmail.com
    http://www.myspace.com/FACEtheFacts217
    Mother Juboo Khan (DC) 202-832-0079
    Father Harold Balenciaga 301-379-2291
    Grandmother Steve Khan (DC) 240-398-6363 for Table Reservations

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    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 8 comments

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