This Week's Guest: Chi Chi DeVayne
My guest this week is Chi Chi Devayne, who competed on Season 8 of Drag Race and is appearing now on All Stars Season 3. Despite having competed -- twice, now -- on the world's most prestigious drag show, there was a time when Chi Chi hated drag. That was before she realized that everything in life had prepared her to perform in heels -- from church to getting in fights to military training.
We'll have that conversation in a minute -- but first, a reminder that starting in February, I'm going to be making monthly bonus episodes of Sewers of Paris, with bonus livestreams and new YouTube videos about LGBT entertainment. Mark your calendars now for the kickoff livestream on February 10th -- I want to invite you, Sewers of Paris listeners to join us and share the stories about entertainment that changed your life -- I'll be announcing the details on how you can join us for that soon, just follow @sewersofparis on Twitter.
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This Week's Recommendation: J-Setting
Big thanks to Chi Chi for joining me. You can catch her on RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Season 3, along with past Sewers of Paris guest Ben DeLaCreme (that's episode 63 of the podcast). And don’t forget that starting in February I’ll be releasing monthly bonus episodes of Sewers of Paris, hosting livestreams, making videos about LGBT entertainment, and more. Mark your calendars for the first livestream on Saturday, February 10 -- you're invited to share your own stories of the entertainment that changed your life. I'll have details soon about how you can join us for that; follow @sewersofparis on Twitter for info.
For my recommendation this week, check out the dance style that Chi Chi mentioned at the start of our interview -- J-Setting. It's a style of dance featuring performers in meticulous formation, usually in tight clothes, moving with precise high-energy gestures that are often constrained to tight spaces. Picture Beyonce's dance in Single Ladies -- and then picture that but bigger, with more dancers, faster music, and a lot of muscle.
It's easy to find examples on YouTube. And after you've watched a few videos, you might notice a familiar overlap with dance styles you've seen elsewhere. The original J-Setters were majorettes at Jackson State University in the late 1970s, but their style was picked up by other historically black universities and also by gay men across the south, who adapted it to gay nightclubs.
Some moves bear a close resemblance to the voguing you can see in Paris is Burning in the 1980s, which eventually showed up in Madonna's work. And the influence can be seen in various communities and styles and media over the years -- including the episode of Glee where Kurt does his interpretation of Single Ladies.
In addition to being a gorgeous and thrilling style of dance, it's a great example of how culture gets shared and referenced between disadvantaged groups -- whether it's women, or people of color, or queer performers.
It's a real pleasure to see how these groups can be allies not just politically, but creatively. And a key component of that collaboration is acknowledging the contributions of creators who laid the foundation of the artwork... whether or not they had a chance to appear on Glee.