Taylor Alxndr wears many hats (and many wigs as well). I first saw Taylor ascending onto the Friends on Ponce floor suited like a 1960s mod goddess from the sky, icy blue tights and fluffy stuff for a dress. A spark was burning brightly inside her, though what kind of spark could not be deciphered at the time, lightning bolts in the midst of her cloud costumery mayhaps. Then via Facebook connect, it was confirmed: Taylor’s seen enough bullshit in her life and has no qualms airing this frustration thru the signals of social media, across the sky, into outer space.
Even the most valid anger can eat us alive, but in true warrior-goddess fashion, Taylor makes waves and turns pain into strength. It's not just an expression thru art, performing, and various community platforms. Her devotion to giving back thru both organizing and performing in Southern Fried Queer Pride has been instrumental in helping to bridge a gap in intersectionality, gender/queer identity, racial and socioeconomic issues, to name a few, and is extremely vital and needed in the Atlanta and the Southeast queer communities. Taylor will also be performing on her birthday, February 13th, at Legendary Children’s Black Hearts Ball with Max from Rupaul’s Drag Race, a benefit for Lost-n-Found Youth.
As I mentioned in our Alternative Artists to Look Out For in 2016 article, Taylor is expanding her repertoire into music. Today she releases her video for “Centuries,” a moody, minimalist track that tips off 90s trip hop. The video, directed by Sara Vogt (with appearances from Micky Bee and Ryan Obery), is somewhat minimalist as well, a dreamy walk thru the woods and into the cityscape with cryptic characters.
Does the “Centuries” video have a metaphorical meaning to you? Sara Vogt (director) had mentioned that some of the locations where you shot had personal significance.
Well, the song is about the ghost of your past coming to haunt you. I wrote it back when I moved to Atlanta and started seeing how people act in the city and how people always touted moving to the city as a way of growing yourself and making something of yourself. But what I found is that a lot of people here are just running from past demons and ghosts, never facing them. I wanted the video to have focus on where I came from and where I am now. We shot scenes in my hometown of Griffin and ended the video downtown. I think once people see the video, they'll understand the song more. I'm really just trying to get out a lot of old material before I put out a solid EP and the songs I have been releasing are the ones that mean the most to me.
What has your been role in SFQP?
Southern Fried Queer Pride started as an idea a little more than two years ago. A group of friends and I formed this really elementary social justice group called Queer Up ATL. We did a few great things, but SFQP was the idea born from it that stuck around. We were all queer, of color, in the beginnings of coming into being trans, and we didn't see spaces that honored that. We didn't feel like ATL Pride was inclusive and eventually we started the groundwork for SFQP, which we wanted to be arts and politics based, that honored every facet of the queer and trans community. Today, I'm one of the main organizers of SFQP. I guess you could consider me one of the head chefs, haha.
And within the drag community here in ATL, how long have you been performing?
I've been performing, officially, for three years this month exactly. My first performance was to a two-minute clip of "Heads Will Roll" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (my favorite band) at the 2013 Creating Change Conference. I made a bodysuit out of ACE bandages and spat up blood during it.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs does seem like a very non-traditional “drag performance piece.” Is that typical of the type of music you’ll perform to?
I usually pick songs that fit a theme or a concept. I like faster paced songs and they're typically by artists you'd see on Pitchfork or Stereogum rather than the top 40. It's only because that's what makes up 90% of my iTunes library.
Do you have a love for a specific genre or time frame in regards to presentation and performance?
Not really. I've been using music from the early 90s lately, especially house music. But sometimes it depends on the venue and their taste. But lately I've done "Around the World" by Lisa Stansfield, to the recent SOPHIE tracks, to Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to Beyoncé. It really varies.
Are there any eras or specific characters or icons from pop culture past that have shaped your aesthetic?
There are so many scenes and people I get creative energy from. From the ball and house scene, to the club kids, to old Black Hollywood performers like Josephine Baker and Eartha Kitt. I try to stay as honest to myself as possible, but influences help me interpret my own ideas in different ways.
There is often times some criticism of drag as being a mockery of femininity, yet it has been an obvious beginning for some performers in finding a deeper connection in regard to gender fluidity or trans identity. Would you say drag performance has assisted you in the further exploration of your own gender identity?
I definitely agree that a LOT of drag performers veer into this trans/misogynist, often racist, etc. territory in the name of being "progressive" or "transgressive" without thinking what their performances portray. There's a way to shock and be nuanced, but most performers miss the mark. However, I don't see drag as a mockery of femininity. I see drag as a performance art and womanhood/femininity as an identity, and sometimes drag can be used as a medium for some to come into their own. I know several performers who have come into their identities via drag and it's beautiful. For me, I don't separate who I am onstage from who I am offstage. Drag has really helped me love my body more and has really brought me into this space of being free to express myself artistically. Me being agender, people ask me all the time why I do drag, and I love that it provokes questions about "gender performance.”
Do you find the queer art scene is improving in Atlanta?
The queer art scene in ATL is in such a beautiful space right now. I can't wait to see how it grows in the next few years. I think the local artists and performers are starting to create these really strong bonds and connections and not feed into this dog-eat-dog mentality that destroys queer arts scenes. I'm in love with what's coming out of it right now. Some queer artists I like in ATL: my sister, Micky Bee. She's such a fucking force and I wish she performed more. Eshe Shukura, who is a spoken word performance artist and also so powerful on stage. One of my favorite queens is Biqtch Puddin, and I can't wait for her projects this year. I'm eagerly awaiting more from For A Good Time, Kryean Kally and Jax's band. I have my eye on a lot of folx who are working on projects this year that range from film to music to more. ATL is in such a lovely space for queer art at the moment.
Sunni Johnson, Arts Editor at WUSSY Mag, is an Atlanta musician and zinester.