I had such a lovely time speaking with legendary drag queen Vivacious about her history with fans and how they fit into the LGBT world I had to turn it into a two-parter. There’s simply too much to learn and too many stories to fit into one piece.
If you haven’t read part one, check it out here. Once you’ve got the first half of the story, complete the narrative below with even more Vivacious. After this, you’re sure to be a fan ☺️
Fans have been such a big part of who you are and your show for so long. How do you keep making it fresh and keep bringing new things into your show with this one instrument?
Well, first of all, a fan is as versatile as your mind. Most people don't have the neuromuscular connection and coordination to move beyond just a...some people say slap, I call it crack or crackle. I've never really given it a name in terms of what the sound sounds like. It's like "Girls, that's just my fan." It's all in the person's creativity.
I think the only other person that is efficient at fanning is Gia Gunn because as a Kabuki performer, the fan is a part of her tradition in terms of the movement. She uses a fan in a more feminine way. That's also something to study. I studied it the more based in martial arts. My movements are martial arts-based mixed with house music.
It's just a matter of how you as an individual want to interpret doing the fan. I go to Battle Hymn on a Sunday in New York City. There's this circuit queen who’s got two fans. The reason why he's using two fans on the left hand and the right hand is because he doesn't know how to use one fan to hit each beat by itself so he has one fan for each beat. All of a sudden you hear crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, crack and I'll turn around to him. One day he came up to me, tried to battle me with his two fans in his hand. I had my one fan and I had snapped it just because I knew the first beat was coming in. He was there with his fan cracking back and forth with two and I pulled mine out and hit it on one beat. He turned around to me and thought that he was going to outdo me with his two fans. Honey, I lit that bitch up for the next two minutes. He had to put his fans in his back pocket he realized even though he had two fans he couldn't keep up with me and my one fan.
The reason why, for me, it looks fiercer when I do it because there's a time and place when it comes to using a fan. If you use it on every beat, it doesn't feel fierce anymore. It’s kind of like the art of throwing shade. There's certain elements in the universe that call for it. You have to find the poignant times and when to use a fan.
How many of these fans do you actually own?
I've been known for fans for so long that people have gone to different countries and just gotten me fans. I'd say probably a good, fierce collection over the years, probably about 75 different types of fans.
That's just at home, in storage. Last year at New York DragCon I had a pair of four -foot fans that I literally had for 20 years and since it was my first DragCon I was like, "Bitch, if I'm selling merchandise I'm selling every fucking thing" because I needed money and I want people's money. We once opened up three of them on the dance floor, the big ones, and it made this big, gigantic circle...and then they hadn't been used since. It was just sitting in the house. Within three hours of DragCon we got three bids for it and they came back at the end of DragCon and said, "Girl, they sold all, all three of your fans are gone."
They're like, "You should probably bring some more of those big ones next year" because I was actually opening them up and performing with them at my DragCon table and, of course, it created a stir. People were like, "Wow, we've never seen somebody use a fan that big to perform before."
You've talked about how young people these days only know one thing to do with a fan, if one thing at all. Fans are so much more popular these days. Does that make you happy, or maybe sad?
I feel as though they have diluted and polluted the fan because they don't know the art of when to use it. They sound stupid using it but guess what? It is what it is.
I'm sure there are a lot of people that are now out there doing the same thing. It's not good to see different images and different things. So here's a Kiki--Every year I would buy 52 fans because back then they used to also have the plastic versions of them so I would break one once a week at the club. That's how strongly I used them. Once I was like "Girl, by the time that 15-hour shift is up the fan is broken" or even before then and I would have the next one. We would buy 52 for the year and then I think it might have been around '97 or '98 we discovered the wooden ones that look the same which costs a little bit more money and those ones were $27.00 here in New York back then. Once I had my first taste of those and it had a stronger sound than the plastic one we were hooked and we never went back. It also means that I don't now have to break a fan every week because here comes this wooden fan saving my ass. 52 weeks of fans because, girl, it's a year and a half later and that fan is still working.
Yes, the top is frayed off or yes the vein broke in the but I also learned a workaround with these strong safety pins on how to fix it, and jerry rig it, and put it back to being normal, etc. I used to make my own veins for the fan to go through the hole at the bottom to keep it sturdy and keep it going. I could show you old busted ones with pins inside but that fan still gets her life.
Here's the thing and everything in life...even if it became overpopulated, as long as you know the refined way of doing it you still stand out as a demigod amongst them all because when they come up to you with their ballsy way of doing it and you light them up real fierce it's kind of like they get a revelation like "Oh, oh, I guess I'm not that fierce." You see what I'm saying?
I don't mind at all. As a matter of fact, at DragCon we were doing that. Mariah Balenciaga from RuPaul's Drag Race, she had a fan and hers said "Bitch, I'm bothered." The ones that I picked up was “Mother Has Arrived,” “Get Into Her,” and “You Can't Take It” so when that girl was running around with her fan “Bitch I'm Bothered,” I snapped mine three times which she could not do and she saw the writings on mine and she backed up and ran the other way. Then, right or wrong, I was walking on the convention floor and I had left my fan by my station and she saw me and she ran up and snapped the “Bitch I'm Bothered” in my face. Imagery having a bitch off war with just using the fans alone and so she caught me so fiercely because I didn't have it at the time and she let me have it with that fan. This girl was only about like probably 15 or 17 years old. She was very young. I was like "Bitch, I'll get you girl. I'm going to get you."
I tell you this much from what happened with my interaction with her and my friend yesterday, she's going to take that memory and go "Oh, remember that time you did this to me?" She'll probably find me years later online and send me a picture like "It's me. The girl with the fan." It's been like that the whole time so, yeah, fans are fun. Fans are fun. I can't sit there and say "I'm the demigod of fan,” which I probably am, but you got to remember this, there's a fearful Asian bitch out there who makes me look like a fool.
As a fan user, I still have more to learn. There's a looseness to them which allows them to make the sound but because of that looseness there's something in it you can't control all the time because based on where the air current is if you flip it a certain way and try to catch it by the base the air current could shift it somewhere else. I would say if there's one technique that I would like to learn to master would be that one.
In the past, if you ever watch martial arts where they would take a chain and ball and whip it around their body and throw it in another direction, I’d also add that form of mastery to my fan. I’d add like an eight-foot yard of rope and throw the fan out into the crowd, and yank it back, and snap it in midair with the cord on the fan, and pull it back to myself. I always push myself in terms of what I can do.
Do I do it that often? No, because if there's a big space around you, you can get away with it but if people are too close you feel it you might accidentally hit somebody in the face. The last thing you need is to hurt somebody with a fan. That’s a lawsuit! I've also had the metal versions of the fan. I'm sure you've seen those ones before. That also has the dragon in it if you've seen that one, so yeah, they've been around me the whole time.
Fans are fun, but what is the real meaning for the LGBT community? What is something that you wish kids just discovering this now understood when they pick up their fans?
IWell, I think for the LGBT community it doubles as two things. It helps them fan themselves at hot parties. It gives them, I think for some it also gives them a sense of a status. Like, "Look girl, I got my fan." It's either in their back pocket or in their hand and then they use it to fan themselves and cool down. I don't think there's anything that I wish for them to learn from it. Have fun with it! But, if everyone becomes a fan user that makes me a common bitch. No, I don't want anyone to be at my level, learning how to use the fan. Let them discover it in their own joy, in their own time. What I notice is they just like to... I'd say the fan has now just become an LGBT staple and a prop.
Everyone uses fans differently. That's just life. Each form of using a fan is just fun regardless of how it's perceived. Fans are fun! That's one thing I have learned from all of this, fans are fun to crack to the beat, gorgeous at a fierce circuit party or to use it to throw shade at somebody. I use a fan to throw shade all the time. I don't even really use a fan to cool myself now. It's for throwing shade and it's for the beat.
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