Chrystal Kelly is a concept driven photographer, who specializes in creative portraiture and fine art photography. For a long-time a New Orleans resident, she now resides in Durham.
This year she caught the North Carolina Pride Parade and was able to get an exclusive interview with Brian French of Pardon Moi French about being a performer in the 2016 NC Pride Festivities.
interviews Brian French
Hi. I’m Chrystal Kelly of Shattering Light Photography and I’m speaking with Brian French of Pardon Moi French before his Drag Show event at The Bar on Rigsbee Avenue in Durham, NC for North Carolina Pride 2016
CK: Hi, Brian.
BF: Hi, Chrystal.
CK: So why did you choose to host your event at The Bar in Durham instead of at a Raleigh venue this year?
BF: To be completely candid with you, the original contracts were for a location in downtown Raleigh, but they don’t particularly do LGBT events—they are forward thinking so we were going to partner with them. Then Renee from The Bar contacted us.
I told her I was a little apprehensive about doing it [the Drag Show event] in a space that does not host LGBT events 365 days a year, and apprehensive about how the community might perceive us doing an event of this scale in this space. I wanted to do the event in a space that people were familiar with and that we could get back too. Renee said, “We are shutting down Rigsbee and have some stuff already going on, but I don’t see why we couldn’t combine the two events.”
I was at dinner with Candis at the time and we discussed it, I was like, man this could really work out, the next thing I knew, twelve hours later, we had an over the phone handshake agreement on doing this together, and then of course everything went down in writing and on paper. Now we can be happier it [our event] is just a few blocks from the parade, it’s a great venue for this, I enjoy The Bar personally, too. There’s going to be a glow party on the dance floor while the Drag Show is going on out back, it is going to be an extravaganza!
CK: How are you connected to all the biggest drag queens in the area?
BF: When I started Pardon Moi French one of the biggest complaints I had was about the entertainers being called local, to the entertainers it is a bit derogatory and offensive as a term. I like to call them home-based entertainers or just entertainers. Drag is Drag.
I get the connections through the agents and then five star treatment! Some of these entertainers are constantly on the road, so it means a lot to come into a town and then get to go out have some fun and a nice meal. Kindness and positive interactions go a long way in this industry.
CK: What is your favorite part about planning these events?
BF: I think my favorite part is the adrenaline rush from the stress of it! I have always been a planner since I was a kid, then I was a marketing planner for Legends Night Club for six years. While I was there I had the opportunity to produce a lot of events, but it just wasn’t as fulfilling as doing it for someone else. I had a lot of ideas, but there was a hierarchy. I wanted to have a more creative outlet to do this on a larger scale and doing it for myself I have more freedom creatively, and I answer to myself [only] with business concerns like budget, which adds to the rush of it. Now I can get whatever venue I’m interested in booking, any performers that I want. Of course, I listen to the community to see what they are interested in seeing.
There are moments when I can see the difference our entertainers make to people of all ages during the meet and greet. That is the most exciting part for me. It is immeasurable to see how much it means to some people. Drag can really impact people’s lives.
CK: Where do you see yourself as far as involvement Pride and events around the Triangle?
BF: I would love to continue the relationship I have with Renee at The Bar. I would love to continue to do events around The Triangle with them. I have a couple tours planned with the Rupal Drag Race participants in the coming year, I can’t elaborate just yet too much on that. I have some big New Year’s Eve plans and I would love to do more in Durham. I plan most stuff a couple months out, it is ever evolving.
CK: It sounds like you have a great source of support with Candis Cox.
BF: Yeah, before every event Candis looks at me and goes, “Okay, Brian, if anything goes wrong don’t worry, we are problem solvers, and we will get through it. She has been at and hosted every event from the beginning.
Pride is about uniting everyone, no matter who they are? What do you think is one of the most important thing we could do as a country, as a state? Be more unified and show some solidarity and support to each other.
Let me just throw a quick disclaimer, I wouldn’t claim to be political, but what I would say is if you take a look at this event line up we have seven cities represented with fifteen North Carolina based performers of all races, creeds, colors, biologies, and sexual orientations; it is a total mix of people. The show is going to be the first time at least that I have experienced a NC Pride event where you have this many entertainers representing the state coming together. It is a show of unity in a time when we don’t support each other enough.
We don’t love each other enough. There is no reason when we don’t all have the rights that we deserve, that we shouldn’t all be working together.—Brian French
CK: What kind of positive effect do you see coming from an event which brings people together to celebrate our uniqueness and equality?
BF: If 2000 people show up, and 1700 wake up with a hangover and are like, “I had a great time last night…” and 300 people get the message, then that was a successful show with a positive outcome. Bringing the state together, creating unity, it’s not just about HB2, as horrible as that is, there are so many things we are not doing right in this community: we don’t volunteer enough at our local LGBT centers, we are not getting out to the AIDS walks, there are so many things we could do to show our support, showing support for politicians who support us.
You can’t identify all the deeds of others, all you can do is create a space for people to have a voice.