Meet Jay Jay, the dancer who vogued for Orlando
About 24 hours after the slain of 49 people in an Orlando (EUA) gay club, London’s LGBTQ community held a vigil in the Soho district to honour the victims. Even though several other tributes were held all around the world, the Soho vigil will go down in history as a celebration of the culture that was brutally attacked in Orlando. However, when Jason A. Cameron (Jay Jay Revlon) started voguing with some of his friends in Old Compton Street, he did not anticipate that that moment would become a symbol of resilience for the LGBTQ.
Where were you when you heard about what happened in Orlando?
I was on my way back from Sheffield. Me and a couple of other voguers had gone there to perform at the UK premiere of a movie called Kiki (Twiggy Pucci Garcon & Sara Jordenö, 2016). It’s about the Kiki Ballroom scene in the USA, the good side of being in a Kiki house but also deaths from HIV and XYZ. So I was on the bus back home and I saw a status from one of my friends. I kept on pressing refresh and the death toll kept going up. 15, 20, 25… I couldn’t believe it. I got home really disheartened. ‘Why is this happening in my community?’ It put a bad taste in my mouth. It could have happened anywhere! I just thought ‘Why?’ and it made me think about what am I doing for my community and how many people know about this dance style that is about taking oppression and giving high spirits to make you feel good at the end of the day.
Monday came and I just heard more stories and I started to think that it was too much and I couldn’t deal with it. Everyone starts calling me to ask if I’m going to the vigil in Soho and I definitely was. I had a voguing class that day and, even though I’m asking myself how am I going to teach because I still can’t get my mind around what happened, I decided that I was going to vogue for the people in Orlando and celebrate the lives they lived.
The LGBTQ comes across as a very tight community. Is it?
Yes, and we should be! Voguing builds that. When you go to the events, you go with multiple members and you’ll scream the house name from the top of your lungs, lose your voice and everything. It’s your family at the end of the day.
Does that happen because from the outside there’s still a lot of aggression and negative feelings towards the LGBTQ?
People are not okay with it. It’s especially hard to be a queer person of colour. There’s always issues. Even if it’s not said, it’s an unspoken issue. You could just be walking down the street and everybody looks at you like ‘WTF are you wearing? What’s going on with him? Oh, he’s gay!’ You see everyone speaking in their heads. You get the sly comment when you’re walking down the street. You just have to reply! I don’t take verbal abuse. I friend of mine got loads of verbal abuse. She’s a full working drag queen and now she’s behind bars because someone was attacking her verbally and mentally. She was with a group of white people and they all made her feel uncomfortable till the point you’re jumpy and then things happen.
Was voguing in Soho something that happened spontaneously?
It was completely spontaneous. After all those calls I was talking to my friends and kept telling them ‘Bring track suit bottoms because we’re going to vogue’. I was so nervous because you never know how people are going to take it. I would dance anywhere – I don’t care -, but this time I was scared. I was doing a hand performance, did a little dip and as soon as I got up, the crowd was ridiculous! There was a circle of people cheering and more coming from left, right and centre. I introduce myself, I tell them that we’re voguing for Orlando and explain that we’re celebrating the lives they lived. I said to them that the attacker might have taken the people from our community but that they’ll never take our spirit.
In the UK we’re so polite. We’ll just say “Oh, I’m so sorry”. Whereas I come from a Caribbean background and we are the kind of people that will celebrate the life you have lived not ponder on the death. We need to push hate out of our own community as it turns out that he [the shooter] was actually gay. I see too much hate for me to be like ‘It’s just another queen being a queen’ when it’s not. This kind of things that you’re doing, the actions you’re taking are making our community so accessible to people that will come up and shoot clubs.
Do you think that what happened may have an influence in the upcoming London pride?
People came up to us after [the voguing] and said ‘I wasn’t going to Pride, but now I am’ so I believe it’s going to have a positive effect. Pride is very important, but we need a seven-day Pride, not a one-day Pride. You go to other countries and their Pride lasts days. If 12,000 people can fit in Soho [estimate number of attendants of the Soho vigil], you can definitely shut down Oxford Street for Pride. I want music playing from all the stores, flags everywhere!
Get in touch with Jay Jay Revlon Cameron on Facebook to learn more about voguing and ballroom culture, have a sneak peek at his Instagram or catch him at Stratford’s Gymbox for a Waack and Vogue Fitness class. Follow @englishbreakfastLondon, a platform created for voguing in London, on Facebook and Instagram to be updated on balls and other events.