‘Every flavor of gay’: Ladyfag is the Queen Mother of New York nightlife

Sometime after midnight on Saturday, the attendees of LadyLand 2024 were treated to a very special surprise. As Dashaun Wesley, host of HBO Max’s “Legendary,” introduced the judges of the evening’s vogue ball competition at Under the K Bridge Park, four of whom had recently wrapped up their own energetic LadyLand performances: Tokischa, Arca, Bob the Drag Queen and Sevdaliza.

And then there was “Queen Muuvva.” The Material Girl herself. Madonna materialized in a custom all-white Dilara Findikoglu look that was giving bondage Elvis, sitting front and center.

The Material Girl and Ladyfag (Photo by Ricardo Gomes)

After the first house, dressed in classic yellow “Clueless” school girl outfits, concluded their number by voguing to “Vogue,” Madonna offered them a 7 out of 10. Savage. The next group, who offered a glittering showgirls moment, got 10.

Madonna said all she needed to say with her ice-melting facial expressions, but at the end of the competition she offered her love to the city that made her back when she was a hungry young singer: “Thank you all, New York City. Without you, I am nothing.”

While undoubtedly the headline-grabbing moment of this year’s LadyLand, Madge’s cameo was just one in a list of highlights that included a plethora of creative looks, such as an attendee wearing her hair spiked tall into a crown, gays sing-shouting Real Housewife Luann de Lesseps’ “Money Can’t Buy You Class” as the countess herself lip-synced along, and Julia Fox making her pop star debut to share two unreleased songs as Honey Balenciaga delivered her Beyoncé-approved gravity defying moves.

Under the K Bridge Park, located below Kosciuszko Bridge in northernmost Brooklyn, had been turned into a lovingly chaotic and loud gay paradise by another queer nightlife Muvva, Ladyfag, for the fifth annual edition of LadyLand. The sold-out fête gathered 8500 guests each day, for their biggest-ever draw. Inside the fest, a neon sign glowed with the words “Ladyfag loves you,” which, if you ask her, is absolutely true.

“Throughout my nightlife career, my intention has always been to try to put queer people front and center. In the past few years, the industries are catching up with diversity, with putting gay people on stages, but that’s always been what we’ve done, without any slogans,” Ladyfag tells Brooklyn Magazine. “We are a queer team who puts together a festival where almost all of the people on our lineup are queer; or a few big gay icons.”
Ladyfag makes space for rising talent, and at LadyLand, the smaller Truck stage, offering DJ sets near the food and vendor area, was their place to shine.

“The curation is also about making sure there’s enough big artists that we can get enough people at the festival,” she says. “And also championing younger artists that people might not know and who deserve a stage because we think they’re really talented.”

Slayyyter and Tinashe strike a pose (Photo by Matteo Prandoni) 

From club kid to den mother
Ladyfag, born Rayne Baron in Toronto in 1976, immediately immersed herself in New York nightlife after moving here in 2005, although she’s lost track of how many years she’s been throwing parties (they seem to have begun around 2010). Her first event was called Family Function, featuring her “lucky charm” Michael Magnan, a mainstay DJ. Soon after came a party in the basement of the famed Chelsea Hotel with Honey Dijon, then 11:11, among others.

It was after booking a newcomer named Cardi B for a Holy Mountain party in February 2017 (four months before her breakout hit single “Bodak Yellow” dropped) that Ladyfag knew she needed to throw a festival where she brought queer DJs and live acts together under one roof “Why am I not making these moments happen?” she wondered when daydreaming of legendary moments from NYC clubbing’s yesteryear featuring the likes of Grace Jones, Cher, Elton John and others. “I had this vision for something and the vision was correct.”

LadyLand was born in 2018 at the Brooklyn Mirage, with rapper Eve and late hyper-pop progenitor Sophie topping a lineup that also featured Kim Petras, King Princess, DJ Minx, Cupakke and others.

“Ladyfag has been a seminal force in NYC nightlife for several decades. Her party 11:11 brought the hottest people in New York to an amazingly curated techno basement vibe in the Lower East Side for years,” says Julia Sinelnikova, who has been making music and art as Oracle666 in Brooklyn for over 10 years. “I really admire her for becoming a mom and being a mother to the community.”

Honey Balenciaga, Julia Fox and Richie Shazam serve cunt (Photo by Matteo Prandoni) 

For the lovers
My friend Blake Bejan, who’s lived in New York for five years and attended many raves and gay parties (but none by Ladyfag before this), was in awe that we were at a truly gay music festival with “every flavor of gay” on display, as he aptly put it.

Kev, who grew up in Jersey and has lived in Greenpoint for over a decade, loves Ladyfag’s events but feels that anything during Pride is inherently more corporate-feeling and less gay. “Everyone still has their shirts on,” he points out. “I love the sense of community, art, celebration and, of course great, dance. Artists can pop off while actively experimenting.”
Ladyfag hopes you make new friends at her events, and that sense of community was felt. Illustrator and rising gay adult film star Cody Silver loves how LadyLand really brings the queer community together. “LadyLand feels more like a celebration than a party. Ladyfag created a space for queers of all gender expression and racial backgrounds to come together and celebrate Pride! It was a total dreamscape; I ran into friends from all over the world and from different periods of my life. It felt like a culmination of all the people I love coming together to celebrate!”

Next week, Ladyfag and her team will begin planning LadyLand 2025. But of course, they don’t wait until Pride to celebrate the gays. Her long-running (eight years strong!) Battle Hymn party takes place monthly on Sundays in Chelsea, along with a sprinkling of alternate locations, including at Coney Island beach on July 20. New York house legends The Carry Nation and Eli Escobar serve as resident DJs along with a rotating cast of fellow iconic queer DJs.
There’s sure to be more wild, creative parties up her glamorous sleeves. Stay tuned to Ladyfag’s Instagram and mailing list for the latest.

“Since the dawn of time, people have come together to party, and it will continue forever. That’s part of human nature; wanting to gather in spaces to share art and joy,” says Ladyfag. “It will always keep evolving. Nostalgia is dangerous. You got to keep it moving forward.”

A fabulously dressed guest reminds us ‘different is delicious’ (Photo by Matteo Prandoni) 

The post ‘Every flavor of gay’: Ladyfag is the Queen Mother of New York nightlife appeared first on Brooklyn Magazine.

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