Listen, there aren’t a whole tonne of actual lez idols out there, so picking out the gems is usually A TASK. The Fringe! Lineup though – rife with role models, life lessons, and the kind of guidance for life that any aspiring BAMF could use. Below, sage guidance for how to live your best life, or in my case, rules for how to be a better adult in general:
1. Audre Lorde
Because telling your own story is the best thing you can do for yourself.
Who doesn’t want to grow up to be Something of Audre Lorde? Feminist, icon, poet, world-changer, so much more than words. The Cancer Journals, Lorde’s chronicle of her breast cancer changed the way we talk about being women being sick, rejected the idea that illness is a life sentence, and reframed the narrative of what breast cancer means for someone who lives through it. The Cancer Journals Revisited, screening at Fringe! this year, tells 27 more stories of breast cancer survivors, carrying on the conversation that Lorde started in 1980.
2. Joan Nestle
Because owning queer spaces is how we make them last forever.
In the ever-changing, ever-gentrifying landscape of Brooklyn, the Lesbian Herstory Archives are that rare thing: a permanent queer space, dedicated to the preservation, cataloguing, and remembrance of American lesbian history and culture. Joan, in whose Park Slope adjacent brownstone the archives are located, and who founded the Archives with her then-partner, donated this owned space to a cause greater then herself - and has therefore enabled a precious resource to be permanently housed and maintained. Truly an icon for us all.
3. Sidra Smith
Because writing the sex life you want to see in the world makes that cultural moment HAPPEN bbz.
You know what we weren’t seeing a lot of in 1999? Black women in love (with other black women). Sidra Smith’s cult classic A Luv Tale broke down barriers, won awards, and beamed stories that weren’t being told right onto the silver screen. Almost 20 years later, we’re revisiting new versions of those stories – still raw, still sexy, still black, still Harlem – with the serialized version of her iconic film.
4. The women of the Cockettes
Because stories aren’t told by one person, and when the time comes to give the interview, you want to have the goods.
Look. Sometimes you’re the star of your story, and sometimes you’re the Best Supporting Actress in someone else’s drama – if you’ve been to a gay bar, you know this. The women of the Cockettes aren’t necessarily the stars here, but they have the receipts, and when the Acid Freak artists and hippies split, they were there to tell the tale. Lesson: be good, be around, take notes, bring your baby to the party.
Because everyone needs some good sidekicks, even if they’re slippery little eels.
YES Ursula had maleficent intentions, YES she stole some poor kid’s voice and tried to entrap her, and YES she tried to take Ariel’s manz (and murder/maim/take over the ocean kingdom). But GOOD GOSH DAMN did that sea witch know how to work a crowd and convince others to do her bidding. Ursula couldn’t have done it on her own though, and her iconic hench-eels Flotsam and Jetsam provided just the right amount of strong-arming to really make the story happen. Because where would Ariel be without Ursula? Still in her grotto of forks, probably.