ProudTimes connected with Faye Fearless, LGBTQ events planner extraordinaire.
ProudTimes: You have been producing a wide spectrum of events from Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom, trivia nights, to LezProm’s in the queer community. We connected with you through Lez Prom Portland. How did you get your start creating and hosting events?
Faye Fearless: I got my start at the end of 2015. Lez Prom was actually the first event I ever produced. The idea came from the community itself via a post on a popular Austin lesbians Facebook group.
PT: You are involved with the LGBTQ and fandom communities through your events. Also, you produce events for self-empowerment. Do you feel intersection in these communities?
FF: Absolutely. That’s actually the common factor across all my events. Each and every event we produce is designed to be a safe space for self-expression. A place where a lesbian, a superfan, a witch, a cuddle monkey, or a princess can be exactly who they are without feeling inhibited and free from judgement or shame.
These events are about freedom of expression and living as your authentic self, whether that’s a lover of ladies or a super nerd. Each event empowers the individual to be freely themselves, to not hold back. We dance like no one is watching, we sing out loud, we cast spells, and we show our true color, whether green/silver or rainbow toned.
PT: What are some of the methods that you incorporate into your self-empowerment events?
FF: Each event is a judgement and shame free zone. That includes ensuring everyone feels welcome to wear what they want to prom, to believe in magic, or to express just how hardcore of a fan they are at trivia nights. We all see ourselves in a very specific way and know who we are better than anyone else ever could. One of the best feelings in the world is having someone else truly accept who you are. That validation is what we try to provide at every event.
PT: Which events do you feel have made the most positive impact on folk’s lives; do you have a specific example?
FF: Lez Prom is definitely an event that leaves a lasting impact. For a lot of folks who attend, it’s about recreating that perfect prom experience, but for others, it’s the sense of belonging and the true community feel that the event creates. It’s the one night a year all the lesbians come out for, and it’s really special to share that night with our sub-community.
Often this slice of the LGBTQ+ community goes overlooked and under represented at larger queer gatherings. It can be overwhelming to be at PRIDE with everyone and yet not feel like there is much common ground. Events specifically for lesbians and non-binary folks are very rare. So, having a place like Lez Prom where we can gather once a year to share our lives and love is exceptionally special.
I’ve had the privilege of hearing about the powerful experience of attendees at the end of each Lez Prom. This is why I do it. It’s powerful to hear people describe the experience of how they felt welcome, accepted, and a sense of belonging. Getting to create this space each year that allows these emotions and experiences to happen has been such an honor.
PT: We have to know – have you seen love bloom between people who met at LezProm?
FF: Yes! The love is infectious at Lez Prom. You can really see it when the photos come out. Our photographer captures a lot of candid photos, and you can see the pure joy on so many faces. What is really neat about this event is it doesn’t just attract couples.
We have a lot of folks who attend with a group of friends or solo and meet people at the event. We even reserve a special section of tables just for singles to find each other and meet dancing partners. A new love blooming at Lez Prom is definitely a possibility! This event is also inclusive of the non-monogamous/polyamory community. Being a member of that community myself, I like to make sure folks with multiple partners feel free to express their love in this space.
PT: Do you mind sharing your personal journey with coming out and how it’s shaped you as a public figure?
FF: Sure! My coming out was pretty unique in that the first Lez Prom event could be considered my coming out party! Here’s the story. I came to the realization that I was gay just five years ago when I was 25. It was not until 2014 that I actually considered dating women to be an option for myself.
Dating and being with men felt like the default mode and I didn’t question it. It wasn’t until I moved to Austin in 2011 that I considered other options. Shortly after, I met a woman who practiced polyamory – an open style of relationship that allows you to date and form relationships with multiple partners with the knowledge and consent of all involved. I had never heard of this lifestyle before and wanted to learn more.
Eventually, my long-term boyfriend and I decided to give polyamory a try. I went on my first date with a woman shortly before PRIDE in 2014, and it was glorious. In early 2015, I attended several queer women’s events and started to experience what the culture was all about. This was incredibly liberating. As I continued to date women in 2015, I became more and more disconnected from my male partner. Sometime around the summer of 2015 we officially split, although we remain very good friends to this day.
I was fortunate to have found a few lezzy centered events right around the time I was discovering my own sexuality and this had an impact on my career as a producer. If I had not experienced for myself that special kind of energy that comes from an event with 500+ lesbians and non-binary folks in attendance, I might not have thought about creating this kind of event.
I’m so fortunate to have family and friends that accept me. I am forever grateful to the friends I met in Austin who enlightened me by sharing so openly about their lives and loves. Because I was always accepted completely on my journey, I never was pressured to hide any part of my identity. This is something I have learned to be extremely grateful for and to cherish because I know so many others who never received the same acceptance.
I want to recreate that experience of acceptance for folks who attend my events, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community. At least at my events, folks can have that acceptance, validation, and the love they deserve. It’s a small thing I can do, and I know how powerful those feelings are.
PT: What are some of your upcoming projects and is there anything in the pipeline that has you especially excited?
FF: I was thrilled to be able to bring Lez Prom to Portland and Seattle this year after having established the event in Austin. I hope to continue to bring the event to more cities. I have a few ideas in the works but cannot release details quite yet.
PT: What is the vision for your event business and what steps do you take to ensure that your events align?
FF: I hope the business always stays authentic to its original values. Each event is created for the community (LGBTQ+ or fandom) and by someone deeply connected to that community. As Faye Fearless Productions grows, I personally may be less involved with each event individually. But what will never change is that those working the events will be a part of the community. I couldn’t imagine running it any other way.
PT: As a successful female entrepreneur, what is the best advice you’ve ever received? Today, what advice would give to others following in your footsteps?
FF: The best advice I ever received is “never take it personally.” A business is not about you; it’s about the product you are creating. So, the feedback you receive is about the product and not an attack on the one who made it. This has been particularly prudent advice for LGBTQ+ related events.
It’s hard to predict how individuals will interpret an event, and when I learned in the past that particular groups didn’t feel as welcomed because of representation in marketing materials or the event description, we worked to correct this. But sometimes even when working towards a resolution, the feedback can feel like a personal attack, and sometimes it’s absolutely designed that way. I was shocked to find bullies within the LGBTQ+ community, but even here, they exist.
As an event producer, it’s my job to listen to any and all feedback, evaluate it and reply in a way that is professional. Those giving the feedback, however, are under no such professional obligations. My advice: always take the high road, consider all feedback fairly and implement solutions that are important and reasonable, and remember that you can’t please everyone.
Another piece of advice that I was given was to “accept that failure will happen.” I have been fortunate to have what I consider very few losses or failed events, but there have been a few. Working for yourself is a risk. Entrepreneurship is like gambling; it’s a roller coaster. But I’ve always thought you need the lows to realize how epic the highs really are. You have to have that perspective to appreciate it; I’ve never liked neutral anyway.
Your first loss is always really hard, especially as a small company. It’s easy to feel responsible. One way to mitigate this is to know and to trust that you did everything you could have done. Usually, our regrets come from wanting to change something about our actions in the past, but there is nothing I would change about the events that failed because I feel secure in my efforts.
Lastly, here’s my advice that should be particularly helpful for women entrepreneurs “be confident in your abilities and decisions.” Paralysis in decision making is the death of many businesses. You have to take the leap at some point. And finally, don’t be afraid to negotiate and don’t accept the terms you are given in life or business. There is no default mode anymore: not straight, not working for someone else, and not getting married and having kids.
PT: Since this year marks the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, this is a big Pride year. What does Pride mean to you on both a personal and professional level? What will you be doing to celebrate?
FF: To me PRIDE is about acceptance, and that goes beyond sexuality and identity. It’s about accepting that our journey is fluid and full of discovery. I have only been a part of this community since 2014. When I first realized what I wanted and how different it was from everything I knew about myself, it made me feel self-conscious. Not because I didn’t want people to know or thought they would judge me for it, but that I was judging myself for not knowing sooner. Like why didn’t I know this about myself, especially when faced with a community that appears from the outside to be mostly people who have always known for a long time. This somehow made me feel less legit.
Pride month also happens to be my birthday month, and for the last several years I’ve hosted a lesbian boat cruise on the lake the weekend closest to my birthday! So that is how I’ll be celebrating PRIDE this year and my 30th birthday!
PT: Anything else that you’d care to add?
FF: Talk and get to know people from all walks of life. Learning about other lifestyles was fundamental in my discovery of who I am. Don’t be scared to try something new. Sure, you won’t have a blueprint for it, but that means you have to trust something deep within you, something powerful. Don’t be afraid to explore in love and dating, try new things, be confident, no one knows what they’re doing at first but you have to try to get better.
If you know any event producers or artists who you think ProudTimes should celebrate, firstname.lastname@example.org we’ll see what we can do!