Boys Love: Why the Most Popular Manga Titles Are Written By Women

ProudTimes Books & Authors

By ProudTimes’ LA Correspondent, Kenyth Mogan

The world of anime and manga is one of fantasy and romance. With so many great stories out there, there really is something for everyone. This includes the gay community, a group vastly underrepresented in most mainstream comic book realms. In an attempt to rectify this empty space, VIZ Media has created an imprint specifically for “Boys Love stories,” SuBLime. After reading a few of their titles, I was given the opportunity to speak to Jennifer LeBlanc, an editor with the imprint about Boys Love Stories, their appeal, and why a lot of them seem to be written by women.

Kenyth Mogan: Why do you think Boys Love books are so popular?

Jennifer LeBlanc: Boys love (BL) is a niche within a niche, really. But they’re popular enough to support their existence. I’m speaking solely about the English-language market.

KM: What can you tell me about the start of the SuBLime Imprint with VIZ?
JL: Back in 2011 sometime, VIZ and the Japanese publisher Libre Publishing decided to go into partnership and start a BL imprint. I was hired in August of that year to run the imprint, and we officially launched in 2012. We released our first digital-only titles in February and our first print titles in June.

KM: Why is it called SuBLime?
JL: We went through a lot of names trying to find just the right one. The meaning of sublime worked, and as an added bonus, it has “BL” right in the middle.

KM: When I was first getting into the industry (my first GN was published in 2007), it seems like yaoi books were still a bit on the taboo side.  Do you feel like this is still the case or has the industry changed? If so, what do you feel has caused the change?
JL: I think things have definitely changed since then, but I wouldn’t say BL is mainstream and everyone is okay with it. Its longstanding presence in the manga market has helped, for sure. And I think people in general are more open to gay content as well as women exploring their sexuality through entertainment media, think “50 Shades of Grey.”

KM: What is currently your most popular title?
JL: Definitely Ten Count by Rihito Takarai.

KM: Ten Count is one of the most popular yaoi titles ever. What, in your opinion, makes this one so popular? Its story? Its art? Or is it the explicitness of the series?
JL: All of that. We weren’t really sure how it would be received at first due to the storyline being about a counselor and someone who is essentially his patient. But it’s a great story about two people struggling and how they each help each other to deal with those struggles. Beyond that the art is absolutely gorgeous, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the sex scenes are quite explicit.

KM: From the Boys Love titles I’ve read from SuBLime, most of them seem to be written and read by women. What is it about the genre that you think resonates with women? Do you think they write more romantic stories than their male counterparts?
JL: The BL market in Japan is made up mostly of women writers, and the writers we publish are at least working under female pen names. Male writers of explicit gay content tend to fall under the label of “bara.” The BL genre is written by women for women, and I think it works because women know what women want to see in a story. Many of us are tired of the played-out tropes surrounding female characters in romantic stories, and boys love eliminates that completely by putting male characters in those positions. Women can explore their sexuality through BL without having to deal with comparing ourselves to the completely unrealistic female characters we tend to see. We’re also not forced into the submissive role women often receive in romantic storylines.

KM: Is there an upcoming series that SuBLime is especially excited about?
JL: We actually have a few things we’ve yet to announce, so I can’t go into any detail there, but we did recently announce Fourth Generation Head: Tatsuyuki Oyamato by fan favorite Scarlet Beriko, and the fans really went crazy over it.

KM: What titles would SuBLime recommend to readers just getting into the Boys Love genre?
JL: I guess it depends on what level of explicitness they’re looking for. I was okay with the super hardcore stuff when I first started reading it. But if we’re assuming someone is just dipping their toe into this type of content and aren’t sure how they feel about it, I would start with something light like His Favorite, which is rated T+. It’s your typical high school story common in manga and it doesn’t get overly explicit. It’s pretty funny too. Tableau Numéro 20 is a collection of stories (this time all adults), so readers can get a variety of content, and although it’s rated mature, it really isn’t at all.  

KM: Will SuBLime be licensing the Ten Count, or any yaoi anime?
JL: have no idea as that’s a completely different department. What I do know is that they would never say if they were if it wasn’t something that was officially announced already. You never tip your hand when it comes to future business plans!  

In speaking with LeBlanc, It was intriguing to learn that most “Boys Love” titles were written by women, for women. But what’s interesting, is that the stories are not sexual just for the sake of being sexual. They are romantic stories, sweet yet seductive. Check them out.

Celebrating the Oregon Coast: Governor Kate Brown Bans Offshore Drilling

#ThatOregonLife #PacificWonderland

By Sebastian Fortino


To kick off the return to warmer weather, ProudTimes is asking our readers to share stories and pictures of your trips to the Oregon Coast. We’re launching this ongoing summer series with Kate Brown’s banning offshore drilling–permanently.  

It has been said it takes a woman to clean up the mess men leave behind. Especially politically, according to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In a piece found on CNN, in terms of the domestic front, many households share the financial burdens of home and family by being double-income. However, in “traditional marriages” it seems women work equal hours but still find themselves doing the lioness’ share of chores at home.

Well, Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown, who queer Oregonians know identifies as bisexual, just signed a law banning offshore drilling from damaging our pristine coastline. #micdrop In effect, she just prevented the mess which would doubtlessly come from the current administration (in this case led by largely mega-rich white men) trying to open up a whopping 90 percent of federal waters to environmental exploitation. Several other states have banned offshore drilling in the wake of this threat.

Sadly, not all Oregonians feel this way. Some would like to see our waters exploited. If you read the responses to the Associated Press article posted by OregonLive, you’ll see some hateful responses. Some crassly attack the governor’s relationship with other Democrats, and her understandable umbrage against the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. These are expected in the public forum. The comments against her sexuality and gender shouldn’t be expected–but they are still sadly present.

However, it’s our job to celebrate what others eviscerate. Therefore, from all of us at ProudTimes, and all of us who love the Coast, we say “Thank you, Governor Kate Brown.”  


If you have any great photos and experiences you’ve taken away from the Oregon or Washington Coast, ProudTimes would love to publish you! Please reach out to proudtimesmag@gmail.comand we’ll see what we can do!

Celebrating Female DJs who Pump Up the Dance Floor: Jules Juke

National Women’s History Month, 2019

By Sebastian Fortino


As part of ProudTimes’ coverage of Women’s History Month, we are speaking to DJ’s who are serving up hot beats on the dance floor. They are all fierce queer women, who are changing the tracks through empowerment, and progressive change. Today, we bring you Portland resident, Jules Juke.

Jules Juke DJing at ClubFlock – Local Lounge, Portland, Oregon

ProudTimes: How long have you been DJing? When did you decide you were going to get out there and spin?

Jules Juke: I’ve been obsessed with underground music since middle school, but spent many years promoting it from behind the scenes as a writer/album reviewer on webzines, long before I decided to put myself in front of the decks as a DJ at my college radio station, KUPS, in 2009. Back then I wasn’t Jules Juke – the radio show was just called “The Mixdown” and I hosted with my real name! Jules Juke didn’t come about until 2012 when I played my first club gig.

PT: Was this something you wanted to do, or have experimented with doing, from an early age?

JJ: As an introvert, DJing never really crossed my mind until I was much older. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was essentially a crate diver long before I knew the term existed. I loved finding and exposing new music, but had little personal desire to play in front of an audience. I had been on a steady diet of trance since 2006, but never felt a great urge to mix trance despite listening to it all the time. In 2008, I fell headfirst into the retro-yet-futuristic sound of synthwave and 80s electro. It was then, that I finally felt I found a genre I wanted to play with more than consume. That to me is what separates a typical music lover from someone who becomes a DJ or producer–that extra push to create something that didn’t exist before.

PT: Do you think the industry is difficult for women to break into? Is it something of a “boys club?”

JJ: It’s definitely somewhat of a boys club and that can be intimidating for women to want to break into, especially if you don’t see any role models like yourself in the community. Just look at the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs! There are only six women in the Top 100, up from four in 2017! Often electronic music festival lineups mirror this underwhelming percentage with female representation in the single digits. Not to mention female musicians are overly sexualized and subjected more often than their male counterparts to unfounded criticism of mixing technique or using ghost producers. That said, I feel like the techno space actually has better female representation than the EDM space and there are slowly more female DJs being profiled in media and festivals signing on to the Keychange initiative to bring gender and diversity balances to lineups. Organizations like She Said So and PWR by Kittens are also doing remarkable grassroots level work to change the industry landscape.

PT: What kind of music do you spin–how would you describe your DJ style?

JJ: My sound is best described as playing in the space between genres with an underlining attention toward melody. I tend to mix with an ear toward a cohesive story and the emotions I want to evoke. Aside from House and Techno I enjoy playing Disco/Funk, Tropical Bass, 80s/90s and my personally curated styles called RnBass (R&B influenced Bass music) and Future Club (a mix of Ghetto House, Trap, Jersey Club, and Bass music).

I also have a soft spot for pop music so I curate a Spotify playlist called Cruise Control dedicated to sharing music that’s “too alt for the radio and too pop for the underground.”

PT: Are there any venues, events, audiences, types of shows which you really prefer to make music at over others?

JJ: Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone lost in the moment, eyes closed, brain off, body vibrating to a song they can’t identify in a room full of strangers doing the same. I don’t really have a favorite venue, but my favorite audiences are the ones with an open mind who aren’t there to listen to any particular artist or genre, but just want to let the DJ to take them on a sweaty, danceable journey.

PT: I know there are less and less venues specifically catering to queer women. When you get the opportunity to perform for a primarily lesbian or female audience, does that add any excitement to your approach?

JJ: Of course! I love queer female audiences because I feel safer around them! Even when I’m on the dancefloor enjoying the music, I don’t have to worry about some random guy touching me uninvitedly. I think creating a safe space in a club setting is a very complicated and nuanced issue. Jen Roberton does an amazing job with LesbiOut/Flock to create that vibe for her events!

PT: Do you have any influences, whether from DJs or musicians, that inspire your sound or attitude when you’re playing?

JJ: My favorite female DJs are La Fleur, Peggy Gou, and J. Philip because they are all amazing selectors and the thought of being able to spend a day picking their brains on music makes me weep. I also love Brenmar, Stanton Warriors, and Russ Chimes because they inspire the type of stylized sound I want in my mixes with lots of remixes/re-edited tracks to make their sets sound unique. Aside from DJs I really love producers who sit outside of a particular genre box and execute on thematic bodies of work like Henry Saiz, Imogen Heap, Max Cooper, and Club Cheval.

PT: How do you best promote yourself, your events, or parties while still keeping your identity intact? Meaning: to get noticed, some artists scale back in the hopes of attracting more fans. Do you find yourself trying to appease any standards?

JJ: Not to sound like a broken record, but this is an interesting question to me because I’m such a student of genre that I never really feel like I scale back or change what I play to appease. My collection of music is so wide and diverse, that I happily step into mixing new genres as a personal challenge. My goal is always to pick out the best bits and elements I like out of a style and mold that into my own thing. For example, I started DJing yoga events in 2017, but had no chill out music to play. I reached out to my DJ friends and asked them to send me some of their favorite ambient tracks. Through that experience I discovered some amazing artists I’m really drawn to, but never would have found otherwise. Doing this countless times has only deepened my appreciation for different styles of DJing.  

PT: What are you working on right now–in terms of events, gigs, collaborations etc.?

JJ: I’m headed back to Hawaii next month and will be DJing a non-profit yoga event called Namastyay on 4/7. I also recently guest interviewed on Missing Mei’s Indie Rant Radio podcast, which should be coming out soon! For the Portland folks, I’ll be playing at the Local Lounge in May as part of Club Flock. It’s very exciting to be part of an all female DJ collective after so many years of doing it alone! We have amazing plans in the works so follow Club Flock on social to stay informed!

PT: Female DJs are getting more and more prominent in our cultural landscape—especially in the LGBTQ community–what would you tell younger DJs out there, especially young women, who are interested in getting into the industry?

JJ: I feel like this advice is true for any entrepreneurial pursuit or stretch goal, but know your why. There will always be people who will criticize, reject, and distract you, but your why has to be stronger than all of that or you will give up. My more practical advice is to try make each day nonzero, meaning do one thing everyday toward that goal, whether it be contacting a promoter, learning a new DJ skill, or working on your mixes. Nonzero days are compounding interest on yourself! Most importantly, practice self-compassion because we are usually our own worst critics.

PT: We are celebrating Women’s History Month. What does this mean to you? What are you fighting for in 2019 and beyond?

JJ: Women’s History Month means celebrating all the tremendous work of the women who have paved the way for the rights and equality we have today. I’m extremely lucky to live in the country and time-period that I do. That doesn’t mean there’s no gap to close, it just means I could have been born in a totally different social/political climate where talking about being a queer female DJ would be absolutely ludicrous. I’m humbled and grateful that is not my reality. In terms of 2019 and beyond, #metoo is a movement I feel drawn to and I hope to see more shifting mentality and legislative wins from!

PT: Anything else you’d care to add?

JJ: Thanks to editor Sebastian Fortino, DJ Jen Roberton, and ProudTimes for the interview! Keep up to date with me on instagram @julesjuke or www.julesjuke.com!

If you know any DJs, musicians, or artists who you think ProudTimes should celebrate email proudtimesmag@gmail.com and we’ll see what we can do!

Debra Porta of Pride Northwest Shares Some of the Women Who Inspire Her

Women’s History Month, 2019

By Debra Porta of Pride Northwest

I don’t tend to find my inspiration and sense of strength from women in history books or stories of fiction. This is especially so as regards queer women. It’s always possible that had I been exposed to the stories of queer women before me that might be different. But growing up in Texas, not so much. However, I was fortunate to have strong Texas women to look to.

Women like Barbara Jordan who may or may not have been family (that’s not for me to say), who I remember watching on TV when I was 10 years old, giving that now famous address at the Democratic National Convention. What little I knew of politics at the time didn’t matter. What I knew was that this woman was owning that space in front of thousands of people in a way I had never seen before. As I learned more about Jordan’s legacy of leadership years later, she just became more and more of an inspiration to me. And it wasn’t just because she overcame the obstacles she faced as black woman holding elected office in Texas; it was her complete and utter sense of an “I am me, I know my worth” attitude, one of those things difficult to describe but you know it when you see.

That same sense of self is what inspired me about Texas governor Ann Richards. I had the opportunity to meet her when I was in high school before she governor. In addition to her great sense of humor, something Jordan also possessed, you could just see the “go ahead cowboy give it a try” glint of steel in her eyes. She was not gonna be played by anybody. Neither of these women, to my young eyes, seemed to need, or to be asking for, permission to be who they were or to say what they needed to say.

Many years later after I moved to Oregon, I completely fell in love I completely fell in love with state senator Avel Gordly, who upon learning I was from Texas, immediately instructed me to read Barbara Jordan’s biography. She carries that same spirit of self-knowing that so moves me.

I don’t really believe in the concept of heroes, of singular individuals as super-humans, as somehow more special than everyone else-and more important, on whom we project our own abilities to lead and to make change. Every single day, I see womxn changing the world. As I’ve grown older and become active in my community, it isn’t the famous or titled people that inspire me.

The womxn that inspire me now, the ones who drive me to be better every day, who have helped and continue to help me to grow both as a woman and as a person…most of them don’t even know they do that. Through my association with Pride Northwest I’ve been fortunate enough to now work with-and be called out-by amazing queer womxn. Working with them has been a fundamentally life changing experience for me, one that I will forever be grateful for.

Womxn like Lyles Felicia, Alyssa, Jackie, Mary, Kristan, Jessica, Margaret Ann….the list goes on. Not a single one of these womxn sits on a pedestal. They are as fallible and as human as the rest of us. But when they are gone one day, when they have passed into history (maybe a bit famous, maybe not), the world they leave will have been made better and stronger because of them. These womxn who lead every day by their example, these are my heroes.

if you know anyone in the community who you think ProudTimes should celebrate email sebastian@proudtimes.com and we’ll see what we can do! They can be LGBTQ+ or our allies!

Daybreaker: The Morning Party That’s a Breath of Fresh Air

Celebrating the Future is Feminine through Yoga & Dance

Women’s History Month, 2019

By Elise Bays

“Celebrate curves, hips, bellies. Tap into your strength. Draw upon each other’s strength.

The sunshine was coming through the windows as the crowd began to form at the Daybreaker Portland event. We were a collection of yoga mats and excited families standing outside. As we waited, people shared memories of previous events. The doors opened. We were greeted, and asked if we wanted hugs. Plenty of hugs and encouragement later, we had our yoga mats set up and ready. Standing by the stage looking out at the sea of young and old, I was ready to relax and celebrate feminine energy.

The yoga session began by having us think of intention. She talked about being kind to our bodies and celebrating all aspects. To celebrate the very things that society tells us have been problematic. Celebrate curves, hips, bellies. Tap into your strength. Draw upon each other’s strength. During our session, we formed a circle and learned from each other. Outside, a train chugged along, the horn blasting as if to say we are ALIVE!

Post yoga, the beat changed from a soft drum beat to a soft pulse as “In your wildest dreams” played. DJ Jen Roberton kept me going, with the music and pumping beat. The pulse of the music flowed like a heartbeat as kids, families, of all ages and genders danced among bubbles, and balloons. But it wasn’t just the DJ who was spinning–there was even a hula hoop artist to the delight of parents and children alike.

The energy was incredible. People who were strangers became friends, connections were made, and memories created. My 10-year-old child formed a circle and began dancing. Event hosts came and joined us, kids followed suit and soon a dance off was happening.

Leaving the event, we felt rejuvenated, like we took a deep breath of fresh, springtime air. Daybreaker was exactly that–a moment of empowerment, energy, and encouragement. There is something inspiring about connecting music, dance, health, and well-being. The energy created from this could move mountains, and it will for the future generations.

Elise Bays is happy to be part of a growing group of ProudTimes’ contributors which celebrates the LGBTQ+ community in Portland. She’s a native to Phoenix who calls the PNW home. She’s an avid jeeper who enjoys hiking, photography, art, and music. Bays is also an advocate for human rights, sexual education, safe kink, empowerment, polyamory, and gender studies. She is the proud mother of two children: a grade school son, and an MTF college-age daughter. Her other “kids” are two tuxedo kittens and a Labrador retriever who is turning six. Bays is a firm believer in small acts of kindness changing the world, and that ice cream and chocolate cake are meant to be enjoyed–even for breakfast.

Celebrating Female DJs who Pump Up the Dance Floor: The Dust Bunnies

Women’s History Month 2019

By Sebastian Fortino

As part of ProudTimes’ coverage of Women’s History Month, we are speaking to DJ’s who are serving up hot beats on the dance floor. They are all fierce queer women, who are changing the tracks through empowerment, and progressive change. Today, we bring you Portland residents, The Dust Bunnies.

ProudTimes: How long have you been DJing? When did you decide you were going to get out there and spin?

The Dust Bunnies, Local Heroes PDX. Photo credit: Chazz Gold

The Dust Bunnies: We, are “The Dust Bunnies” comprised of me, Dakota, and my fiance Gen. We have been DJ’ing for for about a year and a half. What started as what was supposed to just be a hobby quickly turned into being asked to DJ for small house parties, and more. Our passion for house music turned into a burning desire to spin for more people.

PT: Was this something you wanted to do, or have experimented with doing, from an early age?

DB: Gen is from New York, Dakota from the San Francisco Bay Area. We both did our fair share of clubbing in our respective cities, drawn to it by our mutual love of house music, dancing, and mostly the community and friends we would see on a regular basis. Neither of us had actually considered we would actually become DJs–but definitely respected the creativity, skills, and vibes that each DJ would bring to each event.

PT: Do you think the industry is difficult for women to break into? Is it something of a “boys club?”

DB: Honestly, if you have the drive and passion for anything, you can achieve anything. In the electronica scene, a lot of world-class techno DJ’s are women, Nina Kravitz, Deborah DeLuca, Amelie Lens, and more. There are a few other notables in each genre but yes, it’s a pretty male-dominated, that is for sure. Whether that’s because women in general aren’t drawn to the craft or other issues, we’re not sure. We have discovered a lot of support here in Portland from many people who want to see us succeed. The Rose City Underground has been a huge support for us. They are our local “family” which we are proud to be a part of.

PT: What kind of music do you spin–how would you describe your DJ style?

DB: We love to spin an interesting combination of OG house music combined with UK-style tech house. Because we are a DJ-duo we provide a unique blending of tracks we like individually and as a collective. Gen loves throwing down some soulful vocal mixes with some good beats and Dakota enjoys creative latitude in mixing songs that invoke that first time you ever went to a rave.

PT: Are there any venues, events, audiences, types of shows which you really prefer to make music at over others?

DB: We don’t really have a favorite venue, but our dream is to spin at beach party in Ibiza, or an outdoor festival or event. We love an audience that loves to dance, so whenever we see a sea of bodies moving and people screaming and shouting…lost in the moment, that is what it’s about. Spreading love through house music.

The Dust Bunnies, ClubFlock at Local Lounge. Photo credit: Rachel Puma

PT: I know there are less and less venues specifically catering to queer women. When you get the opportunity to perform for a primarily lesbian or female audience, does that add any excitement to your approach?

DB: Absolutely! We are proud to be part of Club Flock headed by promoter/DJ Jen Roberton. House music has never really been part of the lesbian club scene and it is sooooo refreshing to be able to be part of this groundbreaking group of female DJ’s alongside Jen Roberton, Missing Mei and Jules Juke. As resident DJs, we get the opportunity to spin monthly at Portland’s Local Lounge, and see more and more people literally flocking to this event. It really has been exhilarating seeing this party take off!

PT: Do you have any influences, whether from DJs or musicians, that inspire your sound or attitude when you’re playing?

DB: This is a great question. There are a lot of influences that come from DJs that we have admired from our past and present (like DJ Tracy (Bleeke) and Charlotte the Baroness from SF) on Dakota’s side and (Danny Teneglia, Jonathan Peters, and the Martinez Brothers, NYC) on Gen’s side. Currently, a few of our favorites are Prok and Fitch, Chus and Ceballos, The DeepShakerz and Dale Howard.

PT: How do you best promote yourself, your events, or parties while still keeping your identity intact? Meaning: to get noticed, some artists scale back in the hopes of attracting more fans. Do you find yourself trying to appease any standards?

DB: To promote ourselves we go to a lot of events in support of other DJs and to see the DJ’s that inspire us! We find it easy to keep our identity intact by just being true to ourselves from our musical choices down to the way we dress! Just as in life and love, we want people to be drawn to us just because there’s a natural attraction coming from our vibe and music. Once in a while, we may do a gig where we don’t entirely play “our kind-of-music” to help support the community for special LGBT events.

PT: What are you working on right now–in terms of events, gigs, collaborations etc.?

DB: Right now we do spin a wide range of parties –  like the monthly Flock at Local Lounge and are planning a Portland Pride Party working with our Flock crew that will literally knock the socks off of anything anyone has seen for our lesbian community. We also are very excited about opening up for Wolfgang Gartner this month at Whiskey Bar and our debut at Proper Sound to be held at the Tube on the first Thursday of April. We are collaborating with Val Verra, immersed Music to put on a day party with 7 DJs in the summer half of which will be women! There’s much more on our list as far as gigs. Stand by for more by following us on Instagram @thedustbunniesworldwide. What’s even more exciting is that we will have our first produced track coming up in June!

PT: Female DJs are getting more and more prominent in our cultural landscape–especially in the LGBTQ community–what would you tell younger DJs out there, especially young women, who are interested in getting into the industry?

DB: We would tell anyone who is interested in becoming a DJ to talk to any of us. There’s a lot we wished we knew before we went out and bought equipment, or started to learn how to use it. We are constantly learning and growing. We learn from everything from watching other DJs, to YouTube, to even making mistakes and taking risks. If you have the passion and desire to become a DJ, the sky’s the limit, go for it!

PT: We are celebrating Women’s History Month. What does this mean to you? What are you fighting for in 2019 and beyond?

DB: It’s nice to have a month where women are honored and recognized. We believe not only in women’s equality, but equality for all. We are all created equal and should be seen as humans beings regardless of gender, religion, sexual preference or anything else.

The Dust Bunnies, Local Heroes PDX. Photos credit: Chazz Gold

If you know any DJs, musicians, or artists who you think ProudTimes should celebrate email sebastian@proudtimes.com and we’ll see what we can do! 

Celebrating Female DJs who Pump Up the Dance Floor: Missing Mei

Celebrating Women’s History Month 2019

By Sebastian Fortino

As part of ProudTimes’ coverage of Women’s History Month, we are speaking to DJ’s who are serving up hot beats on the dance floor. They are all fierce, fabulous, queer women, who are changing the tracks through empowerment and progression. Today, we bring you Denver-based DJ Missing Mei

Photo credit: Rachel Puma
Missing Mei DJing at ClubFlock – Local Lounge, Portland, Oregon

ProudTimes: How long have you been DJing? When did you decide you were going to get out there and spin?

Missing Mei: I dabbled here and there between 2003-2006 doing underground shows from lounges and private events. 2006 is when I decided to focus on the craft and debut at Premier Nightclub in Sacramento, CA. At the time, Asylum was the longest running Goth-Industrial EDM Night on the West Coast. I remember being so nervous, but being hooked after that.

PT: Was this something you wanted to do, or have experimented with doing, from an early age?

MM: No, it didn’t start that way. Although, I was always a go-to when someone wanted to know what good music was out. My friends would ask for mix tapes and I would happily oblige. My first experimental DJ gig was for a fashion show in college. I remember how it was fun matching up tracks according to the designer models for the show. It was the first rush experience of an audience loving what I spun.

PT: Do you think the industry is difficult for women to break into? Is it something of a “boys club?”

MM: I think on the surface it does look like the boys club and on some level there will always be an undertone that it is. It’s what the industry started from. I recall reading an article from thumpvice.com in 2014 that the average percentage female to male DJ ratio spinning at festivals was like three percent to nine percent at the time. Prior to that, I spun with an all-female DJ crew called ‘Stiletto’ in Cali. The night prided itself as the ‘Only All Female DJ Night’ in the city, which said a lot about the lack of gender diversity. It was a great experience, but it didn’t last long due to draw. But, with that being said, I feel that there has been an increased presence of female DJ’s since then. I think part of that shift is credited to social media and the Internet. There was so much talent that was not being exposed and now that everyone has access to these platforms it helps level out the playing field. It’s optimistic to see more female DJ’s getting their music out there, tracks topping charts, and being headliners for their own shows. But, there is still a lot more progress that needs to happen and that takes time.

 

PT: What kind of music do you spin–how would you describe your DJ style?

MM: Currently, I am really into Tech House. I love the minimalism and heavy beats in the composition. But, I have a range from Goth-Industrial, EDM, Dark Wave, Nu-Disco, Electro, Top 40, to Classic remixes from the 80’s and 90’s. I even spin in Trap at times when I am playing with my band. House is my true love, but Trance music is what got me started into all of it.

 

PT: Are there any venues, events, audiences, types of shows which you really prefer to make music at over others?

MM: I recently embraced the festival scene. It really has evolved from what was the Rave scene in the early 90’s to 2000’s. I love the blends of different genres and DJ’s that make up a festival. It creates a sense of community that welcomes all. One of my favorite gigs was at The Supper Club in San Francisco. The event filled up three rooms that catered to every genre of electronic music. Every room had a different DJ, different electronic music being spun. So, you can imagine the diversity of crowd that it drew! It was fabulous.

 

PT: I know there are less and less venues specifically catering to queer women. When you get the opportunity to perform for a primarily lesbian or female audience, does that add any excitement to your approach?

MM: I’ve been noticing that as well. It has become less, but the parties have become BIGGER which I think compensates for some of that. When I have the opportunity, it is totally empowering and exciting! Those environments tend to be less abrasive and exudes a commonality that does not need to be mentioned. It’s a vibe, a feeling and an unspoken understanding. Short answer: ‘Excitement scale from one to 10?’ Definitely a 10.

 

PT: Do you have any influences, whether from DJs or musicians, that inspire your sound or attitude when you’re playing?

MM: When I first got started, influences would come from the latest artist I was in to or a style that I was drawn to. That is ever changing. But, over the years I have adjusted to playing with feeling and being conscious with connecting to the audience I am spinning for. I feel that there is an advantage to having spun different genres. Because of that, it influences the texture of my set.

 

PT: How do you best promote yourself, your events or parties while still keeping your identity intact? Meaning: to get noticed, some artists scale back in the hopes of attracting more fans. Do you find yourself trying to appease any standards?

MM: I found so far that what works best is to be myself. When I first started, there was an image of what I thought a DJ should be, but really didn’t have a lot of female DJ’s to model. I had one back in the day, DJ Irene, who seemed as close to a personality I could relate to. I really couldn’t always relate to the guys off decks and only with music. I have been fortunate that the genres I spin usually embrace a type of vision where enthusiasm, best intention, optimism and unity holds a higher standard versus what I am interpreting the question is asking, ‘selling out’. It guided me to a DJ residency in the Bay Area for as long as I wanted and the opportunity to meet talented and like minded people that encourage the same integrity. Today, I can say it still remains true.

PT: What are you working on right now–in terms of events, gigs, collaborations etc.?

MM: Currently, I’ve been adjusting to a new city and scene because of a recent move and traveling for gigs in regards to collaboration for brilliant music community movements. It’s has been mainly with ClubFlock and all female queer DJ lineup. There is exciting momentum happening with this crew that we will be announcing soon! I’m also engaged in a DJ and Drum duo project with talented drummer, Joel Swift, called She DJ’s and He Drums based out of Portland. This week, my podcast Indie Rant Radio, had its first interview for season two. It’s the first of a series of interviews with all female DJ’s based out of Denver and Portland.

PT: Female DJs are getting more and more prominent in our cultural landscape–especially in the LGBTQ community–what would you tell younger DJs out there, especially young women, who are interested in getting into the industry?

MM: I think the best advice I could give is to stay true to the music. It can be easy to get caught up in what you think you should be or sound like. In some instance, even with who you should know. There is a difference between networking versus building connection. Connection supports your authenticity and will be more fulfilling in the long run. Stay connected with yourself. Stay connected to your music and surround yourself with people who will lift you up. Once you start understanding your success, it’s good to give back into the music. Whether it’s to another young woman trying to get into DJing or a music cause who can use your support. Stay in true love with what you do.

PT: We are celebrating Women’s History Month. What does this mean to you? What are you fighting for in 2019 and beyond?

MM: Celebrating Women’s History Month is a very exciting moment. It means so much in terms of gratitude and strife. It has taken a lot of women before us to make this happen and it is our responsibility to continue to carry the torch for future female generations to inherit and do the same. One can learn by example that the future can only grow and flourish from not fighting but uniting together.

Missing Mei is also part of Flock, their mission is: To create a magical experience with a unique flock of female DJs by spreading love and connecting the community through underground music. ProudTimes will bring you more about Flock in the coming moths. Currently, you can find their events through LesbiOut on Facebook.

Missing Mei‘s passion for music has always been present in her life and strong in her gene pool, from waking up to her mom singing Italian opera to her dad gigging in his band. For Missing Mei, it made sense to become a DJ before leaving her roots in Hawaii. Missing Mei has channeled DJing as a journey of expression and has found it through tech and electro house. She also fills in her time podcasting for ‘Indie Rant Radio’ highlighting artists and DJ’s on the West Coast.

If you know any DJs, musicians, or artists who you think ProudTimes should celebrate email sebastian@proudtimes.com and we’ll see what we can do! 

Salem-based Writer Discusses Identity & Inspiration

Celebrating Women’s History Month 2019

By Domina Alexandra

We all assume to know who we are as people–and who our colleagues, parents, friends are deep down inside. Being all those things and more, the question we sometimes forget to ask, is who are we as women? Are you a feminist? Are you butch? Or do you identify as being femme? Young or old our identity as women–and queer women–is important to our identity.

As a woman and writer, here’s my thoughts. I use to question my identity as a woman, only because I wanted to date them. And growing up sheltered and forced to believe being a lesbian was wrong, I thought, “If I became a man, my problem was solved.” We all handle life experiences differently. We resist who we are as women to please society.

I can say, I am proud to be a woman and it was other women who inspired me over the years to accept myself. Finding my identity as a woman helped me find my identity as a lesbian and writer. It was other queer, and non-queer, writers that inspired me to become the woman I am now! A woman proud to write lesbian fantasy romances.

The first writer I ever read while the accepting myself as a woman was Patricia Briggs. She writes about a world where a woman can be strong and face dangerous beings without having some strong superpower or enhanced strength. As if her character, Mercy Thompson could be any one of us. After reading her books, I knew I could stand on my own two feet.

From Patricia Briggs, I jumped into queer writing, in the midst of acknowledging myself as an out lesbian. Gerri Hill’s book, ‘Hunters Way,’ was all the confirmation I needed to be a proud queer woman. She writes about women of power and voice, leadership and passion. Women who are capable of taking care of themselves. I only inspire to a better writer and woman.

 

I asked Patricia Briggs in March at the Emerald City Comic Con, “How does she escape the world she creates for her characters? That as a writer, I can get lost in that fantasy that is safer than the real world.”

 

She replied, “It’s normal for us as writers to linger and think about our characters from time to time. Do some laundry and stop, wanting to go back to the world we created. We have to leave that world and go back to our own. To spend time with family and friends. To not lose our identity as a person.”

It is easy to forget our personal lives, what defines us, even when writing. It was rewarding to finally meet Patricia Briggs and be reminded of how I came to talk to her in person. It was me finding my place as a woman and a writer!

This Women’s History Month: Ask yourself, who are you as a woman? And what woman inspires you? Domina Alexandra is a writer and EMT based in Salem, OR. She has penned three books, Her Endure, I Belong with Her, and most recently, A Night Claimed. The novels are available for purchase on her Amazon writer’s page.

Typically Araki “Now Apocalypse” is Your Next Obsession

By Kenyth Mogan

Showtimes newest series is everything you’d expect from a Gregg Araki piece. It’s sexy, it’s surreal, and it’s strange. It’s bizarre – but in the best way.

Avan Jogia stars as Ulysses, an unabashedly unapologetic millennial gay man in Los Angeles who, like all of us, is just trying to find love (and himself) in a world filled with catfish and frogs. Joining him on his adventures are his best friend Carly (Kelli Berglund), his (heterosexual) roommate Ford (Beau Mirchoff), and Ford’s beautiful French girlfriend Severine (Roxane Mesquida). Each one of them is connected as they navigate down a weird and often bewildering path pursuing love, sex, and fame.

On his road to finding himself, Ulysses meets Gabriel (Tyler Posey) a handsome but mysterious stranger he can’t help but feel connected with – like fate is bringing them together. However, he becomes increasingly troubled after a premonitory nightmare leads him into the dark world of alien conspiracies. But is it real or is it just a side effect of smoking too much weed? He’s fun, funny, and relatable. As a gay man of the same generation, living in Los Angeles who has the same doubts, fears, and ambitions, it’s a story I couldn’t help but immediately fall in love with.

“Now Apocalypse” is so typically Gregg Araki. Which is why it’s so wonderful. The man’s a creative genius, and one of my most favorite writers ever. He’s one of the few writers who can tell a story about a character, who happens to be gay, but not tell a gay story. He treats them as human beings. Yes, sex and sexuality are a part of their story – but those facts are a part of everyone’s story, and in the world’s Araki paints, it’s just a small part of a much bigger picture.

Do yourself a favor and watch it. It’s bound to become your next obsession.

Written by Araki and Karley Sciortino, the series debuted on STARZ on March 10th, and in addition to the network will also be available on the STARZ app. Araki is also serving as a director on the series as well as being an executive producer alongside Steven Soderbergh and Gregory Jacobs.

International Women’s Day & Women’s National History Month: Why I Chose to Honor a Cabaret Performer and Actor Born in 1901

International Women’s Day & Women’s National History Month

Why I Chose to Honor a Cabaret Performer and Actor Born in 1901

By Sebastian Fortino, Editor-in-Chief ProudTimes.com

 

Today, Friday March 8th, we celebrate the accomplishments women have achieved. We also reflect upon the patriarchy, and how women often suffered in silence. They were the property of their husbands, as were any offspring from the union. They could not divorce. They could not have a paycheck written out to them in their own name. Should they divorce, it was only in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that women could easily keep custody of their children.

 

In terms of equality in divorce, or at least more equality, I recently learned about Caroline Norton. She was an upper-middle-class woman and writer living in Victorian England. Her husband would not allow for a divorce. Even though he went through her “fortune” and kept her children from her. Interestingly enough, she was able to gain sympathy for her cause through befriending a very unlikely source: Queen Victoria.

 

Yes, I know Queen Victoria’s colonial activity has cast viable shadows upon her legacy. However, she argued against her own prime minister in support of bringing about equality in the then-taboo area of divorce. This surely had to do with Norton’s letters. After all, being a wife and mother lucky in her marriage, Victoria felt empathy towards those women who were essentially under house arrest if they were in an unhappy situation. Norton even mentioned so-called “conjugal rights,” something most women in that age would probably have shied away from even discussing due to supposed propriety. Men could also easily get a doctor to write a false but damaging letter saying their wives were literally insane for wanting a divorce.

 

However, Caroline Norton is not my focus. I wanted to mention her legacy because she is largely unknown.  

 

Instead today, I wanted to focus on one of my favorite women from the pages of history. Born on December 27th, 1901 in Berlin, she rose to fame as a cabaret singer in the famed Weimar Republic. A period of very liberal attitudes to sexuality and gender roles. Sadly, the famed era of a Berlin which accepted homosexuality, gender fluidity, and other notions which we as LGBTQ people still fight for today, ended abruptly in 1933 when Hitler rose to power.

Who am I celebrating today? Her name was Marlene Dietrich, she was a performer known for appearing in a tuxedo, a top hat, and smoking a cigarette held aloft like any fashionable male boulevardier or flâneur. (Okay, I do admit the gay man writing this piece–me–is obsessed with Old Hollywood Glamour, which Dietrich served.)

Marlene Dietrich kisses the famed French singer Edith Piaf active in the French Resistance. She was also known to be sexually fluid.

Queer culture was so accepted in Berlin, that gay and lesbian bars were quite visible. Dietrich no doubt spent her time on the boards as well as on the banquettes. In fact, she appeared in so-called “men’s dress” in public, even when not performing. She also had several lovers, of both sexes.

According to WIkipedia,

 

A famous, early image from her career. The gender bending style of dress which led her to take part in the drag balls of 1920s/30s Berlin.

She was fluent in German, English, and French. Dietrich, who was bisexual, quietly enjoyed the thriving gay scene of the time and drag balls of 1920s Berlin.[75][76] She also defied conventional gender roles through her boxing at Turkish trainer and prizefighter Sabri Mahir’s boxing studio in Berlin, which opened to women in the late 1920s.”

 

Her early film career in Germany brought her to Hollywood. She knew what was going on in her homeland. In 1937, along with the Jewish, Austrian-born director Billy WIlder she set up a fund to assist Jews and other dissidents escaping the Third Reich. In fact, Dietrich put her $450,000 salary from a film that same year in escrow; to help refugees from Europe.

Dietrich was truly risking her life. Hitler had in fact asked her to come home to Germany to make films, which would of course have been propaganda for the Nazis. She stayed in Hollywood, and  went on to sell war bonds to aid the Allies. It is agreed she sold more than any other Hollywood star.

Talk about a slap in the face to the führer!

During WWII, between 1944 and 1945, she further risked her life by following the troops led by Generals Patton and Gavin. When asked why she would play such a dangerous game, being only a few miles from the enemy–arguably her personal enemy–she replied, “aus Anstand,” which means, “out of decency.”

This did not however give her much love in her native Germany. After the war, she ventured to then-named West Germany to do a series of concerts. Perhaps she knew she would not be greeted with a hero’s welcome, and sources I have read said she was spit on by some Germans who stayed in their country during the war. To them she was a traitor.

Marlene Dietrich with American soldiers; throughout her life she referred to them as her “boys.”

 

Despite her success as an actor, and singer, when asked what her greatest achievement had been, she would say it was her actions in the war and performing for “her boys.” She also perhaps further angered the German people due to her final momentous film, “Judgment at Nuremburg.” The story was based on actual events which saw several former Nazis executed for their roles in the war. An interesting note, famed gay icon Judy Garland was her co-star. They developed a mutual dislike of each other which became petty, at best.

 

Alas, befitting a legend renowned for her great beauty and talent, she withdrew in seclusion to her Paris apartment in the later years of her life. She rarely left her rooms, but kept up great correspondence and phone calls to friends the world over. As for the juicy bits about her relationships and affairs–she had an open marriage with her husband–her only child Maria Riva destroyed much of her private papers after her death in 1992.

Perhaps this was an unlikely choice, a woman born in 1901 whom I admire nearly 120 years later. But as a bisexual woman, who challenged gender stereotypes, an actor, singer, and Nazi-hater, I feel she is a worthy candidate.  Sadly, I think her hatred of fascism makes her an ideal person to admire in 2019.

If you have not heard Ms. Dietrich sing, you can find a recording of arguably her most famous song here.

ProudTimes is actively seeking first-hand accounts of women our readers admire. Whether they are living now, or were born in 1901. Please submit story ideas to sebastian@proudtimes.com and we will do our best to incorporate it into our website.