Very rarely does one turn a car ride daydream into a fantastical reality. Joe Faragher, Class of 2014, came up with the idea for a campy music video set to “Primadonna” by Marina and the Diamonds, on a car ride up to San Francisco with his family. With the song on loop, he schemed to get as many of the Sarah Lawrence gays that he knew into one room, and one video. Though it may have started as a whim, with the help of Lila Mensing, class of 2014, they produced their masterpiece in under a month.
Never in my experience at Sarah Lawrence had I seen this many gay men in one room together on purpose. I walked onto the set for the “Primadonna Gay” music video on a dull Sunday afternoon to a room full of some of the most striking Sarah Lawrence personalities, all in various stages of transformation into their outlandish characters.
Not every character was in Drag, per-se, but all were fully engrossed in the campy gender play garnered from references such as Heathers and Clockwork Orange. We were ceremoniously christened as our new selves by the universal process of makeup, designed by Tess Miller, and by taking an extraordinary quantity of selfies. For me, the transformation helped to quell any reservations or self-doubt. While the music video may have started as a whimsical release of creative energy, it began to immediately serve as an instrument in the creation of a community, something the Sarah Lawrence gays have lacked in the past.
Primadonna Gay is not a video that strives to represent every corner of the queer spectrum by any means, but by allowing the actors to change themselves in personality and character, produced a result that feels representative of some of the ways femininity can be embodied and celebrated in the context of camp. The final result, as a video, shows the type of queer freedom that Joe and Lila worked from. Joe spoke to his intentions in terms of gender and the gay community:
“I wanted it to be very tongue-in-cheek and over the top in a reference to gayness in and of itself. The drag thing integrated with the masculinity because I think the gay community can be so strict about itself about what you are, and when you’re that, and being masculine or feminine”.
Meanwhile, down the hall of Heimbold, another project by Isabel Farrington ran adjacently in full force. She was taking portraits of each character she could, having only 20 minutes to do it. The above photos are part of a larger series on gender she’s working on, and reflect her more soberly represented thoughts on stigma and gender.
“When photographed like this, we see the “drag queens” in the same natural, neutral light that we see ourselves and others throughout our daily, unaltered experience. I like the idea of incorporating the aesthetic of drag with the visual conventions of daily life so we can relate to them on that plane. “
Isabel’s photography had to be quick–she shot one look after the other–calmly seating each participant while I gave a couple of pointers on posing from the sidelines. The photos feel right, and express the same freedom that was encouraged by Joe, but with a more realist tone. Isabel’s project doesn’t stop here, after photographing many of her friends in varying degrees of drag, she comments on bringing the fantastical into the everyday.
Through Isabel’s and Joe’s eye, one can see how the creation of character represents and aspect of the true self: an expression of identity outside of labels. While the point may have been to create a fabulous music video, the final product became a cathartic indulgence of unfiltered creativity. For one of the most nerve-wracking theoretical experiences I could’ve imagined, I ended up being inspired by everyone around me that day.
PHOTO by Isabel Farrington