With Filmmaker Camila Gómez and Philosopher Ken Pollet
The Drag King scene in Barcelona is thriving and with it comes a wave of lesbian visibility and queer support. The community built around female and AFAB queerness alongside creating space for Drag King events is something that makes this city very Sassy. Having attended Drag King Night, a regular event created by performer and philosopher Ken Pollet, we were introduced to a world of wonderfully talented people pushing the gendered norms of society. Capturing this night was Camila Gómez, an audio and visual artist focusing on archiving the world of Drag Kings and lesbian narratives.
As friends, Ken and Camila connected over their passion for transforming the representation of lesbians and Drag Kings in media. Our Sassy founder had the privilege of sitting down with the two of them to discuss the motivations behind their work and the role creativity plays in their self-expression. Read on to hear more about the beautiful start to their friendship, and the revolutionary approach they are taking using art, pop culture, and archiving.
Ken and Camila have built a bond based on three fabulous things - art, archiving, and being dykes. Having met at a protest for women's day, their bond was instant. The friendship circles they connected between was a beautiful family of queer people and women to relate with. This is something both Camila and Ken are openly grateful for, with Ken explaining how "I never had this group of lesbian girl friends who I could have fun with". It has been a similar situation for Camila who, upon arriving in Barcelona in 2019, had felt very alone. The familiar support is something they found in one another, explaining how they had “a nice gang, where you trust each other and speak our minds and care for each other a lot".
From this first meeting, Camila and Ken's relationship took an extra Sassy step when a friend gifted Camila a session in Drag King performance with Ken as a birthday present. This was a transformational experience for Camila, "it changed me a lot in a really good way, I got connected to things in my past and the workshop helped me reconcile with embracing the darkness". Ken guided Camila into looking at mannerisms and moving different parts of the body which led Camila to break free from the repressive pressure of acting a certain way. As Ken says "freeing the dyke" and allowing Camila to step into parts of her personality that she'd rejected because of fear. Since then, the two of them have continued to find ways to show, archive, and celebrate the Drag King world, providing a different narrative of performers, AFAB people, and lesbian representation in Spain and Catalonia.
We have to be aware of what happened in the past so we don't repeat the violence
For Camila, the lack of historical records in Columbia, her country of birth, has had a deep impact on her drive to archive."I'm aware of the importance of having stories told because my country doesn't have any memories. That's why we keep repeating the violence. We have to be aware of what happened in the past so we don't repeat it". Within Barcelona, Camila's attention is focused on protecting the voices and spotlighting the presence of queer feminists and transfeminists. She explains how "as lesbians, we're left out, we don't have that spotlight. And so I know it's important for me to put the history of these people, a portrait of personal stories, in what I document".
This is something Ken is driven by too, wanting to provide people with information and support that they lacked when growing up. This has been a crucial part of their drive to create regular events and bring Drag Kings to a huge variety of audiences both on and offline."If I could have found something like this when I was 15 in my little town, my life would have been so different. Less suffering, less closed, thinking I was the only one like this in the world". Similarly, the tiny amount of information Camilla found about gay and lesbian identity in Columbia was equally limited. Together, they are changing that lack of visibility for Drag Kings, queer women and AFAB people.
The path Ken has taken was a strategy of using pop culture and entertainment to reach mainstream audiences in Barcelona and Spain. Ken explains how "I try to use the weapons of the system for breaking the system. You can't crash into the face of the system, you will just lose and increase suffering and dying." This is what led Ken to create a boy band, 'Queer That' and curate an image and tone of voice that played into the pop culture style. But if you look beneath the surface, you see it is a purely ironic play on the lack of lesbian boybands. "Lesbians and dykes are totally outside of the desire map. I like to put contrary things together and it's worked so well." The success of the boyband reflects the society in which we live. Ken reiterates this by explaining how "using art today is about entertainment. If you want to be seen you need to go through entertainment. You need to play their game first to get into the space and be visible. And then you can make the twist."
The twist is what is fundamentally important for Ken and Camilla. To reveal to more mainstream communities new ideas relating to gender and sexuality, identity politics, and social constructs.
There is a Colombian saying that "For the people to stay entertained just give them bread and a circus". Become the thing they look at, then you can then reveal something new to the audience
Discussing what they would like to change within their industries leads Ken and Camilla to discuss fighting the wall of the patriarchy. The lack of representation of true lesbian narratives is something they blame the male-dominated media industries for, pointing out how they only package stories for a hetero, patriarchal audience. With this lack of support comes a lack of resources. "I'm mad because it's been forever we cannot do our things because we do not have the money" says Camila. Discussing the limiting hierarchy of power within all industries, Ken expresses how "at the top of the chain are cis heterosexual white men who are making decisions based on things that are not important for the world anymore but just important for them. And this is the system we trying to break."
The support they have received from Barcelona is something they credit for being helped by local politicians who are feminists and transfeminists allies. " I think right now in Barcelona we are quite lucky to have this support from one of the big powers - institutions and government. But in the end, it is about who has the money. White men have the money. If you look at the city there is only one bar that is run by a lesbian woman." This gender and sexuality gap has to do with economic and social privilege and who can pay for the rent and get the license. Despite the limitations, both Ken and Camilla are feeling a wave of progress which they are working with to develop further liberal-mindedness. They explain how archiving this moment in time is essential as all it takes is a change of government to potentially erase their narrative and censor their existence. "It is a resistance that is so important for me because we don't know what is going to happen. In ten years maybe everything we are doing, they will erase it. Because this is a revolution. Archive is for the future" says Ken.
The revolutionary approach Ken is taking through creativity is something that goes beyond the stage and into a far more mental experience. "When I started to express myself I also started to embrace and trust my creativity" says Ken, "There's a lot of things in life that repress your creativity. I've been told to not express myself". They explain how studying classical piano in music academy for 7 years resulted in being quite a traumatic experience, putting a stop to their love for playing for many years. Moving into philosophy, Ken explains how" I discovered another type of creativity, thinking creativity- pushing boundaries of what you know in a creative way and thinking can be so creative because you have imagination".
This has coincided with connecting Ken with their body to express themself. "When I started doing drag I released everything. I allowed myself to express in ways I never did before, letting my gender express in any kind of way because I don't have a gender so everything is nothing". It defied the limitations of words which Ken described "weren't working with me to express what I felt and thought. And then I discovered the world of drag and performance and I could say whatever I was feeling without talking and it worked". From there, Ken found a new language for communicating that resonated with people as well as themself.
Drag pushed me in so many ways and still I am learning to express myself and my thoughts, what I think. It's a process.
Camila's creative language is one that has been heavily influenced by the camera. Touching on how her father was always filming them at home when she was younger, Camila now sees how "the camera is a super powerful tool and companion. I studied audio and visual art because of my family and how comfortable I feel with the image. In that way, I can express myself and work with the image to craft the narrative." In this way, Camila is able to transmit the truth and build a story that reflects the people in front of the camera.
The powerful tools both Ken and Camila are harnessing and the ripple effect their work has on the greater society is truly transformational. Not only are they celebrating a Sassy world of liberated expression, but they are inspiring a whole fresh wave of representation on and off the stage and screen. Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for new work from both these talented creatives. Only great things to come.
One myth you want to bust?
Ken - That power is having power over something. Which is a very masculine perspective. But I see power and strength as sharing, being vulnerable, love and creating something together.
Camila - That women can't do things. Whenever someone tells me I can't do something, I will go and do it.
What does your Sassy side look like?
Camila - My intelligence and humor; I'm quick-witted with words and kisses. I'm a super warm person, a love monster, I kiss everyone. It's this Latin energy and heat.
Ken - For me, it's about the body and getting naked. I'm an exhibitionist. That's why drag is helping me a lot, it's this provocation for others to release their sexual energy.
Be sure to keep up with Ken's work via IG @kenpolletofficial
Catch more from Camila's creations on IG @camila_goa
Interview and photoshoot by Bethany Burgoyne @bxsassy2