How Do I Look update; Aids , Balls, and the Forgotten Community
September 13th, 2005
How Do I Look community update.
The "Ball" community had the opportunity since July to review the limited How Do I Look DVD edition, distributed by Art From The Heart LLC. (not the official release yet) and I would like to take this opportunity to address some of the issues, so we all have a better understanding of the purpose and mission of HDIL and what it represents for the "Ball" community.
My social and artistic activism for the past 20 years in New York City was my motivation to make the How Do I Look documentary. I experienced the disrespect, payola and racism in the entertainment industry first hand for over 25 years and I felt a strong need to do something about it.
I am looking for ways to make social and artistic change to improve the quality of live for LGBT artistic communities such as the "Ball", "Singers & Songwriters", "Fashion", "Poetry", "Drag" and the "Flagging & Fanning" community.
HDIL was to be positive, highlight on individuals in the "Ball" community with professional artistic accomplishments and to send positive HIV / HOPE messages. It provides a balance to "Paris is Burning" and sets up the foundation for a How Do I Look sequel. One of the goals is to bring up members from the "Ball" community and to provide them with the opportunity to direct the follow up. Andre Mizrahi and Luna Khan made a commitment as directors, Derrick Prada and Hector Xtravaganza also want to be on the committee. This is part of the natural artistic progression towards artistic empowerment for the "Ball" community and it is part of building the artistic infrastructure.
How Do I Look is an arts in education documentary and is different from the traditional entertainment releases. It is a profit share, focusing on benefitting the community as a whole.
Based on the natural progression, Art From The Heart LLC. released HDIL as an artistic empowerment and HIV/AIDS awareness community project.
How Do I Look was created as an arts in education program to become a tool to advance our community artistically. But in order to make it work for us, the leadership of our community needs to understand the importance and the reason why we need artistic programs. Our leadership needs to take on some responsibility to help us build this infrastructure, so we can benefit from it as individuals and as a community.
AIDS -, community based organizations, politicians and businesses are tapping into our talents for entertainment and fundraiser purposes year after year without consideration to give seed money back to the artistic community and nurture our artistic and economic progression.
Presenting the HDIL project to the industry from an educational and cultural point of view is a new concept and how we introduce and communicate our vision and the strategy is very important.
HDIL is reviewed by the public, industry and media as a documentary or film at this time. The community outreach, artistic empowerment, inspirations and financial contributions HDIL has already brought to the "Ball" community and community at large has not been acknowledged by the media and leadership yet, because they are not aware of it and they are not used to looking at a documentary from a community empowerment point of view. In order to educate those people and to make our messages stick, it is necessary to continuously educate ourselves further and touch people’s heart.
HDIL inspired the community across the board and is used by universities and high school students for school projects and studies and we had screenings with lectures at Yale-NYU-Oberlin & Detroit Mercy universities, Harvey Milk High School, AIDS organizations and many LGBT institutions in Chicago, Philly, Detroit and Hartford. Those are major accomplishments and we need to let the public know what HDIL was able to accomplish before its release.
By releasing HDIL with a deeper mission and not just as a documentary, earned us the continues support and the respect from the society at large and the LGBT community.
Our goal is to maximize and capitalize from the accomplishments we received from the community and the media during the work in progress stage. We have been in the NY Times 3 times, BBC TV England, NY Post full page to name a few.
We continue to built community and build a productive and effective artistic infrastructure for future LGBT generations to benefit and we include the society at large in our plans to make it happen for all of us.
Representing the "Ball" community now for 10 years, I focused on the artistic accomplishments and I purposely stayed away from the negativity and the controversial issues.
A) Paris is Burning did plenty, plenty of that and the community to this date is still suffering from all that negativity. I don’t know how much you are aware of it but it is very deep. I know this for a fact, because I am dealing with the public and with businesses on a daily basis now. The first words that comes out of their mouth is, Wolfgang where is all the robbing and stealing, the drugs and prostitution issues in the docu? They ask me, Wolfgang, where is the controversial stuff and all the negativity from the community?
It breaks my heart and upsets me to hear from people that have never been to a ball or don’t even know one ball person in person asking me those kind of questions. Obviously this is the result from the film Paris is Burning and now we have the opportunity to do something about that.
Personally speaking, there is negativity and controversial issues in any community, from Sex in the White House to Fraud at the Stock Exchange, Drugs in Hollywood and Corrupted Politicians, that is no different from the "Ball" community.
My focus and mission is to bring to you artistic empowerment and send HIV / HOPE messages, rather than a controversial documentary that would be to no help to the "Ball" community. We need to know and understand our history, before we can make a difference for the better.
B) I am an artistic and social activist, not an AIDS educator. I do what I do best and that is to bring to you artistic empowerment and build a LGBT artistic infrastructure.
C) the reason why there are no AIDS educators in HDIL may be shocking news and may come to a surprise to many of you.
1) People at GMHC/Latex have singled me out, harassed me and my crew, used me, stole intellectual property from my website to show it at the Latex ball and they did not live up to their financial and administrative promises at the HDIL screening for their interns.
2) a staff member from POCC was part of a group of people who tried to rob me from my film, if you can imagine that and POCC tried to steal intellectual property from James Saunders’ Black Pride NYC.
3) after all the video work I have done for GMAD for 3 years, they couldn’t find it in their heart to give us a letter of support and the financial support they promised, was an empty promise.
4) Minority Task Force on AIDS didn’t live up to their promise to provide me with a DVD copy of the lecture and they pulled me into an internal problem, which resulted of the firing of one staff member.
5) Harlem United scheduled a free ball a week after the Black Pride NYC ball and cut into the financial and economic growth of the ball community.
Now that AIDS organizations are giving all those free balls, ball producers are losing money, because they can not compete with the budgets of the AIDS organizations. AIDS organizations have cut off the economic development and growth for the "Ball" community and they keep the ball community in an artistic ghetto, because the ball community doesn’t have the financial resources.
The issues mentioned above are well documented, and a letter to the editor was published in NYC’s, Gay City News. The documents are available to the public and can be reviewed after making an appointment with me.
With all that manipulating, distortion and dividing going on in our community, because of those AIDS organizations, I refuse to support and work with any of them.
AIDS is big business now, with very few productive links left to the community, except for the few lucky ones that were able to get into their programs. GMHC is run by lawyers and corporate people pushing out the community members one at a time. GMHC has become a corporate institution and as far as I am concerned they should give up their non-profit status, because they have managed to eliminated most of the support from the LGBT community over the years.
I hold AIDS organization responsible for dividing our community and for wasting a lot of tax money on useless programs. Because of the lack of vision, professionalism and community leadership of those AIDS organizations, they create useless and uneffective long term programs only to keep the grant money coming year after year and to keep their jobs to the expense of our community.
After 15 years GMHC/Latex is still organizing 500 active local "Ball" kids, if that many. That speaks for itself and so does the fact that the House of Latex has the highest turn over of members from all the houses. WHY are they spending millions of dollars on staff and balls, when people leave the Latex House angry and disappointed and walk away from the Latex ball with no messages???
It is funny that these same people have an issue with me because I am white European. It is important to talk about that. When it comes to true art, the color of our skin makes no difference and the ignorance of incompetent leadership in our community only gets in the way of getting the job done. They do anything to serve and advance themselves rather than the community and this underlines how they divide our community.
I have experienced many racial issues in and out the ball scene and I would like to share some information about my German background that can benefit you about how we treat African Americans or Black people in general in my country, Germany. If you know somebody that was or is in the military and was stationed in Germany you will fast find out that the Germans treat them with respect and dignity. Please ask your friends or family, who had the opportunity to experience the German culture. You will be positively surprised. Thank you.
Having said that, I think it is important for the leadership of the "Ball" community in New York, to take a good look at those AIDS organizations, what is their track record, what are their true motivations, especially when we hear one horror story after another.
Is it more important to work for those AIDS organizations and pocket some coins for personal gain, speak at their panels or attend their functions and support them for their statistics, so they receive funding from the government year after year and feed into the dividing of our community??? or is it time to stand up to those AIDS organizations in question and push them to become clean and effective.
It is unfortunate that those manipulating AIDS organizations were able to corrupt some of the "Ball" leadership with money and benefits, getting them on their side, and made them a part of this community dividing effort they have so strategically planned. The kids need the coins, so AIDS organizations had an easy game.
I also hope that members from the community and celebrities that come out to support those AIDS organizations will wake up and look at the question: why is the infection rate going up with soooo many AIDS organizations in the city of New York. Are they brain storming about effective community outreach programs or are they getting ready for the next ball ???
I am feeling the importance of sharing this information with the community, because it is important to me to stay transparent on how and with whom we do business with. We need to know what our position and relation ship is within the community. It is totally ok to have the AIDS organizations working against this community project, because the rest of the community is on our side.
Having said that!
Let’s move on to what we need to focus on to make this artistic empowerment program work.
Having 300 DVD’s distributed so far, the responses have been 99% positive. The remaining 1% can be found on the walk4mewednesday shade board with no substance to it.
We just sold the 100th DVD copy after announcing the limited DVD edition 2 month ago. Having PayPal as our payment source, it provides us with excellent accounting records and keeps perfect track of all the website sells. Those documents are available for review to the public and can be accessed with an appointment.
I am also including a synopsis of How Do I Look with this email and I request your comments and suggestions, because the film synopsis is going to be send out to film festivals, the media and other businesses. It is important that the ball community feels comfortable with the content of the synopsis, because we have to live with it for the rest of our lives just like Paris is Burning.
HDIL was submitted to the festivals in Berlin & Munich in Germany, London England, Sydney Australia, Toronto Canada for the world premier, the Slamdance, Sundance, NewFest, TriBeca, the Gay Games in Chicago and James Saunders took it to Brazil.
We should be able to secure a world premiere festival overseas this year or in the beginning of 2006, followed by several US and Canada festivals with the goal to break through in one way or another.
Because we didn’t receive grants or funding for this project, it is important for you to understand the reason why the limited edition of the How Do I Look DVD was released and why we need to raise the much needed funds to complete this project before we can release the official DVD and enter the film festivals with the finished product.
For your information, HDIL was rejected 3 times by the NY State council for the arts, Experimental Television, Frame by Frame and the Andy Warhol foundation refused to even look at our proposal. We learned that to receive grants is not about how artistic a community is or how hard a community is hit by AIDS, it is about who you know on those grant giving panels. I also learned that I had to package our community to fit their guidelines, rather than making the guidelines fit the needs of the community.
The production and duplication of the limited 1.000 HDIL - DVD’s was a $3.000 expense. We made this money back already from the 100 DVD’s we sold on our website www.HowDoILooknyc.org and at Kim’s video store on 89 Christopher Street in NYC. The money we raise from here on goes towards the following:
$3.000 for legal fees for the club mix release and cd soundtrack.
$2.000 to mix the sound for the theater release
$10.000 to transfer from DV tape to 35 mm film.
$1.000 to block out audience
$2.000 for club mix production and 1.000 duplications
$2.000 for the cd soundtrack production and 1.000 duplication
We need to sell 600 more DVD’s to keep the momentum going and from the response we are receiving, I feel confident to reach that goal. The DVD costs $30 plus $5 for shipping on our website. It is $30 at Kim’s video store and $20 if you see me in person.
If you know of a mom and pap video store in your city that sells gay video’s please get in touch with me so we can contact them to sell How Do I Look at their store. Please spread the word to people to buy the How Do I Look DVD, it makes a great gift.
For the New York City HDIL club mix screenings for October, November and December, I am looking for people that would like to produce an event, performers and volunteers. This is an equal House opportunity to cross promote the documentary in the clubs.
We are looking at the following NYC locations for the club mix screenings: Hangar oct 20, Escuelita oct 23, Spalsh oct 25, 208 Center dance nov 12, Roxy-Monster and Atlantis tba, more clubs will be added.
Hopefully I was able to explain myself and the How Do I Look project to you and if you have any questions and feedback for me feel free to contact me. Your responses are always welcomed and appreciated.
--->How Do I Look synopsis The "How Do I Look" documentary was created by artistic and social activist Wolfgang Busch for Art From The Heart LLC. over a period of 10 years, to empower the "Ball" community artistically & financially and to build a national artistic infrastructure to further the careers of LGBT artists.
How Do I Look is a LGBT artistic empowerment, HIV/AIDS awareness community project and an arts in education program, focusing on the members of the national "Ball" community that took their talents outside the "Ball" scene and worked with superstars such as: Queen Latifah, Madonna, India and fashion designer Thierry Mugler to name a few.
How Do I Look captured the "Ball" communities talents, the assets of this very creative and trend setting community and takes you inside of this over 30 year old Harlem tradition. It highlights on their house system and family values, the fierce fashion, dance and runway competition, the many diverse legends and icons life styles, the passing of fashion traditions, the dance vogue old way vs. new way, transgender health issues & education, sends HOPE messages on the battle with HIV/AIDS, their every day struggles and how they build their confidence, self esteem and status through the arts and how they use the natural artistic progression, to improve the quality of life.
The outstanding fashion, runway and voguing visuals in this documentary are the result of this improvisational performance art form and the natural artistic progression. It was captured by German/American film maker Wolfgang Busch, while showcasing their talents in different categories on the runway, battling for that perfect 10 from the judges for ballroom status, recognition, cash and trophies, for legendary status and be voted into the Ballroom Hall of Fame one day.
Based on their gender, every house member can participate and has the opportunity to bring their Fantasy to Reality on the runway, living that superstar moment they can not experience anywhere else.
Lifetime Achiever and member of the Ballroom Hall of Fame Kevin Omni and mother of the year 2004 Luna Khan are Assistant Directors. Marcel Christian, Alvernian Prestige, Mann Prodigy, Ricky Revlon, Derryck Labeija, CoolAid and Jack Mizrahi give us a brief Ballroom history.
Legendary Icon Pepper Labeija, the founder of the Harlem "Ball" scene in the early seventies, is being honored by the community for his leadership and for his endless contributions.
HDIL captures the passing of three generations of ball tradition and the unique talents by futuristic bazaar fashion designers Ross Infiniti and RR Chanel, along with the voguing talents of Willi Ninja, Jose Xtravaganza, Mecca, Muhammad Omni and Andre Mizrahi, who keep the voguing history and the legacy alive for future generations.
The powerful transgender community is represented by Octavia St. Laurent, Carmen Xtravaganza, Tracy Africa, Alyssa St. Clair and Jazmine Givenchy Blahnik. They speak about their diverse life styles such as graduating from Syracuse university, modeling and performance careers and the stages of transformation of becoming a transgender.
Luna Luis Ortiz, Mother of the House of Khan leaves the children with a message of HOPE by sharing his story about how he became infected with the HIV virus during his first sexual experience at the age of 14; and how he continues to live a full life using his artistic photography at the age of 33. Harmonica Sunbeam speaks of the importance of protecting yourself against HIV at all times and encourages the up-coming ball walkers to go out there and just do it.
Jaimee Balenciaga, voted mother of the year for 7 years in a row, is a lesbian talking about how she educates her house children and prepares them for the competition on and off the runway.
Poems are by Emanuel Xavier called "Legends" and by Octavia St. Laurent the "Chosen One".
The music is provided by the local community, Tori Fixx from Chicago, DJ PUNCH from Atlanta, The How Do I Look Project, Harmonica Sunbeam, Jade, Shane, Robson Milian, Dutchboy, Octavia St. Laurent and Willie Villegas from New York.
There are so many exciting performances and magical moments to view in How Do I Look, which attracted many celebrities during the work in progress such as Melba Moore, Malik Yoba, Mo’Nique and Boy George. Multiple #1 Billboard dance artist Kevin Aviance, gossip columnist Michael Musto and Patricia Field from Sex in the City can be heard and seen in How Do I Look.
How Do I Look is already used by students in high schools and universities for student studies and we had screenings with lectures at Yale-NYU-Detroit Mercy and Oberlin college, the Harvey Milk High School, the Door youth organization and Latino Commission on AIDS and at LGBT institutions such as the LGBT community Center in NYC & Philadelphia, OutProfessionals, StoneWall Democratic Club, Black Pride NYC and the HIV Forum.
We received letters of support from Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Field, Senator David Patterson, NY State Senator Thomas K. Duane and the White House.
How Do I Look has been an inspiration and education to many peoples’ lives before its release and the feedback from the media such as the New York Times, NY Post, Power 105.1 FM in NY and BBC TV in London has been very positive and encouraging.
For more information please go to our website at www.HowDoILooknyc.org
It is very important that the ball community feels comfortable with the content of the synopsis and if you have any questions and feedback for me feel free to contact me. Your responses are always welcomed and appreciated.