For Performer Sophia Lamar The Party Never Stops
Eduardo Gion Espejo-Saavedra,
Sophia Lamar was born in Cuba, she emigrated to the USA in the 80’s, landing in New York to live passionately the underground of that city. There she became an habitué of the night celebrations, being part of mythical Club Kids, and muse to photographers like Terry Richardson and Ryan Mcginley. We spoke with her about gender fluid, cinema and especially her music.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 13th issue of ODDA Magazine.
Q: You were born in Cuba, under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro and emigrate to the United States. What was your childhood like in Cuba?
A: During my childhood, I witnessed the entire process of the revolution. Then, it became a terrible dictatorship. I was aware of my sexuality since an early age and, for that reason, automatically I became a dissident for the reason of being myself, leaving me in a kafkaesque state. I was illegal just for the reason of existing. I was a rebellious child and, when I was 14 years old, I ended up in a “reeducation” camp. It was nothing but a concentration camp. I was only there just over three months because my mother moved some old friends’ connections and I was released. When I say “only” three months it’s because some of my peers were there for years. After my release, I went back to school and, in my late teens, organized a performance troupe. Of course, it was illegal and we only performed at private homes risking everything, even our freedom. We sang, danced, and did theater play segments in short. We and the audience didn’t have time for the whole play in case the police arrive. I did that and an assortment of jobs until I finally was able to escape from the horror that was living there.
Q: When did you arrive in the US?
A: I came to the USA during the Mariel boat-lift.
Q: When you first arrived you performing immediately. What were those performances?
A: WelI, I didn’t jump from the boat to the stage. It was a process of a few years and adaptation. See, I didn’t know the language. I had to prepare myself culturally and environmentally to be sure to know what I was getting into. So I lived a short period in Miami before a move to Dallas, Texas. Those first two and a half years were pure preparation, absorbing everything I could working two jobs, living a very different lifestyle in order to get what I wanted. Then, I moved to San Francisco. There, I participated in several performances and danced solo. I joined a group of artists, Rock and Roll musicians, and performers named the Armpit Gallery. It was pure pamphlet “avant” performances, but with a very popular demand. I enjoyed it very much and learned a few crafts in there.
Q: You were part of the Kid Club movement along with Michael Alig and Larry Tee?
A: I arrived to NYC and met Michael at a party and he hired my on the spot. That fall, I went to Paris for three months. Then, when I arrived back, I started working full time in the club that I used as tool for performances and meeting people. At that time, I hardly drank and was drug free. I worked more for other promoters than I did for Michael Alig, but I guess I have to carry that stigma. After the whole debacle of the Club Kids, I met this young and talented film maker named Ned Ambler. He is credited to be the guy who created the revolution in the male model world with the introduction of the male waif. Every brand went to him for casting from those mid nineties GAP to CK1 ads. He provided those models. He had a mini factory of talented cinematographic looking people so we did videos for lots of bands and I started doing film with him. From there, some people saw my performance in his films and started to cast me. With Larry T, I started working then in 2001 when Spencer Product brought the Electroclash movement to NYC.
Q: What was the night scene like at that time?
A: That is a question that people constantly asked me and, to tell you the truth, nothing has changed. Things evolve and a few nostalgic dated individuals start to create myths. Everything must change and evolve. NYC has places in its night life right now for every one…for the nostalgic and even for those that never lived that era but believe the myth.
Q: You also work in the cinema, began with the Spanish filmmaker Manuel Toledano, What memories do you have of that time?
A: Those days for me are so behind. I never look back. The filming days were exhausting because I worked until 4AM. Then, I have to be at the set that was in the same place by 10AM. Meeting the magical cinematographer Alfredo Mayo was a great experience. I know his work from his films with Carlos Saura and Pedro Amodovar. Even with my small part in the film, I had the opportunity to travel promoting the film in Spain because I was the only cast member that spoke Spanish. That was nice.
Q: What other movies have you done?
A: I have worked in over twenty films (without counting those independent unlisted films the went to drawers.) I also have produced films as well. I just finished a film that will release in the fall, Rotten Seeds. I’m a character actor. I love to become those people. I’m running away constantly from any role that people think is close to my personality. I never care how the characters look.
Q: You also performed theater with brilliant reviews.
A: I participated in the Fringe Festival for years and worked in all of those venues form Dixon Place to LaMama. It was in this play, Party and Prey, in which I played three different characters that the American Review Theater called one of my characters’ a “glorious reincarnation.”
Q: Do you and Larry Tee produce their first single? What style of music do you like to perform?
A: It was during the Electroclash. That was a period where a lot of recording artists came from or were performing in that venue. The club Luxx in Brooklyn was the ground zero with Friday and Saturdays. Events were from Peaches, Adult, ARE weapons, Chicks on Speed, Avenue D, La Tigre to Sister Scissors performing and it was the right moment for me. I recorded a song for an electro musical compilation album Badd inc) called “Fake.” Then, I did another collaboration with Philliip with more Rock and Roll vibes.
Q: You are also model for brands like Levi`s or Trash & Vaudeville, Do you like the world of fashion?
A: Everything came along as one thing brought the other. I love fashion when it’s beyond the trends or the status symbol. It has to have a philosophical idea behind it for me to like it. I know it’s just a garment, but a garment in a collection can be made of the most expensive and delicate refined crafts and not make any statements. It’s for people with the disposal income and nothing else.
Q: You were on the cover of important magazines like Interview Vogue, V and The Face and shot by photographers like Terry Richarson or Mario Testino. Is that so?
A: The Vogue picture was in 1993. Back then, the “gender fluid” trend that is happening right now was not possible. In an article about the collections, they published me modeling a French brand, Zuly Bët. So a local tabloid commented about a transsexual being in American Vogue and how sneaky the photographer was to sell the picture without telling the editor. In 2004, Interview declared me among the ten to watch.
Yes, I have been photographed by the likes of Terry Richardson, Albert Watson, John Scarbrick, Mario Testino, David Lachapelle, among others. I have shot five album covers; the most prominent being Smoke by White Williams.
Q: What do you think of the current club scene?
A: I think it’s like it has always been. NYC night life is like a mythological creation and everyone has an idea what it is or how it’s supposed to be and everyone would tell you how it is according to how much fun they are having. I think personality that it is great right now.
Q: What is your next project?
A: This summer, I’m going back to a theater-Cabaret production under the direction of Paul Iacono, a collaboration with Ryan McGinley’s book, titled Shoot Yourself, a cameo in a music video for the Nick Murphy (previously known as Chet Faker) track “The Missing Link”, and the same for the rock band Public Access TV’s “On Location.” Also, I’m directing a short film about preconceived ideas about sexuality. I like to be busy.
Filmmaker, Journalist and documentary.
For several years working as an assistant director of short films and feature films in 35mm. His documentaries have been shown at festivals Festival de Cinema de Sitges, New York Film Festival, Portland Underground Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival, and others.
Worked at events “080” in Barcelona, collaborating with photographers Miguel Villalobos for the production of the tribute to Thierry Mugler.
Writes and produces reports for magazines “Candy Magazine” to Luis Venegas, Also works for the magazine “Paraiso Magazine”, and Features Editor at ODDA Magazine.
Eduardo Gion Espejo-Saavedra
Filmmaker, Journalist and documentary. For several years working as an assistant director of short films and feature films in 35mm. His documentaries have been shown at festivals Festival de Cinema de Sitges, New York Film Festival, Portland Underground Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival, and others. Worked at events “080” in Barcelona, collaborating with photographers Miguel Villalobos for the production of the tribute to Thierry Mugler. Writes and produces reports for magazines “Candy Magazine” to Luis Venegas, Also works for the magazine “Paraiso Magazine”, and Features Editor at ODDA Magazine.
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