In the twelve years that I’ve run APW, I’ve always been dedicated to Queer inclusion. A lot of that comes from a place of pain. I grew up in a very conservative city, and had close friends who tried to take their own lives in high school because they did not live in a world that gave them space to love themselves. That drove me to be a Queer advocate my entire adult life. But in the past few years, that commitment has changed and grown. My oldest child is gender nonconforming. He’s seven, so it’s impossible to know what that will look like for him in the future (or what his pronouns will be. Pronouns can be a lot for a seven-year-old, living in a binary world, to figure out). But what I do know is that my kid loves dresses, glitter, drag queen paper dolls… and shorts, Pokemon, and epic Beyblade battles. He contains multitudes. My job as his mom is to fight for a world where he sees a place for himself to grow up, and to give him space to truly and deeply love all the parts of himself. Most days, that job comes from a place of joy, though there are days when fighting for him comes from a place of deep pain. Even in a progressive place like Oakland, none of this is easy.
All of that is to say, here at APW, we don’t typically run styled shoots. But this time, we were willing to break every rule in the book. This styled shoot shatters wedding industry norms, and creates a space where people like my kid can exist, thrive… and be damn fabulous. So when Holly Gray of Anything But Gray Events, one of the amazing wedding planners in our vendor directory, reached out to us about this styled shoot featuring one model in both the masculine and feminine roles, we jumped at the chance.
Holly recruited drag performer Sergio/Evora to play both bride and groom for the shoot, and a group of some of our most favorite vendors met up at The Ebell of Los Angeles to bring this shoot to fruition. I was honestly shocked to learn that in 2020 (2020!), six wedding publications passed on this shoot, because they “don’t feel there is a market for this demographic,” or considered it “too edgy.” We’re thrilled that APW readers and vendors are proving that notion wrong every day.
The overarching concept for this shoot was inspired by the inimitable RuPaul’s poignant catchphrase, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else,” and RuPaul just so happens to be hosting SNL tomorrow night—the first time ever a drag performer has done so. In honor of RuPaul, and gender creative kids everywhere, please join me in a big “AMEN”.
Holly (Planner and Stylist):
To tell you the truth, the concept for this shoot came to me in a literal dream. After a marathon weekend binge-watching Queer Eye and Pose I must have had my favorite Fairy Godmothers, Jonathan Van Ness and Billy Porter, on my mind. In my dream, I envisioned a loving couple. There was no divide between the bride and the groom: they were one, and everything made sense, because how can we love someone else if we don’t love ourselves first?
This shoot features a drag performer, Sergio/Evora, as both the bride and groom. When coming up with this concept and vendor partner team, I wanted to showcase a Queer model in a way that I have not yet seen in wedding publications before. As a wedding planner and designer, I have grown so tired of seeing the same kinds of homogenous people, styles, shapes, colors, and sizes in wedding publications. The “sameness” needs to end. It has skewed our ideas (and ideals) of beauty, and alienates those who are, thankfully, different. It isn’t fair—or creative—and it needs to change.
In a time when our world is finally changing for the better and we are seeing more Queer performers and role models in our mainstream media, I find myself frustrated that this isn’t mirrored in the wedding industry as much as it should be. People are not cookie-cutter, so why are so many of the weddings we see in wedding publications?
Through the magic of the camera lens, I wanted to bring together these two at the end of the aisle to meet each other, symbolizing how we should ditch labels and spotlight our changing world, inclusivity, and the power of self-love.
The goal was to make the shoot beautiful and super-stylized, in hopes that readers see not a “man in a dress”, but a beautiful and complex human who deserves to love and be loved. Although the design might seem a bit more traditional with the backdrop of the over 100-year-old historic venue, The Ebell of Los Angeles, the concept is forward-thinking and progressive.
I am anything but traditional, but for this shoot, I felt that scooting the line between classic and modern was crucial for relaying our message of self-love.
There is a symbolic juxtaposition between a venue built as a progressive women’s-only clubhouse focusing on the arts, and our progress now as a culture. All the vendors on the team are inclusive and donated their time and resources to make this shoot possible in order to (hopefully) change how the wedding industry looks, feels, and treats Queer couples. From start to finish it was a passion project.
I am incredibly proud of this shoot and the vendor team that worked tirelessly to make it happen. It takes a community to make a change. My hope with this shoot is that we start to see Queer people in wedding publications regularly and without apology. That wedding vendors will adjust the pronouns listed on their websites and remember that love isn’t just for one kind of person, but for all, without question. Change can be hard, but it always makes room for greatness. We just have to get out of our own way to get there.
For those of you that don’t know me, I go by many names: Sergio, Evora, Bitch (all are accepted and acknowledged). I hold many titles from Brand Developer, Creative Director, Entrepreneur, Drag Queen, and Liaison to Happiness to name a few. But really, what gets me up in the morning is having people be uniquely themselves in all areas of their lives.
When Holly first approached with the idea, I thought, “Is the wedding industry ready for it?” Then like a resounding consciousness, I hear Mama Ru: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else!?” It was a no brainer.
I created Evora as an image of who I desired to be—a powerful, loving, and fierce woman. Little did I know in the process of creating her I would grow to love Sergio more. It has been seven years of building a relationship with her and she will forever be a part of me. This shoot was a pure representation of a vow to love myself fully.
I personally feel that while we have and are making great strides to embrace and honor gay and lesbian weddings, there is still not very much diverse content out there for the Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer communities. Maybe not much exists still, as the market is directed to more traditional couples, or sadly, maybe not many are brave enough to publish this type of content yet, or it doesn’t fit the normal readership.