Drawing Dallas • 05.13.11

YendorrFNL_3Yendor Reese stands against transphobia and homophobia —in heels

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com
Name and age: Yendor Reese, 27

Spotted at: Kroger’s on Cedar Springs

 

Occupation: Mortgage case worker
Yendor received his unusual name from his father Rodney, who had a unique sense of humor (it’s “Rodney” backwards). With his strong religious upbringing, it was a natural that this handsome Taurus would pursue a career in music. Originally planning to become a music minister, he first pursued a vocal performance (opera) major at TCU before switching to communications/human relations with a minor in religion and music. The change gave him a deeper understanding of other religions and lifestyles, providing him a gateway to his own coming out. He was the first African-American to win “Mr. TCU” in the history of that university.

Yendor was the lead singer for the soul/rock group Soulever Lift, but the group’s plans were set back when their lead guitarist was picked up by Erykah Badu. Yendor writes music and poetry, and plays tennis whenever he can find time in his busy schedule.

His thoughts on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia: An occasional cross-dresser, Yendor takes a live-and-let-live approach to human understanding. “Why should anyone tell another person who they should love or how to dress or what sex they relate to more? Humans need every color to be a complete rainbow. This day is
a reminder that life is a little bit better with every color — even if it is pink.”

TracieFNL2_1Tracie Hardin combines a green thumb with an artist’s eye

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Name and age: Tracie Hardin, 26

Spotted at: FedExKinko’s on Greenville Avenue

Occupation: Botanist/creative director

Indigenous interests: This slim Sagittarian has spent his entire life in Texas, graduating with a biology degree from Tarleton State University. He originally pursued a career in fashion but got disillusioned with the “fickle, cutthroat” retail industry. His lifelong interest in plants led him to his current job, working in a greenhouse. Unlike the fashion business, “plants only yield, and they don’t talk,” he quips.

Art and music: Tracie’s varied interests include creating portraits using recycled materials. “My work is mainly people’s faces and the stories behind them.” His music tastes veer toward rock/hip hop/soul (a fave is Nina Simone). Tracie also practices religious fasting twice a month.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Femme X provides service to people learning to be women

Nikki Starr

Starr says her service benefits trans women who want to present a more feminine appearance

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Way back in 1996, Nikki Starr started Miss Victoria’s Feminine Illusions, a business dedicated to helping those — male or female — who wanted to be more feminine in appearance.

Starr suspended operations in 2001 because she traveled quite a bit with her job as an executive for a software company dealing with supply chain logistics.

But with the encouragement of a friend, Starr decided to try again, and Femme X Studios has been up and running since 2006.

Starr said she works with a variety of people: Some might have a fetish; others are transgender women who know they are women but never learned how women’s sizes work or how to put on makeup.

“They don’t know where to start,” Starr said.

While her target audience is varied, Starr said she rarely works with drag queens. She said she is not in business to help someone present an illusion or exaggeration of femininity.

“I provide a service as an image and style consultant,” she said.

Some of Starr’s clients are just coming out as transgender and learning to be more feminine. One client is a married cross-dresser whose wife does not know.

“She’s just trying to figure it out,” Starr said of her client.

Much of Starr’s business comes from people who are in the closet. Some are high-powered business executives who need a private, discreet place to explore.

Starr said she schedules three or four appointments a week and while an appointment may last up to eight hours, the basic appointment is usually three hours.

“Everything’s included,” Starr said. “They don’t have to bring anything — clothes, shoes, hair, lingerie. What do they want? Photography? Makeup?”

Starr has release forms for all pictures on her website. To assure discretion, she said she’ll use the client’s own camera and hand them the memory card. But, she noted, photography can be useful for the client to see and compare differences in makeup or hairstyles. And some do want a glamour shot session.

Starr said that some clients are very nervous on their first visit. They might spend the entire visit just drinking a glass of wine and talking. And Starr said she is careful to take that client through each step and talk about the experience as they go.

She also offers a very basic one-hour make-up class in which she discusses products, skincare and basic makeup application techniques.

Starr also helps her clients prepare for their own forays into the world of retail. Her advice for people shopping for the first time who have not developed a relationship with any salespeople is to call ahead.

“If you call ahead, they can prepare for you,” she said.

Starr used that same principle in planning an outing with a transgender group.

She made reservations for a group at the Uptown restaurant Sambuca and explained who they were. They told her, “as long as you’re dressed appropriately.” Starr said that when her group arrived, they were assigned a waiter who went out of his way to make the evening a lot of fun.

And while Starr specializes in image consulting, she refers her clients to a number of other people — including counselors, cosmetic surgeons and doctors to prescribe hormone therapy, as well as friendly gyms, retailers and restaurants.

Starr said that each of her customers is looking for something a little different and she said the key to success is spending time making sure she understands that client’s needs.

“We can customize an experience that’s right for you,” Starr said.

—  John Wright

Gender roles

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ONE OF THESE GIRLS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER | Walter Lee Cunningham Jr., right, plays his character Frenchie sometimes as a girl, sometimes as a cross-dresser, in Dallas Theater Center’s wild and sexed-up production of ‘Cabaret.’ (Photo courtesy Karen Almond)

Life is a drag-aret, old chum — at least it is for Walter Lee Cunningham Jr., who gets all girlie for his role in DTC’s sexy, edgy ‘Cabaret’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Getting cast in Cabaret was a plum gig for Walter Lee Cunningham Jr. Since moving to Dallas from his native Abilene in 2007, Cunningham has been performing around town in shows like The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Caroline, or Change. But he had taken off nearly a year before he auditioned for the Dallas Theater Center’s spring musical.

So when he got that call that he’d been cast as Frenchie, “one of the dancers in the Kit Kat Klub,” he was thrilled to be making his DTC debut.

Then he showed up for the first costume fitting,

“That’s when I found out I would be playing a girl,” he says.

Yes, he would be in the ensemble — only not as a Kit Kat boy as he had assumed, but playing one of the female chorines.

That was a surprise for sure, but wasn’t such a big deal for Cunningham: Since 2004, he’s performed drag under the name Jada Fox at clubs around North Texas, including Station 4, the Drama Room and the Rainbow Lounge. No, it was really when he saw his costume that he had his first big gulp! moment — there simply wasn’t that much of it.

“It kind of freaked me out a bit,” he says. “When I do drag, I wear pads to give myself the physique of a girl. Without them, I have the body of a boy.”

Being clad only in a bra, lace panties and sheer stockings didn’t give him much to play with — or hide behind.

As with drag, maintaining the illusion of femininity requires a man to, ummm, “tuck.” That’s not so hard when donning an evening gown for a 20-minute drag show; it’s quite another for a two-hour musical that requires high kicks.

Let’s just say Cunningham has to work harder than anyone else onstage not to let his Pride flag wave too proudly.

“I have to worry about my junk,” he says frankly. “Something could very well pop out. You just have to make it work.” (So far during previews, that hasn’t happened, though it has occurred backstage at unexpected moments.) He also has to sing an octave above his normal range. All in all, it gives new meaning to Faith Whittlesey’s dictum, “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did — only backwards and in heels.”

Performing as a female impersonator certainly prepared Cunningham for this role. As with acting, drag requires the creation of a character, and Jada Fox has been described as “a black Barbie doll — I’m not the bitchy queen, it’s just not me.” (When pressed, he compares his persona to Sahara Davenport, the Season 2 contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race.)

It’s all part-and-parcel with the concept of the show, a sexed-up, wildly racy updating of “the divinely decadent Sally Bowles,” a British showgirl living in Weimar Germany when everyone was sleeping around with everyone else — male, female … even Nazi. Joel Ferrell directs and choreographs, turning the floor of the Wyly Theatre into a real cabaret with some café-table seating. That gives Cunningham the opportunity to interact with the audience in ways neither he nor most of the attendees are quite used to.

“There’s definitely a game of ‘spot-the-boy,’” he says. “I can see the audience, especially the women, trying to figure me out, It’s kind of funny. It gives me a bit to play with. I’m not trying to freak anyone out, but there was this number [at a preview] where I was looking at these guys and they refused to look at me.” He took it as a challenge.

It becomes easier to spot-the-boy during Act 2, where Cabaret ventures toward Zumanity territory with explicit nudity — none of which bothers Cunningham.

“I personally don’t care — I’m very comfortable with my body,” he says. (At 25, he says he eats all he wants to and only occasionally works out and yet still maintains his lean physique.)

So, is Frenchie a real girl, or just a cross-dressing guy living the gay life in decadent interregnum Berlin? Even Cunningham’s not sure.

“They never told me exactly what they wanted,” he says. “It’s a choice I get to make. I kind of play with it — sometimes I’m really a girl and sometimes not.”

Unless, of course, he pops out of his costume during a performance. At that point, the audience pretty much gets to make the decision for him.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 29, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Movie Monday: ‘All Good Things’ in the Angelika

Murder in Texas?

Quick, name the artsy Ryan Gosling movie out now about a troubled man and his complex sexual relationship with a blonde — and they have sex in a shower. Yeah, maybe you said Blue Valentine, but you could have said All Good Things. Gosling’s character here trades up the social ladder but down the well-adjusted scale with AGT, inspired by the life of Texas-based killer (and sometime cross-dresser) Robert Durst.

Gosling plays the Durst character, here called David Marks, the scion of an abrasive, wealthy New York slumlord (Frank Langella). David reluctantly enters the family business once he meets Katie (Kirsten Dunst), basically serving as bag-man for his dad’s collections arm. Dad is disapproving of him, and looks disdainfully on Katie, which only exacerbates David’s isolation, as well as his spiraling psychological instability.

Read the rest of the review here.

DEETS: All Good Things. Rated R. 110 minutes. Angelika Film Center at the Mockingbird Station.

—  Rich Lopez