Tuesday, September 2, 2014


2014 Next Magazine Nightlife Hall of Fame August 29, 2014
by Benjamin Lindsay / Artwork by:  Ryan Colford

The spotlight hit his impeccably made-up face, gold hair, and beige Seven Year Itch dress. He turned to the crowd, turned to birthday boy Junior Vasquez, and sang a rendition of “Happy Birthday” to make Marilyn proud. “I didn’t want to be a white Marilyn Monroe; I wanted to be a black Marilyn Monroe,” Kevin Aviance says, remembering the years-old performance over the phone from Provincetown, Mass. “It was such a moment—I just disappeared.”

It was one of the many times Kevin has disappeared into a performance in the pursuit of creating magic onstage. Though he notes his black Marilyn as one of his favorite memories since infiltrating New York’s late-80s nightlife scene, he says that his entire career has been about creating unforgettable, spiritual moments, or as he puts it, “having church onstage.” “All I know is what I’ve been taught and those intense emotions and those feelings. There’s not a phoniness to it. It’s really kind of real.”

Mother Juan Aviance says that it was this indelible authenticity that first drew her to Kevin upon meeting him in Washington, D.C. “The Milli Vanilli hair extensions, booty shorts, and cowboy boots caught my eye first, but it was his presence [and] energy that sealed it for me,” Mother Juan says. “The rest is Aviance history—avi-ously!”

Born in Richmond, Va., Kevin was living in D.C. at the time, working as a hairdresser and performer. He booked it north shortly after and began making a name for himself. He found a home at the Sound Factory and family in the House of Aviance, but adapting from southern nightlife—Kevin also lived and performed in Miami—was no walk in Central Park.

“New York is very judgmental. They told you to your face, ‘Girl, you’re tired. That’s not cute; that’s not fierce.’ That’s what I think made me really strong,” he says.

So how did he push through the criticism while looking couture? “It was a matter of taking what I had and making something of it,” he says. “We were underground and afterhours, performing 14 times a night and all this stuff—it pays off after a while.”

And pay off it has. On top of being a performer of legendary stature, Kevin has had a handful of number one dance singles on the Billboard charts and has collaborated with Tyra Banks, Madonna, and other stars. And he’s still working in Ptown today.

Luckily, he plans to move back to New York post-hip surgery—a lifetime in heels will do some damage, girl!—and even has a new music project, Beast, underway. Clearly, this beast and self-proclaimed “90s bitch” cannot be tamed.

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