Usually, posts like these are my jam towards the end of the year. Despite the year I had, I have always found it helpful to look back at it, and after being grateful, I like to look back at the things that went well, the things that didn't, and what I learned. Over time, I have learned to identify what I want more and less of. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to do that this time around.
This year was personally foundational and months of learning and experimentation. After so many years, I have had to look inward profoundly and deal with things I have been running away from most of my life. 2023 was the year of mental health work and refurbishing before being anything else (an entertainer, a Founder, or an active being in the IRL world and online).
7 Things I Learned This Year
Be yourself, proudly as you come, no bugging.
It all started with a strong note. I knew how brutal winter can be for my body and my mental health, and I intentionally was getting out there leaning into what I wanted to move, to present my artistry, and be part of a community. I did it! I booked an audition on a show that looked like a well-produced event and would be the first Drag performer to be part of it. I started learning the moves, putting together the looks, and even doing the promotional photoshoot before ETH Denver.
I came back from Denver to receive a slap on the face. Most dancers had quit, with solid concerns about the studio's stance regarding Pride. Part of me wished I paid attention to the signs early on, but when giving them the benefit of the doubt, they told me on the phone, "Pride is stupid," making it challenging to keep my cool, but that's when I knew. I couldn't fathom that, barely three months after the shooting at the gay bar in Colorado Springs, they were saying something like that.
What would it take for me to stay on the show? They asked. I don't think they could give me what I needed, honestly. How would I know all dancers and performers would be safe on stage? Did they even understand what having a Drag performer in this political climate means? Do they know what Drag means? I politely declined, and that was the best decision I could make. I won't perform an art with a company and an audience that doesn't accept me fully as I come, with our history and growth as a community.
This discouraging event led me to one of the most beautiful experiences in my artistic career; I got a gig at the Steamboat Pride and gave life to saltï for the community that needed it. The love, energy, and celebrations were much more robust and empowering than a few weak, dead threats and emails from ignorant people the day before. This beautiful and meaningful experience changed me and made me stronger.
There is power in leaning into and acting on our delusions because it might create a path never there before.
As all this was happening, I was still acting on what I had learned from the previous year. I played around and made music because it made me feel really good, and I experimented with new technology because I continue to identify its potential to redefine systems. While I still felt like an outsider, clueless about what I was getting myself into, I was meeting people building revolutionary projects at ETH Denver. We connected and met the people building the protocols we were building with. I was lucky to be building in person with one of my co-founders and giving life to our idea of creating a social app for Drag creators.
While I still couldn't believe the positive feedback we were getting on what in my brain felt like a delusional idea, we kept leaning into that feedback and activating our creative and technical brains. While Will was bringing his experience in building and writing code, I was leaning into what I know what to do: being a communicator, storyteller, and Drag entertainer. We were able to figure out live streaming, and that felt incredible.
Why Dragverse and not a general decentralized app like YouTube or Twitter? And we said: because we are not building something for everybody, we are building something that caters to LGBTQAI+ creators' needs and a safe space for their communities. Vocalizing all of this felt empowering and brought even more clarity. We no longer accept crumbs or being an afterthought. We are building paths that don't exist for us to be successful.
We did it! We won 3rd Place as the Best Lens App at ETH Denver. That taught me the beauty of being oneself proudly, acting on what one needs, and simply acting and executing an idea, even if it seems ridiculous and delusional.
Show up, even when it feels like that's the last thing you want to do.
The energy in the space could be better. I hear there is a bear market, and the energy is down. I am here because I see the potential of redefining social media and impacting the creative economy, not to make a quick buck or put my finances at risk. Layoffs everywhere I look, and Coinbase releases a well-done piece of advertising summarizing how we feel: the system is broken, and everything is awful. With very little energy, how does one move forward? How do I show up when I only want to hide in my room?
My life hasn't been easy; there have been traumas left and right, and that's how I have always dealt with them. I did all my dad asked me to do; I graduated and climbed the ladder; why isn't that enough? Why am I not happy? You are not that child anymore, my therapist says. Maybe it's time to change the focus.
He was right. I have collected many tools and learnings in my career. I never stopped being an artist, and the desire to be an entertainer and communicator never disappeared. Better yet, I was doing it! I was creating content, performing, and sharing art. I shared a film for MTV's Mental Health Week at the TRU Bandroom, and my art was displayed in NY. I got into the complete Drag fantasy at ETH Denver, hosted many Twitter spaces for emerging artists, and minted BRUJA and ONCHAINSUMMA' while collaborating with the CRM community. That's something.
I learned that I have the power to do and create whatever I want for myself; nothing lasts forever, and things got better when I went for a walk, practiced warming up my voice, and decided to spit verses for the fun of it. It was so much better than hiding. Showing up every Friday consistently for the MANUELITA show allowed me to meet new artists, collaborate, and learn about music.
Slow down. You have to walk on those heels before running in them. Experiment, test, and reiterate.
AI shows up stronger than EVA'! A million new tools and thousands of possibilities each day. You snooze, you lose. You step away from the computer for a day, and the next thing you know, it feels like you are being left behind. You are telling me I can write what I am imagining, and the machine will spit a picture for me? Not only that, but it can have my face on it. I can't believe it! Does it know what a Drag Queen is?
As a visionary and creative director, that was very exciting for me. I can create visuals that align with what I envision while concentrating on the other million things I want to do, like learning how to code, creating 3D Metaverse assets, and bringing IRL Drag to the space. Let's go! I feel unstoppable. While I felt excited and like I was giving life to my character, on the other hand, I was starting to feel isolated. Many artists I respected started unfollowing me, and things started getting weird.
Then, more than inspired, I started feeling dry, artistically speaking. Yes, saltï looked stunning as the leading woman she is, and it has been fun imagining her in many roles and situations and made it easier to be present on social media, but then what? What's the point? Will it replace me, my job, and what I love creating? Or is it a tool to help me create the things I want and help me get where I want to be?
I was overwhelmed and tired and had more questions and more answers. I realized there was no point in putting too much pressure. AI helped get ideas across more easily and clearly and get the imagination going. That wasn't the end of the journey; if anything, we are barely starting.
Machines can help you move faster but can't replace human collaboration and creation.
While AI can help us achieve things faster and quicker, it can never replace human interaction and the feeling of creating together. AI can now design, produce video, translate, and create code but can't recreate what we can do collectively. It can not recreate the METADRAGVERSE SNOWBALL from the previous year because it requires humans to spend more than hours preparing, recording, and putting together a whole show for others to experience.
AI can't replace the conversations and moments we shared this year, online, offline, or on-chain. Culture and togetherness have meaning because of what we create: our comedy, our jokes, our feelings, and our memes. I learned there is a lot of magic and value in getting together, creating, testing, and reiterating. That's where the vibe is, and I want more of it.
You are the artist, communicator, entertainer, and professional you have always dreamed of being. And remember, lasting, iconic, functional things take time.
I am not sure if it was life, society, or television that made me believe I had to shut up, follow the crowd and use the systems set up previously if I wanted to get somewhere, despite them not being set up for someone like me: Latine, queer, creative, and delusional, to succeed. I even wrote about it before; I thought I had to help revive a Venezuelan television network to become the artist, communicator, and entertainer I wanted to be. This year, it sunk in that it is not the case.
Whether I reach virality again, recognition of millions of people, or a small group of collectors, I AM the artist, entertainer, and creator I always wanted to be. I know in my heart that I create art simply because it makes me feel like my best self, and I do it with intentionality, to make others feel good, and with a message of progress, acceptance, and wellness.
Speculation turns me OFF immediately, and I don't want to promise something I don't know I can deliver. This year, I learned that it's okay to create a project that makes sense for you and your community, to whatever speed, and adapt the tech to your vision, not your vision to the tech. There is no point in rushing to build something useful and meaningful. I learned there is a difference between community and niche online culture vs. hype and passing exclusivity.
No matter if I get to perform on big stages again, do a series on Netflix, join the cast of a Drag Competition show, or stay an on-chain bedroom Drag creator and builder, for better or for worse, I want to be an example of artists that created new things, shaped new paths, and did the thing. Yes, I am building the Dragverse for others like me, but I find excitement in being my own social network and creating and sharing my content my way.
There are many wigs to wear, and it's knowing when to wear which.
Recently, I have been watching this show on Hulu about the 90s, and it has been helpful to see a summary of how both tech and Drag were perceived over time. RuPaul never stopped creating, iterating on what he wanted, and seeing how far we have come. Ru is not only a drag queen but also a leader, producer, and visionary, and it's nothing without the people around him.
This year, I learned it's okay to be many things, and sometimes we have to wear many wigs and hats, and it's knowing when to wear which. I came up with this theory of the Five Wigs: First, I have to be HUMAN and take care of my body and mental health, then I can be a clown and a performer, but sometimes I have to be a BUILDER and in other cases a CURATOR and AMPLIFIER. I can't be all at once but am learning when to be what.
In the '90s, tech scared many people back then, and little did they know how it would change things for the better and, unfortunately, for the worse.
Now, we can lean into what has worked and redefine what hasn't. The collective might not understand these innovative technologies or hate Drag because they have never seen it before or know WHY it has existed all this time, and the reason is going from the underground to the main stage. And while I don't have definitive answers, and it's not my job to explain this, I can only say that I am not keeping my arms crossed.
I might still be learning and understanding what it means to be a Founder and how things can be done moving forward. Still, I now understand the power of being oneself fully, getting together with others who vibe with you, see you, and make you better, and the importance of moving forward despite the uncertainty, the unknown, and the darkness. Iron sharpens iron, and there is value in being present in the places you want to be in.
May my delusion, learnings, wins, and failures shape the way forward and show others like me that you matter, you belong here, and if there is no path, we create it. We are not perfect, and we don't have to be. Our projects might materialize slower than others, but that doesn't mean they are not happening.
Thank you for reading and embracing my art in this space, and I wish you health and prosperity this new year! We are still very early, and so much is ahead of us.
Be excited--- we have a show to put together!