by Vanessa and Katrina
When Autostraddle writer and queer barber extraordinaire Katrina ‘KC Danger’ Casino asked me to photograph her incredible brainchild, PHRESH CUTZ, I jumped at the chance. The event was slated for Sunday, September 2 and promised (via Facebook invitation) to be “last outdoor party of the late great summer 2012.” PHRESH CUTZ would be a queer pop-up barbershop party in Brooklyn, run by Hair Force One, a group of friends who met via the Internet and loved cutting hair, inclusive spaces and each other. It would be a place for queers to kick back, have some drinks, eat some snacks, meet some like-minded humans and get a sweet haircut. I was itching to take photos the minute Katrina told me about it.
Are you now thinking that this sounds like the most amazing community event ever? That’s excellent, because it was! If you need convincing, here are 60 photos from Sunday to prove it.
All images in this gallery were taken by Vanessa (that’s me!) and Ronika McClain, who was the other official PHRESH CUTZ photographer and who stayed much later into the night than I did because she’s incredible and not a grandma.
Now that you’ve seen with your own eyes exactly how phenomenal PHRESH CUTZ was, let’s talk about the future. The inaugural event was such a success, PHRESH CUTZ will be back again next month (and hopefully many months after that, too). Katrina understandably had a lot of feelings about everything that happened this weekend, so she did what one should always do with a lot of feelings and she wrote them all down. Here they are.
There’s this thing that happens in Brooklyn, and I think especially Bed-Stuy, where it’s never really quiet. During the days in the summer it’s usually kids in the streets or barbecues in the park or the eternally blissful sound of ice cream trucks cruising by. At night it’s music. Coming from stoops and bodegas and cars, it’s like each block has its own beat. Because it’s Brooklyn, there’s often a disproportionate amount of Biggie playing, and you can’t really play Biggie without playing “Juicy.” For those unfamiliar with “Juicy,” the song is about the meteoric rise of the Notorious B.I.G. from a street hustler in Brooklyn to a hip-hop game changer. And although there could be maybe no circumstances further away from each other than the life and times of Biggie Smalls and the story of a little barbershop that could, I couldn’t help but feel jarringly sentimental when the song came pouring out of the speakers at our party, and Biggie began with the most precise words about small beginnings: “It was all a dream.”
‘Cause you know what? It was.
PHRESH CUTZ started as a small project among friends, and I guess you could argue that it still is. It was a true labor of love from the very beginning: from building Hair Force One up from a few friends over beers to totally staffing, funding, and promoting an event that we could run completely and totally on our terms. The success of PHRESH CUTZ proved something that we all hoped to be true, but could never really know for sure: that you can do what you love, and that you can invest that love into something and come out with a million times more than what you started with.
I think that when we were conceptualizing PHRESH CUTZ, I wanted something loud and beautiful and bright. Something truly practical but also out-of-control fun. Seriously, who says that you shouldn’t have it all? I feel so endlessly fortunate to be surrounded by such an immensely talented, creative and enthusiastic group of people so totally devoted to making this happen. Everyone on the staff — the barbers, the DJs, the photographers, the bartenders — are my new personal heroes. Everyone worked so hard to bring something into this world, and I truly believe that this was, is and will continue to be huge.
There’s something large and indescribable about the feeling and the action of creating a space. There may not be any non-corny-sounding way to talk about “people being able to be themselves,” but phrases are only ever cliche because they’re true, and feeling like you can be yourself — like your whole true self — is invaluable. There are a lot of microaggressions in this world: constant misgendering, presumed straightness, invisibility, pervasive heteronormativity and often not being able to speak or think or look exactly the way you want. It’s not like one haircutting party is going to end this, but every safe space created brings us one step closer.
I am so truly, profoundly happy with the way this event went down. I want more; I feel hungry for it. Hair Force One wants to bring it bigger and better next month, and the month after that, and the month after that until the last scissor drops. We’ve got some stuff in the works. Next month’s party will be called PHRESHtoberfest (or potentially OktoberPHRESH?), and we’re looking for a bigger space and thinking about some live music. We want to start thinking about how we can learn from each other, and how we can use this event not just to contribute to the queer community but also to the communities that we live in. We have a lot of work to do and we can’t wait.
Thank you again to the staff who worked long and late to make this possible. And of course a huge thank you to our supporters and attendees. Obviously, we couldn’t have done this without you either. Y’all are beautiful, not to mention fly as fuck. This is exciting. It feels like so many things are possible, and we’re willing to put in the work to make that happen. It’s amazing to see what you can make with your own hands, to look out and see your vision unfolding and know that once, it was all a dream.
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