Hello Champagne Dreamers!
I can’t believe that this is the 8th anniversary of this site! Eight is my favorite number, and in some ways this has been my favorite year at the World of Champagne. I know, I know: the world is on fire and we have had some real growing pains to go through as a society. Things just keep getting darker and darker politically (hopefully with a sunrise coming this November!) and at the time that I’m writing this there are more than 173,000 people dead from COVID-19. There are protests around the country against police brutality and the murder of innocent citizens by the police, and there have already been more trans women murdered so far this year in the United States than all of last year. This is a seriously dark timeline. Not quite Cormac McCarthy dark, but close.
So why has this been my favorite year so far at the World of Champagne? Well, with everything that has been going on in the world, I’ve been able to really look inward, think about what I value, and create a presence that is much more authentic to who I am. It’s not that I’ve been “manufactured” before this – though in some ways social media is always a version of reality that is curated and produced – but I have a stronger sense of who I am, what I believe in, and what I want to put out into the world.
The last few months, in person drag shows have been out of the question and I haven’t really vibed with the whole online drag show thing – there are some people who can really pull this off, but I fear that I’m probably not one of them! – but I have been dipping my toes into more digital content. I finally launched that YouTube channel I’ve been talking about for-fucking-ever, and with that the launch of both series that have been knocking around in my head since the idea of channel was new and shiny in my brain: Get Ratchet With Me, my play on the whole Get Ready With Me focusing on the idea that we don’t have to create these IG-perfect looks and our flaws are what makes us beautiful, and Don’t Drink & Drag, which is exactly what it sounds like – I get a little tipsy and try to create fantastic drag looks! I’ve been planning those series for a long time, and even though I only have a couple of them done, they are just as much fun to create as I thought they would be and I can’t wait to keep creating them. The channel has also been an excellent opportunity to spend some time with my dear friend Angie, who has been acting as my put-upon assistant and cinematographer (and is become a characters of sorts from behind the camera!). If you want to see all of the glamorous shenanigans, please check out my YouTube channel HERE and don’t forget to subscribe! My goal is to hit 100 subscribers by the end of September. I know it’s a small goal, but don’t worry: I’ve still got big plans!
Although production has slowed (I’ve been so distracted by learning all the ins and outs of video editing!) I’ve still managed to put out a couple of podcast episodes, and I’m still very proud of the progress of Miss Jaye: The Renovation. It’s an audacious goal, and I don’t know if I will reach it, but my goal for this next year is to complete that series (I’m halfway through the 14 books, only 9 episodes left to go!) as well as post a new episode of Janessa After Dark at least once a month. I’m out of the habit of editing the podcasts, but it’s like riding a bike…right?! I’ve got some audio already recorded so that I can finish up series 2, which was all horror focused, and while that was fun, I can’t wait to get back to commenting on Glam, Geek, and Gore in a more far-reaching way! I’ve also decided to use Series 1 as my template for the show. Each series will have 10 episodes: 6 regular episodes with a full length interview, 2 “Sloppy Seconds” episodes with outtakes from each of the 3 previous interviews, at least one “Very Special Episode” where I present micro-interviews with a bunch of people on a specific topic, and a bonus episode that can be…well, whatever the hell I want it to be! The first series had the intro episode, and series 2 is going to have an additional Very Special Episode, so I’m leaving that one up in the air as a wild card. All of these things I do, I do because they are fun, and I want to leave a little wiggle room for having unexpected fun while also maintaining a recognizable structure. If you’d like to check out any of my previously release episodes of either show, you can find them on my SoundCloud page HERE, or search Janessa After Dark on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher!
In January, before everything fell apart, I went to the Days of the Dead convention in Atlanta and had the opportunity to moderate a panel with the amazing Boulet Brothers, creators of Dragula. I love the diversity and creativity that Dragula brings to the representation of drag in the media, reminding people that there is so much more to drag than just the stock “types” they see on that other drag reality show. I think they are still finding their footing, and the show sometimes struggles to effectively build character arcs for their contestants, but season 3 showed some real growth in this area. Plus, Israel…Jesus Christ on a croissant, that man floods my goddamn basement! The Boulets were so wonderful and it was a pleasure meeting them and getting to talk with them on the panel (thanks again to my friend Pippi for making that happen!), and I’m so glad that I was able to get that trip in before everything went on lockdown.
While in Atlanta, I also had not one but two fabulous photos shoots with the amazing Brooklyn Ewing from Dirt Candy Productions. Two of those galleries have been available for a while (Queen of the Night and The Garden Of Earthly Delights) but I’m super excited that I had one more gallery of images tucked away! That High Life is a brand new gallery of 24 images from the shoot – the photos in this post are actually outtakes from the shoot that are gorgeous but didn’t make it into the gallery! – and I’m so glad that I was able to do both of those shoots with Brooklyn in January, since travel to another Days of the Dead is really not in the cards for this year. I’m working on setting up another shoot (or two!) with Miranda Roen, so there will be more visual content coming your way before the end of the year – including my first “stab” at the gender-bent horror icons I’ve been planning for a hot minute! – but luckily I was able to save up this gallery so that I had some gorgeous images to share during the anniversary month. Brooklyn and I are definitely figuring out the best way to make our styles meld together, and I think the images we did in Atlanta are the best we’ve done so far!
In terms of site content, my tendency to shop my emotions means that in this turbulent year I’ve had more than enough new makeup to keep the reviews coming pretty steadily in the LifeStyle section, with at least one review coming out most Mondays. In fact, I’ve shifted all of the product reviews to “Makeup Monday” in order to leave “Face Friday” for my other cosmetic project: painting my way through the Apocalypse! Except for a brief vacay in July, I’ve been trying to post a full step-by-step walkthrough of a makeup look each Friday. I’ve done some monochromatic looks, some “full face, one brand” looks, some that were just a little bit ridiculous and fun (like THIS rubber duckie inspired look featuring custom lashes by my friend, Mary Kelly!), and for the entire month of June for Pride, I featured all Black-Owned Makeup Brands in the Face Friday posts! It’s been a lot of fun and has allowed me to rediscover the fun of just playing with makeup without the pressure of a show, a photo shoot, etc. I can just create something and show it off, flaws and all. It’s not about perfection, it’s about having fun!
I also finally got the World of Champagne Archives going again! Those were very popular on the previous iteration of the site, and with the new design (which is stunning but not always practical!) it can be hard to track down old posts or see what I’ve written about a previous brand. With the LifeStyle archive you can find all of my Face Friday posts grouped together, other themed categories, and an A-to-Z brand index of every makeup brand that I’ve reviewed on this site with links to all of the posts! When you discover a new brand or see a product that you’re interested in, it’s that much easier to come to the index and see if it’s been reviewed on the site before!
That’s not to say that this year has been nothing but an unqualified success. There have been some setbacks as well. This year has been very difficult for me personally as I’ve been struggling with my own mental health issues compounded by a recent change in teams at my job and the stress of trying to learn new skills (I’ll be exploring this more in the next episode of Miss Jaye: The Renovation, which is the halfway checkpoint of the series). Add to that the general state of the world, and it’s not exactly a recipe for keeping things moving in a calm and orderly fashion. I feel like I’ve done pretty well considering, but I’ve noticed that I haven’t written nearly as many blogs this past year. I’ve had some ideas, even created some drafts, but I haven’t had the energy to push through them the way that I have in the past. As I mentioned before, I’ve also been neglecting the podcast. I recorded an interview with the lovely Sandy Johnson back in January, and I haven’t gotten around to editing it yet. As I’m setting goals for the next year, I’m trying to make sure that I give energy to the things I’ve neglected, but I’ve also given myself permission to let some things go when needed. I love writing blogs, and I want to do it more, but if a draft doesn’t work out, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. All of this work that I do is a labor of love, and I need to remember that. I also need to give that love back to myself rather than just criticizing myself for not hitting all of the targets all of the time. It’s a slow process, and I’m not all the way there yet, but I’m trying.
In terms of Miss Jaye’s Friday Night Frights…well, that’s still up in the air. Things are slowly starting to open back up, and local theatres have been testing the waters for in person events and performances, but it’s going to be a long time before we’re up and running in any way that seems normal. I’m constantly trying to think of a way to do the Frights stuff virtually, but I’m just not coming up with the best possible way to do it. I’m perennially tech-challenged, so perhaps there is something that I’m just not seeing, but I can’t figure out how to translate the excitement and the energy of our movie nights into the virtual space. I’m going to keep thinking and trying, and if I come up with anything I will definitely let you know!
I’ve always got a ton of ideas percolating around in this noggin of mine, but this coming year I’m going to focus less on just coming up with new and crazy projects and focus more on refining the things I’m already doing and getting better at them. That’s not to say that I might not have a couple of surprises up my sleeve for year 9 here at the World of Champagne, but that’s not the focus. I want to do more of the things I’m already doing, and do them better. This year is about quality and growth, upwards instead of outwards.
The World is always changing, and this year has certainly been one of change. There is a lot of darkness, but there is also hope. It’s like the Star card in the tarot, my favorite card and the one that numerically corresponds to my birthday: even when we can see the sun, the light from the star reminds us that the darkness isn’t our permanent reality, but rather part of a cycle – the light will come again! There has been such pain and devastation related to the current pandemic, but we’ve also seen stories of people coming together to help their neighbors and care for their communities. Black people are still the target of institutional discrimination and violence, but we’ve seen so many people take to the streets to protest and make a very clear statement that we need – and demand! – change. We’ve got a long way to go, but we see people working hard to help get us there. We can focus on the negative, or we can acknowledge it and turn our attention to what we can do to be a part of the solution.
One thing that hasn’t changed, this year or any other, is how much I appreciate all of you for your support and encouragement. Every post like and share, every video comment, every interaction is so very much appreciated, and it sustains me as I keep operating this virtual space. I love you all so much, and I can’t imagine my life without everything we’ve built here!
Stay safe, stay sane, take care of yourself and others, and let’s all try to leave this world a little better than how we found it.