- Words Laviea Thomas
Creative industry chameleon Zooey Gleaves, AKA Lagoon Femshayma, talks to us about playing a debut Boiler Room set, fashion icons, and festival plans.
Incredibly blue, wonderfully eccentric and unapologetically himself, Zooey G – AKA Lagoon Femshayma – is a creative whose charisma and acute eye for detail are far from conventional. A connoisseur of the arts, Zooey’s expertise resides in creative direction, performing, presenting and DJing, recently making history as the first drag queen to curate and DJ a Boiler Room set.
Challenging beauty standards and the art that we consume day-to-day, Zooey’s avant-garde looks are one of his signature statements. Stepping up as an avid advocate for diversity and inclusivity within the nightclub scene, the creative is forever leaving those in power with thought-provoking questions. Continually building spaces for queer people and minorities of colour to flourish, Zooey also runs a London nightlife project called Adrenalina and is ¼ of the music collective Prestige Pak.
We spoke to Zooey about being a multi-disciplinary creative, evolving the nightclub scene as we know it and six years of his drag persona Lagoon Femshayma. Dive in!
Hey. How are you, what’s new?
Hi. I’m in my mid-January health rebrand so I’m feeling bright, sparky and full of energy, which is brand new.
You have a very authentic and innovative look – where do you draw your inspiration from? How long have you been working as Lagoon Femshayma?
The inspiration behind the look comes from a large pool of references; everything from Leigh Bowery, Tekken, Sailor Moon, James Bidgood, Pierre et Gilles, Pansy Beat Magazine, Coral. The list is endless. I’ve been doing it since January 2016, so pretty much six years.
You recently made history as the first drag performer to do a Boiler Room set. How was it? Did it go how you expected? Are you a Boiler Room fan?
I was the first drag queen to curate and play a show. It was everything I could of dreamed of. Boiler Room were so generous in giving me the creative freedom to curate and design the show as I liked, and the end result was exactly as I’d hoped, it was a dream.
I am a Boiler Room fan, I’m a quarter of a collective called Prestige Pak and we had played a few shows for them before. When I saw the work that 4:3 had done with Lesbiennale and the Filth BR that happened in NZ, it confirmed to me how major and important that platform could be in giving creative people in nightlife the chance to make incredible work. It definitely inspired the thought of doing Adrenalina.
Alongside organising the line-up and DJ’d for this event, you also creative directed the show, from set design to cinematography and visuals. What was the process like? Is there an element of being a multi-disciplinary creative you’re most drawn to?
It was really quite streamlined. They have a team who are super collaborative and I think relished in the opportunity to make something really specific. I suppose the draw of being a multi-disciplinary creative is the way that your ideas can seep into an aspect of something, making it feel truly immersive. It was a dreamy experience that I’d love to do more of.
How did Lagoon develop? Do they feel like an ‘alter-ego’ or more like an extension of elements of yourself? Or maybe both?
Lagoon really feels like a way for me to express my ideas and references into the world in a way that exists in real life, but the development of that has been rocky. If you scroll down far enough on my feed you can see some truly terrible makeup and costumes, but a girl has got to learn somehow.
You shared some secrets behind the ‘SBF’ last year – anything we should be adopting into our everyday routines?
You seem very much booked and busy, whether that’s hosting, presenting or broadcasting – has public speaking always been something you’ve been good at?
I’ve always loved the sound of my own voice so I feel that’s definitely something I’ve come to naturally. I also love interviewing people, using work as an excuse to ask people questions that if I just met them at a party or on the street would be invasive and weird. Finding out how people have developed and grown as creatives and artists is always fascinating.
I also read that you enjoy the legacies of art, fashion, literature and pop culture, and their intersections with drag culture – how do they impact your craft as a creative?
I think having a keen eye and taking inspiration from all places helps to round you as a creative. Having rules or set ideas about what is and isn’t ‘appropriate’ inspiration can curtail where an idea can go, so I think it’s better to be as open as possible and find kernels of interest and excitement in all mediums.
For your Boiler Room set you pulled DJs from diverse spaces. As someone who’s on the up within the industry, how do you intend on keeping conversations rolling on inclusivity within the industry?
I think now there is a clear distinction between those people who run parties well and those that don’t. The industry can always expand and grow, but the right parties find the right people. Saying that, it’s always important to take a step back from what you’re doing and ask whether the intention behind it is as vibe-focused as it is noble. The best parties I’ve been to have had line-ups that value both diversity and quality.
What’s next for Zooey and Lagoon Femshayma? Anything you’re manifesting for 2023?
The book, the movie…
Just kidding. This year I’d love to have a big festival-season summer, playing for people up and down the country and venturing to Europe too. I’ve had promoters reach out from Vietnam, Korea and Brazil as well, so honestly in terms of DJing it’s about playing the best I can to the girls that get it. I’d also love to do more broadcasting and presenting work, interviewing people at the top of their game and making work that is entertaining and nutritious in equal measure.