Every first Wednesday of the month, The Ask Rayceen Show takes over Club Liv in Historic U Street, turning it into a rip roaring talk show. Earlier this month, I got to sit down with the host and architect of this event’s festivities D.C.’s own Rayceen Pendarvis. Boi did I get an earful!
Where did you come up with the idea of The Ask Rayceen Show?
It came from years of being part of pride celebrations, balls, and pageants; after these events I felt inspired to find a way to affirm our community beyond annual events. After I began writing the Ask Rayceen column for SWERV magazine, we brought the show to Liv nightclub on U Street, where we share our love, light, and talents every first Wednesday, March through November.
Do you bring any of your skills from your days as an ANC Commissioner to the show?
As an ANC Commissioner, I understood the power of collaboration, cooperation, and communication. I’ve brought that to the show with Team Rayceen, a dedicated group of producers, promoters, photographers, DJs, technicians, volunteers, and various talented individuals who use their skills to make “The Ask Rayceen Show” plus BRUHS (Book Reading Uplifts His Spirit) book club and all of our other projects possible.
What can folks expect at The Ask Rayceen Show?
They can expect to get far beyond their money’s worth! The Ask Rayceen Show is an opportunity to socialize, network, and be entertained – and admission is free! There will be raffles, door prizes, giveaways, and more. This season we will begin our shows with live music performances in our listening lounge segment. We will have panel discussions, games, improv comedy with The Improv Imps, a mini-ball for Ball Culture Month in April, plus our two annual competitions: our poetry slam (August 5) and talent competition (October 7). We end our shows with “Rayceen, Fix Me Up!” where I take questions from the audience about dating, relationships, love, and life.
Any local celebrity encounters, favorite/notable guests?
I enjoyed all my guests last season, including The DC Gurly Show, who brought burlesque to our “Super Sexy Season Finale” in November. All the performers and guests made a lasting impression and I appreciate everyone who contributes to the show. For this year, we have an amazing line-up! We even have some guests coming from out of town to perform [like] special guest Jay Blahnik for our Mini-Ball April 1, singer Ramona Montañez on May 6; plus LGBTQ Hip-Hop pioneer and spoken word artist Tim’m T. West will be on our July 1 show. Chocolate City Burlesque will be part of our “Extra Sexy Season Finalé” this November.
We are also honored to have leaders of prominent LGBTQ organizations as part of our May 6 Community Forum: Sheila Alexander-Reid of The Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, Sharon Lettman-Hicks of National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), David Mariner of The DC Center, Ruby Corado of Casa de Ruby, Ken Pettigrew of Wanda Alston House, Travis Wise of DENIM, and Lourdes Ashley Hunter of TWOCC.
Do you have any tips or practices for handling taboo topics?
Inform, educate, and enlighten; never harm or hurt anyone. I aim to be sensitive to everyone’s feelings, but ultimately, we are adults, and everyone has a right to their own opinion. One tip I have is to provide resources for people who may need help in areas such as mental health, addiction, or abuse.
Who is your style icon?
I appreciate those who are leaders, not followers, such as Josephine Baker, Grace Jones, and Lady Gaga. La Baker was legendary in every sense of the word. Grace Jones was ahead of her time. And Lady Gaga knows how to promote and market herself; she can be wild and crazy, but can also be more traditional and classy when necessary. Versatility is wonderful!
What role, if any, does race, gender, and sexuality play in The Ask Rayceen Show?
Many of our panel discussions deal with those topics. We certainly understand the importance of discussing intersectionality. As someone is a member of and who has a strong following within the Black LGBTQ community, I am particularly sensitive to the issues that affect us. But I’m also struck by the growing diversity of our audience, especially in terms of color and orientation. It’s a wonderful thing when people step outside their comfort zones. Plus we have straight men and women who volunteer their time as photographers and DJs. I’m encouraged by young people like rapper Starranko, who is a straight man with no qualms about performing on The Ask Rayceen Show not just because he wants to share his music, but because he supports the LGBTQ community.
If you could have anyone on your show, who would it be and why?
I would have our first Black American President, Barack H. Obama, because he gave us the audacity of hope and showed us that anything is possible. Plus, he lives in D.C., so he could easily come on over to U Street and be our special guest. I would like him to bring Michelle Obama and Mother Robinson with him!
With a show stopping list of guests and entertainers, this season of Ask Rayceen is sure to be the must see show in town! For more information about the show, visit their Facebook page.