The Underground knows Venus X for her groundbreaking parties, but much of the tastemaker’s household recognition comes from her public irritation with Rihanna. “It sucks seeing something you love be totally misinterpreted,” she said, recalling her viral drama last year with the “BBHMM” singer. Venus’ now-iconic GHE20G0TH1K party quickly became one of NYC’s hottest events, driven by Venus’ laser-focused determination to produce something as fabled as the ’80s club scene.
Solely defining Venus in terms of the Rihanna debacle would do a tremendous disservice to her work ethic; for the past six years, she’s done everything herself, from booking to production to DJing. Women like Venus, who harness complete control over their work are rare; she notes the disparity between performers who are women, but their management is comprised chiefly of men, calling it “redundant.” This is an uncomfortable truth that pop music stans—myself included—often fail to meaningfully grapple with. Venus is consciously working against this business model by defining success on her own terms—terms without male influence.
Venus’ most recent GHE20G0TH1K party, sponsored by the Red Bull Music Academy, was as gregarious as any she’s thrown. Regardless of Venus’ decision to freeze all regular GHE20G0TH1K events, its revival clearly proved the subculture’s staying power. We recently caught up with Venus to discuss the difficulty of being a one-woman enterprise and how being Latina has influenced her vision.
What was the impetus behind bringing the party back?
“It has an ebb and flow to it, like anything else that’s organic. We have to shift and change depending on the needs of the party. It’s really based on my ability to be inspired, but also [having] the resources to run it: venue, finances and the cultural space. Are people throwing a party just like [GHE20G0TH1K] three times each week? Are we being misinterpreted by mainstream celebrities? And how do we protest that? It’s not by pretending its okay, because it isn’t. It’s by saying, ‘Fuck this, I don’t want to do this anymore.’ Celebrities are suddenly like, ‘I care the about the world; I care about music.’ No, you don’t—you just want to wear chokers. Relax.
Whenever there are too many obstacles, I absolutely have to be like, ‘Fuck this.’ This isn’t a gimmick; this has been my dream since I was little. This is totally based on my real life. After six years, [the party] has done an incredible job launching some peoples’ careers, creating a new ethos for nightlife—a new style. Whether is has ended or not is so trivial to the actual impact the party has had.”
What does it take to make this party happen?
“It doesn’t take a bunch of money one night to make something work, change or evolve. It takes the world being open to kids who made this shit happen from nothing. Instead of looking at huge artists as saviors, we need to see the huge machines behind them.”
A lot of people are making decisions for them.
“Right. They don’t have freedom; they don’t think about the stories they tell. It’s not bad that they’re rich and they’re famous, but it isn’t the same as being an artist or finding success in a world that’s constantly telling you no. Society needs to change its focus from the superficial shit to the real shit.”
One thing I love about being Hispanic is how music brings my family together—it’s something that unifies our culture. Did your Dominican upbringing influence your pursuits in nightlife?
“I’m very lucky to be Latina because I grew up partying. In my family, things were fun and dance-oriented; our entertainment was salsa music. But also, I went out to Goth nights and I had a great time exploring something I didn’t grow up around: dark culture. I still really wanted to dance; I wanted to be Spanish, but still be alternative. I absolutely had to create a double-consciousness space in order to exist within these two worlds.”
Hispanic culture can be a bit myopic in the sense in that the only music is Pan-Latin salsa. I’m always really fascinated when people come from that world and end up doing different things.
“There’s not a lot of room to be a weirdo. You don’t want to lose yourself just because there are no real examples to follow; there are no sexy versions of girls who don’t like things that aren’t a part of traditional Latin culture. I never wanted to sacrifice what I grew up with, just because I was around intellectual people or punks as an adult. I wanted to exist in both worlds.”
And you’re totally doing that.
“I feel very lucky to have evolved into a much more complete version of myself. And the whole GHE20G0TH1K sound has been based on remixing what people find familiar. That’s something I take very seriously. It’s not about original new sounds or sounds of the future. It’s about taking what you already know and blending it with something exciting and new. I grew up with all of my definitions: being from New York, being Dominican, but I remix that with the things I was into as a teenager. I have to be a spitting image of my reality. Not peoples’ expectations, or what is safe.”
Do you feel like your party is a mirror?
“Of course. It gives me the right amount of space to know and grow myself. I can’t do that in a space that hasn’t changed in 20 years, that is misogynistic and spreads the same ideas that [people had] of women in the ’90s. I cannot do that. In order to be a fulfilled person, I require an incubator. And it just so happened that the incubator became a trendy, fun party. The ideas are also about fashion and culture, [which] gives more people the space to be themselves.”
What’re your thoughts on Rihanna’s appropriation today?
“It doesn’t really affect me. I know that it affected her because her stylist and other people on the Internet were really offended by me being offended by her appropriating my work. She has way more money and infrastructure than me—she’s fine. I need to worry about myself and she is definitely not in this business for the same reasons that I am. I could never expect her or her team to know it’s like to be DIY. Being popular with someone like the support of Jay Z? It’s not unheard of, and it will be done again, but what won’t be done again are these incredible experiences in warehouses, hearing DJs that have never been popular. And that is so much more valuable to me than anything the pop world has to offer. I’m creating all of my own opportunities and wealth. That kind of 360-degree woman doesn’t usually get the same appreciation as that woman at the top who is managed really well, whose image and body is accounted for.”
You made a great point about women being managed, styled and counseled by men. Have you dealt with the bullshit of being a woman who’s trying to accomplish what you want?
“Absolutely—a lot of men don’t like me in this industry. I’ve been blackballed; I’ve been called all kinds of names. When people see a girl who is young, they think, ‘Oh, maybe she’s dumb enough to let me control her business.’ They think that I don’t want love or depth—that I just want to be famous. It’s obvious that this is a form of oppression because you don’t see many female musicians or producers, but you see a lot of female pop stars. In my experience, most record execs and A&Rs are men. It is redundant and it is leading us nowhere new.”