These Transgender Artists Found a Way to Make 'Lemonade' Even More Empowering

July 19th 2016

This week, an amazing remake of Beyoncé's "Lemonade" from the all-trans creative team Glass Wing Group has been widely circulated online.

The video depicts Glass Wing Group member Miss Shalae re-creating some of the already-classic album's most iconic moments, while adding several new flourishes of her own.

ATTN: caught up with L.A.-based Beyoncé impersonator Miss Shalae — who directed, produced and starred in in the 11-minute video, titled "Lemonade Served Bitter Sweet," to talk about the project, Queen Bey, and #TransLivesMatter.

ATTN:: How did the project come to life?

Miss Sharlae: Well, first of all, [it began] with Beyonce's Super Bowl performance of "Formation."

I was very inspired by that, and originally just wanted to create that particular video, but speaking to #TransLivesMatter, considering the number of trans women that were murdered last year and also this year. It's very high, and just with the statistics and facts that are going on regarding trans women and specifically trans women of color. (ed. note: According to Human Rights Campaign, 21 transgender people were killed in 2015, the highest number on record.)

It took some time because when I dream, it's very big. I can't do anything small. Sometimes it's hard to make that happen and get something going, and it wound up not happening because of the participation I was trying to get. I just couldn't get it.

So "Lemonade" then dropped and I was like, "Wow, amazing" — visually what it speaks to and everything like that. [Because “Lemonade” featured] less characters, I could kind of just use myself, and I needed to figure out a way to do it.

So I reached out my co-director Adisa Gooding, and she used her contacts and we created the “Lemonade” project under Glass Wing Group, which is created by me. It's a nonprofit organization for trans women of color.

ATTN:: What was the collaborative process like?

MS: It was an amazing process, actually, because when I met with Adisa, we just spoke the same language. So us working together and creating the video was very effortless.

I knew what I wanted and she had an idea of what she wanted to see and it just worked, it was so easy, a great marriage. And the guy who shot it, he is just amazing at what he does. The first edit that he did was beautiful ... we maybe went back maybe once or twice and it was done.

We had a few meetings before we shot the project, and I created all of the costumes in the project. So that was very time consuming, but it was all well worth it.

And you know, with me, I just love art, period. All facets of art. So, when I'm able to use the majority of skills towards a project, I am the most happy. It was an exciting project all around and we did everything in about a week and a half. We shot it in 16 hours, a full day, and the final product is amazing.

ATTN:: What did you find most inspiring in the original “Lemonade”?

MS: I was definitely inspired by [it] speaking to Black Lives Matter and speaking to women coming together and uniting.

I love Beyoncé for always speaking up and her feminist ways. And identifying as a transgender women, I feel like we lack that in our community, personally.
Using my platform, I wanted to do exactly that. I am just inspired by the video all the way around: the visuals, the poems — it was just so powerful. The imagery was just amazing and everything behind it was just awesome.

ATTN:: Did you have a specific message you wanted to send to your viewers, particularly other trans women?

MS:I want more than anything to inspire trans women, especially young trans women, because here in America, being transgender is not something to be celebrated. It's a very negative culture here, so I wanted to showcase a trans group doing positive things. I wanted to show that we are human first, and we are talented and we are able to create just like the next person.

I also wanted our mainstream crowd to shed some light on that, and to hopefully educate them a bit and absolutely to create a buzz like it's doing now, so then I could use my voice to advocate for people around the world, really.

There was a time way back, like 3 B.C., where trans people were looked at as perfection. The idea of a man and a woman coming together in one body: dual gender was celebrated. Decisions weren't made without consulting with a trans person, because they were looked to as having wisdom and knowledge. For different cultures around the world, it was a celebrated thing and I feel like we need to get back to that place.

We need to educate people on that, because they don't know that. Here, where we live today in America, we are thought of as delusional and sick, like we have have mental illness or disease, and that's not the case at all.

ATTN:: Did any trans women have particularly powerful responses to the project?

MS:It has been so amazing. I have had trans ;women, and I have had just people come up to me in person here in LA, and just congratulate me [and say] how inspired they were, how beautiful it was.

I've gotten countless number of emails from trans women and from everyone, and all the comments and remarks that I have gotten have been positive across the board.

I have not received a negative comment or post. Like on Instagram, when a blogger would post it, then I would read some of the comments and they were negative, but everything coming to me was pure positivity, and that was the idea behind the project.

ATTN:: Do you know if Beyoncé has seen it?

MS:Everyone asks me that. You know, I don't know if she has. If she has, she hasn't reached out to me. I would think that she has because it has been pretty much everywhere.

They are trying to get the licensing to put it on TV in the UK, I just got a message about that this morning. If she doesn't know now, she definitely will know then, because they have to set up her team to get the rights to go ahead and play it on TV. So, I'm just waiting for that phone call.

I would love to possibly work with her in the future. I have been a Beyoncé impersonator for two and a half years. Mainly, that is how I pay my bills.

ATTN:: You have really seen her rise to superstardom.

MS:Oh, absolutely. I have always been a fan — since Destiny's Child and when she went solo.

People literally get irritated by me if they ride in my car because I have all Beyoncé CDs in my car and on my phone, and that's all I listen to in the car. I mean seriously, from “Crazy in Love” all the way to “Lemonade” now.

ATTN:: She’s also been such an important voice in terms of speaking out about police brutality in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

MS: Absolutely, and I love the fact that she supports the LGBTQ community. She's not afraid to speak out, and she's not afraid to lose followers, and I think a lot of people don't [feel that way].

With other [artists], a lot of their fans are the LGBTQ community, and they overlook that. It's really sad like when things like Orlando happen, people with that type of following or that type of celebrity should speak out about it, it is an issue.

ATTN: Are you hoping to shed a similar light on how violence affects trans women?

It's huge. Basically trans women of color are six times more likely to be assaulted by police or harassed by police due to the huge percentage of homelessness of trans women of color. There's also the issue — this thing called “walking while trans” — and so [transgender people] get bothered by the police a lot more than just the community, period.

Then even in jails, if they get taken to jail, the brutality there among other inmates and the police is a huge issue. Misgendering is really big, and it's just really sad. It's really, really awful.

So with this, it didn't really shed much light on this situation visually in “Lemonade Served Bittersweet,” but absolutely it's an issue. I plan on speaking more about it in the future, and try to be the change and just stand in the gap for my trans women of color and dealing with the issues we face here in America.

You can watch the whole video and learn more on Miss Shalae's Facebook and Instagram accounts.

[h/t iD]

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