THE GENDER-BENDING GENTLEMAN OF NEW ORLEANS
// Written by Lucius L Riley | Photos by eyeLucius –
In between masculine and feminine, as much as he is in between gigs, Franky Canga sits down, but is never quite still for FLAME Magazine after a late night and early morning, before another set of late nights and early mornings of gigs leading up to embarking on a journey through the West Coast for his first performance tour, Levity.
On the go is par for the course for the Gender-bending Gentleman of New Orleans. But will he make it all the way to Paris, France?
FLAME: Where are you from and how did you find your way to New Orleans?
Franky Canga: I am originally from Miami, Florida. My parents (originally from Haiti) moved us here when I was ten. It was an unexpected move. Maybe two weeks beforehand they announced, “WE’RE MOVING TO NEW ORLEANS.” I don’t know what they were hoping to accomplish. I was raised on the West Bank. My parents are still there.
Has your family ever come out to see you perform at all?
They’re very apprehensive to see me in that light. Coming out to my family was _very_ difficult so I think it would take some time. I would feel supported and loved but I think it’s something that will take them a while to come around to. Especially in the realm of boylesque…I ‘m getting butt ass naked. I’m not sure I know of many mothers who want to see that.
As part of your act in Bourbon Boylesque at Oz, Trixie Minx introduces you as being from “Paris, France…”
She’s just putting that out into the universe. She says, “Franky, you’re going to be in France by next year!”
But you’ve never been to France?
I’ve never been out of the country.
Do you think it’ll happen in the next year?
I think so. I thing the Universe is shifting things and putting things on my radar, making Paris tangible now. I’m not sure of the avenue by which I’ll get there, but I feel like it’s a real possibility.
You’ve been very open in your social media about the struggles in New Orleans, in the community and as a performer, and that it might lead you elsewhere at some point. You’ve mentioned Chicago… What are the big struggles here?
Primarily, the struggles for an artist like me, with a niche, – a very specific thing that I do – is that it either works or it doesn’t work. In terms of opportunities for what I do with gender-bending art, not that New Orleans doesn’t appreciate that, but audiences in other cities like Chicago, New York, or even out west in LA and San Francisco, might appreciate what I do differently. I can’t find the specific word that I’m looking for – but better than appreciated
“What you do” is a wide spectrum of things: Tonight, you are a go-go dancer, you’re a Burlesque performer with several Boylesque troupes in New Orleans (Trixie Minx’s Bourbon Boylesque at Oz, Scorpio Boys’ Bayou Boylesque at Grandpre’s, and AtomycWolf’s FlameBOYant at AllWays Lounge) and you are also a performer in Nicole Lynn Foxx’s F*ck It Up showcase, as well as a current titleholder in the drag queen community as Miss Pageant Pageant! But, you mentioned when we set up this interview that you are taking a break from drag?
I’m taking an intentional hiatus from drag. I really want to formulate bigger concepts that I don’t think I can do when I’m constantly doing drag. So, I’m actively not doing drag.
Would you say that the thread of continuity among those things is gender-bending?
I made a promise to myself when I started performing professionally that I would satisfy that part of myself that I had always hidden in the background. And that has always been the gender-bending part of myself.
Growing up gay and coming sort of later in life (I was 20), I always lived between two worlds: satisfying a hetero-normative masculine part of myself, but then in the privacy of my home, I was the feminine one.
But I always felt I was somewhere in the middle and didn’t know what to do with it. So, when I started performing, I decided to let that side of Franky come out, the truest version of myself.
How far back do you remember doing gender-bending things? Was little Franky putting dresses on growing up?
Oh yeah, the whole 9 yards! Probably six or seven years old, I remember putting nail polish on in secrecy and locking the door and having runway shows in my room. It’s funny to think back on, Little Franky and all those things he was doing, and how it foreshadowed the work I do now.
When I started performing later in my twenties, I found that doing drag and doing boylesque gave me the freedom to let that side out.
Creatively, when you develop an act to bring on stage, what inspires you? You’ve recently started doing a killer number to the theme from the Pink Panther. Where does that come from?
My inspirations come from a lot of places. I love the classics and classic musicals. Specifically, the Pink Panther routine, that’s a song that I grew up with and loved very dearly. As a child, I always imagined performing to that theme song, but I never knew in which way I would do it. I think it finally came to me at 3am (a lot of my ideas come together late at night, 3am-5am is my creative window), in a Spotify playlist – the Pink Panther theme came up, and as I immediately started tip-toeing around my room, I thought, “this is a number that I’m creating right now!” And then, BAM, I knew what I was doing for the show the next day.
A quick Workshop…
A lot of my ideas come in a quick, workshoppy way…and then I take the time to figure out where I want to go with it. Sometimes, it’s super classical burlesque, which is not something I do a lot, but have been doing more of recently. I just want to show that I have a bit of variety, I don’t just rip off my clothes. I can do that “classics,” too!
There was a recent hosting gig with Bourbon Boylesque where you started out very classy in a suit and then – Ah-ha! You whipped out a paddle and started spanking folks!
I like enabling that mystery of, “you don’t know what’s underneath all this,” A lot of my art is people seeing the surface and not knowing the depth of where my art comes from, so I want to give them something to look forward to.
And you might just whip out a paddle!
BAM! It was right there the entire time.
How did you get hooked up with the touring group thats going to take you out of town to the West Coast?
Lady Beast and I met through the Vinsantos Drag Work shop where I was brought in as an adjunct professor to give notes on the performances. We did a choreographed duet for a show at Le Petit and then it seemed like we just started performing together all the time.
Then Lady Beast mentioned having an idea for a show called Levity, and not really knowing where it would go, and having a week to prepare to perform at the Happyland Theater, to asking me if I was up for the task.
I didn’t feel like I had anything that was challenging me creatively that way – I like to run and gun kind of shows where you have to create something on the spot. And the show went over really well. And I was really satisfied. We all were.
Lady Beast, Sarah Stardust, Sweet Tooth Simone, and I – we’re this pocket of weird circus drag burlesque performers. The music was created and performed by Bemia.
Lady Beast kind of secretly shot the act out to producers on the across the country thinking that, “this is something that might be tour-able, we don’t know yet…”
Then, 2 months later, it was, “We are going on tour!”
Any recommendations for people visiting New Orleans as far as food and drink?
The bourbon lover in me likes Barrel Proof uptown. It’s a beautiful location. I used to live in walking distance from it when I lived in the Garden District. There are so many places I can mention to eat – I love MiMis in the Marigny and Superior Seafood uptown for the happy oysters. I’m a oyster lover.