GLL’s blonde bombshell, Topher Taylor, catches up with Aaron Carty, head of marketing and brand at UK Black Pride, to see how last month’s event went, as well as hearing a little about his alter ego, The Beyoncé Experience!
How was U.K. Black Pride in the new location? What was the planning like?
It’s so nice to reflect on UK Black Pride afterwards, as it worked so well at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. In the last three years that UKBP has had physical Prides, we’ve had 5,000, 10,000 and then 25,000 people
attend. The growth of the event is huge and only reflects on the need
for queer spaces. With the heatwave and strikes, we were predicted to only have 7,000 people come, but we knew that the community would turn out and turn out they did! The fashion, attitude, community engagement and amount of queer energy was astounding. Planning it was a good nine months of work. The entire team is led by volunteers and as such, we all do whatever it takes to make the event work. As I own a video production company, I am able to help with staging and video content.
What does UKBP mean to you?
It’s Black queer culture – and that’s done differently. It’s that unique crossing of black and queer culture which you don’t get anywhere else but affects everything. To me, UK Black Pride means belonging.
What message would you have for Black queer youth who aren’t ‘out’ yet but want to be? If anyone wants to be out, the first message I would give is: make sure you’re coming out because you want to and you’re ready
to. Don’t give in to any social pressures and remember that once you’re out, there’s still a wealth of queerness to explore. I’d also encourage you to find likeminded people, people with whom you can trust, be yourself around and feel safe. Places like the London LGBTQ+ Community Centre are perfect for this, but starting online anonymously is a great way to dip your toe in, too.
Tell us about The Beyoncé Experience
The Beyoncé Experience is my take on Beyoncé’s most iconic performances and costumes. It’s an entire production put together by
me and my amazing team. I make all of the costumes and recreate the performances we all know and love. It’s all about reminding you of the different Beyoncé eras.
How long does it take to go from Aaron to Beyoncé?
I run three businesses and have six pugs, so I often have less than an hour to get ready. My performances are often hour-long, full-out dance performances, so I’ve never worn or taken a huge amount of time with my make up. But if I do have the time, I like an hour on my face. It takes
two hours to wash, dry, and style my 200% density, 36-inch, real human hair wigs, as well as a couple of minutes to tuck and throw on a bodysuit. It actually takes me time to get into character, too – I really need to be in the right mindset to perform and completely let go.
Favourite track to perform
Do I have to pick just one? It would currently be End Of Time.
Favourite look to wear?
That’s so easy – the Tom Ford bodysuit she wore at the 2014 VMAs. I honestly watch that performance daily, you just had to be there in 2014. I feel more like Beyoncé in that than any other costume.
You make your own outfits?
I’ve always made my own outfits, only because you can’t really do Beyoncé in a basic bodysuit. I’m going for iconic looks and performances, so the audience appreciate knowing what songs I’m going to perform based on the outfit I’m wearing. Some costumes take months to make – the Tom Ford bejewelled bodysuit. for example, cost more than £1,000 in jewels and took more than six months to make. Making the costumes is
a hobby and I have an entire room dedicated to costume-making and fabrics, with lots of works- in- progress at any one time.
How long do rehearsals take and how many dancers do you have?
We’re seven years in now, but for UK Black Pride, we had twenty dancers and collaborated with a dance company called Bring it To Brum, which was set up in Birmingham to teach and give opportunities to dancers in the Midlands. We had twenty hours of rehearsals ahead of UK Black Pride, but with my regular shows four times a week, my core four dancers don’t really need much rehearsing. Although we are about to start thinking about Renaissance…
What’s next for The Beyoncé Experience?
If someone had told me seven years ago I’d be doing The Beyoncé Experience full time, I wouldn’t have believed them. We have several UK brunch tours, RnB festivals and our own shows coming up. Now the world has opened again, we’ll be travelling, with trips planned to New York, LA and Vegas, Australia and Brazil.
Tell us something about Aaron that we’d never guess?
I am an absolute geek! A huge DC fan, I collect and read Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman comics. I have all the stupidly expensive Hot Toys and dream of directing a DC movie. And if you didn’t know, I have just opened a permanent pug cafe called CuppaPug in Shoreditch!