Whether the star guests were Charli XCX or Lady Gaga, Club Quarantine hosted the hottest parties during a year that it was essentially illegal to do so IRL. As 2020 draws to a close, we got on Zoom with three of its four co-founders – Casey MQ, Brad Allen and Ceréna Sierra – to reflect the beauty, madness and resilience of the world’s hottest online queer club, Club Q.
VICE UK: How did you go about translating the IRL club environment to a digital space?
Brad Allen: I think if you try to do that you fail.
Ceréna Sierra: Yes! We learned that early on. It's way better to think of this as a new moment, versus trying to recreate what you get in the IRL into the URL. It is a completely different experience. But they work hand in hand and this marriage of the two has been really beautiful to see and watch. The virtual makes it so much more accessible as well – nightlife is brought into people's homes, and those who cannot leave their homes, pandemic or not, can enjoy the beauty of getting a DJ to blow your brains out with an amazing set.
Allen: At Club Q so many people create worlds, whether that's aesthetically and they've set up their apartment a certain way, or how they want to appear on camera. They are able to create a fantasy and that is essentially what queerness is. We're constantly living in this fantasy world because the world built for us is not actually for us.
Do you think that something like Club Q would have worked if it wasn't centred around queer lives?
Sierra: It's the heart behind it. Look at the straight nightlife scene and the queer nightlife scene, and just how different those two are. The reason for nightlife in a straight environment is to hook up and find people to fuck.
Casey MQ: That happens at queer nights too [laughs].
Sierra: But you don't have that element in straight culture where [the club] is the only place where you can express yourself around people who are just like you. Straight people have a world built for them. They're the default.
How did Charli XCX and Lady Gaga get involved?
Allen: With Charli XCX, it was the first week that we started to get into gear. It came with a three day period where we were just getting flooded with emails with press requests. Then when we heard from Charli XCX, it was a moment we just went, “Whoa.”
Sierra: We had gone to her concert not even a year ago.
Allen: Yeah, back in October! Then all of a sudden, her team are saying they really like what we're doing and that we should plan something. From there, it's word of mouth. You're just getting emails and you get thrown into the zeitgeist really quickly. There's not time to process it because you have to do the work.
Sierra: We were in meetings every morning.
Allen: I remember the night of Lady Gaga. I have been a Little Monster twink since the age of 16 and all of a sudden I'm helping produce her album launch party. I remember in that moment thinking, I should be crying right now. But I was pressing buttons and couldn't process the excitement of it. But that in itself is exciting, that you can't process that a dream has come true.
Why do you think people were so willing to let their inhibitions go at Club Quarantine?
MQ: The saying is, “Chatroulette walked so Club Quarantine could run.” The network started from our IRL community, and as more people came through, they reacted to what they saw. I've seen people log on for the first time and their camera is off to then come back again in a full look. The environment encourages it, and then people have that power to be able to engage.
What was the wildest thing you saw?
Allen: There was one time where Ceréna and I were hosting and someone logged on from a hospital bed with the full get up. Like, “Are you okay?”
Sierra: Yes! And they got disconnected and the chat was so worried!
Allen: Then she came back! She was like, “I'm good!”
Sierra: When people tune in from the front lines, it's always a really beautiful and emotional moment. That's the reminder of what the reality is.
What about performers?
Sierra: Yovska is an incredible drag performer from Canada and I'll never forget their first performance of them as this mop monster. It started in their laundry room and they performed to [Christina Aguilera’s] “Dirrty”. They had these mop boobs which they dipped into at a bucket and started mopping the floor.
MQ: They cleaned their house!
Sierra: They brought us to their wash room and took a shower. It was just wild and I appreciated it so much. People were being so creative right from the get go.
There has been a diminishment of LGBTQ+ spaces around the world, even before COVID. Do you think something like Club Quarantine has been so popular because people have been missing those spaces?
Allen: Club Q isn’t that white, cis [queer] experience that is the norm. People who aren't from the community want to log in because it isn't the queer experience that has been filtered through the media; this isn't Queer Eye or Drag Race. It's an unfiltered queer experience. So, yes, it's filling the void of what is now gone, but it's also giving a new experience that wasn't readily available for a trans person or a trans person of colour to feel safe in.
Does it feel odd to have created something so beautiful during a period that has been so awful and terrible?
Sierra: Completely. I spoke to my therapist about it. We are gaining and benefiting from such an intense and tragic time in human history. So many people have been ravaged by this whole pandemic, and carrying that weight was a lot. It took work for me personally to figure out what is my, and our, place in this revolution. Club Q is a place where people come to recharge. It's important to see you're not alone and there's this beautiful camaraderie. We really are all in this together. You feel that when you're in our space. Being able to understand that and having this little plant that has come out of the destruction that has been 2020 has shown me my role in this.
Are there things you've learned about the queer community through doing it?
Sierra: Everybody's lives matter and have value. This hierarchical world that we've been fed to believe in is just not true. Seeing people be courageous enough to be themselves gave me courage to go further into my truth.
Allen: We've had the absolute pleasure and privilege to be able to connect with a queer community around the world. It's such a gift. Before this there was really no way to do it on this scale. I've been inspired by so many people each party, and it's allowed me to explore my gender expression and queerness to a new degree. I feel like a brand new person.