Stuff

This Guy Gets Paid to Sob at Crying Parties

Rakeem Edwards is one of the "live criers" at Portland's monthly Sad Day event.

by Jack Rushall
09 June 2016, 4:00am

Rakeem Edwards dressed up for Sad Day. Photo by Alec Karl Marchant

In a world where dudes are taught that vulnerability is weakness and emotions are for pussies, there aren't many safe spaces for a man to cry. Some men cry as little as six times per year, according to a recent study. But one particularly emotional event in Portland, Oregon is trying to changing that.

Sad Day is a literal pity party, for people to "have fun but not smile," according to Patrick Buckmaster, the event's founder. The monthly event includes live criers to get people "in the mood," as well as drag performances. "It's about people feeling whatever the fuck they want—crying on stage, doing drag, people making their DJ debut with one song," Buckmaster told VICE. He said the link between all performances is an expression of melancholy. According to Buckmaster Sad Day is the "first of its kind" and now several other clubs are following suit.

One of Sad Day's "live criers" is Rakeem Edwards. He's a luggage salesman by day and drag queen by weekend, when he goes by the stage name Faux Breez. Once a month, he stands before a crowd and gets paid to cry at the Sad Day party.

We spoke to Edwards about what it's like to regularly cry in public, why it' so important to have spaces to be sad, and what he thinks about to get his rivers to flow so frequently.

"Not that many people come [to Sad Day], so it's like a sad family reunion." — Rakeem Edwards

VICE: When you're not on stage, how often do you cry?
Rakeem Edwards: Hmm, I don't know. I cry when I'm inspired, which happens often. If people are finding themselves on a TV show, I'm like, "Oh my god, that's beautiful," [and I cry]. Or if Beyoncé creates an hour-long visual album called Lemonade, just in time for summer, that inspires me not only to do more but also to be more? Then I cry.

When did you start doing this at parties?
When Sad Day booked me to perform earlier this year, Patrick just asked me to do something depressing on stage. I dressed in drag and sang "I Dreamed a Dream" [from Les Misérables] and I cried. So, I became a live crier through drag performance. I blend the crying into my drag performances; some people [at Sad Day] are just live criers.

Do you feel like you're challenging societal perceptions of masculinity—both with the crying and performing in drag?
I just show up as me. If I want to put on a dress, throw some dirt on my face, and lip sync to my girl Anne Hathaway, I'm going to do it. If more people weren't afraid of being vulnerable with each other, we would live in a better world. So if you want to cry, do it. I fully support you.

What's the Sad Day scene like?
The first Sad Day I went to was last September. Not that many people come, so it's like a sad family reunion. It's also a very queer event.

Why do you think other people are interested in seeing people cry? What was the idea behind having live criers as part of Sad Day?
In my opinion, everyone gets sad and everyone makes being sad a bad thing, but some people need to be sad to get through whatever they're going through. Sad Day is shining a light on this idea of, "Hey, you're sad and we know it. Come party with us."

How are you able to summon so many tears though? Have you been through some tough shit?
My whole life has been a cry-fest. My childhood was not perfect at all. My mom was definitely in my life but my dad was not, and I didn't live with my mom all of my childhood. I was in group homes and foster homes. That was... you know, sad.

What is the longest you've ever been able to cry in front of a crowd for?
I wouldn't put a time on it. I don't know how long I was crying because I was so sad. I cried at another event I performed at, [based on] To Kill a Mockingbird, because I was playing Tom Robinson. He was falsely accused of raping this girl and was killed for it. It was very emotional for me. He was accused of something he didn't do, and I know that feeling.

"If more people weren't afraid of being vulnerable with each other, we would live in a better world." — Rakeem Edwards

Is it important for you to make your audience feel vulnerable, by making yourself vulnerable onstage?
Yeah, it's powerful being vulnerable, and I want the audience to have that same courage. I think that some people are afraid to be vulnerable because it may come off as weak. Who wants to look weak? But being emotionally vulnerable allows you to know yourself, and also the [people] you come in contact with. You can learn and grow from uncomfortable situations.

Do you have any tips for crying on command?
[Laughs] I don't know... cry, fuck. Everybody has been through some sad shit. It definitely takes practice and I'm not saying that I can cry at any moment, but I am able to cry often.

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