It is no secret that New York has been a hallmark escape for LGBTQ+ youth for generations; a refuge for rejected queer youth not just from intolerant families across America, but also from oppressive cultures around the world. What may be less apparent, however, is where the queer community comes together—and how this small yet impactful group continues to influence the worlds of fashion, beauty, and art.
Meet CT, two letters few people in queer nightlife have never heard. He describes himself as a club kid (he cheekily describes the CT as an acronym for “cock tease”), though many of his friends are drag queens, LGBTQ+ celebrities, trans icons, and beyond. It’s almost a bit self-defeating to ascribe labels to members of this community; they just are, and what is most valued is their creativity and presence. Spending countless hours preparing for the night and sharing sneak peaks of their outfits from the back seat of an Uber on the way to the club is just one way this group shares the love for what they do with a fun, competitive spirit. As CT calls it, getting ready for the club is like “preparing for BATTLE.”
Never wearing the same look twice isn’t easy when you work five nights a week, especially when everyone knows your name. Resembling more of a spacious walk-in closet, CT says of his bedroom: “It’s a never-ending game of Tetris.” Despite the D.I.Y. aspect of putting looks together, high-fashion is an essential component for CT: “I am forever seeking inspiration from a rotation of brands, but my ride or die is Comme des Garçons,” he says.
But it’s not just about the pressure of putting together an entirely new look each night—there is also the enduring dilemma of improvement and continuing to challenge oneself creatively. It’s no surprise, then, that a high level of organization is required to properly execute yourself as art: His drawers are filled with hundreds of pounds of jewelry; stilettos, thigh-high boots, and heels line his bedroom walls; a makeup station occupies his actual closet.
Beauty is a big component of his look, and, unsurprisingly, it’s the part that takes the longest and perhaps requires the most creative resources. “Beauty is what really gets my feelings complete about whichever character I am trying to achieve on any given night,” CT says, noting he loves NARS and MAC Pro products. “It completes my transformation.”
Parties thrown by legendary queer nightlife promoters Lady Fag and Susanne Bartsch—parties CT has become a staple of—have fostered environments where stars, like recent RuPaul’s Drag Race winner and Met Gala attendee Aquaria, are born. Other members of this happening crowd include Amanda Lepore, Linux, DJ Honey Dijon, and Alyssa Edwards, not to mention the occasional appearances from fashion designers, such as Alexander Wang and Ricardo Tisci. On why celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, and others embrace the queer nightlife community, CT says: “celebrities can let loose [and] act wild and crazy’ the night really focuses on us. We’re the entertainment, and they come to watch.”
At six foot two—seven feet in heels—it isn’t hard to spot CT around town. Dancing on bars, twirling on anything that even resembles a stripper pole, mingling with celebrities, and entertaining those eager to take an Instagram photo, CT is the secret sauce of what makes parties not just fun, but a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community to relax and embrace their true selves.
“Shocking people is what I live for,” he says.