The LGBTQ+ Changemakers series features LGBTQ+ people all over the country who are making a difference through visibility and ingenuity.
The High Priestess of Love, The Queen of the Shameless Plug, The Empress of Pride, The Goddess of DC, The iconic, the legendary, Rayceen Pendarvis is an unstoppable force for good. An event host, community advocate, and lifelong Washingtonian, Rayceen is a beloved figure in the Washington, D.C.-area and beyond, lending voice and talent to countless events. In addition to hosting and co-hosting events by Team Rayceen Productions (including The Ask RayceenShow, 2012-2021), Rayceen regularly hosts festivals, fundraisers, fashion shows and various annual events. Rayceen is also an interviewer, moderator, speaker, freelance columnist, and wedding officiant! News is Out spoke with Rayceen about a lifetime of activism and advocacy, the ballroom scene getting its due and what Rayceen has in store for friends and fans next.
News is Out: You are a longtime activist in the DC area and beyond. What first inspired you to advocate for your community?
Rayceen Pendarvis: It starts with my mother. She was a social worker for over 40 years in Washington, DC. She taught me the importance of being of service and doing what I can to uplift my community. I try to honor her memory with whatever I do and I am inspired by her to never give up.
NIO: Between “The Ask Rayceen Show” that ended last year and Team Rayceen, celebrating eight years, you have lifted up the voices of so many creatives in the LGBTQ+ community. Why is it important for you to create a platform for these artists?
Rayceen: First, I’m open to uplifting anyone who is doing something positive. It is certainly a pleasure to showcase LGBTQ talent, and Black talent, and certainly Black and LGBTQ talent, and local talent, but I invite everyone to be part of what we do. Team Rayceen Productions is very much LGBTQ inclusive, but we have many allies who are part of what we do. Now, in part due to going online because of the pandemic and interviewing hundreds of people on the Team Rayceen YouTube channel, we have connected with people from other cities, states, countries, and continents, across cultures and categories. I only wish I spoke multiple languages so that we could connect with more people. It doesn’t matter who or where we are, it is important for everyone to have opportunities to be heard and be seen.
NIO: You’ve been honored with many awards for your tireless work. Is there one that you are particularly proud of?
Rayceen: I appreciate all my awards, from various organizations which are doing important work. It is difficult to pick one, so I’ll mention two: Capital Pride Hero (DC) and the Angel Award at the Latex Ball (NYC), the latter being named in honor of my second mother, Avis Pendavis.
NIO: You are an original member of the legendary House of Pendavis. What are your thoughts on seeing ballroom culture finally getting the attention it deserves in media with shows like Pose and Legendary? Are there things you wish were included that haven’t been?
Rayceen: Yes… me! From “Paris Is Burning” to “Pose,” there were some opportunities, but the timing didn’t work out. It would have been fabulous to be involved with various projects with my peers, friends, and acquaintances, but I’m happy for their successes. As far as inclusion, I love New York, but I want to see more about houses in other cities, including DC. We just need more and more platforms, content, productions, and projects. There are some excellent documentaries such as “Kiki,” but many stories haven’t been told, including mine. I am ready for my close up, so please let casting know to contact Team Rayceen Productions to book me for a cameo, guest spot, or featured role. It would be fantastic to be a judge or to make some other appearance in a series or other production. I’m ready! Fortunately, there have been opportunities, such as being in rapper Bennu Byrd’s music video for “Undressed” and other times I’ve been able to be involved with fun projects by talented people.
NIO: When it comes to hosts with the most, you are royalty. What is It about hosting and leading events that you love so much?
Rayceen: I love that I get an opportunity to interact with dozens or hundreds of people at once, while still being able to connect with people individually. I have platforms to educate, inspire, and lead by example. I can make them think, make them smile, and my presence demonstrates that people like me can thrive. I honor my ancestors by being proud, bold, and free.
NIO: What would you like to say to the new generation of activists for the LGBTQ+ community that hope to continue the work you’ve inspired?
Rayceen: I want them to do the work. I want them to understand the value of paying their dues. Know your history and honor your elders. Learn from the mistakes of others. Don’t let the fear of failure deter you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and be kind and helpful to others. None of us can do this alone.
NIO: What projects are you working on that you’d like our readers to know about/support?
Rayceen: Of course I am, I am the Queen of the Shameless Plug! Team Rayceen Productions always has something cooking, and Zar is the chef, so I don’t know everything that’s going to be served! We have no shortage of ideas; hopefully we will find more partners, collaborators, and sponsors to help bring them to fruition. Art All Night 2022 is coming up on September 24th and we are very excited about returning to DCHFA again for that annual event. I have some upcoming hosting gigs and Team Rayceen has some things happening in the fall, so everyone should watch “WEDNESDAYS @ 1” on Facebook Live, follow @TeamRayceen on social media, and visit www.Rayceen.com for details. I have something with NMAAHC coming up soon and I look forward to future collaborations with the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs. I can share that Team Rayceen Productions will partner with Story District again for their 13th Annual Out/Spoken, the LGBTQIA+ storyteller showcase. It will take place at Union Stage on June 13th and story pitches are currently being accepted.
This interview was conducted via email and edited for clarity and style.
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