Club Chameleon DeSe Escobar on Her Art and "Slaysian" Brand

Club Chameleon DeSe Escobar on Her Art and "Slaysian" Brand

For an artist who identifies as an all-time outsider, reality is the mother of invention

For an artist who identifies as an all-time outsider, reality is the mother of invention

Photography: Jeff Bark

Styling: Lana Jay Lackey

Text: Whitney Mallett

“I always stick close to the #slaysian brand. I try to incorporate it into everything I do,” says 27-year-old DeSe Escobar, a rising star in the art world. “The term ‘slay’ comes from beauty culture and glam culture—slaying means killing it.” She dreamt up the pun with stylist Kyle Luu and underground pop performer K Rizz. “And we’re all Asian,” the Filipina artist adds. “I love wordplay.” The #slaysian squad exudes Snapchat glamour, referencing Kim and Kylie’s clan with their strappy sandals and contour-affecting makeup. #KardAsian is another hashtag they’ve popularized.

“I’m obsessed with the Kardashians and the girls from Love & Hip Hop and Basketball Wives,” says Escobar. “I look up to those kinds of women, but I’m outside of that world.” Pasadena-born Escobar is a proud trans woman and a fixture of New York’s queer nightlife scene. “I’m an outsider of this mainstream culture, but I love to borrow little pieces from it. Right now, I’ve been using a lot of makeup culture in my work. I did a series contouring the faces of different presidents on the dollar bills.”

CLOTHING AND SHOES PRADA GLOVE (WORN IN HAIR) LACRASIA GLOVES

Escobar’s video and performance art looks to shared cultural icons, who are in constant conversation with the youth via the internet. Here, the macro meets micro, spawning subcultures at a frenetic pace and making room for self-invented celebrities, like Miss DeSe.

Escobar’s recent projects include a cooking show tentatively titled Miss DeSe Iron Chef, a collaboration with DIS magazine. “I want to keep making videos inspired by reality TV,” she says. “After Iron Chef, I want to do Miss DeSe: Ghost Hunter.”

This past spring, she performed at MoMA PS1 as part of a series curated by the artist Stewart Uoo. For it, Escobar translated another hashtag she invented, #serenitypost, into a multimedia experience, combining a slideshow of tranquil images with a live oil massage. She collaborated with musician Princess Nokia, who covered the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ song, “Maps.”

Before becoming an artist, Escobar spent a few years designing for different companies, and although she found herself disillusioned working in the fashion industry, her skills at cultivating aesthetics and communicating through a style vocabulary are ever present in everything she does. “I am obsessed with Prada,” Escobar gushes, dressed in it head-to-toe, as per her request for this shoot. “I hope one day to be the first trans brand ambassador of Miu Miu or Prada, or eventually collaborate with them through my art somehow.”

In the meantime, Escobar throws a monthly party with another self-invented pop artist, Lauren Devine, called Thotlandia. “I love bringing people together,” she says. The parties are a breeding ground for underground music and alt fashion—the looks on the dance floor are always ahead of what’s on the runway. Although Escobar is just getting started, a night at Thotlandia makes clear that her playful take on high style has already made a huge impact on New York.

Credits: MAKEUP LISA HOUGHTON (TIM HOWARD MANAGEMENT)  HAIR SHINGO SHIBATA (THE WALL GROUP)  PHOTO ASSISTANT CHRIS WHITE AND MICHAEL CASKER  STYLIST ASSISTANT KINDALL ALMOND MAKEUP ASSISTANT ARISA KAWAMURA  LOCATION HUDSON STUDIOS  CATERING GUY & GALLARD

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