Kerwin Frost: Spreading Joy and Teachings Through Pop Culture
The multi-hyphenate sat down with V to talk about his passions, his family and the 2nd Annual Kerwin Frost Film Festival.
The term “multi-hyphenate” doesn’t even begin to describe Kerwin Frost. From telethons, to film screenings, to fashion, DJing, and talk show hosting and producing – you name it, chances are he’s done it. And boldly put his name on it, too.
“I think it’s funny to put your name out there and say, ‘hey, if I fail it’s all on me’,” he explained over the phone. This pretty much sums up his philosophy towards life.
For the Harlem native, art – in all its forms – is an escape. As the founder of Spaghetti Boys, Frost made a name for himself in the New York streetwear scene. Spaghetti Boys would also host free, all-ages events at popular venues around the city, bringing to life the culture that he loved growing up.
Those kinds of events, simply aimed at making people happy, are what drives Frost to venture out into different industries and arenas – even if there’s “dark shit” going on.
“But it’s like a balance of both. It’s always good to keep yourself in the know and to have the right conversations, but you also have to understand that you can’t save the world and that you have to, instead, maybe do enough to keep people high-spirited,” he said.
For Frost, it’s about not having an ego when it comes to putting things together. In fact, most of his projects have come from seemingly insignificant ideas that have grown into something bigger than he could have expected. He described himself and his partner, Erin, as “mad scientists” when it comes to bringing their ideas and obsessions to life.
That’s exactly what happened a few years ago when they stumbled across “an underground gay sex theatre” that was set to be demolished, while they were touring real estate in downtown New York.
The empty theatre and blank movie screen were enough to set off a spark.
“When we saw it we were like ‘oh, maybe we should show a movie here,’ and then we were like ‘alright, maybe we should show three,’ and then we were like ‘why don’t we just do a film festival?’,” said Frost, laughing at the seeming ridiculousness of the story.
And thus, the 1st Annual Kerwin Frost Film Festival was born.
Undertaking the project meant learning the ins and outs of what it takes to put together a film festival. But Frost had a different, more personal, vision of what his screenings would look like.
Putting together the lineup wasn’t about creating something tied to a particular scene, like fashion or indie. Instead he chose movies that he himself would want people to watch and take something from. More importantly, however, he just wanted to have fun with it – and bring his own flair.
“They follow this nice thread that I think everyone can connect to – it’s kind of like a DJ set,” he said of how he develops the movie lineup.
“It’s kind of like DJ-ing,” he repeated, in a moment of realization. Although at first glance the films might not appear to be connected, Frost sees all of the films he selects as having a tone and a lesson. Because they helped shape Frost into who he is, his hope is that by showing them he can share what they taught him.
“It’s just teachings. With this one, we’re showing ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’, and ‘The Brak Show’, and ‘Walk Hard’, and it’s kind of like different forms of art and talking through the history of them,” he said. As someone who was raised by television and grew up a pop culture junkie, when choosing the lineup Frost asked himself: “What can I teach? What can I bring to the table that another kid can take something from and then maybe in 17 years, find me and say ‘hey, remember when you did this?’.”
Initially, Frost didn’t even think that there would be a second festival – calling it the “1st Annual” was one of Frost’s running jokes that is now “really getting real.” In fact, he couldn’t be completely certain that the first one wouldn’t be “a Fyre Festival when it started.”
This time around, however, he feels a little more grounded and confident.
But the essence of the festival is the same: to bring some hope and give people something to be happy about. Despite the festival’s newfound grandeur, his aim is “to make it just as fun and inclusive.”
Frost’s excitement for the 2nd Annual Kerwin Frost Film Festival is palpable, and it’s even more special than the first. Not because it will be held at the famous Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood, or because he got more creative with the lineup and special guests, but because the final day of the festival is his daughter’s second birthday.
Frost shared that they will be showing some family movies that day – including special screenings that are not listed – just for her. The festival will be rounded out with a showing of Frost’s favorite movie: “I Am Sam.”
“I think ‘I Am Sam’ is always just personal to me and it’s always a good self-reflection. I just connect with that film really hard,” he said. While he loved the movie before, it became even more meaningful to him after he became a father.
“I cry every single time I watch it,” he added.
It’s clear to see that everything Frost does, all of his eclectic performances and projects, are really a culmination of his own lived experiences and loves. That’s why everything he does seems to be a success – because he does it humbly and with the pure intention of bringing people joy.
Looking towards the future, Frost feels a little torn. While his passion projects have been his calling his entire life, he also longs “to be a dad as much as possible.” But one thing is clear, Frost will never be boxed into one single career, life path or creative journey.
“I really just want more family time,” he said earnestly. “But I also love doing this and see why it’s worth it and see the impact it has. It’s really a balance.”