November 2002, Volume XV, Number 6

How Do I Look

An EduTainment/DocuFeature Film

The forthcoming feature film "How Do I Look" was created by artistic activist Wolfgang Busch to empower the "Ballroom community," which is known to many from Madonna's video for the song "Vogue" and from the movie "Paris Is Burning." The Ballroom community is one of the most creative and hardest hit HIV/AIDS communities but receives no financial support from governmental institutions and politicians. "How Do I Look" is being used as a tool to create HIV/AIDS awareness, bring the Ballroom community together, gain artistic and human respect, and provide hands-on video production/post production training, to improve the quality of life of community members.

The message in "How Do I Look" is that the members of the Ballroom community are creative and professional people making contributions to society by sending strong HIV/AIDS awareness messages through entertainment. The "How Do I Look" project is being called an EduTainment/DocuFeature film because of the complexity of this project and all the elements that it ties together. By educating through entertainment, the producers believe that they can reach youth of all races in many countries through this film by documenting this exciting artistic Ballroom community.

In addition to releasing the feature film (which is now in previews), a CD soundtrack, picture book and merchandising are expected to generate royalties to empower a hundred members of the Ballroom community.

The list of stars include Jose Xtravaganza, who is a dancer and the "Vogue" choreographer for Madonna; Octavia from "Paris Is Burning," who addresses the transgender experience and Luna Luis Ortiz, who talks about his experience of contracting HIV at the age of 14. The director is Wolfgang Busch, the producer is Kevin Omni, and co-stars include Carmen and Hector Xtravaganza, Harmonica Sunbeam, Junior and Portia Labeija, Mohammad Omni, Pony and Jay Blahnik, to name a few.

Luna Luis Ortiz, a Star of "How Do I Look" and Member of the "House of Manolo Blahnik"

As an adolescent I was not supposed to think about sex. But yes I did think about sex and I engaged in it. Unfortunately I was not informed about what is safe and what is not. I became infected by HIV in 1986 at the age 14, with my first sexual experience. HIV made me think about how I wanted to be remembered. It was important to me to let people know that I existed. I thought at the time that I was going to get really sick and look like the images of people with AIDS that we saw in the '80s. But I didn't want to be seen as an "AIDS victim."

I began to live through photography, painting, acting, animation, and documenting myself through self-portraits. Later I turned my attention to my friends. I have lost many friends and seen more death than my parents and grandparents put together. So, to keep alive the memories of my friends, I began photographing them too, basically in any way they wished, mostly very sexy, glamorous, haunting portraits. When you are HIV-positive, you are not supposed to be sexy and alluring, but we were both. We were the Cindy Crawfords of HIV.

My mental camera is my hero. It is a big part of my body, eyes, my voice, my thoughts. These days I feel comfortable with myself and my roles in life, especially as a person who is alive photographing and starring in the movie "How Do I Look."

Octavia, a Star of "How Do I Look"

My name is Heavenly Angel Octavia St. Laurent and I would like to express myself to you as an individual of the Utopian society. Although I've been categorized as a transsexual or pre-op, I am afraid this is not the proper definition for me. I am called in medical terms a "unic" or "unicorn."

I would like to tell you why this project is so important to me. I see the world through Angel eyes. Let me explain. My whole life I have had to fight to keep my dignity, my morality, my self-respect, and my faith in myself and God. In spite of all odds, I wanted more in life than what society and my peers thought I should have and expect. I was always told that because I was born different that my choices in life were limited. I went to school every day to absorb all the knowledge that I could, in spite of the fact that I had literally to fight every day defending myself from harm, because I was born biologically a boy but look so much like a girl.

Nevertheless I was determined to have an education, to be intelligent and articulate. I should not have had so much pain and suffering physically, mentally, and emotionally. I refused then and now to subject myself to prostitution. I fight drug dealing or anything else that would make me lose my self respect. I have no desire now or ever to have a sex-change. I learned that I must except myself as normally as any man or woman. I am so proud of me. I have never tried or wanted to be a woman, just beautiful.

No matter what choices I make, the truth will never change. Unfortunately there are others like myself as well, such as pre-ops and transsexuals, who are fighting a battle with themselves, that they will never win. I want them to understand that because they are man-made different or naturally born different, that is what makes them special. Also I tell women the secrets and powers they possess and that no woman should be abused. Also about society and the true cruelties that are only seen through Angel eyes. Ladies and gentlemen, I implore you to help me, my kind, and yours.

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