John Simone’s 1980’s RuPaul exhibition and Simone’s appearance on the Herstory of Downtown: Manhattan Nightlife Icons panel
at the inaugural RuPaul’s DragCon Sept. 9th & 10th at the Jacob Javits Center, 11th Avenue, between 35th & 37th, New York.

DragCon, with over 175 exhibitors including many TV stars, drag legends and RuPaul’s Drag Race’s contestants will be
joined by Toronto-born documentary photographer John Simone who brings his vintage 1980's RuPaul gallery editions that reveal
the Emmy Winner's beginnings in NY's Downtown scene.

Who is RuPaul?
She is quintessentially herself, her own invention, an icon of elegance, inspiring generations of
LGBTQ people in their quest end the narrow and oppressive gender identity enforced by mainstream society.

Simone is fascinated by RuPaul because she emanates a fierce confidence and charisma, promoting
her fashion glamour as a vehicle of authentic personal liberation. She is living proof of a creative space
between the extremes of masculine and feminine, a space where everyone can explore the dimensions
of their true selves.

RuPaul expresses her vitality best in her own words: “You’re born naked; everything else is drag.”
- ENDS -

For more information:
Or at 647-247-3421 (before Thursday Sept. 6th)
Or by cell at 289-221-7902 (Sept 6th – 10th)

Notes to editors:
• DragCon has asked John Simone to join the Herstory of Downtown: Manhattan Nightlife Icons
panel with international trans-performer and author Amanda Lepore (Doll Parts, Random House)
and original NY celebutante & writer James St. James (Party Monster dir: by Barbato & Fenton) with
moderator, scene-chronicler Michael Musto(Tea Room, Javits Hall C - 6pm - Sat. Sept. 9th).

• Simone will also present at the panel some of his 1980’s Downtown NY legends Divine, Leigh Bowery,
Joey Arias, Quentin Crisp and DJ Sister Dimension (star of Pickle Surprise).

• John Simone’s career began in 1987 publishing celebrity and nightlife shots in Stephen Saban’s eponymous
club column in the original Details magazine. He shot Susanne Bartsch’s first parties while also
documenting society, fashion, and the club kids, most notably as chief photographer for
Michael Alig’s Project X magazine.

• Simone presents these images to engage people with issues of gender identity who may find a sense of connection
through exposure to the historical context of drag and how RuPaul and other gender warriors have lead the way
in the ongoing struggle for acceptance by mainstream society.

Rudolf Piper (impresario of 1980’s NY clubs Danceteria and Tunnel):
“[Simone] managed to portray an era capturing exactly the energy, the craziness and the creativity that made it unique!
In the future, this NY that existed in the eighties will be seen on the same level as Paris in the twenties, Berlin during
the Weimar Republic and Shanghai in the thirties - and [Simone’s] photos will bear witness to that!”

Michael Musto -
“Patrick McMullan was a burgeoning young photographer on the scene, as were
Wolfgang Wesener and Ben Buchanan, plus Nelson Sullivan was a regular, filming all the
glam minutiae for epic documentaries that would find their way onto YouTube years later.

Pushing himself into this mix, Simone was always fearless, enthusiastic and game for anything.
The twinkle in his eyes spoke volumes about his love for capturing the ruling class of clubs,
who had the power because they were the most creatively beautiful and culturally daring
ones for miles. He still has that twinkle.”

(Exhibition Note)
John Simone’s work covers a changing of the guard in New York nightlife. Post-Warhol New York
found faith in the full-frontal satirical attack on fashion & culture by Michael Alig’s club kids
who were fleeing suburbia towards nightlife notoriety as full-fledged fabulous nobodies. Alig was
the ersatz Warhol who had an ad hoc Factory force of 400 freaks that he re-christened with
silly club names. They then faithfully followed him onto the front pages of fanzines like
Project X magazine, aptly edited by Alig with provocative photos by John Simone.

In the quise of innocent nerd, Simone infiltrated this Subterranean Society
unimpeded, and recorded the outré masques which actually exposed an aching
vulnerability .His voyeurism validated the aspirations of this manic and
uber-fashion-victim vanguard.

(Curator’s Note)
Simone has embraced, documented and participated in the brave metaphors of persuasive fetish and
style, turning sexuality on its head. While fiercely flashing the 1980’s NY scene, Simone is
bent on validating the existence of self-inventing personae. In the process, he documents
the creation of an untamed fashion world that challenges mainstream culture. Simone’s
influences are clearly seen in the works of Brassai, WeeGee and Arbus:
shots of whores, criminals and freaks.

john simone's
summer 2017 exhibition opened on
July 13th and hung until Sept. 23rd, 2017
at montreal's never apart gallery

Femme Realness: A Celebration of The Effeminate Gay Male

Artists: George Stamos, Pansy Ass Ceramics, Nicholas Contrera, Jihef Portelance and John Simone

The intention of this exhibition is to celebrate the poof, the sissy and the peacocks of the LGBTQ2+ community. Stereotypes depicted over the past century established a dominant narrative that all gay men were “nelly”. In our misogynist and heterosexist culture, we have been taught that men whom are flamboyant and feminine are lesser than, unattractive and not “real men”. In attempt to disprove the stereotype, aspects of gay culture slowly began to embrace and fetishize mainstream masculinity. From uniforms to sports to body hair, a more masculine aesthetic began to take over gay culture and the girlie boys were, once again, stigmatised. Only this time, it was within our own culture and that hierarchy continue today, both outside and inside of the LGBTQ2+ community.

The queer movement has come a long way but it is still not safe for many folks to simply be whom they are. These unapologetic “queens”, like many other visible minorities, generally endure ridicule, bullying and discrimination at various points in their lives. Yet “queenie” portrayals are not something to be looked down upon but, instead, highlighted as a powerful archetype within our diverse rainbow of humanity. We want to celebrate the style makers, the eccentric visionaries, the innovators and the brave individuals who are often ahead of their time and are not afraid to be their authentic selves in the face of adversity.

Femme Realness puts these magical and colourful beings on a pedestal, where they belong, with the intention of creating dialog and finding greater understanding within our community and society at large. Got to be real!


Exhibition Prints

Contact: - 647.247.3421

Press about John Simone's 2014 WorldPride Toronto Exhibitions

University of Toronto Magazine: Party Out of Bounds
Artist profile article on
Michael Musto writes about John Simone's photos
Sissydude writes about John Simone's photos in Xtra Magazine

This project received an Exhibition Assistance Grant from the Ontario Arts Council

Visit for great travel photography:

Quick links to all of John Simone's Design and Photography sites:
John Simone Photo/facebook