COVID Couldn't Stop Bushwig 2020

COVID Couldn't Stop Bushwig 2020

Story by Justin Moran / Photography by Andrew Boyle

There are few communities as resilient as Brooklyn's drag scene.

Throughout the years, performance spaces have been shut down and transformed into overpriced coffee shops; queer nightlife has gone from a thriving DIY world to one dominated by the corporatization of New York party culture. And this year, a global pandemic shut down the entire industry, forcing queens to perform remotely for the internet and collect tips virtually.

Bushwig, however, has always been a constant and this year's ninth annual festival managed to overcome restrictions implemented under COVID-19. The early October event was held in Bushwick's Maria Hernandez Park and featured all the classics — Charlene, Horrorchata and Merrie Cherry — alongside the city's rising stars, from the Dragon Sisters to Neon Calypso and Chiquitita.

Performances were inherently political, centered on the upcoming election — Horrorchata held a "Vote Him Out!" sign high — and Black Lives Matter. Merrie Cherry rolled through seated crowds to Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" in a canary yellow gown, while Chiquitita slithered seductively to Sade's "Is It a Crime." ("I am so heavily inspired by the women that have paved the way for me to perform," she wrote on Instagram shortly after.)

Charlene, who performed Sia's "Reaper" and bounced wildly to punctuate the lyrics, "No baby, not today," further reflected on this year's Bushwig feat. "2020 didn't manage to stomp out Bushwig after all," she wrote on Instagram. "Never had I ever needed the Bushwig stage or our massive crowd like I did this year. The girls and I could all feel y'all gathering around us and reaching toward us with ravenous loving energy for our rare celebration of queer beauty tradition and community."

See photos from Bushwig 2020, below, and follow NYC's "annual celebration of queer creativity and community" on Instagram (@bushwig).

Photography: Andrew Boyle