Today we’d like to introduce you to Jose Richard Aviles.
Jose Richard, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
It all began in the streets of South Central, and yes, though others may refer to South Central as South LA, South Central is always home. Growing up, I always dreamed of being on TV, of being an entertainer. I remember being young and seeing music videos and realizing that there weren’t any musicians that were openly queer. And by that, I mean no one was showing queer PDA on-screen. I didn’t wanna kiss women as a queer person, so I figured that it wasn’t for me.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always LOVED to dance. I mean growing up in a Latino household dancing was a must. It happened at the birthday parties, the family gatherings, and even on Sundays while cleaning the house. Dance just gave me life.
Again, given the fact that there wasn’t anyone that looked like me: Queer, thick, brown, and hood! So again, I thought that dance was only limited meant to be a hobby. Fast forward to undergrad, and like many other young adults, I had NO IDEA what I wanted to study. During my sophomore, I made a joke that I would become a dance major. And it started off as a joke, but soon enough, I realized that I was taking Modern and Ballet as “self-care.”
What I thought was going to be self-care, was actually challenging, both mentally and physically, so I stayed with it. I thought that dance would allow me to break away from the organizing I had been doing in high school (yes, I got burnt out at 19). Five years later, I still find myself challenged by dance. Specifically by the stigmas of what a dancer’s body should look like.
After spending a year working on a farm in Wisconsin, I realized that I had to hustle my art. I took any opportunity that I fell onto my lap. I made connections with current artists, performed at bars, galleries, festival, and even a church. Slowly instead of looking for opportunities, people started reaching out to me.
Somehow I had become a queer femme dancer, and folks wanted to see more of my art. Today, that continues to be the type of work that I create — my art centers around the forgotten narratives of queer bodies of color. My work constantly challenges what it is like to be a queer from South Central.
Has it been a smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road at all. During this journey, I’ve had to deal with many rejections, feelings of insecurity, and sometimes even doubt. It is during those times of doubt that I’ve had to dig deep in my core and remind myself that I am worth it, that my body is meant to be on stage, and that this work is urgent and bigger than me.
We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I am known for being unapologetic. My work is interdisciplinary and somehow finds connections between my identities as a queer person of color and scholarship as a Social Worker and Urban Planner. I make the joke that I worked on my plan B first (my two masters), but my true passions lies in the power of art.
As an artist, my work challenges the narratives of gender and queerness. My work as a dancer is rooted in my background in Modern Dance, and my recent training in AfroLatin dance. Recently, my work has shifted away from Dance and more into the realm of Performance Art. I’m currently interested in something I am calling, “stand-up poetry.”
This came to me when I would perform some of my poetry, and audience members just get in that performative state of being, you know what I’m talking about, everyone starts snapping fingers, and the mmmm’s and the head nodding and then it got me thinking: “Oh, if I told you the stories that inspired this ‘poetry’ you would be laughing.” So one day, I interrupted the poem and just telling the audience members the stories that inspired the poetry and people started laughing!
Now, I focus on that I share the performative poem, and then I break out of it and keep it real. For example, “He’s the moon and the sky” and then it becomes “No, he’s actually an asshole that didn’t know how to communicate his emotions, so I dumped him.” Even saying that makes me laugh!
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
For me, Los Angeles is the perfect place to do my work because I am from Los Angeles. Unlike many people, I am a native! Los Angeles is not a city for me.
On the contrary, it is a lab of creativity full of memories from my childhood. Oh, the things I’ve done in this city!
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: soynalgona
- Facebook: facebook.com/aviles.richard
Mike Garcia and USC Rossier School of Education