Welcome to Seven Minutes in Heaven, GO Magazine’s interview series that profiles a different queer babe each day, by asking them seven unique (and sometimes random) questions. Get to know the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of the groundbreaking, fierce forces-of-nature in the queer community.
Crystal Arnette and Cleo Gray are innovators in the realest sense. The powerhouse duo co-founded SEQUIN to support underrepresented makers in the community. They wanted to create a space to provide support for LGBTQ people, ethnic minorities, and disabled creators.
And they’ve done just that. Our photographer Shea shot their most recent Brooklyn pop-up event where creatives could come together to meet, share ideas, enjoy some beverages, and get involved – across mediums, cities, and industries.
We couldn’t wait to get to know more about Crystal and Cleo in our Seven Minutes in Heaven.
GO Magazine: Can you tell us a little bit about SEQUIN and its origins?
Crystal and Cleo: Here at SEQUIN, we work to dismantle systemic issues which can hold back women, non-binary, LGBTQIA+, ethnic minority & disabled makers utilizing of-the-moment media tools & support. SEQUIN was co-founded by Cleo Gray & Crystal Arnette in response to the Women’s March 2017 – looking at how we, as makers, can help change the narrative of our current national dialogue. Our official launch was in May 2017, and since then we’ve created our ongoing MAKERS series, our weekly show WHAT WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT, held our first week-long retreat for emerging creators, and hosted Pop-Up Parties around the city to bring makers from all industries together.
GO: What is the driving force behind your career/activism?
CC: At our core, we are storytellers – we believe in the power of storytelling – but WHO tells our stories matters. What stories are heard matters.
And if we’re committed to telling humanity’s stories, then we need to tell ALL of them. We know that empathy is possible, that changing hearts and minds is possible — IF we have a broader point of view represented in our stories. And we’re asking you to join us.
GO: What does femme mean to you?
CC: One of our goals is to create a space where the individual maker has ownership over their identity. So we ask creators, “how do you identify?” “what kind of MAKER are you?” as opposed to giving them boxes to check. So for us – “femme” means different things to different people, and no one is wrong. If you feel femme – then you are.
GO: Where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling discouraged or depleted?
CC: We host a weekly web show called WHAT WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT, often with guest curators, and this series showcases shows, performances, and cultural events coming up that week that we are, well, excited about! This means every week we’re diving into the cultural offerings across all 5 boroughs and beyond – looking for work that we’d want to experience. And what we’ve found is that there are SO MANY incredible spaces being created in the city. There are so many ways to be inspired. It’s hard to stay discouraged when you realize that we’re all in this fight together and there are rockstar art warriors everywhere.
CC: Ideas aren’t shared in spaces that don’t feel welcoming – it’s important to have space that is recognizable and brings you a feeling of “home”. We’re an organization co-founded by two queer cis-women, and while SEQUIN does not focus exclusively on queer MAKERS, we are working to connect underrepresented voices and it’s important for all of our events, retreats, and programming to feel open, inclusive, and inviting conversation.
GO: Where can people find you?
CC: We can be found all across social media @weareSEQUIN and at our website weareSEQUIN.org.