Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Academic Tour of the “How Do I Look” documentary

The documentary How Do I Look has been screened at various colleges and universities as part of its mission to increase education about the Harlem “Ball” community. This academic tour has inspired many students to begin to examine the film for its contribution to LGBT, sociology, and cultural studies.

For example, Jon Freeman, who studied at New York University, wrote in the Fall 2006 a thesis paper about the Vogue dance style. Entitled, "Voguing: Queer, Critical, and in Motion: Towards Fabulous Queer Worlds," Jon sets out to seek "fierceness" in dance spaces.

A partial listing of the academic tour of How Do I Look follows below:

Sarah Lawrence College. In 2006, How Do I Look was screened in connection with the college’s 4th Annual Queer Film Festival. Sponsored by LGBT Studies, the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Racial and Ethnic Diversity, Campus Engagement, the Programming Board, SLC ACTS UP, QVC and Student Senate, the screening was followed by a Q&A session and dance performances.

The director Wolfgang Busch, center, flanked by performers from the House of Xtravaganza:  Nicole, Jose, Rico, and Giselle.

Famed dancer and choreographer Jose Xtravaganza at the 2006 Sarah Lawrence screening and lecture of the ‘How Do I Look’ documentary.

Oberlin College. On April 1, 2003, How Do I Look was screened in Cleveland, OH.

University of Detroit. On December 4, 2003, How Do I Look was screened in Mercy, MI. The screening, which was sponsored by the Women’s Study Program, attracted a full-capacity crowd of 100 people.

New York University. On February 10th, 2003, How Do I Look was screened at NYU. This screening, which was sponsored by SHADES, attracted a full-capacity crowd of 110 people. It was followed by a speaking engagement. The speakers included Octavia Manolo Blahnik, Luna Khan, and the director Wolfgang Busch. A second screening at NYU later took place in connection with Black History Month, on February 17, 2004. Speakers: Tracy Africa, Willi Ninja, Kenny Ebony, Luna Khan, Wolfgang Busch. Again sponsored by SHADES from NYU, approximately 100 people attended.

Harvey Milk High School. Set to coincide with World AIDS Day on December 1, 2003, How Do I Look was screened at the Harvey Milk High School in NYC. Sponsored by the Hetrick Martin Institute, a full-capacity crowd of 80 people attended this special screening.

Yale University. October 18, 2004, How Do I Look was screened in New Haven, CT. At this event, the speakers included: the late Willi Ninja, Jazmine Manolo Blahnik, Jack Givenchy, Luna Khan, Wolfgang Busch, Frank Givenchy. This special screening event was sponsored by: The Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Larry Kramer Initiative for Gay and Lesbian Studies, and the McDougal Center at Yale University. Eight-five people attended this event.

Wolfgang Busch at Yale University in 2004 with, from left to right, Uri, Luna Khan, a friend, Jazmine Blahnik, Jack Mizrahi, and Willi Ninja.

More information about the academic tour, please visit the work-in-progress screenings page of the film’s official website.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Body Positive Magazine Feature: How Do I Look

Body Positive magazine published an article about the documentary How Do I Look. The article focused on the community arts program aspect of this documentary, touching upon the potential educational effectiveness of community outreach programs such as the How Do I Look project. The article also featured first-person narratives by activist Luna Khan (Luna Luis Ortiz) and dancer Octavia St. Laurent.

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 (Read the entire article about the How Do I Look documentary in Body Positive magazine).

General Disclaimer: The Body is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through The Body should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your healthcare provider.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Out at the Center: the LGBT Community Center's monthly TV Show

The March 2007 episode of Out at the Center was hosted by Mimi Gonzalez and features:

* We Met at the Center – interviews with couples who hit it off at 208 West 13th Street;

* a visit with the women behind Lesbian Cinema Arts;

* a look at the Harlem Ball community through the work of documentary filmmaker Wolfgang Busch’s How Do I Look;

* a conversation and reading with T.J. Parsell, author of Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison;

* a tour of the Center with Julia Noel Goldman and Robert Woodworth reminiscing; and

* a recap of the Winter Art Exhibitions of 2007.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of New York City makes available on its website the video of the March 2007 episode.

Here is the segment dedicated to How Do I Look:

Out at the Center is a monthly half-hour TV show produced by the LGBT Community Center. Out at the Center airs on the fourth Thursday of every month at 10 p.m. on Manhattan Neighborhood Network on Time Warner Cable channels 34 and 78 (digital), as well as on RCN channels 107 and 83 (digital). The LGBT Community Center offers volunteers the opportunity to learn valuable production skills, have fun while working on a TV crew with other volunteers, and give back to your community by allowing the LGBT Community Center to reach a broader audience. For more information about becoming a volunteer with Center Media, visit our volunteer page. For information about internships with Center, visit the internships page.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Miss Universe makes dual New York appearances on World AIDS Day

Miss Universe Riyo Mori made two important community appearances in New York on World AIDS Day on December 1, 2007. First, Miss Universe visited the offices of the Latino Commission on AIDS, then she attended a gala event in connection with the Fifth Annual New York AIDS Film Festival. Miss Universe, whose platform is HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, is using her celebrity to focus public attention on World AIDS Day.

In a press release issued by the New York agency Latino Commission on AIDS, Miss Universe Riyo Mori stated, "It is important to me and the Miss Universe Organization to show our commitment and solidarity with those impacted by HIV/AIDS, especially on World AIDS Day, today I took the HIV test to encourage all communities that it is better to know your status."

Also in its statement, the Commissions leader had this to say: "The fight against HIV and AIDS and the health care needs facing our community get more challenging every year," said Dennis deLeon, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS. "I applaud Miss Universe Riyo Mori for taking this action to join our cause and promote the HIV test as an important step in the area of prevention and education. She joins a group of vital supporters, all of whom are beacons of hope for a future without AIDS."

Miss Universe Riyo Mori holding up a copy of the DVD for the 'How Do I Look' documentary, pictured with the filmmaker and activist Wolfgang Busch on World AIDS Day 2007.

Also on World AIDS Day, Miss Universe also attended the Red Ball gala event of the Fifth Annual New York AIDS Film Festival. Pictured above, Miss Universe posed with Wolfgang Busch, director of the independent documentary, How Do I Look.

The Latino Commission on AIDS is a nonprofit agency dedicated to fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Latino/Hispanic communities. The Commission coordinates National Latino AIDS Awareness Day and other prevention and advocacy programs in more than 40 States and Puerto Rico. For more information visit or

The MISS UNIVERSE®, MISS USA® and MISS TEEN USA® Pageants are a Donald J. Trump and NBC Universal partnership. Utilizing its nationwide grass roots infrastructure, the Miss Universe Organization is committed to increasing HIV/AIDS awareness by focusing on women's health and reproductive issues. By forging relationships with organizations committed to research and education such as the Latino Commission on AIDS, God’s Love We Deliver, APICHA and Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Miss Universe is improving the lives of women today. For more information visit:

Saturday, December 1, 2007

What we commemorate on World AIDS Day

On this World AIDS Day of 2007, I am starting this post, which I will retroactively edit. I promise to make this post a full listing of artistic events that promised to increase the public's education and awareness of AIDS. To start out, I may only focus on the events which are to and which took place in New York City. And most of all, I wish to touch upon the artistic programs in which people commemorated -- and possibly even celebrated -- World AIDS Day. What can there be about artistic programs or artistic projects that focus on positive aspects about AIDS? What could there be to celebrate on a day that brings attention to this deadly global pandemic?

* In New York City, an activist and civil leader named Suzanne Engo is founder and Executive Director of the New York AIDS Film Festival. Can you imagine a film festival completly designed around visual media dedicated to the AIDS pandemic? Well, in New York, we are fortunate to have such an arts project that aims to have a positive impact. On the occassion of the debut of the New York AIDS Film Festival, Ms. Engo said, "I know that the media can be used as a tool for social change" (See Ms. Engo's Wikipedia page).

* In connection with the 5th Annual New York AIDS Film Festival in 2007, the director Wolfgang Busch screen a special segment from his documentary, How Do I Look. (Disclosure: How Do I Look is an arts-in-education project which this blog is promoting.)

* To learn more about AIDS, please read the HIV/AIDS in Our World Today factsheet made available online by

* To learn more about this important day, you can click here and run an instant Google search for the term World AID Day.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"How Do I Look" documentary to be featured in the 2007 New York AIDS Film Festival

Although only in its fifth year, the New York AIDS Film Festival has developed a high standard of acknowledging the importance of education and empowerment in the arts. In 2004, Meryl Streep presented the Festival’s highest honor to HBO’s Angels in America director, Mike Nichols, in recognition for his film about the heartbreak of HIV/AIDS. In 2006, the New York AIDS Film Festival commemorated the 25th Anniversary of the first diagnosed case of AIDS.

Now, in connection with the Fifth Annual New York AIDS Film Festival, New York University is hosting a special World AIDS Day screening of How Do I Look directed by Wolfgang Busch, on Saturday, December 1, 2007. A Q&A session with the documentary’s director will follow the screening.

How Do I Look is an award-winning documentary about the Harlem “Ball” community. This documentary feature originated as a community empowerment project for dancers and artists in the Ball community; it was directed by Wolfgang Busch in collaboration with assistant directors from the “Ball” community: Kevin Omni and Luna Khan. Since its early production, How Do I Look has been screened as a work-in-progress film at many prestigious American universities, such as Yale University, New York University, and Sarah Lawrence College, as part of academic curricula and student-run programs. Because the “Ball” community has been hit hard by the AIDS pandemic, from the outset Mr. Busch included in the final version of How Do I Look important messages from dancers and artists about HIV/AIDS prevention and care. As part of the New York AIDS Film Festival, a special 10-minute segment will be screened from How Do I Look, addressing HIV/AIDS. Featured in the HIV excerpt from the How Do I Look documentary are: Octavia St. Laurent, Kevin Omni, Jose Xtravaganza, Carmen Xtravaganza, Harmonica Sunbeam, Luna Khan, Kevin Aviance, Kenny Ebony, Darryck LaBeija, and Marcel Christian. Unfortunately, the “Ball” community has been devastated by the AIDS pandemic, resulting in the loss of the community’s leadership. As a community, the dancers and artists from the “Ball” scene continue to fight an uphill battle for artistic and social empowerment.

The free screening of How Do I Look will take place on Saturday, December 1, 2007, from 11 am to 12 pm at New York University at the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, 53 Washington Square South, New York City. Admission to attend this special screening is free. Complimentary refreshments will be served.

For more information, please contact the director Wolfgang Busch at: Art From The Heart Films, 718-726-0831 or,

Founded in 2003 by Suzanne Engo, the New York AIDS Film Festival (NYAFF) provides a series of HIV- and AIDS-related film screenings, panel discussions, and special events. At the time of its launch, Ms. Engo said, “I know that the media can be used as a tool for social change.” Its mission is to provide the public with information about the disease by sponsoring the screenings of visual media. The New York AIDS Film Festival features diverse works, which serve as educational material about HIV/AIDS. These programs aim to promote social action in the fight against the global AIDS pandemic. Besides featuring noteworthy visual media by filmmakers and AIDS activists, the Festival also creates events to raise money for organizations whose missions include education and social activism through film.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"How Do I Look"
Directed by Wolfgang Busch

A&U Magazine
December 2006

Have a Ball!
Wolfgang Busch, Director and Producer of
How Do I Look, Showcases the
Ball Community and its HIV Outreach

by Alina Oswald

From Madonna's "Vogue" video to films like Paris is Burning, the Harlem ballroom community has always been a playground where young, talented gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people can build their self-esteem by competing in categories like fashion or dance as an art form. The "illusion of a runway" that ball events provide for performing members don't only allow them to live out their fantasies, but also to freely express themselves artistically. Organized in "houses" with an (usually) elected "mother" and "father," the ballroom (or ball) community looks after its members and nurtures their talents.

"Some houses are like gangs," artistic activist Wolfgang Busch explains during our phone interview about his new film on the New York City ball community, "in the bad sense." Paris is Burning, a film about the house with the same name, has been criticized as exploiting these negative aspects of the ball community. That's why, in his new documentary, German-American filmmaker Wolfgang Busch offers a fresh image of the ball community, concentrating on houses that make a positive difference in the lives of their members. How Do I Look, which took ten years to produce filming and interviewing community members at various ball events, focuses on educating the upcoming "ball" generation in the positive assets of houses dedicated to helping their members to get an education and a job. These houses also organize balls specifically dealing with HIV/AIDS prevention, education, and outreach. How Do I Look also focuses on members of the ball community who, while socially marginalized by racism, perform in the balls for fashion and artistic awards, thus creating their own arenas of standards and success. Many of them, like Tracy Africa, Willi Ninja, or Jose Xtravaganza took their runway walks to a professional level.

"What I respect so much about the ball community is its inclusiveness," he says, commenting on what he considers its most important quality. "No matter if you work on Fourteenth Street or as a fashion designer or [if you are a] celebrity, everybody can walk a ball: People of all shapes and forms have a place to compete."

Busch takes the knowledge that the ball community is all about fashion and glamour and how its members look a step further in his documentary, using How Do I Look to show how ball community members look on the inside, because it's obvious that they look "fabulous" on the outside.

Looks are important for one's self-esteem, especially for male-to-female transsexuals who transition and sometimes do not look as "feminine" as they would like. For them it's important to get accepted in real life, in their community. So, being part of various ball events and competing for various awards pull them through the hard times.

Wolfgang Busch's first contact with the ball community was an actual ball at a club called Tracks, in 1987. Yet it wasn't until 1989 through a fundraiser for the Gay Games in Vancouver, when he met assistant director and lifetime achiever in the ball community, Kevin Omni.

As a cultural gay activist, Busch has dedicated his life to empower LGBT artists. He plans a meeting with Al Sharpton and Russell Simmons, both very outspoken in the arts and its role in the political arena because the artistic community is "the most powerful community on the planet," because the "stars," when they unite, can determine major changes in most aspects of our life.

When it comes to HIV/AIDS, the ball community was maybe the most hit by the pandemic. In 1998 the ball community lost Fila Omni to AIDS. Since 2001, the ball community has also lost Gerald Dupree Labeija, Kenny Ebody, Eriq Christian Bazaar, and Marcel Christian to AIDS, and Pepper Labeija to diabetes.

"I think [that's] a scary statistic. That's a really alarming number," Wolfgang Busch comments. That's the reason why he's focusing on houses and balls that make HIV/AIDS prevention, education and awareness their priority.

For more information about How Do I Look or to contact director Wolfgang Busch, log on to