Why Should Big Cities Get The Best Stuff?
Rubyyy Jones and Prinx Lydia are bringing their unique brand of creativity to Paris with Big Cityyy Arts.
Celeste Percy-Beauregard, November 07, 2022 // Brantford, OntarioRubyyy and Lydia in costume at Dog-Eared Cafe. Photo credit Sarah Evans, Shoebox Pics.
After building successful arts careers in the UK, Rubyyy Jones, a celebrated burlesque performer and voice actor, known as the “Queen of Queerlesque,” and Prinx Lydia, an accomplished costume maker and designer (“They were a maker on the most recent Spice Girls tour!” says Rubyyy), are bringing big city culture to Paris, Ontario.
“Why should cities get the best stuff?” asks Rubyyy, when BTOWN met virtually with the two creators to discuss their company, Big Cityyy Arts. “When you live in a city, you have access to museums, and theatre, and nightlife and culture on a whole other level, and it really is a detriment to the people who don't live in those big cities, that they don't have that access, or that education,” says Rubyyy, “We want to bring as many people into the realm of all the different possibilities of art that we can.”
Rubyyy’s effervescence (the three y’s stand for “Yes Yes Yessssssss!”) and Lydia’s calming presence, practically seep through the computer screen making it easy to see how the couple, who individually use they/them pronouns, complement each other so perfectly as partners in business and in life.
Behind the scenes in Rubyyy and Lydia's home. Photo credit Sarah Evans, Shoebox Pics.
They met on the set of a boy band music video in the U.K., where Lydia grew up, and Rubyyy, originally from Paris, Ontario, was living at the time. Neither can recall the name of the band, (“It’s like ‘Boss Boys,’” Lydia guesses, prompting laughter from both,) and from that point, they just “Ended up staying in each other's kind of realm,” says Rubyyy.
Fast forward to 2020, when – like many others – the pandemic prompted them to move from the big city – in their case, the “queer, cosmopolitan bubble,” that Rubyyy describes as their experience of London, England to Paris... Ontario.
While the two have faced some narrow-mindedness, Lydia says, “I've actually been somehow more shocked at the people who ‘get’ the pronoun thing, for example,” with Rubyyy adding, “Or don't understand it and still do it anyway.” Lydia continues, “Yeah, like they don't understand it, but they'll still use the correct pronoun whenever they possibly can. And it's always surprising who those people actually are. Because they’re not usually the ones you’d expect.”
The two were already offering virtual events and classes before the pandemic, “And we liked it, because it helped us to actually reach people all over the place,” Rubyyy says, “And also at the same time, it’s much more accessible for all kinds of people; like disabled people, neurodivergent people, people-who-don't-want-to-leave-their-house people. So that was one thing that was actually really exciting about when everyone went online.”
Rubyyy and Lydia in costume at Dog-Eared Cafe. Photo credit Sarah Evans, Shoebox Pics.
In addition to continuing their virtual programming, like Rubyyy’s six-month Act Development workshop for creating solo works; a six-week MC’ing course for folks who want to emcee in the cabaret realm, or who just want to improve their presence as a virtual teacher or influencer; as well as weekly “Not a workout, workout” classes, which keeps them connected with peers abroad, they’re also now hosting in-person events.
Locals can attend their monthly Life Drawing evenings at Dog-Eared Café, an in-person version of their popular Zoom event, and an experience that allows both the creatives’ strengths to shine.
Supported by their background in dance, burlesque and drag, Rubyyy models for the events – which are open to participants of any skill level – inhabiting a wide range of characters with grace, humour and presence.
Some sessions are in the nude, such as the “Sparklyyy Shower” themed photoset posted to Rubyyy’s Patreon, which involves bathing gestures in their bathroom, and manages to be simultaneously simple and exquisite. Others are labelled as “family friendly,” and all of them are unique. “We want to make it great. We want to make it exciting. Want to make it dynamic – for us and for everybody,” says Rubyyy.
The creative minds behind Big Cityyy Arts at home. Photo credit Sarah Evans, Shoebox Pics.
Using largely-thrifted and found materials, Lydia’s wealth of experience – which includes work for shows at “The Royal Court, The Barbican, The Royal Festival Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Scottish Opera, Opera North, English National Opera...to name a few,” says Rubyyy with a laugh – shows in the costumes they build, which range from a vintage clown suit complete with delightful ruffles and a gold hat, to the delicate Cupid wings they spent weeks hand-crafting for a Valentine’s Day-themed session.
They transform their apartment and Dog-Eared Café into a different time and place using equally thought-out – and often quirky – design elements. For instance, the “Birth of Venus” seascape, created with gold inflatable seashell pool floats, pedestals draped in fabric, ferns and theatrical lighting.
“We both really love what we do,” says Rubyyy, “We both love theatre, we both love creating stuff,” and they have other exciting live events in the works.
“There's space for life drawing in Paris, there's space for drag shows in Paris. There's space for burlesque shows in Paris. There's space for LGBTQI content in Paris. And the reason why that stuff doesn't exist now is because sometimes it does feel like ‘Oh, there's nobody who wants that.’ [But] there's thousands of people who live here!” says Rubyyy.
“So if you need anything entertainment, if you need anything education, and you want it to have an alternative twist, we are your people.”
To stay tuned about upcoming events from Big Cityyy Arts, follow them on Instagram HERE and to learn more about their in-person life drawing events that run monthly at Dog-Eared Café, find them on Instagram HERE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Celeste Percy-Beauregard’s first form of storytelling was as an actor, and her eager curiosity and interest in a variety of subjects led her to writing. Her work has appeared in Toronto Star and Today’s Parent, and she is enjoying exploring Brantford and learning about the people and places that make it such a special city.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Born on a frigid winter's night, Sarah Evans knew early on that the only way to warm her soul was through art. During her time studying Film and Video Production at York U, Sarah discovered her love for photography and has been shooting ever since. Other things Sarah has done is worked on film and television sets, painted a terrible mural in high school, opened a floral business and bitten into a paintball (it wasn't a chocolate covered blueberry!).