Nomi Ruiz on Patrick McMullan Mag

Lori Zimmer
Jun 4, 2013 6:02PM

I recently interviewed Clocktower Gallery resident Nomi Ruiz for Patrick McMullan Magazine.


Taking in the View with Borough Gypsy NOMI RUIZ

By Lori Zimmer

Summer 2013

I’m wandering around Times Square, killing time by counting how many guys ask me if I want tickets to a comedy show. Normally it’s an area I tend to avoid, but tonight Miss Nomi Ruiz is to play a private set at the Liberty Ballroom, which the Times Square Art Alliance has been so kind to invite me too. But just as I passed the third crusty Elmo-costumed person, an urgent email comes through: sudden venue change! For a second I panic–this type of thing could be the death of a tiny show. But as I pass into the new location (BB Kings), it’s as if nothing was amiss. It’s already standing room only of waiting Nomi fans, and when she hits the stage it’s as if the chaos of finding a last minute change had never happened.

The stage is set with a floral-heavy still life of seemingly personal effects from Ruiz, meshed with sporadic colorful lasers and sexy video portraits of the singer–a perfectly intimate tableau made harmonious with Ruiz’s sultry low croons, looking impossible in a long white dress with a leg slit past her navel.

Ruiz, who came up singing in Hercules and Love Affair and Jessica Six, may also be known as the poster girl for the transgendered community, but her talent far outweighs the label, and gives her total mass appeal. She’s just released her new album, Borough Gypsy, a super-personal sexy set inspired by her life growing up in Sunset Park.

The album coincides with a dreamy video portrait of Ruiz, which is as sensually decadent as Marilyn Minters’ candy colored Green Pink Caviar. ForBorough Gypsy, Ruiz hasn’t just written jams for us to sway or dance to, but has taken her role as an artist very seriously–giving us a glimpse of her personal life, woven into every piece of the album. The support of her family is evident–her grandmother even invited us to use her Sunset Park apartment as the backdrop for our PMc Mag photoshoot.

Borough Gypsy feels more complete, a more nourishing experience than just a poppy dance album. Prior to the release of the album, Ruiz completed a residency at Clocktower Gallery, creating an installation that translated the album into a visual experience, coupled with previews of the tracks. Nomi Ruiz is an artist that transcends art, music, and sexuality–while still sticking to her roots as a (very breathtaking) Brooklyn girl.

Lori Zimmer: Your new album, Borough Gypsy, just launched on May 14. Is it more personal than your past albums?

Nomi Ruiz: Definitely. Some of these songs I began writing when I was a teenager such as “Before The Words.” They were all created at a time when I was really vulnerable and in the middle of many huge life transitions.

LZ: When you’re writing for your solo work, like in the uber-personal Borough Gypsy, is your process any different from when you’d write for Jessica Six or Hercules and Love Affair?

NR: All of the songs on Borough Gypsy I wrote alone in a room. I was very isolated and it was when I began writing with a guitar as well so I felt a much closer connection to the content. Writing alone allowed me to express some extremely personal emotions. I always write from a very personal place, but with Jessica 6 I had to be more poetic and used metaphor because I was often times afraid to be so honest in front of the musicians while we were writing. Borough Gypsy is definitely my most raw project.

LZ: Your installation at Clocktower Gallery was like a glimpse into your world, from personal photos to your old love letters. Why did you decide to let visitors get so close to the real you?

NR: I think it’s important for me to share my life with the world. It makes all of the heartache and struggle worth it and shows others that we aren’t alone. I feel as human beings we all tend to feel so alone, especially when you grow up as part of a community that is so ostracized by our own lovers. I feel it’s time to remove the veil and reveal how shameful men in modern society can often be, even towards the ones they really truly love.

LZ: Do you plan to explore the visual artist side of yourself more after your residency at the Clocktower Gallery?

NR: For sure. I’ve become more aware of that side of my work now especially with video. I feel it is important to capture my experiences and the things I find beautiful in the world. At the Clocktower I got to actually complete and present those documents as final pieces of art which I found very powerful especially when paired up with my music.

LZ: You’re very close to your family–our shoot took place at your grandmother’s Sunset Park apartment. Have they always pushed and supported you to express yourself however you want? [Photographer Jonathan told me how your grandmother said that your skirt wasn’t short enough. Cute.]

NR: The women in my family inspire me so much. I come from a family of very strong independent women and they have raised me to be the same. I see some people surrounded by such judgmental families and it makes me eternally grateful for the one I have. They have always supported me in any choices I’ve made. I think it’s important to show that side of my life as well so that hopefully others will treat their children the same.

LZ: Everyone keeps saying how the music and nightlife scene in New York is dying. Being a native, do you think that is the case?

NR: New York is what you make it. I really learn that more and more as I leave and return. I always find my people when I’m here, especially in the nightlife. I think if you aren’t familiar with this city or aren’t surrounded by creative people, it’s easy to fall into these really boring repetitive pockets of energy and surround yourself with blandness. I’m lucky enough to have a really powerfully creative group of friends here so my nightlife will never die.

LZ: Are there any NYC nightlife staples that you’re inspired by ?

NR: I love going to Le Baron. I always find someone to chew on there.

Susan Bartsch has been throwing some beautiful parties as well. One is at Soho Grand which is an earlier cocktail gathering in a very beautiful space, the other is an all out art party monster jam called Catwalk at Marquee.

The Daughters Of Devotion also have one of my favorite parties at LPR called Red Light. So sexxxy!

LR: What is the most incredible thing to happen to Nomi Ruiz thus far?

NR: Well, I just got back from the Life Ball in Vienna with my dancers/sisters Georgia Sanford & Viva Soudan. We had such a fantastic time. It’s such a magical event full of fantasy. It was an honor to perform there and I was so happy I could be there with two of my most favorite females on the planet.

LZ: What can we expect next from you?

NR: I’m hitting the road with CocoRosie to tour the Borough Gypsy album and will be DJing around Europe over the summer.  Also, I’m going to finally finish some new Jessica 6 material.

Lori Zimmer