Lena Love isn't a Barbie doll, though she's played one on TV. Last year she performed on Showtime's Queer as Folk, as a Barbie doll breaking out of her package. It was the most recent of many cameo appearances she's made the past couple seasons, performing at the show's Babylon nightclub.
Lena Love isn't a lot of the things she might first appear to be, in fact. She is a spunky, 25-year-old personal trainer with a hearty laugh and a free-spirit energy who got her start as a dancer and performer on the rave scene in her hometown of Toronto. She is one of the most famous denizens of the gay scene in Toronto, Canada's largest city, where Queer as Folk is filmed and a regular host and performer at the city's biggest gay nightclubs.
Lena Love says it was a "bor-ing" drag queen who inadvertently convinced her to take to the stage at gay events around town. "I could do that in a second," she thought to herself after the show. Soon enough her stage became world-wide, including all the major circuit party events, from Montreal's Black & Blue Ball to Miami's White Party to this year's Cherry 9, where she'll perform at the Sunday Night Closing Event at Dream.
But most important of all the things she isn't: Lena Love isn't a drag queen. And she doesn't play one, appearances notwithstanding.
"Let's just say I'm not trying to be a woman because I am a woman," she says.
METRO WEEKLY: I Googled you before the interview. Have you Googled yourself?
LENA LOVE: No, I haven't. I'm scared to.
MW: Actually, it's pretty amusing. There's a site featuring a Japanese woman named Lena Love, whose one phrase in English besides her name is "Waiting for you."
LOVE: Oh, okay. I love her already.
MW: And then there's a "High-Class Escort" in Munich with that name. She looks anything but high class.
LOVE: Ooh, really. Very nice.
MW: Is Lena Love your real name?
LOVE: Lena's my real name. Love is not. I'm not giving you my last name, because it's about twenty letters.
MW: And I also wasn't clear whether you were a woman.
LOVE: I am a woman. I love that question. [Sighs.]
MW: I guess I assumed you were a drag queen.
LOVE: Yeah, well no.
MW: I guess I'm not the first.
LOVE: You're probably the thousandth.
MW: And you must be tired of that.
LOVE: I'm getting pretty over it. Especially when people start making bets on you. I'll go into a club and there'll be people betting whether I'm a man or a woman. At least someone's making money.
MW: Probably part of the reason people first think you're a drag queen is that you go for an androgynous look.
LOVE: You don't normally have a woman on stage at an all-male gay party, so it's natural [to think that]. But I don't think I look like a man. I think in person I'm pretty womanly -- I hope I am. [But] once you dress half-naked, put on really high eyebrows, and slick your hair back you're going to look like -- we'll say a fine-line drag queen/woman.
MW: You started performing when you were 15? That's very young.
LOVE: Yeah, very young, very fresh, very green. Not anymore.
MW: Where you living at home at the time?
LOVE: It was kind of a toss up between home and downtown. My mother still really doesn't understand what I do. She just thinks I dance. And if you ask me why I'm a woman doing this, I can't really answer that question. People ask, "Why are you [performing for a gay audience]?" I don't know. I don't know why they enjoy it. I have a lot of men coming up to me saying how drag queens annoy them, or that they can't really understand a man getting into drag on stage and then they'll praise me for being a woman and doing that. And sometimes you get the total opposite too.
MW: Like, "How dare you?"
LOVE: Right. I haven't bumped into that a lot, I guess, cause maybe they're too scared to come up to me. But I know a lot of men don't like women in the gay scene at all in general.
MW: What should we expect from your show?
LOVE: It's an eight-minute show. Pretty quick. A little bit of flash, a little bit of nudity, a little bit of ballet dancing with little pointy shoes.
MW: Is it a new routine?
LOVE: Yeah, it's pretty much a new concept, requiring me being nude and body-painted, possibly. I may be nude, I may not be nude. There's going to be four boys that I bring down with me -- my entourage.
MW: So will your entourage be nude as well?
LOVE: It's a possibility. It's up in the air. That's the question of the whole weekend: Will there be nudity, will there not be nudity?
MW: For the record, are you a lesbian?
LOVE: No, I'm straight.
MW: And your entourage?
LOVE: Oh yeah, they're all gay. I don't want to bring straight men down there. Are you crazy? Ohmigod, ne-ver!
Lena Love and her entourage perform at the Sunday Night Event at Dream, 1350 Okie Street NE, from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Tickets available at Universal Gear, 1601 17th Street NW, or at the Cherry Welcome Center, Washington Terrace Hotel, 1515 Rhode Island Avenue NW. Visit www.cherryfund.org.