by Princess Harmony
Black Girl Dangerous’ Crush of the Month is a feature where we choose the most swoon-worthy and inspirational QTPoC whose work and flair has left us inspired and blushing. Then we interview them so our amazing readers can join us in crushing, fanning, and absolutely swooning over these amazing QTs.
This month’s crush is Louie A. Ortiz of The Gran Varones!!
Born and raised in North Philly, Louie A. Ortiz is a filmmaker committed to representing stories of queer Latino and Afrolatin men who don’t find themselves represented in the media. For Louie, what originally started as a documentary has turned into an ongoing project called The Gran Varones. As if that weren’t enough, Louie and his collaborators also hold conversations in the community, including one coming up in New York City at the end of the month. Based on the way he presents himself, we can tell he takes pride in his community and who he has become today.
Has it gotten hot in here, or is it just us? Without further ado, here’s Louie!
Harmony: All of us start somewhere. How did you start doing the work you do? Since then, have your reasons changed for doing that work?
Louie: I had been doing HIV prevention and advocacy work for 20 years and was still one of the few Latino queer men in the damn room. I got tired of carrying that weight and buying into the bullshit belief that Latino gay men were hard to find. So I said, “Fuck y’all, imma go find them and prove that we exist.” That is how Gran Varones was born. Now it has grown from just collecting stories and documenting our existence to building community with Latino and queer men who are seldom invited to sit at the table.
Harmony: You’re a storyteller, so I’m sure you know some really moving stories. What’s the greatest love story you’ve ever heard?
Louie: I haven’t heard a lot of great love stories. Most of them start with “so after we hooked up…” That’s not to say that those aren’t great love stories! I have one of my own that began that way.
But my fave love story is “Pretty Woman.” At 13, I was drawn to Julia Roberts’ sex worker character. She reminded me of a few of my mother’s sex worker friends. People on the block talked shit about them, but they watched over me and read books to me. Watching Julia’s character find love (although very heteronormative and patriarchal) made me believe that the women who I watched other adults talk shit about could find love and deserved it. I also wanted to wear thigh high zipper patent leather boots, but the gender norms of the late 80s and 90s did not necessarily allow me to do that so freely.
Harmony: I find that artists are really passionate people! What’s one way you like to demonstrate to someone that you’re passionate about them?
Louie: As a teen and young adult, I would make mixtapes for the people I loved. I took that shit seriously, too. The list of songs and the order had to be perfect. Then I would give the mixtape a few listens to make sure it sounded perfect. Of course, everyone has playlists now so that killed my mixtape vibe. Damn you iTunes!!! Now, I take their photo. Capturing them and their beautiful spirit as I see it is a gift for both of us. It’s a moment that only we share.
Harmony: Let’s talk about heartbreak for a moment. Heartbreak can be a catalyst in a lot of people’s lives to learn about themselves or about the world. What’s one lesson that heartbreak taught you?
Louie: I had this major crush on a dude from New York that I met in an AOL chat room lol. Mariah’s “Emancipation of Mimi” had just been released and I, as a Mariah fan, had to make sure he bought it. He did and it made me feel like I could marry him lol.
Anyway, we only hung out once and we connected, but then he just stopped calling me. I told myself that he didn’t like me because I was fat, ugly and some other whack shit I believed about myself. I was mad as hell. So when he hit me up on instant messenger a few weeks later, I was short with him. He tried to keep the convo going but I wasn’t in the mood. He said “Ok. I wanted to hit you up because I am on my way to the hospital.” I said “Ok, bye.”
About a month later, I found out that he died at the hospital from fuckin’ complications of HIV. Fuckin’ HIV at just 25! I literally lost my breath. It hit me then that I had made up a story about why he didn’t call. I made it all about me. He could have easily done the same and assumed shit about me. That is when I felt the greater lost – the loss of possibility. I promised myself that I would never stop speaking to someone without having clarity or without the opportunity to discuss shit. I carry that with me every day. Some friends say that I am too nice but honestly, I am afraid of losing someone twice.
Harmony: As a filmmaker, you must know a lot about capturing subjects in the best light. Can you give me tips for taking better selfies? Asking for a friend.
Louie: Always use sunlight and daylight. They provide the best lights! Early morning and late afternoon. I always practice my poses and take as many photos as needed. I post the ones I immediately love and keep the others. I have learned that pics we hate today are the ones we love a week later.
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