Queer Women to Watch: Fall 2008

Keeping up with all of the queer women doing cool things is a daunting task for some, but AfterEllen.com is up for the challenge. So every quarter, we’ll be bringing you Queer Women to Watch, an introduction to some of the up and comers in different fields of art and entertainment.

For our first edition, we chose women in comedy, photography, music and graphic novels. We’re trying to keep up with the ladies of the time, and they’re moving quickly!

Let us know if you have any suggestions for future Queer Women to Watch at afterellentips@gmail.com.

Cameron Esposito, comedian

Being a lesbian comedian generally means there’s a lot of
fodder for your act in daily life. Cameron Esposito takes full advantage of
this and says being gay influences her comedic writing “in every way.”

“I talk about my girlfriend, past relationships, and add a
ton of non sequitur and weird little observations,” Esposito said. “I feel the
same about my being a female comic in a male-dominated field … I can’t possibly
divorce either of those qualities from my act, because they shape how I see the
world.”

The Chicago-based comedian has been working the stand-up
scene for two years.

Previously she worked professionally in improv. Being able
to quit her day job (which is the biggest accomplishment she says she’s had
thus far) has allowed her to focus on her act full-time because, well, it’s a
full-time job. When not performing, she’s hosting comedy gatherings at several
other venues in the city and filming web shorts.

Esposito performed this summer in Boston,
New York City and Cleveland, and in 2009, she’ll also be
appearing at the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival.

Life wasn’t always fun and games for the funny lady, though.

“I grew up in a very conservative suburb of Chicago,” Esposito said. “I had a great
childhood, and I have a very loving and open family, but I never met an openly
gay person growing up. Forget never met — I had
never heard of an openly gay person in my community. I came out during undergrad, at a good
Catholic school, and was super devastated in the process. I couldn’t fathom how
my life would change and what my adulthood would look like.”

A true comedian, Esposito has been able to turn her rough
and tough times into hilarious anecdotes as she claims now to be living “a
functional life.”

“I guess my goal as a stand-up is to be very open about my life,
to draw my audience members into recognizing our similarities — whatever their
orientation — and to be available as an example of how awesome things can turn
out, for anybody questioning their own orientation in the audience,” she said.
“Oh yeah, and to be funny. Very, very funny. And witty. And concise.”

Von Iva, band

Although they lent the theme song to Curl Girls, Logo’s series about lesbian surfers, and then played on
the beach during an episode, musical trio Von Iva has managed to stay below the
queer music radar.

“I think a lot of people don’t know that half of us are
gay,” keyboardist Becky Kupersmith said.

As part of the queer half, she has been in a relationship
with band mate, drummer Kelly Harris, for eight years. “It’s actually pretty good,”
Kupersmith said of being in a band with her significant other.

They met playing music, and with singer Jillian Iva, the
group is a cohesive effort that mixes the best parts of punk and dance music
together. Songs like “Lala” from their self-released 2007 album Our Own Island are what have given Von
Iva the opportunities they’ve received so far, from their guest spot on Curl Girls to an upcoming performance
starring alongside Zooey Deschanel and Jim Carrey in the film Yes Man. A producer for the film happened
upon their CD at a record store and liked their look. Once he heard the music,
he was sold, and they were hired to become a band with Deschanel in the movie.

Von Iva’s shots received such good feedback in initial
screenings that they’ve been brought back in to shoot additional scenes. It’s
not a bad gig for an aspiring band, especially as they co-wrote the songs for
the film and will likely receive much more play after the film releases this
winter.

Harris, Kupersmith’s partner, says she would describe Von Iva as
“high-energy” above anything else. “A lot of our songs in the live shows have
gone from dance songs to organic rock jams,” she said in trying to put the glam
trio’s sound into words.

After a short summer tour with Girl in a Coma, Harris said
she enjoyed being in such a queer-positive atmosphere on the road.

“There are times when I feel really excited to be a lesbian
in a band,” Harris said. “But I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to
anybody.”

Look for an album deal for Von Iva in the near future.

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