January 16, 2021
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Searching for Serenity: A Queen for All Seasons

serenity (noun)—(1)  calm and peaceful; (2) clear and free of storms or unpleasant change; (3) shining bright and steady; (4) marked by or suggestive of utter calm and unruffled repose or quietude.

Just when you thought the Lettes would go off quietly into the night, we’re back, just like that creepy little chick from poltergeist.

Whaddup fam? It’s the one and only Dark Carnival Tarot Reader, the DC gypsy Rachel Paul. We’re worlds away from the Gathering grounds and the season of the pumpkin is upon us. Damn. Has it really been that long? But I didn’t forget about you all.

Now if you read Scottie D’s infamous Gathering Review last month, you undoubtedly heard about the Lette’s Respect project’s successful takeover of the Miss Juggalette pageant. You can view the video here, thanks to our homies from True Juggalo Family:

[youtube width=”560″ height=”344″]http://youtu.be/E3kOIBeYA64[/youtube]

And after a long game of phone tag, I finally got the chance to catch up with our winner, Queen Serenity (aka Syn): Lette’s Respect supporter and our Miss Juggalette 2013. This here is a little piece I wrote after having an extensive conversation/interview with her. Give it up, folks. All hail the first ever Juggalette Queen. We here at FLH adore her. We just gotta bow down in a little puddle of Faygo, in awe and reverence.

I was so happy to have the chance to talk to her, finally, after all that went down at the Miss Juggalette Pageant, which went over way better than any of us could have imagined. The girls were brave, man. Straight up brave, going beyond their comfort zone to make a statement (and yup win that platinum plaque). Serenity was no exception. Her fire-breathing performance at the pageant was unforgettable. And her costumes and personality on the mic were on point. We couldn’t have asked for a more deserving or lovely winner—a true-life representation of the word “juggalette.” I feel like lettes are some of the sweetest, down-to-earth, creative, understanding people on the planet. Syn fits the bill perfectly.

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Now, let me start off by explaining something that really struck me about catching up with the Queen herself. It’s something very little but, for me, very significant. Hear me out:

Serenity has a landline. And that’s her only phone. She asked me to call her and instructed, “You may have to press 1 before you dial the number.”

In a click-ping-tweet-comment-text-chat-instant message-now-now-now world, here is a woman with a landline. Who still accounts for the 1 preceding long-distance calls. It’s not a matter of being outdated or a “dinosaur.” It’s simplicity. Her simplicity is what struck me most. Dial 1 before the number. And then ask a stranger: “Is…Is Serenity there?” In this age of cell phones, texting, and instant communication and gratification, I’d almost forgotten how to ask for someone. Almost. But I’m glad I did.

And I thought about that phrase—“asking for it.” The Lette’s Respect movement started as the result of an encounter I had with a group of bouncers in a nightclub, who assaulted me and then tried to silence me about the incident, essentially claiming that I was “asking for it.” And so, with the help of some great friends, both male and female, FLH flipped the script and started “asking for it” in a different way: We asked for a change in our little artistic clowny subculture. We asked for a different level of awareness to the needs and dreams of our sisters, the juggalettes. Pushy bouncers and Tech N9ne’s titty chants come with the territory, sure. And it’s all fun and games, to an extent. But when women are hurting and getting dissed on deeper levels, both in the juggalo world and the world at large, it’s time to ask for something different. And we did. Call it what you want.

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When we raised the topic of the Miss Juggalette Pageant and asked people, particularly the girls, how they felt, the response was overwhelming. I stood there on the Gathering grounds, promoting the Lette’s Respect project with a couple flyers and some good old word-of-mouth. And a 60-year-old woman came up to me: “Are you the girl who started asking questions about the Miss Juggalette Pageant?” I said I was. “Thank you. You inspire me. I have to check it out this year and see how it goes…but maybe next year, shit, I’ll enter. I’d love to be queen for a day!” She smiled. And I was so shocked. Me? Little me? Inspiring this woman who could be my mother or even grandmother? And it’s all because we asked. We asked for it. We asked for a change. We asked for…Serenity.

And there I was. Calling her landline. And asking for her, once again: “Is Serenity there?” Ask, and it shall be given.

Serenity has a low, husky voice, glasses, and bright blue and blond dreads. She’s a mother of a first grader, fire-breather, and performer in the RIFT fire troupe. (True circus status!) She has a Zelda tattoo. A smile that lights up a room. A style unlike any other. But it’s her simplicity, man. To me, that’s what makes her so special. She has a fucking landline, and I love it.

When I asked Serenity about her experience being crowned Queen of the juggalettes, she exclaimed, “I never won anything! I’m a nerd…When I walked toward the stage, I was so freakin nervous. And there was Jumpsteady, standing by the side of the stage. He’s like…king of the nerds. I felt home among my people at that moment. [Laughs.] And he looks at me and says, ‘I like you. There’s something about your energy. Just do a good job up there, k?’”

“And I felt like…damn. OK. I CAN do this! It’s for the nerds and the outcasts. I don’t need to be perfect to be a beauty queen. I just gotta be me. That I can do. And it was like my heart just opened at that moment. I knew what I had to do.”

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Serenity spoke about just being natural on stage. Being herself. Being free, light, and easy. Joking with the Rude Boy, and then having the confidence to pull off her daredevil fire stunts, which shocked and wowed the crowd.

What’s her secret? If you ask me, it’s her lack of ego that allowed her to pull off such an amazing feat for the talent portion:

“I got into fire breathing and fire eating because I didn’t care about my face. I could burn it up tomorrow. No loss. It’s not that I don’t think I’m pretty…It’s that I don’t care. So I can play with fire. I don’t care if I get burned.”

So here is a woman who can shoot flames about 5 feet into the air or higher, precisely because she does not care about her face. She lacks ego. Therein lies her power. Therein lies her beauty.

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Standing out in the August sun, overlooking the crowd, as that joy of her victory set in, she had no ego to speak of–a state-of-being made apparent by her dispersal of the prize money among her friends (each taking away a piece of merch from the voucher). She even tried to give me her crown and her plaque, because of the articles I wrote. She had tears in her eyes. I told her, “No. Keep it. It’s yours!!!”

“We ALL won that day,” She says. “It was our movement that won, not me. It was juggalettes that won. So we could stop being stereotyped and break barriers. It’s something little. It’s not that serious. It’s not a statement for women everywhere…but, in a way, it IS the little things that make a difference. To be a part of that shift? I’m honored.”

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And I listened to her words, ear pressed against the receiver, and felt the tears in my eyes. It was almost destiny that she took the crown.

I’m a painter. And I made two juggalette-inspired paintings specifically for the contest, titled “naughty” and “nice”: The “naughty” lette held the severed head of Ron Jeremy, representing the slaughter of ignorance that was about to occur. The “nice” lette…was the fire breather. Because I heard about the fire breathers who wanted to perform on stage. I was excited for them! And when I saw Serenity, I was shocked. I wound up just giving her the painting before the contest. Because it WAS her. Look at it:

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Never before had I seen her. But the blue painting matches her dreads almost exactly. The fire breather. A true circus icon. Burning down barriers. Yes. This is Queen Serenity. She could be seen around the Gathering grounds breathing fire in her sash and crown all weekend. That fearless heart. A circus performer. A mother. A friend. An icon. Who didn’t care about burning her own face. Who doesn’t own a cell phone. My Queen.

During our conversation, Serenity told me this great story. She has a golden jacket that reads “juggalette” on the back. “I love that jacket. I’ve had it for years!” She spoke about her experiences going to a nightclub in her coat and being ridiculed: “Just put a sign on your back that says ‘slut,’” a so-called juggalo teased her.

“I won the contest and went back to the campsite. I said ‘Fuck this!’ and put that gold coat right on me, with pride. And I said ‘NOW let somebody say something!’”

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She spoke to me about her experiences with misogyny in the juggalo community and how the contest signifies a shift in that boy’s-club culture:

“It’s like these dudes claim to love ICP’s music, but do they hear the words? Like, really listen? We all know that so-called juggalo that smacks his girl around. It’s bullshit. Listen to the words. And watch out. Because you think you know, but do you really? It’s time for a change. I’m glad to be part of it.”

She also talked about how the contest affected the women around her on a positive level—what J has called love’s chain reaction:

“And now my 80-year-old grandmother turns and says to me, ‘Congrats on being the Queen of your…juggalas, sweetie. I think that’s great!’ My supervisor at work even congratulated me. Random people hit me up and tell me how my performance encouraged them. There’s this German documentary team that wants to include me in their film about juggalos. And all these girls are saying how excited they are for next year’s contest. The one girl told me she never had the courage to do it because of her freckles. I said, ‘Girl, do you! Your freckles are beautiful!’ Another girl wants to do standup comedy but never had the courage until now. I told her to go for it. Shine!”

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And in the most heartfelt portion of our conversation, Serenity talked about how the contest was a personal victory for her. To me, this is really profound stuff:

“The crown and the plaque mean nothing compared to how I feel about my own self after winning the contest, even with the swimsuit portion. It’s a very personal thing, but, honestly, after my son was born, yeah I had stretch marks. I was always criticizing my body. I didn’t want to get up there in a swimsuit! But I did anyway. And I won! We all did. Every single girl who had the strength to stand up there won. And after the contest, I decided I would celebrate that part of myself from this point on. No more criticizing my body, my stretch marks. I pierced my belly button as a gift to myself to celebrate that part of me.”

I sat there in silence, just blown away, listening to her.

Can I get deep with you fam? Just really real? Just for a second?

Alright, so, to me, stretch marks are battle scars that women obtain when they bring forth human life itself. Think about that. They come from women’s ability to CREATE LIFE. Yet society and mainstream culture tell us that these marks are ugly and shameful. How could they be, though, when they are a symbol of life and motherhood? I ask: Why not adorn that? And celebrate that? With confidence and self-worth. Just as Serenity, here, has done.

These are all things we need to strive for, man or woman. Even if we’re just clowns. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. And Serenity is a symbol of all that. She encompasses it. The woman who didn’t care about burning her face can now adorn her navel with jewels, dressed in a golden coat, with no shame. Breathing flames. With a crown on her head.

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And she still stays centered in all this:

“Life is about being happy. It’s not about having a big house or a whole lot of money. It’s about living with an open heart. And being confident in yourself. And loving yourself. Find true happiness. This is my message to the juggalo—err, juggalette—world.”

Yes, Serenity. You are a Queen for all seasons. As summer turns to fall, we remember what you did on that stage. And we applaud you.

And next year, when our next group of proud juggalettes stand up just like you did, you will be there on stage to pass along the crown.

Me? I’ll be backstage again, working. Taking care of my girls. Bringing you plenty of water. Anything you need. You queens. You daredevils. My inspirations and my heroes. Lettes Respect.

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And now, if you’re still reading, I’ma end this here reflection with three thank yous:

A heartfelt thank you to Queen Serenity and the RIFT fire troupe. All hail the queen.

A thank you to ALL the queens that made Miss Juggalette 2013 something remarkable. You are all winners.

And last but not least, thank you to Psychopathic Records for creating such a beautiful space for us to shine. We love you very much.

You can give Queen Serenity’s fire troupe a shout-out on facebook and, with their help, keep it nice and toasty this fall, juggalos and lettes: https://www.facebook.com/therift6

Until next time…

Rachel Paul (aka “wow a chick”) is the author and illustrator of the Dark Carnival Tarot Cards and the unofficial Faygoluvers graphics grrrl. She bounces back and forth between Philly and Detroit and loves long walks on the beach, Jumpsteady’s The Road, and Candy Apple Faygo. Visit her at facebook.com/darkcarnivaltarot or etsy.com/shop/darkcarnivaltarot

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    Faygoluvers Comments

  1. OCJ_Brendan

    OCJ_Brendan

    Comment posted on Monday, October 7th, 2013 09:29 am GMT -6 at 9:29 am

    Actually quite a good read. Keep it up Rachel

  2. scruffy

    scruffy

    Comment posted on Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 05:38 am GMT -6 at 5:38 am

    yyyay! again.

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