Prizm News / April 9, 2019 / By Ken Schneck

Viva Valezz (Photo by Roy Varga Photography)

The Fierce! Queer Performing Arts Festival is returning to Columbus with their unique brand of crowd-pleasing entertainment.

By Ken Schneck

Thomas Wolfe famously wrote, “You can’t go home again.” Well, nobody seems to have told that to Viva Valezz.

Not only is the Ohio State graduate and former long-time Columbus resident bringing her Fierce! Queer Performing Arts Festival back to its old Cbus stomping grounds, but she’s bringing nearly 100 visiting performers along to celebrate the joyous and oh-so-queer homecoming.

“Part of my heart has always been in Columbus,” says Valezz, now based in Pittsburgh. “Don’t get me wrong, Pittsburgh is great, but there’s nothing like the supportive energy of Columbus.”

Born in 2013, Fierce! was originally titled the “Fierce! International Queer Burlesque Festival,” a direct link to Valezz’s life as a burlesque dancer. But don’t be fooled by the name: even from the start, Fierce! featured a wide variety of genres of performance. Now in its 7th year, the Festival has not only continued the tradition of highlighting diverse array of performers, but has officially changed its name to reflect this reality.

“You’re going to see burlesque, spoken word performers, singers, comedians and so much more,” says Valezz. “And a lot of drag kings, who I think are the unsung heroes of the drag community. I love giving them more of a stage.”

Crocodile Lightning (Photo by MAF Photography)

Of note, this year’s Festival also will showcase two headliner firsts: Jesse Factor, a contemporary dancer, will be the first non-drag, non-burlesque headliner, and Crocodile Lightning will be the first trans headliner.

Though the name may be different and venues may have changed, the commitment to presenting queer performers has never wavered. It is a duty that Valezz feels keenly, especially in the current cultural climate.

“Now more than ever, with an political administration that wants to keep us quiet or legislate us out of existence, we need queer visibility,” says Valezz. “With everything feeling like the late 60s all over again, it’s important that queer youngsters know that they have talents that need to be seen.”

As the Festival has moved forward throughout the years, Valezz embraces the challenge to both grow the schedule as well as stay current in the latest trends in performance. She has increased her staff and created a Fierce! Advisory Council to help search out talent and spread the Fierce! gospel.

“I’m not a spring chicken,” laughs Velezz. “I’m 52 years old and I don’t pretend to have my finger on all the cool things, if people even say the word ‘cool’ anymore.”

Columbus audiences are in for a real treat when the Festival launches: four shows over four star-studded days, with performers from around the country creating a celebration of the creativity, talent, and passion of the LGBTQ community. One thing we can promise: it will all be fierce, a word Velezz wants us all to hold close to our hearts.

Jesse Factor (Photo by Miranda Meyer)

“We all can be more fierce,” advises Velezz. “Be yourself always, don’t shrink for anyone, and sparkle brightly. That’s what the Fierce! Festival is all about.”

The 7th Annual Fierce! Queer Performing Arts Festival will be held from May 9-12 at various locations all over Columbus. Visit the Fierce! website for more info and ticketing information.