Art. Kia Labeija is an Multidisciplinary HIV Positive Artist Who Explores Race, Sexuality, Politics, and Gender in Her Performance Art.

Kia LaBeija
(Image via Kia LaBeija)

Kia Labeija is a photographer, performance, and installation artist, who lives and works in New York City. Much of her works deal with race, politics, womanhood, society and her status as an HIV positive woman of color. Her stylish image and her chosen moniker pay homage to the distinctive black and Latino queer culture in New York City that first gained widespread visibility in the 1990’s.

Labeija recently spoke to VICE about her life and art,

“That name comes with a lot of history,” Kia LaBeija tells me. “And in respecting that name and that legacy, I’ve made it my duty to know the history.” The legacy she refers to is some 40 years of queer black and Latino culture, organized into groups (called houses) and revolving around balls, all-night social events cum dance battles that began in Harlem and now happen in cities around the world. The balls existed long before the houses, but in 1977, Crystal LaBeija announced that her event was hosted by the “House of LaBeija,” a phraseology that soon caught on. Once you join a house, you can take on that name, which is how Kia Michelle Benbow became Kia LaBeija. And by using that name in all aspects of her life, that history is represented in everything LaBeija does, as a dancer, photographer, and storyteller, sharing her truth as a young person born HIV positive.