On a Thursday night in Brooklyn, a massive warehouse has been transformed into a showcase of Latinx arts and culture: An artist creates a new piece live in the space, food trucks pump out fresh Mexican and Venezuelan cuisine, and enormous projections of swirling shapes and colors dance across every spare wall.
This is Pa’ Mi Gente, an event produced by Instagram and Facebook to highlight online Latinx culture. And at its center, change-making Latinx creators have come together onstage for a panel to discuss their relationship to social media.
“Can you hear me okay?” the first panelist asks, pulling her body mic up to her mouth. But being heard isn’t a problem for fellow panelist Kandy Muse, whose iconic booming voice fills the warehouse with ease. The drag legend achieved a new level of fame last year when she competed on RuPaul’s Drag Race, but since long before that, she’s been making waves in New York City’s drag scene.
“I have this outlet where now I not only need to speak for myself, but also to speak for a lot of queer voices that aren’t heard or that aren’t taken serious”
“I’ve always been very Latino, in your face,” Muse tells INTO. “I’m from the South Bronx, born and raised in New York City — I can’t hide me being a queer, Brown, person of color. And when I started drag, that just amplified everything that I was times 10.”
Now, her voice has been amplified too, broadcast not only on TV, but to her more than 400,000 Instagram followers.
“I have this outlet where now I not only need to speak for myself, but also to speak for a lot of queer voices that aren’t heard or that aren’t taken serious,” Muse says. “I find that I do have a responsibility.”
It’s a platform unlike anything Muse expected when she started drag almost eight years ago. Back then, she says, social media was merely “a cute thing to use.” Now, it seems like you can’t make a name as a drag artist — or as anything else, for that matter — if you don’t have an Instagram account.
“Even if you have two followers or two million followers, if you really want something, whether it’s an entertainment career, or whatever you want to do, and you have social media available to use, use it to your advantage”
“You don’t exist if you don’t have social media,” Muse sums it up.
Muse is an expert on making the most out of apps like Instagram: even prior to appearing on Drag Race, she had over 60,000 followers on the platform. She’s confident that even if she’d never been on television, she’d still be as successful as she is today through the power of her social media presence.
“Even if you have two followers or two million followers, if you really want something, whether it’s an entertainment career, or whatever you want to do, and you have social media available to use, use it to your advantage,” she advises. “You really can create an amazing career and life out of using social media.”
“Post the content that you want. Create relationships with the people that you want”
But Muse is all too familiar with social media’s dark side, too. She was a controversial figure on her season of Drag Race, one the internet loved to hate. Kandy admits having fed into the negativity, lurking in comment sections to read every opinion, good or bad. But she’s since learned better, and she recommends her terminally online haters do the same.
“There is a thing called grass, and if you go outside and touch it, I promise you, it does wonders,” she says.
“There are bad things to everything in life, and what I’ve learned now is: Post the content that you want. Create relationships with the people that you want,” she continues. “There’s always gonna be a negative comment, I promise you — I could take a selfie with Jesus Christ himself and people would still find something to talk shit about.”
So, instead of focusing on negativity, Muse uses her platform to forge connections she’d never find otherwise.
“Social media is the key to success,” she insists. It was the key to connecting with celebrities like Ariana Grande (her “Latina sister,” Muse jokes), whose fan-favorite track “Touch It” Muse performed after the panel to a crowd of starstruck fans.
It was the key to connecting with a horror icon who “traumatized” her as a child: Chucky, the legendary killer doll from the Child’s Play franchise, who recently called Muse “a real one” over Twitter. “That is all I needed, baby!” she says. “I’m obsessed with Chucky. I wanna be friends with him so bad.”
“And if you didn’t know, Chucky’s also Latin!” she adds. (“No, he’s not,” she admits a few seconds later, then bursts into laughter.)
.@thekandymuse ur a real one#chucky https://t.co/J2ME23dz93
— Chucky (@ChuckyIsReal) October 13, 2022
And, most importantly to Muse, social media is the key to connecting with her queer community in the Dominican Republic.
“Being gay over there is not really accepted at the moment. They have passed some laws that don’t benefit our community. And I find that as someone who is Dominican and has this platform and this career, I’m able to give them a little bit of hope,” she says. “If I can do it, they can do it too.”♦