Lucie Arnaz says:
"A charming personality. Full of light and love up there. Pure joy. The band is superb. The harmonies were sharp and right on target."
"The fact that Rev. Yolanda is dressed as a woman, with a large red wig ("the higher the hair, the closer to God") and black platform shoes with 6 inch heels is completely irrelevant to her goal of delivering a totally legitimate, soulful Gospel Hour of inspirational music (and a few dance steps) that could successfully play before the most Christian Conservative audience in the nation and still get a standing ovation." - Dr.Thomas Stevens
"If Tammy Faye Baker was a flaming social liberal who looked like a middle linebacker and sang in a Prairie Home Companion show at the Grand Ole Opry that was broadcast over NPR-she'd be Roger Anthony Mapes doing Rev. Yolanda's Old-Time Gospel Hour. " - Stephen Hanks, Broadway World
from Broadway and Film composer:
"LOVED your show! You are well on your way to creating a character the
likes of which Bette Midler, Divine, Dolly Parton, Phyllis Diller, etc.
created. Someone who is iconic, funny, loveable, and has a story to tell that is larger than life and yet touches everyone.
If this woman/man could make it to self-acceptance and gratitude, so can we, WHATEVER is going on in our lives and WHOEVER we are. This loveable and talented character whom you have created is YOU. The more you step into it, the more you understand the IMPORTANCE and POWER of who this woman/man is and what his/her story has to offer us, the bigger this show will get.
Oh yeah, and you sing great too! Congratulations. You have a hit on your hands.
The wig alone is worth the price of admission."
Holy Rollers (in Her Hair): An Interview With Rev. Yolanda
With her blond bouffant, ample bosom, and meticulous lipstick, Yolanda Mapes might look like a stereotypical church matron, but the five o'clock shadow and big-boned feet betray the truth: she's no lady. Billing herself as the "alien love child of Louise Hay and John Waters with a splash of Dolly Parton," this cross-dressing minister of God brings her sassy brand of gospel music to New York City this month with a series of musical performances at the Duplex Cabaret.
Reverend Roger Anthony Mapes, the man behind Yolanda's thick pancake makeup, sat down for an interview with me this week.
PERPETUAL CHANGE-by Pamela DeGroff
Rev. Yolanda’s Old Time Gospel Hour — The Movie
Rev. Yolanda (a.k.a. Roger Anthony Mapes) is an artist who has been featured in this column several times since I first heard her 1999 album Yolanda And The Plastic Family. Over the years, several interviews and music project reviews have followed.
A couple years back, Rev. Yolanda developed a live musical called Rev. Yolanda’s Old Time gospel Hour. The show won a Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs Award (MAC) earlier this year for Best Impersonation/Characterization/Drag Artist. The show has since been filmed and is scheduled to be premiered next month in Colorado.
Along with all this, Rev. Yolanda has also partnered with Howard Hopwood to develop a recording studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The focus of this project is to eventually provide a working recording studio environment for LGBT artists that is not only welcoming but affordable. As of this writing, the project is temporarily on hold due to funding issues, but not entirely out of the picture. Rev. Yolanda still plans on being involved when the time arrives.
Until then, in this latest TGForum interview, Rev. Yolanda not only talks about the studio project, but offers a lot of insight into Rev. Yolanda’s Old Time Gospel Hour — The Movie.FOR FULL ARTICLE CLICK HERE
I am so proud to have been interviewed on PRIDENet Radio in Colorado Springs
by Charlie and Marlene of COS PRIDE:
MAC Award Winner Rev. Yolanda Appears at Outright VT's Silver Celebration
2014 MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabaret Artists) Award winner Rev. Yolanda appeared at Outright Vermont's 25th Anniversary Silver Celebration on April 11th in Williston, Vermont. New York audiences recognize Yolanda from her cabaret show, REV. YOLANDA'S OLD TIME GOSPEL HOUR, while Vermonters may know her from the public access television show she co-hosted with Cherie Tartt from the mid-'90s through 2001, or from her band, Yolanda & the Plastic Family.
Rev. Yolanda's appearance capped off the evening. In a set of live songs sprinkled with patter and interaction with the audience, Yolanda radiated joy and humor. Her rich, grounded voice was perfectly suited for her song choices, one of which ("We Are Angels") she sings in her New York shows. ( FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE CLICK HERE)
Reverend Yolanda’s Country Gospel Kirtan Vol.1 God Is (Album Review)
One of the more unusual CDs to come across my desk in the past few whiles is Rev. Yolanda’s Country Gospel Kirtan vol.1 God Is. Recorded at Eastern Mountain Studios and produced by MIGHTY COMPANION MINISTRIES, I listened to this CD an even twenty times to try to get the most out of it. Perhaps I was expecting Alan Jackson singing the great hymns of the faith like “Power in The Blood”, or “When The Roll is Called Up Yonder.”….Not!
What this album is is a collection of original songs by a talented singer and guitar player. To call is country is a stretch, because there is no twang to the vocals or rural tension to the harmonies and the accompanying instrumentation of some of the numbers are too ethereal to really fit that genre at all.
To call it “Gospel” might mean that it has religious phases and inflections that mimic Christianity, but the Rev. Yolanda’s gospel is a far cry from the gospel of the bible. The religious statements bare a greater resemblance to Ekenkar than to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or even Jesus, for that matter.
Interview with Rev. Yolanda aka Roger Anthony Mapes, a versatile artist, activist and spiritual person
"Music reflects that process. Music is Inspiration itself. It is The Universal Life Force Energy expressing Itself as Music through me."
Rev. Yolanda: Divine Creative Impulse
Rev. Yolanda aka Roger Anthony Mapes is an accomplished, award-winning singer/songwriter, performance artist, activist and spiritual person. Roger was born in Muscle Shoals, Alabama –The Hit Recording Capital of The World. He joined his first band, Stained Glass Bluegrass, when he was only 17 years old. At age 28 Roger moved to New York City and began exploring theater and performance art. During this exploration he spent some time living in the Radical Faerie Community in Vermont. It was during this time that Yolanda was born (1993)! Yolanda developed a loyal following in Vermont with his/her original musical blend of rock, pop, country and jazz with her band Yolanda & The Plastic Family. They rocked the downtown scene in NYC celebrating the release of his first CD Yolanda & The Plastic Family.
Rev. Roger Anthony “Yolanda” Mapes was inducted into the GLBT Hall of Fame for Activism, Art Excellence and Community Awareness in 2005. It was around this time that Roger/Yolanda began a spiritual journey which led him/her to One Spirit Interfaith Seminary where s/he became Rev. Yolanda, an ordained Interfaith Minister in June of 2011. Rev. Yolanda’s Old Time Gospel Hour -the live, autobiographical Gospel Music show was realized in January of 2012 and the release of yet another album “Country” and “Gospel Kirtan” followed shortly thereafter. Rev. Yolanda has also been seen on “Family Stories” for the Discovery Channel playing Vivian Wheeler (the current Guiness Book of World Record-holder for bearded lady), and a feature film about his/her life by director Ike Allen is set to be released in early 2014. Rev. Yolanda is an eccentric and ecstatic performer with a southern rock, country gospel style. He brings his message of Non Duality into every event by merging GLBT and Mainstream Popular Culture with Integrated Spirituality. With a soulful voice, a message of oneness, great costumes, and a wicked sense of humor, his shows and CDs emphasize love, beautiful melodies, interesting stories, and a bit of inspiration. Roger/Yolanda is also a fine artist, who paints abstract expressionist paintings. His/Her paintings on canvas and clothing are in private collections all over the world.
How does music affect your mood and inspiration?
I am the cause of my mood according to my thoughts. Music reflects that process. Music is Inspiration itself. It is The Universal Life Force Energy expressing Itself as Music through me.
Do you know why the people write songs and plays music?
As a songwriter myself- I write and sing and play music because I must...it is my Path in this life to do so.
"My dream is to travel the world and to sing for thousands of people as an ambassador of good will to all living beings."
How started the thought the idea of Rev. Yolanda?
Rev. Yolanda is not a character I created for stage. Rev. Yolanda is totally me in full self expression. My entire name is Rev. Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes. I am a legal ordained Interfaith Minister and was ordained with my full name. I prefer to be called Rev. Yolanda whether I am dressed in “women's clothes” or not. I consider “Rev. Yolanda” my sacred name...somewhat like when a person receives a sacred name from their Guru or Teacher to symbolize their “awakening” into a committed Spiritual path. I took on the name Yolanda 20 years ago when I realized I was a person of “Transcendent Gender” that loves to wear what are considered to be “women's clothes”. In 1994, I began to perform in “women's clothes” with my rock and roll band The Plastic Family. In 2009 I left Rock and Roll and went to Interfaith Seminary because I felt called to music ministry and Country Gospel Music. I added the title “Rev.” to my name Yolanda, when I graduated from seminary in 2011.
What characterize the philosophy of Rev. Yolanda?
To live my life fully committed to love and forgiveness as a daily spiritual practice.
How can be the arts to crush the shackles of the human spirit and mind?
The Arts cannot relieve anyone of their suffering. That can only be done by the individual themselves in the private inner sanctuary of their heart as they listen for the Voice of Universal Love. After one realizes their own personal connection to The Divine... after the realization of how deeply they are loved by Life itself... then one begins to see how to deal with their own suffering and the suffering of others. It is an individual, personal path. That path finds many ways to express its Joy of Life and The Arts are one of those ways. Political Activism can also be one of those ways.. along with Education, or Spiritual Leadership, Parenting, Human Services.... and so on.
What was the relation between music, visual art and activism?
I believe that all artistic expression comes from the heart and soul of the artist expressing it...therefore the relationship between art and activism depends on whether the artist is an activist or not.
"Rev. Yolanda is not a character I created for stage. Rev. Yolanda is totally me in full self expression."
How we can change the mind of people?
We cannot change anyone's mind. We can, however, be the example of what we want to see more of in the world. Through the example of living our personal lives in a powerfully authentic way -some people will change their minds and go in the same direction we are going.
What would be your first decisions as minister of education?
To make each child go home with the parents of another child in their class and live as that child lives for a month. Then keep swapping children and families until everyone in the class had an opportunity to live with each parent for a month. I would assign each student to keep a daily journal. After all the children had this experience with each other's family, I would have them all come back to class and write about their experiences.
What are your hopes and fears for the future?
In all honesty, I don't entertain hopes and fears. I make a commitment to myself to understand myself and others as best I can. I make a daily habit of the spiritual practice of love and forgiveness and I let things be exactly as they are. In this way, I find that my life is more joyous than I could ever hope for and I don't fear my fellow humans because I know that I am sustained by the flow of life and the love of God.
What is the best advice ever given you and what advice would you give to the new generation?
"Music and Visual Art is…an expression of The Divine Creative Impulse."
What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you?
My husband Rev. Glen Ganaway makes me laugh every single day. He is my personal guru, teacher and goofball. We laugh and sing together and play like little kids.
I have become very emotional, lately, over the song HAPPY by Pharrell Williams. Its the most perfect song ever and I cry with joy whenever I hear it. In fact I am performing it in my next show on March 16 in NYC.
Some music styles can be fads but the Gospel, Blues and Jazz is always with us. Why do think that is?
Because they speak to the “everyman” in ways that are easily understood. These musical styles celebrate life on life's terms with hope for a better tomorrow. These musical styles have a way of helping us heal our personal pain.
Which incident of music history you‘d like to be captured and illustrated in a painting with you?
The day that The Rolling Stones came to my hometown Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record at FAME Studios.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?
There's no particular geographic location I want to go-I simply want to be onstage singing for thousands of people. I don't care where that happens just as long as its a joyous celebration of LOVE with me singing for thousands of people.
Why did you think that the Muscle Shoals sound continued to generate such a devoted following?
It was and still is a successful mixture of Black and White Culture. Funky soulful rhythms, feelings, lyrics, spirituality, and talent that does not segregate but,instead, brings people together... and it was developed during the Civil Rights movement in the South.. a volatile racial time in America.
"I believe that all artistic expression comes from the heart and soul of the artist expressing it...therefore the relationship between art and activism depends on whether the artist is an activist or not."
What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Soul and continue to Gospel and Southern Rock?
"Country music is often erroneously thought of as solely the creation of European Americans. However, a great deal of style—and of course, the banjo, a major instrument in most early American folk songs—came from African Americans. One of the reasons country music was created by African Americans, as well as European Americans, is because blacks and whites in rural communities in the south often worked and played together, just as recollected by DeFord Bailey in the PBS documentary, DeFord Bailey: A Legend Lost"-Wikipedia
I think these quotes say it all. Blues, Soul, Country, Black Gospel/White Gospel and Southern Rock all developed as a result of the common Southern poor folks -poor whites and poor blacks who brought their ancestral musical traditions together to develop new forms. In the early 20th century- African musical traditions mixed with Christianity and everyday suffering to create a secular musical response (Blues, Soul, early Rock), and a Spiritual musical response (Black Gospel). Southern white poor folks (NOT the land owners) sometimes worked side by side with Blacks and shared Irish, Celtic, Spanish and Italian musical traditions to create a secular response (Country Music-and later Rock and later Southern Rock) and a Spiritual response (Southern or Country Gospel Music...sometimes called Quartet Music or “White” Gospel or Country Soul). The music that was created was a mixture of African and European cultures and instruments (ex: African banjo-Irish fiddle-Spanish-guitar).
What is your dream and what is your nightmare?
I don't have nightmares.. I truly do not. I have trust in the human race as expressions of The Divine Mind and I believe that there is a bigger picture that we cannot imagine from our small human viewpoint. I believe that the bigger picture is for the good of all life on this planet and that it will unfold the way it is supposed to unfold. We can resist the unfolding or get on board with the flow of Life. The choice is an individual one to make.
My dream is to travel the world and to sing for thousands of people as an ambassador of good will to all living beings.
My life exactly as it is now. I do not need anything to change in order to be happy. If I never accomplished a single goal that I have set for myself-I would remain the happiest person alive because I know myself well and I allow Life to flow through me.
"To live my life fully committed to love and forgiveness as a daily spiritual practice."
Music and Visual Art is…
an expression of The Divine Creative Impulse.
How you would spend a day with Roger Mapes?
First of all -the day would be spent with Rev. Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes, because I take all of myself with me wherever I go. If you were with me on a typical day, we'd wake up around 9 or so and have a morning meditation with A Course In Miracles lesson for the day. Then I would spend some time on the computer answering email and posting on Facebook. Then I would go to a rehearsal, costume fitting, wig styling, or to facilitate a tarot card reading, counseling session, spiritual gathering, wedding, funeral service, or baby blessing. Depending on the day (usually 2 days of the week) I would go to my art studio and work on my paintings. When I get home-I'll cook a vegan meal for myself and cook some meat for my husband after that we might watch a movie together. On Thursday nights we broadcast a radio show from our home. On Wednesday nights we facilitate our weekly “church” service. On most Sunday nights I perform my show Rev Yolanda's Old time Gospel Hour.
What would you say to Aristophanes?
One of my most famous and notorious costumes was inspired by Lysistrata. The original comedy manipulated gender roles. Besides women acting like men (having political clout), there were men acting like women (all actors were male). The male characters wore large, erect leather phalluses like the one whose absence Lysistrata laments. So I devised a costume that transformed myself into a hermaphrodite creature ...claiming all the emotional power of a woman with the phallic power of a man (mine was 4 ft long and made of foam runner).
What would you like to ask the GOD?
God is not a being somewhere outside of myself sitting on a throne who judges people and awards prizes (like Santa Claus) to those who ask “Him” in the correct way (whatever that is). God is Universal Life Source Energy that flows through all living beings...humans, bugs, animals, plants, stars, space..etc. We are expressions in this world of this Life Force Energy that permeates and animates the universe. There is nothing to “ask” God for. We already have everything we need to create a peaceful loving world for ourselves and others. What I would like to ask humans (as expressions of The Divine) is “are you willing to remember who you really are?”
Entertainment :: Music
Kevin on Kabaret :: Dangerous Women & Radical Faeries
And for another kind of diva entirely, you must visit visit Rev. Yolanda’s Old Time Gospel Hour at the Duplex on October 20th. Rev. Yolanda is the creation of Rev. Roger Anthony "Yolanda" Mapes, an ordained Interfaith Minister. The show has been playing monthly at the Duplex for nearly two years.
Mapes grew up as a church-going boy in Muscle Shoals, Alabama (a very famous music town, actually). "I was very aware of being a gay boy in Alabama," Mapes told me. "I’d been playing in a gospel/bluegrass band since I was sixteen, but ended up leaving the church when I fell in love with a hot, red-headed bass player when I was in college."
That event, however, precipitated his detour into theater and New York. "I lived an outrageous life for many years," he recalled. "I was a political activist and a member of the Radical Faeries."
He met his future husband, a preacher’s kid, in the Radical Faeries as well. "We started reading the book ’Miracles’ and it helped us to heal with our past. We both ended up going to seminary. We have come to believe that all is good, everything is part of the journey."
When I asked him how the character of Yolanda came about, he said, "I don’t consider her a character and I actually prefer being called Yolanda. I consider myself kind of trans-not because I want to be a woman-but in the sense of transcendent and transformative."
Nevertheless, Yolanda was born on the Radical Faeries commune. "We were in drag on an almost daily basis and Yolanda kind of became my guide, and I came to identify with her." About the performance, he said, "It’s more of an exaggeration of femininity as it flows through me."
Mapes is an award-winning songwriter, and Yolanda performs original songs as well as old-time gospel classics. "People think it’s going to be cynical or making fun of Christianity," he said of the show. "But it’s not that at all. I poke fun at myself, but it’s a sincere show and I feel called to be doing this."
Recently, Rev. Yolanda performed in North Carolina, and while a few walked out, those who stayed rewarded her with a standing ovation. Mapes likes to tell the story of how a young gay man brought his conservative Christian mother to his show at The Duplex. Afterward, she gave Yolanda a hug and said, "I never thought it would be a drag queen that would bring my son back to the Lord!"
On a more serious note, Mapes said, "I see a desire for the LGBT community to reclaim spirituality. There’s a movement building."
Go see Rev. Yolanda on October 20th with her special guest, opera singer Martina Bruno. I can’t wait to check out this show . . .
Review by Jaleesa Jones:
Sashaying towards the stage in a teased wig, throngs of pearls and shimmering eye shadow,
Rev. Yolanda channels the stereotypical church matron as well as the iconic women
of Southern gospel.
He is, at once, the welcoming Big Mama and the sassy Dolly Parton.
From the first strum of his acoustic guitar, Yolanda holds the audience in a magnetic grip.
As his voice wavers at a haunting tenor and then soars to a joyful alto, there is
the mounting sense that
“Reverend Yolanda’s Old-Time Gospel Hour,” his show at the ArtsCenter Friday,
represents more than weekend entertainment.
It is a romanticized version of Yolanda’s own spiritual journey — from his conflicted,
Christian upbringing in Muscle Schoals, Alabama to hisLGBT activism with the Radical Faeries,
an activist group fighting to redefine queer consciousness, and finally, to his ascent as a gay,
Yolanda seamlessly interweaves these narratives with powerhouse vocals and a stage presence
that distills the full spectrum of human emotion: from enthused hand-clapping to joyful tears.
Yolanda’s band, led by Kenneth Gartman, is one of the best and tightest groups I have heard live.
Firstly, the musical chemistry between Gartman and Yolanda is matchless. Their distinct voices
manage to perfectly harmonize without competing with each other. The bluegrass accompaniments,
including a fiddle, banjo and bass, are also flawless and add an eclectic dimension to the
Perhaps even more dazzling than Yolanda’s actual vocals is his poise onstage.
There is a comfort to his stride — even in pink heels — that invites others to bask in the same
pool of self-assurance.
The message of love and acceptance communicated by Yolanda’s body language
to his music. Thus, the traditional gospel songs are not just hollow echoes
of his Christian past; they are confirmations of the divinity of each individual,
often reworded by Yolanda to reflect as such.
Yolanda’s original music also adds to the atmosphere of love at his shows. One in particular,
“Angels,” says, “We are angels, we are angels/and we’re struggling to be human.”
In a show that explores challenging ideas about gender and self-expression, this particular song
reaffirms the virtue of humanity.
While the notion of drag and gospel may initially be hard to reconcile, Yolanda accomplishes
this feat in a sincere and unpretentious manner.
To combat the Mizerable state of affairs on stage, our Salon Spotlight was quite the antidote: The Reverend Yolanda, who is now in her second year of performing Reverend Yolanda's Old Time Gospel Hour at The Duplex - the next performance of it will be October 20th, and other dates will include November 17th (for which a documentary filmmaker will be on hand to film the evening!) and December 15th. Accompanying herself on guitar, The Reverend first sang "I'll Fly Away," a rousing and fun traditional gospel song that had us all singing along with her. She then related how she just recently traveled to North Carolina and experienced how other audiences react to her message. To reflect the universal struggle of wanting the same things despite life's challenges, Yolanda sang "We Are Angels," an original piece of her's that has one of my favorite lyrics: "We are angels and we're struggling to be human." As part of the GLBT Hall of Fame, Yolanda's music is always inspiring hope, love, and acceptance. She finished her set with another original, a rocking, self-affirming song simply called "Freedom," which has a toe-tapping and hand-clapping beat that we all took part in.
Art Menius, Executive Director at The ArtsCenter, says of Rev. Yolanda:
“You have never quite experienced a show like this. Really. You have not, and you have to see it firsthand. Nor have I had a performer like Reverend Yolanda recommended to me by the minister of a local church. Reverend Yolanda, who started out as southern bluegrass gospel musician Roger Mapes, has blossomed in New York City. Despite the drag, Reverend Yolanda’s sincere love of music ministry and genuine spirits win over both people who never thought they would attend a drag show and those who would not be caught dead at a gospel concert.”
By far, the most outrageous part of Rev. Yolanda's Old Time Gospel Hour is its sincerity. Sure, there's good music and fantastic wigs and plus-size amounts of humor: It's a drag show, after all. But the Reverend Roger Anthony "Yolanda" Mapes isn't skewering faith -- the Rev. is living out his/her beliefs on stage. This mix of camp and candor attracts a wide crowd, including those who would never consider attending a drag show and those who wouldn't be caught dead at a gospel concert. Moreover, Yolanda is a serious musician who, along with skilled collaborators, plays everything from spirituals to original compositions. In fact, "Home," a track from the Rev.'s latest album (Country Gospel Kirtan) has already reached #1 on the OutVoice Music Charts. Time passes too quickly during the hilarious sermonizing -- and effortless harmonizing -- of Rev. Yolanda's Old Time Gospel Hour. -GOLDSTAR
"Rev. Yolanda's Country Gospel Kirtan" is NOT your grandfather's Gospel music. Not even your father's Gospel music. It is a brand new Gospel music experience with power, spirit, humor, and above all life! Not since the days of the Singing Nun has the Gospel music genre seen the likes of Rev. Yolanda. Not that the two have anything in common when it comes to sound and energy. However they both are genre trend setters. Taking spiritual music to a brave new and exciting world. Just as the Singing Nun was a new image, and new message, so is Rev. Yolanda.
The difference is all in the delivery, message, and sound. Rev. Yolanda includes something rarely seen in Gospel or spirituality from my view, that being humor. As humor directly relates to happiness it seems a logical jump if one is to be happy with their spirituality. Combine all this with a deep and kind of growling vocal delivery and you have an experience all new, all exciting, and all Rev. Yolanda!
I like Gospel music to have bite, to move me. And Rev. Yolanda certainly does that and a bit more. In this album, "Rev. Yolanda's Country Gospel Kirtan", the Rev also brings a classical touch with the inclusion of Kirtan. According to Bhakti Club, (http://www.bhakticlub.org/kirtan.html) Kirtan is a form of devotional chanting whose roots go back over 500 years to India. It is a form of Bhakti Yoga (yoga of devotion) and has the power to open the heart. The singing is accompanied by musical instruments and rhythmic drumming and the audience is encouraged to participate by chanting, clapping and dancing. Although this recovered Catholic also sees some similarity between Kirtan and Gregorian Chant. Both help focus and bring concentration to spiritual and emotional moments.
I would be lax in not pointing out that Rev. Yolanda has little trouble keeping you focused, energized, and involved. So the use of Kirtan is another musical tool to create a mystique and spiritual sense of being. I have found very helpful when not either in sound or presence of this dynamic Gospellier. The inclusion of country roots in Rev Yolanda's music takes you another step further into a warm but lively embrace of infectious spiritual experience. Don't be misled or fooled by the humor and tools utilized by Rev. Yolanda in his presentation and musical delivery. This Rev. is 100% serious about the spiritual connectivity, message, and value of the music. The persona of Rev. Yolanda is yet a deeper plunge into what I would call spiritual honesty and integrity.
Rev. Yolanda seeks to bring the message of all inclusive, all welcome and all affirming to his Gospel music experience. As well as his 'ministry'. Through the use of highly visible character presentation, costuming, and gender-bending persona Rev. Yolanda envelopes you in an all encompassing and compelling experience. Whether live or via the heavily packed, "Rev. Yolanda's Country Gospel Kirtan" CD you will be completely in tune and entranced with the experience, spirituality, and messages the Rev delivers. Those messages being; happiness, acceptance, and focus. Yes all that is just a CD? With Rev. Yolanda it is not only possible but fact. This listener was and is moved, lifted, delivered, and completely satisfied musically, spiritually, and content.
Review by Bill Turner (former lead guitarist for Bill Haley and The comets):
LGBTI Out Music Artists Community
RIGHT OUT: Congrats on your new CD! We understand that it has already garnered some big attention, tell us about that.
REV. YOLANDA: YAY! Thanks for the well wishes. I'm so happy how people are responding. Many folks that have bought the CD are emailing me with their comments on how good my vocals sound and how well produced the CD is, as well as how much the message means to them. I sell a lot of CD's at my live shows and church appearances, and have received delightful emails from people saying that they use my CD to start their day with joy... it is a meditation for them. THAT thrills me and I am so grateful.
I have received great comments from Film, Broadway, Rock, Country, and Christian musician friends whose opinions I regard highly, and have never remarked on my music until this record. These are national award winning pros. My favorite comment so far is from Bill Turner, a Grand Ole Orpy veteran who said,
"All 12 songs on this CD are "A" material...there is not a weak cut on this whole album."
Rev. Yolanda’s Country Gospel Kirtan Vol. 1: God Is
By Rev. Roger Yolanda Mapes
Last month, Perpetual Change presented the most recent interview with Rev. Roger Yolanda Mapes, who now has a new album out as well as a critically acclaimed off-Broadway show called Rev. Yolanda’s Old Time Gospel Hour. During that interview, mention was made that a review of the new album project would be forthcoming. Well — here it is.
The title, Rev. Yolanda’s Country Gospel Kirtan Vol. 1: God Is might be a bit misleading at first. While there is country music presented on both the album and in the show, a lot more territory is covered than just one genre. The “kirtan” part of the title refers to a form of call and response Yolanda utilizes a lot in her new music. The word “kirtan” has it’s roots in ancient Sanskrit and became a part of Hindu musical tradition. Kirtan can include speaking, music, dancing, gaps and silence, overall theatrics, and is usually under the direction of a leader.
Yolanda’s Vol.1: God Is starts off with the best example of that definition. Love And Light is an organ drenched, laid back, straight-up gospel song. In the middle, Yolanda says “I’m gonna preach now” and proceeds to do just that. “Are you breathin’?” she asks. “OK, then. God is with ya!”. Definitely sets the tone.
Play Love and Light clip
The country music feel continues with Love Divine (country ballad with steel guitar); We Are Angels (very country and is a re-make of Yolanda’s song originally found on her 1999 album Yolanda And The Plastic Family, and recorded again on 2009′s House Of Joy); Let Things Be (very good light country rock with a mid-1970′s feel); and I Love Myself (another country rocker, although very vocal oriented, with the great line, “…I love myself, I forgive myself”).
The real surprises, the things I didn’t expect to hear, start with the third track, Sweet, Sweet Spirit, written by Doris Akers. It features a vocal duet between Rev. Yolanda and Rev. Chanda Rule. Rule’s voice is beautiful and easily compliments Yolanda’s. Robert Urban’s guitar work is also featured on this tune. This song riffs off of the well known Jesus Loves Me melody, but mixes country and light rock without taking anything away from the feel or meaning of the song. Ends with a choir/chorus.
Play Sweet Sweet Spirit clip
Rev. Yolanda reprises another tune from the Plastic Family album on the next track, Home. She stays with the light rock feeling, and overall gives it a mid-1970s feel.
There are three songs in which the East Indian influence of the kirtan is definitely in play. Free Your Mind is a very unusual mix of bluegrass banjo and Indian tabla-type percussion background. Vocally, the tune has a sort of New Age, drone-like hypnotic quality. This track is followed by You Are An Idea, which once again melds the East Indian influence with a bluegrass fiddle. The spiritual concept and lyrics of the song are something outside of a Western gospel tradition, but works well with the feel of the song. I couldn’t help but think of George Harrison while hearing this for the first time, and that’s a good thing.
The third song to use this mix of American bluegrass with East Indian music tradition is I Can See Peace. Great fiddle and mandolin work, and the vocals are pure bluegrass. This time, I felt the overall presentation of the tune was reminiscent of the soundtrack of O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? Again, that’s not a bad thing.
Yolanda does another remake of one of her older songs, Freedom, from the House Of Joy project. This time, though, it’s a dance track that would work in any club. It’s a lot more musical than most dance tunes, though, in that the harmonies are excellent. Yet another one of those great unexpected moments.
Play Freedom clip
Vol. 1: God Is closes with God Is, which definitely has an unusual feel. At first, the song starts as a dance tune, but develops quickly into a very strong chorus, again with an underlying bluegrass feel. This is another great example of a kirtan with call and response vocals which give it a sing-a-long quality. I wouldn’t doubt Yolanda milks this tune for all it’s worth during live performances. Also contains some Native American vocalizations, as well as some vocal craziness, which again makes it one of those tunes that’s really hard to categorize.
I have to say that it’s albums like Yolanda’s Vol. 1: God Is that make it hard for me as a reviewer to maintain my objectivity. I really like this project. During last month’s posted interview with Yolanda, I had asked her if she had sort of re-invented herself for this project. Her answer was that instead of a re-invention, she was finally becoming who she really was all along. And what’s unique about that statement is that you can hear it in her vocals. While Yolanda has a somewhat Southern growl/twang to her voice, it’s smoother, less forced, and comfortable sounding than I’ve heard on the aforementioned earlier projects. There’s a peace, even a sort of contentment, in her voice, that comes from knowing you’re exactly where you need to be. Can’t wait for Vol. 2.
(Author’s Note: All lead vocals on Rev. Yolanda’s Country Gospel Kirtan Vol. 1 God Is by Rev. Yolanda. Background vocals-Rev. Yolanda, Freddy Freeman, Jay Freeman, Rev. Chanda Rule, Robert Urban. Acoustic guitar by Rev. Yolanda and Freddy Freeman. All other instruments and samples-Freddy Freeman, except Robert Urban on Sweet, Sweet Spirit, and Geral Menke on Home, Love Divine, and We Are Angels. Produced by Freddy Freeman. For more information regarding Rev. Yolanda, check out her web site at www.yolanda.net, as well as YouTube, Linkedin, Myspace, Jango. CDs are also available through Amazon.com under the name Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes.)
"Last week I was surprised to find church at The Winter is a Drag Ball which I attended because it is a place where so many of the young adults around Burlington gather and so that I could see some familiar faces from Ascension in costume and performance. There was a Drag Queen there who goes by the handle Rev. Yolanda and we had a gospel hour that I never expected and was as faithful as it was screamingly funny. She preached to a crowd who might never otherwise step foot in a brick and mortar designated church space and she was powerful. How she was perceived on the outside clearly was different from how she perceived herself on the inside."
(Mighty Companions Ministries Productions, CD, digital download)
On his latest release, Rev. Yolanda’s Country Gospel Kirtan Vol. 1: God Is, former Vermont drag queen and current NYC resident Rev. Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes finds religion — though it is unlikely to resemble what most of us think of when we consider the church. The album is based on the teachings of A Course in Miracles, a nondenominational spiritual guidebook developed in the 1970s. While it has roots in Christian principles, ACIM is more a philosophy than a religion. Appropriately, the gospel according to Yolanda is less one of fire and brimstone than of love, acceptance and affirmation that proves, yes, indeedy, the Lord works in mysterious ways.
Mapes’ sermon opens on the bluesy gospel ballad, “Love and Light.” Over electric piano and drums, he puts forth what will serve as the fundamental tenet of God Is: God is love. (And light.) It is affirmation — or indoctrination — by repetition. And while not exactly a revelation, his impassioned, overtly stylized baritone is believable enough to suggest he’s doing more than preaching to the choir.
Mapes brings it down on the next few tracks, including “Love Divine” and “Sweet Sweet Spirit,” the latter of which begins with a swirl of chimes and features a duet with fellow ACIM minister Rev. Chanda Rule.
The middle of the album finds Mapes mulling more abstract philosophical notions. Cuts such as the worldly, beat-centric “Free Your Mind,” the sitar-laden “You are an Idea,” and the pedal-steel-laced twang of “We Are Angels” are rooted less in blind religious faith than the discovery of inner peace through self-love. The gist, as laid out in the album’s final, genre-mashing act, seems to be that God isn’t some all-knowing greater entity but rather an internal conviction. Find yourself, and you’ll find God.
On his 2010 debut album as Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes, House of Joy, Mapes celebrated the intertwining of his previously separate personae: the drag queen, Yolanda, and the gay man, Roger Mapes. After years of duality, it was a declaration of a unified identity. On God Is, Mapes takes that notion a step further to include his faith. It is a queer sort of holy trinity — pun partially intended — but one that speaks to the questions of identity each of us faces, regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity or sexuality. Amen.
Rev. Yolanda’s Country Gospel Kirtan Vol. 1: God Is is available at yolanda.net. Mapes performs at the Winter Is a Drag Ball at the Higher Ground Ballroom in South Burlington this Saturday, February 16.
Brooklyn Bands Battle to be the Best of the Borough
"...Reverend Yolanda appeared bedazzled in sequins, adorned with oversized pin curls and fashioned in full-blown drag. With outstretched arms, she told the crowd, “I am where the divine masculine meets the divine feminine in the arms of love.”
After singing about love and light in a twang resembling that of a southern preacher, she announced, “Here I am! The big old gay, drag queen, reverend!”
Lee Goldblatt, who said he came to the battle because he lives down the block, said Yolanda was his favorite performer.
“It was deep, it was Gospel,” he said. “Makes me feel like I’m at jazz fest in New Orleans.”
by Joey Cain: San Francisco-based community activist and independent historian
Four-Day Conference Celebrates Harry Hay, Founder of the Modern American Gay Freedom Movement:
.......A Saturday evening program at the New York LGBT Community Center features live performances based on aspects of Hay's life, hosted by the New York (dis)Order of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, emceed by Justin Sayre and featuring Reverend Yolanda....
Sue’s Views, Reviews & News
By Sue Matsuki for CabaretHotlineOnline.com
September 5th, 2012
REV. YOLANDA'S OLD TIME GOSPEL HOUR ... A GENDER BENDING GOSPEL CELEBRATION - STARRING ROGER ANTHONY MAPES at THE DUPLEX CABARET THEATRE (61 Christopher Street, NYC - 212-255-5438) - Directed by Shawn Moninger; Musical Direction by Kenneth Gartman; Banjo: Bill Turner; Fiddle: THE AMAZING Emily Mikesell; Stand Up Bass: Dennis Michael Keefe; Special Guest: singer songwriter, Nashville recording artist Tom Vaughn!
As a reviewer it's always hard to recommend a show of a religious nature because if I tell my readers to go and they are non-believers it can be awkward. However, since the main "religious" message in this wonderful show is that you are PERFECT exactly as you are (OK, in this show, exactly as God made you) all I can tell you is that you will leave this show feeling JOY and incredibly impressed by Rev. Yolanda and this band. This band, led by Kenneth Gartman is one of the best and tightest groups I've heard in years. Add to this the additional impressive harmonies by Kenneth and super fiddler Emily Mikesell and you get gooseflesh from the sound alone. Bill Turner on banjo and back up vocals and Dennis Michael Keefe on bass also impressed. Just Fantastic! Props go to Director/Rev. Shawn Moninger for incredible attention to detail on this show!
About the lovely Yolanda (she looks like Boo Boo Honey or is that Honey Boo Boo? all grown up) ... anyone who states "The higher the hair the closer to Jesus" will be my friend forever. While this is a man in a lovely dress, I think Rev. Yolanda could charm even the Republican Convention! You cannot help yourself. You love this lady and you love her message and your face hurts from smiling. She also has an incredible voice. Does this sound like a show you'd like to see? Then go! It is a program of spiritual songs so go knowing that but GO! A good ol' foot stompin' time is a good ol' foot stompin' time.
The final message is that for too many years she hid her light and that, for some of us, the light is frightening but when you decided to just be who you are, you are engulfed in the beauty of your true light. That's a "religion" I can get behind. Let it Shine, Let it Shine, Let it Shine! Promo video: www.yolanda.net
Rev. Yolanda’s Old Time Gospel Hour-
WHAT A SHOW! A MUST SEE !!
It took me a while to fully digest and be able to verbalize this amazing show I saw last night. I woke up this morning and I am ready to share! Are you ready?
A couple of weeks ago at Mark Janus’ Salon, I saw Rev. Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes, a gospel/country Reverend who is also a drag queen (is that unique or what?) perform and I loved it. He talked about a show at the Duplex coming up and I said to myself I will definitely be there! As intrigued as I was, I decided to invite my buddy Carly Ozard to the show. Together with Maria Moncada, another buddy of mine who is already a fan, we went to the show.
The show did not disappoint. What a fantastic performance!! Rev. Yolanda had the amazing ability to entertain, captivate, engage and inspire each and everyone in the audience.
I was a catholic school girl and I grew up singing gospel at the church. I’ve always found the music to bring a sense of comfort. Growing up under the repressive environment of catholic school pushed me away and made me decide later on in my life to follow the Buddhist path. However, somewhere in my heart, I had maintained the belief that somehow, all religion originated from the same starting point, encircling everyone regardless of gender, race, orientation and status of life. Rev. Yolanda’s show last night showed me how that is possible!! Rev. Yolanda delivered a show that no one can forget anytime soon! With his amazing 4 piece country band led by musical director Kenneth Gartman who also happens to possess quite an amazing set of pipes, a perfect compliment to Rev. Yolanda. They sang down the house. His special guest Tom Vaughn was a great talent as well with his country-style originals. His cd is schedule for release in September. Check it out! Not a single dull moment!
Under his flamboyantly glamorous appearance, Rev Yolanda’s music resonated and engaged something deep inside me and the rest of the audience. His performance is “art”! His faith is obvious and it touches everyone!
You might have thought when you saw his name, Reverend Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes, “What a long name? Who can remember a long name like that?” Well, I can tell you one thing, if you had gone to his show, you would walk out remembering that name, as I have! See the show to find out why! I promise, it will not disappoint! I will
definitely go again!
After teaching my dance class on Sunday afternoon, I was supposed to meet my friends Chissie and Chuck to go to a cabaret show, but I had a three hours gap. While waiting for them, I sat at "Patisserie Claude" in the west village and enjoyed a "Mille-Feuilles" (Napolean) and a chocolate eclair...Pure decadence, but good for the soul.
I worked on my script for two hours and time went by like eating chocolate. Very fast...
At 6PM I met my friends at THE DUPLEX, and we chatted while waiting for the show to begin.
To my great surprise, a larger then life drag queen showed up on stage, after being introduced as Rev.Yolanda.
Her repertoire, was stunningly funny and profound at the same time. From Gospel classic like "Let it shine" to her own compositions, Rev. Yolanda sustain joy and hope throughout her show. She brought tears with her song, when the chorus was sang (We're angels struggling as human).
Her shows will resume in the fall, and I highly recommend you to go.
Meeting the man behind Yolanda, was equally moving, as Rev. Yolanda is not far from Roger Anthony Mapes. It takes a sensitive and honest person to play one onstage, and Yolanda is all that.
Thanks Chrissie and Chuck for letting me know about this beautiful performer.
"I just saw the most brilliant cabaret show; A Drag Queen whose character is a southern country gospel singer. In real life, he is very connected to his faith, and the show is presented with amazing bluegrass arrangements of so many songs we have sung in Church. I had such a conflict with Church because of certain beliefs, but this character allows us to enjoy the music and see someone praise God in a unique beautiful way, which ironically, in the end is the way it should be. Although I'm not a huge listener of gospel, there was a piano, banjo, harmonica, bass and fiddle and each musician had a great voice too. It's where religion should come from! And I am not religious- but I have worked in Churches on and off. The show was was such a cool concept and way to peacefully demonstrate love through religion. Thank you to Reverend Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes for such a great perspective and for being so deeply moving onstage."
“Freedom’s Just Another Word For Nothin’ Left To Lose”
Sunday evening I had the privilege of sharing a moment in the amazing cabaret performance “Rev. Yolanda’s Gospel Hour” at the Duplex on Christopher Street in NYC. Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes is a performance artist and social critic and deeply gifted singer songwriter…a man in a dress, joyously singing the Good News.The core of Roger’s message is about love. ..and about his faith and his journey to express the full range of his gender expression. It is an inspiring show, and he is an inspiring person.
Over the time that this column has been a part of TGForum I’ve been blessed to have encountered artists who have true staying power. Artists who not only evolve as musicians, but become a genuine creative force. This goes beyond just creating a lasting shelf life for your music; it’s the ability to take your talent into areas you probably never thought of when you started out.
Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes is such an artist.
Yolanda is no stranger to TGForum. Yolanda the drag artist was first introduced to TGForum readers in August of 2001. A follow-up interview was posted in 2003. In August of 2009, an extended interview posted in two parts allowed Yolanda to discuss some of the changes, both musical and personal, that were happening in her life at that time. This was followed up in January of 2010 with a review of her just released House Of Joy CD. Also, back in 2009, it was discovered that Yolanda (along with Robert Urban) had contributed music to the beautifully eclectic CD, Abbalicious, a project that showcased well-known NYC drag entertainers singing ABBA tunes. (This project is hard to find, but worth the effort, truly classic.)
Since then, Yolanda is has been ordained, has gotten married to partner Rev. Glen Morton Ganaway (a.k.a. “Bug”), and has developed a new musical project called Rev. Yolanda’s Old Time Gospel Hour. We’ve made mention of it in this column, but now the reviews are starting to come in and, well, Yolanda has another hit on her hands.
We’re extremely grateful that’s she’s graciously agreed to yet another interview for TGForum. She has taken the time to talk about her ordination, her new projects, and her future, and I believe you’ll find this truly creative artist to be as fascinating as we always have. FOR FULL INTERVIEW CLICK HERE
Times Square Chronicles
Roger Mapes has created a character so abundant in talent, good will and humor that by the time he's finished with you there couldn't possibly be anything wrong with your world--at all. The music and the accompanying singers just add to the magic.
Susan Hasho reviewer for the Times Square Chronicles
Lately it seems as though many of my pals are facing their careers head-on and I couldn't be happier.
Add to this list the amazing and awesome Roger Yolanda Mapes (my last guest on The Will Clark Show before we moved to The Rtiz) -- he has put together the first installment of his newest creation, a drag gospel show! And it's playing one more night - Sunday June 3rd at 6:30pm at the Duplex.
The past two Sunday's Roger has been knocking it out of the park with a tune filled show featuring real gospel numbers Roger sings himself while accompianied by guitar, cello and two awesome backup singers as well as the incredible Kenneth Gartman on piano - this is two parts gospel, two parts cabaret mixed together for a delightful evening's aural confection.
Plus, there are short/bite-sized homilies on getting a better life - a product of Roger's own ministry - he graduated recently from the One Spirit Seminary here in New York.
Delightfully directed by Rev. Shawn Moniger, it's a testament to the sincerity of Roger's performance that songs focusing on God don't feel campy just because Roger is dressed up in drag (and quite fabulously I might add). Plus, hey Lucie Arnaz was in the audience to give the evening a bit more fabulousness than it already had. :)
Cost is $20 plus a two drink minimum (click here for reservations) and the profits from the June 3rd show will go to benefit Sanctuary and Rev. Jane Galloway will be Roger's musical guest.
Once you get over the weirdness of men pretending to be women singing girls' songs, you realize that a LOT of thought went into this album. The arrangements are fresh, and even more important the style of the songs seems to match the lyrics. Did you know that most of these ABBA songs aren't very happy? You will now, because you can actually hear the lyrics.
The best cuts on this album are Yolanda's "Lay All Your Love on Me" (I had to go back to my ABBA Gold to hear the original 'cause this just sounded so right), and "Vouslez Vous". You be the judge. The only near miss on the album is the country-western version of "Dancing Queen", which is still very good, and a lot of fun, but I don't think they went far enough.
I will absolutely buy any other album these "showgirls" put out.
photo by Aaron Cobbitt
"I don't think there's anyone who isn't an ABBA fan; I just think there are people who aren't out about it," says Frank DeCaro at the opening of What's the Name of the Dame?, a film that is part documentary, part music video. The movie is the result of a years-long multimedia project that also saw the release of an all-drag ABBA tribute CD, ABBAlicious!, and a slew of stage shows around New York City.
"It's one of those projects that defines itself as you're making it, " says director and producer Allan Neuwirth, who got involved with the project through his friend Jack Chen, the creator of the tribute album. "It kept organically growing and blossoming into something bigger and bigger."
Neuwirth interviews a wide array of commentators, from drag historians Esther Newton and Joe Jeffreys to Joan Rivers and ABBA's own Benny Andersson. It's no surprise, then, that the documentary comes at the sensational Swedish group's legacy from some unexpected angles.
The performers each do a unique interpretation of their chosen song, including a country-western "Dancing Queen" by The Chixie Dicks (YOLANDA and Hedda Lettuce) and an R&B crooner take on "Knowing Me, Knowing You" by a queen named Sade.
Although the live aspects of the project had been packing New York clubs for months, the rights necessary to release the film were delayed by the enormous success of the film adaptation of the ABBA musical, Mamma Mia! After some frustration, however, the delay worked in the film's favour, giving it yet another lens to consider the group's legacy.
This change brought Mamma Mia! star Christine Baranski into the fold. When asked why the drag and LGBT communities might connect so strongly with ABBA's music, Baranski laughs, "Two words: Dancing. Queen."
Indeed, there is something natural about this connection, which was also prominent in the recent musical Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. "The emotions are wrought large in ABBA songs, and drag queens are bigger than life," says Wolff. "That's very attractive to the gay community. We love to be enveloped by the music."
Between celebrity interviews, outrageous musical interludes and a dash of history, What's the Name of the Dame? is barrels of fun. For those who haven't come out about their love for ABBA, this film's Canadian premiere at Inside Out is sure to tear off the closet door.
As fabulous as ever, “Yolanda” is born again
Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes
In the late 1990s, Roger Mapes was Burlington’s king of queens. As his glitzy alter ego, Yolanda, the burly singer was the city’s most prominent drag queen, the leader of seminal B-town band the Plastic Family and, with fellow drag queen Cherie Tartt, the cohost of a popular local cable-access program, “The Cherie and Yolanda Show.” The name Yolanda was virtually synonymous with Burlington’s burgeoning drag scene, until Mapes relocated to New York City in 2000. “It was the best time of my life, basically,” recalls Mapes in a recent phone interview.
This Saturday, he returns to the Queen City to perform at this year’s Winter Is a Drag Ball at Higher Ground. Mapes helped birth the drag extravaganza in 1995 as a benefit for Vermont CARES, an organization he would later work with when he discovered he was HIV positive.
But when he once again graces the Drag Ball stage, Mapes will do so not as Yolanda, or even a character at all. For the first time in Burlington, he will perform as a complete version of himself: Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes.
The Yolanda persona was “born and raised” in Northfield, Vt. Mapes originally moved to Vermont in the early 1990s to live with the Radical Faeries, a loosely associated global network of drag queens, whose original Vermont chapter was based in the small central Vermont town. The Faeries have since relocated to Faerie Camp Destiny in Chester.
“Drag was very much a part of everyday life with the Radical Faeries,” Mapes says. “The kind of drag we’re all now accustomed to seeing. Gender-bending drag, guys with beards in dresses, things like that.”
When Mapes began performing as Yolanda in Burlington, he displayed an over-the-top style similar to that which he’d developed with the Faeries. He then created new facets of her personality by exploring a variety of aesthetics.
“I experimented with different looks, which I still do,” Mapes explains. “I moved into shaving my body and being really glamorous, and then moved in and out of that.
“But at heart, Yolanda has always been a Radical Faerie,” he says.
Mapes notes that while he discovered a lot about himself through drag, the effect his performances had on others was equally profound.
“The drag-queen community has a sense of daring about it,” he says. “A sense of extraordinariness that a lot of people feel they can’t do in their lives, for whatever reason. Seeing guys all dressed up and acting in over-the-top ways is very liberating as a drag queen, but also for other people. It’s a way of projecting feelings onto someone else and living vicariously through them.”
Mapes says that over the years a number of people have told him they think drag queens are courageous; some found inspiration for coming out of the closet themselves.
Of course, “there are also other, not-so-nice things people say, too,” says Mapes with a chuckle. “But, for the most part, everybody gets that it’s about having a sense of humor and taking a lighter view of life and living large. That’s appealing.”
But Mapes discovered that living vicariously through alternate personalities can have unintended side effects — most notably, losing one’s true identity.
Last year, he released his latest album, House of Joy, as Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes. The fusion of his given name with that of his more extravagant sobriquet represents a melding of his two personalities, born from a deeper understanding of the various facets that make up his larger whole.
When he moved to New York City, Mapes reformed the Plastic Family with new members. The band drew wide acclaim in GLBT circles — Mapes was named OutMusic.com’s OutMusician of the Year in 2003, and says he was recently inducted into both the Bear Hall of Fame and the GLBT Hall of Fame. But in 2004, he disbanded the group amid a flurry of life-altering personal changes that he now refers to as a “spiritual journey.”
“It led me to an understanding of what I call the ‘god-goddess within,’” Mapes says.
That year he also met his current partner, and the pair secluded themselves from the world. Mapes stopped performing for three years.
“I had never had this kind of relationship before, so it was a new discovery of love and self-realization,” he confides. And he became reacquainted with Roger Mapes.
“My goal in drag was never to impersonate a woman,” he says. “In my mind it was always about discovering something unique about myself. I was now understanding the masculine side of myself in a new way, and the feminine side of myself in a new way.”
It would be easy to mistake Mapes’ newfound identity as duality, or a reconciling of seemingly disparate personalities. That’s not how he sees it.
Mapes explains that he had become so outwardly identified as Yolanda that he lost sight of the reason he started doing drag in the first place.
“I was so identified as … ‘she’ that it cut me out of an experience that I wanted to have, of being a gay man,” he says. “This is about fusing everything together as all of that which I am.”
The record also represents another sort of rediscovery for Mapes. Inspired in equal measures by Lynyrd Skynyrd and Divine, House of Joy marks a return to his Southern roots: Mapes grew up in Muscle Shoals, Ala.
“At the heart of what I wanted to do was this deep longing to express this love for Southern culture and Southern music,” he reveals. On his website, Mapes describes his new aesthetic as the “alien love child of Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Louise Hay and John Waters.” That’s just about right.
“For many years I was ashamed of being Southern,” he admits. “As I’ve grown older I’ve come to embrace that part of myself, too, and what my life was about when I lived in the South. Really, it was about music.”
Mapes’ father was a radio and television broadcaster in Muscle Shoals, which, in the 1960s, was an unlikely rock-and-roll hotbed.
“It was the hit recording capital of the world in the ’60s and ’70s,” says Mapes, recalling the flood of artists who came through the small town: the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin, to name a few.
“It was quite an experience. And I wanted to reconnect with that,” Mapes says. “I am a whole person. I am both male and female. I am Southern and Northern. I am everything, because what I really am is spirit,” he says. “This whole progression has been about pulling everything together and fusing it into one entity: Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes.”
But we can still call him Yolanda, right?
“Oh, sure!” he exclaims. “It’s much easier that way.”
CONGRATS TO THE ARTISTS WITH THE TOP TEN SONGS OF 2010 ~From the *GLBT Outvoice Top Ten Songs for 2010
*#1 Sugarbeach #2 Shawn Thomas #3 Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes #4 Norine Braun #5 Levi Kreis #6 Toni Vere #7 Terry Christopher #8 Tret Fure #9 Tom Goss #10 Dan Manjovi
Listen to the show on Rainbow World Radio!!
Congratulations on reaching the #1 position on the Top 40 cd charts for Feb 2011 for your cd House of Joy! Your fans are showing you love. All the best,
NOW HEAR THIS! ROGER ANTHONY YOLANDA MAPES:
"House of Joy" CD Review by Jed Ryan
"Don't you know that the South will rise again?!" Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes declares with unyielding conviction on "Muscle Shoals", the tribute to the singer/songwriter's Bible Belt hometown. Through the years, the same can be said of Mapes himself. Here's a performer who has fought to make his mark as a truly self-styled, one-of-a-kind artist... with a fair share of both struggle and critical acclaim along the way. Voted "OUTmusician of the Year 2003", Mapes has undergone many changes in his persona through his years of performing. As one-name wonder "Yolanda", Mapes used to do "high" drag (Think evening gowns, wigs, high heels, and makeup..) before switching to a more androgynous, gender-fucking image (think beard, combat boots, and makeup...), and then seemingly making peace with his Y chromosome. But what's remained constant is Roger Mapes' strong, powerhouse voice. This singer knows how to belt! "House of Joy", Mapes' new CD, features ten full-blooded original songs, plus an impressive reworking of Bobbie Gentry's 1967 hit "Ode to Billy Joe".
Robert Urban ("OUTmusician of the Year 2006", and-- to restate the obvious-- an acclaimed performer in his own right) produced and arranged the CD, as well as contributing background vocals, guitar, and a variety of other instruments. The bluesy, raw, Southern-style rock on "House of Joy" is a great match for Mapes' take-no-prisoners voice, and the artist's lyrics pay homage to his Southern roots while exploring provocative themes about gender and self-expression.
"I Wanna Know" features an unrelenting serpentine rhythm and superb guitar work courtesy of Mapes and Robert Urban. The song breaks into an intense, high-energy climax that leaves the listener spent. For "Muscle Shoals" we're again treated to some superb guitar work as Mapes sings about Muscle Shoals, Alabama, "the hit recording capital of the world". On "We are Angels", Mapes adopts an ethereal, almost otherworldly vocals style-- well-suited to the song's title and its lyrics. "Freedom", a song about Brandon Teena (the transgendered man who was murdered in 1993), doesn't dwell on the tragic aspects of Brandon's life; but rather, it's a celebration of the late trans man's decision to live life as he saw fit. It's a grand, triumphant highlight of the CD, as is the quietly beautiful "Control Queen". "The Greatest Love of My Life" is a truly sweet--as-molasses love song. With the bonus track "Intimacy", Mapes gives us a taste of his sound when he was known only as "Yolanda" with his band The Plastic Family. It's, as you'll hear, a very different musical style from the rest of the CD.
More than just strong music, "House of Joy" emerges as a portrait of an singer/songwriter/performer who's got a lot to say, and who's not afraid to break "the rules" to say it. For "Nice Girl", a song where Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes gets to display a whole range of his vocal talents, the artist declares, "It doesn't pay to be a nice girl, I'm telling you; It doesn't pay to be a nice girl, so here's what you do..." It's good advice for all of us, whether you're a boy, a girl, or a boy who's not afraid of putting on a little makeup.
Visit www.RogerAnthonyMapes.com for more!
Posted by Jed Ryan at 9:08 AM
Labels: music review
Yolanda (Outmusic's "Outmusician of the Year" 2003) goes solo with "Lay All Your Love on Me". The stripped-down, raw feel of the track-- featuring only Yolanda's hard-hitting, strong, Southern-twanged voice with guitar by her friend Robert Urban-- packs a wallop: Yolanda unleashes no less than 20 different emotions with that song.... Jed Ryan (commenting on Yolanda's cover of the ABBA classic "Lay All Your Love On Me" from the cd ABBALICIOUS)