Episode 1

Published on:

13th Jan 2021

Rubyyy Jones - I'm put back where it all began - 012

In this episode, I’m joined by Rubyyy Jones (they/them), an artist, performer and space maker who specialises in the body, the bawdyyy and deep feels. As an artist they work in live art, photography and film, creating a spectrum of experiences from silly to sublime. They are an icon in the world's of Drag, Burlesque and Cabaret and a Mxther and mentor to many in the industry.  

Two years after our first interview together, we chat about rediscovering moving for joy in lockdown, neurodivergence and accessibility, moving back to their childhood neighbourhood in Canada, re-parenting ourselves and the queer community, Tony Clifton as a gateway to drag king-ing and lots more!

If you haven't already, be sure to join our Facebook community to connect with other like-minded queer folks and allies.

Find out more about Gem Kennedy and Queers & Co. 

Podcast Artwork by Gemma D’Souza


Rubyyy and their partner Prinx Lydia created and run The YYY School which includes many different kinds of performance, craft and personal development workshops, both online and in the flesh. Together they share a passion for accessible, atypical and amazing art, The YYY School encompasses all of that.

You can find out more about Rubyyy’s work on the following Instagram accounts:

@rubyyyjones, @lifedrawingrubyyy, @theyyyschool, @prinxlydia

And consider becoming a patron on www.patreon.com/SaveRubyyyJones


Full Transcription

Gem: Welcome to Queers & Co. - the podcast on self-empowerment, body liberation and activism for queer folx and allies. I'm your host, Gem Kennedy. My pronouns are they/them and I'm a transformational practitioner and coach living in the UK.

Hi everyone! Welcome to Series 2 of Queers & Co. I'm so excited to be back and to be able to share all of my brilliant guests with you. I've got 13 guests for this coming series and I've recorded about half of the episodes so far. And honestly, I can't wait to put them all out. I hope you're going to get lots from them and find them interesting, insightful, and maybe share them with anyone that you think might be interested in hearing what my guests have to say as well.

The world is in a pretty different place now from when I recorded the first series in 2020. So I think the last couple of episodes, we'd just gone into lockdown in March 2020 and now here we are in January 2021. The UK has just entered another lockdown. I hope you're all keeping safe and well, no matter where in the world you are.

It felt really meaningful to me to have this guest as my first guest for the second series. I first spoke to them two years ago when I was just starting out with the Queers & Co. project and I interviewed them to find out about their relationship with their body. And since then we have crossed paths multiple times and I just think they are brilliant so I'm really excited to be able to share the interview with you. They are an awesome artist, a performer, a space maker and if you are in need of any kind of cheering up or cool activities to do online, then I'd highly recommend that you check out their work. We talk a bit about that during the episode, but you'll also be able to find out more in the shownotes and I'll point you in the right direction at the end of the episode.

As always, if you enjoy hearing from my guests, please do let them know. It's really nice for them to just know that people out there are listening and that they appreciate what they have to say. And if you'd like to continue the conversation about any of the episodes, please do join the Queers & Co. Facebook group, because we'll be having some discussions in there and also, it's a really great space for anyone wanting to share any projects they're working on, find collaborators or to get any more insights into particular topics that might be of interest to them, to get resources, that kind of thing. So hopefully see you there. And without further ado, I will introduce my first guest of series two - the wonderful Rubyyy Jones.

Hi, Rubyyy, thanks so much for joining me.

Rubyyy: Thanks so much for having me, Gem.

Gem: Not at all. It's exciting, because I was thinking earlier, it's two years since we had our first conversation.

Rubyyy: Oh my gosh, really?

Gem: Yeah, it's gone really quickly. And we've seen each other in between, but like when I interviewed you for the zine, it was two years ago, which is wild. So much has happened since then until now. And I was conscious that the version of the interview that we had before was written so it'd be really cool to have a podcast version and to catch up.

Rubyyy: Well, great. I'm happy to be here. I love chatting with you. So yeah, thanks for asking me to come on the podcast.

Gem: Not at all. And so for anyone who doesn't know who you are, how would you introduce yourself?

Rubyyy: Gosh, well, given these nebulous times we're in at the moment, I feel I don't have as defined a definition of self other than - Hi, I'm Rubyyy (that's with three y's) Jones, and I'm an artist and a space maker.

Gem: Awesome. Yeah, that sounds so different from how you've introduced yourself in other settings before, what shifted there?

Rubyyy: Well, with COVID and all the situations in the world, a big thing that I would have used to describe myself in that interview probably would have been a performer, which of course, I still think of myself as a performer, I always will. But because of how I've had to shift my creative performance aspect of self, it feels a little bit more like I want to use the term artist because it feels like it encompasses more of what I'm doing now. And includes performance as well.

Gem: Yeah, absolutely. And some of the things that you're doing now, people may have come across during lockdown, but they're really exciting. So you have Everybodyyy Move, which you do every weekday, is that right?

Rubyyy: Yes. Well, we do it six days a week because we've added now on Saturday, we do a seated version, because I've done seated versions in the past and they were really popular but I was only doing recorded but now I was like no, we need to do it live. We need that live energy. So we've added that on Saturdays too.

Gem: And how would you describe it for anyone who has no idea what we're talking about?

Rubyyy: Yeah, so Everybodyyy Move is a not-a-workout workout, which is 30 minutes of moving your body, perhaps challenging your body, flexing your body and enjoying your body. A big thing that I feel like I understood last year was I've had different blocks in my life around elective exercise and movement because of my trepidation and trauma from diet culture. And Everybodyyy Move is about supporting each other to move our bodies in a healthy way that is separate to concepts of caloric burn, or abs or any other of that kind of, again, diet culture kind of stuff. It's just about moving your body, improving things like balance, and coordination and all that kind of stuff. It's about supporting each other to do that as well in a way that feels fun and accessible. So it's not a paid class, like you don't have to buy tickets, you just have to be there. And if you want to tip after we gratefully, of course, always accept a little bit of energetic exchange, but we just made it because - we being my partner, Prinx Lydia, and I - we wanted to move more, we wanted to have a kind of support for that. And then we thought, well, probably other people need that too so we just invited other people to join us.

Gem: It's great. And yeah, it's so interesting hearing you say that that was one of the realisations that you've had over lockdown over the past year because I've also had loads of blocks around exercise and movement. And I think we talked before about this - I really used to love dancing and performing and then diet culture kicked in, and like it disappeared - not the love but just I guess the the confidence to do it. And there was something about feeling so uncomfortable with my body getting sweaty, or getting a red face, so many kind of layers upon layers of just not good stuff that I had around exercise. And 2020 was really the year that I actually started to move for enjoyment. And it didn't feel like a punishment any more. So it's really interesting to hear that you've had a similar... I know that you were performing before so obviously you were doing lots of movement anyway, but it's just interesting to hear that you've had a similar kind of realisation or development.

Rubyyy: Yeah, definitely. Because I did do some performing during lockdown, like some online shows and stuff and you know, I really enjoyed it. But it was nowhere near the schedule that I was keeping before and in a lot of ways I was using my performance as a big physical outlet, and in a few ways, and I think what was interesting about all of us in COVID times (it's not like they aren't continuing, of course) but the thing is, it's like a reevaluation of what we want in our life on every level. And understanding that that actually is a choice. And partly, that's because we all ended up kind of almost with a blank canvas in a way. Obviously we had responsibilities and school and work and whatever else, but there was a new level of autonomy somehow through isolation that I think helped a lot of us to realise like, "Oh, I actually want to do this."

Gem: Yeah and I guess when the options that maybe people might feel they have to do are stripped away, for example, if you want to move your body, maybe you would think you have to go to the gym, or you have to go to a class in a studio or something. When those options are stripped away, maybe there's something about rediscovering the types of movement that actually feel good, rather than what you feel you should do.

Rubyyy: Yes, totally. Exactly. And it's like, as well, even though there was a lot of fatphobia around everyone gaining weight in lockdown, I feel like there was also a kind of thing of people feeling that the exercise and the movement itself wasn't directly related to that. It was about feeling active in a number of ways. It was about mental health, it was about, you know, filling your day with things that make you feel good. You know, even though I know a lot of people would have still felt some of those pressures of, you know, "maintaining" during the lockdown or whatever bullshit, I do think a lot of people came to it because they realised how helpful and important it was in different ways basically, in ways separate to what they would have thought before.

Gem: Yeah, and I wonder what the shift's been like for you moving from performing and teaching a lot in person to then kind of having to remodel your business essentially. And I guess make sure that that work is still fulfilling your creative and performance outputs.

Rubyyy: Yeah, that's true. And I've been really lucky that I do feel like the various events we've come up with, we do have a lot of outlets for movement, for feelings, for creating, for, you know, being spontaneous. And it's so funny because people keep saying to me, "Oh, you're killing lockdown and you're making it happen." I'm like, I'm surviving. I am surviving like the rest of you. Like, yes, I want to be doing these things. But also I have to, you know, I've lost all of my income. And so I had to make something happen.

Rubyyy: However - very lucky, I love what we've come up with. I love how we made it work. And a lot of what we've created has been directly to yes supplement and support income, but also supplement and support all the amazing things we got from performing and teaching. So we're pretty much doing things seven days a week, which is kind of interesting, but not like I wasn't doing seven days a week before. And we have the Everybodyyy Move, which is six days a week, which is a really great outlet for community and I know it doesn't, quite feel the same sometimes. But I'm starting to feel like the online community is feeling the same for me, especially as someone who is neurodivergent, I can find in-person stuff actually very, very challenging. And I actually didn't know how challenging it was for me until I didn't have to do that anymore. You know, of course, I miss giving people hugs and sharing a sweaty dance studio together, but I actually don't see myself ever going back to that, at least not in that way. Not with that frequency, I just literally can't do it. And I didn't know I couldn't do it because I didn't know I was coping and just holding it together so much before. Whereas now, I you know, still feel that create connection with my students and community and creativity without dealing with the rest, the processing and the proximity of constantly being around people. I love people, but I'm liking them at the other end of the camera very much as well.

Gem: I so relate to that. And I guess is that something that you expected when you stopped, when lockdown kicked in first and you thought, "Right, that's it, I'm going to have to work from home now"? Was there that kind of realisation that "Wow, this will give me extra processing time and it will be nice to have a bit of space", or was it something that emerged as lockdown went on?

Rubyyy: I think it was a bit of both to be honest, because I was previously living in London, London is so crazy. And to go anywhere, pretty much it would take an hour. So for me to teach an hour dance class, that would be three hours at an absolute minimum of commitment, which included a lot of high stress, like going on the tube and then teaching and then after being depleted from teaching going on the tube again, and the stress of that. I knew that that was going to be removed so I was kind of excited about the prospect of yeah, not having that constant bombardment. But I couldn't have anticipated how much it would help me to be able to do the things I want to do and to do them more completely and with more presence, I guess. Because when you're on camera teaching you have to be really present. To do it well, you have to be really present, you have to be really considering all the factors all at once. You have to be really thinking about many, many things, and I'm really good at that but only for a short period of time.

Gem: That's exhausting!

Rubyyy: Yeah exactly. That's true. That's true. But I can do that, in a way I think is like, you know, special to be honest. Um, but I can't do that when I'm just super exhausted and like taking an hour to get across London to get to a dance studio. Like, I didn't realise how much how much that was until... I thought I knew that's what I mean. I thought I knew I thought, "Oh, gosh, that's a nice to have a little break". Then I was like "Well actually, I can never do that again".

Gem: Yeah, and that I relate to that in so many ways. Like one moving out of London was like "Wow, this is different" and and two I think just in lockdown just having space like having sometimes endless amounts of space where there was a time where we didn't know when it was going to end and today we've just gone back into lockdown in the UK and now they're saying at least until March. So there's like just this long space of time. And what do you put in it, I mean, unless obviously some people are having to still go out to work or work from home, but if you do have these spaces of time, that's something that's really inaccessible in normal everyday life, like to actually explore things creatively or to come up with new ways of doing things.

Rubyyy: Totally and like I noticed it in parts of my life separate to work in that, you know, my partner Lydia and I, we'd really struggled to be able to manage all the day in and day out kinds of stuff. Don't get me wrong, our house wasn't like a tip or anything, but it was like was our laundry always regularly done and never overflowing? And now it feels like we have capacity to actually do human everyday life because we're not putting all of our energy into recovering from work and doing work.

Gem: And talking of being at home, or you've now recently moved to Canada, was it this month or last month?

Rubyyy: It was last month. At the end of the month we moved to Ottawa just for a month because we were really lucky to have a place available there for us to quarantine and have the holidays. And then we moved again last week. And we're in my home town now.

Gem: Oh, my goodness. So whereabouts is that?

Rubyyy: Paris, Ontario, Canada.

Gem: Okay. And how's it going so far?

Rubyyy: So far, so tricky. It's like everywhere I go, I'm hit with 20 years of unprocessed information. From my birth till I left, basically, it feels like I'm just, it's just everywhere. And it's really interesting. I'm living with my mom at the moment and where she lives is  directly in the neighbourhood I grew up with. And it's like, there's that time I fell on my bike and skinned my knee, there's that time I did this, there's that time I did that. I'm liking it, but it's also oh my gosh, I'm not gonna lie so, much daily. Yeah, so much and it's almost like my 13 years in London, again because of a lot of things, I was so disconnected from my home and my family and who I was before I moved to England, it was like, everything was about my life in the UK. And then now it's like, oh yeah, I had a life before then. I'm just processing all that, basically.

Gem: Yeah, that sounds like a lot to process and moving to back to, I'm imagining, quite a different country from what you left, because that was quite some time ago.

Rubyyy: Yes, that's true. And trying to understand what that even means now, you know, it's really tricky. You can have the sense from your own family, or the people that you know, but really trying to get a sense of it kind of like wider, more generally, it feels tricky.

Gem: Yeah. What does that mean for... I have so many questions. Hang on, what do I want to ask? Yeah, I guess I'm thinking, what does that mean for performing? And for the work that you have done in the past? Is

Show artwork for Queers and Co.

About the Podcast

Queers and Co.
A podcast for queer folks and allies on self-empowerment, body liberation and activism.
Hi, I'm Gem! Join me as I chat to queer folks and allies about self-empowerment, body liberation and activism. My guests are at the forefront of change-making, working in areas like fat activism, sex positivity, intersectional feminism, drag/cabaret, LGBTQ+ activism and children's rights.

I'm a transformational coach, activist and founder of the Queers & Co. zine, podcast and community. Through my work, I support LGBTQ+ folks and allies to reclaim their personal power and take up space so that they can impact the world in ways they have only dreamt of.

Find out more about my work: www.gemkennedy.com
Find out more about Queers & Co.: www.gemkennedy.com/queersandco

About your host

Profile picture for Gem Kennedy

Gem Kennedy

I’m Gem. I'm the founder of the Queers & Co. zine, community and podcast, as well as a transformational coach and activist. I’m also queer, fat positive, an intersectional feminist and Mum to two free-range children.

I help LGBTQ+ folks and allies to reclaim their personal power and take up space so that they can impact the world in ways they have only dreamt of.