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Kyle Meets… Will McKinney-Raphelt, talks HEFT party & diversity on the queer dance floor

It is not hard to notice the clear lack of diversity on the dance floors of many queer clubs in New York City. Many queer clubs seem to cater more to a skinnier, whiter demographic, leaving people of color and those in the chunkier crowd wondering, Where can we go to shake our asses?

This question led to the creation of HEFT – the newest party in NYC for “thicc-thighed boys of color that like to back that ass up.” The first HEFT will happen Friday, November 8, 2019 from 10:00 PM to 4:00 AM at Nowhere Bar – 322 E 14th Street, New York, NY.

Recently, I was able to talk to one of the co-creators of HEFT, Will McKinney-Raphet, to discuss how it all came about, as well as his hopes for the future of HEFT.

KJ: Whose idea was HEFT?

WMR: The concept to start this specific party was mine, but I think that it’s something that has been felt throughout the big boy community for a little while now. My friends and I would lament about the fact that there are a lot of options when it comes to going out, but next to none that offer music for us to shake our asses.

We must give credit to the Beefcake Party (which stopped a few years ago) , as one of the originators of this idea, as well as nods to The Phunktion Party, which has been helping bring this vibe to the Rockbar. 

Now, as a full-fledged team (shout out to Ethan Baldwin, Humberto Martinez, Jared Martin, Khalid Livingston, Stevin Bolden-Curry, and my hubby, Alex McKinney-Raphelt), we are ready to turn this shit all the way up.

KJ: When did you begin to notice a need for a party like HEFT in NYC?

WMR: The boiling point that sparked the decision to bring HEFT to life came to my mind after NYC World Pride. While it was a beautiful moment to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Pride Marches, World Pride left my friends and I with a feeling of being unfulfilled. There is a clear void to be filled when it comes to a diverse Hip-Hop/R&B dance-focused party for big men – whether they be bears, chunky, chubby, or anything in between.

KJ: Do you plan for this to be a monthly, weekly, or annual event? 

WMR: HEFT will likely happen every few months. While there is a clear need for this party, we all still have day jobs (laughs). But it will also depend on the demand, once we get past the first party. We will bring it as often as we can, though!

KJ: Who will be DJing the event?

WMR: We will have DJ BEARGAZER and Skype Williams bringing the tunes for our first party. One thing we want to make clear from the door: HEFT aims to be a diverse safe space for thick men to get sweaty on the dance floor to City Girls, Rihanna, Juvenile, Meagan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj, Drake, and much more. We are bringing the vibes catering to fans of Hip-Hop/R&B/Trap/Twerk/House, etc., especially big men of color!

KJ: What do you want your guests to experience at HEFT?

WMR: HEFT is a Hip-Hop dance party, first and foremost. So, we want our guests to experience freedom on the dance floor. They are going to get bass-thumping, ass-dropping, sweat-dripping ENERGY, while singing along to their favorite songs and dancing with their friends – old and new (winks).

The people behind this party all love Hip-Hop, and just want to highlight its place within the big boy night-life culture.

KJ: Being that you and I both have affiliations with London, I think this would be great to bring there. Would this party be something you hope to be to the UK as well?

WMR: It would be a dream come true to see HEFT travel to the UK! The team would truly love to see this party in as many cities as our capabilities allow us to bring it to. If we’re being honest, having traveled around the world to different bear events, there is no party quite like this at all.

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Kyle Jackson

Kyle Jackson (He/Him) is Senior Staff Writer at Gray Jones Media, and additionally works as a writer, editor and theatre artist/actor. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, he studied at Dillard University, received a BA in Theatre from Morgan State University, an MS in Arts Administration from Drexel University, and completed the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer in Oxford Programme in 2017. Having lived in Baltimore, the Washington, DC area, Philadelphia and New York City, he now resides and works in London, United Kingdom.

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