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The ‘Real’ deal: An interview with Julia Lemigova of RHOM

Navratilova’s spouse on reality TV, her chickens and Martina’s art



Julia Lemigova, who has been married to Martina Navratilova since 2014, is the first openly lesbian member of the ‘Real Housewives’ in the history of the series.

If you’ve managed to avoid watching even a single season of any of the “Real Housewives”shows, you now have a reason to watch. Julia Lemigova, who has been married to Martina Navratilova since 2014 is the first openly lesbian member of the cast in the history of the series. Initially introduced as a friend of “Real Housewives of Miami”cast member Adriana de Moura, the statuesque Lemigova towers over her castmates in more ways than one. She has a wonderful sense of humor, and her self-confidence is palatable. More than just a welcome addition to the cast, her presence is essential to making the show a well-rounded experience. Julia was gracious enough to answer a few questions.

BLADE: Julia, were you a fan of the Real Housewives franchise before you joined the cast of Real Housewives of Miami, now airing on Peacock?

JULIA LEMIGOVA: I had heard about the Real Housewives franchise. I always wanted to find time to watch, but life is busy with me farming or something else. I never watched the show until my dear friend Adriana called me and invited me to try to be her partner on the show. I was so thrilled because my real-life friendship with Adriana is like a show anyway [laughs], so it seemed like a natural fit.  That same day, I watched the first season; all the episodes in one day. Then the next day I watched the second season of “Real Housewives of Miami” and the third day I watched the third season, and that’s it [laughs]. I was convinced! I loved it! I became an instant fan. It was like a natural chemistry.

BLADE: I was touched by the story of how you met Martina, to whom you’ve been married since December 2014. Did you do anything special to celebrate your wedding anniversary?

LEMIGOVA: We were actually in the middle of moving houses. We literally moved on that day because everything was kind of going fast and we wanted to get the house to ready for our daughters. So, we haven’t really celebrated. We’re kind of making jokes to each other that here we are moving boxes and packing on our anniversary. But we did open a bottle of something and had dinner. Now that both of our daughters came back from being abroad, we are looking forward to celebrating it together with them. We had a rain check, and we’ll celebrate it all together; Christmas, wedding anniversary, all of it in the new house.

BLADE: Another fascinating detail is the way you talk about how you had been closeted, but that living in Miami has allowed you to be more of yourself. Can you please say a few words about that?

LEMIGOVA: I felt free from the second I stepped onto U.S. soil. Being so shy and introverted about my life while living in Paris and then the first time we went for a vacation to the U.S. in Aspen followed by Miami, it just felt right. We stayed in a small art deco hotel on the beach. I remember having breakfast and looking at people walking, Somehow, I found myself walking around Ocean Drive with Martina, and here I am holding hands with her. I was like, “Oh, my God!” It was something I never ever did in Paris. I love Miami even more for that [laugh]. I’m crazy about it. I said, “Let’s move here.” It was wishful thinking, because back then same-sex marriage was not legal. We had to plan ahead and overcome quite a few challenges.

BLADE: We’re very glad you like it here. You have the distinction of being the first openly lesbian cast member in the history of “Real Housewives.” What does that honor mean to you?

LEMIGOVA: I feel so proud, and I never use this word lightly. Being a visible part of our LGBT community is quite new to me. I would not even try to pretend I am a spokesperson for it, but I’m so happy to be a spokesperson for myself and for my family. I hope that as a family we represent our LGBT community well. I’m thrilled and honored to shine a light on how we live; on our family, and share it with the world, and especially with those who may need it.

BLADE: Episode three of the new seasonincludes scenes from Wynwood Pride. Living in South Florida as we both do, we have multiple Pride festivals, including Miami Beach Pride, Fort Lauderdale Pride, Stonewall Pride in Wilton Manors, Pride of the Palm Beaches, and Key West Pride. Have you been able to partake in the myriad Pride festivals?

LEMIGOVA: Because of COVID, and all the difficulties that come with it, I was not able to participate in that this year, unfortunately, in a lot of Prides that I would have wanted to. However, when I was pregnant with my daughter in 2001, I was there on the street [for Pride] in New York. That was a lot of fun. Then, with Martina, during some of our vacations, we participated in a lot of different LGBT events, and I was a part of Pride in Paris, which was so much fun. Actually, New York again just before COVID started, which was amazing. And then my first time in Miami Pride this year.

BLADE: In addition to living with Martina in Miami Beach, you also have a farm in Broward County. What do you like best about the goats and chickens and all that goes with the farm?

LEMIGOVA: I grew up in Moscow. Every summer my parents would send me to this Russian dacha. Being around animals, farm animals is part of my growing up. It’s who I am. Living in Europe, I could never make this dream happen. In Florida, when we decided to be in Miami, it was such a natural fit. Not only did I feel like I could be me here, be open about how I live, who I am, and my sexuality, but I also realized my second dream, which is to live among my four-legged and two-legged creatures. I have an unusual farm. It is a working farm — it keeps me working [laughs], but it’s more like a retreat. They each have their habitat and I am I am just living with them. I’m part of their life. I talk to them, all of them, even my multiple numbers of chickens. I love milking my goats. Right now, three of them are pregnant, so I’ll have a lot of milk. I cannot wait to start showing my cast-member friends how to make goat cheese. It gives me a sense of kind of belonging, tranquility. What makes it even funnier is that I jiggle between high-heeled shoes and chicken galoshes. I’m comfortable in both [laughs]. I’m at the beach house in high-heeled shoes and I have galoshes in my pickup truck for when I pick up my hay and feed for the animals. Then I join Martina later for some glamorous dinner in Miami Beach.

BLADE: Initially in the first couple of episodes of the new season, you are introduced in the new season of RHOM as “Adriana’s friend.” Having only seen the first couple of episodes, it’s obvious that Adriana is a little bit of a flirt. Do you think that’s an accurate description of your friend?

LEMIGOVA: It’s funny because at first people were saying that I was a flirt. I actually looked up flirtation when people were telling me, “Julia, you are little bit of a flirt.” I hadn’t heard that about Adriana. But now that you’re saying so, I’ll ask her if she was told that as well. When I looked in the dictionary for the exact definition of the word there are lots. The one I found more accurate to me and flirt is like a butterfly. You’re flying from flower to flower. That’s how I interact with people, in general. Men, women, my chickens. Flirt to me is just a way to say I enjoy talking to you. There is no sexual connotation to me at all. It’s just a happy exchange of energy.

BLADE: Well said! In the first couple of episodes, we also learn about Martina’s talent for painting. How important do you think it is for people to have a creative outlet for expression such as painting?

LEMIGOVA: I think it’s so important. Whether it’s painting or any kind of art or whatever other outlet they could have for their emotions, to balance how they feel. To turn the feelings, the avalanche of different emotions into something so beautiful like art or, in my case [laughs], interacting with the animals. After Martina finishes playing or commentating tennis, she spreads the canvas on the floor with paint and takes the tennis balls, smashing them all over my beautiful floor [laughs]. Creating with multi-colors, and me being grumpy because, “Oh, my God! How am I going to clean this?” An hour later, I come back, and those colors became a beautiful piece of art. I’m fascinated by how she can do that. Then she’s fascinated how I talk to my parrots and chickens and tortoises, and all of that.



PHOTOS: DCGFFL 25th Anniversary Party

Gay flag football league marks milestone at Penn Social



The D.C. Gay Flag Football league held a party celebrating their 25th season at Penn Social on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Gay Flag Football League (DCGFFL) held a 25th season anniversary party at Penn Social on Saturday, Sept. 23. Proceeds from the event benefited the LGBTQ youth services organization SMYAL as well as the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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New book goes behind the scenes of ‘A League of Their Own’

‘No Crying in Baseball’ offers tears, laughs, and more



(Book cover image courtesy of Hachette Books)

‘No Crying in Baseball: The Inside Story of ‘A League of Their Own’
By Erin Carlson
c.2023, Hachette Books
$29/320 pages

You don’t usually think of Madonna as complaining of being “dirty all day” from playing baseball. But that’s what the legendary diva did during the shooting of “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 movie, beloved by queers.

“No Crying in Baseball,” the fascinating story behind “A League of Their Own,” has arrived in time for the World Series. Nothing could be more welcome after Amazon has cancelled season 2 of its reboot (with the same name) of this classic film.

In this era, people don’t agree on much. Yet, “A League of Their Own” is loved by everyone from eight-year-old kids to 80-year-old grandparents.

The movie has strikes, home runs and outs for sports fans; period ambience for history buffs; and tears, laughs and a washed-up, drunk, but lovable coach for dramady fans.

The same is true for “No Crying in Baseball.” This “making of” story will appeal to history, sports and Hollywood aficionados. Like “All About Eve” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “A League of Their Own” is Holy queer Writ.

Carlson, a culture and entertainment journalist who lives in San Francisco, is skilled at distilling Hollywood history into an informative, compelling narrative. As with her previous books, “I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy” and “Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep,” “No Crying in Baseball,” isn’t too “educational.” It’s filled with gossip to enliven coffee dates and cocktail parties.

“A League of Their Own” is based on the true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). From 1943 to 1954, more than 600 women played in the league in the Midwest. The league’s players were all white because the racism of the time prohibited Black women from playing. In the film, the characters are fictional. But the team the main characters play for – the Rockford Peaches – was real.

While many male Major and Minor League Baseball players were fighting in World War II, chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, who owned the Chicago Cubs, founded the league. He started the AAGPBL, “To keep spectators in the bleachers,” Carlson reports, “and a storied American sport–more important: his business afloat.” 

In 1943, the Office of War Information warned that the baseball season could be “scrapped” “due to a lack of men,” Carlson adds.

“A League of Their Own” was an ensemble of women’s performances (including Rosie O’Donnell as Doris, Megan Cavanagh as Marla, Madonna as Mae, Lori Petty as Kit and Geena Davis as Dottie) that would become legendary.

Girls and women  still dress up as Rockford Peaches on Halloween.

Tom Hanks’s indelible portrayal of coach Jimmy Dugan, Gary Marshall’s depiction of (fictional) league owner Walter Harvey and Jon Lovitz’s portrayal of Ernie have also become part of film history.

Filming “A League of Their Own,” Carlson vividly makes clear, was a gargantuan effort.  There were “actresses who can’t play baseball” and “baseball players who can’t act,” Penny Marshall said.

The stadium in Evansville, Ind., was rebuilt to look like it was in the 1940s “when the players and extras were in costume,” Carlson writes, “it was easy to lose track of what year it was.”

“No Crying in Baseball” isn’t written for a queer audience. But, Carlson doesn’t pull any punches. 

Many of the real-life AAGPBL players who O’Donnell met had same-sex partners, O’Donnell told Carlson.

“When Penny, angling for a broad box-office hit chose to ignore the AAGPGL’s queer history,” Carlson writes, “she perpetuated a cycle of silence that muzzled athletes and actresses alike from coming out on the wider stage.”

“It was, as they say, a different time,” she adds.

Fortunately, Carlson’s book isn’t preachy. Marshall nicknames O’Donnell and Madonna (who become buddies) “Ro” and “Mo.” Kodak is so grateful for the one million feet of film that Marshall shot that it brings in a high school marching band. Along with a lobster lunch. One day, an assistant director “streaked the set to lighten the mood,” Carlson writes.

“No Crying in Baseball,” is slow-going at first. Marshall, who died in 2018, became famous as Laverne in “Laverne & Shirley.” It’s interesting to read about her. But Carlson devotes so much time to Marshall’s bio that you wonder when she’ll get to “A League of Their Own.”

Thankfully, after a couple of innings, the intriguing story of one of the best movies ever is told.

You’ll turn the pages of “No Crying in Baseball” even if you don’t know a center fielder from a short stop.

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Rupert Murdoch’s powers on full display in ‘Ink’

Media baron helped pave the way for Brexit, Prime Minister Thatcher



Cody Nickell (Larry Lamb) and Andrew Rein (Rupert Murdoch) in ‘Ink’ at Round House Theatre. (Photo by Margot Schulman Photography)

Through Sept. 24
Round House Theatre
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814

Yes, Rupert Murdoch’s loathsome traits are many, but his skills to succeed are undeniably numerous. 

In the first scenes of John Graham’s West End and Broadway hit drama “Ink,” an exciting year-long detail from the life of a burgeoning media baron, Murdoch’s powers of persuasion are on full display.

It’s 1969 London. Over dinner with editor Larry Lamb, a young Murdoch shares his plan to buy the Sun and rebrand the dying broadsheet, replacing the Daily Mirror as Britain’s best-selling tabloid. What’s more, he wants to do it in just one year with Lamb at the helm. 

Initially reluctant, Lamb becomes seduced by the idea of running a paper, something that’s always eluded him throughout his career, and something Murdoch, the outsider Australian, understands. Murdoch taunts him, “Not you. Not Larry Lamb, the Yorkshire-born son of a blacksmith, not the guy who didn’t get a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, who didn’t get a degree from anywhere. Not you.”

Still, Lamb, played convincingly by Cody Nickell in Round House Theatre’s stellar season-opener, a co-production with Olney Theatre Center, remains unsure. But Murdoch (a delightfully brash Andrew Rein) is undeterred, and seals the deal with a generous salary. 

Superbly staged by director Jason Loweth, “Ink” is riveting. Its exchanges between Lamb and Murdoch are a strikingly intimate glimpse into ambition involving an ostensibly average editor and a striving money man who doesn’t like people.  

Once on board, Lamb is trolling Fleet Street in search of his launch team, played marvelously by some mostly familiar actors. He makes his most important hire — news editor Brian McConnell (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) — in a steam bath. The remainder of the Sun’s new masthead falls handily into place: Joyce Hopkirk (Kate Eastwood Norris) the women’s page editor whose forward thinking is marred by her casual racism; Zion Jang plays Beverley Goodway, an awkwardly amusing young photographer; persnickety deputy editor Bernard Shrimsley (Michael Glenn) who learns to love ugly things; and an old school sports editor who proves surprisingly versatile, played by Ryan Rillette, Round House’s artistic director. 

At Lamb’s suggestion, the team brainstorms about what interests Sun readers. They decide on celebrities, pets, sports, free stuff, and —rather revolutionarily for the time —TV.  Murdoch is happy to let readers’ taste dictate content and the “Why” of the sacred “five Ws” of journalism is out the window. 

Murdoch is portrayed as a not wholly unlikable misanthrope. He dislikes his editors and pressman alike. He particularly hates unions. His advice to Lamb is not to get too chummy with his subordinates. Regarding the competition, Murdoch doesn’t just want to outperform them, he wants to grind them to dust. 

Loewith leads an inspired design team. Scenic designer Tony Cisek’s imposing, inky grey edifice made from modular walls is ideally suited for Mike Tutaj’s projections of headlines, printed pages, and Rein’s outsized face as Murdoch. Sound designer and composer Matthew M. Nielson ably supplies bar noises and the nonstop, pre-digital newspaper clatter of presses, linotypes, and typewriters.

From a convenient second tiered balcony, the Daily Mirror’s establishment power trio Hugh Cudlipp (Craig Wallace), Chris Lee Howard (Chris Geneback) and Sir Percy (Walter Riddle) overlook all that lies below, discussing new tactics and (mostly failed) strategies to remain on top.   

Increasingly comfortable in the role of ruthless, sleazy editor, Lamb is unstoppable.

Obsessed with overtaking the Daily Mirror’s circulation, he opts for some sketchy reportage surrounding the kidnapping and presumed murder of Muriel McKay, the wife of Murdoch’s deputy Sir Alick (Todd Scofield). The kidnappers mistook Muriel for Murdoch’s then-wife Anna (Sophia Early). Next, in a move beyond the pale, Lamb introduces “Page 3,” a feature spotlighting a topless female model. Awesta Zarif plays Stephanie, a smart young model. She asks Lamb if he would run a semi-nude pic of his similarly aged daughter? His reaction is uncomfortable but undaunted. 

For Murdoch’s purposes, history proves he chose well in Lamb. By year’s end, the Sun is Britain’s most widely read tabloid. Together they give the people what they didn’t know they wanted, proving the pro-Labour Daily Mirror’s hold on the working class is baseless and paving the way for things like Brexit and a Prime Minister Thatcher. 

“Ink” at Round House closes soon. See it if you can.

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