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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

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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.

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Baltimore DJ on using music as a bridge to combat discrimination

Deezy brings high-energy show to the Admiral on Jan. 28

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DJ Deezy has hosted multiple events in D.C. and Baltimore. (Photo by Carlos Polk from We Dream Photography and Studios)

A Baltimore DJ will conclude a month of performances in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. clubs this Friday, Jan. 28, according to the artist’s management. DJ Deezy is set to perform at the Admiral in D.C. at 9 p.m. 

Since the year began, Deezy has hosted electric events at clubs such as Hawthorne DC, DuPont and the Baltimore Eagle Bar & Nightclub. 

The Washington Blade sat down with the DJ to discuss the course of her career. 

The beginning of DJ Deezy’s infatuation with music dates back to her childhood spent between her mother’s house in Baltimore City and her father’s house in the suburbs. 

In Baltimore, Deezy was exposed to the local rap and raw hip-hop scene that inspired her to embark on a rap career in high school. 

Concurrently, she was entrenched in Motown and classic rock by virtue of her singer, songwriter, and guitarist father Ron Daughton’s involvement in a classic rock band. He is a member of “The Dalton Gang” and was inducted into the Maryland Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2015.

“Before I embarked on my DJ journey, my father let me record ‘a little 16’ on his tape recorder,” said Deezy. “Eventually, he bought me a wireless microphone that I carried around with me to performances.”

Between her experience as a rapper and watching her father maneuver the classic rock music scene, Deezy acquired varying tastes in music that have influenced how she curates her sets today. 

She “specializes in open format vibes with spins from multiple genres including hip-hop, rap, circuit, and top 40s hits,” according to a summer 2021 press release from her management.

Deezy is also a proud member of the LGBTQ community — she identifies as a lesbian — and this also informs her approach to her work.

“I’m easily able to transition and rock the crowd because I can relate to many different backgrounds,” said Deezy. “I can DJ in places that are predominantly white, Black, or gay [and still do my job effortlessly].”

Centering community

Deezy values representation. Not only because she exists in a field dominated by men, but also because DJs who inhabit other identities aside from being men are less common in the industry. 

The scarcity of Black and lesbian DJs has prompted her to use her career as evidence that people who are different can attract audiences and succeed.

“I want to put us out there especially for Baltimore,” said Deezy. “I know that there’s Black lesbians out there doing the same thing as me, but why aren’t we getting [recognized]?”

In 2018, Deezy rented out a “Lez” lot at the Baltimore Pride block party where she set up a tent and played a set for the crowds tailgating around her. While entertaining them, she distributed her business cards — an act she believes yielded her the contact who eventually got her booked for a residency at the Baltimore Eagle.

While this was a step forward in her career, Deezy acknowledges that it wasn’t without challenges. She likened entering the Baltimore Eagle — traditionally a leather bar frequented predominantly by men —to navigating foreign territory. 

“When I first got there, I got funny looks,” she said. “There’s a lot of these guys who are like, ‘Why are you bringing a lesbian DJ to a gay bar?’”

But Deezy powered through her performance, lifted the crowd from its seats and “rocked the house [so that] no one will ever ask any questions again.” 

She admits that she’s an acquired taste but believes in her ability to play music infectious enough to draw anyone to the dance floor.  

“Feel how you want to feel about a Black lesbian DJ being in the gay bar,” said Deezy. “But music is a bridge that [will] connect us all, and you’ll forget about your original discrimination when you [experience] me.”

While Deezy has mostly performed in the DMV, she has also made appearances in Arizona where she hosted a family event and also in clubs in Atlanta and New York City. 

Her work has also attracted international attention and she was the cover star of  French publication Gmaro Magazine’s October 2021 issue

Looking to the future, Deezy’s goal is to be a tour DJ and play her sets around the world.

“I had a dream that Tamar Braxton approached me backstage at one of her concerts and asked me to be her tour DJ,” she said. “So, I’m manifesting this for myself.” 

In the meantime, Deezy will continue to liven up audiences in bars and clubs around the country while playing sets for musicians like Crystal Waters and RuPaul’s Drag Race celebrity drag queens like Alyssa Edwards, Plastique Tiara, La La Ri, Joey Jay and Eureka O’Hara — all of whom she has entertained alongside in the past. 

Outside the club, Deezy’s music can be heard in Shoe City where she created an eight-hour music mix split evenly between deep house and hip-hop and R&B. 

DJ Deezy (Photo by Carlos Polk from We Dream Photography and Studios)
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Out & About

Ryan McClure to lead LGBTQ jam

Participants to collaborate in improv event

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Improv artist Ryan McClure will lead a jam for LGBTQ improvisers on Saturday, Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. at the Washington Improv Theater. 

This event is a fun, low-stress environment where guests can connect and engage with fellow improvisers in a supportive environment. Jams are a great place to be silly, practice a skill, and/or connect with new and old friends over the collaborative world of yes-and.

Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased on Eventbrite.

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Out & About

CAKE Society Co to host community planning meeting

Networking, strategizing event to be held at Shaw Neighborhood Library

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Nonprofit organization CAKE Society Co will host a LGBTQ community planning meeting on Thursday, Feb. 3 at 5:30 p.m. at Shaw Neighborhood Library.

This event will teach guests how to support the LGBTQ community through events and initiatives centered around social equity, justice, and activism. There will be discussions about how to make a positive impact on the LGBTQ community and how to work through community building and partnerships.

For more event details, visit Eventbrite.

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