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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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Out & About

10 LGBTQ events this week

Catch upcoming drag shows, an ugly sweater party and Pamala Stanley live

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From left, Detox appears with other 'RuPaul's Drag Race' alums at a Christmas Misfits show, an Ugly Sweater Party is planned at As You Are and Pamala Stanley is slated to perform at Freddie's. (Blade file photos by Michael Key and Daniel Truitt)

Below are our picks for some of the most fun and creative things to do this week in the DMV that are of special interest to the LGBTQ community.


Mocktail Night

Wednesday, December 7
6-10 p.m.
Pitchers DC
2317 18th Street, N.W.
First Base Room
Facebook

Pitchers is hosting its first alcohol-free night for those celebrating sobriety with festive mocktails. No alcohol will be served, so go to Pitchers for a stress-free social event with other sober LGBTQ friends and allies.


“Flee” Movie Screening

Thursday, December 8
Doors 5:30 p.m./Opening remarks 6:30 p.m.
Landmark’s E Street Cinema
555 11th Street, N.W.
Free/registration required
Facebook | Register

The European Parliament Liaison Office and Capital Pride present a screening of European Parliament LUX Award 2022 finalist, “Flee.”

“Flee” portrays the true story of a man who shares his hidden past of fleeing his home country of Afghanistan to Denmark.


Christmas Misfits: A Drag Holiday Extravaganza!

Thursday, December 8
6 p.m.
Capital One Hall
7750 Capital One Tower Road
McLean, Va.
$69.50-$252.50
Facebook | Tickets

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” alumni Violet Chachki, Gottmik, Detox and Latrice Royale perform at a holiday show on Thursday.


Vernonza Extravaganza Lipsync Battle

Thursday, December 8
8 p.m.
Dupont Italian Kitchen
1637 17th Street, N.W.
Facebook

Monica Vernonza and Lady London host a lip sync battle at Dupont Italian Kitchen on Thursday.


StartOut Baltimore-Washington Launch Reception

Friday, December 9
6 p.m.
Selina Union Market
411 New York Avenue, N.E.
Facebook | Eventbrite

StartOut Baltimore-Washington holds a launch party with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, live entertainment and networking at the rooftop at Selina Union Market on Friday. The new organization looks to increase the number, diversity and impact of LGBTQ entrepreneurs.


Pretty Girl Rock Drag Brunch

Saturday, December 10
10 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Hard Rock Cafe
999 E Street, N.W.
$15+
Facebook | Tickets

Evon Dior Michelle hosts a drag brunch with Druex Sidora and Katrina Colby at Hard Rock Cafe on Saturday.


Ugly Sweater Party

Saturday, December 10
9 p.m.
As You Are DC
500 8th Street, S.E.
Facebook

Wear your ugliest sweater and party all night with DJ L Stackz at As You Are on Saturday.


UNCUT: Jingle Balls with DJ Cindel

Saturday, December 10
10 p.m.
Bliss Nightclub
2122 24th Place, N.E.
$65+
Facebook

Kinetic presents the 2nd annual UNCUT Jingle Balls event at Bliss Nightclub on Saturday complete with a clothes check and play zones.


It’s Britney, Brunch!

Sunday, December 11
Doors 11 a.m./show 12 p.m.
Red Bear Brewing Co.
209 M Street, N.E.
$25
Facebook

Desiree Dik leads the Britney Spears-themed drag brunch featuring Elecktra G, Silverware Sidora, Millie Meringue and Tip Boy Pup Indigo at Red Bear Brewing Company on Sunday.


Pamala Stanley LIVE at Freddie’s

Sunday, December 11
7-9:30 p.m.
Freddie’s Beach Bar
555 23rd Street S
Arlington, Va.
$15
Facebook

Pamala Stanley returns to Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington for a holiday show on Sunday.


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PHOTOS: Safe Space

New LGBTQ+ party held at Black Cat

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A scene from the 'Safe Space' party at the Black Cat on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Safe Space 2: A Safer Space party was held at the Black Cat on Saturday, Dec. 3.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Photos

PHOTOS: Holiday Show

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington perform annual concert at Lincoln Theatre

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A scene from the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington's 'Holiday Show.' (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington and the GenOUT Youth Chorus performed “The Holiday Show” at a dress rehearsal on Friday, Dec. 2 at Lincoln Theatre. The Chorus has performances scheduled for Dec. 9 and 11. For tickets and showtimes, visit gmcw.org.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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