ELIXHER creator, Kimberley McLeod, recently sat down in New Orleans with Aryka Randall, founder of TheFabFemme.com and lesbian web series Girl Play. The two chatted about her blog, the eclectic cast and crew of her new show, and her love of sunflower seeds.
ELIXHER: Tell us a little about yourself and your Louisiana roots.
ARYKA: I was born in San Francisco but my family moved to San Diego when I was two years old. Then we moved to Louisiana (Lake Charles) when I was around five. Now I live in Baton Rouge. I’ve lived in like every city in Louisiana. [Laughs.]
ELIXHER: You founded your site in 2009. What inspired you to create TheFabFemme.com?
ARYKA: I got tired of having to visit five different sites to find what I wanted. I’d go to Advocate for news, Necole Bitchie for celebrity gossip… I wanted something that was a mix of everything and that had something for everyone.
ELIXHER: Who is the target audience?
ARYKA: It’s geared towards femmes — boys and girls — of all races and ethnicities.
ELIXHER: What topics does the blog explore?
ARYKA: I love featuring things people are doing locally, especially young women. I also like to highlight people that are undiscovered. I like to cover news, too. A lot of the community isn’t aware of the political side of news so I like to slip that in there. The fluff reels people in. It’s good to know what’s going on in the LGBT community news-wise, not just what’s happening at the club.
ELIXHER: Do you work on TheFabFemme full-time?
ARYKA: Pretty much. Media has kind of taken over my life. Once I started it, it took on a life of its own. Once that happens, you have to keep on delivering.
ELIXHER: What has been the community response?
ARYKA: People like that there’s stuff they want to see. The videos have been extremely popular. I’ve covered everything from coming out to femme invisibility to how to approach a femme at the club. Readers like having a place they can go online to get news and advice. There are a lot of teens in the South that appreciate it.
ELIXHER: How has your femme identity empowered you in your work?
ARYKA: I don’t necessarily walk around with a rainbow flag. But I don’t hide who I am either. My femme presentation invites people in and debunks a lot of stereotypes about what a lesbian is “supposed” to look like. People get to know me for me.
ELIXHER: Let’s switch gears a little. What inspired your latest endeavor, Girl Play?
ARYKA: I was looking for web series to post on the site. The majority of them are about studs. I rarely saw femmes as the main characters or the story told from their perspective.
A lot of people reinforce the femme/stud dichotomy. We seldom acknowledge femme/femme and stud/stud relationships in the community. My first girlfriend was a stud because that’s what I thought I was “supposed” to date as someone that identifies as a femme. When I opened myself up, I realized how much I love dating other femmes. I also realized that people wouldn’t take my femme/femme relationships as seriously. I like what I like. One isn’t more legitimate than the other. Girl Play reflects that.
I found a lot of shows where the plot was good but the production would be poor. Or the production would be quality but the acting would suck. There was always something missing.
ELIXHER: Is the series based on your life?
ARYKA: Loosely, yes. My femme friends circle…it’s interesting. [Laughs.] There’s always something going on. And in New Orleans, everyone knows everyone.
ELIXHER: How did you go about casting the characters and hiring a crew?
ARYKA: Through word of mouth, mutual friends and social media. We have a very eclectic cast and crew. I didn’t want the production to look raggedy. It was important for it to look current and professional and have good audio. Our two videographers are really passionate about their craft. It’s funny seeing two straight white guys running around with ten Black lesbians.
ELIXHER: What can viewers expect from Girl Play?
ARYKA: Surprises, comedy and relatable storylines. They can expect new characters that will come in and out. In Season 2, you will get to know more about the characters’ families, backgrounds and jobs. I took notes from shows I like. The L Word was a huge influence. Sex and the City as well. They were both really good about defining their characters’ lives. I love the way they recycled secondary characters.
ELIXHER: Where did the name Girl Play come from?
ARYKA: [Laughs.] No one has ever asked me that. I dated someone that was dominant and when she’d get dressed up, she’d say, “Wanna have girl play?” It’s basically referring to two femmes fooling around. [Laughs.] That’s the only good thing I got out of that relationship.