New York nightlife is a premium experience. And though the city may be unrivaled when it comes to star-studded events and late-night parties filled with fashionable people, that doesn’t mean that nightlife pros aren’t putting in work with their werk.
That’s especially true when you’re a longtime nightlife Queenpin, like Harlem-born, Bronx-raised Venus X. Working as a DJ, Venus founded her legendary GHE20G0TH1K party in 2009, and has kept it running to this day, packing in a contemporary crowd of cool kids and queer people of color to dance to everything from hip hop to dembow to, well, goth music.
It’s also true when your big personality and high-fashion expertise makes you an in-demand party guest, which is the case with Kingsley. Cutting his teeth working for world famous fashion labels, the first-generation Nigerian-American designer has long made New York his home. After working for others, Kingsley branched out on his own, founding his line K.NGSLEY “to advance liberation for the Black community, the Queer community, and People of Color,” all while stepping out to all the best parties and making a name for himself as an NYC nightlife staple.
But back to our earlier point. All that sustained success takes grit and a special kind of hustle. And sometimes, you just need to have fun, turn up, and celebrate all your wins. So Venus X and Kingsley did just that by hopping on VanMoof’s new S5 and A5 e-bikes to explore their city without limits—because as Venus X explains, making your way through the Concrete Jungle by bike “is a very different way to see the world of New York.” How? You’ll have to ride read along to hear the duo’s take on nightlife, New York City, VanMoof e-bikes, as well as life and love.
Their ride starts between Brooklyn’s Williamsburg and Ridgewood neighborhoods, where they explore some of Kingsley’s go-to spots.
On Their Blocks
Kingsley: The places we’re riding through have been instrumental in shaping how I see things. For example, The Standard Grooming Co. I met Troy, my barber, in high school. We literally ended up coming to New York, unintentionally, at the same time. We’ve both seen each other’s journey… and it’s just full circle. It’s been really helpful to have a familiar face in an unfamiliar city.
I like 3 Dollar Bill because of OTA. OTA is the premier ballroom night, every Monday, that has come back to New York. I’m so happy that it was able to revive nightlife in ballroom culture. Without ballroom, I don’t think I would be who I am.
SoHo is like Times Square to me in a way. It’s like that place that I try to avoid, but also, it has become a place where I get really, really inspired, just by people-watching. You get to see this grit and savoir-faire. I really feel like I’m in New York when I’m there.
Venus X: I spent most of my childhood in a hair salon, thanks to my mother and against my will. It left me with a lot of appreciation for glam and fantasy and femininity, and hair and make-up. It’s a really good place to recalibrate, especially before being on stage. You need places that are a little bit spiritual and a little bit close to home.
I love to go to Dyckman, specifically, to get my hair done because that’s where I was raised. That’s where my body is most in tune, I think. It’s the easiest place for me to feel safe when I’m becoming the girl for the stage. It’s one thing to be your mother’s daughter, it’s another thing to be a Catholic schoolgirl, which I was, but then it’s another thing to be Venus X, and that requires a costume and definition of personality. That glamor and clothing together help me bring out that girl that gets on stage and DJs these parties around the world.
A-1 Records is one of my favorite spots because they have a lot of limited-edition records. I’m working on a vinyl set, and A-1 is one of the main spots I go to just to familiarize myself with the wide world of vinyl releases. I always discover new things just by standing in the literal shop.
Kingsley: My life has been like using every crayon in the coloring box—you get to find out what type of red girl you are, what type of music you like, you know. Have you guys heard about the party girl checklist? The party girl checklist is something that, through nightlife, makes you ask yourself, Am I celebrating or am I escaping? Where am I going? Do I actually like this party? Do I like the music? Before I even go into this, it’s like am I in a good place? You have to ask yourself, Do I like these people that I’m hanging out with or do they just want something from me?
Venus X: My nightlife in the city for the last 13 years has mostly been my own party, GHE20G0TH1K. I prefer to create my own space. I wish I had the party girl checklist when I was younger. It would’ve changed my perspective of myself. There’s something really powerful about nightlife. Without it, I don’t know that I would’ve still been a DJ.
On Makin’ Money Moves
Venus X: Let’s be real, privilege equates success, resources equate success, and hard work equates absolutely nothing. We’re rolling through Bushwick right now, and there are plenty of hardworking people that would never have anything to show for it. In my experience, what I’ve seen is that no matter how hard you work, if you don’t have the alignment of resources and strategy, and you don’t have some genuine luck and magic happen for you, then it doesn’t matter who you are. Most of the greats actually don’t get discovered until way after they’re dead. Basquiat’s just now having his retrospective, and it’s 2022.
Kingsley: I would say that I unintentionally sought to be in this space. I mean it’s been 10 years of hard work to make up for the last two years of me being who I am. As Black people, we have a tenacious spirit, regardless. We are just a community that works hard. So I’m happy to somehow showcase that, but it’s just hard work regardless. I feel like it’s really early, but I’m super excited for what’s to come.
After spending part of the day in Brooklyn, Kingsley and Venus X make their way across the bridge and into the heart of the city that doesn’t sleep.
On That Empire State of Mind
Kingsley: I came to New York for college. I was very green. I want to say New York and all the things that I did from school to interning really helped me become who I am. Nightlife is where I really was able to get to explore truly who I am and come to a point where it’s just like, F-ck it, this is me! I’m me, unapologetically. You’re also finding other people that you feel a kindred connection to in nightlife. I feel like I pay a tribute to that in my work, because at the end of the day, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t go to the club and cut up a tank top.
Venus X: I’m from New York. Born in Harlem, raised in Dyckman and Gun Hill. I feel like GHE20G0TH1K is the best representation of my personality as it relates to New York. Obviously, I’ve grown a lot since I started GHE20G0TH1K in 2009, but it still stands as a testament to what’s possible when you grow up in a city that’s so diverse and you try to accommodate all of your interests from uptown to downtown to Brooklyn. Being a Dominican girl, I definitely was not shown this way of life that I live now. Similar to Kingsley, I feel like going out and parties, specifically, shaped my personality a lot.
On Ridin’ Through Cycle City
Venus X: I’ve been riding a bike my whole life, but in New York I am a little bit hesitant to ride bikes. So this is me, coming back. It was just too busy in the streets, and that’s what I think deterred me from riding for a long time.
Kingsley: I will say I was hesitant, too, but what helped me biking was the pandemic. I was able to ease into it when there were no cars on the road, because now the gag is, I’d be doing tricks and speeding, and my former self would be like, No, ma’am, but by myself it’s, Yes, girl!
On Their Fave VanMoof E-bikes Features
Kingsley: I love how smooth it is. I still want to take my time and get to know it a little bit more, but right now, 10 out of 10. I like to get into things. I’m a nerd like that. I want to learn how it functions. I’m excited for that process.
Venus X: I really like the sound of the bell. It’s really futuristic, and I’m excited to see if it’s customizable. If you want to be fashionable...buy a VanMoof.
After crossing the bridge into the city, Kingsley and Venus X opted to take a detour through SoHo.
On Community Calling
Venus X: I represent a group of people that is under-represented in almost every way; underpaid in almost every way. I don’t have to do anything but show up. The fact that I even get this opportunity, is about how I’m showing up for my community. Because the fact is, I don’t get to choose where I am allowed to be because I don’t get to be everywhere. And if we are allowed to exist in the spaces that other people are allowed to exist in, then by default it’s revolutionary. Our sheer existence is a revolutionary act.
Kingsley: I feel like the most important thing about showing up for your community is showing up for yourself first. Because just by showing up as you, you attract the community that is you. It’s just literally about being most authentic to yourself. Your community, they feel that.
On Being Single in the City
Kingsley: I’ve been seeing someone for a while, and we really got to know each other while biking. So for us to have that, it really means a lot to me because biking is a form of therapy. To be able to connect with someone who has that same lens just feels special.
Venus X: I want to find a bike riding partner out there who wants to ride with me into the sunset. Post and tag this article with three hearts if you want to be my bike riding partner on this luxurious VanMoof experience. I’m trying to get a situation started so I can get married (laughs).
Kingsley: We’re out here looking for love, and we will find it. Call in now. 1-800-VAN-MOOF!
A Whole New World
Kingsley: I literally love biking. I’ve spent 371 hours on a bike—2,700 miles. It’s just the ease of it and just how you can maneuver and you don’t feel stuck.
Venus X: The train is scary, guys. If for no other reason you consider a bike, it’s that the train is getting harder and harder to ride later at night, earlier in the day, any time of day is scary. Walking is sometimes good, but it can be exhausting, especially if you have to get somewhere and still be cute when you arrive. I think I’m going to become a bike girl after this.
While talking about bike life, Kingsley and Venus X decided to head uptown to check out Venus’ stomping grounds.
Back to the Crib
Kingsley: To be very honest, my job requires me to be in motion non-stop. So literally, I do nothing, or just as of recently, being with my man. I am not for the streets honey. I’m for the sheets. It’s also important to have alone time with yourself. Not with your partner, but alone time with yourself.
Venus X: When I’m not working, I’m trying to learn how to date. That’s a real thing. When you travel for 10 years straight and help everybody else build their business and their life, you kind of forget to build your own life. Now, I’m trying to figure that out, but I’ll also spend a lot of time doing nothing. I want to highlight the importance of doing nothing. Rest. For people of color, it’s a super important thing.
On Life Everyday
Kingsley: For me, I wake up and the first thing is WhatsApp because I have factories in Italy and in Hong Kong. While I’m making my coffee…I just handle emails and get out orders. Around one or two, I bike from Brooklyn to Midtown where our factories are located. From going to the factory, I pop into Nordstrom to clean up our racks and make sure things are good, make sure deliveries are on schedule, and then I take my ass home.
Venus X: The rundown, baby. I wake up and thank God. If you don’t thank God, your day will likely be sh-t. I’m not lying. It’s such a weird thing that no one tells me to do soon enough, but you have to thank God for breath; for mobility; just that you have moving parts. And also just to set a good intention for the day. I do a little yoga…and then meditation, usually with affirmations because I tend to self-critique and sabotage a lot. Then, I usually make tea, maybe smoke a joint…and usually get right to emails or go to my local coffee shop and do emails from there. By midday, I’ll either head to a meeting or I’ll go into the city to do some shopping. I’m also really into book buying now. I’ve been finding that vintage book buying is a really big part of my inspiration for at least this season of my life. And, walking a lot. Maybe I’ll trade my walks for a bike ride.
Check out VanMoof’s game-changing S5 & A5 e-bikes and create your own story, here.