Luis Venegas

Interview by
Jop van Bennekom
Photography by
Daniel Riera


Luis Venegas from Madrid has been quietly influencing the magazine world with his three publications: Fanzine137 is an annual collection of everything Luis is obsessed with; EY! (Electric Youth) is a very gay 'magateen' about adolescent boys; and his most recent and scandalous title, Candy, is a glossy about trannies and other genderbenders. Because he only prints editions of 1,000, they usually sell out. Smart move. The day after the superbusy Candy launch party in London, we sat down for a very British cup of tea. Luis has been a contributor to BUTT for ages, and he can be found in the BUTT BOOK, cherishing one of his many Barbra Streisand records. He's her number one fan and has been desperately trying to get her into one of his magazines. It may be, I suspect, the reason he started making magazines in the first place…

Has Barbra Streisand ever responded to something you sent her?
So so. I mean, her press agent told me that Ms. Streisand thinks that maybe now would be a proper time to do something, but it’s very complicated. It was like a yes/no. But she knows what I do, and she knows that I’ve sent her lots of messages.
But have you been stalking her?
I’ve sent lots of messages to her. I know she has seen the magazine. I’m dying to interview her!
What’s your obsession with Barbra?
I guess the same as with any other gay fan of Barbra. First it was just an emotional thing, but then when you get older you start to analyze… Barbra’s story is a story of becoming yourself. She was a bored little Jewish middle-class girl from Brooklyn, with no father. She wasn’t really pretty as a teenager, but she had this great voice.
Is she a gay man’s dream?
Yes she is. You can be rejected early on in your life, but it’s like the ugly duckling becoming a swan. It’s about transformation, about beauty and making dreams come true. I even have a ‘Guilty’ tattoo. It’s her best-selling album ever.
Let’s talk about your ‘transversal magazine’ Candy. It is not really about drag queens, is it?
It’s also about drag queens, but not only. This guy who poses as Barbra in Candy, for instance: he had never done drag before. He has the same face, same nose… He’s a Barbra fan too.
Amazing! I first thought it was indeed Barbra herself. Would you say Candy is about transformation?
Yeah, it’s about celebrating transformation and everything that’s underground. When I started, I simply wanted to celebrate trannies. When I told people, they thought it would be tacky, but there are so many good stories about trannies. I prefer to focus on the icons. And I wanted it to be a real fashion magazine.
I think it’s a very smart way of making a full-on fashion magazine without trying to be Vogue.
I want it to be tranny Vogue! I want it to feature what an old lady would find classy. Sometimes it’s a bit camp…
It’s like a parody of a fashion magazine.
When I dress up as Anna Wintour, of course it’s a parody, but it’s not a joke. And I want the clothes to look as good as possible, and the style to be as flamboyant as possible.
In a way, it’s the same as voguing: imitating a system.
Exactly. I remember having the idea for Candy and realizing that something like this has never have been done before. The concept for the magazine is super simple. Of course, we’ve seen articles about androgyny in magazines, but there’s never been a glossy that celebrates it in full. And even though I had no money, I decided that I simply had to make it. I liked the idea of only making 1,000 copies, even if it means they’ll cost 40 euro each.
What’s your personal relationship with drag?
I have some tranny and androgynous friends in Madrid. I find the whole thing fascinating. A friend of mine told me that whenever there’s a transvestite on Spanish TV, audience numbers go up. I’m also very intrigued that the president of L’Oréal right now is a transvestite. I like the idea of a transvestite in a powerful position in a big company. I remember when Vogue Italia did a black issue, but that’s not new and exciting anymore. Maybe it was exciting 30 years ago, but now what’s new is transgender people.
Are they? Because it’s still a bit of a taboo?
In the last 10 years, magazines have become quite regressive. I think it’s the Bush effect. It’s time to do something fun and exciting again. Since making Candy, I’m reading more and more stories about trannies. calls it ‘The Candy Effect’. I mean, the latest issue of Candy was everywhere. I saw the issue with James Franco on the cover on Ellen. She was holding Candy in her hands and talking about it. I loved that. Me sitting at home with my laptop, making a magazine, and suddenly it’s on mainstream American TV!
What’s the first time you dressed up in drag yourself?
Maybe I was 9-years-old. I dressed up for carnival as a Flamenco dancer. Very Spanish… It was my mother’s idea, actually. She let my hair grow out. People really thought I was a girl, and I felt quite comfortable. Some years later, I went dressed as a nun, and I once went as a pregnant woman.
Haha, a pregnant woman! Do all kids wear drag in Spain?
Yeah. At least they did in the ’80s!
You make three magazines in total, no?
I do one issue of Fanzine137, one issue of Candy and two issues of EY! Magateen per year. I work 24-hours-a-day on them, but I’m not at an office from nine to five. They come out when I’m ready. I can wake up a bit later if I want, and some days I even take a siesta.
You don’t have a desire for weekends?
I have weekends, but sometimes my weekends are on Wednesdays or Thursdays.

BUTT - Luis-venegas-guilty-butt
Guilty. Luis's confessional tattoo.

Do you have a boyfriend these days?
No. I don’t want a boyfriend. I had a boyfriend two years ago for about four months. That’s when I realized I don’t want a boyfriend. I mean, I have so much love to share! (laughs) I like so many boys. Maybe I would like to have a boyfriend when I’m 60-years-old. For now, I want to have many boyfriends everywhere.
And does it work out?
If I go to Paris there’s a couple guys I like to see. The same in New York.
And here in London…
There’s also a couple of boys…
Is that why you were late today for the interview?
Yes, I spent the night with someone.
Where did you meet him?
On Facebook. Facebook helped me a lot. The last boyfriend I had, the ‘official’ one, was the one who encouraged me to go on Facebook. And that’s how I met so many people from different places.
Oh wow, you never really hear people hooking up via Facebook.
I don’t have a profile on Manhunt or GayRomeo. I don’t like to show pictures of myself, in a sexy way.
But that’s how you started your magazines, right? You are always contacting and emailing so many people all over the world. That’s how we met.
It works for me. Actually, I was the third BUTTHEAD after you and Gert.
I always wanted to ask you how you manage to do what you do. How can you make such big, fat magazines without so many big advertisers?
I invest my own money, and I don’t get any other support. I don’t care about luxury. I’ve got an Ikea sofa and an Ikea table. I live a bit like a priest, and spend hardly any money. Until 2008 — before the recession — things were working very well for me, with advertisers paying well, but now, it’s a bit more complicated. At that time, I was also doing some consultancy jobs for Spanish brands. I’d love to teach at a school or an academy.
What would you teach?
I would love to teach contemporary culture in art school. I taught some classes at the Fashion Institute in Spain, and when I mentioned Sophia Loren, none of them knew who she was! The young generation has a lot of access to information, but they have no idea about it. Cher, Halston… Some fashion schools are focused on teaching technique, and that’s important too, but not everybody wants to be a fashion designer. I fell in love with fashion images more than with the actual clothes.
What did you study?
Fashion design. I did an internship at Thierry Mugler in 1996, when he was still there.
How was that?
We all had to call him Monsieur Mugler. I was with a friend of mine. We were the only two Spanish interns there. My friend and I were always laughing, so Mugler would say: ‘The Spanish, they are crazy.’ I loved that.
He became this giant bodybuilder who pumped up his own body beyond proportions. Did he already look like that back then?
He looked very good, actually. He was huge and quite scary, but he was so sweet. The season I worked with him was also when Galliano did his first couture show at Dior, Alexander McQueen did Givenchy and Jean Paul Gaultier did his first couture season. I was 18-years-old and it was, like, ‘Jerry Hall is coming for her fitting.’ All those people that I’d seen in magazines. It was like a dream come true. It was the year Colette opened, and Le Depot. Monsieur Mugler worked on the seventh floor, and when we had to work all night, Mugler would go to Le Depot. I fell in love with Paris, and I always try to go back twice a year, especially for the couture shows and men’s shows.
Have you seen how Mugler looks today?
Yeah, he looks like Mickey Rourke. At that time, he still looked human. The day after the show, he always had a party for the people who worked there. He was like a grandfather, he was very sweet. He had the most spectacular shows ever. Women falling from the sky, snow falling… Daryl Hannah, Diana Ross, robots, Africa. It was all so extreme. And the construction of the clothes was amazing. He’s an icon. I like that he’s hidden now. He’s like Greta Garbo of fashion.
What’s your favorite fashion magazine?
I always go back to the classic: American Vogue.
I learned a lot from American Vogue, so many photographers and artists that I had never heard of before. The magazine is like Dynasty, like soap operas. It’s what you want a fashion magazine to be in your dreams. Hamish Bowles writing about those amazing houses with amazing gardens… I can imagine any housewife in the Midwest looking at Vogue and dreaming away. I love a good article in Vanity Fair. I’ve never been too much into underground magazines. My favorite Spanish magazine is Hola! It’s a fantasy world. ‘Today we interview princess Abdullah from India.’ I love to buy into that dream.
What’s EY! Magateen about? Is it a fantasy as well?
Yes, it’s like a teenage dream. It’s a reaction against what BUTT did. Which is exactly the same reason why you did BUTT, as a reaction against what was happening at the time you started.
You mean you responded to the last 10 years where everything gay has become masculine and hairy?
Yes, I want to do something with that fun energy of BUTT, but in a complete opposite way. I want to feature guys as young as possible, as hairless as possible. Sometimes, it’s a good way to work, to do the opposite of what’s being done. If you are a designer and everybody is doing skinny jeans, do baggy jeans. I love to hang out with young people. When I go out, all my friends are between 18 and 23 maximum.
You’re 31 now?
So so (laughs).
Do you like getting older?
Yes. I have to love it, no? The alternative is dying. I love life, so I love getting older. Some of my friends say that I have a Peter Pan complex, but I live the life of a man of my age. I pay rent, I pay taxes, I have deadlines… I’m very responsible. Adolescence is a great moment in life when you start discovering things. You go out for the first time, have sex for the first time. It’s a time to remember forever.
But lots of people feel miserable and out of place at that age. I certainly did.
I never felt like that.
What kind of teenager were you?
I was very shy and I had good qualifications at school. I was nothing special.
Were you the ugly duckling?
No no. My mum always told me I was so handsome, so I grew up with the idea that I was extremely handsome. I always tell my sister to tell her kids that they are really handsome. It will help them. I was shy, but I never felt out of place.

BUTT - Luis-venegas-electric-youth-fanzine-137
World premiere: a preview of the cover of EY! Magateen and Fanzine137, both coming out next week (May 15).

Basically the idea of EY! is to celebrate youth?
To celebrate everything that’s sexy, and the naivety that comes with that. There’s a sense of humor. Like when you ask guys what they would like to do in the future and they say, ‘I want to be a Hollywood film star.’
You also sexualize the teenage boys in the magazine.
Yeah, like when I ask: ‘How often do you masturbate?’
…and photograph them in all kind of poses in various state of undress?
I think it’s more scandalous that teenage gays are committing suicide than teenagers having sex at 18. Youth is a time of many discoveries, including the discovery of sex. I never masturbate while reviewing any of the pictures that photographers send me for the magazine. I find them exciting but not in a porn way. I like the innocence of it. EY! Magateen is a magazine for gay teenage guys and their girlfriends. If you’re straight you can buy magazines with good-looking girls in it. EY! is for gay guys that want to see the world they’re living in, see some good looking guys talking about things they can relate to.
In what way does EY! relate to your sexual fantasy? What do you find hot?
It depends. In general, I prefer younger men, but I have been with many different guys in my life. The oldest was like 40-something when I was 20-something. I have more fun with young people. I find them funny, and I think they are enjoying a moment of freedom. I also enjoy the company of really old people, like over 70. They’re in a moment of freedom as well.
How do you start a relationship with someone who is 18? Are they interested in you as well?
I think when you start a new relationship, or friendship, it’s best to not have too many things in common. It’s good if things are new. I would rather date an astronaut than a stylist. I prefer people who are in another world than mine, and I’m not so interested in people my age. I get bored very easily. I’m very interested in young people doing things. I remember as a teenager going to a Versace shop and asking them for the catalogue. I saw the salesman thinking, ‘Who is this weird teenager?’
And having sex with them along the way?
Sometimes. But I would never promise somebody to be in the magazine in exchange for sex.
So this guy from last night has been in the magazine already?
Yes, he actually has (laughs).

For more info, check out Luis’ website.

Published on 06 May 2011