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  • Una Aya Osato. Photo: Allied Media Projects.

Burlesque and Drag Performance Artist Set to Show Audiences How Art Helps Her ‘Breathe in the World’

Una Aya Osato's 'Performance as Resistance' closes AMP Seeds virtual event on Oct. 21

By |2021-10-21T09:08:49-04:00October 21st, 2021|Michigan, News|

Allied Media Projects (AMP), a Detroit-based media collective, makes it their mission to shine a light on “all the ways we communicate with the world.” Through their connections — locally and throughout the country — they present underrepresented perspectives. 

The collective’s fall AMP Seeds series, which started in September, perpetuates these ideas through four virtual events that explore art as a strategy for resistance and joy.

“Performance as Resistance” will close out the series on Oct. 21 with an evening of subversive performances hosted and curated by New York-based, award-winning performance artist Una Aya Osato. Osato is also the founder of Brown Radical Ass Burlesque, a burlesque troupe led by queer and trans women of color that works to reclaim burlesque.


Una Aya Osato. Photo: Allied Media Projects.

While resting in bed while recovering from long-term Covid, Osato talked to Pride Source about her artistry and love for AMP.

How long have you been an artist?

Since I was 2 years [old], or my whole life, I’ve always thought this is how I experience the world, and this is how I want to express it. It feels like my main way of being in this world and processing the world and sharing my experiences. 

Evolving is necessary as an artist. How have you and your art evolved throughout the years?

As a human, if we don’t evolve, then we die. And my art is how I survive in the world both financially and spiritually. For me, [evolution includes] engaging with audiences that don’t take [art] so seriously. Through clowning, burlesque and drag, I’ve found that my art has continued to be a way for me to breathe in the world. This is especially true for trying to survive in institutions that are not set up for us as artists and feeling people. So, as a result, my art has continued to get more and more glittery and sequence-y. Taking myself less seriously helps, [too]. 

You’ve said “write [yourself] into [your] own parts.” What does that mean?

We all know that these industries and art institutions are built on white supremacy. All of us who are not full characters are not written or created or funded for their art. I learned early on that the only way I was going to see parts of me was if I created them. I never really saw myself as a writer, but I started to write out of necessity, while knowing that no one was going to tell the stories about me and my communities. So, I started writing plays and creating theatrical experiences. No one really cares about me, an Asian, femme, queer, chronically ill, stripper, sex educator from New York City. I would audition for parts and not fit into their tiny little boxes, which is why I started to create on my own. 

How do you intertwine your relationship with your queerness in your performances?

The work that I create is being filtered through my experience of the world. [So] everything that I create is queer because that’s how I experience the world. 

How did your show with Allied Media Projects happen?

So, I love Allied Media Projects. I’m their number one cheerleader. I’d been going to the Allied Media Conference since, I think, 2008. It’s been a conference that I’ve gone to, presented at and helped organize. It’s just been a home for me where I get to reconnect and recharge with the most incredible people and artists that I’ve ever experienced in my life in the most incredible city. It’s helped me dream up so many projects. 

That’s how I got to know AMP. [Then], one of the people reached out to me about the performance of joy and resistance. And I got to bring together some of the artists I work with in New York City. I’m so excited for them to experience us all in a virtual experience. 

You’re performing with other New York-based artists like Michi Ilona Osato, Junior Mintt and Morgan Bassichis. With all of this talent, what can people expect from your “Performance as Resistance” show?

I’m in love with each of these performers. I really think us being our fullest, shiniest selves creates space for others. I was thinking about Toni Cade Bambara [while creating this performance] and how she writes about the role of a cultural worker. She says we should make the revolution irresistible. I think in this show, [people] will get to experience that. 

About the Author:

Jackie Jones, a Detroit native, is the News and Features Editor at Pride Source Media Group and focuses on all things media and writing. Her work has appeared throughout Michigan in DBusiness and BLAC Magazine.
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