Slay TV's SlayFest adds another avenue of access for black LGBTQ excellence

In the heart of Downtown, Brooklyn, black queer creatives, scholars, academics, techies, thought leaders and all in between come together at the multi-venue destination, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Slay TV's inaugural SlayFest called for the network's target audience, and all those wishing to learn more about who we are, to learn, network and celebrate. 

BAM's famous Fisher building housed hundreds in attendance for feature film screenings, short film screenings, panel discussions and even live performances. Some had never attended an event centered around black LGBTQ content, or had never participated in discussions about black queer-centric money and empowerment. Others left with heightened perspectives about health & wellness, and how it extends way beyond the physical and into the mind, body and spirit. Overall, expectations were exceeded, which for anyone would be a major accomplishment.

SlayFest 2018 is the brainchild of Slay TV Founder & CEO, Sean Torrington. His passion for media and dedication to his community is evident in his work. Though SlayFest turned out to be a big success, it is also no surprise that someone with this level of diligence can pull it off. Though he's a born and raised Brooklyn native, Torrington grew up first generation in a Costa Rican household. His passion for film, TV and media overall was birthed from the urge to "create a world within a world". Thankfully, the 37-year old genius, spoke to us about the love, blood, sweat and (possible) tears that went into the soon-to-be juggernaut that is SlayFest. 

Q: Explain Slay TV. What is it and, as a black queer individual, what needs would you say it addresses for your community?

SLAY TV is the premiere destination for black queer and trans entertainment. I often receive numerous emails and Instagram messages from queer/trans youth all over the world letting me know how much the​y​ appreciate what we are doing at SLAY TV. There was a teenager from Trinidad that said because ​of the​ content on SLAY TV, it gave him the courage to come out and be comfortable with who he truly is. That means everything to me. SLAY TV is an inclusive network where all black queer, trans and non-binary people can see ourselves represented in all forms of media, where our stories are relatable and are being created authentically with intention.

Q: Representation has become a cornerstone in the argument of inclusivity; being able to see ourselves in the media almost directly yields validating our identities. What does Slay TV bring to the table in terms of black LGBTQ representation? 

What we bring to the table is unapologetic, authentic and bold content that speaks directly to our experiences. For every web series, digital short or interview we film our intention is to bridge the gap between us and those outside our community that are unaware of what our human experience looks like. One of our original series, “Love At First Night” (created by Co-founder Terry Torrington) was created as a response to the lack of visibility of black, same gender-loving (SGL) men in media. We’ve gotten countless emails and messages of how seeing those images have changed their perspective on black queer love and it’s possibility. We’ve even gotten a message from a cisgender straight woman saying her and her boyfriend watched and it completely changed her boyfriend;s view about what our love and relationships look like. Our ultimate goal is to work with several black LGBTQ content creators to expand our programming, not just in volume but also to show the diversity within our community as well.

Q: Talk to me about SlayFest 2018. Big kickoff, a full day of quality presentation and content on display, and a seemingly successful turnout. How do you feel having pulled it off?

Wow, honestly it’s been an incredible journey manifesting this event. I originally wanted to have it in 2017 but we needed more time to plan. My vision was ambitious but I was determined to make it happen. We desperately needed a space to celebrate black queer and trans art, we also need a safe space in which we can celebrate and love on each other. My mission was create an inclusive, positive space for queer, trans and non-binary POC to express and embrace ourselves unapologetically. Seeing everyone along the black LGBTQ spectrum under one roof was amazing to me and I absolutely can’t wait for SLAYFEST 2019.
Q: Many don’t get to see what goes on behind the scenes. What were some of the logistics going into planning SlayFest? 

Finding the right venue was the first thing. We needed the right space that would accommodate everything we wanted to show during SLAYFEST. We’ve had several meetings, conference calls and walk through a to make sure everything we’re all on the same page and everything is coming together. The most important thing is making sure I had dope team by my side that wants to save the world as much as I do. Working with my  sister's and SLAY Squad member's Winstina Dakers and Twiggy Pucci Garcon, has been such an amazing experience, SLAYFEST would not be what it is today with out them.

Q: Do you have any personal highlights from the event?

You know, when I was 14, I used to pump up and down Christopher Street with all of my queer, gay, lesbian and trans friends, it was ki. As I got older, I realized that we all became separate and the community didn't really support each other like I thought it did. There are trans women being murdered and very few people support or show concern about it. Also at times the women's experiences are often ignored within the queer community, it's crazy to me. It's important to really build community and bridge the gap amongst everyone. So I would say my highlight was seeing so many beautiful black people from all walks of life enjoying one another in outfits that SLAYed. It's about time we start to create culture together.

Q: Aside from it being OVAH, the event also had stellar timing. One of your biggest shows, Love at First Night, had a great promo plug-in for its third season and you even got some of the cast from FX’s hit series Pose at SlayFest right before the season finale. Was it all a glorious alignment of the stars or are you just that meticulous? 

I'm extremely meticulous, being a multi-media maker I have to be. However, I honestly do believe there is a glorious alignment of the stars because the universe has been conspiring in our favor. We’ve been creating since 2010 and all of the work has led us to this point. With any success people will assume it happened overnight or that someone is just “lucky” but I don’t believe in luck, I believe in working hard, having integrity, aligning myself with the right people and staying true to our intention.

Q: What is one takeaway you hope SlayFest 2018 attendees left with?

The takeaway I hope people left with is knowing that this is what we represent and that we’re going to continue to create experiences that are aimed to entertain, inform and inspire us. When we started out we said that we’re more than a platform, we’re a movement, we’re a culture and SLAYFEST is just the beginning of having that fully realized. We want people to look forward to coming to SLAYFEST for years to come, gathering their looks, coming through, showing out and being proud about their existence and sharing it with everyone else.

Q: There’s been a bit of buzz about next year's event being “bigger and better”? Any details on future plans?

We’re already working on SLAYFEST 2019 and beyond. This will be a global event, of course we have to start in NYC but we will take SLAYFEST across the country and then across the seas. We want to be of service to all across the diaspora and become the go-to event. I’m excited and ready to make all of this a reality and keep moving in a positive direction. I’m on a mission to change the world with my amazing team and I’m happy it’s coming to light and fruition.

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