Morange is the new red

Morange is the new red

Wellington's Miss Jaye Glam PHOTO: SAFIA ARCHER

At 16 Jaye Glam put on a costume that she never took off. Two decades later, Wellington’s present-day Carmen tells Safia Archer that sexuality bores her, transgender issues are nothing new, and that Donald Trump’s a drag mother.

As she leans forward to speak, her perfume fills the room. Her smoky voice whispers loudly as she manages to veto a passing stranger’s lipstick with just one artful quip. In her right hand, a glass of Gewürz threatens to evaporate, in her left, a cigarette energetically paints circles in the air. She signals invisibly to the waiter who appears with yet another bottle of wine as if by magic, the rest of the room remains ignored.

The Matterhorn courtyard is crowded and smoky on this particularly wintry Wellington evening, heady with anticipation of the debaucherous night ahead. The tunes are dropping, the drinks are flowing, the fires are blazing, and full-time fashionista Miss Jaye Glam is on fine form, chin thrust proudly upwards, makeup en pointe, fur coat draped over an entire seat alongside “Doris”, her Louis Vuitton x Lagerfeld handbag. The plebs are left to make like sardines. She couldn’t care less. She’s making a point.

“You want to talk about sex babes?” she asks. “I could talk about sex all night babes. You want to talk about fucking? Let’s talk about it. But I won’t talk about my sexuality. I’m so over it!”

She’s tired of the same old questions because Miss Jaye is, in her own words, a “real woman”, something she enjoys announcing frequently to the entire room. Far from the status quo and more woman than most, Jaye has had to ricochet questions about her transexuality since she was five years old. Now “like thirty something” she’s exasperated by the relentless intrigue.

“How would you feel if you were born a man and meant to be a woman? You think the whole Trump trans bathroom thing is new? No way babes! It’s not a new thing. My mum fought for me to use the girl’s bathrooms in Waipukurau when I was in primary school. It’s not new. Nothing’s new babes.”

And she used those bathrooms too, with the full support of her classmates. Right up until high school when it dawned on her that she’d rather stand next to shirtless boys than half dressed girls.

Politically active in the gay community, Jaye led a waiata in the galleries of Parliament after the gay marriage bill passed in 2013, an emotional day for her and fiancé Jono. But these days she prefers to make her statements with fashion, recently buying Jono a t-shirt from upmarket clothing brand World that reads, “Donald Trump is my drag mother” in bright rainbow typeface. Touché. If Miss Jaye wants to make a point, she makes it.

Ever the rainbow dresser herself, it appears yellow is the theme of this particular evening – Kowtow mustard yellow to be exact. Woolen dress, matching beanie, and her MAC Cosmetics not-quite-red, not-quite-orange lipstick. She’s sans her Chihuahuas Chloe and Jose tonight, usually as much a fixture of Cuba Street’s hospitality scene as Jaye and Jono themselves, licensing laws be damned.

“I left the babies at home, but Jono will be here soon, I need someone to pay for the drinks babes!” she only half-jokes as she throws her head back, cackling ostentatiously. The entire room looks at her. She seems pleased. With herself mostly.

The rest of the evening is spent topping up wine glasses from the countless bottles she insists on ordering with a carefree “it’s on me babes”, and incessant interruptions from the steady flow of admirers that flitter by to pay their respects. She tells them where they may or may not sit. And no, they may not move Doris. Jaye Glam is holding court, and Cuba Street’s her palace.

Like trailblazing transwoman Carmen herself, Jaye Glam’s transformation from small-town schoolboy to renowned urbanite hasn’t gone unnoticed as she carves out a niche for herself in the Wellington fashion industry. With her sharp mind and unparallelled wit, she’s in the midst of adding a number of “secret projects” to her repertoire, working with creme de la creme of Wellington as Carmen did.

“I knew Carmen really well. People say I’m like the modern version of her. I knew the real Carmen. Not the outside Carmen that everyone else saw.”

Regardless, Jaye Glam, like Carmen, has the same habit of taking new trans boys under her wing, like 20-year-old Dylan Welby, who met “Mummy Jaye” in 2013 when he made the move to Wellington from Levin.

“I met her when I was still in the closet actually. She bought her two chihuahuas into the restaurant and I just loved her. We met again nine months later when I finally came out, and we’ve clicked ever since.”

Now christened “Baby Girl” by Miss Jaye, they’re often seen prancing down Cuba Street in matching furs, glitter nails, and lipstick, with Jono and the chihuahuas – Mummy, Daddy, Baby Girl, and the pups – a true modern family.

Back at Matterhorn, Jaye recalls how she “escaped” to the capital from rural Waipukurau, Hawkes Bay, aged 16, lied about her age to procure herself a job at gay “it” bar Pound, “everyone has a past darling”, glammed up for the stage, found she loved it, and never looked back. And the makeup’s no cover-up: “it’s how I want to portray myself to the world, how I want people to see me. I’m not hiding babes, this is who I am.”

With that, she struts out of the bar, ready for a wild night out, trying to sate her unrelenting appetite for something more than mediocre. But not before reapplying more of that not-quite-red, not-quite-orange lipstick: “Babes I’ve already told you! It’s morange!”

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Article by Safia Archer

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