Johnny and Isaiah came over from the USA to perform in the 2019 Sydney Mardi Gras, with the message of self-acceptance, self-expression, and self-love.
Editor’s note: LivingNow readers may be delighted to know that Johnny is the son of Joyce and Barry Vissell, regular contributors to our pages over many years. Indeed, one of their articles was about the marriage of Johnny and Isaiah some time ago.
We are Izohnny, the performance duo of Isaiah Esquire and Johnny Nuriel. We are queer artists, we are fierce, we are unapologetic, we are married, and we have a mission.
When I first met Isaiah six years ago, I knew that we were going to do amazing things in this world. Some people are destined to be together. I saw someone that encouraged my light to shine, and we have been attached at the hip ever since.
Our mission is simple – travel the world promoting and fostering radical self-expression through the art of burlesque and performance. We are honored as artists to have a platform to share our work with the world. We are involved with so many amazing organizations – including Sydney Mardi Gras – the largest LGBTQIA festival and fundraiser in the world!
But this was not always the goal from the start
I was on my own journey of self-love. However, the more I performed and the more I connected to people, the more I realized that many of these people were there for more than the glitz and glam. They were there to connect!
We have had people come up to us after a show with tears in their eyes and admit how much they needed to see someone express themselves bravely and with pride. This is not coming from a place of ego. Isaiah and I are two very humble artists. We know that when people praise us for our self-expression, they are really desiring the same level of self-expression in their own life.
We are but two humble men. We have not always felt confident and brave in our own skin. Growing up we felt insecure about many things; our bodies, our voices, our gender. We both knew that we were queer from a very young age. I can speak personally that even growing up in a family that loved and supported me deeply, I did not feel safe or confident in myself.
My own lack of self-love
It was my own lack of self-love that was holding me back from living in my truth. And if I was feeling this way, I could only imagine the millions of others that felt the same.
We knew there were people living in the conservative parts of the United States that did not have access to the same resources or safe spaces as many others do. We decided to take the show on the road. To bring our mission of self-expression to people living in communities lacking cultural and gender diversity.
Our show, The Caravan of Glam, made its debut in 16 states through conservative America, including Montana, Alaska, Nevada, Louisiana, and Wyoming. We were billed as an “openly queer cabaret”. In all of these communities the show succeeded in bringing many people from all walks of life under one roof.
Sharing moments of love and self-acceptance with strangers
It wasn’t always easy traveling to these states and being the target for others’ homophobia or ignorance. But we reminded ourselves that these are the people who need to see the show the most. These are people who are hurting and may not feel the freedom to express their true selves. Perhaps they never will. But while they are under our roof, and while we arrest their interest and their attention through our performance, there is a chance that they will be inspired by what they see. There is a chance that they will identify with us, connect with us. And see a part of themselves in us.
There is still so much work to be done. Many people will never find a level of self-expression and self-love that they so desperately desire. But every time we are able to connect and share a moment of love and self-acceptance with a stranger is a golden opportunity for opening their hearts and minds.
We are two humble men, two husbands, two artists. Together we will continue to travel the world and share our story. And our fearless art. And maybe, just maybe, the audience will leave inspired to begin their own journey towards self-acceptance, self-expression, and self-love.
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