James Whiteside

BE EVERYTHING. DO EVERYTHING.

NY Times Feature

I sat down with freelance journalist Brian Schaefer, to discuss my multiple personalities. It resulted in a fabulous and important New York Times feature. I hope this will inspire young people to follow their creative arrows.

 From left, James Whiteside of American Ballet Theater as the Prince in “Cinderella”; as Uhu Betch, part of the drag troupe the Dairy Queens; and as the singer JbDubs. Credit From left: Rosalie O'Connor; Dan Donigan; Jaqlin Medlock

From left, James Whiteside of American Ballet Theater as the Prince in “Cinderella”; as Uhu Betch, part of the drag troupe the Dairy Queens; and as the singer JbDubs. Credit From left: Rosalie O'Connor; Dan Donigan; Jaqlin Medlock

Last Halloween, the American Ballet Theater principals James Whiteside and Daniil Simkin took a class dressed as stars from the troupe’s past, to the delight of observers. Mr. Simkin was Mikhail Baryshnikov. But Mr. Whiteside turned heads as the ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, with leotard and skirt, pointe shoes and fake hair in a bun. The choreographer Jessica Lang, scouting for dancers, was impressed: “He’s not afraid to push boundaries.”

Pushing boundaries is something of a habit for Mr. Whiteside, 32, who joined American Ballet as a soloist in 2012 and became a principal a year later. Yes, he professionally plays Prince Charmings, but he also leads alternative artistic lives: as a pop singer, JbDubs, and drag queen, Uhu Betch.

Ballet remains rather traditional when it comes to romantic pairings, gender roles and sexual expression. “I became very aware of the hetero-normative standard in ballet very early,” said Mr. Whiteside, who realized he would mainly play straight men onstage. “And that made me sad. I will never get to express myself as my true self.”

JbDubs and Uhu Betch help fill that gap.

Those characters have helped Mr. Whiteside attract an eclectic collection of fans on social media, including young, gay male ballet dancers who tell him his presence is reassuring. Some older ballet fans, however, are perplexed, and at times dismissive. “When I post a drag photo,” Mr. Whiteside said, “or if I post something off-color or nontraditional, I notice that I lose followers.”

Mr. Whiteside will be busy during American Ballet’s fall season, beginning Wednesday, Oct. 19, including Ms. Lang’s premiere. His ballet accomplishments have given him courage in his other endeavors.

“Right now, I’m so happy with where I am professionally that I find myself caring less about propriety,” he said in a recent interview. “I want to be true to my artistic visions — multiple — because I know exactly what I want to do, and why should I have to change myself to fit society’s needs?”

The Leading Man
“I play a straight character every role I do. I don’t have the luxury of choice. Hopefully, someday we will.”

As a teenager, Mr. Whiteside said, he dreamed of joining Ballet Theater. On the surface, his affinity for the traditional romantic ballets that constitute much of the company’s repertory seems at odds with the glee he takes in scrambling gender roles through his alter egos. “He’s unabashedly himself and completely recognizes when his unabashed self doesn’t fit with what it is he’s trying to do,” said Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director of Ballet Theater. The way Mr. Whiteside sees it, Romeo, Conrad, Albrecht and the other seducers in the ballet canon are characters as fun to play as anything else. “Out of context, I couldn’t care less about how I appear on the spectrum of masculinity,” he said. But tradition compels him to play it straight onstage. “I do pas de deux with women all day, every day. Always with women. So I choose to create this character, to create this story, to make it relatable to the masses and artistically sensible.”

The Dairy Queens
“Drag tells you exactly what is wrong with the world in a really, really creative, glamorous, funny, sexy way.”

Mr. Whiteside and his friends had been going out in drag for years when they created the group the Dairy Queens at a Cheesecake Factory in Boston, where Mr. Whiteside was dancing for the Boston Ballet. Mr. Whiteside became Uhu Betch, below, a play on his favorite childhood drink, Yoo-hoo; his boyfriend, Dan Donigan, a professional drag queen who appeared on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” had adopted the name Milk; and two Boston Ballet dancers became Skim Burley and Juggz Au Lait. When Mr. Whiteside joined Ballet Theater, the Queens caught the eye of the night-life impresario Susanne Bartsch, who hired them for club nights and parties. “They reminded me of a modern version of the ’80s,” she said.

The Sassy Rapper
“As a ballet dancer, I don’t get to really play the type of music I love listening to, which is club music, pop music, rap music, basically anything but the music I dance to in my professional ballet career.”

As a child growing up in Fairfield, Conn., Mr. Whiteside played his father’s records on a toy turntable and spent hours at the Virgin Megastore in New York City. In his early 20s, he started experimenting with songs on his computer, eventually developing a style he calls “sassy rap,” with sexually explicit lyrics and a dancehall beat. He corralled fellow dancers from Boston Ballet, where he worked at the time, to join him at clubs and in music videos, including for the 2012 song “I Hate My Job,” which made a splash on YouTube and streaming sites. This fall, JbDubs, right, will release “NYC Piece of Me,” a song inspired by Britney Spears, which he recorded in Los Angeles on a day off from dancing Ballet Theater’s “The Nutcracker” in December. The new song, which will have a video featuring several Ballet Theater company members, “is about being too gay, being not gay enough,” Mr. Whiteside said, and confronts the recent loss of his mother to cancer. “I find JbDubs to be less ‘JbDubs’ and more James as time progresses, because I find myself caring less about separating my interests,” Mr. Whiteside said.

View original story here.

OUT - Dirty Decadence

OUT Magazine's R. Kurt Osenlund interviewed MILK and I, featuring photos by Dusty St. Amand.

Couples that play together tend to stay together, and if you want some vibrant, voracious proof of that, feast your eyes on Dan Donigan (a.k.a. Milk) and James Whiteside (Ühu), the most popular members of the famed Dairy Queens, who also happen to be an item.

RELATED | Love: Ridiculous Living With Dan & James

Currently, Dan’s touring gig is loading up his schedule, while James, a star on the rise, opens a two-week season at Lincoln Center with the American Ballet Theatre on October 21; will release a new single and music video as his alter ego, JBDubs; and continues to expand his artist initiative, RINO, which uses young graphic artists to design merchandise aimed at his fans.

Amid all that, the Dairy Queen sweethearts blocked out some time to get wild on a rooftop with photographer Dusty St. Amand, whose resulting portfolio depicts love, glamour, sloppy lips, and drag decay. They chatted with us, too.

SLIDESHOW: Exclusive Photos of Milk & Ühu

OutDescribe the way you feel, body and mind, when you slip into a dress. What turns you on about the process?

James Whiteside (Ühu): Nothing turns me on about being in drag. Drag, for me, is almost an escape from sexuality, where I can be a funny, ugly, pretty, mess—Exactly the opposite of playing the Prince in Swan Lake.

Dan Donigan (Milk): Actually, it isn't until I put on my heels that I feel complete. When I have a gig I sometimes put on my heels when I am still in my underwear, way before I put on my complete look. There is something about being pushed up onto your toes that really puts you in that cunt-femme zone. I wouldn't say it's boner-inducing though.

What's more fun—perfectly applied lipstick, or lipstick smeared across your face? Explain your choice.

JW: I like to paint huge, monster lips. Sometimes dripping with OCC lip tar, sometimes with perfectly applied lip liner. It depends on my mood and it also depends on whether or not I have a beard at the time. Butch queen!

DD: It all depends on the way I am feeling in that exact moment when applying! Perfectly applied lipstick is begging to be messed up. 

If you had to make out with each other in lipstick, which color would you want to be wearing and why?

JW: We don't make out in drags. It's not our steaz.

DD: Yeah, I'm not wasting any of my makeup on that clown [laughs]

In one of these photos, Dan is holding a dog on a leash. If one of you were to put the other on a leash, who would it be and why?

JW: It would be a dog. I want a dog. In our relationship, neither of us are on a leash. We're trusting and trustworthy.

DD: That's silly. Only kids should be on leashes. #FreeTheDogs.

You're two beautiful men who also look beautiful in drag. It's two kinds of self-image and empowerment. What's the biggest difference in how you feel about yourself?

JW: Being a socially acceptable male can be very boring. Most folks don't want their "hotties" to be funny or do things that are "too gay". My way of saying "bugger off" is doing gnarly drags, meshing my masculine form with queeny madness and humor.

DD: Well, at Drag Race meet and greets most girls get the, "OMG, you are so beautiful!" I get the, "OMG...you're so tall!" [laughs] So thanks for calling me beautiful, I guess. It is the art of transformation that makes me love drag so much. To love who you are as a man and equally love what you become in drag.

Have you ever made love in drag? If so, what was it like?

JW: Nope, not our steaz. No hate to those who do, get ya life!

DD: No, never. I find it fascinating for queens that do but there is something about my penis being pushed down into the seventh level of hell in my several pairs of panties that doesn't put me in the "let's have sex" mood.

In some of these photos, there's the juxtaposition of two gorgeous dolled-up men against the gritty, graffiti-covered walls of a New York rooftop. Name a recent example of juxtaposition that's inspired you.

JW: I just recently filmed a music video in upstate New York. The song, "Wallflower", is an aggressive banger that discourages sitting at a dance party. We shot outside on a white stage, in the middle of the woods. It was absolutely beautiful, which is counter intuitive to the mood of the song, yet somehow it works!

DD: Recently I saw a famous drag queen. She looked gorgeous. Smelled like shit though.

 

When you hold each other in drag, does it feel any different than when you hold each other out of drag? Whether it does or not, please elaborate.

JW: We don't really "hold each other" in drag. It's more like "hold my purse while I pee."

DD: We don't hold each other in drag unless it's to pose for the flashing bulbs. Oh, we do hold each others' drinks though!

There's an element of decay, or degradation to this series of photos, as you go from bewigged and made-up to largely stripped of glamour. You both do drag as part of your careers and personas, but describe the catharsis of stripping everything OFF.

JW: We were reluctant to do the whole "smudged drag" look, but as the progression was explained to us, we became more into it and couldn't be happier with the shoot. As far as stripping everything off, there is little as satisfying as peeling off one's stacked lashes.

DD: We really got into the concept of this shoot once we were in the moment and saw the photos. I would say a percentage of my persona in drag is put on, not fakely so, but when I am at a party or hosting an event the extrovert in me comes out. Yes, there is the stripping off of drag costumes and makeup but it's more satisfying for me to be quiet in silence after a debaucherous night out.

When you're missing each other, and you're lovesick, and it hurts, what do you do?

JW: Our schedules are erratic and we're traveling separately a lot, but we text and Skype and it's just part of our lives. It doesn't really affect me that much. If I miss Dan, I just tell him, simple as that.

DD: When we are on the road, we text most of the time. When we really miss each other, we skype. I thank Al Gore for creating the internet.

What's the grittiest, grungiest thing you've ever done that you're willing to share with the world?

JW: A girl's gotta keep her secrets. Otherwise, I'll need to hire Olivia Pope.

DD: I never...clean my makeup brushes. AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Name one reason why sex as a taboo in our culture is stupid.

JW: I'm not sure I can answer this intelligently, but I'll try. Sex is everywhere, all the time. It's always staring me in the face, everywhere I go. Repressing our humanity is unwise.

DD: Sex is instinctual in animals. Humans are animals. I think some people don't want that association. They can go about living as a self-hating animal all they want. I'm going to go glitter my nipples! 

If you had to die together, how would you like to go down?

DD: Eating ice cream in bed. Simple 

JW: I think it would be a blast to drown together, or maybe burn slowly in a crowded Starbucks! But I'd like to ignore death for the moment.

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OUT Love

OUT Magazine featured my boyfriend of 7 years, Dan Donigan aka MILK the drag superstar, and I in their annual LOVE Issue.

james whiteside dan donigan out magazine love issue

Ridiculous Living
1.12.2015

BY OUT.COM EDITORS

Ballet dancer James Whiteside (a.k.a. JbDubs) and performer Dan Donigan (a.k.a. Milk) make room for their alter egos — and two pints of ice cream.
Photography By Benedict Evans

James Whiteside, Dancer

It was seven years ago — I was 23 when we met, and Dan was still in college. He was 20, and that age difference seemed like a lot at the time. It was strange, dating someone who couldn’t drink legally. I was dancing for Boston Ballet, and I was performing as JbDubs, and my friends and I used to go out every once in a while in very rudimentary drag. He thought it was so weird at the time. After a while, we persuaded him to come out with us for an annual drag party, a twisted spin on the Nutcracker characters. He came out as the Spanish woman and looked horrible — like Fräulein Maria meets Frida Kahlo meets Patrick Swayze. But it was fun and he got obsessed.

I still help him when I can. He’ll say, “Hey, buy me these brown panty hose at CVS.” I think the biggest issue living together is he has so much drag. In Boston we had a bigger place. Now we have this two-bedroom in New York, and we have an entire bedroom filled with drag. I’m like, “Put your fucking wigs away!” Our bedroom is very simple, though — very serene and dumbed down because New York is so crazy. It was his idea: Let’s put nothing in here and paint the walls stark white. When I was away one weekend doing a show, I came home and it was pristine.

I really enjoy love and relationships and sex, but I’m not really that romantic. I guess I’m very pragmatic. I think sometimes it’s not in a man’s nature to be romantic. And that’s just how it is. I feel like I’m one of those men. The two of us have these sort of ridiculous lives. We’re very busy and working all the time, so the time when we can sit around is precious and rare. It’s good to create some special moments. We just have to figure out how to feed the cat.

 

Dan Donigan, Drag Performer

After we met for coffee, we started texting back and forth, and I’d meet up with him in the middle of the day, and we’d do silly, stupid things, like buy a vacuum. It wasn’t formal at all, and that was amazing for me. I was young at the time. If I was going on a date and going to fancy restaurants, I would be like, I’m 20, I need these informalities.

We are far from simple people, but we have simple pleasures. Whether it’s watching anime and silly sitcoms, or sitting on the couch with our Ben and Jerry’s. We each have our own pint. We don’t share. Mine is Chubby Hubby. He’s more Phish Food. It’s good because if we ended up getting the same, I’d finish my pint and then he’d just skim his, and the next day I’d eat the rest of his. Maybe that’s our biggest issue — when I eat his ice cream!

I didn’t really know how to be in a relationship at first because I hadn’t had one before. I thought you had to give up everything to be with one person. I lost a lot of friends because I made my whole life about James for a while. Then eventually James said, “Dan, you have no life. I’m happy to be a big part of your life, but you need more.” That was two years into the relationship. I didn’t know what to do. He said, “You need to have some passion, be inspired, do something.” I got a job with Marc Jacobs and things started developing. I had a lot more fun with fashion, merchandising, and visuals. From there, drag came into my life — because of James. I almost think he’s why I got on RuPaul’s Drag Race. He helped me with both of my audition videos. All that took me in another direction. He’s always been successful, but our relationship is also about being supportive. It’s about making each other more popular.

But I’ve also become more independent. That’s when a relationship really works — at least that’s what works for us. You can get so stifled by too much attention.

 

View original article here.

OUT100: Dancer James Whiteside

I'm so unbelievably honored to be named one out OUT Magazine's 100 most notable members of the LGBT community in 2014. 

james whiteside out 100

OUT100: James Whiteside
11.10.2014

BY OUT.COM EDITORS

Dancer and Entertainer
Photography by JUCO | Retouching by Anna Glen at Wet Noodle

The Moment: June 16, 1961: Ballet star Rudolf Nureyev defects to the United States from Russia.

In addition to his work as a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre, James Whiteside belts out tunes as his pop star alter-ego, JbDUBS, and he recently released his first EP, titled Hey JB! His other project: performing with his boyfriend Milk (a.k.a. Dan Donigan; a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race, season 6), under their drag group name the Dairy Queens (he’s Yoohoo). His influences? Whiteside remembers locking himself in his room with a girlfriend at age 15 to watch Showtime’s Queer as Folk. “I wasn’t out to my parents yet, and it was my first glimpse into the unabashedly fabulous world of the LGBT community,” he says. “Plus, their clothes were hilarious! I saw Emmett Honeycutt wearing pleather pants and crop tops — so I bought pleather pants and crop tops.”

Photographed in Central Park, New York on September 21, 2014

Groomer: Heather Schnell

 

View original article here.

New Dance Film - "You Rascal You"

I wanted to create a dance film that shows just how far jealousy can go. I've been on a jazz kick lately, and I stumbled across Louis Armstrong's "You Rascal You" and I knew I'd found my muse. I was scheduled to go to Boston to visit friends and do some photo shoots and I thought I'd call up my friend Ernesto Galan, who has directed almost all of my JBDUBS music videos. He was free for a day, so we filmed in Boston suburb, Jamaica Plain. I choreographed a whole dance which I fit to the streets of JP. WHAT A BLAST! Watch below.


The Gramilano Questionnaire

When Graham Spicer contacted me to do his "Dancer Questionnaire", I thought "Sure!". Little did I know how in-depth some of my answers would have to be! It's a fabulous questionnaire. Enjoy!

Q&A

When did you start dan­cing?
I star­ted dan­cing when I was 9 years old.

Why did you start dan­cing?
I star­ted dan­cing because I was driv­ing my mom crazy. She wanted to get me out of the house and into an after-school activ­ity. I had an appalling amount of energy and I abso­lutely hated every “nor­mal” sport. My mom chucked the phone­book at me one day and said, “Pick some­thing!” I thumbed through the yel­low pages and found an ad for a local dance stu­dio. At the time, I didn’t real­ize it was for a dance stu­dio. I just saw the incred­ible photo, of a man lift­ing a woman over his head with one hand! Next thing I knew, I was enrolled in jazz, tap, and acro­bat­ics. Bal­let came a wee bit later.

Which dan­cer inspired you most as a child?
Ini­tially, it was my teach­ers and some of the older stu­dents. Janet Jack­son had a huge impact on me as a teen­ager. I loved her music (still do!), her energy, and style. Other influ­ences were Brit­ney Spears and *NSYNC. I will­ingly knew noth­ing about Nureyev or Bary­sh­nikov, but those super­stars of the late 90’s TRL age had me shak­ing my rumplestilt­skin* in my metal­lic flares and Sketch­ers. Rough stuff, I know.

Which dan­cer do you most admire?
I admire loads of dan­cers! I’d be a fool to just pick one to steal secrets of the trade from. To name a few: Vera-Ellen, of the MGM days; Mar­celo Gomes, of ABT fame; Janet (Miss Jack­son if you’re nasty); Rudolf Nureyev (love that queen!)… and many more!

What’s your favour­ite role?
All of them! Lies. Prince Albrecht in Gis­elle is one of my favour­ites. Walk­ing around with a cape and flowers is some­thing I like to do on an almost daily basis. Oh, the glamour.

What role have you never played but would like to?
Dr Frank N Fur­ter, of The Rocky Hor­ror Show.

What’s your favour­ite bal­let to watch?
My favour­ite bal­let to watch is George Balanchine’s Ser­en­ade.

Who is your favour­ite cho­reo­grapher?
George Bal­anchine. Also referred to as Him.

Who is your favour­ite writer?
Jules Verne: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Mys­ter­i­ous Island, Jour­ney to the Cen­ter of the Earth, Around the World in Eighty Days, and many more!

Who is your favour­ite dir­ector?
Hayao Miyazaki. My favour­ite film of his is Howl’s Mov­ing Castle. Close seconds are Prin­cess Mononoke, Naus­icaa of the Val­ley of the Wind, The Cat Returns, Kiki’s Deliv­ery Ser­vice, Porco Rosso, Spir­ited Away… so, pretty much all of his films.

Who is your favour­ite actor?
Miss Piggy.

Who is your favour­ite singer?
My favour­ite male vocal­ist is Seal and my favour­ite female vocal­ist is Toni Brax­ton. Prince and Stevie Nicks are also favourites.

What is your favour­ite book?
The Bible! Just kid­ding. I adore sci-fi/fantasy. Patrick Roth­fuss’ Kingkiller Chron­icle is incred­ible. It’s such a poignant mix of ima­gin­a­tion and lit­er­at­ure! The first two books are titled The Name of the Wind, and A Wise Man’s Fear.

Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside in ABT’s Swan Lake photo Andrea Mohin 495x500 James Whiteside answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Dancers’ Edition
Gil­lian Murphy and James Whiteside in ABT’s Swan Lake — photo Andrea Mohin
What is your favour­ite film?
As far as impact on my life, I’d have to say Tina Fey’s MeanGirls. When I was a teen­ager, it taught me how to be mean while at least know­ing I’m being mean.

Which is your favour­ite city?
I have three. New York City (duh), Tokyo, and Paris. The trifecta.

What do you like most about your­self?
My ima­gin­a­tion! It’s crazy in there!

What do you dis­like about your­self?
My inab­il­ity to cope with large din­ner parties. Table for eight? No thank you.

What was your proudest moment?
When I was pro­moted to Prin­cipal Dan­cer at Amer­ican Bal­let Theatre.

When and where were you hap­pi­est?
I was naïve and com­pla­cent in my early twen­ties. I had incred­ible friends, fam­ily, really. We drank and smoked a lot, and work was sec­ond­ary to the time and exper­i­ences we shared. They’re all still my best friends. As the rap­per Drake once rapped, “No new friends”, just old friends.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
I have so many great loves. Music is the earth I stand on. I’d abso­lutely wither away without it! Dance, lit­er­at­ure, food, cof­fee, video games, films, and let’s not for­get Dan Donigan and my cat, Ms Bit!

What is your greatest fear?
I’ve never lost any­one truly close to me. I’m ter­ri­fied of how it will affect me. How­ever, I don’t fear my own death.

If you could change one thing about your­self, what would it be?
I would change my inab­il­ity to cope with large din­ner parties. Le winke smiley wink James Whiteside answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Dancers’ Edition.

What do you con­sider your greatest achieve­ment?
Some­how, I became a bal­let dan­cer! I had no interest in becom­ing a bal­let dan­cer until my mid to late teens. I never thought I’d be a Prin­cipal Dan­cer in a major bal­let com­pany, let alone ABT!

What is your most treas­ured pos­ses­sion?
Can I say my cat? My cat.

What is your greatest extra­vag­ance?
My Man­hat­tan apart­ment is eas­ily the most expens­ive thing I own.

What do you con­sider the most over­rated vir­tue?
Patience. Some­times, you just gotta tell some­body what’s what.

On what occa­sion do you lie?
Some­times, I tell people it’s good to see them when it’s not.

If you hadn’t been a dan­cer what would you have liked to be?
I would have swindled my way into the arts come hell or high water. I’d be a musi­cian, or an actor, or a car­toon­ist… you name it!

What is your most marked char­ac­ter­istic?
I like to make up words. People who know me can vouch for that. If you know me long enough, you’ll be flu­ent in my made up language.

What qual­ity do you most value in a friend?
Humour. If you don’t make me laugh, begone!

What qual­ity do you most value in a col­league?
Kind­ness and respect. I have no time for evil divas.

Which his­tor­ical fig­ure do you most admire?
The sci­entific geni­uses of the past: Ein­stein, Coper­ni­cus, Galileo, Curie, Planck, Tesla, etc. Talk about chan­ging the world! It all star­ted with curi­os­ity and a little imagination.

Which liv­ing per­son do you most admire?
To stick with the sci­ent­ist theme, I choose Stephen Hawk­ing. If you haven’t read any of his books, do it! Reader, that’s your homework.

What do you most dis­like?
Oh you know, use­less killing and the like, but on a more per­son­ally rel­ev­ant scale, gigantic strollers. It drives me insane when people traipse down the side­walk with a baby stroller the size of Texas. Often, the chil­dren are entirely too old to be wheeled around. Get out and walk!

What tal­ent would you most like to have?
I wish I was the best singer in the universe.

What’s your idea of per­fect hap­pi­ness?
Per­fect hap­pi­ness is con­tent­ment with one’s life. Enjoy­ing the people you love, achiev­ing one’s goals, and laugh­ing often are just a few things that are import­ant to me.

How would you like to die?
Quickly and not so old that I’m a pile of goo on poly­es­ter sheets.

What is your motto?
I’m still work­ing on one. I always cop out and use this quote from Rocky Hor­ror Pic­ture Show: “Don’t dream it. Be it.” Good, right? Mine’s not so good. It goes some­thing like, “Use logic and don’t be an asshole.” I guess I still have some work to do.

Read the article in it's original context here.