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TRANSVOCALIZERS — Our Lady J

| Sep 14, 2009
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Transvocalizers by Pamela DeGroff

Gospel music done by a drag entertainer? Hey, why not. Although, please don’t call Our Lady J a drag queen. She’s been known to take serious issue with that. She makes it clear that she’s a transsexual, thank you very much.

Our Lady J is best known as a singer/songwriter/keyboardist, who has been described as “virtuosic” by Time Out New York; “stunning” by New York Magazine; and “dazzling, talented and deliciously playful” by Metro UK. She performs solo, or with the Pink Champagne Orchestra and the Train-To-Kill Gospel Choir. Most GLBT establishments, along with several straight venues as well, have hosted gigs by Our Lady J in the New York City area. She has toured the U.S., and overseas in Ireland and England as musical director for Justin bond’s production of Lustre.


Photo by TIm Hailand

The use of gospel music in a GLBT setting might seem really out of place to most, but it’s a natural progression for Our Lady J. Born Justin Lee Spidel in Chambersburg, Pa., she was raised in the Assemblies Of God tradition. As a child, she studied piano at Cumerland valley School of Music at Wilson College. She also attended Interlochen Arts Academy, and went on to Southern Methodist University.

By 2001, she moved to New York City and started living as female full time by 2006. It was also that year that she legally changed her name from Justin to Jonnah.

Right after moving to NYC, she started working as the accompanist for the Mark Morris Dance Group, American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus.
While working with these groups, she also began to make some inroads as a solo artist, and shared the stage with acts such as Armen Ra, and Shequida. It was while working as the musical director for Broadway performer Natalie Joy Johnson that the stage name of Our Lady j was adopted.

Our Lady J describes her music as “Gospel For The Godless,” and sings about “…a post religious gospel experience, a revitalization of what gospel music was meant to be: powerful, uplifting music for all humankind.”


Photo by Daniel Murtagh

While not wanting to turn this into a gossip column, there is an interesting bit of “news” that’s been recently linked to Our Lady J. If you Google her name, you’ll not only find performance videos on YouTube and Facebook, but also several references/links to the “relationship” with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe. The young Mr. Radcliffe (he’s what? 19? 20?) is apparently fascinated with drag culture. The two met while Radcliffe was on Boradway in the play Equus. He’s said to have returned the favor by showing up to more than one Our Lady J gig. (Hey, like I said, this isn’t going to turn into a gossip column, but you have to admit that’s one intriguing tidbit. Makes me feel sleazy just writing that.)

Our Lady J is primarily a live performer, and other than the aforementioned performance videos, I could find no reference to any other recordings. However, she announced in May of this that she has signed on to be a part of the upcoming film Being T.

“I’m excited to be a part of the film,” she said. “It’ll be a world educating documentary on trans issues.” Well, let’s hope they get it right. It’s reportedly being executive produced by Janet Jackson. We’ll see what happens on this one, but for the duration, if you’re in the New York City area, there’s ample opportunity to catch Our Lady J somewhere. Check out her web site at www.ourladyj.com, her MySpace page, as well as her Facebook and YouTube pages.

ALSO THIS MONTH…
There’s an up-an-coming singer/songwriter starting to make some serious dents by the name of Beth Isbell. Originally for Georgia, she now lives in Oklahoma, and is also an attorney specializing in transgender employment rights. She has performed several times in the Atlanta area, as an acoustic soloist.

Ms. Isbell is also part of the band The Dead Prophets. They have one EP available, The Awakening, and it can be heard on the Internet radio/music/video site betarecords.com. Hopefully, we can snag an interview with Beth soon.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…
A month or so back, TGForum ran a brief press release item about Calpernia Addams starting work on what might turn out to be a one woman show. Of course we contacted her to hopefully get some information. Since the concept is mostly in the planning stages, Cal didn’t think there’s much to discuss at this point. Well, persistence paid off, and she did agree to share her concept. A brief interview will be coming soon.

That’s all for now. As always, thanks for your indulgence.


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Category: Music, Transgender Fun & Entertainment

Pam Degroff

About the Author ()

Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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  1. says:

    You have got to go to the you tube and listen to the “Pink Prada Purse” song. It will put a smile on your pampered face.

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