Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Performance art: Lena Love

Toronto's beautiful scene queen

I will never forget the first time I saw Lena Love perform onstage. I was getting my groove on something fierce when this crazy blonde chick, barely wearing a PVC outfit, came onstage and started tearing it up to Kim English’s “Jumpin’ and Bumpin’.” When the song peaked she hauled out the biggest mo-fo straw I’d ever seen and started snorting up massive amounts of sparkly white powder just as the ceiling exploded, raining white and silver confetti on the crowd. We went wild. Love indeed!

Born Lena Autumn Kiki Carey Vajakas, the girl who was to become Lena Love had a rough beginning. “I used to dress up a lot and come out of my room to do little dance shows for my mom when she was crying,” she says. “It made her smile. I would spend hours in my room painting my face and walls with markers, or substituting a Barbie Corvette with my mom’s pink slipper.

“My first gift from the tooth fairy was Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. When I came home from school I would plant myself inches from the TV to watch music videos and study Boy George and Cyndi Lauper, or lock myself in my room and dance on my bed all night before bed. I’ve always been grateful for the little I had, it forced me to daydream and become creative.”

Being enrolled in dance class was a dream come true. “I was able to take as many dance lessons as I wanted to and it became my new escape, my escape from the big beautiful abusive house…. Eventually I began teaching so I could pay for more dancing. It was nerve-racking but it made me grow and appreciate the artistry,” says Love.

Soon Love started sneaking off to party in Toronto. “Raves were considered very underground. Nobody knew about them except the little cult of creative freaks who vented out and expressed themselves by dancing and dressing up and uniting. It was like a revolutionary Woodstock. I knew at that point that I’d found my new home and my new family. Everybody was unique, nobody was judged.”

Imagine arriving at a club the size of the Guvernment and having every single person there come over and say hi to you, remember your name from the last party they saw you at, offer you some candy or a massage. Today that sort of behaviour gets you branded a freak or a creep or gets you punched out.

The rave scene was where Lena Love was born. “Once there was this girl in a wheelchair who said to me when I was dancing around, ‘You are an abundance of love… you are love. Everybody in the rave scene had a nickname and that became mine. Everybody just knew me as Love and then it progressed to Lena Love.”

From raves to Fly to It’s a Boy’s Life, Love built a stunning performance career. One Thanksgiving she wore a fat suit, devoured an entire cooked turkey and then purged it back into the crowd. At an Alegria Black Party in NYC she stuck pylons up pornstars’ asses. In Toronto she got fisted by Buck Angel and arrived at an Aqua party a couple of years ago via helicopter. Once you’ve seen Love dominate the stage, it’s not a sight you forget. “I’ve become an uninhibited artist, where I will push buttons only as my own test of artistry and massive expression by just being 100 percent me,” she says. “I wanna always pass life’s tests and most importantly leave a mark in the community being female and surviving the ups and downs in the entertainment industry.”

The good DJs, promoters and club owners, locally and internationally, know who Lena Love is. When her name popped up during my interview with cover boy DJ Jamal, he said that once Love gets an idea in her head, she won’t take no for an answer, determined to make whatever she can conceive a reality.

“I feel like if I give into a ‘no’ that I’m giving up,” says Love, “or I’m giving my power to the person who says no to me. So when things come through for me, it’s like a nonvocal, unaggressive way of stating, ‘I told you so!’ Especially in this city, everybody loves to say no. I’ve always been a person where if you just help one another, we both win. It’s a positive cycle.”