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Nightlife icon Linux declares, ‘I Love You, New York!’

Nightlife icon Linux declares, ‘I Love You, New York!’

Linux

When I first met nightlife icon Linux (FKA Linux TheRobot) she barely missed hitting her head on some scaffolding that was in front of a bumping nightclub on the west side of Manhattan. At more than 7ft tall with stilts and wearing what was to become her signature “look,” she was the ultimate fixture of what queer nightlife was and could be. I can only describe her as the incarnation of the future and showing up to the club to shape it. 

There were actually dozens of looks, ranging from one constructed entirely from CD-ROMs to another where she literally became the Louis Vuitton logo. Then came her album. Everybody Hates Linux, released in 2016, included a feature with her friend Aquaria, who would go on to become a star of RuPaul’s Drag Race. And then there was her single “Already Famous,” which dropped in 2019. 

A chameleon by nature, Linux, as she explains in the exclusive interview below, embodies personalities of the past such as Marilyn Monroe and Aughties celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lady Gaga, but her rise to fame also resembles the tale of a Warhol superstar.

Now a full-time party promoter and NYC icon, Linux has become well known for her brutally honest column for Interview (though it recently moved to Paper), “What You Missed Last Month in New York City (According to Linux),” which spills the tea on the best parties and celebrity gossip from New York’s nightlife. In addition to being the eyes and ears of the scene, she is now producing many of her own parties, such as Y2RAVE2 with Ty Sunderland for New Year’s Eve.

RAIN sat down with Linux to talk about her beginnings, her experience as a trans woman, and perhaps most importantly of all, her relationship with the city that made her, New York.

Dress by MAISON MARGIELA, earrings and headpiece, stylist’s own

Channeling icons

Mark Benjamin: It’s been two weeks since I last saw you. Did you dye your hair?

Linux: Basically, right now I’m in my weird brunette era. It’s not an era for other people, but it’s a fight for me because every November I want dark brown for black…giving Cher. I know I’m such a sheep. I’m so American, whatever. So instead I got a wig. I’m blonde underneath but then I use brown eyeshadow on the hair behind my ear. It looks more natural.

MB: One thing I’ve noticed is, when people who aren’t naturally blonde dye their hair blonde or platinum or whatever, they usually go manic or insane. Maybe that’s why they say blondes have more fun.

L: I wouldn’t say I’m becoming another person, I’m becoming more me. Besides, I already have way more fun. I have too much fun for more than one person to handle, but now I identify so much with platinum. It’s also a blank slate. It almost feels like I’m going back to my alien roots, you know? OK, listen, I’m going to be real with you. I don’t care if I’m drunk, and I don’t care if I say the right answers, because that’s what got me here.

Logistically, being blonde is great because I’m a blank canvas. I could go Gaga, I could go Marilyn, or I could tan and go Paris Hilton. Those are all my aesthetics, literally. Those are my three. Let’s be real. It’s giving alien Born This Way, it’s giving classic Marilyn Monroe, or it’s giving Y2K Paris Hilton.

Left: Dress by MAISON MARGIELA, earrings and rings, stylist’s own.
Right: Pants by GUCCI (archive), cape, stylist’s own, shoes by BOTTEGA VENETA, jewelry, stylist’s own

Spilling the tea

MB: Which one of your personas writes your nightlife column?

L: Before I write anything, I like to think, “What will this look like in 10 years? How will this be read?” It’s important to look at everything with foresight. This column could one day be compiled into a book and it’s more than just a monthly column, I’m documenting New York party culture so that future generations can look back at how we had fun. If we don’t run out of water by then, it could be in a natural museum 500 years from now. Hieroglyphs tease.

The thing is, “nightlife” is a broad word and I treat it that way. I look at every event I can in New York objectively. The driving question is, “Will this be a good time?” Even if the party has no bar and we have to bring a crew with our own White Claws from a bodega a mile away. I ask myself, is the music good? That’s a vibe. Are the people in good clothes? Even if there is an open bar or famous people there and the press, is it fun? Am I proud to be here? Do I want to stay longer? I like to look at everything objectively.

MB: A lot of people write off nightlife as just all fun and games, but I think people like you and Susanne Bartsch have such a tremendous impact on people’s lives. For example, I was at On Top [Bartsch’s weekly party held at Le Bain at the Standard in New York] one night over the summer and I met a man in a suit, which for that party is a bit strange, so I talked to him. I tried to make a joke and he exploded.

He was so angry and felt so threatened. It took me a minute to realize what was happening…that he had wandered into this party to discover himself and his reaction was that discomfort of growth. I think we’re all very lucky to have people like you who help create these spaces for people to come together and simply celebrate being themselves. 

L: That’s so true because sometimes when I throw a party, in my mind I’m thinking, “Let’s bring the gays together. The trannies are on the payroll and the gays are coming in to give us their money.” What I don’t realize is that there are a lot of closeted people that follow me on Instagram.

But really what’s happening a lot of the time are closeted people on the internet see me, this pretty blonde girl, and they’re like, “Oh, there’s a party that she’s hosting in my city. Oh, maybe I could go there and hide in the corners. If I could go I might feel a little more like myself.” I started noticing that recently. We think everything’s fine, but there are so many people who are still figuring it out.

Prada Sheer Dress from ARTIFACT NEW YORK, Maison Margiela Black Leather Boots from ARTIFACT NEW YORK, crown, stylist’s own, bracelet and rings by SAINT CLAUDE, opposite hand, rings and earrings by URSA MAJOR

Community

MB: You really do have such a beautiful aura and you do make people feel at ease. I’ve been watching you promote at parties for what? Five years? One of the things I’ve noticed is even when you go to the bathroom or something, the entire vibe of the party changes. It’s bizarre!

L: That’s so true. Why am I so scared about going to the bathroom? I’m serious. Because the party may be over. I’m not saying everyone’s always watching me. It’s just testament to the dedication I have to making sure the vibe is good in every room. I’m not doing it to make sure that I succeed. I’m doing it so that everyone has a good night. 

Let me be honest with you. I grew up looking in the mirror and asking myself, “Is there a soul in this body?” I was really worried not that I was a sociopath, but that I didn’t have feelings for other people. Dissociating was common, to the point where I knew I could turn off. I would never hurt animals or stuff like that, but I knew that was in me.

Watching other people in my class in kindergarten or in first or second grade, I noticed I didn’t have severe empathy like they did. When something was happening to someone else, they would feel it. I wouldn’t feel it right away. That really freaked me out. Up until I was 19, every single action I did was selfish and self-indulgent. It was to better myself further, and I knew that was wrong. I was going out to be seen and to be the coolest version of myself. I was loving my boyfriend not to love him, but so that I could have someone love me harder. It was very self-indulgent and selfish. 

When I started estrogen in 2015, everything changed. My chemical balance made me a lot more emotional and empathetic. Whereas testosterone makes you more logical, have a better memory, and you become better at planning and stuff, when you have more estrogen in your body you’re way more empathetic. Time also affects you differently. Before estrogen, I felt the minutes, I felt the hours, even every second of every minute, every hour…you feel every part of time has its place.

Left: Dress by LANVIN (archive), earrings by KATHLEEN WHITAKER.
Right: dress by ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

I eventually noticed I wasn’t in my body anymore. Everything was so much more. Everything had an empathetic vibe. Like, I saw a little kid in the grocery store and I was thinking, “Oh my God, this little kid, is he having the best day ever or what?” I remember when I was a little kid. That’s how I see life now, and it’s because the chemicals come with tremendous change. It showed me that this change was happening in my hormones. 

I started going to my parties and looking around the room, thinking, “Oh, those people are not having fun. Let me make sure they’re having fun. Let me make you a drink.” I still carried with my outfits, sure, but my outfit was no longer to show everyone else. It was to inspire others to be cool, too. 

And that was never me before. It’s all happening because of estrogen. I gained empathy and I never had that feeling before. I’ve been on hormones for about six years. And now, like you just said, when I go to the bathroom, the vibe changes. That’s because I am devoting every single moment of my night to making sure every single person feels comfortable. The club is therapy. Let’s play your favorite song, dance and do some drugs, and go home. It’s more than that though. 

I think back in the Eighties and Nineties, when people were throwing parties, they were bringing together the gays, the straights…it was bringing together all of the community. Now we’ve gotten to where we’ve developed so much and there are even more categories of people. And there are even more, like, sub, sub, subgenres. Like, there are even more needs. So now what I think is special is connecting different sides of the community, because there are so many parts to the white gays, the trans girls, the gender nonconforming. There’s the Bushwick queens, the Manhattan girls. I unite them all.

Bringing people together

MB: That’s crazy to hear because as my mind whizzes I always go back to the same point – who cares? Haven’t we all fought parts of society at some point?

L: Unfortunately though, we’re in a situation now, with Twitter, discourse, and social media having separated the community. We used to be so solid, but not anymore. It was the de-solidifying that was good though, because it got everyone to feel their own vibe…to find themselves within a community of their own. 

However, you need to get back to the place where we are all one. I see my actions as basically taking the theme from the Eighties and Nineties of connecting all the people and doing it again. I think it’s a waste of time to argue with other people in your community when there are actual villains out there roaming the streets.

I’ve never understood the point of attacking Caitlyn Jenner when trans people can exist. Same with Dave Chappelle. [In October, the comedian Chappelle made transphobic jokes during his Netflix stand-up special.] A Black man is trying to make some money and we’re all mad. I don’t appreciate that.

Did they not hear that his trans friend died? Like, if you watch that, I thought it was beautiful and I don’t care what he said. I care about the bills that have been passed. The trans girls being able to use the restroom. I don’t give a shit about someone’s Netflix special. Use this energy to actually change some laws, march down the streets.

Transnation

MB: It’s bad. Even my family, when they talk about trans people, the first thing they talk about is sports. I’m like, “Do you think I give a shit about sports when trans people are being assaulted or killed on the streets?” If that’s happening on the streets of New York imagine what’s going on in small-town, USA.

L: Perfect example. I hate wearing a mask in every other situation, but I love wearing it in public because I know I’m safe. My hair and my body look like a woman’s, but my nose and my chin are covered when I wear a mask. So I know I’m not going to get raped or robbed or attacked for being trans. I’ll wear sunglasses too, because I know if they can see my hair and my body language, they’re not going to kill me.

I would say the most important thing to me right now is being able to constructively review all of my life in New York City. When I started my column, it was never to pit people or parties against each other. I never want to be shady. It’s just that you have to be shady in order to get the clicks. I wasn’t only writing these articles for New York. I was writing these articles for the rest of the world, so that the rest of the world could see how iconic New York is right now. 

MB: This is true. 

L: What other city is carrying like this?

Dress by MAISON MARGIELA, jewelry, stylist’s own.
Sweater by SALVATORE FERRAGAMO, earrings by URSA MAJOR

L: Life is a lot like high school, but not in bad ways. Think of it as being in your grades at high school. Say New York are the juniors. The juniors are always more iconic than the seniors. And why is that? Because they know they have one more year to slay. The seniors are desperate and they’re trying to get one last song in. 

Anyway, New York is like one of the grades. We still win because what other place has the number of girls and me, Linux. I’m actually at all these parties saying these are the best things that happened. It’s giving the community vibe. You have to trick people. 

MB: You do. 

I love you, New York!

L: Because a lot of people aren’t as high vibration. If I was posting an article about love, no one’s going to read that because everyone wants to read some gossip! So I have to drop some names. If you actually read my columns, you would see that I’m celebrating how iconic New York is in a fun and cheeky way. 

If I have to say one thing, it’s that I love you, New York! My favorite place in the world. Anyone who lives in New York, you’re in a relationship with New York, and that is your number one relationship. You can date whoever you want…have great jobs. Do whatever you think you’re doing, but at the end of the day you are dating New York City. And that is the vibe. 

The moment you stop waking up at 6:00 AM to blow New York City and let it come all over your face—[the moment] you stop dedicating every single second of your life to making New York City come—is the moment that it starts turning on you. New York is when people are, like, “Oh, the rent is so expensive, I have to do all this work,” but no, you’re cheating on your lover, right? That’s the tea. 

Left: Bustier, stylist’s own, pants by GUCCI (archive), jewelry, stylist’s own.
Right: Prada Gold Paillette Dress from ARTIFACT NEW YORK, Maison Margiela Patchwork Tabi Boots from ARTIFACT NEW YORK, jewelry, stylist’s own

My only advice for anyone who wants to live the life that I live, or who wants to be fabulous in New York City, is treat New York City like your lover and make it come as many times as possible!

Instagram: @im_linux

Photography by Boe Marion with 2DM
Styling by Kieley Kimmel
Set design by Tim Ferro
Hair by Takuya Yamaguchi with The Wall Group
Makeup by Paco Blancas with L’Atelier NYC using NARS
Nails by Lolly Koon with The Wall Group
Photo Assistants: Kenyon Parks and Manuel Riedl

Sub-editor: Sam Thackray

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