Soon after turning 23 years old at the start of the month, Dev Blair released one of their many artistic endeavors of 2019: "Femmetasy." The album weaves spoken word, singing and rapping. It draws influence from SZA, Noname, Rico Nasty and Lizzo.
So what does “Femmetasy” mean? “Femmetasy is the fantastically feminine,” the album starts off.
Blair says “Femmetasy” asks what it means to be femme and how that is used for survival in a world that’s not very nice to those who embody that.
Blair is a black queer and trans non-binary femme writer, actor and artist, originally from Florida. Through all of their artistic endeavors, Blair intends to increase visibility of people that look like them.
They created this album from the understanding that the experiences of queer and trans femmes relate to one another. “It’s true that our experiences are unique to us, and yet there is something that is legible to us in experiences of other femmes,” Blair says.
Blair made a life for themselves in Boston after moving here to attend Boston University and study theater arts. During their undergraduate education, they immersed themselves in the performing arts scene. They acted, wrote, sang and danced their way through local shows. Each avenue fulfilled Blair's interest in telling stories in different ways.
In some down time, Blair got into writing poetry and spoken word. They would work jobs with more downtime in order to have time to write more. They say they had notes full of loose lines and random bars and stanzas, which would turn into reference points for putting songs together for the album.
Blair started the album-making process last summer after they graduated. They found collaborators primarily through peers at Boston University, connecting with producers and musicians to make it happen.
Making an album was a more personal way for Blair to connect with themselves than their theater work. They described theater as a bit escapist. “Doing music in this capacity was more autobiographical,” Blair adds. “The act of acting suggests being someone other than one’s self, wearing a skin other than your own.”
Participating in productions, such as “Wig Out” and “Greater Good” for Company One Theatre and “Straight White Men” for New Repertory Theatre, Blair has made it a point to engage with the performance arts scene in Boston. Through their work, they hope more trans and non-binary people of color will be represented in the culture.
“I know that there is something about the historical representation of black queer and trans bodies on stage that my presence on them makes a statement.”
In between working on the album, they’ve been working on Traces/Remain, an endeavor focused on community healing and care. Through group workshops, physical movement and other simple devices, Blair works as a healer for folks who attend. “What happens when the world is not taking care of our communities in the way in which our communities require care? How can we empower each other to take care of each other in the ways in which the world isn’t taking care of what we need?” they say. The project is a finalist for a New England Foundation of the Arts Creative City Boston artist grant.
Blair is also a resident artist at Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter that provides a safe environment for poor and homeless women. Blair helps facilitate the art studio and assists with community care projects, like gratitude notes and thank you cards.
Through these different avenues, Blair is keeping track with the goal to talk honestly about their life through different art forms. Through collaboration with other queer and trans artists of color, through working with women at Rosie’s Place and through the work they do in theater and music, Blair has a presence on and off the stage that can't be denied.