Entrepreneur, promoter, editor Oly Innes, better known as OLLYWOOD, on life across the pond, “Evita,” and working “hard to create something that is different.”
BY MARK ARIEL | PHOTO BY DUSTI CUNNINGHAM
What was it like for you growing up queer in the UK?
I’m originally from a small town, about an hour and a half south of London. As a teenager I was dressing kind of crazy with colored hair. I’d get shouted at in the street a lot. However I would spend a lot of time online where I would find people like me that were all having an amazing time in London… So I knew very young that I would need to get out of there to find my tribe. I moved to London at 18 to study fashion photography at The London College of Fashion. Moving to London was exactly what I expected and needed it to be. Straight away I found like minded people who respected and accepted me. I was embraced by the queer, art and nightlife community there and I was able to thrive.
“I always think about how there is most likely a kid coming to Evita and this is their first time in a queer space and I need to make them feel like they have come home.”
How did you get involved with parties in the UK?
On my first weekend in London a friend asked if I wanted to make some extra cash handing out fliers for a friend’s club night, I started doing that regularly, then I started working at the actual parties themselves. Literally working my way up from the coat check, to doing the door, then hosting the parties. A lot of the clubs and promoters noticed that I was good at influencing large groups of people on where to go out. It was still the early days of social media but from the beginning I understood how to use it as a tool. Eventually I was promoting all of the parties in East London, It was a crazy time but it meant I never had to get a job during college.
At what point did you decide you wanted to move to LA?
My parents took me and my sister to California on family holiday when I was 13 and I became a bit obsessed with the idea of moving here since then. I’ve been here 2.6 years and from the moment I arrived I felt totally at home. It’s been amazing to arrive and be welcomed and accepted into the queer community and to get to meet and work with people who I admired from afar and who have been doing amazing things here for years before me.
What would you say is the biggest difference between LA and London?
London can be kind of brutal—not just the weather, the work pace for any creative industry is very competitive and badly paid. I feel like in LA they respect your time and worth more. Also people are more conscious of your physical and mental health so everyone has a healthier attitude towards work.
How did “Evita” come about?
Evita was a party that was started by the amazing Andres Rigal who’s been throwing legendary parties in LA for over a decade. He started the party in 2013-2014. Last March we were offered to do a Friday party together at Bootsy Bellows. We decided to bring back Evita together, but it wasn’t until we upgraded venues to the stunning Nightingale Plaza in September last year that the party really became what it is today. With the bigger space the party just grew, everything just stepped up. We are getting amazing guests now from Iggy Azaela who performed at my birthday and all the top RuPaul girls as well as Kim Petras and other amazing up and coming musicians and performers.
What do you think has made it such a huge success?
We are always working on how to make it bigger and better each week. We’ve created an environment which encourages creativity and freedom for all. We try to really take care of the people that come and help make the party what it is. We were noticing that we had a really strong trans following so recently we put on a special Evita party with an all trans and gender nonconforming line up, to say thank you, all the profits went to the Unique Women’s Coalition. I feel that when people step into Evita they are there to appreciate the color that is there, some people are literally walking pieces of art. This is a place where they are celebrated and can live the fantasy, they might not have this freedom in their every day lives.
Sometimes I go back to reminding myself of the 15 year old me who would look at photos from queer parties online and wish I was there because I knew that’s where I would be able to find myself and my people. I understand the power of these spaces. I always think about how there is most likely a kid coming to Evita and this is their first time in a queer space and I need to make them feel like they have come home.
“It shouldn’t be underestimated that these spaces are incredibly important to a lot of people and they save lives.”
What can you tell us about “Daddy Issues?”
Daddy Issues was a party I started in London in 2016, then when I moved here I launched it here and it took off. That then lead me to doing it in other cities like NYC, SF, Atlanta, Seattle etc. Now we’ve done the party in soon to be 25 cities.
What advice would you give to a new promoter in Los Angeles?
Focus on creating an environment that is a place where you and your friends would genuinely want to be. Forget about throwing a party to make money, that hopefully comes later, in the beginning you need to build relationships, build trust, help people believe in what you are trying to do. Get to know everyone who is coming and supporting your parties. Work hard to create something that is different, listen to what your audience wants and try your best to deliver. It shouldn’t be underestimated that these spaces are incredibly important to a lot of people and they save lives. I’ve literally had life changing experiences in nightclubs and it’s shaped who I am as a person.
Evita is every Friday night at Nightingale Plaza West Hollywood—Follow @Evitaparty
Daddy Issues—Follow @Daddyissuesparty for updates on party locations.