Interview 01: Lyla Addada Shlon
The Founder of Dyke Nite Baltimore
photo taken by Farrah Skeiky of Lyla (she/they) and their pup Zoe. The graphic is designed by Elise Drake, and the interview is conducted by Nicole Ripka
1) Who is LYLA? Tell us about the amazing human behind Dyke Nike
Oh God, I've always been bad at writing about myself lmao I am an Arab Leatherdyke (who's always looking for more community specific to that lol), I love karaoke, I am either ridiculously overdressed or ridiculously underdressed, I love cooking, hate and refuse to have a boss, I have settled into my 30s by becoming boring (and I love it).
2) What made you start Dyke Nite?
Well first of all, we didn't have very many queer spaces here anymore in Baltimore and there was like one monthly queer party at the time, which will always be legendary here in Baltimore- Version! From the first time I stepped foot in that party- I've never felt so comfortable in a club environment before. I am rooted in the DIY scene, so I've spent most of my promoting life booking punk shows and fests, I've spent plenty of time in clubs and at dance parties, but the space that Kotic Couture and Trillnatured created with Version was undeniable and it felt different. A little bit of background about me to set the stage: pre-pandemic my main jobs were working security at a club called Ottobar and running a leather shop. One of the biggest parts of my income was tabling events during the holiday season. In the fall of 2019 I got asked by a wonderful human, Maria, to table an event at the DC bar, Showtime, called- Dyke Night! I enthusiastically said yes, marked it on my calendar and had the most amazing time. Maria and I became close friends quickly and she encouraged me to start one in Baltimore. We were having an issue at the time drawing people in on Sunday's at the bar I worked at so I approached the owner and asked if I could have one Sunday a month to test out a new event. She was super excited about the idea and gave me the last Sunday of each month. The first one happened during probably one of the most difficult weeks of the year to book anything on- the weekend after Christmas and before New Years. The first event is still probably the most special to me, I booked local artist Pangelica to DJ and we had Sailor Moon on a projector over the dance floor. At that time the event was held upstairs in a much smaller space and we hit capacity before 11pm. The bar was slammed, a bunch of the boys on our security team had stopped by to cheer us on and ended up having to work the whole night. I started booking the event monthly after that night. ّWhen the event was held upstairs it was about a third of the capacity that it is now, so it was a little more intimate! It was almost entirely people I knew so it kind of felt like throwing a party for my friends! We did a first timers drag night that was super cute and then a karaoke night! Back then it wasn't just a dance party and it was easy to take a risk on what kind of event to throw since the stakes were much lower. It was really really magical when it was still upstairs! Right before the pandemic, after the first 3 events, the owner told me she wanted to move the event downstairs into a much larger room since we were hitting capacity so early in the night. I pushed the move off until we came back a year later and for safety reasons I moved it downstairs into the bigger room with more ventilation and with the option for some outside seating. Now regardless of health and safety- the night is way too popular to ever have in a smaller space again!
3) Describe Dyke Nite in one sentence or a few words?
Cruising, and sweating!!! The universal experience is that you're going to SWEAT!!
4) Your flyer art is amazing - what is the process for coming up with designs?
So I primarily use one artist these days for flyers, Maeve, (@v_is_for_violence on IG) she sort of built the branding for the night. I usually text her and say something like "UM CAN WE USE *insert gay cartoon character" THIS MONTH?" or give her a very minimal idea of subject matter and then she cooks up absolute magic!
5) What is Dyke Nite in 3 years or 10 years?
I hope it's still going!! I know I should want the event to grow... I am pretty content at the size that it is! I do wish I had my own dyke club. Maybe that's the 10 year plan? Dyke Nite turns into a Dyke bar? Ottobar is amazing and lets me book what I want but we definitely push the line a little bit with some of the events haha! At the end of the day Dyke Nite is about the dykes here in the city we live in- as long as they are loving it- I'll keep booking it. I do hope I can zoom in more on the leather aspect of the party. I always have a bootblack working the night- but I'd love to have a proper set up for them and continue to be able to bring in the spanking booth!
6) Tell us about your favorite event you threw?
This is difficult because I love them all! I very carefully curate each event and try to book a variety of DJs with different styles each month. I'd have to say maybe my favorite event was the very first one because of how absolutely magical and intimate it was. I had been running around the entire night because of how busy it was and right before last call my friends dragged me onto the dance floor for a "grind train" lmao. That was the only event I'd ever had time to dance at and it's such a special memory! I love that this night has grown and that we've moved downstairs to accomodate more people but the upstairs parties will always be really special to me!
7) Dream event if you had unlimited budget? (what would the party look like / who would be there )
DREAM EVENT!!! Hands down- I want to do a big outdoor leather day party. Like Folsom style, shut down the street, have leather dykes from all over the country show up, do performances and demos and have outdoor vendors. Every year I think "maybe by next Pride..." but the budget doesn't match the dream quite yet haha
8) What about the work you do is rewarding? What about the work you do is hard?
I love facilitating an experience for people!! I am a Libra Sun and Capricorn Rising- aka the ultimate matchmaker and party planner combination (in my opinion) haha I love bringing people together and I love organizing events- and Dyke Nite allows me to do both! I also love curating a vibe and it's important to me that I book an event I would want to go to outside of organizing it. That's kind of the approach I've put into all areas of my life: would I pay for this? Would I attend this and want to stay from start to finish? Would I hang this on my front door with pride? If the answer is at all no- I start over or revise until it is. It's also really lovely when people approach me and tell me how much they love the event I love hearing feedback- it helps me to keep things fresh, to know what people did and didn't like about something so that if I am able to I can change something to make the event run more smoothly. Booking events in general is really hard, and oftentimes pretty thankless. Usually you don't hear from people who attend unless it's something they didn't like- which then in turn can feel like it's all bad reviews. Some of my darkest mental collapses have come from organizing events, as silly as it sounds. There's a lot of social pressure as well when you're organizing something that's grown to the size this night has. Making decisions can be difficult for me, my ADHD brain often gets paralyzed trying to decide what the right move is. I am a people pleaser in recovery as well- so trying to curate an event that EVERYONE will like weighs on my mind sometimes. Ultimately I've learned you cannot please everyone, you cannot know everything and you truly cannot be prepared for every issue.
9) What do you wish you could tell people or remind people who come to Dyke Nite?
Please don't forget to tip and the bartenders are pouring as fast as they can! I'd love for people to remember that I am one person and I can't know it all! I feel like there's wild expectations for people who are creating events! I've been called an "asshole" straight out of the gate for ...usually things that are a total miscommunication or that I had zero idea about. I don't know something unless someone tells me about it, also sometimes things are out of my control! I am not here to be an arbiter of who's right and wrong, and I am not going to be your social scene's judge. I will always do what I can to keep people at my parties as safe as possible, but I can only do what is possible for me to do! Also I'd love to remind people that this event is for anyone who identifies as a "dyke" regardless of what they look like. I'm not here to police people's identities- EVER. I want this space to be welcoming and open for anyone who feels they belong in it- and for the most part I've been told by the people who attend, that it is one of the most comfortable crowds they've been in and I want to keep it that way.
Notes from the editor:
In addition to checking out Dyke Nite we also highly recommend you check out another one of Lyla's ventures, FRUIT LEATHER. FRUIT LEATHER was born in 2016 out of a frustration with the accessibility of sizing in leather fetish. The brand has always been about promoting queer joy: to make pieces that people feel confident and comfortable in.
Thank you Lyla! We loved getting to know you and can't wait to see all that you do.