The many incarnations of a Kiki. Clockwise from top left: a cockail; the 1926 film “Kiki,” starring Norma Talmadge; Karlie Kloss; cocaine; Norman Rockwell’s famous 1948 illustration, “The Gossip”; the world’s most famous drag queen, RuPaul; Kirsten Dunst on the cover of Vogue; a party
For the past week, I’ve been listening to the Scissor Sisters’ new album, “Magic Hour.” I’ve been obsessed. So obsessed that in Paris during the couture shows I made a DJ at Le Montana buy the song ‘Let’s Have A Kiki’ and play it in the club. Then, this weekend, I dragged my mother to the band’s concert in New York, not that she was complaining. She loved the show, but had one question: What, exactly, is a Kiki?
The answer is multi pronged: When I lived in the NYU dorm my freshman year of college in 2001, there was a drag queen called Koko (“As in Knock Out Knock Out,” he/she’d say), who was the first person to introduce me to the term. He/She would use the term to describe almost anything: Lunch in the cafeteria; a night out; a cocktail when he would ask for his Kiki and Red Bull; and drugs, which he did a lot of and is probably why I haven’t heard from Koko since college. But I digress. It was basically an all purpose term he/she would use in place of any noun or verb. Yet, my definition continues: in the decade since then I’ve met two Kiki’s: Kirsten Dunst and Karlie Kloss, both of whom have endorsed the term and, thus, the song. When I looked up the term on the internet, I got another more definitions: “A lesbian who is neither butch nor femme, and who is attracted to other women who are neither butch nor femme. This term was in use in the lesbian community at least through the 1970s,” was one. The other: “When two drag queen have sex (hook up) with each other.” (That Urban Dictionary is full of all sorts of inspiration.) I also found a film from 1926 about a Parisian sales girl called Kiki who has, according to the always reliable Wikipedia, “a heart of gold, but a big temper going with it,” which is based on a 1920 novel of the same name by André Picard. I must say that the term has been most dominant in the drag queen vernaculars, which I can say with authority as an avid supporter of the gayest show on the gayest network on television: Logo’s ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’
Presumably, however, we should turn to the Scissor Sisters themselves, who have taken such recent ownership of the term. Here’s how the describe a Kiki in their song: “A kiki is a party, for calming all your nerves / We’re spilling tea, and dishing just deserts when they deserve / And though the sun is rising, few may choose to leave / So shade that lid and we’ll all bid adieu to your ennui.”
I will leave you with a fan video of the Scissor Sister’s song because they haven’t done a proper music video yet. (Get it together, Shears.)
UPDATE: At the concert on Saturday night, Ana Matronic, who is beautiful in an Emma Stone-with-a-filthy-mouth kind of way, gave some more insight to the Kiki: “In Italy, a Kiki is a penis. In the Philippines, we’d be talking about a vagina. But in Tibetan lore, and this is my favorite, a Kiki means heaven,” she said. And looking around the room full of screaming, sweaty people of all races, ages and sexual preferences, she added, “And this is a little slice of heaven.”