Dennis Bijleveld is a Rotterdam-based performance artist, who can often be seen on stage as Ma’MaQueen. Aside from working in many disciplines, Dennis is a multi-talented artist who creates riveting looks for Ma’MaQueen, from the concept to the costumes.
Recently Dennis was the subject of a documentary by Esmée van Loon released last month, titled Ma’MaQueen, which can be viewed here (in Dutch).
The camera loves Dennis off-stage too, as this is not the first film he’s been in. Dennis also features in the award-winning 2017 documentary, Genderbende (Genderblend).
I had the pleasure of meeting Dennis through All The People, an art book project exploring and celebrating gender expression and identity with 39 individuals living in Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Los Angeles, and New York.
Dennis has been very prolific since we’ve last collaborated, and here we chat about all that he and Ma’MaQueen have been up to.
Dennis, can you please introduce yourself?
I am a multi-disciplinary performance artist. We first met in 2014 through the project All The People and then we did a test shoot in London together that July.
The photos feature your design work from your student days. Can you tell me a bit about that collection? What is the collection about? What does it mean to you?
This collection was my first collection. It was also the collection for my graduation. The collection is based on prints that are inspired by emotions and it has a lot of animal prints embedded in it. With this collection I intended to portray women as powerful, emotional forces of nature.
Are some of those ideas or techniques still in your work?
I haven’t had the opportunity to create new designs unfortunately. I was able to print my own fabrics because I won a prize and I can’t afford this right now.
I still have the same notion of empowering with my designs—only now I focus more on the queer scene. So my designs are mostly for art performance and drag queens.
What makes you happy?
Being on stage, any stage or runway. Being surrounded by like-minded people. Watching a good movie in bed after I finish a big assignment. Being in nature, wherever, any time of the year.
What excites you? What sort of energies do you bring to your art?
What excites me are things I haven’t done yet but want to. So I always push my boundaries and elevate. I think that the energy I want to bring across with my art is to liberate and express [oneself]. That’s what I do in order to feel free and that is what inspires other people or my audience to do or feel the same.
What are you up to now, almost five years later? Are you still involved with fashion? Are you still designing and making fashion?
Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Fashion is what I love; creating is my passion. I am a drag queen and I love to make my own looks. Besides that I started my own company and work within the entertainment industry. I make costumes and perform.
I am the mother of a drag house now, House of Holographic Hoes (HHH). This year we will compete in Superball Amsterdam on the 11th of May. Of course, I will be in charge of the looks of the three categories: Runway, Lip Sync, and Dance.
How do you use clothing to express yourself?
Very intuitively. I have way too much clothing and not really a particular style. One day I look like a Barbie, the next day I look like a homeless person; another day I look like a cowboy. I try not to think too much about how I look, usually it looks good when it feels right. Of course, I try to keep in mind that I am not appropriating cultures that I don’t have the body knowledge from.
Do you have a favorite outfit or piece of clothing at the moment?
I really can’t name one. I have many, ha ha.
How has your relationship with clothing and gender evolved since we first met?
I don’t really limit myself in gender (binary)—I think overtime I got wiser so my style and relationship with clothing has evolved in a similar way. I am still pushing boundaries and trying new things. So maybe not much has changed even though I keep on changing the way I look.
Where would you like to be five years for now, with your artistry, in fashion, makeup, and performance?
To be quite honest, I used to have big ambitions and make plans like that. But over time, I have learned to live more in the present and take advantage of opportunities that cross my path.