Lust List 2018 | Feature | Creative Loafing Charlotte
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Lust List 2018 

St. Valentine's 'Nice and Naughty' list

We've brought back an old, sexy staple of ours: the annual Lust List. We asked you beautiful readers on social media and took your suggestions to heart before choosing a dozen of the hottest Charlotteans in six different fields. But we're not here to objectify folks. We reached out to each Lust Listee to discuss their selection and get their insight into the role sexuality and body image play both in our culture and their everyday lives.

Exotic Arts

click to enlarge Photo by Christopher Donald.
  • Photo by Christopher Donald.

Annie Vereen/Veritas Veridian

For variety, Vereen jumps in and out of her burlesque character, Veritas Veridian. "It's important to add that Veritas is not an alter ego," Vereen says. "She is me and I am her."

Age: (Veritas) Can't a girl have any secrets? (lights a prop cigarette and inhales)

Hometown: (Veritas) Savannah, Georgia, darlin'. Where else?

Charlotte hustle: (Annie) This is my sixth year being the owner and instructor of AFV Exotic Arts, a jewel-box exotic dance studio located in Plaza Midwood. My burlesque character, Veritas Veridian, is the headmistress. I teach private classes and parties in pole, chair and burlesque to women and men.

Other interests: (Annie) Volunteering, searching antique malls, playing violin and film editing.

What role, if any, does your sexuality/body image play in what you do?

(Annie) I love my body but I didn't always. Exotic dance has given me self-confidence and helped me find my voice. Owning my studio has shaped my identity.

Your thoughts on how our culture perceives sexuality and body image?

(Annie) It has been my observation that sex is advertised in a way where true connection with another is stripped to nothing more than a simple physical transaction. Many judge me for being an exotic dance entertainer, but I view exotic dance as a gift. It will help you love yourself and erase shame. It will help you get to know yourself.

I have always known that I wanted to promote connection with this career — connection with yourself and connection with others. Erasing those filters. What is more human than that? If we are constantly worried about how our "culture" perceives us, then who will lead? Who will be assertive? Who will question everything?

click to enlarge Photo by Ham Hollett.
  • Photo by Ham Hollett.

Queen Ivory (Janine Atkinson)

Age: 30

Hometown: Ventura County, California

Other interests: Dancing, singing and acting have always been a part of my life since I was young. When I got older, I got into modeling and film. I love cooking, doing yoga, romantic comedies, anime and animals.

Charlotte hustle: I've been doing burlesque for three years now. I started at Snug Harbor's Shiprocked night as a gogo dancer. I decided to try burlesque and fell in love with it. I chose my burlesque name to reflect my South African heritage. I love performing on stage and captivating the audience.

What role, if any, does your sexuality/body image play in what you do?

I am really proud of my body, actually. I've got sexy curves, and I'm only getting sexier. I don't think of burlesque as just taking off a piece of clothing. It's about the art of the "reveal," an element of surprise. I love dancing and feeling the music and feeling the energy the crowd is giving back. When you smile and love yourself, it shows to everyone else around you.

Your thoughts on how our culture perceives body image and sexuality?

Our culture is quick to throw shade and shame people who express themselves or don't have "the perfect body." It took me a long time to build my strength and confidence, and to accept myself as I am. Be yourself and love yourself. Like my idol Lady Gaga always says, "Don't be a drag, just be a Queen!"


Braxton Winston

click to enlarge Photo by Alvin C. Jacobs, Jr.
  • Photo by Alvin C. Jacobs, Jr.

Age: 35

Hometown: Born in Jacksonville, North Carolina; raised in Brooklyn, New York

Charlotte hustle: Charlotte City Council member, stagehand, camera operator

Other interests: My kids. I love sports, so I would love to be more engaged athletically in physical fitness, but other than that, I'm at work or at home.

What role, if any, does sexuality and body image play in what you do?

From a personal level, body image is really important. It's something I have to be aware of being in the public eye. I've been told all my life, "You can't have those braids," or when I was going to college, "You have to cut your hair." When I was going to run, again, "You have to cut your hair." I don't want people to vote for a candidate, I want them to vote for Braxton, so you're going to get those rough edges. I can polish up too, now, don't get me wrong, but I think in politics, sometimes you're compelled to always be your polished self, and I think that's disingenuous and promotes an unhealthy connection to sexuality. Being a sexual being, sometimes it's not romantic and beautiful.

Your thoughts on how our culture perceives body image and sexuality?

I think sexuality is part of being a human being, and honestly our inability to talk about sex in a natural way really does affect politics and governance over time. I think you can see that very clearly, especially in this state. In our American culture, it's been fetishized, it's been objectified, and we haven't been able to really deal with it on an effective level.

click to enlarge Photo by Ann Thuy Nguyen.
  • Photo by Ann Thuy Nguyen.

Glo Merriweather

Age: 26

Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

Charlotte hustle: I'm a community organizer and I work and live to transform the way all people engage with one another and with the Earth. In this time, that looks like building a world that is pro-black, pro-immigrant, anti-Zionist, pro-trans, non-binary — the list can go on when a white, Christian, cisgendered narrative dominates your culture!

Other interests: Learning to garden and finding ways to live more sustainably. It would be great if clean drinking water and clean air were regarded as a human right, more so than a privilege.

What role, if any, does sexuality and body image play in what you do?

My sexuality plays no role in what I do. However, I believe my non-binary gender identity informs the ways in which I interact with the world at large. In community organizing, we are presenting society with a different way to view the world and our collective circumstances. Rigid man-made constructs like gender and race are incredibly stifling. We seek to decolonize how humans relate to their bodies and the bodies of others. For me, sometimes that looks like letting folks know I accept any and all pronouns. This is a provocative way of getting folks to engage with gender differently, on their own, because they begin to question and stumble over what they think the 'right' pronoun is. This begins to demonstrate that labels around bodies are incredibly superficial and mean almost nothing. Self-determination, consent and bodily autonomy are paths to true liberation and developing deeper understandings of ourselves.

What are your thoughts on how our culture perceives body image and sexuality?

In my opinion, societal perceptions around sexuality and bodies and gender have created an unsafe experience for trans and queer people. Trans and queer folks are no strangers to being "lusted" after. Lust is superficial. It's the thing that you aren't supposed to 'like' or 'have.' The U.S. made queer and trans folks that thing. In the U.S., a white, Christian, cis-gendered narrative has dominated our society and this makes little space for those who don't fall in that category. The gender binary creates so much of the sexual and physical violence that has befallen our communities. it is the reason black trans women are being murdered at such high rates. If gender wasn't assigned at birth, it would be common place for people to self-identify, which would remove the taboo around trans and queer identities, thusly, making the world safer for all people. Community organizing allows us to help our community, at large, unlearn these dangerous constructs.

Health & Fitness

click to enlarge Photo by Danie Panasiuk.
  • Photo by Danie Panasiuk.

Luis M. Perez

Age: 38

Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.

Charlotte hustle: I run my own local personal training business L.T.P Fitness, and I am a Co-Founding Health Coach for Vida Health, Inc.

Other interests: I love being around family and friends, I enjoy being active outdoors, and participating in fundraising events as much as possible.

What role, if any, does your sexuality/body image play in what you do?

In my profession, we have to "walk the walk." Being well-put-together and looking like we truly care about ourselves is something that potential clients and people in general will notice.

Your thoughts on how our culture perceives body image and sexuality?

I feel that our society has distorted what a trainer/health coach does and looks like. Not that the outside appearance isn't important, because it is to some point, but our main goal should always be to dig deep into our clients' mental and emotional barriers, and help them break through them, to get them active, healthy and feeling confident about themselves. The passion I have for coaching and how I project that on to others is far more important than the size of my bicep or triceps. It's about how much I show that I truly care about my individual clients' needs and feelings.

click to enlarge Photo by Glenn Roberson.
  • Photo by Glenn Roberson.

Marissa West

Age: 29

Hometown: Fairfax, Virginia

Charlotte hustle: Owner and personal trainer at West Kept Secret

Other interests: Dancing, travel, slaying photoshoots, making smoothies, running with my pups, and shopping (especially for workout clothes!)

What role, if any, does your sexuality/body image play in what you do?

Body image plays a significant role in what I do on a daily basis. As a personal trainer, it is expected for you to be in top physical shape at all times. Sexuality can also be a key factor in the personal training industry, because those trainers who are perceived as "sexy" or "desirable" often book more clients

Your thoughts on how our culture perceives body image and sexuality?

Previously, I feel that our culture emphasized body image and sexuality solely when it came to how you physically looked. The focus was on women being "skinny" or "tan," and men having abs and toned arms. Today, I find our culture is concentrating on overall health and wellness; whether this be through new workouts, juice and açaí bowl locations popping up, or meal prep services seeing a spike in revenue. There is still the "pressure" for individuals, especially women, to look their best at all times, and a lot of that is due to social media. I try to use my social media to motivate others and show results of my clients, while also looking and being my personal best. It's important as a personal trainer owning a business, to portray positive body image to the public, followers, etc. in hopes that they too will want to lead a healthier lifestyle.


click to enlarge Photo by Brandon Grate.
  • Photo by Brandon Grate.

Hade E. Robinson Jr.

Age: 51

Hometown: Jefferson, S.C.

Charlotte hustle: I'm the styling sales manager for Nordstrom, which encompasses personal stylists, sales training and store sales. Being the Carolina Style Guy on WCNC/NBC's Charlotte Today is a passion. I love sharing the latest fashion and lifestyle trends.

Other interests: Reading — suspense and autobiographies; travel — non-tourist places; elevated dining and watching old black-and-white movies.

What role, if any, does your sexuality/body image play in what you do?

I honestly don't think my sexuality has anything to do with what I do. There are those stereotypes and myths out there that only gay men work in the fashion industry, but there are many, very creative straight men, from designers to stylists, that work in the industry and are very successful. I do think my passion for what I do manifests into making people look and feel good, which what it is all about.

Your thoughts on how our culture perceives body image and sexuality?

Image and sex sells, and we are living in a time where everything is centered around image and sexuality. At the end of the day it's all how you look and who you appeal to, and it's reflected in everything we do. Everybody wants everything to look amazing and be perfect. And as humans we strive to make that happen from online to in-person — hence all the gyms that have popped up over the years and the current zillion-dollar fashion and beauty industry.

click to enlarge Photo by Graham Morrison.
  • Photo by Graham Morrison.

Jack Dahlia

Age: 22

Hometown: Born in Fort Drum, N.Y.; grew up in Pinehurst

Charlotte hustle: I'm a drag queen through and through. My calling is to empower people to radically and unapologetically express themselves, and to push people to rethink their ideas surrounding gender and sexuality.

Other interests: Music and television. And I love going out to try new spots in Charlotte. I know, I sound boring, but the hustle is real.

What role, if any, does your sexuality/body image play in what you do?

My sexuality and body image play every role in my work. My schtick is all about being as sexy and alluring as possible on top of my admittedly uncommon appearance. It's my job to make people desire me. In fact, doing my job has helped me overcome a lot of my own body issues and insecurities. Something about demanding the attention of a room does wonders for your self-esteem.

Your thoughts on how our culture perceives body image and sexuality?

I think part of the draw of my shows is the fact that I encourage other people to feel empowered in their bodies, too. Most people perceive their sexuality as something that they should be ashamed of and have an entire laundry list of flaws they think their body has. That's a cultural thing that I'm trying to change. Sexuality is not shameful and your body is beautiful.

I come out to perform, and I look kind of unconventional and I think that can consciously or unconsciously trigger thoughts in people along the lines of "well if this wild bearded lady can come out in front of all of us and feel sexy and beautiful then I can, too." And it starts small for some people — oh that man is wearing makeup so I can dye my hair or get that tattoo or what have you.

Food/Service Industry

click to enlarge Photo courtesy of Felisha Guy.
  • Photo courtesy of Felisha Guy.

Felisha Guy

Age: 24

Hometown: Asheville

Charlotte hustle: I am a bartender at a super-neat steampunk-themed gastropub called Jekyll and Hyde. We have a vast array of local brews and awesome craft cocktails.

Other interests: A solid mix of roller derby, skate parks, good music and quality time with my dogs.

What role, if any, does your sexuality/body image play in what you do?

Being a bartender means that you are essentially on a stage while you're working. Customers observe my appearance every single day (we wear corsets at work), and whether they intend to or not, likely estimate my self-worth based on my outward appearance before they ever know me.

Your thoughts on how our culture perceives body image and sexuality?

I love my job, but there is certainly an expectation of sexuality that goes along with it. Bartenders are somewhat painted with a preconceived identity as being flirty sexual objects. As our society is so heavily influenced by social media and other platforms, it serves as a large reinforcement on societal importance and expectation of body image and sexuality in every role I play in this life.

Gabija J. Vecci

click to enlarge Photo by Elli McQuire Photography.
  • Photo by Elli McQuire Photography.

Age: 26

Hometown: Lithuania

Charlotte hustle: Owner/pastry chef at La Piccola Gabbia

Other interests: Books, history, travel, food, fashion and sports.

What role, if any, does sexuality and body image play in what you do?

It plays quite a big role. My whole business concept is based on the idea of moderation. After I moved to the U.S. two years ago, I realized that most pastries are huge and super sweet. So I thought about other women and men like myself, who enjoy something sweet once in a while but want to lead a moderate, balanced lifestyle. So I started making pastries that are smaller and more balanced. It means eating healthy and allowing myself to indulge in something sweet and delicious once in a while. I want to be healthy and look good, but I also understand life is too short to be afraid to eat that croissant for breakfast.

Your thoughts on how our culture perceives body image and sexuality?

I think in this digital age, where pictures, magazines, social media can be so deceiving, it is very easy to fall in the trap where you might never look good enough to yourself. However, you are comparing yourself in the mirror with a picture where there was only a mere moment captured. And there are so many moments every day. I think we should be kinder to ourselves because body image starts in our heads. Eat that pastry, if you want to. And then tomorrow go for a walk, a run or a workout. I think Oscar Wilde's words sum this up perfectly: "Everything in moderation, including moderation."


click to enlarge Photo by Chris Hill of Digital Cypher Photography.
  • Photo by Chris Hill of Digital Cypher Photography.

Carly Astrea

Age: 32

Hometown: South Florida (Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach)

Charlotte hustle: I am the singer for the hypnotic, blissfully dark electronic group AstreaCorp.

Other interests: Anything vintage, sewing, upcycling and the arts.

What role, if any, does your sexuality/body image play in what you do?

I feel it's extremely important to own your sexuality with confidence without letting it own you. Being an artist, you are placed on a pedestal, often becoming a fantasy to your audience. I know my appearance plays into this; however, I try not to let it dictate the musical experience offered to the audience.

Your thoughts on how our culture perceives body image and sexuality?

Too often, female artists have been promoted as sexual props to sell music. When this becomes the standard, the art becomes secondary, losing its value. I feel the #Metoo movement is finally beginning to shift the narrative, providing a platform for female artists to express themselves with true creativity beyond the confines of sexuality.

click to enlarge Photo courtesy of Terrence Richard.
  • Photo courtesy of Terrence Richard.

Terrence Richard

Age: 30

Hometown: Charlotte

Charlotte hustle: I sing in the band Junior Astronomers and work at Soul and Petra's in Plaza Midwood.

Other interests: I love being around family and friends, I enjoy being active outdoors, and participating in fundraising events as much as possible.

What role, if any, does your sexuality/body image play in what you do?

Being a lead vocalist I feel like I have a certain responsibility to be presentable. I try but it doesn't always happen.

Your thoughts on how our culture perceives body image and sexuality?

I feel like anybody that has my opportunity should speak up for the people that need it, so making sure shows are safe spaces for everyone to enjoy is a must. To make everyone feel included in the musical experience is key, regardless how they designate themselves.

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