Serena Williams graces the cover of Here issue 11, which features the stories of international performers from New York to Cape Town who have made the world their stage. Follow along here for more stories from the magazine over the next few weeks, or get a copy of your very own.
To exist in the world is to perform. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it doesn’t have to mean posturing or dramatizing. It can mean that the world is an empty stage for each of us to perform our own dance; that we can choose how we’re presented and to whom.
Performance can certainly be toxic if influenced by social media, social anxiety, or the belief that we all have to be gazillionaires before we’re 30.
Nowadays, it seems all of our performances have an endgame instead of being something we do for ourselves. Take, for example, performing an act of kindness, or performing naked in the mirror, or an impromptu karaoke performance.
To perform—to share yourself with a wide audience—is to be brave.
Sometimes that audience is as big as the entire planet, in the case of cover star Serena Williams. Her athletic performance is celebrated in practically every country, but she’s less interested in how she’s perceived. “There are so many things I’m still working on and want to do,” she tells Aminatou Sow. “I think you have to be responsible for making your own space and it’s not easy and it’s never going to be easy. But you have to have the courage to continue.”
For this issue, we also tapped performers of a more conventional set—ballerina Tiler Peck, Broadway star Isaac Powell, and drag queen extraordinaire Miz Cracker—to show us how they pack and what items are crucial to their identities and their lives on the road.
“To perform—to share yourself with a wide audience—is to be brave.“
And in Portland, Oregon, we take a look at the performers who are owning their narratives in the American city with the most strip clubs per capita. It may be easier to put women like Liv Osthus, Elle Stanger, and Sandria Doré into a box—but that would be to ignore their individual choices and the pride that they take in their work.
It’s a reminder that performance isn’t always celebrated. The queer musicians in Cape Town, South Africa, are struggling to find their stage in a city that marginalizes them. Some have decided to stay in hopes of educating others and uplifting their peers, while others have relocated to Johannesburg or Europe, waiting for their hometown to catch up to their greatness.
For everyone featured in these pages, it’s about having command over their own script. How will you tell your story this year?