Dana Piccoli is a writer, podcaster, editor, and exceptional moderator who made each of her panels at ClexaCon something special. After ClexaCon wound to an end this year I got a chance to ask the fabulous Fairy Gaymother a little about herself and how her time was at the convention. Thank you again to Dana for agreeing to this interview and it was a pleasure to meet you in Las Vegas.
Could you please tell me a little bit about yourself?
Sure, I’m a pop culture writer and entertainment critic, and I specialize in the queer stuff. I’m the Managing Editor of the Blog at Bella Books, a podcast host and moderator. I’m also working on my first queer romance novel. I grew up in Michigan, and spent a decade in New York before moving to South Carolina with my wife.
How did you get started in the field of pop culture coverage?
Completely by accident. Back in 2012 I started writing and recording this silly songs about fandom, and my Pretty Little Liars song, The Ballad of Rosewood, got noticed by the official PLL site and AfterEllen. AfterEllen reached out to me and asked if I wanted to do a vlog for them. They started “Dana Does Glee” and from there I expanded into my first column, Notes on a Fandom. The rest I suppose, is history.
For your work on the Bella Books blog, how do you decide what to cover?
For the Bella Books Blog, I really try to find the positive aspects of what’s happening in LGBTQ pop culture. I have always been a big supporter of indie webseries, so you will find coverage of that, along with TV, film, comics, games, and of course, books.
What are some of your favorite good and gay things in pop culture right now?
Right now, ClexaCon is my favorite good and gay thing, but I am also really excited about Hayley Kiyoko, the film Disobedience, and anything involving Lena Waithe.
Image from Sam Stouffer
You were part of the first ever ClexaCon last year, what was that experience like and how was this second year different?
Being a part of ClexaCon last year was such a game-changer for me. People knew me as a writer and internet personality, but having the opportunity to moderate panels last year really expanded my audience and allowed me to meet so many new and wonderful people.
This year, well it’s hard to put into words. I’m still sort of trying to process it. Unbelievable. Incredible. Powerful. Exhausting. Exhilarating.
How did you prepare to moderate so many diverse panels?
Lots of research and private time to get into the right headspace. I really try to make coming to my panels a singular experience. I don’t want to ask the same kinds of questions that guests and fans have heard before. I also really want to make a connection with the people I’m interviewing, even if it’s just for that brief time because I think it makes for a much more interesting conversation and experience. I watch previous interviews, do a lot of cruising around online, ask fans their thoughts, too.
One of my favorite elements of your panels were the scene re-enactments with Natasha and Negovanlis and Elise Bauman, what led you to include them and how did you go about choosing them?
Honestly, I just thought it would be a lot of fun for everyone. Elise and Natasha are such great actors and so giving to their audiences, it seemed like something that would really click. And lucky for me, it did, ha! It all harkens back to fanfiction in a way for me. It’s a little like watching characters in AU experiences. Plus you get to see two of your favorite actresses show off their formidable chops. I chose scenes that I knew would be perfect for them, and that the audience would really get excited about.
Image from Hayley Costey
How do you balance working at a convention and enjoying the convention as an attendee?
Well I enjoy what I do a tremendous amount, so for me the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I do wish that I could experience more panels and spend more time checking out the film fest, but hosting the panels and meeting so many people was incredibly fulfilling.
What were some of your favorite moments at the con and what were some of your favorite moments in Las Vegas itself?
I love Las Vegas. I love the lights and the energy. I feel really comfortable there. I got to have incredible meals (when I actually got to eat, ha) and meet people I’ve known for years but never met in person. I adored Artist Alley, and bought a bunch of things from artists and vendors. I deeply admire artists, and I think they are such a vital part of fandom. Oh, and finally getting a drink onstage! That was a really fun bit for me throughout the show.
You are the host of the official ClexaCon podcast, UnCONventional, will there be new episodes going forward?
Yes, I am planning on doing a post-show episode in a couple of weeks, and then a couple leading up to ClexaCon UK. I love podcasting so I’m happy to keep doing it if people want to listen.
Image from Paige Zinaman
Will you be taking part in any of the ClexaCon pop up conventions that are happening this year in London and Hawaii?
I’d love to be a part of whatever ClexaCon has planned next.
What advice do you have for someone who might be interested in pursuing work in pop culture as a writer or moderator?
Good question. As far as moderating, be prepared, be organized, dress well. Those are super important things for sure. Moderating means being able to go with the flow, and also change its direction if need be. You have to be confident.
As a writer, write about what you love. Be honest and speak your truth. Take risks and pitch to places. It’s a business where you have to put yourself out there.
Who are some of the people who inspire you and motivate you in your career?
My wife and my mom have been absolute rock stars when it comes to support. My mom wants me to work for CNN, which always makes me laugh. Not that kind of journalist, ma. My wife has been with me through this whole journey, which has not always been easy. Being a writer and creative can be a hard life, even if it is worth it in the end. I have a wonderful group of friends, who went to ClexaCon with me in fact, who are total cheerleaders and make sure I’m eating and staying hydrated, ha.
Image from Sam Stouffer
As a slightly random question, your hair and burgundy suit looked amazing at ClexaCon, was there a specific reason you chose pink? And where did you get that epic suit?
It just felt right? Some folks call me Fairy Gaymother and pink seemed like the kind of haircolor she would have. The suit, I love a good suit. This one caught my eye on Eloquii, which is a site for plus size fashion. I think it’s really important to dress the part. Also as a plus size woman, I want other people who are overweight to know that you can look sharp and confident, in clothes that fit your body. Clothing for people larger than a size 16 can be a real challenge, and I am often tweeting about it and asking companies to create more clothes for more bodies.
Where can our readers find you online?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments or on Twitter, @thenerdygirlexp. You can find me on Twitter, @kleffnotes, on my blog, kleffnotes.wordpress.com, on my kleffnotes YouTube channel, and I run The Nerdy Girl Express Snapchat, thenerdygirlexp.
*Header image provided by Adriana*