It’s party time! Despite the possible return to masks indoors, this weather has brought people out of their homes and into the clubs. One of the many folks looking to bring back fun and frivolity is this week’s Portrait, Steven Wall. Wall is a party promoter and host extraordinaire. His popular Slay parties on the 1st & 3rd Sundays at Bar X are a staple of the Gayborhood, along with his uber sexy events at Level Up. Look out for a special Black Pride / Penn Relay weekend kick off party, Boyz ’n’ Bottlez.
Tell me about yourself. Where are you from, how many in the fam? Give me the tea.
I was born and raised in Chester, PA, but I was conceived in the South. My family is actually from North Carolina but I was born shortly after they moved here. It’s my mother and my younger sister and myself and we’re very close. I’m a graduate of Delaware State University, though it was Delaware State College when I was there. And then I went on to graduate at Temple University.
What kind of big brother would your sister tell me you were?
She’d probably say I was overly protective and controlling! My sister was very passive and I didn’t like to see her get picked on, which a lot of the little kids did. Her best friend was a girl named Trina, and Trina used to boss her around and hit her and all this kind of stuff, and my sister was not a fighter. One day I said, “That’s it! You’re going to put these sneakers on, okay? And the next time she hits you, you’re going to hit Trina back.” So she did it and it was my sister’s first fight.
I wanted to teach her that it was okay to be passive and not to fight unless she had to, but there came a point in time when people were just taking advantage of her and I wanted to make sure she could defend herself. I would fight in a minute to defend my sister even though as siblings we used to pick on each other all the time. I think fighting adversity made our bond even closer today.
What were some of the extra curricular things that you were into in school?
I was interested in band and choir. I was into fashion. I also ran track and field. But no matter what I got into, I always wanted to be successful.
What instrument did you play?
I played trombone and baritone.
What is baritone?
It’s kind of like a mini tuba; it can go under your arm and it has 3 valves like a regular tuba. It was nice. I was in honor band and all city band, as well as first chair for the marching band.
What did your mom do?
She was a nurse at Fair Acres for years and then she injured herself. She had us and then would work cleaning people’s houses so that she could be around us.
What’s a fun family memory?
Everyone gathering for our family reunions. Everyone would go down to visit my Uncle Jack who still owns all the property from where they were raised. The Wall Estates.
Wait, are you Steven Wall or Well? I just noticed it says Well on your flyers.
It’s Wall, but I use Well as a stage name. Especially when I’m doing the pageants and things.
Got it. What was your field of study in college?
Marketing and business was my major, and business administration and finance was my minor.
And how have you parlayed your degrees to get into the eventing work that you do now?
[Laughing] Actually, the degree has nothing to do with what I am doing now for my day job or in the entertainment world whatsoever! For my day job I’m in HR, so I’m not using any of the skills I learned in either capacity! Except for the marketing, which taught me a lot about branding and promoting, which does apply in the event world. I think I’m successful at it because of what I learned in business school.
How did you get into doing pageants?
I started as a contestant. The first pageant that I ran for was in Dover, Delaware. It started out as just a game; you know when you’re gay you have 2nd families, so in our family we had the men and “The Girls.” So the girls dared the guys to dress as women for a Halloween event at the club. And we dared the girls, especially the ones who were more effeminate, to dress up as boys.
At the club, they had a contest and I won for “Best dressed in drag.” To participate you had to perform, and I was nervous, I didn’t know what to do but I went out and did “And I Am Telling You” from Dreamgirls, and I won, which came with the title of Miss Rumors and a nice cash prize. I was like, fine, that was fun for one night, we had a good time. What I didn’t know was that winning meant that I had to represent the club at the next level contest! I was not into it at all, [laughs] but I didn’t want to give the money back. All my friends, some who were well known legends like Paris Dupree, and Andrea LaMour, were like, don’t worry, we’ll help you! They got together with me and taught me hair and makeup and worked with me to help me get started.
Well, then I won the next pageant, Delaware Pride, and winning that I had to run for Miss Delaware and I won that too! And I was the second person ever, as a Black person, to win that title. Delaware was the hardest state for a Black person to win back then, only one other black person was successful, Mahogany and that was years before me. To this day, I’m the only person there to hold 8 titles at one time, including entertainer of the year. But I was tired! I fulfilled all my duties and at the end I was done. But I was hooked. I enjoyed the pageant scene, but wanted to be a part of it from the other side; I wanted to be the one organizing and promoting the events. And that’s how I got into it!
Yeah, I organized my first pageant, “Mr. & Miss City of Brotherly Love” right here in Philadelphia. From there it took off. When I was competing I traveled a lot and met a lot of people and built connections. I started getting approached by national organizations like the USA Pageantry Association who asked if I would do a prelim pageant. Philadelphia had never done a National pageant until then; I was the first. The association wasn’t quite a fit for me but again, anything that I start, I finish. I fulfilled my obligations with them and then met people from Mr. & Miss Black America, which was another National organization, and I was with them for 4 years and delivered in the top 5 every year, including the winner one year. And now I’m with Nationz, run by my best friend, Zakia Jemaceye, down in Virginia, and I’m also working with Renaissance Rising Royals helping promote their Newcomers division. So that’s what I’m good at, judging and promoting pageants.
I love Andrea LaMour, I used to sing with her on occasion.
She’s the best. We’ve known each other forever, we went to high school together, so I knew Andrea before she was the Andrea LaMour! Our families are very close too.
What’s one of the craziest things that has happened to you in your pageant journey?
One time I was on the floor in the middle of a performance and I was very high, and I don’t mean drugs, I mean that in terms of height. I’m very tall and when I put heels on even more so. I was at a small club in Baltimore and the ceiling was very low. I was impersonating RuPaul who used to wear these big can-curl wigs. What I didn’t notice was the low hanging chandelier that got tangled up with my wig as I was singing! I didn’t even realize it until I was standing there with a stocking cap on. It was embarrassing but you just play the moment and have fun with it. I made the most tips that night because it was so funny!
Tell me about some of the things that you’re doing regularly here in Philly?
On Friday Nights I do a weekly party at Level Up, right on Walnut Street, and I do a personal soiree every first and third Sunday at Bar X. I supply the entertainment for the events at both bars. My company name is Nevets Productions; it’s Steven spelled backwards. Underneath that umbrella we do party planning, entertainment, decorating, music, you name it. Clubs or people will call me and ask me if I can get them dancers or a DJ, and I’ll shoot them pictures of the performers to see what they’re looking for; then we work out booking rates and off we go. I have male and female dancers so we can accommodate anyone. I have a plethora of excellent DJ’s, and I also MC a lot of the events. That’s Nevets Production and then I have Nevets Couture.
What in the Coco Chanel is that?
Yes, I do fashion too. I’m getting ready to show my line at the Philadelphia Black Beauty Expo here in Philadelphia at the convention center on Sunday the 24th. I’d be honored if you could come. I’m being featured as their special guest designer. I’m also an award winning designer having won in New York for Fashion Week, I’m a New Day Associates winner, and several others. I travel a lot with my collection and I do a lot of styling for people.
And what do you do for your day job?
I’m the assistant director of Human Resources for the State of Pennsylvania. I’m one of the many assistants.
Let’s do some rapid fire questions. Who were you surprised to find following you on social media?
Sherri Shepherd, I’ve been honored to have dressed a couple of celebrities and she’s one of them. Donnie McClurkin, he’s well known in gospel circles, is following me. I also dressed Dorinda Clark Cole for the Stellar Awards. That drove a lot of people to my website.
What’s your go to quarantine cocktail?
An Absolut Apple martini! Absolutely!
Something that makes you a hypocrite?
I tell people “Judge, not lest you be judged” and yet I find myself judging sometimes. You know, prejudging someone before getting to know them. I’ve been guilty.
Ever been in a parade?
Yes! I’ve been in Pride parades and in parades with the marching band. Our band was like, 3rd in the country in ’84. We got to travel a lot to competitions and even got to go to Disney World. That was an incredible time, I loved band, and all of my time in high school. And I won most popular and best dressed male in my graduation class AND I was a class officer! I was on cloud nine! They were some of the best years of my life!
Tell me about coming out.
It’s interesting, I didn’t really have a strong relationship with my dad for a long time. He didn’t help raise us, but I later figured out that the reason that he and my mother were divorced was because he was messing around with some guy. They never said it, but years later I found out that he was dating a guy, so it was easier to talk to him and we were able to build a relationship at last.
I never really, really told mom until later in life. I was dating someone in Delaware and we had a fight and I walked out. I went to stay with friends for a couple of days just to have some space and he called my mother crying and told her how much he loved and missed me and she was like, “WHAT!?” I call my mom every day, if not 2-3 times a day, so she waited for my call and she said, “We need to talk, when can you come home?”
Anytime it sounds like something is wrong with my mom, I head home, so I said, “I’m on my way.” I got there and asked if she was okay, and she told me to sit down. I thought maybe something had happened to my dad or my sister, but noooooo. She looked directly at me and said, “When were you going to tell me that Henry was not your roommate?” I said, “What do you mean, he is my roommate.” She said, “No baby, you and Henry got something else going that you didn’t tell me about.” So I finally admitted it and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, I didn’t want you to look at me differently,” you know how we go through that whole spiel, and she said, “Don’t you know the only thing that would upset me is a lie. Anything else, I can deal with.” And it’s funny because she really, really loves the partner that I’m with now, Kevin. We’ve been together for over 21 years and he’s her other son.
What song always makes you smile?
Oh, being a part of the church there are so many! If I have to choose one, I’d say, “His Eyes Are on the Sparrow.” By the way, can I give a shout out?
Go for it.
I’d like to give props to Ken Lowe who is the owner of Level Up which is the only Black owned and operated venue for the LGBTQ community, and it’s not easy, but he’s a great guy and I will do whatever I can to help to ensure the success of that bar. Another shout out goes to the one and only Thierry, she’s the manager of Bar X, which is Philadelphia’s hidden treasure right in the Gayborhood.
You’ve already got so much going on, what are your goals going forward?
I want to see more unity in the LGBT community and more love. Truly. And I want to do whatever I can to help make it happen.