Where did this summer go? Luckily, we won’t have time to mourn it because there are so many exciting things happening around the city this fall. The Fringe Festival is in full swing (more about that next week), Outfest is back, but the most exciting event is right around the corner: The Women’s Film Festival (TWFF). I get to say that since I’m the creative director and programmer! Strictly speaking, it’s not a queer film festival but we have a lot of films for our community to enjoy, including our opening and closing night films.
The festival runs for 10 days and includes close to 100 films from around the world. Be sure to check out our QUEER AS US program of short films for some fab films. Our animated program features the beautiful short, “Pacemaker,” a musical short starring 2023 Tony Award winner Alex Newell (“Shucked”), the first-ever nonbinary actor to win a Tony. “Hot Wheels” is part of our local Philmmakers programs and is a sweet queer film that takes place in a local roller rink. Our closing night film is the delightful lesbian romcom, “Jess Plus None.” Prepare to laugh and leave with a smile. Director/comedian/writer Mandy Fabian will be in attendance. Fabian has directed multiple award-winning shorts and the series “Dropping the Soap,” which won Jane Lynch an Emmy for Best Actress in a Short Form Original. Named “Best New Filmmaker of the Year” by NewFilmmakers LA, her screenplay “Late Bloomer” was selected for Meryl Streep and Oprah Winfrey’s Writers Lab. BFI Flare, the biggest queer film festival in the UK, voted “Jess Plus None” as one of the seven top films to watch! We are excited to have a number of filmmakers and cast coming to our fair city to screen their films.
Our opening night film, “Show Her the Money” features Sharon Gless, and a bevy of amazing women entrepreneurs. The film pulls back the curtain on the extreme underfunding of women in the Venture Capital world, with less than 2% of venture capital going to women. Our screening will be the world premiere of the film and a number of the cast and crew will be in attendance, including this week’s Portrait, Vicky Pasche. Pasche is the co-founder of Dapper Boi, a clothing brand on a mission to revolutionize the genderless fashion movement. Pasche is featured in the film along with a number of other prominent lesbians in this empowering documentary. Affable with a great laugh, Pasche is the kind of person you want to be besties with right off the bat.
Brrrrr, I understand that you’re from upstate New York. Tell me a weather tale!
Yeah, I’m from Saratoga County, more specifically Clifton Park. I remember getting a snow storm once that was so bad, I had to completely dig my car out of the snow and take a lighter to the keyhole to defrost the lock just to get in! And you always had to wait 30 minutes for the car to warm up so you were never on time. Living in San Diego now, I don’t miss that part of winter!
What was special about growing up in Clifton Park?
I have a wonderful family there and I miss them terribly. Growing up, they were always very loving, supportive, fun… lots of laughs. We had a pool so our house is the one everyone came to, so we were close to all our neighbors too. It felt very safe because everyone knew everyone. I remember riding my bike with my friends all day until it was time to come home for dinner. Because my parents were so warm and well liked, people would stay for dinner or sleepovers.
What did they do?
My mom did medical transcriptions and my dad worked for the state as a computer operator, so he would process the scantron tests that they did in the schools all over the state.
Did you try to get him to put the fix in for you?
[Laughing] I totally did! But he would never. He’s German so he’s very precise and goes by the rules, but he’s hilarious too.
Ha! My mother caught me forging her name on an absentee slip but she was afraid to turn me in because she didn’t want it on my record in case I ever decided to run for president!
OMG, that reminds me of when I failed a spelling test in like fourth grade, and we were supposed to have a parent sign it. I was afraid to tell them so I asked my mom, “Hey, could I see what your signature looks like?” and I had her sign a piece of paper. I took it and cut out her signature, just a little square around her name. I took it to the teacher and said, “Um, I forgot the test, but my mom signed this…” I think she found it so funny she let me go.
You were using your creative side! And I understand that you were also pretty sporty.
I was a major jock! From first grade through 10th, I played softball and then the gym coach said, “Hey, I’d love you to try shot put.” I was like, “What is that?” It turned out that I had a knack for throwing things far. So I went into track and field and did shot put, discus and eventually hammer throw and the heavy weight in college. I was national champion in discus, hammer throw and second place in shot put. I also played volleyball and was the captain of the team and all region and all conference. I was later named Woman Athlete of the Year. After I moved to San Diego, I was notified that I was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame! [Laughing] The glory days!
What was your dumbest moment in sports? Because the events you did look so awkward. Ever throw the hammer in the wrong direction?
They are awkward! But thankfully I’ve never thrown anything the wrong way. The silliest thing that always happened was any time they announced my name because they invariably messed it up. I remember one time one of the refs kept calling me Pah-nach-chee. I was like, “what? It’s Pash-a, there’s no ’N’ anywhere in my name!”
That’s funny. So what did you study at college?
I studied mass media communications, a lot of marketing and TV and radio production classes. I was actually a DJ on The WARP, which was an international station. I loved creating and writing commercials. We won some sort of contest for a radio spot we did. A lot of fond memories and some forever relationships that came out of that time.
When did your interest in clothing get sparked?
It’s funny because if you asked my friends from back home, I’m the last person they would expect to see end up in fashion or clothing because it never suited me. I’d shop in the women’s department but it never felt good. It just wasn’t me so it left me feeling frumpy and invisible. I was a tomboy, but I was afraid to shop in the men’s/boy’s department. I was scared of what people would think.
In 2010, I moved to San Diego and I was in a four-and-a-half-year secret relationship with a straight woman. It was pretty crazy. Not even our friends knew but when it ended, I was ready to explore the gay scene and see what was out there. I’d go by myself to lesbian bars because I was too scared to tell anyone.
One of my friends, also a straight woman, was the one who pulled me aside and said, “Let’s have a chat.” Back then, I was still trying to fit in with big hoop earrings and a pocketbook so she took me and pointed out some masculine lesbians and said, “Now is that more your style?” It felt like she was giving me permission to be myself. The next day, I went — I’ll never forget it — I went to Old Navy and tried on my first pair of men’s jeans! I felt SO happy, like this is me! It was like, “OK, I’m out in the scene and now I can feel like myself.” I started to get the confidence to approach women. It was awesome.
Yes! From then on, I dropped the purse, took out the hoops and I only shopped in the men’s department. I cut my hair shorter and shorter and secretly wanted to go to a barber. That’s a whole other road, but bottom line, I started liking the way I looked and felt and started to care about fashion, which then led me to be annoyed that though I liked the men’s styles, the clothes never actually fit properly because they weren’t designed for my body. The jeans didn’t fit my hips and if I bought a larger size, it was really unflattering everywhere else. And the shirts would gap open or have to be way too big. Looking back at photos from that time, I’m glad that I had the confidence to wear what I wanted, but it was really unflattering! So that’s how the idea of Dapper Boi came to be.
And your wife, Charisse, is one of the co-founders, correct?
Yes, she’s always been into fashion and she used to pick out my clothes and was like, “Babe, this isn’t working for you.” We realized that there was a problem with wearing men’s clothing that was designed for men. At the time, I was having to wear a suit into work each day and we thought about doing suits, but found that that market was already being served, so we wanted to do something different and I went back to that moment in Old Navy — when I tried on that first pair of men’s jeans — and that’s where we started. It was a product that I wore every day that needed the most help.
I remember seeing you on “Shark Tank” when you pitched your idea. What was that experience like?
It was wild and surreal. I mean it was crazy that we got selected in the first place. I think I read that there are more than 50,000 applicants every year. They narrow that down to 1,000 and then you go through months of conversation as part of the interview process. That was dwindled down to 100 who actually got filmed and then 80 who made it on air. It was a long process and we were excited the whole time! It was so great to have a brand like ours on mainstream TV. Visibility is so important for the whole community.
Yeah, it’s very intimidating. You walk down the hall just like you see on TV. You can hear the ‘Dum dum’ music as you walk and we were shaking! We did our pitch and we had our friends there as models so that made it easier. We were in the tank for about an hour, even though it got cut down to about 10 minutes. I will say that every one of the sharks, even Mr. Wonderful, were all super nice. We didn’t get a deal but in the end, I think things happened the way they should have. We got the exposure and that led to other things. We now have an investor who’s really aligned with our mission.
How did you get hooked up with “Show Her the Money”?
It was some kind of pitch meeting and Catherine Gray, the producer of the film, was there. She asked us a lot of questions and even bought a T-shirt from us. We connected on LinkedIn and I saw that she had a course on six ways to fund your business. I took the course and I reached out to tell her how much I loved it and she asked how we were doing. At that point, we were going through it. We had a supply chain problem during COVID that really hurt us. We were backed up on campaigns but we had no inventory to sell. We were running on fumes. We even sold our house to keep afloat because we didn’t want to disappoint anyone.
Our customers would write to us and tell us how much we meant to them. One story that comes to mind is a mother who wrote us and told us that at age 14, their daughter was suicidal until they saw an ad of ours and for the first time, they started smiling again because they felt seen, that there was a place for them to be their true selves. We get letters saying that we empowered someone to get a job because of their new found confidence wearing our clothing. That’s the kind of impact we have and why we do this.
I think Catherine heard our message and saw what we were trying to do at that meeting. I’d never tried connecting with investors before. I just thought I had to keep my head down and keep working to improve myself and get to some crazy amount of sales to qualify for even a conversation with an investor. But she quickly made some connections for us, and as she was making the film, I think she thought we would be a good addition because we have a different side of the story to tell. Our ups and downs are documented throughout the film. It was an incredible experience.
I wonder if one of the reasons that women are reluctant to find investors is that we have so much experience with mostly men having the tendency to take over whatever they get involved in and the fear of losing that autonomy.
Totally, and often you feel like people with money know more than you, but in truth, you know what’s best for your business and it’s a matter of finding the right investor partners. The folks we have now are aligned with our mission. I’ll tell you a little behind the scenes moment. In the film, you see me completely flub my sales pitch. I’d NEVER done that before. I’d given that pitch a million times, but what no one knew was that we’d been packing up the house to sell it that day. I was so excited to pitch to this incredible group of women but at the same time under unbelievable stress, having to sell the house just for gas money. Luckily, our product and our mission came through.
One thing I felt is that Dapper Boi is not just for gender-nonconforming folks. I saw your shirts that have snaps in-between all the buttons and as someone who routinely has that terrible gap, my first thought was, “I need that too…and pants that actually have pockets!”
Yes, it shouldn’t be revolutionary to have pockets that go deeper than your fingertips, but there you have it. Something that we did for the “Shark Tank” audition is a video of me going to a mainstream store to shop for clothing, something that I haven’t done since Dapper Boi and right away all the same fear and shame being in the men’s department came back and I was bright red. I was standing in the fitting room line with my wife and the attendant got just as red and he cleared out the whole dressing room before letting me in, even though they’re all private booths inside.
Ahh, you know we always hear about bathroom issues, but I never even thought about dressing rooms.
Yeah, I wasn’t going to trek all the way to another floor and back just to try something on. And half the time, the women’s fitting rooms are even worse because they think it’s a guy going in. So another thing that Dapper Boi adds for its customers is that level of safety when shopping.
Good points. OK, two random questions, you have an interesting last name, what is your heritage?
My dad is 100% German, my mom is half middle eastern, her dad was from Iraq and my grandma was mixed with French, German, [laughing] basically a white European woman.
What was your favorite present as a kid?
Any kind of sporting equipment. I especially remember getting a bike for my birthday and just seeing it for the first time in the garage with bows on it. I also remember that for some reason, I wanted this toy called My Pal 2 and it was a little robot who would hold out his arms so you could play basketball or ring toss. Anyway, I got it for Christmas and after 30 minutes, if you don’t play with it, it says, “I’m going to sleep now” but I didn’t know that and at night as I was going to sleep after playing with it, thought it said, “I’m going to kill you!” and I freaked out! I put it away and never played with it again!
What do you think people will get out of this film?
I think people, especially women, will be able to relate to the fear of thinking that you don’t belong in these conversations. But you’ll see incredible stories that will make you say, wow, I can do this. I can achieve this kind of success. People are going to be empowered when they see this film.