Lisa Soens: Music Maker

Lisa Soens

SisterSpace Weekend is one of my favorite events of the year, a weekend of music and arts, new friends and fun. Sadly, it only happens once a year, but I have a first-rate alternative taking place this month courtesy of the Gay Women of Rehoboth (GWOR). If you’re itching to hear something other than Christmas songs, and are feeling that you want to get out for something that will nourish the soul or tickle your funny bone, the Women’s Art Project is just the thing. The event takes place over three days, from Jan 12-14 and boasts an incredible lineup of talented performers from up and down the east coast.

Familiar names like Be Steadwell, singer-songwriter Sarah Peacock, The Gem Fatales and more. In addition to the music, there will be a poker tournament, bingo, and even a cornhole tournament honoring women servicemembers and first responders. If you’re trying to shake off your S.A.D, come check out comedian Jessica Kirson or sign up for the open mic night. The schedule varies, but most days start at 8 a.m. and don’t end until midnight as DJ Shady Lady wraps up each day with a full-on dance party. 

I had a chance to talk to one of the event’s founders, Lisa Soens.

Thanks for taking the time to chat. Where do you hail from?
I now live in Rehoboth, Delaware, but I was born in Chicago and raised in Atlanta. I lived up in Provincetown for a while, then back to Chicago, then to Washington, DC. [Laughing] I call myself a mutt. I have an accent that sounds like a mutt.

Ha. I was going to say that you have quite the southern lilt for someone from Chicago. But being raised in Atlanta explains it.
Hey, I quit drinkin’ so I’d get rid of the twang, but it’s still there. I like other accents. I’ll date a woman with a British accent any day and I love the accents up north, especially up in Boston.                                                    

Hmmm, I don’t know about the Bah’ston accent, but British, French, or Italian… I’m right there with you. In kindergarten, I had a little Russian girl in my class and I remember asking her to play house. I’d say, “I’ll be the mommy, you can be the other mommy.” And she’d say (with the accent), “Don’t we need ze daddy?” and I was like, “Nah girl, I got you!”
My first crush was my first-grade nun, Sister Marie! I still have my first report card from her. Of course Kristy McNichol and Jodie Foster were everyone’s crushes back in the old days but when I was 12, there was a girl in church and at the bonfires, I’d sit right next to her and … yeah. Hmmm, I wonder what happened to her. I kind of knew then, but I didn’t come out ’til I was 19. When I did at first it was, “Aww no, no I can’t be!” 

We’ll get into that in a little but first, where would you consider home base growing up?
Chicago. I really love it and my whole father’s side of the family is there. And when I’m there, it’s like, “I’m alive!” 

Tell me a little about the fam?
My mother grew up out west. She was an only child. My grandmother was gay and had a partner for 30 years. And my grandmother had two cousins who were both gay. They were just called “The Aunts.” One of them married a man in the ’30s. She owned businesses all over Kansas City and in order to amass that, had to marry a man, but everyone knew that they were both gay. 

Later, my mother moved to Chicago for design school and that’s where she met my father. They divorced when I was 12 after we’d gone down to Atlanta. She moved back out west and worked in the Grand Canyon for many years. My first career for 24 years was as a chef and that’s how I ended up in Provincetown. I worked with a lesbian chef and I worked at Napi’s, the Lobster Pot, I worked at… I forget the others but I lived on Bank Street and I was there during the summer. Back in Atlanta, I trained with Chef Anna Nunziata for many years and then I got transferred to DC and worked with a gay restaurant company there. At the Canyon, my mother knew all of the Native Americans in the area, so I got into working with them and their art and it became a big passion for me. 

Also, when I was 16, I wrote for “The Bird” newspaper in Atlanta. It was a hippie magazine and I covered the rock bands, which was so much fun. Then through catering, I learned how to do events and I’ve been doing them ever since. Every year, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I would have these big, massive dinners for women who didn’t have a place to go. So all of that mashed up into what I do now, especially the events in the women’s community. Now, I live in Rehoboth and as you probably know, there are a lot of gay women here. [Laughing] I call it “The Island.” 

Wow, that’s an amazing life! So as a 16-year-old writing about rock bands, were you going to concerts all the time?
Oh yeah, I mean tickets were like five bucks! Groups like the Rolling Stones were not my favorites, but I loved getting that badge on and going right up on the stage and being able to go to the back and interview people. I’m still the same way today. I volunteer over at Freeman Stage, [which is] how I got to hear Yasmine Williams, who’s now playing at our festival! So yeah, it was exciting. I love music, I’ve seen k.d. lang 30 times. I was probably her biggest groupie. I’d chase her around, waiting at the back door of the theater or going to her hotel, hanging out at her bus. It was so much fun. Now that I’m older, I still like to meet people but I do it in a different way. 

And if all the entertainment-oriented work wasn’t enough, you have another sideline, Wingz of Power. Tell me a little about that.
My great grandfather collected the gemstones that he mined in the Colorado mountains, which he polished and traded for Native American pottery. His collection was where I fell in love with the culture and spirit of the Native Americans and my respect for their art and way of life. My mother’s side of the family is from the Wild West of the United States. That is where I get my love for the Pendleton trick rodeo riders. They’re the riding cowgirls. 

When my mom worked at the Canyon, I would go visit her at the corporate office. The buyers for the gift shops all knew the Native American artists and they’d introduce me to them. The sage and pottery and jewelry have always been spiritual to me. I have a massive collection and that’s what Wingz of Power grew out of. I sell online mostly now. I also started a coffee business, a roasting house called Buffalo Bucks Coffee House. I sell on Amazon, eBay, and I have my own website, I have coffee, tea and coffee paraphernalia. I get up in the morning and input the orders and we roast and ship it that day. I have 10 people working in the roasting house in Chicago and it practically runs itself. I wanted a business that I could run from my laptop wherever I want to go!

Free and easy, I like it.
Yeah, you know, sometimes I look at my life and think, “You know, you lived in DC, and could have had a government job for 30 years and be getting a pension like everybody else around here” but then I think, “Nah.” I’d have felt like a caged dog. I would have gone nuts sitting in a cubicle for 30 years! So I’m self employed and I like that because it allows me to be creative and go through my life freely, getting into different things along the way. I don’t like to be held back, but I like to work together as a team with different people. 

Did you go straight into being a chef, or did you go to school?
I did some college. I’ve always loved education. I love learning but I’ve never been able to stay still. I trained in the restaurant. I preferred the love of creating the food vs. taking a written exam. 

I read that you studied Kaizen. I’m not familiar with it.
It’s almost a metaphysical practice where you always move forward towards making things better. Not living in the past but pushing yourself beyond the limits of what you believe you can do. I’ve always been interested in that kind of thought. I’ve been a volunteer with Tony Robbins’s organization for years. I like to be tapped into that exciting energy. A lot of it has to do with energy flow. You always want it moving, almost like being a river. If you have too many leaves falling in the river, it clogs it and slows it down. It’s kind of like Reiki for your life, a way of helping you to be open to new possibilities.  

You mentioned coming out at 19. Give me deets.
I grew up in a Catholic family and I never, ever heard the word “gay” until I was just getting out of high school. I was always a tomboy. Back then, we had full-service gas stations and me and my friends all worked there. We liked working on cars, and other tomboy stuff, but never thought about “gay” stuff until there was this one girl who kept coming around my work and hanging around me. One night, we drank a bunch of beer and [whistles], that was it. But I woke up going, “Oh my God, what did I do!?!” It took me a while to come around. 

You know, back then, people used the word “queer” against us, so for my generation, it’s very uncomfortable. You hid if you heard that word. You ran for your lives. So it took time for me to come around and understand it but once I did, it was great! I moved up to Provincetown and it transformed my life. I was a real introvert back then. I didn’t have much confidence, but being in the kitchen with a wild Italian, lesbian chef was just what I needed! Bars! Drag shows! Beaches! It was a grand lifestyle. 

Which brings us to your latest grand event, the Women’s Arts Project. How did it come about?
I was talking with my friend Vicci Martinez, who’s an entertainer here and we were talking about how much things have changed. A lot of the gay establishments have closed down. We also got talking about social justice and the fact that there’s a town right next to here called Lewes, which used to be a fishing village with a lot of Black families, about 20% African American, until the builders came in and started buying up everything. Now it’s 1% African American and there’s not a lot of representation in Rehoboth either. 

I grew up in Chicago during the riots and moved to Atlanta when Martin Luther King was still alive and I was raised to love everybody. We wanted to do something to help foster a more diverse community here. We contacted Eboné Bell, who runs Tagg Magazine in DC, and they’re helping sponsor the event. She’s a great young Black leader and activist and a great speaker. We’re also working with Polly Laurelchild-Hertig from SisterSpace. She’s great. We want it to be a tapestry of the arts and showcase diversity. We have a number of artists from the east coast. It’s being produced by Gay Women of Rehoboth (GWOR) which has been around for a while. 

A few friends and I took it over when Jocelyn Kaplan decided to retire. It’s an incredible organization focused on embracing diversity and creating community through education, the arts, social and entertainment events. In addition, we have an aging community here too, so we help with anything from food to housing, whatever we can do to help improve lives for women in the area. 

Who are some of the entertainers booked?
We have Yasmin Williams, who was a finalist in the Rolling Stones Young Gun guitar competition among many other awards; saxophone artist Pam Williams; comedy from Jessica Kirson; Be Steadwell and several other amazing artists. We’ll also have games and vendors. There should be something for everyone. 

That sounds great! OK, let’s do some random questions. Favorite heroine?
That’s easy: Wonder Woman. She’s a leader and a fighter. She’s my screensaver. If I’m talking to someone and they seem a little down, I’ll send them a WW gif and it brightens them right up. 

What personal trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
My mouth! Sometimes, but usually I try to stay out of trouble! 

Three sounds that you love.
I’m hearing one of them right now. I love the sound of geese flying, the way they fly in that V shape and honk to keep the leader to keep going. And I love the quiet of the ocean, sometimes quiet is my favorite sound. But then again, I also like the sounds of the city, everything about being in a city. I love the smell of concrete. The people and the energy are so inspiring.

What’s the best thing you ever won?
I don’t know. I’ve won a lot of great things in life. Last year, GWOR received a proclamation from the state of Delaware recognizing us for our help with women veterans. We did a whole thing at the pavilion with the honor guards and laid out a wreath for the women veterans. That meant a lot that the vets were being recognized.

I forgot to ask about coming out to the family.
The day I graduated high school, I moved in with my girlfriend and her mother. I lived there for two years and she and I slept in the same bed the whole time. We’d leave little love notes to each other until one day when we noticed that the letters that we’d written that morning were gone. Her mother came home, took her out to the car, came back inside and told me to pack my bags. So I went back to my mom’s house and I was sitting on the couch bawling my eyes out over my first broken heart and my mom asked what was the matter. I just said, “Her mom found out about us.” I’d never talked to her about it before, but she just said, “It’s OK. You know my mom — your grandmother — is gay.” 

I know, and two weeks later, my grandmother sends me a book, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” or some lesbian book like that. Everybody was pretty cool about it except one sister who didn’t want me around her kids because she said I’d give them HIV.  Her son just came out five years ago and now she suddenly likes gay people. Whatever, it’s cool. And it seems there are a lot of openly gay kids on my father’s side in Chicago. I’ve never been one to go around saying, “I’m a lesbian. Hear me roar.” I’m just Lisa. Love me for who I am as a person. 

That works!

For tickets and more information on Women’s Art Project, visit

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