Girls Night Out
Perhaps the most popular couple on The Read L Word – Kiyomi McCloskey and Lauren Bedford-Russell – are coming to Sydney as part of the Mardi Gras Festival. Ahead of their arrival, they speak with Bernie Burke.
The relationship between Kiyomi McCloskey and Lauren Bedford-Russell provided much of the heat on hit lesbian reality series The Real L Word. The show wrapped after its third season in 2012, but fans will be pleased to know the couple – who met on the show – is still very much together almost a year on.
They spoke to SX, fittingly, on Valentine’s Day, before heading out to dinner together. Lauren said they had originally planned to get massages, but just couldn’t fit it in. Indeed they’re right in the thick of prepping for an overseas jaunt that will include an appearance at the Mardi Gras instalment of popular girls’ night ‘Lick’ at the Bank Hotel in Newtown on March 1.
Kiyomi heads the popular punk band Hunter Valentine, and Lauren runs successful jewellery design company Lyon. “I actually sat down and consciously said ‘what do I really want to do with my passion? I needed to hone in’,” Lauren says.
“And for me my passion is in designing pieces I want to wear but didn’t see around the place. So it was very decided, you know, like ‘I’m going to do this!’ I’m so glad I soul searched – I could easily be in a job right now I don’t like.”
Both girls can’t wait to get to Sydney. “I’ve been to Sydney once and it actually reminded me of my home town of San Diego,” Lauren says. Although of course, last time she was here, she wasn't a reality show star. These days Lauren is often approached for autograph, and she’s happy to oblige.
“It’s something I’ve never gotten used to, but I’m definitely more confident,” she tells. “It’s really nice to meet complete strangers I’ve somehow helped. That part never gets old. I love it. I try and do as much as possible for the LGBTQI cause.”
Indeed finding inspiration through a television series is something Lauren can relate to. She cites The L Word drama series – which inspired the creation of The Real L Word – as a watershed moment that ultimately helped her to come out. “My first girlfriend said ‘here watch this’,” she remembers. “It just helped me come out completely; there was no doubt about that. I feel like I owe it a lot.”
Kiyomi, who grew up in the diverse, metropolitan city of Ontario, Canada, had no such difficulty, saying she is lucky to come from somewhere open-minded and accepting. “I very much appreciated having a show like The L Word, but I also felt it wasn’t completely accurate about the lesbian community,” she says.
There have been mixed opinions about how realistic The Real L Word was, and Kiyomi has set the record straight many times about its accuracy. She met Lauren at a bar in Brooklyn, which was filmed on the show, and there was speculation about whether the meeting was set up. Speaking to After Ellen, she stated: “Definitely nothing is scripted. The producers encourage only realness. If something seems unnatural to them then they won’t include it. It’s pretty real.”
One thing is for sure, Kyomi and Lauren’s relationship is real – indeed they have stuck together through Lauren’s shocking diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.
“Out of all the diseases that are hitting America hard, that was the disease I actually knew the least about,” she says. “I really had no idea what it meant. But the more I started researching, the more it became clear you don’t know what’s going to happen. It really is one of the most mysterious diseases out there.”
She is the first openly gay public figure to announce she has the disease. For her, it’s all about raising awareness elusive illness.
This is where her line of ‘equality bracelets’ comes in, which she designs as part of Lyon jewellery and contributes anywhere between 10-20% of proceeds to various charities, including the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Kiyomi knows exactly where she comes in with regard to Lauren’s MS. “I have a really positive outlook,” she says. “That’s my role as her partner and love. It’s so important to pick your partner up when they’re feeling down, and Lauren is actually really positive herself. I think it’s the most important thing, because stress can make it turn for the worst.”
Just like Lauren, Kiyomi made sure she followed her heart career-wise. Hunter Valentine’s fan base has increased since The Real L Word, but she doesn’t take it for granted – she’s done the hard yards too.
“I worked seven nights a week busting my ass for years. It was really hard work, but I fell in love with the restaurant industry. I had a passion for food and drink, so it wasn’t as gruelling as it could have been.
“Being in a band, I’ve been able to stand up as a role model for the gay community. Now with the show, we’re empowered more. I would never consider myself a celebrity, but I think it’s important to use the platform we’ve been given to stand up for things – like equal rights.”
Hunter Valentine have just released their new album, Collide and Conquer, and hope to play some shows in Australia, since Kiyomi will be here. The album is one of a few “goodies” the girls will bring with them, as well as Lauren’s equality bracelets.
Lauren is preparing for quite a different Sydney experience to her first visit – especially in the lesbian heartland of Newtown. “Yeah,” she agrees with a giggle. “It will be quite a different experience.”
[Image] Kiyomi McLoskey and Lauren Bedford-Russell. Photo: Leslie Van Stelten
The girls will appear at Lick on Friday, March 1, at The Bank Hotel, Newtown. Ticket $25 general, $40 meet and greet from www.mardigras.org.au.