Kia Labeija

Return to Artist List



Artist Statement


I am a child of a generation born to positive mothers, when women were not PWA’s. I am a child born of a generation of children who were not built to last, who suckled the breasts of un-tested women, who grew in their wombs and past through them like rushing waters. I am a child born into a generation where hope came in the form of color coordinated pills stamped with dates, and times, and schedules. I am a child born into a generation of silenced voices that would not be heard until decades of birthday candles had been blown out. If God were to take me, hold out her hand for mine, all that would be left is an empty vessel who was once filled with the curiosities of a small girl. My spirit would dance among the crashing waves of the ocean, the sound of busy city streets; through traffic lights and star ships. I would sing the songs of my earthwalk, songs of my mother. I would cry out to her, only to be reconnected to the source. To be reborn as an angel, and sit closely next to her in the night sky.

Like dancing shadows on the walls of Plato’s cave, Identity is an accumulation of imitation and re-presentation. Its honesty lives through each unique individuals belief of their own truth. By the creation of Kia Labeija, I have composed an identity which exists in the world simultaneously to my personal story. My fictitious childhood dreams have developed into a distinct persona, turning me from human into artist, and from child into adult. No longer just the aspirations of adolescents, but a fully established body of work, striving to be seen, to be heard, to prove “I am somebody, I am a great somebody”. My practice of masking has provided me security in allowing myself an escape from the complexities and hardships of my everyday life. Growing up HIV positive, I never saw images that represented my existence. I felt a loneliness that pushed me to create solidarity within myself. I’ve come to know self-portriture as a method for survival, self healing, and reflection. I use the concept of glamour and beauty in my work to provoke conversation on what it can look and feel like to live with the virus. James Baldwin claims “People who cannot suffer can never grow up, can never discover who they are”. As a coping mechanism, masking is used as a form of escape in which deep pain and suffering is left covered up. By using communication and story telling, one can unmask. Sadness can come to the forefront and be dealt with. The healing process begins when someone bears whiteness, when masker is ready to be honest with all parts of their being, not just the projections they wish to display.


The New School University, New York City | BA in The Arts | 2016
The Ailey School | Ballet, Modern and West African | New York, NY
The Professional Performing Arts School | Musical Theatre, Dance | New York, NY
The Juilliard School | Music Advancement Program | New York, NY

Agitprop! | Brooklyn Museum | New York, NY April 6th – August 7th 2016
Visual AIDS commission of three artworks for Play Smart sexual health prevention packs…
Harlem Postcards | Studio Museum of Harlem | New York, NY November 12th – March6t h, 2015 Commission highlight Harlem neighborhood; concurrent exhibiting artists include Zanele Muholi.
Party Out of Bounds: Nightlife as Activism Since 1980 | Curated by Osman Yerebakan and Emily Colucci | La MaMa Galleria | New York, NY September 18th – October 10th, 2015
Elastic Practice | Clifford Chance | Curated by Jacob Robichaux and Sam Gorden New York, NY May 29th – October 1st, 2015
Art, AIDS, America | Curated by Rock Hushka And Jonnathan Katz | One Gallery, LA | TACOMA, WA | Zuckerman Museum, Georgia | Bronx Museum, NY | National Tour 2015 |
Only representation of women of color living with HIV/persons born with HIV virus
Ephemera as Evidence | Curated by Josh Lubin-Levy and Ricardo Montez | La MaMA Galleria New York, NY June 2014
Know Who You Are at Every Age | Curated by Q_Raider and BDGRMMR | Bronx River Arts Center New York, NY April 2014
Honest Bodies | Curated by Zachary Patrick and Andrew Phan | CUNY/Project Reach | New York, NY February 2014

Joseph Jefferson Award | NYC Black Pride Heritage Awards |Woman’s Old Way Vogue of the Year | New York Awards Ball | Stage 48 | New York, NY
Who Paved The Way Award | The 25th Anniversary of The Iconic House of Infiniti Ball | BB Kings | New York, NY
Hector Xtravaganza Xcellence Award | The 25th annual Latex Ball | New York, NY 2015
The 20 Most Amazing HIV Positive Women of 2015 | HIVPlus Magazine | New York, NY 2015
POZ Top 100 of 2014 | December Issue | New York, NY 2014
Visual AIDS Vanguard Award | Presented by Visual AIDS | Youngest Recipient | New York, NY May
Student Teaching Fellowship | Eugene Lang, The Newschool for Liberal Arts
Orginizing For Freedom With Robert Sember and Michael Roberson New York, NY February – May

Mimi’s Last Dance | Danspace Project’s PLATFORM 2016: Lost & Found Catalog | By Kia Labeija
Kia Labeija, Young Royal | Accent Magazine Cover Story | By Bwalya Newton.
Kia Labeija’s Firsthand Account of Growing Up HIV+ “ELEVEN” | The Creators Project, VICE | By Kia Labeija | December 1st, 2015 |.
Kia Labeija Tracks the Influence of HIV/AIDS on Contemporary Art | The Creators Project, VICE | By Antwaun Sargent | September 2nd | blog/kia-labeija-tracks-the-influence-of-hiv-aids-on-contemporary-art.
Power in the Crisis: Kia Labeija’s Radical Art as a 25 Year Old, HIV Positive Woman of Color | VICE | By Hugh Ryan | June 6th |
Kwans Song and the Allure of Immortality | A&U Magazine | By Sean Black | May 1st |                        

Reusable Parts/Endless Love | Gerard and Kelly | University of Albany Lab Theater |February 12th 2016
Metamorphosis | House of Vans with DJ MikeQ | New York, NY January 16th 2016
H&M x BALMAIN Collaboration Runway Show | New York, NY October 20th 2015
AfroPunk Fancy Dress Ball | Opening for Grace Jones | Commodore Barry Park | New York, NY August 21st 2015
The Red Road Block | Planet Indigenous | Toronto, Ontario August 2015
Movement Research Festival – Kia Labeija x LION | Tandem Bar | Brooklyn, NY May 16th 2015
HAUS OF SPICE Mini Ball | Brooklyn Museum First Saturdays | Brooklyn, NY May 2nd 2015
La MaMa’s Squirts 2015 | The Club at La MaMa | New York, NY January 16th – January 25th 2015
Make a Way out of No Way | Stereo Night Club | Glasgow, Scotland September 26th 2014
AFROPUNK w/DJ MikeQ | Commodore Berry Park |Brooklyn, NY August 24th 2014
BAAD: Out Like That | Bronx Academy of Art and Dance | Bronx, NY June 14th 2014
La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival | La MaMa Experimental Theatre | New York, NY May 16th – 18th 2014
The Road to Mastery Ball | MoMa PS1| New York, NY April 20th 2014

Women, Art, AIDS & Activism: Here Then, Here Now | The Brooklyn Museum | New York, NY June 4th, 2016
Not the Apocalypse I Expected | Abrons Art Center | New York, NY April 2nd, 2016
Art, AIDS, America Artist Talk | Zuckerman Museum of Art | Kensaw State University
The Artist’s Voice: Kia Labeija | The Studio Museum in Harlem | New York, NY December
Sold-out solo artist talk at Studio Museum highlighting Kia Labeija’s body of work
Kia Labeija Presents FAME | Queer Art Film, IFC | New York, NY November 2015
New York City Vogue and Ballroom Culture | VICE Headquarters | New York, NY November 2015
In This House: AIDS, Art and Activism in the Vogue Ball Scene | La Mama Galleria | New York, NY September 2015
Positively Resilient | The Audre Lorde Project | New York, NY March 18th 2015
You’ve Never Seen Pain Expressed Like This | The Tramway, featuring Miss Prissy, Pony Zion Garcon & Danielle Goldman | Glasgow, Scotland September
Tea Time: Mapping Informational Networks of Women Living with HIV | Eugene Lang, The Newschool for Liberal Arts | New York, NY March 19th
EN VOGUE: GAYLETTER Pride Ball Discussion Panel | The Wythe Hotel | Discussing
Jenn Nkiru’s short film on the ballroom scene | New York, NY June
International Ballroom Convention 2014: House of Labeija | Chahama Harlem Gallery |New York, NY April 2014
The Personal and the Political: Loosing Parents to AIDS | Part of Why We Fight:Remembering AIDS Activism Exhibition | New York Public Library, New York, February
Race & the Colonial Impulse: Queer Performance Practices | The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, New York University | New York, NY November 2013
(Re) Presenting AIDS: Culture and Accountability | Along with The Pop Up Museum of Queer History and Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies CUNY Graduate Center | New York, NY August

Saturday Church | Feature Film | As Kia Labeija | Creative consultant, additional choreography, dancer | Director: Damon Cardasis.
Dove | Music Video | Principal Dancer | Artist:Pillar Point | Director Jacob Krupnick |Bogota, Columbia
What it’s really like to live with HIV today | Documentary Short| Refinery 29 | New York, NY December 2015
We’re Still Here | Documentary | Director: Grissel Granados | Film about children born with HIV | Los Angeles, CA July 2013
En Vogue | Short Film| Director: Jenn Nkiru | Choreographer: Danielle Polonco |                                            Cinematographer: Bradford Young | New York, NY September 2013
Dirty 30 | Director: Hannelore Williams | Film on how HIV is perceived 30 years after the epidemic began | New York, NY October 2013