Haute Sauce BK: The Collective for Women of Color… With a Side of Fried Chicken
By: Gabrielle DeStefano
Tucked in the corner of a cozy, brick-lined classic-Brooklyn Bed-Stuy bar, Glorietta Baldy, I sipped one of their many craft ales waiting for the four founding ladies of Haute Sauce to arrive. Haute Sauce is self-defined as a Brooklyn-based female collective celebrating black and brown culture by creating spaces that support cultural and creative inclusivity. Their parties have to be experienced to understand but it’s their charisma, charm, style, dance moves, delicious fried chicken & of course the DJ workings of Adair that make it an irresistibly good time.
As the four filter in, I’m instantly reminded why they have such a growing following. Four individuals, each with their own personal style, attitude and a part to play, they instantly begin laughing and sharing stories about their prior night spent together, which surprisingly (only) went until about 2 a.m. Their fun, fresh and energetic vibe has drawn crowds in troves to their events for just about one year now.
Who are you and how do you identify?
Noelle Saunders: I am Noelle, I am a school social worker for middle school kids in Brownsville grades 6-8, I work with the Department of Education and I help run this well-oiled team, Haute Sauce. I am heterosexual [her friends tease] I like dick.
I won’t include that part in the interview…
Caity Arthur: No, that’s on brand for her, you can let that go in [all laughs from the group].
Where are you from?
Noelle: From Jersey we’re all from New Jersey that’s how we know one another.
How far back do you go?
Noelle: Elementary school – I think that’s my favorite thing about us, same town, same high school, we all share the same friends, it’s real sick actually – and the three of us live together [Noelle, Caity & Adair], and Meg is in Jersey.
Caity: I’m Caity, I do video for myself and for Buzzfeed. I don’t know why I won’t let go of freelance – She/Her and I do also love dick.
Adair Greene: I’m Adair, I work in Corporate America 9-5 and then the rest of my life DJing, throwing events, working with these HS ladies, and I am a flaming lesbian – She/Her.
Noelle: When you look lesbian up in the dictionary, there’s Adair.
Meghan Yergan: I am a teacher in Newark Public Schools, I teach 7th & 8th graders – I teach behavior disabilities so I teach everything to them. I do not like dick, I am a lesbian and she/her.
You talked about how you met in elementary school, do you guys have any funny stories about how you met/became friends? Who approached whom?
Caity: I can definitely talk about our perceptions of one another – Adair – was just out of control all the time, she was a rebel, breaking rules…
Noelle: And so was Meg! They were basically like a tag team.
Adair: Me and Meg have known each other since 4th grade/4th grade – we played soccer together.
Meghan: I actually do have a funny story about how we met! It was our first soccer practice, and we’re at the field and we’re like running around, stretching, warming up…
Adair: Okay – stop. Stop. It was like 6-7 o’clock, right around dinnertime…
Meg: And I didn’t know who she was, she didn’t know who I was, she just started talking to me, and she had her hands in her sweatshirt pocket, I didn’t think anything of it… all of a sudden she was like “hey, so my mom made some fried chicken” pulled out a piece of fried chicken, and offered me some! First time I met her. Didn’t know her name. But she offered me chicken.
It’s funny, the first event I attended of yours in July in a space in Bushwick, there was really chicken there! And I couldn’t believe it…
Adair: Yea! So that event we were actually collaborating with this really cool group called BUFU [By Us For Us] who focus on just African/Asian diaspora like they were just in China and Jamaica just traveling around and documenting LGBTQ experiences, so we collaborated with them, we did an event with them at the Brooklyn Museum, we did a “First Saturday,” which was lit.
Noelle: That was actually really cool, I low key forget about that sometimes, we turned the First Saturday into a little bit of a dance party and it was really unexpected…
Adair: Yea, so BUFU is great, they were having like a “shopping experience” so they had a lot of local queer artists, and yea, we got to collaborate with some really great experiences.
How’d you get to know BUFU?
Adair: Honestly, the person who runs BUFU was dating one of my really good friends, my buddy was like you should come to this, they have a whole list of July programming, and I just came in there like a DJ situation, and then I mentioned I have a collective called Haute Sauce we could do an event, and they were like that’s perfect.
What inspired you to start Haute Sauce?
Adair: So like, we had been going out, and me and Meghan – we are very gay – and there would be these times when we would wolfpack it –
Meghan: We were always trying to convince Noelle to come to gay parties with us.
Adair: But that was the thing – we weren’t finding the parties in Brooklyn.
Meghan: So we were over in Manhattan, and it just wasn’t fitting our style.
Adair: It wasn’t checking all the boxes. So there were the lesbians here, but it would just be white lesbians, there wouldn’t be people of color, or the music wouldn’t be good, and it’s in Manhattan and no one is trying to do all that… so we had just gone out that night, the next morning we were driving to Philly for Outfest in October, and we’re driving and I was just like ugh, last night was alright but… why can’t we ever find the experience that has everything like we could go to some straight places that might have good music but we might run into some homophobia issues, or like weird dudes just doing weird things, we should just do it. We should just throw a queer party… Then I was like wait – all our friends aren’t queer. When we were thinking about strategically tapping into our network, if we want to pack a room full of people, it’s not gonna be a room full of queer people, at least not at this point. So I was like alright, we just need to pull our people together and create an atmosphere where people feel safe, where you can hear music that you haven’t heard in a while that’s not just bend over and shake your ass – like can we two-step a little? Can we just have fun? Where people feel comfortable and safe.
Noelle: And focus on the people of color identifier, more than anything else we’re just kind of unified in that way, a thing we are all still trying to accomplish. Trying to create a safe space for everyone.
Adair: The intersectionality is what we are trying to capture. Because sometimes, you’ll have black spaces, and sometimes you’ll have queer spaces, but where are the black, queer spaces? Or the spaces that are just black and queer friendly, where I feel like I am comfortable and not being stared at for some reason.
Meghan: And also just like, lesbian parties, and gay guy parties – which is something that stuck out to me was my cousin, who lives in Manhattan, we never run into each other (he’s gay) it would never even be close to a time where we would run into each other like, “oh you’re here too?!” So we are trying to bring that all together – it’s not just females, it’s people of color who are females, or gay, just all inclusive.
Adair: So basically, me and Meg are driving, talking about this and I was like fuck it we’ve gotta just do this for ourselves. But I was like wait boss, we need some help with this. We need to rope in Caity and Noelle… Caity - the “eye of haute sauce.”
Noelle: Oo I like that, the “eye of haute sauce” – I’ll be the head!
Adair: Yes, mama bear, we came back from that weekend we texted them like we’re going out, we’re having a meeting, we need to talk and make this happen. We had some margaritas, got some food, I was like alright here’s what I think we should do –
So, how soon after this were you operational? Because I know that’s a big thing, people always do that - say “this is such a cool idea, let’s do this,” but then there’s no follow through?
Noelle: Adair started just running on it. There’s no time for second-guessing with Adair. The thing about Adair is, if she wants to do something, and we all agree to it, we can’t back out of it, we can’t chill on it, we can’t act like we never heard it... she had the logo done, she had a Gmail really quick, probably just the next day honestly.
Adair: Yea and I was like we need to set the date for the party – February 11th, and that was our house party. That’s when we knew we were onto something I think…
Caity: That shit was craaazy.
Meghan: The cops came like three times.
Noelle: We first thought – is anyone going to show up?
Meghan: I was in charge of counting how many people and I had to keep being like [looks around & writing on paper frantically] Every time I kept looking around I just kept adding more!
Noelle: We also had a performer!
Who was that?
Caity: My friend Spec-Kay - I actually went to college with him, he was like can we make a music video, and I kept making music videos for him because I actually like his music…
Noelle: We also had a lot of help; we had friends help build a stage because we didn’t want him to perform on the floor, so we have two architecture friends, a friend of all of ours from high school literally build a stage.
Adair: So I think one of the most exciting things about HS is we were like we wanted to throw this, but we couldn’t just throw it for our friends…
Noelle: Yea, like we can throw a Jersey party and it will still be shut down, like it’ll still be good – but we don’t want that.
Adair: Yea, and that was crazy – we looked around the room and we were like holy shit, we don’t know a lot of these people. Which was good and also a little less comforting.
That’s why you need a public space…
Caity: Yea, it was definitely growing pains.
Where did the idea for Chicken come from?
Adair: Well, I thought we have to bring value to people, like there has to be a reason they’re coming – and that’s kind of where the chicken came in – like everyone likes to eat, everyone likes food, so give them something, “You’re coming to us, thank you for coming, here’s something for you.”
And then we needed a name, and that’s where Noelle came in…
Caity: I can’t even remember any of the pre-names.
Meghan: When we came up with that masterpiece, everything else went away.
And how much chicken do you bring to each party?
Adair: We had 36 pounds of chicken last time.
Noelle: And it’s a 2-½ hour process, it’s our mutual best friend, Krista’s, recipe she’s a great cook, we’re planning a girlfriends Thanksgiving and she’s cooking most of the food.
I love how excited everyone got so quickly, you probably knew you really had something when there was such a great turnout…
Noelle: Yea, we felt really good.
Because I think if I tried that I’d have like 20 people show up.
Adair: Which is reasonable, that’s what we thought I didn’t expect much of anything like 130 people came!
Why do you think everyone came?
Meghan: The Chicken.
Noelle: I think first of all, we always throw good parties at our apartment – back in Jersey.
Meghan: But I think a lot of it was just, our idea and our vision behind it, when we had posted that on our Instagram and – if you read that and you vibe with that, you’re gonna come through and see.
Caity: I also think there’s an element of curiosity, like a lot of people know us from different places but like never saw us together, so I feel like even taking our first photo shoot and posting that on IG people were like – “what’s going on here? Are y’all dropping a mix tape?” There was a moment in time and people were like what are you guys about to do? This is… not random but like… huh. And it’s honestly just like a powerhouse of people.
Adair: I think also the type of people we all are individually, and the type of people we surround ourselves with, if you were to be someone who has spent time with us, you know what you’re getting when you’re coming. We have a similar vibe and upbringing I guess that just kind of radiates, and it draws people toward us, and people who are drawn to us individually also are drawn to each other. Like we’ve had people say, “aw I met this really cool person there.”
Meghan: One of my friends from work, she was telling me that she went to a going away party for a friend who was leaving and come to find out she actually met that person at our first HS party.
I was going to ask if you knew of friendships/collaborations/things that have come out of the parties…
Noelle: We have, we have and we actually just did a podcast called Black Meets World, it’s two friends Dee & Cee, who are friends of friends, and the reason Dee came to the first HS party is through my college roommate, and she has been coming to every party, and just this past one she brought 14 people, she runs to the door and is like, “Yo, Noelle I got 14 people outside.” And they rolled deep, and they keep adding onto their squad, and staying the whole time and that’s my favorite part just people staying all night.
Caity: That’s happened a lot people just get mad excited and are like I’m about to bring mad people, which is really exciting!
Adair: And it’s the energy of the space, it was weird because when we were conceptualizing everything, because we wanted a vibe, and we know what we mean when we say we want a vibe but it doesn’t quite describe it.
Well actually my next question was, what is the vibe people can expect at your parties?
Meghan: Good vibes. Good chicken. It’s on the shirts.
Caity: Being comfortable enough to network and get drunk at the same time.
Adair: Being comfortable enough, being yourself. I think that’s the key of it. I feel like people can come to our space and be themselves and so they don’t feel like they have to perform as much because I feel like in other situations, especially in NY, people can get really full of themselves, and I think there’s not that kind of feeling at our parties. You feel like you can go up to that random person and talk to them and they wouldn’t look at you, like “why are you talking to me?”
Caity: Or just being able to turn up, like I’ve seen people half naked at our parties turning up because it is that comfortable. It’s in those moments when it really clicks that “wow anything can happen.”
So tell me about the music?
Noelle: Yea, so the music is where we all come from too, we all have the same taste and when we go out, we dance for the most part and we have a lot of fun listening to music, we listen to a lot of DJs, my ear for DJing and music has changed so much, looking for the sound, and chasing music, and transitioning, and playing for the crowd, and I think Adair does a good job of what Caity and I would like to dance to which is like what black women in their 20s want…
Adair: [Resident DJ] I play music for women. Women just know what’s lit. I am not a man-hating lesbian, I just do things for women, just generally in my life. I try to hit all the points, because as I try to define my sound, it’s like sounds of the diaspora, so I am trying to hit across – like people of color have a lot of different sounds, but there’s something consistent I hear in it, it’s like a soul, like sometimes you just hear that bass and you’re like “why am I dancing to this?” I don’t know why… it’s that kind of thing. And I try to pull it out of every genre that I can and it makes people feel more comfortable because sometimes people are like – how do you even know about that?
Noelle: And our parents partied the best. That’s the best way to party is like a parent would – the generation above us because they weren’t like “booty shaking” and “twerking” and “grinding,” which is fun but our parties don’t focus on that specifically.
Adair: I want the music I grew up on, and you don’t hear that, or rarely.
How was the Halloween Party you threw? It looked awesome.
Noelle: It was a great party because people who come to the party make it.
Adair: The venue was difficult to work with and I think that’s one of our real hurdles. Right now, we have the people, we have the setup, the chicken is better every time but there’s always something missing from a venue so we’re really trying to find a home.
So what is the perfect spot?
Adair: The perfect spot: Would have an outdoor area, ideally open until 4 am, ideally owned by POC because we’re trying to feed the community.
Caity: And a place that will let us bring our own chicken.
Adair: I work with another group called Brown Sugar QTPOC event. I go out – and usually it’s a straight space or it’s a queer space and I rarely find queer spaces on the weekend, so luckily I was able to lock this [Mood Ring] down on a Saturday I think my mission as a DJ is rally to just create consistent spaces for people and opportunities for people. So I really get joy in putting DJs on and performers on that are great that just don’t have that platform. I feel like there are not enough spaces for them to show their talent so why not create those spaces.
Caity: And as a straight woman, I need them for my life. Sometimes I just want to be left alone, because it gets hard a lot- you just don’t want to be seen sometimes because specific kinds of men can be harassers. You want to go out, you want to look good and not worry. And those situations just make it more important to create these spaces.
Adair: We are FOR women of color. Specifically women of color.
Noelle: And that is our message that we need to keep reiterating.
Adair: You just want to dance, you don’t want random hands grabbing on you and that doesn’t happen at our parties. People say “I don’t feel pressured to grind up on somebody” – we can just dance without men just posting up or making us feel uncomfortable.
What’s the goal for HS? What’s next?
Adair: I would say, we would like to move more into, not just parties – because I think HS is a culture, and it’s almost that when you talk about intersectionality and how I think things should be but sometimes things are separated or we might not take into consideration other plights that might fall under our umbrella, so I think what we’re trying to do is capture all the things that fall within that umbrella. So we’re trying to do panel discussions where we can talk about mental health, talk about black issues, things that aren’t taught in school. Personally, I want to do some stuff where we talk about history, where we get a dope historian who talks about certain things that just aren’t covered because as you know our educational system is really lacking – the real truth about a lot of things – or just worldly issues that fall outside of America being the center of everything.
Noelle: I keep going back to what Caity said at the podcast where we feel like the party runs itself, and I don’t think we’re quite there yet. Once we find a venue, it’s just gonna change the whole game for us.
Do you want a consistent venue?
Noelle: Yes. We need a home, where they know that every six weeks, we’ll be there. Because our mission is so particular, that’s why we’ve been having such a hard time. We bit off – not more than we can chew but a lot to chew because we asked for a lot so that’s why we’re going through this now, but once the party can run itself we’ll be in a different place to really jump start all the other things we’d like to do.
Adair: And we also have Haute Sauce Radio…
You do? What’s that about?
Adair: Yea, it’s a monthly radio show, which also features either guests that are talking about different issues that are important, or we have guest DJs that might be at our next party so you can get a preview.
I also want to do some financial education stuff, because I feel like with everything that’s going on in the world and specifically in this country I think it is very clear that the powers that be are not to be trusted, and not relied on to give you what you need as an individual or to teach you because all of these systems are meant to feed themselves not to bring in other people, we’re taught to be workers we’re not taught to be owners, and I want to help people own their lives, their finances so they can live the way they want to live and not rely on a system that’s not built to support them.
Do you guys have any individual projects or things you’re working on you’d like to mention, Adair, I saw you were up to win something pretty awesome – I voted for you – want to explain that?
Adair: Yea, thank you, crazy stuff happens in life when you really try but my buddy told me a couple months ago to submit myself for this – got into the finals of a competition to DJ on this lesbian cruise to Cuba with @lezjourneys. Every time I say it, it sounds crazy. The competition ended yesterday, so I should find out at some point soon!*
Caity: I run a horror blog called @gore_girls my friend Daniela and I started but it has 6 women of color contributing now. We talk about horror movies, and again I’d just like that to run itself. I want it to be writers who want to submit will just submit. We do a minimum of two blogs a month. So yea if it can just run itself then I can do what I really want to do which is create little horror shorts.
Where can people find you?
Noelle: Every party we are always looking for a performer or a DJ, and that’s one of our favorite parts, is picking someone, so we would love to have performers, POC who want to help promote our party and perform. We have one or two sometimes three DJs before Adair goes on so we’re always looking for some she’ll listen to anybody’s sound cloud.
Adair: HS was created to obviously create that awesome party experience but also to be a platform so we’re trying to create opportunity for people who don’t have opportunity.
Any final thoughts?
Adair: Good vibes. Good chicken.
Make sure to check HS out on social media for details regarding their next party expected in February 2018. Additionally, the crew is always looking for talent, performers, DJs, promoters etc. so feel free to reach out and/or send your stuff to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Shortly after the interview, Adair won the LezJourneys competition to DJ an April 2018 Lesbian cruise, check out www.lezjourneys.com for more information.
Photos 1, 3, 4: Raymond Terrell
Makeup: Julian Lazaro @julianlazaro
Styling: Kris Harring (photos 1 & 4)
Sean “Dot” Rolle (photos 3)