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With an Assist From Beyoncé, Black Queen Kevin Aviance Is Back

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“I feel like I’m back in the game again.” And he is. Legendary nightlife staple and Billboard-charting dance artist Kevin Aviance has seen a resurgence this year in his public profile, and while that bump was undoubtedly expedited when Beyoncé sampled one of his songs on her most recent album, Renaissance: ACT I, Aviance’s star was already steadily on the rise, booking DJ gigs across North America.

The artist made his name with hits like “Din Da Da” and “Give It Up” in the late ’90s and early 2000s, had a line of women’s heels in his name for two seasons, and was once named by Billboard as one of the most successful dance artists of all time. “I’ve never stopped working; I’ve been stopped,” he says.The self-described “Black queen” got his start at an early age.

Born in Richmond, Va., as one of eight kids, he came into himself in the fourth grade. Set to compete in a talent show with his schoolmates, he chose to sing Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” To complete the effect, his mom brought a bit of her Fashion Fair Cosmetics makeup to do his face.“It wasn’t about being a woman or anything,” he says. “It was just me trying to make the package look prettier; my voice was very high at the time.” Still, that kicked off a lifelong process of using drag as an art form and medium, and one of the first performances in a career that influenced his deep love of music.Aviance moved from Virginia to Washington D.C., then Miami, and then to New York City.

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