Art and Performance Spring 2024

What the Hell Is Make Believe Seattle?

Finally, a Film Festival for Fellow Weirdos

The Power of Making People of Color Invisible

Stephanie Syjuco Empowers the Oppressed with Just a Finger

Better, Stronger, Faster

The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra Pays Tribute to the Legendary Oliver Nelson

Where to Pickup a Copy of The Stranger's Spring A+P 2024

Find it at Hundreds of Locations Around Seattle!

Queen of Our World

When Sasha taqwšəblu LaPointe Writes, the Revolution’s Coming

Blowing Minds and Melting Faces

Thunderpussy Celebrate Their Survival with a Surprising Benaroya Hall Takeover

Person of Interest: Arson Nicki

Finally, a Fashion Expert for the People

Six Films You Need to See at Make Believe Seattle

Starring Ethical Vampires, Ridiculous Puppets, and a Dude Who Pretends to Be George Lucas for Funsies

Art, Illness, and Auto Repair

Cherdonna Makes a Compassionate Comeback

Person of Interest: TeZATalks

Harbinger of Horror-Filled Hardcore Pop

It’s Important That the Bug Undulates

How Anida Yoeu Ali Uses Wiggling Worms and Glitter as Forms of Protest

Sincerely Joking

Chastity Belt Live, Laugh, and Love 10 Years On

Your Spring Arts Itinerary

24 of This Season’s Very Best Art, Books, Music, Film, Theater, and Food Events

Tessa Hulls’s Feeding Ghosts Is Instant Canon Fodder

Too Bad She’ll Never Write Another Graphic Novel

Isabel Hagen’s Comedy Strings You Along

How a Juilliard-Trained Violist Found Harmony as a Stand-Up Comedian

Person of Interest: Taha Ebrahimi

Seattle’s Coolest Street Tree Expert

I stressed for weeks about what I was going to wear to interview fashion expert Arson Nicki. When I first saw Nicki, it was May 16, 2019, on the SIFF Opening Night red carpet. Arson Nicki was in drag and looked nothing short of iconic: she was in a yellow latex dress, a matching pussycat wig, and the mod white makeup of another life form and/or decade. 

Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Today, Nicki is in black clothing. He has swapped drag performance for fashion critiquing and tells me that there’s so much happening in his brain these days that he doesn’t have the creative energy to wear anything other than head-to-toe black. 

“I can’t be picking out outfits. I can barely get laundry done.”

While I have noticed a significant Arson Nicki-sized hole in Seattle’s fashion when I’m out and about, there’s been a big uptick in my fashion knowledge in general, thanks to the @arsonnicki Instagram account. For his almost 100,000 followers, Nicki does “quick fashion recaps” of designer runway shows, in 30 seconds or less.

He delivers his video reviews in a black shirt and black beanie, with an ASMR-worthy voice that somehow both titillates and soothes simultaneously. Each review is filled with history, knowledge, and the perfect amount of judgment. It’s like watching 30-second episodes of Project Runway, but the main judge also doubles as a meditation guide. Nicki reviews new lines by the likes of the design houses of Helmut Lang and Maison Margiela to an audience of trend experts, the fashion curious, RuPaul’s Drag Race alums, and the legendary stylist Law Roach

“Let me tell you. The day I saw Law Roach followed me, I just… I… I just…”

He had no words. 

One of Nicki’s most-viewed videos features an educational breakdown of this year’s Met Gala theme—Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Beauty. He explains that this year’s gala hosts, Zendaya, Bad Bunny, Jennifer Lopez, and Chris Hemsworth, are actually looking for fashion where technology and nature intersect. OKAY, ZENDAYA, HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT? The glorified outdoor pajamas I’ll likely be wearing on May 6 to watch the Met Gala red carpet will probably pass, because there’s no way I’m getting invited to that party. But Arson Nicki might get invited to the Met Gala—again. 

“Last year, a couple days before the Met Gala, someone from Meta—Instagram—reached out to me asking if I wanted to get put up in a suite in the Carlyle Hotel across from the Met Gala and do coverage of the event. I absolutely thought I was being scammed.”

He wasn’t. Within 48 hours, Nicki was posted up with a handful of other content creators, trying to pick their jaws up off the ground when RIHANNA FINALLY WALKED IN THE DOOR OF THE HOTEL. Arson Nicki was there.

“I used to give myself a hard time that I don’t own any designer clothing,” he said. “Not a piece. I have one designer scent that I was given at the Met Gala. And I used to think that meant that I wasn’t qualified to talk about designer brands, but I just immersed myself in fashion and read so many books and watched so many runway shows online. And then I tell people that I did drag for a decade and they don’t question my fashion credentials.”

Arson Nicki is evolving. He has gone from using they/them and she/her pronouns to any pronouns. He hasn’t been in drag “for fun” in the last five years and doesn’t plan to go back to it. (Much to my disappointment, but WHATEVER.) Nicki is finding his people through little screens, but his love for the bigger fashion scenes has me scared that he would evolve right out of Seattle. 

“No no, my roots here are too deep. Plus there are a lot of fun brands here—Nordstrom, REI, Tommy Bahama, Filson—and I would love to do some stylist work with those brands someday.”

It’s cool to see the confidence of someone who is doing what they love and what they’re—obviously—supposed to do. Nicki didn’t go to fashion school and doesn’t have the uber-privileged background many high-end fashionistas have.

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“I just have to focus on what I can do and what I know how to do and what I want to do and be unapologetically me. I feel good in my role as a critic and trust myself.”

Whether he realizes it or not, Arson Nicki is bringing the DIY spirit of drag to the fashion world. He’s making fashion accessible to those of us whose bank accounts are less equipped for Tom Ford and more equipped for Taco Bell. 

When talking to Arson Nicki, I kept trying to get him to read me. I thought at any second he would tear into my looks, Seattle’s fashion, or at least a fellow former drag queen. But for a critic, Nicki didn’t seem to have a judgmental bone in his body when it came to our one-on-one interaction. Quite the opposite, actually. In seeking some cattiness, I asked Nicki what trends are coming into fashion, especially for the everyday woman in Seattle (asking for a friend). He told me that right now, it’s all about quiet luxuries (which I understand in theory), mob wife fashion is having a moment (which I will have to Google), and that Seattleites are already and always ahead of the game, because as Nicki said, “A big part of fashion is not caring what other people think of you.” As if hearing that last part not at all and wanting constant coolness validation, I asked, “Do I have to burn all my skinny jeans?”

Nicki chuckles as he says, “As a recovering millennial, I wore skinny jeans from the year 2010 to a couple years ago. And I was hesitant to change styles, but then I started wearing wider-legged pants and I love them. They’re so much more comfortable! The thing about trends is sometimes they’re good for you and you shouldn’t resist.”

Wow. Arson Nicki, I get it. You can’t evolve into your best self if you’re afraid of what you don’t have; if you’re resistant to change; and/or you don’t follow your bliss. For five years, I’ve thought that the glammed-up, dragged-out version of Arson Nicki was my muse, but it turns out this confident fashion expert with dark clothes is the light I craved all along. This era of Arson Nikki is the muse I didn’t know I needed. 

“But Seattleites,” Nicki says, “get your wide-legged pants hemmed or tailored. Having the bottom few inches of your pants wet is not a good look.”