Antpuke Was Run Out of New York. Now She’s Back to Make Amends.

Antpuke, photographed by @violator.jpg.

If you aren’t an estrogenated DJ living within a stone’s throw of the M train, these words may mean nothing to you, so let’s catch you up to speed. Ava, also known as Antpuke, was a DJ and nightlife organizer who swept the scene during COVID, ushering in an era of younger, mutual-aid-driven nightlife and positioning herself as a leader in a scene centered around fundraising. Her ascent came to a head at her biggest venture yet, a multi-room club night called Femme Fantasy at Knockdown Center where she bit off a little more than she could chew, leaving many artists unpaid—myself included. She was chased out of the city over a year ago and has been languishing in obscurity and silence with almost no contact with the world she left so shaken. Until today.—ANGEL MONEY



ANGEL MONEY: So this week, I announced that I, Angel Money, was bringing Antpuke to the city for her first major New York booking since her extradition about a year ago for treason against the doll-munity. Interview Magazine knew we had to reveal her experience surrounding the massive flop that was Femme Fantasy. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been in touch and I’ve come to understand how something like this could have happened to someone in her condition. As this came together, I reached out to Rash to put together an event that could raise funds for all of us still unpaid, using this wave of scandal-driven attention as fuel to fund everyone who has yet to be made whole. On the phone I have with me New York’s most hated, Ava, who you may know as Antpuke. How are you?

ANTPUKE: I’m alive. I’m in Florida, sadly.

MONEY: I know that there was a tragic death in the family. Is everything okay?

ANTPUKE: I’m kind of in the denial stage and I haven’t really seen my family in a while, so it’s a little awkward. But I’m here to support my mother because we haven’t really dealt with any family death and nobody ever wants to see their mother sad.

MONEY: I’m happy you’re able to support each other. Let’s get some context. Describe your role in New York nightlife before everything fell out. 

ANTPUKE: I basically ran a music collective/rave/mutual aid organization called Club Carry, and I was a former resident at Nowadays. 

MONEY: I remember you coming up to me at a rave saying, “Would you play this Zoom party?” 

ANTPUKE: Yeah, COVID was definitely where Club Carry popped off because I was seeing that a lot of queer and trans people weren’t really getting the same resources as everybody else while COVID was happening. In those Zoom raves, we actually raised a shit ton of money for mutual aid. But I’ve been DJing since I was like, 13. 

MONEY: Where was your first DJ set?

ANTPUKE: I think you played it, actually. It was the first Internet Friend party—

MONEY: Stop! I didn’t know that you were on that lineup.

ANTPUKE: Baby, I’m an OG.

MONEY: Oh my god, that was my first gig as well. That is so crazy. How has today been for you?

ANTPUKE: I’m just ready to fully share my side regarding Femme Fantasy. I went full survival mode for peace of mind, and I had never had so much time alone. I found clarity in how I wanted to take accountability. I’ve always had problems with communication and I feel like I’ve definitely grown. You know, when you do hormones, you change so much constantly. I want to work on fixing things and reaching out to the people that I’ve harmed.

MONEY: Absolutely. I think that’s what we want: healing. So let’s situate things. How did Femme Fantasy come together?

ANTPUKE: So everybody knew that I threw the most iconic party ever at Knockdown Center, Doll Mania.

MONEY: Which I DJ’ed. Everyone got paid and it was fabulous.

ANTPUKE: Everybody got paid a good coin. I DJ’ed For 15 minutes. I’m not going to say that was the most I’ve ever made in 15 minutes, because I’ve made a lot of money in 15 minutes.

MONEY: Girl, me too.

ANTPUKE: But it was a good coin. Then I got a residency at Nowadays with Pauli Cakes. Scratch that—Nowadays was not even trying to claim us as residents, but basically, we made Thursday night in New York a scene again. I did a takeover at Elsewhere, I’ve done Club Carry in different cities. Eventually, I was in the middle of organizing a rave called Wavy Spa, which—

MONEY: Someone said that it went from—what did they say? From Euphoria to Bad Girls Club real quick?

ANTPUKE: She said, “It went from HBO to Zeus Network.” [Laughs] So then I was given the opportunity to do Femme Fantasy at Knockdown maybe a month ahead. I agreed because, first of all, I was promised to do a Club Carry Basement takeover after the success of Doll Mania and they still were kind of dodging me and not even booking me for Basement. I would go to Basement all the time. I had my own list for trans people to get in for free.

MONEY: Yeah, everyone knows the Ava list, darling. So when you started planning, what did you see this event as being?

ANTPUKE: We wanted it to be a fundraiser for us to get surged, and also we wanted to give back to a trans collective. Then, Marshall Columbia hit me up a week later like, “We should do a party for Fashion Week.” He name-dropped some sponsors, like Cash App and some other names, and I was like, “Okay, this is perfect.” I was very confident because everybody was begging for a Doll Mania Part Two.

MONEY: When you throw a party that is very well-received, it feels like, “How could this not be successful?” At what point did this project get so big that you had to bring someone else on?

ANTPUKE: As soon as Marshall Columbia mentioned sponsors, I was like, “I don’t want to do this work by myself because it’s stressing me the fuck out.” I had gotten a new manager at the time, who was also handling Club Carry. 

MONEY: You brought [the manager] on to kind of just help you handle all the backend, the business, so that you could focus on the vision?

ANTPUKE: Yeah. We also were going to become roommates. 

MONEY: It’s a huge money monster, so I understand why you would bring someone on.

ANTPUKE: Yeah. So we get to the drawing board. We have to create PowerPoints to send to everybody.

MONEY: The pitch deck. I was just going through this. You attach names because you need those names to appeal to your sponsor so that it looks like a fully formed project before money comes in. That’s how events of this scale come together, especially when there’s sponsors involved.

ANTPUKE: I’m actually going to name-drop because why not? We really wanted Isabella Lovestory. She’s a very big artist but she hadn’t been playing too many shows in New York.

MONEY: She just sold out Rash a couple weeks ago. 

ANTPUKE: I love her. But there was a point where she wasn’t really doing as many shows in the US, but her music was being played everywhere. So I reached out and her manager was like, “We need $25K.” And I’m like, “That don’t make sense. No shade.”

MONEY: What was your budget going into Femme Fantasy?

ANTPUKE: Well, the sponsors weren’t locked in. We had to whip something up to send to the sponsors, so we were trying to hit people up to see if they’re available.

MONEY: Why do you think the sponsors were not locked in?

ANTPUKE: I would say just the amount of stress we were dealing with. We were kind of expecting Marshall Columbia to slide through with these sponsors because they mentioned them. I feel like Marshall Columbia should have stepped up to the plate as well, rather than just styling and giving people clothes. It really was just like, “Let me throw my name on this.” And I’ve done parties with no sponsors at all. Doll Mania never had a sponsor. The sponsor was me.

MONEY: Correct.

ANTPUKE: Doll Mania was my hopes and dreams at the time. Club Carry never had a sponsor. Everything y’all see online, I did that shit myself. No backing. It was a one woman show and I’m trying my best. I don’t come from money. I don’t come from anything.

MONEY: Looking back, obviously anyone would jump at that opportunity, I know I would, but do you feel like you were out of your depth at all?

ANTPUKE: I don’t feel like I was out of my depth. I was just given the opportunity. They saw that I did it before and they’re like, “We trust her.” But I had a shorter time gap. Mind you, I’m still booking gigs. I’m still traveling to do DJ sets. I would average 10 to 11 gigs in a month.

MONEY: Oh my goodness. So as you’re reaching out to people saying rates that people can expect, where are those numbers coming from? 

ANTPUKE: Femme Fantasy was supposed to be a whole different thing than what it ended up being. We couldn’t solidify certain artists because we didn’t make the time cut with sponsors. We’d finish the pitch deck and then Marshall Colombia would be like, “Oh, you spelled this wrong or you spelled that wrong.” We missed the deadlines and didn’t lock any sponsors in. So the rates that I was giving people were based on the rates that I did for Doll Mania the previous year and also just people’s rates in general because I’ve booked them before so I knew what would get them confirmed. If somebody asked me to DJ Knockdown Center or Basement, I’m doing it for a thousand dollars minimum. So I said it would be, minimum, $700 to a thousand, in that range.

MONEY: Were you scared seeing the talent budget starting to stack up?

ANTPUKE: No, because I paid the hosts the same thing I paid them at Doll Mania. At Doll Mania, we sold about $25k worth of tickets. 

MONEY: When did you feel like things maybe weren’t going to go the way that you expected?

ANTPUKE: For our original lineup, all the artists were not taking our offers. And as soon as we didn’t lock sponsors in, I didn’t want to cancel the party last-minute because we did confirm these people. Like, if we just promo and get the girls doing their thing, we can make it happen.

MONEY: Was there ever any point where Knockdown reached out to you concerned?

ANTPUKE: They did the day before. They were like, “We should cancel it. It’s going to be problematic. Tickets are not selling.” 

MONEY: Is there any reason why you didn’t?

ANTPUKE: Because we invested so much of our own personal money. We were booking people’s flights, I was scrambling to get people’s deposits. All my gig money from all these shows I’d been doing went right into Club Carry.

MONEY: So I have spoken to a couple people behind the scenes of this party, and one of them was the person who’s owed the most money from this event, the set designer. I’m not going to name him, but he has said that he’s considered taking your former manager to small claims court because his name is in all the contracts guaranteeing him reimbursement. Can you speak to that situation?

ANTPUKE: They had their own agreements. Like I said, I was more of the creative force, but after Femme Fantasy, me and the set designer had a conversation. They pulled me aside like, “Hey, Ava, I know Femme Fantasy didn’t go well, but I want you to know this is not all your fault because you did hire him as a production manager, and we all know that he let you down.”

MONEY: Did you feel let down by him?

ANTPUKE: Yes and no, because at this point, we were besties.

MONEY: I’ve heard there are people from previous parties before Femme Fantasy, such as Wavy Spa, who weren’t paid. Can you speak to that?

ANTPUKE: Yes. I realized our relationship was a little rocky when we did Wavy Spa. We did a lot of cash that night, and I was like, “We should just pay the DJs that are here in cash.” He was like, “No, we should deposit the money in my account.” I’m pressing him to give me some cash to pay the DJs because they’re here and also cash is just better for people. I did take some money to pay the headliners but I didn’t really know how much we really made. He and I went to the bank to deposit, but I didn’t know what was going to happen to the money because it’s his bank account. There was a disconnect, but it was the day of the party and there’s just so much going on and we’re all running everywhere with our heads cut off.

MONEY: Let’s come back to the Knockdown cancellation request. Do you wish now that you had canceled looking back?

ANTPUKE: Yes. I wish I would have just said, “You know what, guys? Let’s just not.” I really wish I did.

MONEY: Okay, so we’re at Femme Fantasy. The people are not there like they should be. I was there, I was hosting. How did it feel to be there and to feel like, “Oh my god, this room is not filling up”?

ANTPUKE: Honestly, I had to DJ people’s live sets because they didn’t come to soundcheck. I had nobody checking in with me from Knockdown.

MONEY: So you were really busy.

ANTPUKE: And I didn’t run into him at all. He was in the Knockdown office in the back, the secret room, and I was like, “Girl, how are you over there chilling?” People were sending me their music the night of—

MONEY: And you were putting in Rekordbox and getting it ready for the CDJ.

ANTPUKE: I know everybody seen me at Femme Fantasy working, boo. I needed to stop and catch my breath for five seconds, but those five seconds are so crucial to the entire night. People are texting, they need an Uber, some artists were like, “I still need to get my outfit from Marshall Columbia.” And I’m like, “Girl, you’re on in 10 minutes.” Some artists didn’t have a DJ, so I’m like, “Okay, I have to ask a friend,” literally.

MONEY: So your attention is scattered. How many people came to Femme Fantasy?

ANTPUKE: I think it was 854 people.


Antpuke, photographed by @tomgorl.

MONEY: And at the end of the day, you’re trying to raise this money. There was a charitable factor here. What was the fund that you were raising for Femme Fantasy specifically?

ANTPUKE: We were raising funds for the girls and for Coalition for Black Trans Economic Liberation.

MONEY: Obviously that’s a very noble cause.

ANTPUKE: There’s a factor where I’m like, that’s so fucked up of me not giving back to them. I feel really horrible. Originally when I realized that we didn’t make enough money, I wanted to just be like, “Can we just give all the money to the collectives?” But also nobody wants to be given that when I hit them up to play.

MONEY: Of course. What was your headspace when you left the venue?

ANTPUKE: I realized everybody left Knockdown to go to Basement a little early, and I was kind of upset because I’m like, you bitches have Basement every weekend. Mind you, it’s my birthday weekend as well, and my friends all ran to fucking Basement. I was broken-hearted, but I was hiding it because I always learned how to hide my emotions. I was the last person to DJ and nobody was at my DJ set. I was ready to go to an afters and just eat my birthday cake and fucking spiral. 

MONEY: I cannot imagine that feeling. 

ANTPUKE: I was so fucking over it. I remember Memphy was like, “Girl, where was your manager? He didn’t help at all.” Knockdown should have hired somebody to help assist things. 

MONEY: What did Knockdown say as you wound down?

ANTPUKE: Nothing. At this point, I feel like Knockdown and Basement used my name and clout. Knockdown really didn’t promote my party on their page at all either. They weren’t boosting it like they boost their own events. 

MONEY: And you could have used more promotion from them because a lot of your artists were coming from an underprivileged, marginalized place.

ANTPUKE: A lot of people never had that opportunity in their life. As soon as this night ended, I was already like, fuck, here comes the crazy-ass depression. I didn’t go to sleep. I went right to an afters and I was up for maybe a day or two. The next day I had a party at Bossa. 

MONEY: How did the Bossa party go?

ANTPUKE: It was just a mess. Everything was a mess, that whole weekend, it was horrible. 

MONEY: Walk us through that week after Femme Fantasy flops and you have to pick up the pieces.

ANTPUKE: A week later, I don’t think we got paid yet. I remember the first time they tried to transfer to me, I didn’t get it and they were like, “Oh, you got to wait a couple more days and we’ll try it again.” But they told us the total and we made like 14k, and I was like, okay, we’re probably short $5 to $7k from paying everybody what we told them. So I was freaking out because we also need to donate. My mental health was so fucking bad. I was on a Mephedrone bender. At the time, Mephedrone was being introduced in the scene, and it was so easy to carry because I was going through it. Uppers in general have such a bad effect on me. I was filling the void, waiting to get paid and it was a very dark and depressing and suicidal time in my life.

MONEY: Absolutely. When did you leave the city?

ANTPUKE: There was a bunch of internet drama and I was like, “If bitches want to find me, it’s not that hard.” I’m living in the middle of Bushwick across from Rogelio’s and Happy Fun Hideaway. 

MONEY: We were all in the group chat trying to locate you, darling. So we were definitely looking. I think me and Liam looked at a photo that your manager had posted and we found the geolocation.

ANTPUKE: Yeah. God forbid somebody pulls up on me, I’m coming outside and we’re doing our big one, no shade. I’m from Florida, so I’m going to defend myself no matter what. But I don’t really want beef with bitches.

MONEY: You’re saying you’re going to defend yourself. Did you not feel like you had the responsibility to everybody?

ANTPUKE: At this point, everything was in shambles already, so I’m like, “I’m just going to make sure I’m okay and safe.” But there were people that did get paid from Femme Fantasy.

MONEY: Who has been paid from Femme Fantasy?

ANTPUKE: Dollnxtdoor, Quay Dash, Gia Love, Miss Twink USA. Let me double check. I paid him because he was like, “I can’t even get home,” so I paid his producer fee. I paid BbyAfricka, Goth Jafar, Terrell, Alaska. And also, I paid two artists I owed from Wavy Spa. I owed them $300 each.

MONEY: So what was left after you paid those people? I think people want to know the figures.

ANTPUKE: I think it was like 3k, maybe 4k. 

MONEY: What happened to that money next?

ANTPUKE: I used that money to pay my rent at the time.

MONEY: Personally, even though my rate wasn’t as high as some people’s, it still was an amount of money I was counting on. Did that cross your mind or were you—

ANTPUKE: Yes, it crossed it a million times. But I was in survival mode because I was getting doxxed, I was getting death threats, people were calling my phone from different numbers. One artist found out I was depressed and suicidal and was like, “If you hate your life so much, why don’t you give me your address so I can…” So I decided to get defensive.

MONEY: I know there was a college gig that you were supposed to play. 

ANTPUKE: Yes. I was booked at a major college and they were paying me 3K. So I was like, “That’s perfect.” One of the Femme Fantasy artists had played the college gig and they were like, “I don’t feel safe with Ava being on this lineup. I think she’s going to beat my ass.” So the college people told me that, and I couldn’t DJ. But I take full accountability because I was not communicating at all. I was just in tears and I was hiding.

MONEY: Do you think the drugs were a factor in this?

ANTPUKE: They definitely were, because I was coming down from doing mephedrone and doing all these uppers. I wasn’t conscious. I was having psychotic episodes, I was delusional. My mental health was in the gutter.

MONEY: That must have been so scary.

ANTPUKE: It was so dark, I almost killed myself. I remember when he wasn’t back yet from Berlin and at a point I was like, “I should just throw myself off this window,” because I was living on the sixth floor. I literally went to the hospital.

MONEY: When did you go to check yourself in?

ANTPUKE: Right when all the call-outs were happening. I put a hoodie and some jeans and a face mask on, I got on the train to the city, and I stated to the doctors, “I’ve been doing a bunch of drugs and I’m going through a lot right now with my personal life and I’m very suicidal and scared.” And they were basically like, “We can’t do anything for you.”

MONEY: So let me get this straight, they declined you treatment?

ANTPUKE: Yes, girl. It wasn’t enough to admit me, I guess. And I was stating to them, “I’m also on estrogen.” Because it’s more intense.

MONEY: And you had not been on estrogen for that long?

ANTPUKE: It was like six, seven months on estrogen at the time.

MONEY: And that is when it really amps up. And I have heard that drugs had a massive impact on the failure and disorganization of this event. Can you speak to that?

ANTPUKE: It’s the norm in our community. In this subculture, we’re all DJs and stuff, we’re all bookie and kooky. You know what I’m saying? It’s very normalized, but also it’s not normal at all. But when you’re so deep in those things, it’s hard to get out and get level-headed to realize that it’s not okay.

MONEY: Absolutely. Let’s talk a little bit about your year away, because it’s still a very talked-about issue. Did you go to Florida?

ANTPUKE: Yes, I went to my hometown. I basically went into full survival sex worker trans mode.

MONEY: I saw finsta posts of you with guns in Florida saying you were going to kill yourself. I saw a post with you with your foot on a trick’s head.

ANTPUKE: Yeah. That’s just Florida shit. That was my way of coping, separating myself from all this drama and not taking accountability, avoiding all the conversations.

MONEY: At this point, were you homeless?

ANTPUKE: Yes. I was roommates with my manager and basically, we were beefing. So the people that we were subletting were like, “Ava, you got to go.” I got paid $600 to DJ Paragon a week after Femme Fantasy, so I flew to Florida and stayed with a friend for a couple of months. My friend, Sky, we literally got it out the mud together, we found out we were trans together. So she knew where my head was at. She took care of me. I’m just trying to stay alive at this point, not even trying to face the harm I caused.

MONEY: It got so much bigger than you expected.

ANTPUKE: I didn’t even have Instagram on my phone. I had to disconnect myself from it because it was making me want to kill myself. I didn’t really want to take accountability, I didn’t want to think about Femme Fantasy, I didn’t want to think about Club Carry, I didn’t want to think about Antpuke, I didn’t want to think about nothing. 

MONEY: How do you feel like the people who didn’t get paid felt?

ANTPUKE: I felt like they were angry, which is valid. It was abuse, it was fucked up. I was being immature and I was not communicating. The way I really reacted to this whole situation was so fucked up. But when you’re in survival mode, all you know how to do is make sure you have something to eat and somewhere to stay. I knew that they felt hatred towards me, which is valid because I would do the same thing to a bitch that did that to me.

MONEY: Absolutely. We need to talk about your plans moving forward to make things right. Where are you with that?

ANTPUKE: It took me a while to want to even have a conversation about this. I’ve learned a lot of things from this about myself. My communication skills are horrible. I’ve harmed a lot of people. I want to learn how to take accountability to everybody I hurt.

MONEY: Do you know how much there is still unpaid? 

ANTPUKE: I would say like 10k. I am not really too sure because honestly, I haven’t really looked into it because it’s hard for me.

MONEY: Of course.

ANTPUKE: Currently my main source of income is sex work and maybe DJing a party on the low and I’m not getting the same rate that I got before. I was able to live life when I was booked and busy, but now that everything’s been stripped away from me, it’s not the same.

MONEY: Do you want to be undergoing an accountability process?

ANTPUKE: Yeah. I’m in talks with a friend in the Bay and they have a collective and they do parties and fundraising. I need to pay people back immediately. I need to figure it out. But I also need to fix these relationships with the people I’ve harmed. And I want to mention and say a big thank you to Ariel Zetina for doing a GoFundMe for everybody that was harmed.

MONEY: Ariel was amazing. One of the reasons why we wanted to do the Rash event was to create funds to recirculate to everyone who was unpaid. Because if there’s no money coming in now, but there is a spectacle of this, how do we use that to fund a restorative process?

ANTPUKE: Yeah. There could be multiple ways to fix that, but I feel like I need to deal with the accountability process with people I’ve harmed individually and publicly before I really start working my ass off to do these things. I want to have those conversations, but I’m pretty sure some people will just want to get paid.

MONEY: One big part of the conversation is that through this event, the people who were most harmed were the Black trans women. What is your perspective on that?

ANTPUKE: I knew it was wrong, I knew it was fucked up. But I had no other choice than to make sure I was able to survive. It was a dark time but every day I wake up with regrets. I hate my fucking life, it’s horrible. I wish that I asked for help. I just never swallowed the bullet and thought I was going to be okay and I got this.

MONEY: So moving forward, do you want to set aside a percentage of your bookings to handle the debt that’s been incurred?

ANTPUKE: Yes. So I was actually thinking of splitting 50/50 of my rates.

MONEY: That sounds realistic because you need some money to survive. One thing that people have been discussing online is that you look more feminine, have you had any plastic surgery procedures between Femme Fantasy and now?

ANTPUKE: No, I’m not even on estrogen right now. I don’t have access to it right now. Thank god I’m going to New York this weekend, I’m going to run and go get hormones immediately. It’s just easier for me to survive in Florida. I do sex work and make things happen, but I’m also not popping that many clients.

MONEY: I mean, sex work is draining. I have been a career sex worker for a very long time and it is so demanding of your energy. And when people say survival sex work, they aren’t fucking joking because I need to get this coin to survive. I’m going to fuck to survive, that is what that job is.

ANTPUKE: I don’t ever wish survival sex work onto anybody. Shout-out to the girls that can do it.

MONEY: What do you say to the girls who still say, “Fuck Ava”?

ANTPUKE: I would say it’s valid. And when I end up paying, I’m still going to be a villain. It’s not going to go anywhere. It’s going to be a really long process for that restorative justice, and I’m always going to be the villain in this situation no matter what.

MONEY: It sounds like you’ve kind of made peace with that. 

ANTPUKE: That’s how it is and that’s why we have formed a community. It’s not a new concept. I totally get it. I’m very grateful and that’s one thing that inspires me to actually want to fix it. There are people behind me. If you and Alaska and my small group of friends that pressed me to do this weren’t there—

MONEY: Yeah, you would still be in Florida surviving. Your intention from the beginning was to uplift your community and it’s really unfortunate that it has gotten to a point where that isn’t the case and you’re shut out.

ANTPUKE: I want to say to everybody I have affected, especially the people who I haven’t paid and even the people who are pissed off about the situation, from the bottom of my heart, I really do apologize. I want to fix this. I’m not just saying this to be in Bushwick and DJ again. That’s my last fucking resort. I’m doing this to fix what I’ve done wrong. Me going MIA is the worst thing ever and I just want to really fix it. With the death threats and everything, I am literally risking my life more than popping a client at this point. God forbid something happens when I play a gig in the future. I don’t know what to expect at this point. But I’m going to risk my fucking life to fix this. I owe it to everybody. There’s no other way to go about it and I’m happy to start making those steps forward.