How This Queer Party Promoter Found Community in NYC’s Nightlife
Come for the music, stay for the good vibes.
New York City’s nightlife is world-renowned. People from all walks of life travel thousands of miles to see the glowing lights and bustling streets, engulfed in its colorful culture. For the average tourist, the clubs and bars are attractions to be discovered. However, for the pro traveler and city dwellers, there are pockets of party subcultures that are essential to many people’s social lives. Cesar Lemonier — fashion professional by day, party extraordinaire by night — is a vital part of one of these close-knit scenes.
Lemonier hails from the Dominican Republic, though after being diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome at the age of two, he and his mother — who worked for a government agency and was able to get him a medical visa — moved to the United States and started calling NYC home. While growing up in The Bronx, Lemonier cultivated his identity and discovered his sexual orientation, and while he proudly claims his Bronx upbringing, it wasn’t until he moved to Brooklyn in his early 20s that he first found a sense of belonging. “Sometimes, having so many identities can be a little difficult to find a home in,” he explains.
In Brooklyn, a friend, Brandon, started introducing Lemonier to other melanated folks in the LGBTQ+ community who are all about self expression and having a good time. “He introduced me to Kandy Muse, who's Dominican, from The Bronx, and queer,” he says. “We all have this little ragtag group of friends who just support each other.”
Lemonier recognized that your friend circle (who can quickly become your chosen family) is what gets you through tough times, including mental health struggles, which disproportionately impact queer Black and brown people. (In a report released earlier this year, it was stated that 45% of LGBTQ+ youth in the U.S. have seriously considered taking their own lives, with youth of color having higher percentages over their white counterparts.) He saw how being in community with your peers can drastically shift your perspective, and chose to lean into that when facing mistreatment.
“[My friends are] not even done processing something traumatic when I've already made 17 jokes about it and we're already laughing about it,” Lemonier says. “They'll be like, ‘Cesar, how are you not crying right now?’ But that's how we get over things and I think that queer people are super — despite a lot of adversity — we're super joyous and we tend to find the positive in things and in other queer people."
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This was especially the case during pandemic-related lockdowns, when everyone was quarantined due to COVID-19 and having webcam parties with friends. Lemonier and his friends hosted inclusive virtual party spaces that seamlessly transitioned into IRL events when NYC slowly reopened its nightlife scene. “It was kind of the perfect storm,” says Lemonier, especially since Kandy Muse was making a name for herself as a recent contestant on a popular televised drag show at the time. “I was taking photos at first and they were like, ‘Cesar, so many people come out for you. Why don't you just host, too?’ So then I started hosting, and it just completely snowballed from that.”
“It's important to me to look around a room and see people of all different shapes, sizes, colors, and gender identity.”
It didn’t take long for Lemonier and friends to begin growing their nightlife community in Bushwick and surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods. Lemonier made sure to create a diverse and welcoming safe space for all, which he says is organically built within the intersectionality of his Dominican heritage and the queer community. “My friends know, they can go, “Can I bring…,” and I'm like, “Don't even finish the question. Of course, you can bring a friend! Let's go! Let's just do it,” Lemonier says. “It's important to me to look around a room and see people of all different shapes, sizes, colors, and gender identity.”
The events Lemonier hosts are curated extravaganzas with fun and relevant themes, such as the “Mercury in Reggaetón” party organized by his friends Steven and Lucas, a duo collectively known as DL Presents. The astrology-themed event — whose title hints at the infamous Mercury in retrograde transit — boasts a night of dancing to a lineup of reggaetón DJs. "Mercury in Reggaetón," the third installation to a four-part party series, is only one of the many events that cultivate a space for colorful nights with flamboyant folks. Since there's no set schedule on how often these events are, the best way to stay up to date on the festivities is to follow Lemonier and DL Presents on Instagram. And if you're looking to connect with Lemonier specifically (for a pre-game perhaps), don't be shy to slide into his DMs. He confirms, "I'm totally reachable. I read every DM. I answer every DM. I'm not super snooty about any of that."
The party nights are known to be legendary experiences where people leave with more friends than they came with, building the safe spaces that Lemonier desired for his younger self — even in the daylight. “Having community means the world to me,” Lemonier says. “Even [in] my other job, where I work in fashion, my main goal is to make spaces be what I wanted when I was entering the scene when I was younger, in whatever I do.”
That desire has permeated from his boisterous extended friend group to just about everyone they meet at these memorable events. For Lemonier, he’s simply happy knowing that the people that inspired his booming venture into NYC nightlife productions are his respected peers and friends. “I obviously loved Frankie Sharp parties and Ladyfag parties,” Lemonier says. “I feel like those were the main two I would definitely look at as I was coming into the scene, or before it was really in my life. They were really great and instrumental.”
Lemonier calls on everyone who enjoys these spaces to not only attend the parties and events, but be an active participant in stabilizing the city’s communal queer culture in order to keep it authentic and safe for all. “Whenever you're reading a flier or seeing a group of names for an event, make sure that you're looking up these people,” he says. “We have to be vigilant as party-goers to make sure that we're giving our dollars to spaces that support people that are like us.”