Art of Living Well Music

How Justin Vivian Bond’s Legendary Cabaret Is Influenced by… Jesus Christ


This is the Art of Living Well, a column from CULTURED that explores how tastemakers think about luxury: the luxuries that are free, the ones that cost way too much, and the little ones that punch above their weight.

Hilton Als once described Justin Vivian Bond as “an artful, gender-bending, truth-telling illusionist.” Their skills will be on full display at Joe’s Pub in New York this week, where they are in residence from June 20 through June 30. Some might say it is the summer of Bond: For five nights in July, the performer, whose stage name is Mx Viv, will also offer free outdoor concerts on Little Island, featuring a selection of songs around the idea of “Nature and the Nature of Nature.” 

Bond, who has lived in New York since 1994, stands in the pantheon of great New Yorkers alongside Fran Leibowitz, Spike Lee, and Sandra Bernhard. Ahead of their latest performances, CULTURED checked in with the cabaret great about how to get the most out of life. 

How would you describe yourself today?

Tall, blonde, decent singer, fabulous raconteur. 

You're performing "Night Shade" at Joe's Pub through June 30. What's the story behind the show? What do you hope audiences walk away feeling?

Every year, I do a series of shows around the summer solstice and Gay Pride. This year, I decided to make the show a celebration of queer nightlife, so I will be performing songs from five decades of clubs and parties. In between the songs, I’ll be sharing witty anecdotes and trashy bon mots. 

As a cabaret singer, my wish for my audiences has remained the same throughout my career. I hope they will walk away a little giddy, perhaps slightly tipsy, and in a much better emotional state than they were in when they arrived. 

Who's an influence of yours that people might not expect?

Jesus Christ. He was the original hippy peacenik who said love is the most important thing and—at least in the publicity images I’ve seen—he was hot. All this Old Testament crap needs to be dialed down a couple of notchez, imho. 

You've toured and traveled endlessly over the years. What's a ritual that keeps you grounded in hectic moments?

Sarcasm and cocktails.

Photography by Joy Episalla.

What do you want to see more and less of in the world of performance in 2024?

Larger and more adventurous audiences. Less political interference and tiresome commentary from hypocritical morons who don’t go to the theater anyway. I see you GOP!

What product do you use every day that instantly improves your mood?

As soon as I emerge from my morning shower, I mist myself with rosewater. It’s a simple thing to do but it feels very luxurious and sets the tone for the day. 

What’s your favorite small luxury to give to someone else?

I like to give people candles. My favorite brand is Boy Smells. It’s a cute and sexy gift. 

What do you do when you need to feel grounded?

Lay down.

What is something you’d love for someone to buy for you, but would never buy for yourself?

I’m always delighted by layer cakes—preferably with cream cheese icing, but I have nothing against a bundt with a lemon glaze. 

What’s a generic that’s just as good as the original? 

I have no idea. I’m not a coupon person. 

What’s your favorite smell?

I’m a Taurus with a May birthday, so every year I’m thrilled to celebrate another year around the sun immersed in the fragrance of fresh lilacs. 

What’s a luxurious ritual you inherited from someone in your life?

I learned from my mom to never leave the house without my lipstick. My sister and I both carry way too many. Sometimes we’ll be out to lunch and start pulling our lipsticks out of our purses to see who has the most. Neither of us ever has less than five. 

What is the best thing you’ve put on your face recently?

I know what it was, but I can’t remember his name. 

What is your favorite luxury that costs less than $20?


What’s a wellness ritual you think is overrated?

Enforced moderation.

What is the most luxurious thing in your life that’s free?

Morning cuddles with my cats, Pinky and Leather. Also gossip.