Inside PERRA: The Queer Latinx Dance Party Taking Over Salt Lake City
Welcome to PERRA. Translation: slut.
If you’ve never stepped foot in Salt Lake City, Utah, just know that at the forefront it’s quite conservative and Mormon – a stark contrast from the world of PERRA – which translates to “slut” in Spanish. For co-founders Eliana’s Universe and Jenny Fu, hypebae and Hypebeast’s very own, the lack of inclusivity was sickening. Their cure? A Latinx dance party that celebrates SLC’s queer community through sensuality, music and queer fashion.
“Picture this,” Eliana told hypebae. “You’re walking into a space with old-school reggaeton blasting, surrounded by brown queer bodies serving the most fabulous outfits you have ever seen.” The idea came to Eliana after visiting her home country of Colombia and experiencing its reggaeton-heavy, queer, Latinx nightlife. As a Taino artist, Eliana knew she had to recreate the vibe in her city. Little did she know at the time, Jenny would be the perfect match to her genius idea.
At the time, Jenny was hosting a BIPOC safe space in Utah since moving back from New York. “I was craving connection and needed community,” she said. “I started Family Style to create cultural art spaces and parties meant for BIPOC communities in SLC.” But most importantly, she was inspired to share the “untold stories” from Utah – specifically, the stories of SLC’s diverse community of immigrants, refugees and creatives.
“Most people don’t know it, but we’re out here in the Wild Wild West of Utah, living a totally different life than what you may perceive Utah to be,” Jenny said. “There’s been so much history that has been erased or untold. I wanted to change the narrative and reframe what SLC is known for, create more spaces for expression, sexuality, fluidity and fun.”
Eliana, whom Jenny refers to as her “cosmic partner,” had a “gut feeling” and “saw the perfect chance to pitch [her] queer reggaeton party concept,” she said. “We met, she loved the idea, and despite having zero blueprint,” PERRA was born. Within one year, Eliana’s “creative vision” and Jenny’s “knack for organizing” grew into a revolutionary movement for over 600 people to dance and revel in their truth.
Keep reading for an exclusive interview and peek inside the PERRA universe.
What inspired the iconic name “PERRA?”
Eliana: It wasn’t an easy decision. “Perreando y Llorando” and “Puro Pinche Parti” were contenders, but they felt too long. Then it hit me dramatically one day: PERRA! Like, duh. Perra in Spanish basically translates to sl-t, and I felt it was a short, punchy name with a powerful impact.
How do you ensure PERRA is a safe space for sluts and everyone in between? Are there safe space rules?
Acknowledge and honor the purpose of this space as one designed for queer and trans people of color.
Embrace the freedom to express yourself through your attire.
Respect personal boundaries.
Stay open to exploring new and alternative Latin sounds that might be unfamiliar to you.
Zero tolerance for homophobia, racism, transphobia or any form of violence.
Jenny: SLC can be unsafe for marginalized folks to go out in. When thinking about how to curate a safe space, we were extremely intentional around our community’s needs. We wanted to center our QTBIPOC community and ensure other folks were educated on how to operate in our space. We would send each other voice messages day in and day out around how to be intentional in our language and communication around PERRA. I’d reference larger parties in New York and the Bay Area, their party messaging and apply it to the needs of our community. Eliana would go as far as having some of the captions written in Spanish or using specific memes that our community knows how to receive. We wanted to create a space that allowed folks to celebrate and wear whatever they wanted and be safe.
“Our Perritas always show out and eat the plate clean for our event.”
Walk us through a night at PERRA:
What can guests – excuse us, Perritas – expect?
It feels like an episode of Skins. There are lights, sweaty bodies, water and drinks. There are people that you know and you embrace them. There’s a long line to get in – that usually leaks outside and around the corner of the venue building – with the most beautiful modelesque POC baddies you’ve ever seen in outfits worthy of the Met Gala. There are expressions of queer joy everywhere. People are making out. People are twerking and grinding. It’s HOT – like, literally temperature-wise, but also sexy.
Queer fashion is a world of its own, especially when it’s safe enough to don your true aesthetic. What do people wear to PERRA?
People look hot and non-binary. Our Perritas always show out and eat the plate clean for our event. It really does feel like the Met Gala of SLC. I’ve seen people come in kink pup attire, handmade looks of all kinds and nothing but pasties and a thong. I just love that people really go hard with their looks.
One of the most rewarding parts of doing this is the messages we get after the events from people who have never felt safe or free enough to wear, for example, kink attire in public or AMAB (assigned male at birth) people who have never worn skirts or more feminine clothing out. Many people say our event is the first time they’ve ever felt safe to explore their presentation. We feel so grateful that we’ve been able to create such a liberating space.
Do you have a favorite look that you remember?
There is this absolute icon and doll named Trey who always pulls the craziest looks for our events – and they DIY them, too. This year’s theme was “Catholic School,” so they literally handmade a giant pink and black cross out of PVC or vinyl and wore that. Literally just a cross barely covering their kitty.
What’s your favorite PERRA memory that perfectly describes the vibe?
Eliana: I love the collaboration we did with SISTER because we brought in local Vogue Ballroom Performers to give the crowd a show on Ballroom culture. They hosted a mini-ball with categories like: Face, Body and Hands. It was really special to be able to highlight those performers and educate our community on such an iconic subset of queer culture.
Jenny: That event was special to me, too. I was able to have my nephew and sisters there and it was outdoors. At the last event, I was taking an Uber to the event with my brother and sister and I saw multiple different groups in their beautiful outfits walking to PERRA showing SLC what’s up. It was so special to witness people living in their truth walking to a safe space. My favorite thing is getting messages after each event and hearing about how meaningful and liberating our party was! It feels that way for me, too. I can fully be myself amongst my loved ones.
“People are making out. People are twerking and grinding. It’s HOT.”
How do you empower yourselves as femmes from conservative backgrounds?
Eliana: Being unapologetically myself is a non-negotiable for me. Growing up in a conservative and predominantly White state left me feeling like an outsider, with no one around who truly got me, you know? To fill that void, I sought identity in external things, and music became a pivotal channel for my self-expression. In high school I was introduced to trans musician Arca, who is now one of my biggest inspirations, and witnessing her navigate the world unapologetically was earth shattering to my little small-town Utah brain at the time. Now, I strive to embody that same energy, especially in a conservative state like Utah. Making myself visible is a deliberate act for me — a testament that queer people are not merely abstract concepts; we are real, we are human.
Jenny: My single mother is a pianist who was professionally trained as a state-sanctioned performer in China. Since emigrating to Utah, in the early 90s, she has raised generations of Chinese-Americans through the art of Piano. Watching her juggle multiple different identities and roles has been a huge source of power for me. My ultimate dream is to shape safe spaces for marginalized communities and continue to resource them back. I don’t want my next generation to have to move through these complicated hurdles just to feel seen and live their truths. I want to be able to pave some waves so that they can be themselves where the community is. So I guess, as a femme that’s from SLC, I want to bring it back to my community in SLC and be able to let the next generation live with liberation and love.
What’s next for PERRA?
We are rethinking what it means to be a Perrita. We want PERRA to not only be a party-but to be a whole collective of creative expression for queer POC. We’re thinking of releasing a magazine, starting a record label for alternative Latin music, and taking the event worldwide! We’d love to bring it to major cities like Los Angeles and New York alike, and even find our Perritas out in Europe and Latin America.
This interview has been condensed for clarity.