The first time I met Evelysse Vargas ’17, she was a sixth-grader on ice skates. Now, ten years later, she’s a veritable campus celebrity: From the Butterfields to Usdan (on a recent trip there, I lost her in a flock of her friends whom she had not seen since studying abroad in Salvador, Brazil last semester) to the stage on which she DJs, Vargas holds court. I sat down with Vargas in my living room on Lawn Avenue to ask about her longtime involvement in the Eclectic Society, her evolving queer identity, and her freshman year affinity for teal pajamas.
The Argus: Why are you a WesCeleb?
Evelysse Vargas: I think I’ve done a lot of different things in these past three years. You know, right off the bat, I joined Eclectic, freshman fall. That’s basically all I did freshman year, and then sophomore year I was doing some WSA, Caribbean Students Association, you know, more official, organized group work. And then last year, I took some more leadership roles, chairing the Student Budget Committee before going abroad, being an RA. So you know, I’ve dabbled in a bunch of different things. That’s probably why.
A: It seems like everyone knows who you are. What’s your key to social success? Are you just like that?
EV: [Laughs] I mean, I don’t know. You like to say that I blew up once I came to Wesleyan, and that I wasn’t like this in high school. I think I knew I wanted to be here. It was my number one choice coming out of high school; I had experience here, because Hilda [Vargas ’16], my sister, was here, and I knew that I wanted this. So I think I dove into it, and all the people I’ve met here, and I’ve met some really amazing people here. I don’t know that there’s really a key. I think being interested in people and caring about what people are doing.
A: Your involvement with Eclectic has shaped you a lot. How do you feel about the house’s closing?
EV: It’s kind of tough. Because I feel like it was something that really shaped my first couple of years here. I lived there as a sophomore, and like I said, I joined right off the bat freshman fall. I don’t know. It’s kind of sad now. I wasn’t sad at all when the announcement came out that Eclectic wasn’t going to be at 200 High anymore, because I think it was merited. It was warranted, and it was honestly, quite frankly, about time that there were some sort of punitive measures associated with a lot of the destructive acts that were going on inside the house, and to the house itself, and to people who were members and people who weren’t members.
But I do, I guess, lament and still kind of long for the vision that I had for it when I joined: it was this space where I felt that, as a queer woman of color, that I was valued for the ways that I was marginalized as opposed to going out into the real world and feeling like those were things that could hinder me, that those identities can actually be the reason that I get something as opposed to them being the reason that I don’t get something….I definitely have an internal cognitive dissonance about it.
A: I knew you at Chapin [our private, all-girls school in Manhattan], and you were definitely coming really strongly into your identity. That was such a different environment than Wesleyan. How have you continued to evolve here?
EV: It’s wild. I was literally just having a conversation with one of my residents from last year, and we were kind of talking about this, too. Just growing up here, and finally feeling like I’ve come into my own. Here, I got the chance to study myself in a way that I wasn’t able to in high school, and I think the American Studies major in particular gave me a way to be more self-reflective. I’ve found that there are terms for a lot of things I felt in high school, or even my freshman year here.
In high school, I dated a queer white woman, and she was also very wealthy, and that was a very different experience than my being a queer woman of color growing up in the South Bronx. And I don’t think I understood that until I got here….I mean, I could vaguely identify, “She has a lot of money; I don’t.” But there are just different lived experiences, and I don’t think I got to study those intersections really in-depth until I came here.
A: Tell me about your career as a DJ.
EV: Oh my God. Wow. Wow. Wooooooow. Shit. I compeletely forgot about that, too, when I was talking about what I do. Because I also book concerts. You know this: In high school, in the tenth grade, I would be writing poems. The first time I fell for a woman, in sophomore year of high school, I was writing poems in the margins, talking about bubble gum machines, “You are my only token.” [Laughs] I think I always loved music, always had an affinity for musical things. I didn’t really do anything with music growing up, so I don’t know. Last year, I got access to the CDJ [speakers], and through my work on the Student Budget Committee, I was always privy to more resources students have. I was like, “Shoot, we have thousand-dollar CDJs.” I tried to do it a little bit when I was in Brazil, but I don’t think they were really vibing with my music. [Laughs]
And I don’t know. I hope to do that some more this year. It’s cool. It’s a lot of fun.
A: What’s your DJ name?
EV: DJ Dreamgirl.
A: What’s the story there?
EV: The story there…I mean, wow, where does it start, right? DJ Dreamgirl. I don’t know. I was just thinking, like, outrageous. But also very me. I think I joke a lot about my own—I’m somebody who I think many of my close friends, and people I’ve dated in the past, would be like, “You’re faux-full of yourself.” I will say I look good before somebody else does. But it’s also in jest. It’s kind of half-kidding. So I thought, “This is really fitting with my personality.” Like a self-proclaimed dream girl.
A: Throughout your Wesleyan career, you’ve dabbled in politics. Have you found your calling there, or are those days behind you?
EV: I don’t know, Jen. I really don’t. I don’t think I’m going to do WSA stuff this year. I want to focus on the Head Resident job. Shout out the Butts real quick. Shout out to my 19 Butts RAs, my area coordinator, [Liliana Carrasquillo-Vasquez]. I love y’all. I really want to focus on doing the Head Resident job well, because I think that’s a challenge for me. I really was only an RA for one semester before going abroad, and it’s something I’m really passionate about affecting people’s lives. It was rewarding for me.
As for my calling, I don’t know. That stuff is stressful. It’s really hard to manage your own self-interests with what other people want, and that’s really what politicians do. My favorite professor on campus, [Assistant Professor of American Studies] Laura Grappo, has joked about this, because she calls me the mayor of Wesleyan. She’s been like, “Yeah, I feel like you could do it; you’d be a good politician.” And I’m just like, “Yo, I can’t.” And she’s like, “Well, politicians are self-serving anyway.” But I don’t want to do that. So no. I don’t think so.
A: Where are your places on campus? Where do you feel the most at home?
EV: Some of my places? You know, it’s funny. It’s varied by year. It’s not really spaces. It’s never a space. It’s who lives there. Even as we’re here right now, sitting in your house, this could be my place this year, because you’re here, and we have a friendship that goes way back. And when my friend, Kelsey Henry [’15], lived here, it was similar.
Spaces for me have changed as people have moved in and out, as people have graduated and I’ve gotten older. Definitely my house right now, though. I love the Butts. The Butts is my place. That’s what I’ll say. I lived there a year and a half. Two hundred High Street [formerly Eclectic, now Music House], too. There are so many memories, like heartbreak, love, like, learning myself, coming into myself, people I’ve loved. And it was one of my first experiences at Wesleyan, being a pre-frosh and visiting my sister and visiting that space and being like, “Woah, I’m in a house right now? Why is there a concert going on in here?” It felt like a dive bar in New York City.
A: Your roommate, Michael Ortiz [’17], mentioned the other day that he remembers some of your interesting fashion choices from freshman year. How has your sense of style evolved over the years?
EV: Oh my God. Oh my God. Woooooooow. Wow, Jenny, you’re holding nothing back. Jenny, you really know what to go after. It’s actually funny you say that, because my girlfriend, she challenged me to dress differently this year, I guess. And I was like, “O.K., You wait. Wait. It’s going to bring trouble to you; I don’t care. If I—” I can’t say this. I can’t say this. I have jobs.
I can’t say this. But I really want to.
A: Oh my God, please just say it.
EV: I’ll say it off the record.
My actual answer is that when I came here, I was in a tough place. I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship, and so any long-term relationship, you’re used to dressing whatever way you want. And we also went to a school with a uniform. We didn’t need to have outfits. So I guess all I really had was pajamas. And I guess that informed my style choices early on.
My area coordinator, Lil, has joked with me—because I lived on the floor where her apartment is in the Butts—and she’s joked with me and said, “I knew who you were, and when I found out you were on my staff, I was like, ‘What? The girl with the teal pajamas?’”
A: Who’s your celebrity crush?
EV: My celebrity crush? Wow. Wow. That’s tough. That’s tough. I’ve always been more of a realist, but I’ll think one up for you. Wow. [In high school] I was into Emma Watson and stuff, but now? I’m trying to think of women with really natural, curly hair, because that’s definitely my type, but I can’t think of any. Alicia Keys is beautiful always. There’s this whole thing recently about her with and without makeup, but I don’t give a crap. She looks beautiful all the time. Oh, Solange, too. Solange Knowles. I’m going to say Solange Knowles. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I like the lower-key one. I’m not going to say Beyoncé. I’m not.