WICKER PARK — A well-known Wicker Park drag performer, artist and dollmaker is raising money to cover expenses while beginning chemotherapy to treat cancer.
Jojo Baby has long been a fixture in Wicker Park, performing at Debonair Social Club and other venues while being unmissable around the neighborhood for his elaborate makeup and outfits.
For many years, he also ran a studio and gallery in the Flat Iron Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave., where he showcased his art and doll collection.
But earlier this year, Jojo Baby started experiencing intense pain in his abdomen, he said. At first, doctors didn’t know what the issue was and for weeks didn’t believe he was in as much pain as he said he was, Jojo Baby said.
“I’ve been going through pain for almost half a year, and going in and out of the doctor’s office and they couldn’t find what was going on,” he said.
After months of tests, Jojo Baby said he was diagnosed with cancer, which was found in his liver, lungs and stomach. He’s beginning chemotherapy treatments Wednesday at Cook County Hospital, he said.
This is the third time he’s had cancer, but the first time he’s undergoing chemo, Jojo Baby said, and he’s not sure what to expect. To help cover expenses and bills, he’s raising funds through his Paypal and Venmo. More information can be found here.
Jojo Baby has still been performing through the pain and medical tests, but he’s not sure if he’ll be able to continue once he begins chemotherapy.
“I’ve been working through the pain, because I thought it was something else and that eventually they’d figure it out and I’d be better. I went into the appointment thinking the worst, and even though you set yourself up for the worst, to hear it, it’s still shocking,” he said.
Jojo Baby has been the subject of several books and films over the past decade, including a 2015 short documentary that focused on the artist’s history and gallery in Wicker Park.
“It’s like a glimpse into the past, before Instagram and building identities online. You go into his space and he’s completely himself — he doesn’t need to project that online, so it’s great to give him that platform,” the film’s producer Justin Moran told the Tribune in 2015.
After many years in Wicker Park, Jojo Baby said he’s moved to a new gallery space on Chicago Avenue in Ukrainian Village, and hopes to open to the public to show off his expansive doll and art collection.
In the meantime, he’s preparing for chemotherapy and hoping for the best.
“Just say a little prayer for me,” he said.
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