LAKEVIEW — Metro, where late nightlife icon Jojo Baby was a regular host, is holding a celebration of life for them in April.
The event is 7-11 p.m. April 9 at Metro, 3730 N. Clark St. Friends, family and others will commemorate Jojo Baby’s legacy. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the event is free.
Jojo Baby, who was a fixture in Chicago’s nightlife scene, died from cancer March 14 at 51.
They were known for performing at Debonair Social Club in Wicker Park and hosting Queen!, Smartbar’s weekly Sunday night LGBTQ party in Lakeview, but they’ve inspired decades of people who admired their artistry, kindness and strong sense of community.
Jojo Baby had recently started chemotherapy to treat their third cancer diagnosis, which was found in their liver, lungs and stomach, they told Block Club in November.
The community rallied to support Jojo Baby by holding a benefit show in December, raising funds for their chemotherapy. After their death, a GoFundMe to cover the artist’s funeral expenses and preserve their body of work has raised more than $20,000.
Through their cancer diagnosis, Jojo Baby remained active as an artist and drag performer, continuing to host nights at Queen! and displaying a collection of their hand-made dolls in a recent exhibition at Paris London Hong Kong, a private gallery in West Town.
The exhibition, named “The Bandages Are Off,” featured a scene of Jojo Baby’s hand-made dolls to tell visual stories, Chicago Gallery News reported. The name was inspired by Jojo Baby’s struggle with cancer, and the gallery featured works from years ago, as well as dolls they created between rounds of chemo.
In addition to working as a nightlife host and drag artist, Jojo Baby was a performer, multimedia artist, doll-maker and hairdresser who was known for styling Dennis Rodman’s psychedelic hairdos.
Jojo Baby grew up in Logan Square, where their mother came up with their nickname, according to a WBEZ feature. Jojo Baby’s mother worked as a bunny in Chicago’s Playboy Club to pay for medical school.
As a child, Jojo would tag along with their mother to her Mary Kay parties, where they learned how to do makeup, according to WBEZ. But Jojo Baby left home at 14 after their father said he didn’t want a gay person in the house.
After wanting to become a Franciscan monk and then dropping out of Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary, Jojo Baby started working at Shelter, an old nightclub in the Fulton River District, according to WBEZ.
They lived with other club kids and came up in Chicago’s nightlife scene working the doors, hosting parties, walking runways and creating art, according to WBEZ.
“I’m constantly absorbing everything from everywhere,” Jojo Baby told WBEZ. “I always said if you mixed Jim Henson, Clive Barker and Boy George in a blender, you’d get a Jojo.”
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