Brontez Purnell | That Dirty Blossoming, That Relentless Acquiescence

Via the 25th Anniversary Issue, Under the Silver Moon

Written by

Vidal Wu

Photographed by

Ella Sophie

Styled by

Tiffany Southwick

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XELKOM sweater, top and pants, talent's own fglasses and necklace, and HAMPUI HATS hat.

You’ll never meet a realer bitch than Brontez Purnell. The 41-year-old writer, musician, performance artist, and filmmaker speaks the truth like it’s his life’s calling. A decade before winning the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Fiction for his novel 100 Boyfriends, he told the organization, “I’m ultimately a communicator and will use any dirty trick to get you to notice and understand me, be it my body or my words.”

Both are extraordinarily effective. Brontez’s tawdry, queer autofiction brims with street-smart critique hidden between the sheets of lurid, lusty remembrances, a gratifying read for baby gays in godknowswhere and gay guys with arts degrees alike. When we connect over Zoom, he’s rolling around in bed (his favorite place to write) with an impish grin, asking me to marry him in his coquettish, Alabama drawl. He’s already seen my dick so conversation comes easily.

We talk about losing recipes, or the idea that the culture and knowledge gap between generations is widening, and I wonder aloud about Gen Z’s alleged sexual conservatism. “Before I entered the realm of sex, I was kind of a fucking stuck-up prude myself,” Purnell muses. “I think we all feel that way until we blossom.”

Ever in bloom, Brontez has never been busier. Just this year, he put out three albums (solo: Confirmed Bachelor and No Jack Swing, with his band, The Younger Lovers: Newest Romantic), presented a solo exhibition at Trotter&Sholer in New York and curated a short film series and performance at the Volksbühne in Berlin, whilst his latest book, Ten Bridges I’ve Burnt debuts in February. With so much work, something must get lost in the mix. “My career as a vinyl collector,” Brontez says. “I’m a mid-century kinda girl—soul, pop, funk—and like all whores that have been ran through later in life, I’m also getting into jazz.”

That trademark candor ties his work, and us, together. It’s not long before we’re shooting the shit.

XELKOM sweater, top and pants, talent's own fglasses and necklace, and HAMPUI HATS hat.

What was your favorite part of the late 90s?

Being on tour with Gravy Train!!!! And thinking about how I would walk around bars in middle America, in a jockstrap, and would dare people to say shit to me. I can sit here all day and try to mount some argument as to why Gen Z are entitled fucks or whatever. I would not dare do so. I grew up in Alabama classrooms with actual sons of Klansmen. I did not grow up in the frying pan, I grew up in the fucking fire. It is kind of funny to talk about the puritanical aspects of this generation when I was really getting fingered by everybody in my early 20s in front of people that would have probably killed us and never thought twice about it. It’s probably good that that energy eventually burned out. I certainly wouldn’t want to do that these days. Oh god, what would that even look like? Hell, I’m too fat to crowd- surf now.

How close or far do you feel from the institution these days?

I don’t think you’re ever escaping an institution. People will sit there and be like, “Well, you did go to Berkeley,” and I’m like, “Yeah, and you work for a restaurant, bitch. That’s an institution too.” We are never going to escape a bunch of capitalists fucks cramping our style.

Do you want a husband, kids, and white picket fence at this point?

I mean, it depends on who’s offering. Like, at this point, I don’t know. Sometimes, I feel like the husband of my dreams is probably in some recovery program somewhere. It definitely probably has to be some other fucking fractured bimbo with a damaged past who wants to fucking move forward.

What about you thrives in the dark?

Oh god, like everything. No one understands how much actual peace there is in the void. So much of my life has been scrambling from point A to point B, from destination to destination and it’s like, umm, I think sometimes it’s just nice to float. I fight for the right to procrastinate, to be able to shut up and have my synapses stitch themselves back together again. 

Do you believe in silver linings?

That’s a hard call because if you keep living, there will be a bright side somewhere. Karma is always a shaky topic for me because horrible things happen to people who have done absolutely nothing and horrible people die heroes all the time. I always thought it was probably best and most virtuous to die breaking even. But I mean, my default is some form of optimism. I don’t think you can move forward without it.

I don’t believe in optimism for optimism’s sake.

Right, exactly. The way we’re prescribed optimism is very unrealistic when so much of the human condition is about coexisting with trauma in very profound ways. There’s just no way to leave this fucking rock without acquiescing to that. I do believe that there’s a bright side but I don’t know if it negates all the abuse we face.

You could also just be a bitter-ass bitch, too.

You know, some people do a lot with bitterness. I had a friend,  it was the first time I was trying to stop drinking and she always has good advice. She said something like, “The definition of resentment is drinking poison and hoping that your enemy will die,” and I remember thinking, “Damn.”

Do you hate anyone?

I don’t have the energy to hate anyone. The people who claim to hate me are such weak-ass bitches. I cannot think of what would be more useless than trying to hate on me. You know in SpongeBob, the one little guy that is beefing with everybody but don’t nobody even notice?


Yes, SpongeBob just be walking through the Earth and this motherfucker is really trying to kill him. Plankton mad as hell. That’s how my enemies are. I don’t give a fuck about these bitches like, you too little to be talking shit about me to anyone. Anybody that says they have beef with me, I’m always like, “I want you to go and learn to pray for yourself.” 

Photographed by Ella Sophie at Brandi Moore Agency

Styled by Tiffany Southwick at Brandi Moore Agency

Written by Vidal Wu

Grooming: Tamra-Marie at  Brandi Moore Agency

Styling Assistant: Michelle Lada at Brandi Moore Agency

Props: III Antiques and Thangs

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Brontez Purnell, Flaunt Magazine, 100 Boyfriends, Ten Bridges I've Burnt, Issue 190, The 25th Anniversary Issue, Under The Silver Moon, Vidal Wu, Ella Sophie, Tiffany Southwick, Tamra Marie, Brandi Moore Agency, Xelkom, Hampui Hats