It started out as four friends “weirding out” in their living room, and now the name “Cheryl” has come to represent a party, a choreographed dance similar to the Electric Slide and the group who together are Cheryl, masters of unlikely happenings.
“We actually have this woman who is trying to do an ethnographic study on Cheryl. She keeps interviewing us, asking ‘Why is it popular?’” said Cheryl co-founder Destiny Pierce in an interview at Court Square Diner in LIC. “I don’t know why it is popular and we don’t know what to tell her. If I knew I’d put it in a bottle and be making money.”
Some key ingredients to Cheryl’s evolution include fake hair, glitter, cat masks and fake blood. Throw in some shoulder pads, and a costume party is born.
“Halloween used to be one of my favorite things because you get to dress up,” Pierce said “but it’s every day of my life now.”
Together with co-founders Stina Puotinen, Sarah Van Buren and Nick Schiarizzi, Pierce has been assisting the public in executing parties with themes such as “Sasquatch on Broadway,” “Pizza,” “Two Sizes Too Small” and “7-Eleven,” a party named for the convenience store, held on 9/11. However Pierce insists there was no corporate sponsorship. The group simply wanted to prevent the party from “getting too dark,” Pierce said. “We were like, we got to keep this positive, what is something positive in our lives? 7-Eleven!”
For those worried about what to wear, Cheryl provides supplies and instructs participants how to use them. They also make elaborate videos for each of their parties, including the upcoming “Cherylween III: The Curse of the Cheeto Sphinx” on Oct. 30th at the Bell House in Brooklyn.
“For the first ‘Cherylween’ video it was so cold and we dumped a can full of garbage which we then had to clean up because we didn’t want to litter. I fell out of a tree and was almost blinded by fake blood made with coffee grounds,” Pierce said. It is no surprise then that Cheryl is known as “the party that will ruin your life.” Puotinen injured her knee from dancing and had to use a cane, Pierce’s fake hair caught on fire and innocent party animals have on occasion fallen from the stage. “There is a pain aspect to Cheryl that we don’t like to publicize,” Pierce joked.
In addition to the droves of “Cherylites” following the party team, the art world has taken notice. “People don’t know how to classify us, but that’s OK,” Pierce said. “We are completely amorphous.”
Though all the members have artistic backgrounds or day jobs within arts administration and are extremely dedicated to Cheryl, they don’t assign particular import to their artistic “work.”
Late-night Cheryl meetings started over two years ago in Pierce’s Brooklyn kitchen which they then referred to as BFGHQ, which stood for Beryl Fag’s Gatorade Headquarters. “Beryl Fag was the name of a woman my dad mowed the lawn for in Paris, Texas. I always thought it was a strange name,” Pierce said, and when she told the others, they agreed (as they do on most things) and decided it would be an excellent title for their clubhouse.
Their party’s names and themes emerge through the collective insanity of a group of friends playing make-believe, speaking a secret language which they then thrust upon the world. “We call our aesthetic ‘toddler nightmare,’” Pierce said. Through their closeness, Cheryl has made themselves the in crowd, and now everyone wants their “Freshmagick ™.”
The group was recently invited to participate in “Move!” at PS1, where different artists will be paired with designers for Halloween weekend installations.
Since Cheryl makes their own costumes, generally with items found at the dollar store, they asked to be partnered with American Apparel, a brand known for its plain clothing — a blank canvas for them to embellish. “They have donated 375 pieces of all nude colored clothing,” Pierce said, excitedly.
At a recent museum event “we put out a giant pair of underpants, a Ronald McDonald wig and we will be like: rub aloe on your face and dip it in this bucket of glitter and it’s like 3 p.m. in a museum gallery and people will do it,” Pierce said. “But the art world is completely infringing on our love of food.” It turns out galleries are less OK with bathing in Karo Syrup and rolling around in Cheetos than nightclubs.
”Most everyone in Cheryl is obsessed with food and animals. We have talked about writing a cookbook, but it would be recipes for things like ‘steamy apricot jazz castle,’ not really edible things,” Pierce said.
As for advice regarding simple Halloween costumes: “if you were coming to our party, all you would have to do is hot-glue some Cheetos to your face, simple,” Pierce said. “One time Stina was Sexy Lincoln and Nick was Rainbow Bright crossed with the Godfather, does that help?”
‘Move!’ with Cheryl
When: Oct. 30-31, 12 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Where: PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave., LIC