photo: Vanessa Marino.
Aérea Negrot is a Berlin icon. The sad news of her death that reached us on Thursday will not change that. She was beloved far beyond Berlin’s queer nightlife, theater, and art world. She was a brilliant artist, performer, DJ. She was mother, she was diva, she was queen, she was everything and more.
It’s a first one for me, to write about someone from within our circles who passed. I’m honestly heartbroken, but I feel like I have so much to say.
My first encounter with Aérea goes all the way back to 2005. We ran into each other at a party in what would later become Berlin’s most iconic club. She stood out to me in her group of friends, for once because she had a striking resemblance to my high school best friend, but also because she had this special aura around her that drew me in.
photos: Vanessa Marino
She was already active as a multi-disciplinary artist at the time with a background in classical ballet dance, but I didn’t know about it. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that she popped up in the programming of a venue where I was also doing events. The booker was hyping her up to be the next big thing. Shortly after I saw her perform at the Sternenfoyer of Volksbühne. It was a mix of a performance act and concert, she was doing an eclectic parody of the voting announcements from the Eurovision Song Contest while occasionally breaking out in opera singing.
A year later, in 2010, she appeared as a vocalist on the second album of Hercules & Love Affair following in the footsteps of the iconic Nomi. I was gagged to see a young Berlin artist become part of an internationally celebrated band. It was glorious, I saw her twice on stage here in Berlin during that era and she was absolutely killing it.
Shortly after, in 2011, she released her much-praised debut album Arabxilla coming up with a perfect blend of minimal techno and experimental pop with a dash of opera drama. I personally especially appreciate the humor and her light-hearted take on the life of a foreigner from Venezuela in Germany.
In the following years, she also established herself as a DJ, first here in Berlin playing in the most popular clubs and parties and then everywhere in the world. After I saw her play a gig at Konzulat, she instantly became a staple of our event guide on iHeartBerlin – she was one of not many artists who would get automatically listed. Apart from her DJ gigs she also kept performing her own music, for instance at the Yo! Sissy festivals.
When we celebrated the 10th anniversary of iHeartBerlin with a big party at Kraftwerk I finally saw the perfect opportunity to book Aérea for one of our events. It was a great honor to have her – the set she played was fantastic. After all those years, I finally got to hang out with her a bit in the backstage at the iconic Kontrollraum. My partner at the time organized some original Venezuelan arepas for her so we munched on these delicious snacks from her home country while musing about Berlin’s nightlife and her experiences as a performing artist and DJ. (We also later published an interview with her about it.) She was so honest, incredibly warm-hearted, funny, and witty, but also showed a glimpse of her vulnerable and messy side. She was very real like that.
Aérea Negrot playing at iHeartBerlin’s 10-Year Anniversary at Perspective Playground at Kraftwerk in 2017, photo: Frank R. Schröder
In the following years, Aérea kept raising her artistic profile also venturing into the world of theater producing music for or performing in places such as Ballhaus Naunynstraße, Hebbel am Ufer, and Maxim Gorki in Berlin, as well as Kampnagel, Lichthoftheater and Resonanzraum in Hamburg, to name just a few.
We kept occasionally bumping into each other over the years at her various gigs, but also in private at parties like Puticlub. She always kept her kindness, humor, and positive energy that made her such a beloved character.
Earlier this summer she was one of the few artists that got a dedicated night at the Berlin Beats event series of Hamburger Bahnhof. I was excited to see her name come up in the line-up and I couldn’t wait to see her. She played an energetic and joyful DJ set with some fun improvisations, finishing the night with a live performance of such magnitude that everyone was left with goosebumps. It was such a beautiful moment to see her on top of the crowd, surrounded by her friends and fans applauding her outstanding performance. I’m glad I was there to see that glorious moment.
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It would have never crossed my mind that this would be the last time I would see her. I can’t stop thinking back to that young woman I saw in the club for the first time all those years ago with that special twinkle in her eyes that you only rarely find. I know there was something about her. But little did I know back then I would see an incredible artist’s career unfold in front of me and even be a small part of.
She was a cherished part of our community: the queer community, the nightlife community, the DJ community, the independent theater community. Seeing all the footage and stories shared by her friends and collaborators since her passing is heart-warming and heart-wrenching at the same time. It’s clear to me she will be greatly missed by so many people whom she deeply touched in her lifetime. Her loss is an absolute tragedy, one that we will all be grieving for quite some time.
When I looked back into the footage I shared of her from her performance in the summer I was reminded of the last thing that I ever wrote to her and it’s a sentiment I believe that many people will share with me today:
“love you darling”
photos: Vanessa Marino