Archival Recording of Virtual Event: Queering the Fandom

Recorded on June 28, 2022: Featuring panelists Gabrielle Zilhka, Penny Cavanaugh, Sheila Briggs, S.C. Lucier, moderated by Aphrodykee.

Queering the Fandom: Xena and Beyond


Queer fans have been pouring over the subtext of television pairings for decades, but it wasn’t until the popularity of Xena: Warrior Princess in the 90’s that Queer Fandom began to crystalize culturally. Developing in tandem with internet forums and fanfiction publication sites, “Xenites” formed a strong community through these mediums that continues to attract new followers more than two decades later.

Queer fandoms are now more vibrant than ever, spreading across a multitude of tv series and beyond, and even culminating in conventions of their own. Through the common lens of Xena: Warrior Princess, these panelists are situated in various niches of queer fan experience, culture and academia. This discussion will illuminate interdisciplinary insights on the topic and highlight the important contributions that LGBTQ+ folx make to fandom.

This program is co-hosted by New York City Council Member Gale Brewer in partnership with the American LGBTQ+ Museum.




Aphrodykee: Former Co-Host of The QWOCship Podcast



Gabrielle Zilkha: Filmmaker, “Queering the Script”

Penny Cavanaugh: CEO, Spark Purple

Sheila Briggs: USC professor and Xena fan

S.C. Lucier: Co-Creator of “Xena: Warrior Musical”



Aphrodykee (she/her) is part cosplayer, part drag queen, and full gaysian fangirl commentator. Her fangirl career primarily centers around wlw ships in television and film. She particularly enjoys examining the portrayal of nuanced QWOC characters and non-white ships across different fandoms. As the former co-host of Let’s Get Our Ship Together: The QWOCship Podcast, she debriefed and commentated on queer women of color ships in pop culture including Legend of Korra, Charmed (2018 series reboot), One Day at a Time, and The Bold Type. In 2018, she compiled the Interracial QWOC ship list, a timeline of non-white interracial queer women of color ships in American television, as part of an effort to broaden awareness about the limits of diversity within wlw fandoms. Outside of fandom, she is an activist and organizer in the API community as co-founder of and BLMCantonese.

Gabrielle Zilkha (she/her) is an award-winning independent film director with experience in documentary, scripted shorts and branded content. Most recently, Gabrielle directed the ballroom competition series CBX: A Canadian Ballroom Extravaganza (CBC Gem). Her other credits include writing and directing the essay-driven pop culture documentary feature Queering the Script (2019, Shaftesbury & Hollywood Suite), the feature documentary Doing Jewish: A Story From Ghana (2016, Vision TV) and her short comedy, Stop Calling Me Honey Bunny (2013), which was shortlisted for the Iris Prize and the recipient of multiple audience and jury awards. Passionate about equity and inclusion in the media industry, Gabrielle works as a freelance curriculum designer and media educator designing training programs for equity-seeking groups to break into the film/tv industry.

Penny Cavanaugh (she/her) is an English-born Australian living in the United States. Her life’s mission is to share stories and inspire people, igniting within them a passion that otherwise might not exist. Penny has been organizing events for over 15 years, and she is the founder and CEO of Spark Purple, a company that delivers large-group themed retreats for queer adults. Her original event, Xenite Retreat, is a Xena: Warrior Princess themed summer camp where over 300 people from around the world have gathered to celebrate their passion. Penny is currently expanding Spark Purple and developing retreats centered around two things she is most passionate about: fandom and the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to Xenite Retreat, she is launching Super Queer Summer Camp, a multi-fandom weekend retreat, and CritQuest, a Dungeons & Dragons Summer Camp Adventure with a mix of tabletop campaigns and IRL missions that affect in-game play.

Sheila Briggs (she/her) is an associate professor of religion and gender and sexuality studies at the University of Southern California where she teaches a course on religion and popular culture. She is a fan of Xena Warrior Princess and has published on this TV show, including “Elect Xena God”: Religion Remixed in a (Post-) Television Culture” in Small Screen, Big Picture: Television and Lived Religion, ed. Diane Winston (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2009).

S.C. Lucier (they/her) is an SDC theater director and writer of queer musical theater (Xena: Warrior Musical and Atalanta: The Long Shot) at Lucier&Rose. “Luci” has had an eclectic career in live events, exhibits and performance: toured on the production team with Martha Graham Dance Company, site managed Louis Vuitton “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” exhibition (New York City), designed at Joyce Theater for Richard Move’s “The Show (Achilles’ Heels)” with Debbie Harry, procured properties at Lincoln Center’s Clark Studio Theater, and stage managed Cape Dance Festival in Provincetown, among others. Currently, they are archiving the 40-year career of choreographer Sally Silvers to be accepted by NYPL and Columbia University Library. In her free time, Lucier captains one of New York City’s roller derby teams, The Bronx Gridlock (2018, 2019 NYC champions) and has also played on the world-championship roller derby team, Gotham All Stars, for five years.