Originally aired on March 5 @ 7:30 PM - 8:00 PM EDT
Join Cloudflare’s Amada Echeverria in conversation with Drag Queen Story Hour as they discuss how Drag Queen Story Hour celebrates reading through the glamorous art of drag, and the ways in which the Project Galileo Program has helped safeguard their website.
So hello Cloudflare TV and happy Pride Month. My name is Amada Echeverría and I'm on the field marketing and events team here at Cloudflare and we're excited about this special episode of Project Galileo Spotlight brought to you by Cloudflare, Cloudflare's ERG, the mission of which is to educate and celebrate globally. So Cloudflare finds ways to support and provide resources for the LGBTQIA plus community and make sure the Cloudflare community is a welcoming inclusive space for all. And to give more context on this episode, founded in 2014, Project Galileo is Cloudflare's response to cyber attacks launched to get important yet vulnerable targets like Drag Queen Story Hour and other artistic groups, humanitarian organizations and the voices of political dissent. Project Galileo equips these organizations and journalists as well with powerful tools to defend themselves against attacks that would otherwise censor their work. And this is technology already used by Cloudflare's enterprise customers at no cost. And in celebrating Pride Month, we'll be chatting with inspirational folks like Lil Miss Hot Mess and Bella Noche about their work, insights and experiences. So without further ado, I'd like to introduce my guests, Lil Miss Hot Mess and Bella Noche. Thank you so much for joining us. Hi, it's so nice to be here. Yes, thank you so much for having us. Thank you. Thank you for your time. Thank you for joining us. You both look amazing. And where are you dialing in from? I am dialing in from Suffolk County, Long Island. And I today am dialing in from Albany, New York. Come on, Albany. Fantastic. And I'm in New York as well. So we're not too far from each other. And I'm so excited for this conversation. And so let me briefly introduce both of you to give some context. So Lil Miss Hot Mess is on the board of Drag Queen Story Hour and is the author of the children's book, Hips on the Drag Queen Goes Swish, Swish, Swish. And she helped lead the My Name, Hashtag My Name Is campaign against Facebook's so -called real names policy, and has performed at venues from San Francisco's legendary worker-owned bar, The Stud, to Stanford University, SF, MoMA, and Saturday Night Live. Her writing has been published in academic and popular publications like Curriculum Inquiry, Studies in Gender and Sexuality, The Guardian, Wired, and Salon. And her work has been featured in media around the world. By day, she is a PhD student who researches and teaches on digital media, surveillance, and queer studies. Bella Noche, New York City's premier mermaid queen, lures onlookers in her fantastical spark of color, creativity, and charisma, as you can see today. Both the staple of the NYC and Long Island nightlife scenes, as well as a leader in community programs such as Drag Queen Story Hour, Bella is a queen for all audiences who aims to bring love and laughter wherever she goes. With a heart as full as the ocean and the combination of both beauty and brains, you'll be part of her world before you know it, hook, line, and sinker. So, we'll have both of you today. Before we dive in further, a quick note for our viewers, if you have any questions, feel free to submit them by emailing us at LiveStudio at Cloudflare.tv. You can find the banner right below this video. So, let's get started. I'd love to share with the audience, you know, more about your amazing organization. So, what is the mission of your organization? Bella, would you like to take this one? Sure. So, the mission of Drag Queen Story Hour is to bring just family-friendly entertainment and education to children of all ages and even adults. There is a lot of questions and things that people just don't know when it comes to identity, the queer community, gender expression, even androgyny, and just the different sex that make up our very, very vibrant community. And so, what Drag Queen Story Hour does is it creates a safe space where people can learn about drag, learn about the community, and, you know, hopefully learn about themselves a little bit. And it's all done through a medium of, you know, sparkle and color. And, you know, kids respond to things that are sparkly, things that stoke their imagination. And so, we're just here to, like, help kids get more creative and maybe learn a little lesson about what the community is like as well. Fantastic. I wish I had, you know, been exposed to your organization when I was a kid. It sounds... I feel the same. It's one of the reasons why I love doing it because I was like, wow, I wish this was around when I was a kid. That could have helped a lot. Exactly, exactly. And so, sounds great. So, I would like to hear a little bit more. Can you share a bit about the key projects for the organization currently and some past, if you'd like? Sure. So, Drag Queen Story Hour started off kind of like as a grassroots movement. And now, not only are national, we are international with chapters all over the world, which is amazing in and of itself. You know, pandemic kind of halted a lot of what we're able to do. We used to be able to go into schools, libraries, and educational spaces and get to know, like, people of the community, the families, the people who are really, really interested in learning more. Unfortunately, you know, we had 2020, and everything kind of was tentative, and we started doing them virtually, which ended up being a really, really big success, you know, when we weren't getting told. But it was a really, really big success. And now, most recently, Drag Queen Story Hour has partnered with Open Streets, and we're doing live in-person readings again on the streets of our communities. I did one last week in Sunnyside, Queens. And, you know, as a Queens-born person myself, it was just a pleasure to be on streets where I've walked down as a kid, teenager, and young adult, and to sit there and read some books and get some parents and kids involved. And it is Pride Month, so why not a better time? Fantastic. Not to take the focus off of you, but for folks who don't know, what does Open Streets do? So Open Streets provides programming for kids and families throughout the boroughs that are outside, that are on the streets. They usually close off a block or two to facilitate lots of different events and organizations. But recently, they started having us do readings there. So it's a fantastic organization. You should definitely check it out. Fantastic. Great to hear that you're working with them. And so question for both of you, what is the role that you play at Drag Queen Story Hour? So a little hot mess, do you want to start? Yeah, so I'm on the board of Drag Queen Story Hour. As Bella said, we've been a very grassroots organization. It's been a very kind of DIY labor of love for the past five or six years. And over the past couple of years, we've really been trying to, you know, build up our own nonprofit organization, build out this network of chapters, across the country and across the world. And like Bella said, you know, we have, it's over 50 chapters around the world in places like New York and LA and San Francisco, but also Raleigh, North Carolina, El Paso, Texas. We have a huge chapter across the state of Arizona. And then we have chapters in places like Copenhagen and Malmo and Berlin and Tokyo. And I think we have about a dozen now across Mexico. So we really are kind of expanding and, you know, we see the role of the organization as creating this network so that each chapter can kind of thrive and flourish on its own. But, you know, kind of learn from each other and build up and kind of lift all boats as we lift this rising tide. So I help kind of coordinate a lot of that. And I've been helping to get the organization off the ground with a lot of fabulous queens and parents and volunteers from all around the country and world. Wow. Amazing. So it's truly a very global organization. I don't think I'd realized how fantastic it is. And what about you, Bella? So I am a storyteller. I started with Drag Queen Story Hour in New York City about three and a half years ago. And then I moved out to Long Island and I was asked if I would like to start a Long Island chapter. So I'm also the Long Island chapter organizer of Drag Queen Story Hour. And it's been fantastic bringing these programs out here because, you know, New York City is really cool. Like, obviously, it's a lot more accepted. There's a lot of things. Living out here in Long Island, I was very surprised to see how many conservative people are out here who aren't really don't think that Drag Queen Story Hour should be a thing. And it was the first time I did a Drag Queen Story Hour reading where there were protesters at. And I was like, what? Like, just completely shocked. But I have a steady relationship with the East Meadow Public Library. I do monthly readings with them. And we've started collecting. I've done stuff out in the Hamptons at the Hamptons Children's Museum. So just bringing Drag Queen Story Hour to a whole new area is really, really exciting. Fantastic. And to hear that that's an area where they would protest something as amazing as this means that they really need this there. So it's fantastic. So and I'm wondering how and you touched on this a little bit already, but from both of your perspectives, maybe how has COVID-19 impacted your organization's operations? Okay, I can at least say from from my side, you know, effectively, everything was cancelled, we had readings planned, I was going to new libraries and things like that. And you just you just couldn't. And so thankfully, I did have a few relationships with the Cinema Arts Center, as well as the East Meadow Public Library. And we were able to do some either a socially distanced one or just purely virtual. And the virtual ones have been for the most part really, really successful. But it was it was it was a large adjustment, you know, like, especially for an organization like ours that really deals with interacting with people and education and being able to ask questions and teach and things like that. But I think I think we we did pretty well for everything that we went through. Yeah, I agree. And I would just say that, you know, I think at the beginning, it was really great to be able to sort of rally around, you know, digital streaming platforms, and to be able to provide a little bit of supplementary education to kids who were, you know, suddenly stuck at home, and their parents were providing all of their schooling, and, you know, probably needed 15, 20 minutes, an hour to, you know, give them give them this opportunity to both learn and for the parents to have a little bit of a break. And I think the other kind of silver lining about it for us is that in some ways, it means we're able to reach more kids and more families, especially in places that don't have local chapters yet, or in places that, you know, might be more conservative might not be as welcoming of a chapter in of itself. But, you know, through the power of technology, we're able to then interact with those families and kids. But I do agree, it's the hardest part is not being able to, like, see the smiling faces and hear them and dance along with them in real time. It's great. Sounds like there are lots of parents that are very grateful and indebted to you. And I know we have our Cloudflare sort of parents ERG watching right now. So I'm glad that they're learning more about your organization. So we'd like to sort of switch the focus slightly to Project Galileo and sort of the, you know, way that you've used this program. So how did you become familiar with Project Galileo? Yeah, so I mean, as Bella alluded to earlier, we do have some of our trolls, we do have our protesters who unfortunately, often show up outside of our live events. And many of them do, you know, follow us around and all of our online and digital presences as well. And so it did happen that our organization and our website came under attack. I still don't know all of the details of exactly how it happened. I'm as a board member, and as someone who helped sort of get the organization going. I'm also a bit of a drag nerd. So I, you know, I built the original website and kind of do the maintenance on it. And so it just, it kept going down. And so it became pretty clear that we were under some kind of attack from our haters. And, you know, I remembered, you know, I've used Cloudflare on other projects. And I seem to remember that, you know, there was this program specifically for nonprofits and specifically for organizations that were vulnerable. And, you know, I think it's in some ways almost hard to admit that that's where we're at, you know, or that that's the situation that we're in. But it was really exciting, I guess, to be able to find that resource again. And to realize that in some ways, we are the exact kind of definition of what this project is looking for, right? That we are, you know, we have this mission that's all about social justice and spreading love and spreading diversity and spreading joy. And unfortunately, there's people out there who want to try to not only challenge us, you know, on our ideas and our offerings, but to really kind of use that brute force to try to silence us and take us down. And so being able to use a project like Cloud or a product like Cloudflare through Project Galileo was really, really a huge help for us. Great. And Aron, when did you? This was probably around three years ago, I think, you know, our hateration kind of comes in cycles. So it's a little hard to remember exactly when that was. But, you know, every so often we get, you know, a new wave of press, and then we get a new wave of press, we get a new wave of haters. So we had to buckle down at that moment, for sure. Interesting. And have you ever been taken offline due to a cyber attack? I have. Yep. Go for it. There was, I was doing a reading for a online middle school LGBT kind of group. And everyone, obviously, I don't know how they sent out the Zoom link or whatever, but someone got a hold of it that was not supposed to. And they trolled so hard, they literally had to shut everything down, create a whole entire new thing and just send it to the participants that were on the list. And it's unfortunate, because some of them didn't come back, you know, and like, that's kind of what these trolls are trying to do. They're trying to make what we're doing harder. And, you know, it does, but we're persevering, and they're not going to stop us. So but yeah, it has happened. Yeah, it's hard to imagine that there are people like that, but I'm glad that you're still going forward. And have you had an experience being taken offline due to a cyber attack, Willemus Thomas? Yeah, I mean, like I said, our whole organization website went down multiple, multiple times. And, you know, it was kind of a bit of a crisis, because that's where we post our events. That's how people find us. I mean, I think, you know, we always sort of say that if, if you don't like it, don't show up, right? Like, it's, it's optional to bring your kid to the library, it's optional to sign into one of our live streams or things like that. But, but I think the thought that people are actually trying to take it away from those who do want to show up, and are you know, whether they're our strongest supporters, or whether it's folks who are curious and are coming for the first time, we want to make sure that we're there for everyone. And so it Yeah, it is unfortunate when when we do get taken down. And in some ways, you know, our website is the thing that we control the most, right? You know, we work with so many other social media platforms and different providers to make sure that we can have this connectivity. But, you know, our website is really it's our home base. It's where folks can go to find out about all of our different chapters and all of our different events. And so having that come down really is a huge blow to the organization. But but we do we dust ourselves off, and we get back up. And we haven't, I will say we haven't had any major issues since we've worked with Cloudflare. So it's a huge, huge help, for sure. Great. So I guess sort of the impact that you see from from using Project Galleo is maybe just you might not have a list of okay, this is this is the ways in which things have improved. But rather, maybe it's just the opposites. And then you don't have to think about something that's not even top of mind. You don't even kind of the hope is maybe that you forgot that it's the products, the projects even there, because things are running so smoothly. Does that sound right? Or would you like to speak a little bit more on the impact of the project? Yeah, I mean, I think that's exactly it. It's it's the kind of thing that once you turn it on, you don't really need to think about it anymore. And then we can focus on the glamour, right? We can focus on the joy of reading stories and the beautiful sequins and wigs and makeup and costumes and all that wonderful stuff that we get to wear and the joy of entertaining children rather than the, you know, the labor of keeping the trolls at bay all the time. So it's, yeah, it's it's kind of, you know, if we're, if we're the queens up in the castle, Cloudflare is the moat, right? It's preventing everyone else from from getting to us and keeping us looking fabulous. I love that. And this is kind of a standard Project Galileo spotlight question, but what would you do if it weren't for this project? I truly, I truly have no idea. I mean, I think we would. I don't know. I mean, I should also say that, you know, we're a very small organization with a shoestring budget. And, you know, I always pull out that Dolly Parton quote that it costs a lot of money to look this cheap. But, you know, we really we do we do a whole lot with with very little. And so I think if it weren't for Project Galileo, we probably wouldn't even be able to afford Cloudflare or wouldn't be able to afford, you know, any sort of resources to really, you know, maintain our website and do the really kind of deep security dive that we would need to in order to address all of these issues that are that really do come at us from a lot of different sides. Right. And so yeah, being able to have not only this kind of pro bono support, but also just have this one stop shop of making sure that everything runs smoothly is incredibly helpful. And yeah, I mean, I'd rather spend my hour reading stories to kids than, you know, doing stuff on the back end of some website to try to make it make it more secure. Right. So glad to hear that you're able to, you know, focus on what you do best. And so it is it is Pride Month. I'm wondering what sorts of activities you have planned for the month. Are you looking forward to to Pride? And you know, what are maybe things that are going on that you'd like to promote? Yes. I mean, Pride is literally Christmas for a drag queen. So I mean, my pride's already started this past weekend. We had Babylon Pride out here. It's the second year of the big parade. I was with drag queen divas, and we got to just like really, really like go back to like, wow, this feels like actual pride. You know, thankfully, things are on the uptake and outdoor things are very, very, you know, manageable now. And it was it was fantastic. And I know Drag Queen Story Hour has a bunch of readings planned, both virtual and in open streets. You can go to dragqueenstoryhour.org to check out that whole schedule. But we also have a special like pride themed book. So like one that I have with me is this book called On This Day in June. And it goes through literally all the groups that are at the pride parade in a really, really fun poetic verse. And my favorite thing about this book is that at the end, it actually has an entire glossary of like all the groups that are featured at Pride. So like not only for the kids to learn, but parents who buy these books can also learn and, you know, share, you know, just like not only the magic of pride, but like who's there and why it is important in these groups who have been in the pride parade for decades. So definitely, you know, showing the importance of what this month is really about. Fantastic. Yes. And I will just give a shout out, you know, our local chapters do events throughout the month and throughout the year. And then we have our big kind of centralized Drag Queen Story Hour Pride Palooza on Saturday, June 26. So there's more information about that on our website and social media. But definitely check that out if you're interested in a fabulous event with Black Benatar from the Bay Area, Freddie Prince Charming from Arizona, and Kiara Mell from North Carolina. So it'll be some of our more fabulous queens from across the country, queens and kings, I should say. Fantastic. And what city will that event take place in? That's a virtual event. So that's our way of bringing everyone together who can be there for sure. Fantastic. You heard it, folks. June 26. Great. So I'd like to ask you more, where do you see this organization going in the next couple of years, in the next five years, in the next 10? What are your hopes and dreams? I mean, there should be a Drag Queen Story Hour chapter in every city across the country. Every library should be able to have a Drag Queen Story Hour regularly. That's, I mean, ultimately the goal. Just in my years of doing readings, I've seen the positive impact it can have on families and children and people who genuinely want to know more about the community or are having their own self -exploration and are looking for resources and people to guide them and tell them, no, this is okay. I, again, just every library in the country and beyond should have regular Drag Queen Story Hours. It's a fantastic program. And yeah, at least for me, that's what I see. Yeah, I certainly agree. And I mean, I think one of the things that we really try to focus on as an international organization is equity and making sure that we're using our resources in an effective and equitable way. And so we truly do want a Drag Queen in every library. And I think even on the path to getting there, we want to make sure that we're hitting those areas where we can have the most impact, right? The places that may be outside of these big cities or these liberal neighborhoods where it might not be remarkable and to use that power of drag to not only spread the love of reading, but also to bring new folks into this big family and to teach them these important lessons about diversity and acceptance and love. So that's definitely part of it as well. And I think we'd also love to see a Drag Queen Story Hour touring production or a bookmobile that goes across the country or even more, even more, even more. So they never have enough. So for anyone watching who's in a city where you might not have a presence who would like to get you get involved, maybe they are familiar with their local library and know that there isn't a program like this. What steps can they take to sort of onboard or work with you? Well, I would say go to our website and we have information about all of our different chapters and we have a bit of information about how to sort of get your own chapter going. And that's really what our organization is here for, is to help bring on new chapters and bring them into our network and our family. And I mean, it really is, it's a simple idea, right? All you need is a drag performer and a space and some kids and it's pretty easy to replicate. And we offer things like trainings to performers to help them learn how to engage kids, learn how to transition a little bit from nightlife to daytime and fluorescent lights and all those sorts of things. So that's really what we can offer is some of that kind of, the backbone, the training, the training heels when it comes to reading stories to kids. But really, really all it takes is a little bit of interest and commitment. And it may not feel like every community has drag performers in it, but I would say that there's probably a drag performer within any 20 mile radius, if that, so. And speaking of chapters getting going, I actually have a Drag Queen Story Hour virtual reading that I have to flip my fins over to, but this was so lovely. Thank you so much for having me and us and thank you so much for what you do, not only for our organization, but all organizations like ours. We really do appreciate it. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Yeah, I think this might be a great spot to wrap up. Thank you so much for your time today. And yeah, Little Miss Hot Mess, Bella Noche, Drag Queen Story Hour, you're amazing. Thank you so much. And folks, please stay tuned for more Pride Month programming by Proud Flair all month long on Proud Flair TV. Thank you. Thank you so much. Bye. My name is Jagger McConnell. I am the CEO of Crunchbase. Crunchbase is the world's leading provider of private company information on the Internet. We have over 30 million people coming to us using us for find their next investment, find their next investor, even salespeople going and finding their next opportunity all within Crunchbase. When we break a new story, when we have a new funding event happening, that's when we're going to be the first to do it. We're going deal, tons of traffic comes into Crunchbase. And those are the most critical times for us to stay up. If we go down, our users would be disappointed. They'd go find that news somewhere else. And that's when we honestly rely on Cloudflare at the most. I don't have the bandwidth or the headcount to go and have a huge team trying to keep our servers up on time, trying to mitigate those attacks. And that's when you go and turn to a vendor to go and say, look, this is your core competency. Please do that for us because you're going to do better than we can. From the CDN perspective, 92% of our traffic goes to the CDN servers. So they don't actually touch our origin servers. It's pretty amazing. That means that when those spikes happen, the traffic is distributed across that entire network of servers, which not only saves us bandwidth and that ultimately saves us cost, but also from an end user perspective, things are super fast and that makes them happy. Cloudflare allows us to go and look like we have a huge international presence by having 115 different servers worldwide. It's actually pushing our data out to those edge servers. And that allows from our end user perspective to have a faster experience because the servers are right next to them. So there are very few hops, even though they're in Australia or in Asia, they have an incredible experience using CrunchBase because of that CDN. The most critical thing is that they can rely on us. They know that when they go to crunchbase.com, they find the thing that they expect and having that server up and running. Cloudflare lets us deliver on that promise, that expectation that that user has by being up and running. When you're a large website, you have a huge target on your back. So Cloudflare helps us go and mitigate that risk with our DDoS mitigation, with their WAF protection. Just last month, we had over 1600 different attacks. It's funny, lots of people crawl us, as you might imagine. When we're a data set, people go and try to get our information in whatever way they can. But what's funny is that sometimes they're not the best coders when they try to go and write those crawlers. So what it actually becomes is a DDoS attack where it's one IP trying to just get as much information from the same page over and over and over, millions and millions of requests. And they don't even probably intend to be doing that. We see those sorts of attacks all the time. And that's, again, where Cloudflare can step in and just make sure that doesn't happen. And that is an important thing for us from a security standpoint. Obviously, with all these hackers trying to do ransomware and trying to take down our servers, having the Cloudflare protection there ensures that we are safe. And honestly, I think the hackers just go somewhere else when they see Cloudflare protecting our servers.