My name is Reyna “Chainsaw Queen” Velarde and I started performing at age 4 in a musical production of Pinocchio as a ballerina. In ballet class, I always wanted to play the evil characters which started while playing “angels vs. devils”. Of course, I wanted to be the devil!
In 5th grade I got to be Frankenstein’s Monster since I was one of the tallest kids in my grade. I feel like I am the Monster a lot of the time, a big warm, loving person, but way stronger than I give myself credit for.
My mom saw how much I loved performing and put me in community theater where I got to be the Queen of Hearts, Evil Stepmother, and the Evil Queen. All directed by the late Billie Jean Brown, may she rest in peace.
In high school, our band instructor, TJ Hepburn, transformed the hayride into an interactive show! We got into 4 teams and transformed a softball backstop into a scene. I coordinated and directed my first haunt, “The Junk Yard Ghouls”. We got second place, the first-place team had cool special lighting effects and fog (they had money, our team did not). But I was super happy with what we did!
My first corporate haunt was in San Diego, “Frightmare on Market Street”. I worked there while attending classes at Cyuamaca and Grossmont college, before transferring to Long Beach State. There, I earned my B.A. and M.A. in Communication Studies, where I now teach.
In 2014, I was hired by Ten Thirty-One Productions to be a ‘Hillbilly with a Chainsaw’ and went on to tour six cities performing in the “Great Horror Campout” interactive horror camping adventure. The same company later hired me to work “LA’s Haunted Hayride”, as well as their “Great Horror Movie Nights” film screening events.
Also, in 2014, I began working with Heretic, and traveled to England and Switzerland with the company and performed in multiple extreme immersive events.
Now, I am the Communications & Finance director of BL4KM4SS, an adjunct professor at CSULB, actor, filmmaker (writer/director for No Way to Die), and wrestler, “Chainsaw”, for WOW (Women of Wrestling).
What is it that attracts you the horror genre for your chosen field of creative work?
I love watching people get scared. My dad let me watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), when I was only 8. He passed away two years later, so I know there is an emotional attachment to the film because of him.
One of the things he did when I was a kid was a one of my core horror memories. I was watching Texas Massacre with some of my cousins, and I hear a chainsaw start from outside. My dad threw the door open and stood there with a chainsaw and my cousins screamed (I feel the need to mention these were BOY cousins). I watched and laughed. I wasn’t scared, I thought it was funny. Some people may think my dad is a crazy person, but he was having fun. I didn’t know he was going to do that, but I was in on the joke. I wanted to make others react that way too.
Who inspires you in your work and in life?
I am very grateful to have a few inspirations. My dad (Johnny Velarde (Stargate)) for embedding my core horror memory. My mom (Susan King) for being a strong woman working in a predominately men’s field. She was the first female paramedic in Imperial County. She is a Registered Nurse who was hired to be a supervisor and because she wanted the knowledge of those she would be supervising, she went through the program. Later, she was also a paramedic and EMT instructor at our community college. She would have her class create group simulations. This is where I would first see special effects used in a live setting. After Halloween, she would buy clearance blood and effects for these simulations. The beginnings of my immersive horror experiences.
In the horror industry, I am very inspired by Adrian Marcato (Special Effects), Jenn Nangle (Director/Writer of Mavolia), my fellow F0UND3RS at BL4KM4SS, Amori Stewart (Director of H3LL D4T3), Alex C. James (Director/Writer of M-Series and Special Effects), and Paul Stephen Edwards (Director of Photography of Ugly Sweater Party). Also inspired by Brialynn Massie (Vengeance Girl), Hunter Johnson (Serena Waits), Charles Chudabala (Irrational Fear), and Arron Mento (Ugly Sweater Party).
Women in horror have made great strides, but it’s clear that a lot of work is still needed to make it a most inclusive genre. To you, what is the importance of a movement like Women in Horror Month?
For me, it’s not about giving women a “handout” just because they are women. This is a recognition that there are women making films. There are women who make horror films. Don’t discredit a woman for any reason just because they are a woman. It’s awareness that many women are ignored, that their projects aren’t funded or taken seriously because they are a woman. My mom never let anyone treat her differently because she was a woman. That mentality went a long way in my development growing up. Which is a good segue to the next question.
What would you tell an up-and-coming creative in the world of horror who sees that being a woman/identifying as a woman as something that makes it so much more difficult at times?
To not see the world that way. That seems like a simple utopic idea, but I think one can accomplish this by not caring what someone is going to think. No matter who you are or how you represent yourself, there is always going to be someone who disagrees with you or hates you for whatever reason. Be yourself and stand firm in what you want. Also, surround yourself with people who do support you. Treat the haters and the sexist patriarchs like they are the problem.
I’ll give you an example, I work on cars (well I used to when I had a lifted 1990 F-150 that was easy to work on). When I would go into an auto parts store and ask about a part, usually a male clerk would address the male that came into the store with me (even though he didn’t know anything about my truck or the part I wanted). Literally, I would ask a question and he would turn to the guy and my guy friend would have to directly say, “talk to her!” or they would turn around and leave. Or I would get a clerk that would treat me as if I was stupid, “are you sure this is the right part sweetie?” I never caved into these men. I just spoke to them as if they were wrong and demanded their respect.
Also, don’t put down other women. I used to say, “I’m not like other girls.” But that only supports the assumption that all women are the same and that I’m not a “normal” girl. Fuck that, there is no normal. There are gender norms, but we are getting away from them.
What are your favorite bits of helpful advice that you have received about your work or your field?
There are plenty of people willing to work with you. So, if you feel taken advantage of or feel like no one is listening, there is someone out there that will help. Ask for help! That is another great piece of advice. You need to ask for help. Don’t feel like you must do everything yourself. People get burnt out and stressed out this way. Successful people have a team, they ask for help, they delegate!
In honor of celebrating Women in Horror Month, who do you believe viewers should keep an eye on in terms of the creative ladies in horror?
I think you should always keep an eye out for Jenn Nangle (AKA Queen Malvolia), like and follow her on her YouTube channel!
My wrestling manager and sister at WOW Angelica Dante AKA- Harley Harpurr, is a burlesque dancer and has been putting together some amazing performances with her troupe The Damn Devillez. https://www.thedamndevillez.com/
What do you have coming soon that you can talk to us about?
We have just 2 more scenes to film for No Way to Die. We started production 2 years ago, and were about to finish right before we went into lock down. So hopefully will be in post-production soon!
I just wrapped an immersive show with BL4KM4SS called, 3DD13 that I directed and co-wrote with Tristan Sinns, there will be a film for sale soon if you missed the live show! In addition, I plan to bring 2 immersive shows to the stage, “My 90s Nightmare” and “INTIMACY” once we are back to in-person theater shows.
We at BL4KM4SS are always creating immersive shows, year-around. If you are too afraid to checkout an in person show, we have films for sale at $5 each (we take Venmo/CashApp). To apply, email us at email@example.com and ask for an application. Once your application is approved, you will receive show information before anyone else, priority registration, and select discounts. Follow us on Instagram and/or Facebook @BL4KM4SS
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