Florence Gagnon, lstw
We start the new week just outside Montreal, where Florence Gagnon publishes her magazine lstw. She’s founder and creative director of the 230-page queer publication, which is is produced in both French and English, each language accessed according to which way round you open the magazine.
Florence is also the co-creator and executive producer of Féminin/Féminin, a drama television series that won two Gemini Awards in Canada and several international prizes.
Tell us about your typical Monday morning.
Monday mornings have changed a lot over the past year! The current context forced us to rethink everything. We even asked ourselves if we should still publish the magazine.
It’s a passion project, and you really need to want to reconsider and redefine things to keep going. So, we used those mornings to find creative ways to move forward and evolve. We’d been based in Montréal for years, but, with the pandemic, my partner Carolyne (who also happens to be lstw’s art director) and I moved out of the city into a century-old house surrounded by nature.
I’ve always considered myself to be a city person, so it’s been a new experience. The pace is so different. I feel like the whole vibe is calmer, and that’s reflected in our latest issue.
Describe your desk and what you can see in your office.
We’re in a new room, and our two desks face each other. Computers, cameras, rolls of film, magazines... and a view of a couple of giant trees and melting snow. Our dog Céline is living her best life and keeping us entertained while we work from home.
Are you feeling optimistic about 2021?
Yes, I think we have to! I would love to host in-person events again. That would definitely help our overall mood.
Which magazine do you first remember?
Nightlife magazine was the first magazine I went around town looking for. There was a section with photos from parties from the week before and interviews with all the cool bands and emerging artists.
It was free in bars, universities, subways and public spaces, and so many Montrealers wanted to be in it! The print edition was published for over a decade, until May 2012.
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
Never Apart magazine. It’s an annual publication that features interviews and recaps with Never Apart’s artists and collaborators, with articles on topics related to everything from spirituality to the environmental and music by different contributors and photos of events, panel discussions and talks.
The magazine’s mission mirrors that of the Never Apart centre itself: highlighting artists and culture as agents for positive change, transformation and unity. It’s a space we absolutely love and a must-visit if you’re in Montréal.
We actually launched the first edition of lstw at Never Apart in 2016.
Describe lstw in three words.
Queer, authentic, unifying.
Your Montreal roots are clear from the bilingual nature of the mag. How’s the queer scene there after a year of lockdown?
The situation is unprecedented, of course. It’s the first time we’ve ever had to stop our events, but we’ve still promoted so many amazing initiatives for the web and social media.
We love collaborating with other women and inspiring people, so we asked our favorite local DJs to create playlists and even worked with women-run neighborhood microbrewery to release an lstw beer that ended up in Forbes!
Despite that local focus, your readership stretches across the world. How far have you reached?
Our readership has gone global! That’s primarily because we met with key people in Paris, New York and Los Angeles who helped us make it happen.
For instance, thanks to Didier Lerebours of New Distribution House, a New York-based distribution company, lstw is now available in more cities across the US, Europe and Japan.
And, yes, our readers in France understand our French, which is more or less the same on the page ;)
Tell us about splitting the two languages so the reader enjoys French from one end of the issue and English from the other.
For us, it was a way to deliver more content. We’re an annual publication, and we want to maximize the number of stories and experiences we can bring forward. With this new way of presenting articles in both languages, we’re able to double the content.
The new issue marks five years of lstw. How do you reflect on what you've achieved, and have you seen attitudes towards the queer community shift?
For us, every issue is definitely a learning process. We’ve met so many great artists and contributors who shaped the publication and project over the years.
As a teenager, I would have loved to have a magazine like ours. That's one of the main reasons we’re working to keep it alive. We do feel a shift in terms of queer visibility in mainstream media and society. It’s a positive change, and we believe our publication contributes to it.
There’s no doubt that change can happen through arts and culture. We need role models and the sense we’re part of something bigger.
What’s going to be the highlight of this coming week for you?
Our fifth issue is actually on its way out, and I can’t wait to see it on bookstores and shop shelves around the world.