Janine Galaviz is a grandmother from Texas, but for downtown Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, she’s a “Kandi Girl” too.
At Friday’s opening salvo in the sprawling Bayfront Park festival, Galaviz, 50, glowed in neon with a lemon-green tutu, a matching bra decorated with silver stickers, green sunglasses, green fingerless fishnet gloves and a pink fuzzy faux-fur hat with mouse ears. She also wore long socks and sneakers, but with a faux-fur accessory called “fluffies” covering them. They looked like extravagant go-go boots.
For Ultra, which resumes this weekend, Galaviz, a trauma center nurse, will carry a canary-yellow, happy-face book bag she bought when her daughter was a teenager. She said that when her daughter, who is now 31 and has a 10- and a 9-year-old, exposed her to electronic music more than a decade ago, she connected with the high-energy beat immediately.
“I don’t care what people think about what I wear. They don’t pay my bills,” Galaviz said. “And if they knew me they would understand that it’s because I see the brevity of life on a regular basis that I know I have to enjoy it.”
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Ultra, a showcase of electronic music artists, attracts bizarre fashion from all over the world. The latest trends include high-waisted ’80s-inspired shorts and leggings; flower-power headbands and tie dye T-shirts from the ’60s and plenty of glitter with bold ’70s disco makeup. Most wore flat boots or comfortable shoes from brands like Converse, Vans, Chucks, Toms or Keds.
Some of the modern subcultures represented at the festival are the “scene kids,” also known as “hipsters;” the “emo,” who prefer punk and studded belts, and the “kandi kids,” who are the evolution of ’90s ravers. Then there’s the “floaters,” who adopt a little bit of every subculture.
While the “scene kids” keep it simple in skinny jeans and T-shirts, and the emo usually wear black and sport square horn-rimmed glasses and greasy hair, the kandi kids prefer to be more colorful. If the emo are introverted, the kandi kids are outgoing.
“Dressing up is part of the fun,” said Luana “Lulu” Ortiz, 16. “I’m wearing a rainbow-bedazzled bra that signifies unity, electric blue shorts and sparkly pink Toms that are comfortable and make me happy. The rainbow could be seen like we are pro-gay marriage, because everyone should be allowed to love.”
As Ortiz walked along Biscayne Boulevard on her way to Ultra, she and her friends ran into Michelle “Molly” Casa, a popular Miami kandi girl, and asked if they could take a picture with her. Molly designed a costume that she called “Rainbow Warrior,” taking inspiration from Native American culture. She wore a handcrafted red, yellow, white and black feather headdress with bead work on her forehead. She accessorized with white contact lenses with a black star and covered a black bathing suit with hundreds of plastic bead bracelets she made for the festival.
“The rainbow warriors are the people who will lead humanity to spirituality,” said Molly, 24. “So it’s basically just to represent modern-day ‘ravers.’ We come from different socioeconomic status, gender, different races [and] different colors.”
Most kandi girls wear revealing underwear, bikinis, fishnets and pasties. A few women seemed to channel cartoon characters such as Gloomy Bear or Hello Kitty.
At night, everything glows at Ultra. Some use battery-operated glow strings to decorate shoelaces, tutus, bras and hats.
And then there’s the guys. Near Ultra’s main stage last Friday, a couple tried to get Stephan Grillon’s attention. He was wearing a super hero costume he called the “Rave Runner.” A $98 white and red body suit from China covered him from head to toe, and he added Oakley snow goggles. He sewed a glow string to the edge of his red cape.
Grillon, 20, belongs to a subculture known as “Glovers.” Most of them prefer to be sober at dance music events and cover their hands with battery-operated gloves with light-blinking fingertips that leave trails in the retina. Vendors on Biscayne Boulevard were selling the gloves in black or white for $15.
Jesus Daze, 18, was wearing a popular accessory called a “spirit hood” — a furry bear hat with long, hanging flaps that had pockets in the shape of paws to insert his hands.
“For Native Americans, the spirit of the bear is courageous, peaceful, free,” Daze said. “And we want to connect with that.”
Some patriotic scene kids and floaters — who came from Canada, Spain, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Mexico or Argentina — wore their country’s flags as capes.
Mariana Castellan, 20, a Mexican American who lives in Weston, said fashion at Ultra is about individuality and diversity. With an affinity for piercings and chunky rings, Castellan likes designers Betsey Johnson and Jeremy Scott. She also identifies with “Harajuku” fashion, a culture born in Tokyo. The “Harajuku” subcultures include the “Cosplay” who like to dress up in fictional characters from video games and anime, and the “Ura-Hara,” who like hip hop and graffiti.
Castellan shaved the sides of her head and dyed the top part of her long, straight, flowing hair in ombré shades of orange, yellow and hot pink. Friday night, she wore $136 black “Cyber Goth” platform boots by Demoniac.
“I was 15 when my dad first took me to Ultra. He is an artist, so we love it. My mom and dad say I look like awesomeness,” Castellan said. “I like tribal stuff and like ‘Cyber Punk’ and mix it with Harajuku ... I like showing off my body because it’s about being free and comfortable with who you are.”