Lick has quickly become the hottest party in town for girls who like girls. Jess Reddaway sits down with it’s creator Nat Zibung to discuss the event’s phenomenal success
When someone mentions Lick Auckland, Auckland’s premier event for girls who like girls, there are probably a few words that come to mind pretty readily; beats, babes, booze, a few other choice “B” words that I probably shouldn’t mention, and basically anything else associated with good, old-fashioned, hard partying. And so it should, Nat Zibung, creator of the event, has had a lot of experience with pulling together amazing parties and if anyone knows how to put on one banger of a shindig, it’s her. After our candid chat with Nat, however, we decided to add a few more words to the “Lick List” in the realisation that there’s a little bit more to life than just the party.
When trying to describe the kind of person that Natalie is, it’s really important to keep in mind that she herself is not a party animal kind of person, and is more of a self proclaimed “solitairy” type. Her desire to start Lick wasn’t born from a desire to create rad parties (that was just a happy byproduct), but instead was influenced by the intention of filling a gap in the scene that she no needed in her years of finding herself. Like with any good origin story, Lick’s was born from within a struggle. When Natalie was ninteen, she came out to her sister, who subsequently came out to her in return two weeks later. They were frustrated at the lack of ease of meeting other lesbians at the time.“We didn’t have anything like this [Lick] growing up in Auckland in the 90s. There was one little gay bar called G.A.Y. That was it. And it was just males, they didn’t really have anything for women.” Looking for a change of scenery, and fed up with her perceived lack of a feeling of community within the Auckland gay scene at the time, Natalie made what she describes as a “random choice to just go to the nearest city and see what was out there”. She sold her car to buy a one way ticket to Melbourne and left Auckland with only two suitcases, a couple hundred bucks, and the conviction that there had to be something better out there. What she found really shaped Lick’s formative years; “When I got to Melbourne I realised there were better options, see, there were awesome parties but they weren’t for me. So I said just stop complaining about stuff, just do it yourself. I gave it a punt. I saved up all this cash from working and threw it all into this event in my head called Lick and I just made it happen.”
It’s no unimpressive feat, for someone with no planning experience to come up fresh on the scene and blow everything out of the water. Not only did she have to grind just to come up with the starting coffer for the event that she put so much of herself into, but she had to pull together all the elements of a great party with no actual event planning experience. How? “I think a very very core value that I like to focus on is customer service. I will give a lot of it [my success] to my hospitality background. A customer comes in, they sit down, you gotta look after them. They gotta be happy with the venue, they gotta be happy with the music, obviously you can’t please everyone but you can try to please the majority. There’s going to be complaints, and you just gotta listen to them. I listened to feedback after Lick; Not everyone likes hip hop, not everyone likes RnB, so I created another event for that music for those people. I always listen”
It took three months lead up for Natalie to pull together her first Lick, and next to her huge emphasis on customer service was an emphasis on social media. “Facebook was just starting out as well, I was studying Facebook and marketing stuff as well. Social media is very prevalent. All of us girls are so spread out, all over New Zealand, all over Australia, social media is what connects us all together.” Despite her inexperience, Nat must have been a natural and was definitely doing something right because the party which started in Melbourne moved to Sydney and then Brisbane.
“All the cities started calling up for it and I just took it from place to place.”
It was always about bringing it back home though, and really filling that gap that would have made her coming out story so much easier. She wanted to give the new generation of girls who like girls something that she never got to have but knew she had been missing out on. “I wanted to bring something back. Something that I’d never had. Because I felt the need for it. Somewhere we could all go to and just be fucking proud to be there.”
And the difference that Natalie has been able to make through her Lick events is actually a very real and tangible thing. Countless numbers of girls meet their partners at Lick events, or find a group of friends who are like themselves to spend time with and feel comfortable around. She’s even started a support group called Lick Entourage. “It’s basically for girls who want to go to Lick, but don’t want to go alone. It’s so daunting walking into a party alone, especially if you’re coming from a small area or remote town where you don’t have a support network and don’t have other gay friends. I’m sure a lot of girls have gone through that phase where they’ve just come out and don’t have any other lesbian friends. So, entourage is a group you can join and you can talk to other people in the group, make plans, sit at our reserved entourage table, we’ll be there most of the time to talk to the girls, there’ll be other girls there too, and basically it’s so you’ll never have to be at Lick alone.”
There is one story however that stands out to Natalie in particular when it comes to seeing that her event has made a difference in someone’s life. “At one of the Licks in Melbourne, I think it was 2011, this girl Lori comes up to me and she came alone and she said to me “I like that girl over there.” So I told her to go for it, what are you waiting for? You don’t know until you try something. And she says no and that it wasn’t meant to be but I said unless you go for it you’ll really never know. So she went up to her and… They hooked up. And they’re still together now, four years later. And now they’re engaged and I’m going to be a celebrant, so they want me to marry them.”
In fact, Lick’s huge celebrity turnout – Natalie has had the cast of “The Real L Word” (quickfire quiz; Nat has made out with a cast member of The Real L Word… Can you guess who?), Michelle Rodriguez, and Ruby Rose attend her shindigs – started through a little word of mouth of a couple brought together by Lick. “It was a random thing where a couple of girls that met at Lick, they’re also still together four years later, were at the party in LA called the Abby. They just got talking with some girls who were friends with “The Real L Word” girls, and these girls were like “You girls should come to Australia, we love you there!” … They looked us up, we got emails, and we just sort of just went for it.”
But Natalie’s favourite celebrity appearance? “Probably the most amazing night of my life was Michelle Rodriguez, a mutual friend of ours was travelling with her and literally the day before they were going to jump on the plane home he was like “Hey Nat. Party tomorrow night. I’m bringing Michelle. Let’s do it” and I was like “tomorrow night! It’s Thursday!” It took us 24 hours to pull the night together. It was such a last minute thing, word spread as fast as it could and we got a fairly decent turn out. Things moved so quickly, we picked her up, took her to the party, she’d never played at a lesbian gig in Australia, so we were the first and even though she was only meant to play an hour and a half hour DJ set she played for three hours. She loved it, the girls loved it; it was awesome.”
And on whether we have any celebrity treats coming up for us here in Auckland? A sly “I’m working on it” with a cheeky grin.
After six years of expansion and growth, Natalie’s new focus has shifted to evolve with the change that is needed for the scene. “The focus really for me is I’m going to look at more events away from the party scene, and aim towards more of the corporate cocktail kind of events targetted to older women. I’m 32 now, and I can still go to parties but I think it can be daunting for ladies maybe a bit older than me coming to a place like Lick because the crowd is so young. It’s the opposite, really from when I was growing up. The older women had all their events and us young ones didn’t really have anything.” So you might even say that the focus and the goal hasn’t changed at all; helping out our community, which Natalie is quick to point out is a community of girls who like girls not just a community of lesbians. “A thing that I’m really big on is if you were to read any of my advertising for Lick or any of my events, you will never see the word lesbian. It’s not just for lesbians. It’s for girls who like girls. I don’t want to exclude bisexual girls, or the ones that are curious, transgenders, or even girls who don’t want to label themselves as lesbian because they’re not comfortable with it. I don’t want to put any pressure on anyone, so you’ll always see with all of my advertising “girls who like girls.” Because that’s our one common interest; we are into girls. It’s our common denomination. We shouldn’t be exclusive or cause segregation. If people are here and they know it’s a gay party; gays boys, straight girls, whatever; as long as they’re there to support us we should be happy they’re there.”
As if Natalie’s domination of the Australasian girls-who-like-girls party scene wasn’t complete enough, she dropped us an exclusive here at Express HQ; “We’re launching in Wellington, we’re talking to venues already, we’re going to go check some out and we’ll probably launch around the end of the year.” Wellington, get excited.
So, if you’re a girl who likes girls, or a person who likes girls who like girls (no shade zone, let’s all just get along), make sure you drop in to Nat’s next events. We have SASS – not a gay event, but a weekly female presented event that 1885 asked her to host in anticipation of Lick and in recognition of her abilites – at 1885 on the 12th of June, and of course Lick is kicking off again at its new home Goldfinch on the 13th. Except maybe keep in mind what Lick really stands for; Lick has given many a sense of community, and is built upon a solid foundation of female empowerment, hardwork and determination. And most importantly, if you see Nat Zibung sitting in the entourage zone sipping quietly on a non-alcoholic bevvie, appreciate the work she’s done for all of us as a community. Shout her her next orange juice (her poison of choice), she’s friendly I swear. Party hard, sure, but keep her positive message in mind.
Article | Jess Reddaway