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TS Madison & Craig "The Writer" Stewart - How Their Friendship Led to a "PHAG Tawlk" Atlanta Residency Tour

Exclusive | Interview

Phag Tawlk by TS Madison and Craig the Writer Stewart

“Everything in culture is PHAG”. Words spoken by thee ubiquitous Queen herself TS Madison. A seemingly omnipresent force, she commands such an impactful presence in Pop and LGBTQ+ culture.


From spring boarding her career off of social media to achieving history making superstardom across music, TV, and film, she boasts a career like none other.


OG TS Madison fans, otherwise known as “The Maddie Mob” can remember her start from one of her first viral videos, “New Weave, New Weave 22 inches” and newer fans get to experience the fruits of her evolution on mega platforms like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Beyoncé’s “COZY”


Now in the latest installment of her self-built media empire, TS Madison alongside her longtime friend, collaborator, and co-host Craig “The Writer” Stewart have launched a new segment called “P.H.A.G Tawlk” as part of her running web series Maddie in the Morning.


The “PHAG” in the title is a tongue in cheek reference that cleverly translates as Popular Hot Ass Gossip, where both TS Madison and Stewart discuss the latest news and topics in Pop Culture as it pertains to the LGBTQ+ community. 



Stewart is an established author, playwright, and entrepreneur. He has written and self-published four books, where he divulges narratives and wisdom from his own life as a Black, gay man. At their core the books include themes of self-discovery, growth, and relationships. 


To add to his impressive resumé, Stewart has written and produced his own stage play entitled “A Day In The Life”. The stage play showcases the social and emotional obstacles that African American gay men endure and has enjoyed a successful, sold out run in Atlanta.


Stewart is also the creator, writer, executive producer, and director of Telling Our Stories: A Conversation with Black Queer Men and Women, a web series centering different inter-generational Black perspectives across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. 


Gaye Magazine received the gracious opportunity to speak with TS Madison and Craig “The Writer” Stewart exclusively about the creation of PHAG Tawlk, their upcoming Atlanta residency at the City Winery, and how their friendship & working relationship came to be. 


Phag Tawlk by TS Madison and Craig the Writer Stewart
TS Madison & Craig "The Writer" Stewart

How did the both of you meet and when did you begin working together?


Craig “The Writer” Stewart: Around 2014, TS Madison began to go viral on Vine for her aforementioned “New Weave” video. Later she gained traction for her ability to “read” any would-be haters, particularly those from the ballroom scene, who viewed her as a bad representation for the community, because of her perceived brash and vulgar nature."


However, her rawness worked to Madison’s benefit and instantly established her online presence due to her “not giving a f*ck persona.


In a brief span of time, Madison became an instant sensation across the internet among gay and straight people alike, eventually coming across the Facebook timeline of her future friend and co-host Craig Stewart. 


Craig: “I kept seeing her videos come down my timeline on Facebook and I kept saying who is this girl? I used to always think she was funny, but we weren’t connected on social media at all”. 


Feeling a resonance between them, Stewart decided to send a message to Madison while also offering a copy of his first book Words Never Spoken.


Craig: “I messaged her and said ‘I feel like your messaging is very similar to mine. It’s different, because the way you communicate yours, but very similar, and want to send you a copy of my book’, and never did.”




 


A year passed and Stewart found Madison again on his timeline, but not just for her solo viral videos, but for a different reason. Within a short period of time, Madison had already established an early version of the soon to be famous talk podcast The Queen’s Court with rapper Khia.


After seeing her again, Stewart sent Madison a second message wanting to fulfill his commitment of sending his book copy and inviting her to the second season of his podcast, So Much To Say. She accepted his invitation. 


Craig: “[TS Madison] came over. She literally drove to my place and came over. That was the very first time I went live. At the time I was really struggling, I distinctly remember I had 100 books in my closet. I remember her coming on the podcast and telling me that I need to use my personality to sell these books.”


From their first official meeting, Madison was teaching Craig the tricks of the trade of monetizing your online influence during a time where the route and methods of an “influencer” was not yet crystallized. 


Craig: “At the time, Facebook had these in video ads and after we did the podcast, she was showing me how to go live on Facebook and I noticed she kept pressing this button.”


About a decade ago, As one of the few Black, let alone Black and trans influencers, Madison recollected her direct ability to translate social media engagement into actual money. 


TS Madison: “I was basically one of the first people of color and trans person that Facebook was rolling out where you were able to put an ad break in between going live...I’ve always had the ability to convert views into dollars."


 

Following their first, successful collaboration the two remained in touch. Weeks later, Madison began to realize that her videos were being demonetized largely due to the connection with her co-host, Khia, who most likely offended several famous figures for her brash tongue. In spite of, Madison continued to work with her due to their friendship.


Craig "The Writer" Stewart

As a way to monetize their accounts again, Madison reached out to Stewart to create a podcast, however it did not immediately start. 


TS Madison: “I said Craig bitch, these girls have demonetized my video. I can’t do the dollar sign thing no more on [Facebook]. How can we make a podcast, but we do it to make money.


At the moment, an early iteration of The Queen’s Court was ongoing, where Madison and Khia would go on live while finding their rhythm. 


TS Madison: “[Khia] was coming [to my house]. We would go on live on Fridays or Thursdays, it had not become a show yet. Kind of like what we do with PHAG Tawlk, we were finding our rhythm. [Khia] had got me demonetized so bad, [my main account and backup page] got blocked on Facebook. The podcast was already in place, we just hadn’t launched anything yet."



 

TS Madison and Craig Stewart | Phag Tawlk

Being the master social media strategist that she is, Madison acquired a Mevo camera giving her the capability to distribute to multiple channels such as YouTube, Periscope, etc.


As a result, Madison assembled a successful, multi streaming method as a way to still continue their show and evade those seeking to end their accounts. 


Eventually, Madison and Khia were forced to launch their podcast, The Queen’s Court airing Monday nights at 8:00pm (christened by the fact Madison’s Facebook account was recovered on a Monday night). All the while, Craig continued to record, edit, and publish behind the scenes. 


Once the team of Madison, Stewart, and Khia established their footing they garnered tremendous momentum, even landing a spot in official podcast charts. 


TS Madison: “So Craig would come over…do the podcast. Bitch! We would be tearing it up. We came in the game and sweeped past everybody. The Queen’s Court rose to be #2 right under Joe Rogan in comedy podcasts…for WEEKS!"


Craig: “I remember in that Christmas show it was almost like 20,000 people watching live.”



As a result of their success, promoters began reaching out to Madison and Khia for bookings, opening up an avenue for touring. Unbeknownst to Stewart, Madison was paying for the production out of pocket including Craig’s compensation.


If they were to go this route Madison would have to pay for overhead costs, which would make the venture a highly costly one on her end. 


Craig: “They were getting bookings, these requests at that time. There were club promoters wanting to book her and Khia. I was telling [TS Madison] if these promoters are trying to bring y’all for x amount of dollars, just imagine if y’all did this by yourselves.”


Craig continued, “What I didn’t know at the time was that Madison was paying for everything. The camera, the lights, the props…me. I started to realize this is why Madison was pushing back on taking the show city to city…So we never did it."


Observing from behind the scene, Stewart began to realize there was also a bigger reason for why The Queens Court was not elevating despite attracting tens of thousands of viewers. 


Craig: “I’ve watched them take meetings with Tamar & Vince (while they were married)…Nicki Minaj…there were so many opportunities and they would all go to the wayside and I never really knew. Madison and I never talked about their business. I realized okay…[Khia] must not want to go to the next level…they started to slowly unravel.” 


Phag Tawlk by TS Madison and Craig the Writer Stewart

After Khia and TS Madison officially split, Madison and Stewart discussed the future of The Queens Court. He saw her vision and potential and suggested she utilize her wide range of connections to bring guest judges on the show.


Now rebranded as The Queens Supreme Court, Madison became sole host/“Head Judge” and at the same time solidifying Stewart as a formal showrunner. 


TS Madison: “[Craig] asked me what you going to do? He told me all the people you connected to let them come sit down and rotate the chair and that’s when Craig became the showrunner of the show. He always tried to stay behind the scenes, he never wanted to come forward, but we would have such a banter. 



In 2018, Stewart suggested they do a tour, where they both agreed to put on the first live show at Truth Atlanta, still on the traditional Monday night, where they sold out! 


Craig: “When those tickets sold out and videos and pictures were all over social media and that check came in…’[Madison] was like girl where we going next?!’”


Stewart made his first official on screen appearance on The Queens Supreme Court during a wrap up show, where both him and Madison discussed select guest judges at the end of the year.


Although he had no intentions of sitting side by side, ironically that would be his future in the following years going into this new post The Queens Court and The Queens Supreme Court era. 


 

Phag Tawlk by TS Madison and Craig the Writer Stewart

How did PHAG Tawlk start? 


Once the COVID-19 pandemic made its way to America, the Queens Supreme Court was forced to evolve. Madison had to adapt with the times, so out of obvious safety reasons, no guest judges could join the show.


However, her brand and platform still had to continue even in the midst of a world altering event, thus Maddie in the Morning was born. 


TS Madison:The Queens Court evolved into The Queens Supreme Court which evolved into the Maddie in the Morning show. The pandemic caused us to stop having all of the guest judges. That’s why we couldn’t do The Queens Supreme Court anymore. I created the Maddie in the Morning show during the pandemic, because we couldn’t get out.”



One day during a recording of Maddie in the Morning, Stewart made a serendipitous appearance that would ignite the creation of their hit segment “PHAG Tawlk”. 


TS Madison: “My engineer, Mo, he’s a heterosexual African guy and we talked. Craig came over to do something, and I was sitting at the desk and was like Mo you not equipped for this, you’re straight. Craig come over here! We need to have some PHAG Tawlk!”


Craig: “Right after that, we kind of played with it a little bit and it finally became P-H-A-G…Popular Hot Ass Gossip".


 

Phag Tawlk by TS Madison and Craig the Writer Stewart

Can you explain the title of “PHAG Tawlk”? 


Craig: “It’s still evolving. The point of “PHAG Tawlk” is to yes take the sting out of it. It’s satire. It’s intentional because we know it’s going to ruffle feathers. We liken it to Living Color, where it’s controversial but undeniably funny”.


TS Madison: “We take the play on a lot of words that have been given to us as pejoratives and we take the power from that. That was my whole premise of wanting to create a show where we take all of the negative, evil words and we satire it…we’re polishing piss bitch!”


Craig: “We wanted to talk about all of the things that people are only talking about in their small, quiet circle of friends…at their house…we’re not talking about anything that groups of friends aren’t talking about…but ain’t nobody talking about [it] the way we’re talking about it…not out here for everybody to see it."


Both TS Madison and Stewart also speak to the power of their synergy which helps audiences connect and resonate with the show. 


Craig: “We’re so much alike, because we’ve known each other for so long, I almost know what she’s about to say and vice versa."


TS Madison: “Also, There’s not a generational gap between us. As much as our opinions and beliefs are the same, we’re so different. He’s a butch queen. I’m a [transwoman].”


Craig: “I think the fact that I’m a guy, she’s trans…there’s always been this cavernous space between gay men and transwomen, so by the mere fact of us sitting there as friends, sends a message too."


Although their aim is to take the sting out of conversations and instead infuse them with a biting, satirical humor, both Madison and Stewart make it known they are not beyond reproach/criticism.


TS Madison: “Even on the show we take accountability for the things that we have done and said. You can’t lead and don’t lead by example.”


 


What made the both of you decide to do a live tour and what are you looking forward to the most on The Phag Tawlk tour? 


TS Madison: “We did a live tour because of the experience we had with The Queens Supreme Court. I want to pattern my career after RuPaul Andre Charles.


Mother is a multimillionaire and I’m going to leave this Earth that. She has a conviction in her name. Then she has a residency in Vegas. I want us to have something that people look forward to when they come to Atlanta. I want this to be a staple. They’re going to laugh, love, and learn by the time they leave us."


Craig: “I always look forward to the audience engagement. When you first come out and they all excited and then it’s the end when they’re so grateful to have been in the show. I like seeing people have a good time. Our thought is if we do a residency here in Atlanta, we can draw the people [around] to us."


The witty genius between Madison and Stewart makes “PHAG Tawlk” a must watch segment each and every time. Although the banter is sharp and the potential for controversy may be high, the intent of the show is to enlighten and spread joy along the way.


Ultimately, the essence of “PHAG Tawlk” is healing, specifically for queer audiences. 


TS Madison: “Don’t take shit personal. Just get, up do you. Come on out to the damn show and get some energy.”


Craig: “Laugh, ponder, on some of the stuff we say, and move on."


Gayes, make sure you catch TS Madison and Craig “The Writer Stewart” on their PHAG Tawlk residency tour at the City Winery in Atlanta, premiering on April 24th.


Check out their website for more information and tickets.




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