Vancouver, B.C.

Updated: June 29, 2020, 6:08 AM

Reyes advocates against hate crimes

June 28, 2020

Mildred German

(Photo: PPV)

Unceded Territories – As the world celebrates Pride Day 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing police brutality, and hate crimes, members of the Filipinx LGBTQ community in Canada remain in action. These actions not only promote visibility and rhymes, but also solidarity, healing, roots, and resistance.

Romeo Ryu Reyes

Filipino-Canadian trans activist, tattoo artist, dj, actor, singer, songwriter, painter, model, producer, and director, Romeo Ryu Reyes not only kept his fans and audiences entertained during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, he also inspires them to care on the issues affecting our communities.

With many community events resorting to online platforms, Reyes became part of the June 20 East Side Pride’s first virtual show, organized by the Vancouver Pride Society. On the same day, he also became part of the Orange County Virtual Pride Show 2020.

As an advocate against hate crimes, Reyes participated in the #unapologeticallyasian campaign video. Created by Canadian Asian actors, #unapologeticallyasian addresses the discrimination and hate crimes Asian people face due to COVID-19. In addition, Romeo was also part of a Fortin Films music video dedicated to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

Reyes also has appeared in numerous films, including the award-winning short horror film Dia De Los Muertos, directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero, where he played the female role of Carmen. He also portrayed a Tattoo Artist on the hit show, Supernatural.

In 2013, Reyes made his acting debut in Nimisha Mukerji and Orsy Szabo’s short film, “In the Deep” where he played as a tattoo artist. In  2016, Reyes opened his first tattoo shop, ZenTattoo, which specializes in Asian, Filipino, portrait, and spiritual tattoos.

As a Filipina ink enthusiast myself, I had the opportunity to visit Zen Tattoo’s studio located then in East Vancouver, in the Filipino neighbourhood along the Fraser Street area. I remember the clean, warm and chill vibes of his tattoo space, resulting in undoubtedly getting a tattoo on my next visit.

The artist in his studio

At Zen Tattoo, I noticed Reyes also loves to paint. Not only his tattoo shop walls were full of portraits and artwork, I learned his work was also published by The Province newspaper. Some owners of Reyes’ original work include Norah Jones and Kat Von D.

Reyes shared that he started off working for a tattoo supply company in 2009, then worked as a tattoo shop manager, and now as tattoo artist and shop owner. He has been interested in tattooing since he was a child. His website, mentions that Zen Tattoo will be reopening in July 2020.

Reyes, who is also a professional model, has participated in the past in an urban fashion show, an alternative fashion show, Professional Hair show, and numerous photo shoots. He has also participated in many charity events, LGBTQ events, fashion shows, and art shows locally, and in the USA in Seattle and Hawaii. On Friday June 26, he participated in a virtual fashion show competition, and he was the only man who made it to the finals.

As a trans activist, Reyes has directed and produced his own show Interview of the Month! which showcased different viewpoints from the transgender community. He has also documented the changes in his vocal range during the first few years of his gender transition. He also has a YouTube channel, where he regularly posts his videos and performances. He was a featured guest on the radio show Jeepney Cafe Pinoy Rainbow Show at 100.5 FM CFRO Vancouver’s Coop Radio.

Reyes was also one of the Filipino-Canadian LGBTQ artists who supported and performed in the event LiberacIon, Canada’s first LGBTQ Filipino Pride Arts Festival. Held on June 16, 2018 at the now closed XY bar in the heart of downtown Vancouver’s most popular gay district, LiberacIon was organised by Pinoy Pride Vancouver (PPV) in celebration of World Pride month, of the diverse Filipino LGBTQ talents, and of the many unsung contributions the Filipino LGBTQ have made to society.

As busy as life gets, with a tattoo shop business, YouTube channel, and appearing in many events, Reyes proves that a busy schedule is not always a barrier to advocate for the BIPOC, Filipino, and LGBTQ community to make differences in the world. Happy Pride!