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  • Writer's pictureClaire Gittens

Every great llama needs a great origin story

It all started on the streets of Detroit, where three girls named Deena, Lorrell and Michelle dreamed about one day becoming singing stars.

Wait, wrong origin story.

♬I am changing♬

DramaLlama also got rolling with a trio: Shawn Fraine, Miguel Marrufo and Christopher Warren. But even before three, there was one. One, and a simple idea that many of our BL audience has had at one point or the other. "I wish I had a place where I can organise my BL show air dates!" That was the catalyst for change.

Shawn's first solution to the problem - as we are both part of the generation that grew up simultaneously with and without the internet - was a physical planner. The Ultimate BL Planner is still available on Amazon for anyone who prefers to write things out by hand. After the physical planner, Shawn also started to think about a digital version of the calendar. Then, comments from viewers prompted him to think about the social aspect as well. As the inimitable Shaqii mentions in his Creator Chat on the DramaLlama Youtube channel, many BL fans enjoy watching with reactors as a way to connect with someone. "It feels like I am watching with a friend," people often say of their favourites. This drove Shawn to think about creating a space where BL lovers could find their tribe and BL llamas could find their herd.

♬Listen to the song here in my heart♬

It was at this point, he reached out... to Miguel, as a close friend with a design background and to Topher, as his most trusted friend in the BLsphere. (At the time, Miguel had never seen a BL, but attendees of the Stream Eternal will know we fixed that by taking his BLginity there. Don't worry, it was 100% consensual. We llamas are the greenest flags... sometimes.)

Sitting down with Miguel and Topher validated the need for a dedicated BL space for interfans and solidified the potential. This was something worth doing! It slowly snowballed into where we are today, almost one and a half years later.

Topher recalls first being approached by Shawn and eager to help, but being unsure of where to start or what to do. Today, in April 2024, DramaLlama has a Technical team, a Growth team and the beginnings of a Product team, but initially, it was just Shawn, Miguel and Topher trying to figure things out. Topher was able to drudge up some programming knowledge from his school days. Miguel was split between design and being Shawn's unofficial assistant. They were the tech team, the growth team and everything else that a baby llama could need. In retrospect, it was a far cry from the product we've created so far, but it was a start. Nobody learns to run without taking those first wobbly, toddly steps.

♬We are a family♬

While our resident crazy math genius (Topher) was enjoying the little victories he made as he worked through the programming side, the team soon realised that they needed some more help to bring the app to fruition.

The first person to join the team was Kearne Permalino, as he was a fellow BL lover in the creator space who had reached out and he had just completed his qualifications in Computer Science. It was either a 3-am A-ha moment or a consultation with business advisor, Jason of, that prompted Shawn to bring on Chief Technical Officer, Dr. Raj Singh. The doc has been instrumental in putting together our first incarnation of the app, which is about to welcome beta testers. In addition, much of the tech team was filled out with acquaintances and co-workers he brought on. As the management side took up more of Shawn and Topher's time, Jordie Seay was brought on to run the social media spaces. And Dr. Shallon Brown recently moved into the Head of Product role. The Drama Llama team now comprises 10 dedicated members, volunteering their time and energy to bring this project we love and believe in to your screens as soon as possible.

♬And I am telling you, I'm not going!♬

The llama has come so far and we are determined to be here to stay. Yet, every silver lining has its cloud. For Shawn, the biggest challenge so far has been funding. Of course, it is not easy funding any sort of start-up. However funding a start-up in a field that the money-people of the West have never even heard of... Yup, it's just as much fun as you would imagine. In Topher's eyes, one issue is finding our audience, beyond our immediate circles. He worried that they are, and I quote, "out there just wandering the earth, not knowing we exist." We all know how lonely BL spaces can be, especially outside Asia. Hopefully, we can we all find our perfect herds.

How to solve these problems? Part of the answer is YOU! Both when it comes to funding and to the audience, your views help. Your word of mouth helps. Your tweets and shares help. So keep hanging with us. It's been a long road, but the best is yet to come!

Your Llama Mama, Yemi

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