by Kat Thompson
photography by Robb Klassen
It’s insanely refreshing to meet someone who is 100% themselves—comfortable in their skin, their identity, their sexuality—every aspect of who they are. There’s no front, no smoke and mirrors. It’s even more rare to find a couple that is like this—that aren’t swayed by their partners, desperate to fit into a certain role. Instead, they are genuine, happy, and accepting of who they are, who the other is, and their place in their relationships.
Valerie Vonprisk and Linda Mercedes Vargas (known to many by her stage name, Von Kiss) are a breath of fresh air. They are completely confident in their individuality—with ideas and goals and visions for themselves and their careers—yet perfectly complement each other in their marriage and partnership. It was love at first sight, and they’ve spent the past 10 years in serene bliss, “no break, no nothing, just happiness and love the whole time,” Valerie tells me, grinning. Any sense of jealousy I may have completely evaporates because these two are the most positive people I’ve ever met, instilling in me this sense of wonder and possibility—in the world, in myself, in anything and everything. They see every day as a moment for learning, positivity, and improvement. “Just make steps, encourage others to do good things, but just by being a good person ourselves, we are already doing something positive for the world,” Valerie says wisely. Linda chimes in with a similar sentiment: “There’s so much we can do when you use good and love and it comes from a positive place. I’m empowered by positivity.”
This entire interview is a feel-good moment. Meet the two women spreading goodness every day in every way, Valerie Vonprisk and Linda (Von Kiss) Mercedes Vargas.
What is your name, age, and occupation?
Valerie: My name is Valerie Vonprisk, I’m a make up artist, and I’m 31.
Linda: And my name is Linda Mercedes Vargas, but most people know me as Von Kiss, and I am a DJ and music producer.
What about you guys surprises people the most?
V: I think they get surprised that we’ve been together since I was 21, so for ten years. We’ve been consistent together, no break, no nothing, just happiness and love the whole time.
L: And we’ve been married for eight years. It was eight years in October. Yeah, we kind of had to put a rush on it because that was the year Obama was getting elected and Prop 8 was on the ballot for the state of California. So gay marriage was legal, and with that proposition there was a chance they were going to take it away. So, in order to just maintain our rights, I was like, “Let’s get married.” So, yeah, we got married in 2008.
That’s so crazy. How did you guys meet?
V: I was doing runway make up for an Ed Hardy fashion show, back in the day. Back when they were hot.
L: That’s how you know it was ten years ago. [laughs]
V: And we met in San Diego because she actually went to San Diego State and that’s where I’m from. So, you know, beach life. I was there backstage doing some make up and she saw me and she said it was love at first sight.
L: It’s true.
V: And then she got my number for a future photo shoot she was going to have for her DJ career, and the rest was herstory, you know? It was like we were magnets. And we truly feel like we were together in a past life.
Whoa, I just got goosebumps. So why do you think people are surprised that you’ve been together for that long?
L: I don’t know. If you look back to your grandparents’ time when people were together for like, fifty years, it’s like very common back in the day. Divorce was pretty frowned upon and people kind of maintained relationships just for the sake of maintaining them. So nowadays, the divorce rate is so high and I think people are just kind of jumping ship. They’re like, “Eh, fine. It’s whatever. It’s cool to be single, single for life.”
V: Yeah, there’s so many people who are already preparing for their next partner while they’re with someone. You know, the cheating. It’s like, you can forgive everybody for everything if it’s truly—like if two people want to be together, they’ll be together. I just think that it’s a little uncommon, especially in the lesbian community. There’s not a lot of long term couples, and if there are, they’re not really in the spotlight. I think since she’s a DJ, people just automatically assume that she’s a player player, but no. They’re not all like that. There’re some good ones… Real happiness is on the inside. I think a lot of people are maybe unhappy and throwing it on their partner and it’s not like that.
L: For sure. I think what worked for us is that we were both in good places in our lives, where it was able to work when we did meet. We were both already on an upward progression in our careers, just happy in life in general.
What about on an individual basis? What do you think about you guys as an individual really surprises people, or what misconceptions do they have?
L: I think one that I run into is that people are surprised that I used to be a go-go dancer before I DJed. It’s something that I don’t hide that and it’s part of the reason as to why I’m a DJ. But it’s just one of those little facts that’s like, a hidden fact I guess. Unless you hear or read interviews that I’ve done—I talk about it.
Why do you think people are surprised about that—like people frown upon it?
L: No, no! It’s just that people don’t see me in that way, because I’m now behind the booth. But I love to dance; I’m a house dancer. I can go off. So once I actually do start dancing, they don’t realize that I’m a dancer, too.
What about you Valerie?
V: I don’t know… maybe that I’m so strong and I’m so passionate? I don’t know. I’m the oldest sister in my family and I come from pretty strict parents and I’m pretty fearless. I could be more empathetic basically. I’m honest. I think maybe that surprises people because I’m such a happy, sweet, generous person but if you ask me my opinion, I’m going to give you the facts. I can’t speak for the whole world, but I try to give people my honest opinion, however that goes. And I don’t mean any harm. But I’m also not trying to sugarcoat things. So I don’t know, I think that maybe surprises people because I can be super duper sweet, amazing, all the time. But I’m honest—and sometimes that honesty can shock people. Cause not a lot of people are honest to people’s faces… it’s not really the code for some circles. But I’m like, “fuck this, I’m honest!” I like to be around honest people. I’ve had the same best friends my whole life; I’m nice to everybody, but I really don’t care.
What do you guys think is the most challenging or infuriating thing about working in your individual industries?
V: Negative people. Negative people are so draining. And since I’m a make up artists and I have to be in people’s faces, right there in the behind-the-scenes team—you know, it takes a village to make everything happen. Sometimes, I have to balance out other people’s energy, and it can drain you. That part is kind of infuriating, just being around negative people.
L: For me, being a DJ, I would say…
“DJ play this!”
L: Honestly, that is so annoying. Literally, they hand you your phone—“Can you just play this off Youtube?” No! Get out of my face. But, I would say there are so many overrated people that are in the spotlight. I’ve been a DJ for ten years. I’ve paid dues. I started on all vinyl. Like, I can play on any type of equipment. I can play any genre. I’m very good at what I do—I’m really great at reading crowds, I can play super dope underground style, I can play, of course, top 40. I know what’s popular. I know what people want to hear. But, I think that there’s a lot of people who just get this magic team behind them and just kind of like, turn them into a little overnight success. And they just ride this wave; it’s like, there’s no real content behind the person. It’s smoke and mirrors. That just can be real frustrating, when there’s actual super dope DJs. And I’m friends with a lot of really talented, amazing people who may not necessarily get that chance to shine because they don’t have this team fluffing them up.
What is your go-to cure for a bad day?
L: Uh… you know, I really don’t have bad days. It’s very rare. Recently, like yesterday and the day before, I’ve been kind of down about the health of my grandfather. So, that’s a bad day. But fortunately I have my beautiful wife here who… she’s so comforting, she’s a cheerleader, you know? She can find the positive in the most negative of situations and turn my mood around instantaneously. So, having her is really my go-to for a bad day.
V: Yeah, same. Same. Just thinking about Linda, even if I can’t be with her physically, I just think about how lucky I am that my life is so good, that I’m married to my best friend, that I have my health. I just think about the positive things—there’s so much positive to think about, especially to be in love and to have your love just keep growing and growing and growing. It’s the ultimate.
L: But I’ll say before I met Valerie, my go-to was music. Absolutely. Music is like a teleporter. Wherever you are, no matter how shitty it is, you can throw on one of your favorite CDs of all time and it’s like a form of meditation. It will take you somewhere else and it helps to escape.
V: And weed helps a lot too. [laughs]
What empowers you guys?
V: What really empowers me every single day are strong and beautiful women like my wife, mother, and sisters… But also, I feel so blessed that I was born an American citizen. My mom and my dad are both from other places. My mom is from Mexico, my dad is Hungarian, and they came here to bring a better life for us and our whole country is made of immigrants. That is the beauty of our country. And we have so many elders to look up to and to give thanks for all the things that they’ve done so that we can have this life now… I want to leave this planet better than when I got here. That’s what I think about. I feel like make up is my job because I’m good at it and it’s what I do, but it’s not who I am. It’s not all that I am. You have to be inspired by something and I’m inspired by nature, I’m inspired by people, I’m inspired by the uniqueness that makes all of us.
L: I would say that what empowers me—it’s funny because she was saying people who are oppressed. I get empowered by success stories, like people who went from rags to riches, the infinite possibilities that humans have. The potential. There’s so much we can do when you use good and love and it comes from a positive place. I’m empowered by positivity. With a lot of stuff that’s happening in the world right now, it’s easy to be like, “Fuck this shit! I’m so angry!” You know, you can quickly go down the rabbit hole on a negative rant but let’s fight it with the positivity and the love and the unification because when we can come together, that’s how we’re really going to make changes, you know? Success and positivity and love, those things really empower me.
How do you want to make the world a better place?
V: Being the change you want to see in the world. If you see something that you don’t like, if you see a place overrun with trash, get a plastic bag and pick up some trash. Just be a positive drop in the bucket of good. Just make steps, encourage others to do good things, but just by being a good person ourselves, we are already doing something positive for the world. Smiling at people, giving compliments, lifting others up—don’t feed into the negative stuff. Read about all the good things that are happening and run in that direction. That’s what I try to do.
L: When you were saying, “What’s your go-to for a bad day” and I was saying, “music,” to me, I feel like music is so universal for the world and it brings so much positivity and happiness and that’s why I became a DJ. I want to give those experiences I had in nightclubs to people who are now coming to nightclubs. So, being able to let people escape for the night and just have fun and dance and have a great night out sweating, burning calories. Just making good memories, you know? But also, I feel like I have so much to say because I’m a very observant person and I just kind of take in everything. So it’s easy for me to be like, “Okay, this needs to happen and this needs to happen” because I’m just sitting here watching everything unfold. So I feel like maybe one day I will write a book. I just, I don’t know. I feel like that’s a way that I can spread goodness and bring positivity to the world.
V: And you’ll live forever.
It’s crazy because I think with this question, people sometimes don’t know how to answer it because they think that it has to be some huge, monumental change. But change is very personal and it starts with small things.
V: Just being nice to people.
L: Yeah, and I’m literally reading this book right now, it’s a very small, cute little book called Success. And I just read this one little passage on this guy who, he wanted to change the world. He then was realizing, as time went on, “Okay, it’s too hard to change the whole world, let me change my town.” So then he was like, “Okay, this isn’t working, let me change my family.” That didn’t work. And then he’s like, “Oh my god”—years later, after realizing all of this, he was like, “If only I had changed myself.” Then, whatever it is that he changed within himself could then have affected his family, who’s close to him, which then could have affected more people, and he was like, “I then could have changed the world.” So if you look at it like that, yeah, it really starts with you.
What is your death row meal?
V: [slurping noise] Mole! Mole is my favorite food. I would have some mole sauce, beans, rice, tortillas, veggies. That’s my deathrow meal. And tequila!
L: I though it was The Mission, remember?
V: I changed my mind because I don’t eat meat no more.
L: She wrote a Yelp review about this place in San Diego.
V: God, it was like seven years ago.
L: The only reason I remember is because she said in her Yelp review that this one dish they had would be her death row meal.
V: It was called like, the power plato or something. But I don’t eat meat anymore.
You wouldn’t eat meat for your death row meal?
L: Man, I’ve had this question asked to me and we’ve talked about this before. I’m a pescatarian as well so… I love carbs. I love mashed potatoes.
V: So what’s your death row meal?
L: Okay, I’m trying! I love mashed potatoes, so a good amount of mashed potatoes with some delicious grilled veggies. Like I love zucchini, asparagus… I wouldn’t go for bread, but I definitely love pasta as well. Maybe just a nice little penne with a good red sauce. And then I have to have dessert. I have this huge sweet tooth. Key lime pie. Give me some key lime pie and I will have coffee and whiskey.
V: Such a hodge podge plate!
What is the one perfect word to describe you?
L: Mine is patient. I’ve come to realize that and accept that.
V: Yeah, she’s so patient. I love it. Mine would be, I think, a cheerleader. That’s what I am. I’m a life cheerleader. I’m just like, “You can do it! Go for it!”
What if you had to pick words for each other?
L: I would pick cheerleader. I told her she’s a cheerleader.
V: I think for her I would say heaven. Heaven on Earth. [laughs]
I love you guys. You guys are relationship goals, 100%.
L: Well you know what I did say about her at first is that she’s fun. She’s my best friend. She’s my wife but she’s also my best friend and she’s so funny! And she’s so fun. She’s so down for everything. I’m more of the one who’s like, “Nah, it’s too cold outside”—
V: Which is good! She’s a water sign, I’m a fire sign. So we balance each other out. It’s perfect. Sometimes, I mean, I can end up dead. My dad, it’s so funny, growing up my dad, he’s Hungarian, he was a chief in the navy, he’s super duper strict into school and all that stuff and it’s amazing. But he was homophobic and blah blah blah, but getting to know Linda, he loves her so much. He has her call him dad and everything. And he says to Linda that he appreciates her because he feels like she keeps me alive [laughs]. I don’t know what to say but that’s cool, I mean I’m not even that crazy! I’m like “what the fuck dad, I don’t even do anything! I’m a make up artist, I’m normal!”
L: Mmmhmm. There’s a reason why he said that [laughs].
What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned in your lifetime?
V: The most important lesson that I’ve learned I think would be the power of positivity. And manifestation; what you think about, you bring about. So, you know if you can control your thoughts, you can control your life. That’s the most important thing that I think that anyone can ever know. Whatever you think about your bring about, so be positive. And if there’s something that’s distracting you, get it out of the way or think about it until it explodes. Because thinking about it in small parts and letting it marinate in your soul is like a block in your life. So just kind of think about it, meditate, let it out, but power and positivity all the way.
L: I 100% agree with that. I think the way you think—it’s what makes you you. It’s what affects your direct mood. If you’re thinking about bad things, you’re going to get into a bad mood, you know? It’s like, ugh, and then you’re having a bad day and affecting people around you with your womp womp energy. But if you’re thinking about the good things—
V: And you just flip it—
L: There’s so much to be thankful for. If anyone is reading this interview, the fact that you have something to read it on, whether it be a laptop, a computer, or a phone, you are so gifted, more so than the majority of the world.
V: And the fact that you have eyes, and you can read.
L: For sure, you’re breathing you’re alive, you’re here. There’s so much to be thankful for… I would say, also, action. I have all these grand ideas but sometimes I overthink so I feel like, calm down with overanalyzing and start putting things into action. Because once you start doing things, then you can make mistakes that you can learn from and you can grow from and keep going in a positive direction. So I would say acting on your ideas, for sure.
V: Because ideas happen for a reason.
Yeah, I needed to hear that.
L: Everybody does! We all have the procrastinator within us. And there’s a comfort in knowing you’re not alone, but it’s also a comfort in knowing, “You know what? I can beat this. I can do this right now, today.”
V: And you’re having this thought right now because it’s supposed to happen right now. I read this book called The Art of the Idea and it’s really really cute. It’s a wonderful, fast little read, and it talks about how ideas have expiration dates, and to beware of the thought police. When you think about something and it’s different, there will be the thought police coming in and telling you, “Well, for 25 years it’s been like this”—it’s like, who cares? This is going to happen right now in 2017… When you think about anything, that idea has happened for a reason. And if you think that it’s a positive thing, you should run in that direction. The longer you wait, the less active it is.
What is the accomplishment that you’re most proud of?
V: This sounds a little dumb, but doing make up for Chanel.
L: That’s not dumb!
That’s not dumb at all!
V: Okay, thank you! That was my dream come true since I was a little girl. I’ve always loved Chanel, I’ve always loved Coco Chanel. She’s actually bisexual—I don’t know if everybody knows that. But I love her, I love her story, I love the brand, I love everything about it. And I’ve always wanted to do make up in Paris, under Karl Lagerfeld’s team for Chanel and now I’ve been doing it, I think like five times? I’m going back to Paris in a couple of weeks, but hopefully I get picked up for Chanel again. But that is my dream come true.
L: I have two. So the thing I’m proudest of in my accomplishments so far is graduating from college. I was the first in my family to go to college and to graduate and I did it all on my own. I was in my counselor’s office every day in my senior year, I filled out the applications, I filled out scholarship forms and FAFSA and I was blessed to get granted financial aid because that was the only way I was able to go. I moved from San Francisco down to San Diego on my own and I did it. It took five years, but I did it. And then, I would say, my second thing was that last year I got booked to play in Ibiza. And that was like—I had never even been to Ibiza but I had heard so much about it and I just always dreamed of going there, just to go in general, but nonetheless DJ out there? That was a life goal for real. And then I got booked again this year to go back.
Wow. You guys are such a power couple, oh my God. Just doing your thing, feeding off of each other. It’s awesome.
L: You are who you surround yourself with!
V: And you can do anything, with anyone. There’s success stories everywhere. You can be your own success story.