Dena Vahdani: 'Let’s face it, our capital is not sexy. But there is more'

© Heleen Rodiers
| Dena Vahdani.

Over three weeks, a Brussels-­based creative shares their view of the world. Dena Vahdani is, in her own words, “a comedian, an Iranian and a lesbian”. Go see her show Dena: Warrior Princess.
Instagram: @denadivah, Facebook: @denacomedy

I always loved playing with Lego when I was a kid. Creating a city with its own traffic jams, parks and houses. It was not that pretty, but practical. If you were not that good with kids you would've told me “it has character” instead of the generic “woah!” you'd say to please children. That toy town probably was a reflection of where I was living. I never realized how inharmonious Brussels looks until I saw Paris. With its glorious white buildings topped with gold and marble, I'm not sure what vibe our weird grey structures (like the old Etterbeek town hall) emanates.

Let's face it, our capital is not sexy. But hear me out. I always say our city is like Jacques Brel's face; it's ugly, but Lord, this guy's got charm, and I prefer charm to beauty. Timothée Chalamet or Harry Styles can remain seated, I'd rather have a coffee with Brel or Stromae.

But maybe I'm exaggerating. Of course we do have beautiful places in Brussels, just as we have many charming places and even places “with character”. If you're lucky, you'll find sites with all three. When I hear “beauty, charm and character”, I can't help but think of my girlfriend. Our romantic sapphic love story sprouted in Brussels, with a very Bruxellois itinerary, starting at the Ancienne Belgique, with a pit stop at Le Coq, a bite at Le Lotus Bleu, and a kiss in front of the Manneken Pis. During our first date, we realized our most striking common denominator was our love for the Eurovision Song Contest, and even more specifically, our mutual passion for Ukrainian contestants like Ruslana with her “Wild Dances”, Jamala with “1944” and later on Go_A with “Shum”. There was no doubt at that point: we were made for each other.

Apart from that glittery kitsch queer socio-politically loaded celebration, what made us feel connected is our attachment to the city. As a kid, she lived next to where I used to go to school, and vice versa. As teens, we sat in large groups on the ground in Grote Markt/Grand-Place, drinking beers. We might have been sitting metres away from one another, we'll never know. As adults, we went to the same comedy shows (where she saw me perform and fell in love – but that's my version of the story). We shared other remarkable similarities about Brussels such as having a minimalistic outline of the small ring of Brussels if we'd ever get a tattoo, to enjoy strolling through the stunning Royal Greenhouses at Laken/Laeken and to spend hours at Flagey watching cute doggos.

In terms of differences, we found our way: for me, as a meat-lover, she'll take me to Le Colonel on my birthday for a juicy piece of wagyu. She, being a veggie-lover, I regularly take her to Lucifer Lives for vegan delights. Love is a compromise, right?

So, if you're looking for a recipe for a good love story, I'd say, forget Paris, London or New York. Brussels is where you need to be.

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