When I first encountered Schlomo Steel’s WordPress blog http://schlomosteel.com/ while researching what to wear and how to behave at a drag show I was enchanted. His voice snatches your attention and his perspective makes you think beyond your comfort zone bubble. It’s a stream of consciousness organized into examples, vignettes, and anecdotes that sweep you from beginning to end and leave you scrolling to the next blog post to learn more. Learn here is the operative word, because through his blog and subsequent interview I have learned a lot about drag queens, drag culture, and the gay community.
Honestly I was brave in reaching out to Schlomo, or so I felt, because the biting, sometimes caustic tone of his blog set my brain to “He’ll never respond to me”. The highlights of playful moments, however, encouraged me. I commented on a post in which he said that anyone can bee a drag queen and when he responded I opened a dialogue that lead to an interview schedule, that was rescheduled, but finally came to fruition this past Wednesday, April 15 via Skype. A face framed by a full mane of curly floppy hair, a bushy beard and mustache, and adorned with leopard print cat-eye shaped eyeglasses appeared on my screen and it was go time.
Schlomo lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan and goes by the drag name Miss Dig. She calls herself a “Clown for the Revolution” and stands for the freedom motto Schlomo adopted at the young age of ten years old “‘why don’t people just agree to disagree and shut the fuck up already?'” while at the same time advocating having fun! Miss Dig in Schlomo’s words is your “moody teenage daughter”, who is “the most interesting woman in the room”, and despises the fashion world though she’ll probably end up in it because she is “saturated by it”.
Like many of the drag queens I have had the pleasure of interviewing, Schlomo views drag as an art form and especially enjoys the makeup aspect. Makeup application is referred to as painting in the drag world and if you have ever watched an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Logo or read my previous blog posts you might already be familiar with the long application process that can take anywhere from 1-6 hours of work and artistry to achieve a precise look. For Schlomo to become Miss Dig it takes between 2-2 1/2 hours, but it is his favorite part of drag preparation and a chance to relax while creating the art of a face.
Once Miss Dig appears with her cleavage in place, Schlomo’s nipples duct taped in place (OUCH!), she is ready to lip sync in her old lady voice and jump around the stage at implausible heights in high high heels. She and Schlomo are drag queen superfans and drag culture’s number one cheerleaders.
Just like every queen has a roll of duct tape, every queen has an opinion on RuPaul and his show RuPaul’s Drag Race. Schlomo’s thoughtful angle is that while RuPaul is helping because he has done the most to shine a positive light on the drag community the fact that the show represents only the narrow definition of RuPaul and his best friend/show judge Michelle Visage hurts drag in the sense that it may not allow for inclusion of various forms of drag aside from fishy queens.
When asked about an especially memorable drag performance Schlomo told of a pinnacle performance that began with an excruciating migraine that could best be described as “shrieking full body pain”. Instead of opting out Miss Dig decided the show must go on. Schlomo says Miss Dig got on the stage to lip sync for her life. She belted out Marianne Faithful’s “Why’d Ya Do It?” and “turned how [he] felt into the performance of [a] lifetime”. He distinctly remembers being tipped some 20’s for that act, following it up by downing every last drop of Sprite in the house, and then returning to the stage to turn it out again. No one even suspected he was suffering! How’s that for WERKing through your pain?
Schlomo began doing drag at Rumors Night Club in Grand Rapids and characterizes the Michigan drag scene as one of a sisterhood rather than a cutthroat industry. He thinks this is the choice of his views, because he is not gunning for anyone’s job. He was loosely part of a drag house, but created Miss Dig independently making her “a self-made drag queen”. He has since moved from the area where he performed with this group and has not recently performed. He does have encouraging advice for drag queens starting out. “You will suck. You will fall. You will embarass yourself.You will face dangerous situations. Put on the paint. Strap on the wig. And make sure the only thing that is missing is being ashamed.” He says the only thing he takes seriously in this life is levity and humor. Drag and comedy have had a major impact on his life and he believes there might always be someone in the audience whose life could be touched by his performance. He does what he can do which is entertain and knows that entertainment is a staple of humanity that draws us together.
Drag sometimes seems like an expensive hobby in which the performers spend more money than they ever make, but Schlomo and Miss Dig leave all the queen-wanna-be’s with this impactful nugget of wisdom which can easily extend out to the masses. “Just keep swimming” , Fishies!