Misguided Tweet or What I Couldn’t Say in 140 Characters

Here is my open (hearted) letter to Pandora Boxx, one of my favorite drag queens, for a miscommunication that happened over Twitter.

Dear Ms. Boxx,

I have been researching, tweeting, and blogging drag queens for only the last 5 months and still have much to learn. My ignorance became glaringly clear after a tweeting exchange between us. I was so excited to finally have a queen I admire retweet and comment on something I tweeted only to find out I may have offended. So in that vein, here is my long winded apology.

I am verbose which can easily and quickly be seen by glancing at my blog. Of course I have yet to master the finer points of expressing myself on Twitter in only 140 characters. The day I tweeted you I had read this post on Facebook from the RuPaul’s Drag Race Family page:

“‘People in the Drag Race fandom who are coming for RuPaul and saying you don’t like Ru’s decisions, etc.. Need to calm the fuck down. Do you have any idea what she has done for this community, without Ru none of this wonderful world we enjoy on Monday nights would be possible. IT’S RU’S SHOW, NOT YOURS and tbh she can do what she likes, and you still watch regardless so calm down please and learn your herstory! So beat it queen if you bitching about Ru!’ -Anonymous.

What do you think about this, kitty girls?”

Then I saw all the posts on Facebook, like I do every week, about how viewers are mortified that a certain favorite went home and how they will never watch again (until they do, the next week). After that, like I do every week, I read your News and watched this week’s Drag Center video. You also asked what others thought and having just read the above quote and everyone swearing off the show for another week I misinterpreted that as a call to stir the masses who are already hyped up about this being a disappointing season of RuPaul’s Drag Race in which many deserving talented queens are going home too early. That is when I tweeted you ” dearest aren’t you just feeding the ? Ily!

And what I meant was, “Hey, Pandora I was wondering what you think about all this talk concerning the show this season.I definitely agree that many of the stand-out drag queens with the most original and unique ideas are dropping like flies and much too early. Many of my drag fan friends were livid that Trixie Mattel went home not once, but twice, and others were reeling that Max went home, too early. Now Katya is gone! I am disappointed I didn’t get to see more from these queens, too, but realize that in each case they were eliminated not by their entire body of work or the stamina of their creativity, but only on one challenge and a one song lip sync.Then ultimately only by one person, RuPaul herself”

But I couldn’t say all that in a tweet, because I haven’t yet learned to express myself sufficiently in 140 characters. That being said I absolutely agree with you that in the case of Katya, “ everyone is right. Katya brought a great fun attitude and I love her drag. She’s more interesting than anyone left.”

All this to say, i hope you will forgive me, my Queen! I am still a novice and never want to offend. I finally get a retweet from a drag queen I admire and this happens. I need to pay closer attention when Ru says, “Don’t f*ck it up!”

Sincerest regards,

EPH

P.S. You make the damn cutest unicorn out there!

UPDATE!!!!

The gracious and generous Ms. Pandora Boxx read and retweeted this post with the sweetest response:

Pandora Boxx retweeted Elaine Paliatsas-Hau

Oh doll, you never offended me! No worries!

Misunderstandings happen, but they are always easier when the parties involved are kind.

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The Straight Girl’s Guide to Drag Queens

Gurrrrl! Guess where we are going tonight? We are heading down into Old City Philadelphia to meet some boys dressed up as women! Drag Queens! It’s Saturday night (or Monday or Thursday) and you want to go to a club to dance off some of that stress! But you wish you could go without worrying about being hit on, groped, catcalled, or having something nasty dropped in your drink. The Philly gay club scene is the best place to do that. Look, you and I might be late to the party because my girlfriends have been hanging out at bars like Woody’s and iCandy for years, but here is our invitation now!

Now let’s get something straight before we go. Just because a man wears a dress as a performer does not mean he is transgender, transitioning from female to male, and that is the first thing drag queens want you to know. Drag comes from Shakespeare’s time when the guys played all the roles and when they played the women they were told , “Dress Resembling A Girl”. While there are some trans* performers, the majority are very happy as men, thank you very much, and view drag as a performance art that centers in heightened femininity as it is represented in our culture. If women in America are displaying full hairdos drag queens are piling on two wigs with extensions. Yes, the majority is also homosexual men, but the exceptions may surprise you. The local drag culture is inclusive of female drag queens referred to as faux queens and even straight men. Whatever their biological gender or sexual orientation these “girls” are characters and everything about them screams DRAMA (in the best way)! That’s how they like it and you will too.

 

Let’s Get Ready

You and I only have to pick out an outfit, do our hair and makeup, and off we go. Two hours tops, right? A drag queen will need at least two hours to paint her face on and that’s a standard makeup application. My “girls” Roxi Starr and Scarlett Bleu estimate between one and a half to three hours. While we are practicing perfecting an application of liquid eyeliner to resemble a cat eye without poking our eyeballs out these dames have already glued their eyebrows down with a glue stick, slathered on white clown makeup, and covered everything with foundation to create a blank canvas to begin their art. Schlomo Steel, a Michigan drag queen named Miss Dig, holds the art of painting on a face at the highest level of esteem and equates it with a type of meditation when he, a usually high energy restless individual, gets the opportunity to relax. Who needs yoga, right?

Queens are not born knowing how to paint their faces. Jarred Kyser, the aforementioned Scarlett Bleu, actually feared drag queens, much like many people fear clowns. “If they were on the sidewalk outside a club I would cross the street to avoid them,” he says. However, while perusing Netflix in the spring of 2013 he caught an episode of the now wildly popular RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality television drag competition show on the Logo channel. This lead to watching another episode, which lead to watching a whole season, which lead to binge watching the entirety of the series available up until that point. Jarred was hooked more than anything on creating a drag queen face and vowed to himself to bring this makeup art down to a science. His first attempt, in his own description, was awful. Being a tenacious spirit though he was determined to get it right and create the prettiest face imaginable. It took several months, but now Jarred transforms into Scarlett in a matter of two hours. While we were crying about our lashes sticking together with mascara these guys just turned into “girls”.

Next, as the queens say, it is time to create body-ody-ody. This step involves taking that straight up and down figure and sculpting it into the gay ol’ gal that will mount that stage. It all begins with the tuck. All the boy parts have got to “disappear” especially if these dollies are donning a leotard or bodysuit. This process may begin with cleanly shaving the genitals. There is no room for error here, so no depilatory creams.  Yeah, it ain’t pretty, but beauty hurts. Once everything is hair free and smooth the testes are tucked up into the inguinal canal, as I have been informed by Ray Miles, Jr., A.K.A Donna Ria, “where they came from”, and then the scrotum and penis are duct taped back into the buttox area between the legs. Yes, I said duct tape, but stay with me, girl. We are already through the rough parts. The alternative to tucking, and AMEN to an alternative, is a gaff which is a panty made of synthetic fabric incorporating spandex for stretch and security. Everything is held in place and you and I will never complain about lying on the bed to pull on a pair of Spanx over our hips again.

Speaking of hips these “ladies” need curves. The feminine shape is quite literally sculpted out of foam. Occasionally a queen might invest in hip or butt pads, but at $150 dollars that is an investment. Most will make the better investment of an electric turkey carving knife and foam from a local crafting store. One drag queen I spoke with was a poor college student when he started doing drag and made his hips out of the chair cushion of a broken desk chair. It is definitely a “do what you can with what you have where you are” kind of artistry.  At least three pairs of nylons or tights are pulled on one over the other for smooth legs and a sizeable derriere and hips and shoved down in there and adjusted.

You think she is done? Not by a long shot. Sit down and browse some Facebook, darling, because there is more. Strap on a corset or tummy shaper, two to three bras, falsies in the base bra, and a tank top shaper to keep everything in place and smooth. Then she can pull on her dress or other costume and her often very high heels. Never flats! Don’t even think about it. Plus, this probably will not be the only outfit she wears during this evening, so rest assured you will very likely see her or one of her sisters rolling a small suitcase behind her full of more couture.

It’s a Girl!

 Our little “girl” is all grown up and tucked in and she needs a name. No doubt if you have come across drag queen names you have wondered where they have come up with these creations of two word poetry. Each individual has her own naming story but there are some traditions as well. When a person wants to become a drag queen he or she will need a drag mother. The fairy-godmother-like drag mother leads the newby through a type of apprenticeship in which the fledgling queen learns techniques for face painting, body, and performance while the more experienced queen creates a house or legacy and earns a name for being someone who creates drag stars or drag flops. It depends on who you listen to. Girl, gossip is everywhere and we call it kiki.  Roxi Starr for instance became interested in drag after her then boyfriend suggested she would be good at it. She approached a drag queen she knew and admired was born out of the Haus of Starr of Arizona. Janee’ Starr is her drag mother who she received her last name from. Roxi was a female name she always liked.

In other instances queens have used creative methods to name themselves or be named. Ariel Versace adores the Disney princess with the same name from the animated film The Little Mermaid and chose the last name of a fashion designer she admires but says, she ‘…will never probably be able to afford”. Donna Ria’s christening happened at the hands of Mimi Imfurst during a 1950’s themed show in which Mimi named Donna off the cuff as part of an impromptu gag during the show. Scarlett Bleu kicked around monikers with her friends and originally liked Lola Stellanova, but abandoned that for her current name as she was inspired by the singer songwriter Pearl Black.

Some drag queens use party game rules such as create a name by using the name of your first pet and the street you lived on as a kid. Mine would be Goldie Dewey.

Other drag queens abandon conventions all together and choose flashy and memorable handles like Pearl, Miss Fame, or Jiggly Caliente. Still others stick with their boy names like RuPaul himself or Willam Belli and Max, both former contestants of Drag Race.

Sometimes names are dependent on drag style. If a drag queen chooses a creepy character she might choose a name like Sharon Needles or Annie Christ, two dark goth queens who play on the themes of horror movies and assimilate Mortician Addams style into their acts. Similarly campy comedy queens will choose a funny or cutesy name like Trixie Mattel that incorporates the name of a toy brand.

Show Time!

We are headed into the famous Philadelphia Gayborhood, located between 12th and 13th streets and Locust, which boasts one of the oldest gay bars in the United States, Venture Inn. There are many types of shows every night from drag variety to full scale musical productions performed in drag. Tonight we are coming out of the suburbs and into a land of garments and glitter.

If it is Monday night any one of the bars is hosting a RuPaul’s Drag Race Party. The show airs at 9 pm Eastern Standard Time and the viewing party begins. There are drink and appetizer specials as well as witty commentary from patrons and drag queen servers alike. You can join in or simply relax, knock back a few five dollar cocktails, and laugh your ass off. My favorite viewing party is at iCandy with Roxi Starr and Aloe Vera, a va-va-vavoom pair that have perfect comedic timing throwing shade both at each other and the RuPaul drag queens. There are other excellent shows hosted weekly at clubs like Tabu and Venture Inn.

Any other night of the week your choices are more varied. You might want to check out the ongoing Drag Wars Cycle which starts up again in a couple weeks at Voyeur. It is a local competition hosted by former RuPaul’s Drag Race competitor from season 3 Mimi Imfurst. Voyeur is Mimi’s home club and you will rarely see her perform elsewhere. Established drag queens are a little territorial like that, but the newer emerging queens can get bookings in many clubs. Mimi’s club is a large open space with a surrounding balcony overhead where sound technicians and DJ’s do their thing and two long bars flanking the right and back walls. This leaves a lot of room for switching up the staging area. You might prefer the cozy feel of a smaller bar. Venture Inn serves food until 10 pm and serves up Venture Variety with the adorable Billy Cavallo as your host. One Wednesday night we were treated to Mary D’Knight Philadelphia’s premiere Lady Gaga impersonator who has performed with the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Choir and is one of the host/organizers of the Code Red event, a drag show that raises funds to support HIV/AIDS research. In that same evening we were also entertained by the uproarious Bev the current first alternate in the Miss Comedy Queen pageant. And if you do really want to shake off the stress on the dance floor, iCandy revealed their new one, called THE ARENA, at their fourth anniversary party Saturday, April 18.

In some cases bookings in not-necessarily-gay clubs are available for drag queens such as at Bob & Barbara’s that holds the title for hosting the longest running weekly drag show. Promoters like Ray Miles, Jr. will schedule a drag queen for a one night performance and if she wows the audience she will hopefully be asked back to perform at a later time.

What you will see at a typical show is a series of three to five minute performances that include lip syncing to tracks created by mixing songs and spoken word. You will see people tipping performers by extending bills out toward them in a calm polite manner until they are accepted. I learned how to do this via Schlomo Steel’s blog which covers everything about drag-itequette. As he writes, “Don’t make a drag queen work for the tip. She’s already working for it”. Keep in mind all that preparation she did and rehearsal, not forgetting the tucking. Also, you will see people having fun, cheering for their favorite queens, and generally being good spirited. Most of my “girls” inform me they have not seen a fist fight at a drag show which is automatically a point in favor of gay clubs over straight clubs for those of us who prefer our drinks do not get spilled on us.

Another thing you will see at shows are the drag queens mingling with the crowd prior to the show. As I learned from a prerecorded Q&A with Ariel Versace, many drag queens get ready at home first and then arrive at the club fully dressed or at least with body on. At Thursday night’s Cash for Queens competition the queens were especially fishy, that means pretty. Iris Spectre, who I met at Venture Inn, was wearing a long sleeve head to toe gown of ombre sequins and a matching feather head dress. She was captivating in that ensemble and even moreso during her performance as Cat Woman which included lip syncing and dancing to dance, pop, hip-hop and rap music, and clips from the Batman movies.

A more atypical show is a musical production. On my first visit to the Gayborhood, I was in the audience of a drag version of “Into the Woods”, a musical that was recently released as a movie. Voyeur’s cast lip synced to the well known show cast that featured Bernadette Peters as the Witch. In the drag show version, Mimi Imfurst took on Bernadette Peters’ role and at the end of Act One transformed from a scraggly faceless creature to a sparkling goddess in green thanks to the help of the well-known drag queen and sartorial talent Cleo Phatra. She is Mimi Imfurst’s best friend and seamstress. Mimi is clad in all kinds of Cleo creations. For the evening gown portion of the Miss Comedy Queen Pageant she recently donned a full-body Miss Piggy costume with animatronic capabilities so Piggy’s mouth moved when Mimi spoke. The shows are the over-the-top spectacles they are planned to be. Every show will surprise you whether it be with elaborate costuming, hilarious unexpected comedic timing, or the ending dance move queens call a death drop in which they throw themselves bodily to the stage at the end of a number. This late night, even in the middle of the week, is well worth that fourth cup of coffee the next morning.

After Party

The best part about drag queens is their interaction with the audience before, during, and especially after the show. As long as you ask politely and do not grab at them, they will always pose with you for a selfie to post on social media. You definitely need to do that to make your friends jealous and get them out to the clubs. Some queens stay once the show is over and the dance floor opens up to dance with the crowd. Even the internationally famous drag queens like Bianca Del Rio, Sharon Needles, and Pandora Boxx who are currently touring the world in many live spin-off shows connected to Drag Race are all over Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook posing with fans around the world.

As many drag queens have accounts on these sites they also directly respond to fans’ comments and questions.  Often on Twitter you can see drag queens retweeting fan comments, fan art, and fan photos along with their own promotions of show dates, record releases, and online Drag Race recaps.

I do not know if I just happened to fall into a lucky batch of queens, but every one was generous and sincere about her craft and sharing anything about it. There is a kindness that comes from seeing fans accept and admire the work and a joy of celebration in the work itself that permeates through the audience. Drag queens don’t know a stranger because everyone they meet is a friend. In the end, isn’t that what we want in a man anyway? Girl, these “girls” make me a better woman.

Looking: Wigs, Wigs, Wigs

Drag queens wear wigs! Well, when they perform, most of the time they do. I have seen a few queens all pained without wigs on, but that is a different icon from a queen aiming to look as womanly as possible. Since wigs are the crown jewel of the queen’s outfit I went to a salon store to check some out with a hairdresser friend.

We entered Not Just Wigs a salon store in the Berlin Farmers Market and are greeted by hundreds of foam heads topped with varying lengths, colors, and styles of wigs. The shelves from the floor to about 2/3 the way up all three surrounding walls are stocked with hairpieces, hair accessories, and hair products. Above that all around the perimeter of the store/stall are two shelves that run parallel to each other one above the other. Here is where all these heads from white faceless foam to darker brown with eyes, lips, and noses. Stare down at us. I am so mesmerized by the selection and the way it is displayed I absently roll behind my friend who bee-lines it to a glass counter where a worker is stationed. She asks to see two types of wigs and only after the store clerk goes to get them do I ask her what we are going to look at.

“There are basically two types of wigs,” she says, “Real hair and synthetic. The real hair is usually human, but some are made of animal hair  and synthetic is the fake stuff.”

She goes on to say she doesn’t use animal hair wigs, because she is never knows if the goats they get it from are treated humanely. I start to imagine a billy goat with a head of long red curls and giggle to myself. I shake off the thought as the clerk brings the two wigs to the counter.

My friend takes them both and turns them inside out. “The other thing about wigs is how they’re made.” She is showing me the inside of a blonde bob. I quickly scan the shelves to locate the bald head where it came from, but she calls my attention to how the construction of the wig before us. “This one is a lace-front cap. Every single hair is hand-tied in place, so it looks real, moves more like real hair, and looks like is grew out of your head.”

I exam the delicate sheer fabric and imagine how long it must have taken to tie each hair in place by hand. Then I spy the price tag attached inside and realize all that work is reflected in the price: $289! I mention the price to my friend who is checking out the other wig. She informs me that is actually on the low end as she has seen real hair monofilament (one strand tied at a time) hand-tied wigs go for anywhere from $650-$2000. Drag queens are not kidding at all when they talk of how expensive a quality wardrobe, including high quality wigs (yes often more than three), can be. I put the blonde bob right side out and back on the counter. I get a little nervous considering I haven’t washed my hands and have been touching the tires of my wheelchair.

The next wig we look at is a much longer, dark brown, curly one. My friend has it inside out too. This is what is called a basic wig. Instead of the lace on the inside there is a cap made like a lattice work and wefts, or long reams, of hair are sewn into the cap. wefts are what people often think of when they imagine hair extensions. These basic wigs can be made of human or animal hair, but the one before us is synthetic and therefore costs a lot less than the others. It’s still too pricey at $69.99 for me though.

My friend has to leave to go to work, so we thank the young woman who helped us and let her know we are done looking at the wigs. On the car ride home I ask about taking care of these expensive creations. I guess right when I think I probably could not throw one of these wigs into a plastic bag and hang it on a nail until I am ready to use it again like the cheap wig I picked up at a party store for Halloween decades ago.

“Synthetic wigs are easier to take care of then real wigs, but after a while you get a routine going for either one,” she begins, “With the real hair you have to comb them gently to get any knots out first literally with a fine tooth comb. Then you wash it like you would your own hair with shampoo, but you have to be sure not to get the cap wet. Once you rinse that out you condition it and rinse again. Real hair can be blow dried, but not synthetic. Synthetic hair will melt or shrivel up in heat. No curling irons, straighteners, or hair dryers for fake hair.”

Synthetic hair has to be replaced on its stand a foam or plastic head to dry. Luckily, because it isn’t human or  animal hair it won’t absorb the water and will dry quickly. There isn’t as much versatility in styling a synthetic wig contrasted against a real hair wig, but they can still look very good and natural especially on stage.

As my friend leaves me at home and drives off, I think about my mild obsession with wigs. I would like to go back to the store some time and try a few on. A wig can really bring out a persona, which is why queens use them.  Between the cost and the care though, I don’t think I will be rolling out of the store with a new persona anytime soon.

Sissy That Walk AND That Talk

Every profession has it’s own jargon. If you want to be “in” you have got to learn the jargon. You can look up RuPaul’s Drag Race Dictionary when you have some extra time to study. You know between the three hours it’s going to take you to apply makeup and the twenty hours to build a fine wardrobe. OR you can take my crash course and brush up on the details as you go.

First, no matter how campy (over-the-top funny) a drag queen is, she also wants to be fishy (pretty). She wants to look like a convincing woman especially if she is a pageant queen. And to come clean, fishy does refer to, in vernacular speech, that odor associated with unclean female parts. I don’t mean to air anyone’s dirty laundry I just highly respect etymology (the study of the origin words). The best way for any “girl’ to achieve such a look is to beat, or apply the perfect amount of makeup to achieve the perfect look. But beating can be so subjective, can’t it?

Next the bitch (used in an endearing empowering way, like the word sister) needs to create that body-ody-ody (we are referring to a plentitude of curves here). Hopefully, she has a drag mother (experienced queen) who showed her how to put it all together. Once she has it all in place she’s ready to WERK (perform)!

When she gets up there and starts her act she has got to be fierce (powerful, intense, beautiful, and talented). Her job is to captivate the audience and illicit hollers and dollaz (tips). If she does, this is for the gods (perfect) and everyone else will gag (react in shock positively).If she does not pull this off she might be a booger (ugly queen). But don’t you ever dare say her drag is busted (not very good or convincing). I mean, you don’t know her like that. And if you do say something be prepared to be read (get a tongue-lashing or be told off).

Stick to this beginner’s lexicon and your initial entrance into the drag world will go as smoothly as a novice can possibly expect. Don’t forget! Lawd have fun, BOOTS (an exclamatory interjection to show emotion)!

Fieldnotes: Voyeur Nightclub

Voyeur Nightclub is located at 1221 St. James Street Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. St. James Street is a narrow cobblestone road flanked by narrow uneven Old City sidewalks. Both Voyeur’s “front” and “back” entrances face the street. The first is a single door with three steps up that leads into a hall like entrance with a half-wall (from the floor up to about 4 feet). This creates a place for customers to enter in an orderly line which snakes around at the end of the 15 foot hall, where the half-wall ends. A desk runs parallel to that hall and then also snakes around to a six foot long three foot wide ramp. Cover fees are collected at the desk and light sensitive stamps are applied to entrants’ wrists. Carpet, walls, and desk are all painted black. At the bottom of the short narrow ramp is the second entrance which is double doors. There are three short steep steps in from the street to a ten foot by twelve foot foyer type area. Through a doorless entranceway is the main area of the club. The main spaces changes depending on the event for the evening. during the “Cash for Queens” competition the stage is to the left upon entering. It is a “T” shape with the bottom half used much like a runway during performances. To the right is a long bar. A few feet in is a support beam about three feet from the bar. The space looks like a rehabbed industrial throwback. Everything in here is black as well. Straight ahead along the back wall is another bar up two short in height steps that span the length of the bar. The bar extends back about 20 feet. There are no stools at either of the bars. To the left of the second bar, divided by a wall is a small unisex bathroom with a door about 2 feet wide. Inside is a urinal, a stall and a sink. you can touch any of the three form the center of the very small space. Not that I would touch any since my wheelchair does not fit through the door. Along the last wall to the left is a step up to a seating area. The space has a series of booths along the back wall that create one long booth. At the far left when facing this wall there is a six foot long railing. Tonight in front of the “T” shaped stage is one table, made up of two smaller round tables, at the foot of the stage. There are two tables to the left of the stage and three to the right. In an arch shape behind the middle table are fifteen chairs. The curtain made from individual long pieces of fabric is alternating red and black. Above the stage curtain is a balcony like area where the DJ and his equipment are housed. Large speakers hang on the wall facing down over the clientele on either side. The whole space is framed by a balcony area and the drag queens prepare and change upstairs. They enter and exit the stage from a black curtained door stage right between the stage itself and the area with the booths and railing.

Reflections: Interview with Schlomo Steel

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.

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The original and unapologetic Schlomo Steel

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.

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Miss Dig confessing her alter ego is the songstress Sia.

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!

Preparing for my Interview with Schlomo Steel

At the start of this class, soon after I chose my topic, I wondered where to I might go next. Once I had written blog posts proposing the topic of drag queens and drag culture and why I wanted to research them I wrote about going to a show. Since I had never attended a show I wanted to know proper etiquette. Like many a novice researcher I used Googled. I typed “What to ear to a drag show” into the omniscient search engine and it brought me back here to wordpress and Schlomo Steel’s page.

I hit upon just what I needed with Schlomo’s blog post So You’re Going to Your First Drag Show! Everything from the initial heads up,”Don’t be scared. The point is to have fun.” to how to behave, tipping and woohoo’ing are encouraged, everything I needed to know was there is a Roman numeral organized outline. Did I mention it was FUNNY! Not only did I laugh that first time I read it or subsequent times that I have referred back to it, but even now as I research for this post I’m rereading lines and guffawing.

Schlomo is a writer of many things drag and many more things LGBTQ. He is unapologetic and steadfast and clear  about his view and beliefs concerning being a gay man in the Midwestern portion of America. Through reading some of his other blog posts, following his Twitter and Facebook accounts I have garnered this information. there are some photos of Schlomo in drag in these social media sites, but our interview will reveal further his/her role in the drag world whether as a performer or not as well as a writer.

One particular question I have asked in my interviews thus far was inspired my Schlomo’s posts. I have noticed within the writing the use of zhe a gender-neutral pronoun, like hir and s/he that, is used in place of traditional gender-specific pronouns. I have received different answers from my various interviewees on the use of this pronoun. One queen uses she interchangeably whether another queen is in drag or not. A second queen used the common rule of in drag we use she out of drag we use he. I am interested in Schlomo’s preference and thoughts on this particular topic since the pronoun appears in some posts, but not in others.

I am also interested in Schlomo’s views on the drag scene from a writer’s perspective. I have only been researching this topic for a few months, while I surmise he is somewhat of an expert. I wonder about the insight he will be able to provide.  I know that writing from the outside in is different from writing from the inside out. I am hoping we meet somewhere in the middle.