An Extreme Queen

The Queen’s Court was lucky to get a Q&A from an up and coming Philly queen doing her darndest to get noticed by standing out. If you follow Alana Xtreme on social media you will instantly learn two things. First, she loves her eyeliner (see: drag name, get it?). Second, you will know you are following a confident drag queen focused on her craft and always improving it. She takes even her bad days and uses them to make her drag better. This is what is so endearing about Alana. This is what makes you cheer for her. She puts out her best self, while continuing working on getting better at her makeup application, presentation, and performance. Follow this queen to see what governing one’s own self looks like.
TQC: How were you named?
AE: My drag character name is Alana Xtreme and I was named by having too much eyeliner (Aylana) but prefer to spell it as Alana and Xtreme. I got it from XtremeTube! lol
TQC: What is your drag story or how did you get into drag?
AE: I got into drag with the encouragement of friends, in which they told me I’d make a pretty (looking fish). 🙂
TQC: Describe your drag character in 15 words or less.
AE: My drag character is wild, funny, down to earth and fun. She’s Xtreme!
TQC: Tell me about your best drag experience.
AE: My best drag experience is when I performed on Cash for Queens at Voyeur when Trixie Mattel was there.
TQC: Where do you perform most often?
AE: I mostly perform at Voyeur and Tabu.
TQC: Is drag your main source of income and if not what is your other job?
AE: No, my drag is not the source of my income. I’m a certified massage therapist and have done retail and customer service jobs.
TQC: What has been your worst or most embarrassing drag moment?
AE: My worst most embarrassing drag moment was when I was in Drag Wars Cycle 5 and was told that my I Love Lucy performance was the worst performance in Drag Wars history. (TQC: OUCH!)
TQC: Do you have a drag mother, mentor, or queen you look up to? If so what would you like to say to her?
AE:  I do have a drag mother. I would love to say to her, “Thanks for helping me in becoming a better drag queen and helping me to improve my drag. Thanks for seeing something in me.”
TQC: What makes your drag different or unique from other queens?
AE:  I guess my drag is unique because it has versatility. I can do comedy, dancing numbers, perverted numbers, anything I feel like will grab attention. 
TQC: What do you hope for your drag career in the future?
AE: I would hope that my drag career for the future to become the best of the best, become more known in the drag scene, and show lots of improvements and win titles. I think it’s time for me to win something.
LIGHTNING ROUND
(Answer with the first thought that comes to mind!) 
TQC: What do you enjoy outside of drag?
AE: What I enjoy outside of drag is going out with friends, going to different places, going to the beach, amusement parks, being with the people I love, having movie nights, shopping, and video games.
 
TQC: What is your favorite makeup item?
AE:   My favorite makeup item is the liquid eyeliner. (TQC: Of course!)
 
TQC: Use one word to describe your style.
AE: Flawless 
TQC: What was your worst wardrobe malfunction?
AE: My worst wardrobe malfunction was getting stuck on showing an outfit reveal.
TQC: Who is your best friend?
AE: My best friend is the mirror! lol
Well, we are hoping to see more of you Alana Xtreme!

Herstory 101: Hollywood Can Be A Drag by Scarlett Bleu

Shock your friends!  Surprise your enemies!  Win a round of trivia!  Herstory 101 is back in session!

Welcome back my fellow queens and queen enthusiasts!  I hope you’re ready to read all about another figure from herstory who laid the groundwork to make the art of drag what it is today!

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, I would like to make a slight correction to my article about Julie D’ Aubigny.  In my last article, I stated Julie was from the 15th century when I had intended to say she was from the 17th century.  Blame it on my poor math skills, Autocorrect, or blame it on the A-A-A-A-Alcohol, but it happened.  I hope you forgive me…

Oh you do?  Great.  Let’s move on.

Today we will be journeying back to the good ol’ U.S. of A. and discussing an actor and female impersonator from young Hollywood.  He was given the title of “ambisextrous” (watch that be RuPaul’s next catch phrase), and he supplied what may be my favorite quote of all time; “I’m not gay, I just like pearls.”  He was known as Julian Eltinge.

Mr. Julian Eltinge

Like every good female impersonator, no one knows exactly when Julian was born.  He claimed his birthdate was May 14, 1883, but a birth certificate was found in Massachusetts with his given name, William J. Dalton, stating he was born two years earlier, in 1981.  Additionally, there are multiple stories as to how young William got started in female impersonation, but they all agree that he was a fabulous cakewalker (it’s a sort of dance style.  Google it!), he trained in dance with Mrs. Lilla Viles Wyman, and he had adapted the stage name Julian Eltinge by his stage debut at 9 years old.

In 1900, Eltinge was invited to perform a small part in Miladi and The Musketeer, a show put on by Cadet Theatricals, a group of amateur male actors who acted in both the male and female parts of a play. Mrs. Wyman recommended him to the director of the Cadets, and Eltinge impressed the theatrical group so much with his work ethic that the show they produced the following year, Miss Simplicity, was supposedly written especially to showcase Julian’s talents, though he was not an official member.

The Fascinating Widow

His fame continued to grow with his talents, and in 1904 he was selected to star in a show in New York City, Mr. Wix of Wickham.  While the show itself failed to impress (lasting a little over 40 performances), critics were quite taken with Eltinge’s talents, writing such remarks as, “If a man ever succeeded in lifting and almost totally obliterating the stigma which… attaches to this work, Eltinge has.”  The following year, Eltinge joined the vaudeville circuit.  Audiences were fascinated by his stunning costumes as well as his remarkable poise and grace.  By 1910, at just 19 years of age, Julian Eltinge had reached the pinnacle of the Vaudeville circuit and made his transition into more traditional theater.

He began performing in The Fascinating Widow, a play that made its way up to Broadway’s Liberty Theater in 1911.  His role in this play is argued to be his greatest success on stage.  While The Fascinating Widow also had a very short run in New York, Eltinge himself still continued to grow in fame, becoming such a nationwide household name that a Broadway theater was constructed and named after him in 1912, though Eltinge never actually performed in this theater.

By this time, Eltinge had become a master at dealing with the press and promoting himself.  He sold a self-titled magazine at his performances, providing beauty and fashion tips to women, and included a glimmer of the drag wit we know and love from today’s queens.  “See what the Julian Eltinge Cold Creame does for a man. Imagine what it will do for a woman,” declared one of the ads for his cosmetics line. Marketing genius!

Master Marketer

Eltinge made sure to loudly express his unhappiness at performing as a woman.  He made sure to be seen boxing, smoking cigars, and anything else to separate himself from an image of effeminacy. There were also several engagements to women that were always broken off.  He claimed the only reason he continued to perform as a female impersonator was for the money.  Despite his adamant claims otherwise, rumors of his homosexuality still bubbled up.

1918 and 1919 saw Eltinge’s return to the Vaudeville circuit with several Hollywood silent film credits under his corset.  He had become one of the highest paid Hollywood actors and even owned one of the most lavish villas in Hollywood, which he moved into with his mother.

However, in the early 1920’s, gay speakeasies cropped up in New York City, and early forms of drag began to appear alongside them. Suddenly, Eltinge’s style of female impersonation began to look old-fashioned and outdated.  He began to drink heavily, and was even caught smuggling in liquor from Canada in 1923, which marked the beginning of his decline.

His first and only sound film was ultimately his last film that he would star in.  Released in 1931, Maid To Order only brought to light that Eltinge had lost his touch.  His weight gain was obvious, and rumors of his alcoholism grew.  While he tried to revive his career through the rest of the 1930’s, local laws prohibited men from wearing women’s clothing, and he was forced to perform in dingy nightclubs in a tuxedo, pointing to a rack in the corner, which held the dresses he used to wear.

On May 7th, 1941, just one week shy of his 60th birthday, Julian Eltinge passed away.  True to his shrouded life, there is much speculation as to his actual cause of demise. Some speculated suicide, others kidney disease, while his death certificate listed a cerebral hemorrhage as the cause.

What of the theater named after Eltinge?  When the Great Depression struck, it became a burlesque theater (Vaudeville’s sultry sister), and then eventually was converted to a movie theater in 1942. It was renamed The Empire Theater in 1954.  In 1998, the building itself was actually picked up and moved 170 feet to the west, and was purchased by AMC to become the AMC Empire Theater on 42nd street, which still stands today.  The façade of the original theater remains mostly unchanged, and the lobby of the theater is actually the Eltinge Theater’s auditorium. Visitors can still see a mural of Julian Eltinge located directly above the box office.

The original Eltinge Theater 42nd Street New York City

The theater as it appears today

So why does a fallen Hollywood star, whose name has faded from our culture’s memory, matter to us today?  First off, his career gives us hope that today’s modern drag queens can be just as celebrated in our culture today as his once was. With shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race putting female impersonation back into the eye of the public, that brand of wide-spread acceptance may be near.  Secondly, his career provides a cautionary tale on many levels, namely that one should never stop evolving with their craft lest they be left behind. Third, and this is a sentiment I have always tried to live by myself, his career, and life in general, tell us to always be grateful for what we have and where we come from. Too often drag performers, myself included, get caught up in the applause of a crowd and begin to take the limelight for granted.  Remembering to stay grounded and grateful for all our opportunities not only provides an endearing sense of humbleness, but also prevents a sudden career decline.

That being said, Julian Eltinge won the hearts of Americans with his poise, grace, and remarkable transformation skills.  His career, while a cautionary tale in many ways, should encourage drag performers and their supporters to continue to showcase the art of drag back into the minds and hearts of the world at large.

And always remember: the higher your heels and hair, the taller your pedestal will seem.

To find out more about Julian Eltinge, or to just see if I got it all right, check out my sources here:

http://www.thejulianeltingeproject.com/bio.html

http://scaa.sk.ca/gallery/genderimpersonators/eltinge/E_intro.htm

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/255

PHOTO CREDIT: Garrett Matthew

Scarlett Bleu enjoys writing blogs and binge watching YouTube videos in her spare time. She frequently polishes her Miss Venture Inn 2013 crown, and often asks the question, “Whatever happened to Baby Scarlett?” while staring meaningfully out a window.  Regardless, she has learned to love herself, and feels that is enough.

Straight Outta Long Island

“You’ve got to have balls to be a drag queen!” jokes Eric Torres during our Skype interview.

Technically, no. Figuratively, YES!

Eric, a Philly transplant from New York City, and his girlfriend Lindsay Barnett, agreed to talk with me about his involvement in drag performance as a straight man. Spit take? Double take? You read that right. Eric, a special effects makeup expert who has worked on such films as, “Resident Evil III” and Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”, jumpstarted his drag life after playing in a New York City theater production of “Rocky Horror Picture Show”. He created the role of Frank N Furter for two years, which in turn created his original drag queen character, simply called Erica. And before you start your doubting I made sure to ask the hard hitting question about sexual orientation.

TQC: So Eric, When did you know you were straight?

Eric: When I saw “Batman Returns”. Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman gave me the first boner I ever remember having.

We’ve got that out of the way and can continue the narrative of his venture into drag in New York.
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Sadly, his first attempt fizzled. It was not loss of interest or lack of dedication on his part, but an unwelcoming atmosphere that made his drag career go flat. The queens he was in with were not sweet on a straight man in their midst. There was an exclusive this-is-our-thing mentality that kept him from claiming the stage. This entertainment community is populated mostly with homosexual men. While this is true there are many outliers as well: faux queens, trans* queens, and at least one straight drag queen in Philly, Eric himself.

Eric sees the scene as an opportunity to express his theatrical side and employee his talents with makeup. So when he moved down from New York City to Philadelphia to help care for his brothers while his mom was ill, he realized there is a flourishing and evolving drag culture teeming within the Gayborhood.He began attending shows and testing the waters by showing up in drag. He still kept it separate from his dating life though. It was not a case of ever doubting his own sexuality or feeling uncomfortable in his own drag, if you will. In fact, he knew when the absolute right woman came along she would not mind and even be excited that he was a girl, sometimes.
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That woman is 27 year old Lindsey. She is a doe-eyed ballroom dance instructor who Eric thought was super cute on OKCupid. He did worry, however, that she might wonder if he was gay, because of his choice of hobby. Luckily, they both were raised in accepting inclusive families with LGBT members. At first drag culture friends of Eric’s did not quite get Eric and Lindsey’s relationship.

“This is my girlfriend,” Eric might say.

“You mean your girl friend?” another queen might ask.

“No my girlfriend.”

“Oh, you’re straight?”

But that’s where the conversation ends. Eric’s heterosexuality has never been a sticking point of contention for him here in Philadelphia. Overall, it seems that not only do the queens of the Gayborhood appreciate all walks of life in the audience, we are all invited to share the spotlight on stage. Well, as much as drag queens are willing to share the spotlight that is.So now Lindsey and Eric attend shows together and she is his “drag husband”! There’s a turn of events for you!
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When Eric becomes his drag persona though, is the most interesting thing about her that her boy-self is straight? Not by a long shot. Annie Christ, born out of Eric’s love of gothic themes, horror movies, and bands such as NIN is a dark diva with wicked sense of humor. She takes about two hours of makeup application to conjure up and will be strutting her stuff for the next few weeks on Team Bev during Drag Wars Cycle 6 at Voyeur Nightclub hosted by Mimi Imfurst. This broad can rock out to Taylor Swift just as easily as to Marilyn Manson and has some magic up her skirt you are going to want to watch for.

Herstory 101: That Girl Can Slay! by Scarlett Bleu

Settle in my fellow queens and queen enthusiasts; it’s time to learn your drag herstory!  That’s right, dolls! We are going to learn all about those lovely people who laid out the groundwork and made drag what it is today.

We are going to define “drag” as, “a person of one biological sex wearing the clothing of the opposite sex for entertainment or enjoyment purposes.” We are not excluding anyone, but if we started writing about any person who has ever put on the clothes of a different sex, we would go on about every football player who ever dressed up like a cheerleader for a laugh. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

So whom in the world do we talk about?  Do we start with RuPaul, who is credited for bringing drag into the mainstream spotlight?  What about the drag queen who supposedly started the Stonewall Riots that ignited the LGBT Civil Rights movement?  According to several online sources, the variety of drag that we have come to know and love today did not exist until the 1950’s or 60’s. Should we ignore that it was normal for men to play female roles on the Elizabethan Stage for a significant period in time, starting in 1660?

Time was taken to carefully consider each of these questions.  And then I remembered this is my article, and I can write about whomever I wanted!  So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to an inspiration for my personal life as well as my drag persona:

Ms. Julie d’Aubigny

Yes, that’s right.  I’m not even going to start with a QUEEN.  I’m going to talk about a drag KING!  Take THAT, patriarchy!

This lovely lady lived in France from 1670 to roughly 1707.  She was not only proudly bisexual, but she often wore men’s clothing whenever the mood struck her. Oh, and she was kick-ass.

She often made money while demonstrating her fencing talents in the streets of Paris while wearing men’s clothing.  According to several accounts, when a particularly intoxicated man doubted she was actually a female, she simply ripped open her shirt to prove it.  Clearly, she was comfortable with her own body, and played a convincing male as well.  Julie-D’Aubigny

You may be wondering if wearing men’s clothing was the norm for Julie, especially since it was pretty difficult to wield a sword in the corsetry, hoop skirts, and elaborate powdered wigs of the day.  While she did often wear men’s garments for comfort and the occasional disguise, she was no stranger to feminine garb. Most notably, she wore a nun’s habit during her short stint in a convent.

Yes, before she had even left her teenage years, our sword-slinging heroine had fallen in love with a young girl who was sent away to a convent when their relationship was discovered.  So d’Aubigny joined the convent herself, until eventually the convent burned down, (conveniently) giving the two lovebirds a chance to run away together… for about three months.  d’Aubigny then left the girl with her parents and took off for Paris.XT772_HistoryBoys_image_FinalPRINT

Another story says that while wearing men’s clothing, she accidentally walked into a young nobleman, Comte d’Albert, who then challenged her to a duel, not realizing she was a female.  She won the duel by running through his shoulder with her sword.  She later visited him in the hospital and it is rumored that the two began a passionate romance. At the very least they became good friends.  She was clearly very forgiving.

Other versions of this encounter say that she did not accidentally bump into d’Albert on the streets, but rather he accosted her after one of her shows, throwing vulgar insults at her that loosely translated into “I’ve listened to your chirping, now display your plumage.”

Have I forgotten to mention that Julie d’Aubigny was not only a master swordswoman, but also an opera singer?  Not only was this amazing woman able to stand up for herself and hold a remarkable sense of dignity and self-worth for a woman in this time period, but she was also the 15th-century equivalent of a rock star. Picture Beyoncé getting into sword fights.

I know, right?

There was also the time that she dressed as a gentleman and snuck into a ball in the royal palace, winning the attention of a beautiful young female.  When the lady’s three suitors discovered Julie and the maiden kissing, Julie was challenged to another duel, which she accepted.  She fought all three of them outside of the royal palace and beat them all.  Some say she even killed all three men.

Because of her celebrity status, and because she had gotten into trouble with the law before, she had to leave town until things quieted down.  She was, however, pardoned by the king for breaking the anti-dueling laws of the time.

As mentioned, drag as we know it didn’t come about until about the 1950’s.  So why does a bisexual, crossdressing, French opera star from the late 15th century matter to us now?

She matters because this is proof that wearing the garments of another sex is not exclusive to today’s modern times, nor is it a shameful act.  Drag is a very personal mode of self-expression and artistic identity.  While Julie d’Aubigny may not have had a direct influence on the art form, she serves as an example of someone who unapologetically lived her life the way she wanted, no matter who or what stood in her way. Whether she dressed for comfort during sword demonstrations, or to disguise herself to slip unrecognized into royal balls or down the street, she carried herself with the confidence every drag performer ought to embody when they present themselves to the world.  It’s exactly what RuPaul always preaches, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Perhaps we ought to stick to using our sharp wit rather than burning down convents, though: just a suggestion.

For more information regarding Julie d’Aubigny, or to just make sure I got it all right, check her out on http://www.rejectedprincesses.com/princesses/julie-daubigny .

11030793_784740051611047_1143283186634995044_nScarlett Bleu, a Connecticut native, began her drag career performing in Philadelphia. The former Miss Venture Inn 2013 enjoys sharing her drag knowledge with willing and unwilling audiences alike, long walks on the beach, and lace front wigs. She has learned to love herself, and feels that is enough.

Traveling Queen

You know I love me some queens, but it is difficult to get into the city if you are me. ICYMI I’m a woman who uses a wheelchair for my main form of mobility and those descriptors combined are liabilities for traveling alone. I have hoodwinked my friends to give me rides to the clubs. They loved every minute of it, but jobs, sleep, blah, blah, blah. If only Erik Koral lived on this coast, not in Los Angeles, and had launched his www.drivingisadrag.com Lyft idea out here! I’d be set , because in the end it is all about me, right?

Alas, Erik, known in drag as Erika Simone, was between jobs after leaving a digital marketing position and needed to pay his bills (get the money, hunty!). He delved into the make-your-own-hours app world of Lyft, a car service much like Uber in which drivers connect with passengers who need a ride via text message. At the same time Eric was also experimenting with trying on his drag persona. Viola! @drivingisadrag was born!

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Erica Simone and @venusdlite

Others have begun building their businesses on the Lyft platform, too, but none as glamorous as http://www.drivingisadrag.com . There is a @DISCOlyft car whose Twitter profile boasts being “the pioneer of the #LyftCreative movement”. There are also @hihoplyft, @MomLyft, and @drawlyft, among others. Those sound fun, but imagine the surprise of passengers that see Erik’s photo on their Lyft app image only to be greeted by Erika. Plenty of customers have walked right by the car not realizing their ride had arrived, because they are looking for someone that looks like a male driver. In those cases Erika Simone leaps out of her driver’s seat, leans against her car in her sky high boots, and yellow taxi driver get up and asks, “Need a ride, honey?”. The reaction usually goes: shock (People have been known to drop shopping bags), awkwardness (lots of nervous giggling), and acceptance (We still need a ride after all). Everyone fills the car, has a good laugh, gets a few selfies, and sometimes gets posted on Erika Simone’s Twitter feed. Genius, right?

All kidding aside, Erik is aware of the safety issues in driving in drag. He was scared the first week out, but took appropriate precautions to ensure his own safety by choosing neighborhoods he felt were safe and only driving from 2 pm to 10 pm. He has not had any problems as of yet and finds his biggest fans are straight girls. He is sharply aware of how unfair the facts are that he needs to take these things into consideration, but that is the whole point of his business.

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The gangs all here and ready to go!

Of course, neither Erik nor Erika are satisfied with one Lyft cab. Erik is an entrepreneur, not a performer (perhaps the only one in L.A.), and wants to expand his business. If you do see Erika Simone in a drag club she will likely be hobnobbing with the likes of Morgan McMichaels about safe rides for people of the LGBT community and not heading on stage to rock it out. The big vision is @drivingisadrag in every city. Erik and his alter ego hope to join forces with groups like The Trevor Project, “a hotline for gay and questioning youth”, and GLAAD to gain visibility and assist in creating a safe form of transport within the LGBT community, which can also extend out to anyone. The pinnacle of this business would include the ultimate party bus in every major city in the United States and a non-profit to help those in need of a ride, such as people traveling alone or hospital patients with no family support.

I sure do hope so, because summer is coming and the sooner @drivingisadrag gets to the Philadelphia area, the better. Because this girl is a big fan of drag queens, but not such a big fan of the speedline.

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.

Preparing for my interview with Ray Miles, Jr./Donna Ria

As you read in my Research Proposal I knew of Ray without knowing I knew a drag queen. Ray is a regular at my dad’s diner and serendipitously our paths crossed in the Into the Woods Drag Show invitation on Facebook. I was finally making the plunge to see a drag show and he was the promoter for the event. After some back and forth on there I finally thought I might meet him at the show, but the frigid night I went he was not there.

We became friends via our personal pages on Facebook and he loved my blog post/review/narrative of my experience at Into the Woods. We spoke through Facebook Messenger a few times regarding getting an interview, but nothing seemed to work out. I noticed he was struggling at his job as a server and wanting to get out bad! He is a professionally trained chef who worked in Disney and runs his own catering business, Chef Ray’s Catering, besides booking shows for his boyfriend Larry Cook/Roxi Starr. Industrious only begins to scratch the surface in his character description.

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The fateful sign

It turns out I had Ray on my mind one evening while strolling through the mall, as all my queens are constantly on my mind these days, and I saw this sign on an easel hiring for servers! Harvest Seasonal Grill and Wine Bar, an upscale self-described new American, vegetarian and vegan restaurant, was looking for staff for its grand opening. I almost rolled by, but thought, “What harm is there in taking a picture and posting it to Ray’s page on Facebook?” Well, long story short, I know, too late, he applied, interviewed, and was called and offered the job before he left the mall parking lot!

I didn’t necessarily do any of that because I thought it would tip Ray’s attention in my favor for an interview. He had already agreed. It was a matter of getting it scheduled, but what I learned from listening to my conscious and doing the kind thing was that I am approaching this just the right way, by being myself. Following Ray’s profile and soon after Roxi’s and then Donna Ria’s (Ray’s alter ego) has led me to many more queens and opportunities and has given me a clear picture to start with to find out who Ray is, who Donna is becoming, and the inner workings of drag.

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The Queen of queens

I have also done what others might call more practical things in preparation for this interview. I have been attending shows in bars and nightclubs, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race every Monday night and live tweeting it, and following the drag queen contestants on that show as well as local, national, and international queens. I am reading articles about all aspects of drag performance from makeup, to padding, to performance choices like lip syncing, dancing, or telling jokes or all three and then some. I am planning to check out wigs and even try all this stuff out myself. I have created a guide of questions that I may or may not actually end up using in my interviews, but regardless the creation of which has gotten me to think about where I would like to start each interview. Though I know I have no plan as to where each interview will end up.

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Donna Ria is ready for her close-up.

What I am finding most helpful, however, is connecting with people. I like their posts of pictures, premiere videos, and pithy quotes when I really like them. I comment, favorite, like, tweet, retweet, comment some more, reblog and connect. I have created some real bonds already even if they are online bonds. In Ray’s case particularly I had one date for an interview set up at a pageant show he was going to perform in, but then found out he wasn’t able to sign up to perform until April 9th. I was dogged while still being nice and polite and have now scheduled an appointment with him for Monday at noon. In general I have not only made myself familiar with drag queens and drag culture for the sake of research in this class, but I have become familiar in genuine appreciation of the hard work and artistry that goes into creating this beautiful illusion every night.