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.

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.

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!

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.


Kitsch Niche

Categories of drag queens? I had no idea that there was more than one type of drag. But as Paige Turner says in her article The 11 Most Common Styles of Drag at “…the art of drag is so diverse…”. There are as many styles as there are queens. That being said, however, eleven main styles emerge and I have got to decide which type I am interested in becoming.

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Fellow writer Paige Turner

First and foremost is the Faux Queen. Naturally (pun intended, wait for it), I fall into this category because I am anatomically a woman. By default I will fall into this category as the definition of this style is according to Turner “…a drag queen that is a biological female”. Real lady with lady parts playing an over the top feminine lady. Done and done.

Now narrowing my style down means eliminating some obvious choices. I won’t be a TransDrag Queen because that category is inclusive of trans* people who are in gender transition. A Tranimal is another style I won’t be trying. This seems to be more of a purposely disheveled experimental type of drag that is not entirely rooted in female impersonation, but more mired in exploring the unconventional possibilities of drag as art and social platform. It is also referred to as terrorist drag. Another artsy style is Androgyny or Genderfuck Drag which again does not conform to men presenting as women, but rather teeters between the genders by mixing fashion and makeup from both sexes. There’s also Club Drag which grew out of the Club Kid movement of the 1990’s New York City nightlife scene and centered around often extravagant costumes and make up worn by this group during this era. These are the categories I may write more about eventually, but am not pursuing in my own drag transformation.


#teamRoxi CASH for QUEENS

Activessel and Pageant Drag are two more queen styles I probably won’t be involved with myself, but only because of their purposes and not because of the style itself. Pageant Queens are very much like biological female pageant queens in that they aim for an impeccable presentation of self and compete against like others for awards. I do have an interview with Roxi Starr who will be competing in Cash for Queens, a drag pageant run by former Rupaul’s Drag Race contestant Mimi Imfurst at Voyeur Nightclub. Roxi is not exclusively a pageant queen, but more on her in later posts. Activessel Queens do not necessarily perform drag merely for entertainment purposes. In fact, their intentions are usually philanthropic. They may be a group closely tied to the drag community that bands together and creates and performs a drag show as a fundraiser for a particular cause. I am lucky enough to have a personal friend who was an Activessel Queen at a younger age. He is Anthony Koslowski and will be interviewing with me in mid-April.

All this to say I want to be a Fluid-Fish-Camp-Goth Queen! Well, maybe not all at once. Fluid Queens flow between styles and since I will be trying a few I hit that category. Fishy Queens are the style that is generally most visible to the mainstream audience and was featured in movies of previous decades such as “The Birdcage” (1996) and “Too Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar”  (1995). These are the queens whose goal it is to look as much like done up, beautiful, flawlessly painted women with overtly feminine  characteristics and personality. I got this one down! Camp Queens also referred to as clown queens, though I won’t throw that term around because I haven’t figured out whether or not it is derogatory, are funny “girls”! Their wardrobe and makeup is all part of the stand up routine and makeup especially is meant to exaggerate facial features like eyes and lips and not accentuate them. It’s all about timing and comedic effect for camp queens. And last, but certainly not least, is the Goth Queen. Dark ladies of the stage are reminiscent for me of the kids I hung out with afterschool by the back door theater entrance in high school. They were the stage crew decked out in all black. The guys were silent and carried stuff around stage. And the girls? They were a cross between Winona Ryder in “Heathers” and Winona Ryder in “Beetlejuice”. Pale faces, dark cat-eye black liner and bed-head tresses. These throwbacks to my juvenile days begin to explain the role of the goth queen who has the ever-present black outfit perhaps with lace and eerie accessories and may even go as far as mimicking horror films.

So now that you know what kind of queen(s) I’m going to be, why don’t you take BuzzFeed’s quiz and find out what kind of queen you are? Then you can share your results here in the comments! Come on! We’ll keep it just between us “girls”!