CU NT M a g a z i n e Editor en Jefe: Gabriel Alvarado
Producción General: Gabriel Alvarado Flavio Valencia Dirección de arte: Virginia Jools Jefe de Edición: Carlos Cabanillas Redactores: Juan Rosales, Silvia Crespo Jefe de Arte: Gabriel Alvarado Diagramación: Gabriel Alvarado Jefe de Fotografía: Mario Testino Dirección de Comunicaciones: Gabriel Alvarado CONTACTO: email@example.com Colaboradores: Ryburk, Sasha Velour, Kim Chi, Bianca del Rio, Adore Delano, Tracy Martel, Katya Zamolodchikova, Pepper Labeija, Shea Coulée, Trinity Taylor, Nina Bo’nina Banana Fofana Osama Bin Laden Brown
Tany de la Riva
El Drag como rebelión
Cover: Rupaul wearing Gucci Photo by: Mario Testino
Drag has a rich cultural history, spanning cross-dressing performances and deliberate parodies of fixed roles of gender and sexuality. Men have been performing on stage as women since the Ancient Greek tragedies, Shakespeare famously cast men as women, and Baroque operas featured early examples of drag. The term “drag queen” was first used to describe men appearing in women’s clothing in Polari—a type of British slang that was popularized among gay men and the theater community in the late 19th and 20th centuries. And while drag has long maintained a powerful presence in popular culture, more recently, it has developed a strong foothold in the art world as well.
Today, in the wake of the popular television program RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag queen Conchita Wurst winning the Eurovision Song Contest, and new drag-themed club nights popping up across London, New York, and L.A., one could say that drag is in the midst of having a mainstream moment. Riding this wave of popularity are art galleries and museums. Recently, drag has been identified as an influence among major art exhibitions, like the Whitney Biennial in New York, and performance programs, like “Contemporary Drag” at NADA New York this past March. It also serves as one of the themes in the new show “Queer British Art” at Tate Britain.
Gabriel Alvarado, Editor in Chief
016 I nterview: Trixie Matte l
014 I nterview: Sha ron Need les
010 I nterview: Ki m Chi
008 Q ueens To Watch
018 Who Says Drag Ca n’t Be Fi ne Art?
024 Sas ha Ve lou r
038 Leig h Bowery 040 Trend Alert!
042 Ba l l Cu ltu re
028 Ru Pau l
059 What’s The T 048 Shea Cou lée 054 Aqua ria 050 When Drag Is Activism 056 Sussi Sussma n
With all its glitter and pageantry, big personalities and even bigger hair, drag has got to be one of the finest performance histories we have. You can get inspired to live as fiercely, fabulously and fearlessly as a Drag Race Cover Gurl by following these amazingly talented social media stars on Instagram.
On SADSALVIA Sadsalvia has only been doing makeup for a year (and “big and dramatic” makeup for just a few months), but you would never be able to tell from looking at them. Their Instagram is crawling in high-concept lqqks that would look equally fitting on a runway in hell or one of Ladyfag’s festivities. @sadsalvia
SUSSI SUSSMAN Comin‘ atcha from the streets of New York City is SUSSI. This club kid is becoming an online icon having just been featured in Vanity Fair along side other kids of the night for the Barney’s New York ‘Our Town’ campaign Sussi serves extreme looks and outlandish outfits that can only be described as…well as Sussi. @thatgirlsussi
AQUARIA Aquaria’s skill with makeup has taken her Instagram account viral — she’s now well over 100,000 followers, more than just about any working drag queen who hasn’t appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race. And one of the stunts her fans love the most are her internet-inspired makeup looks. @ageofaquaria
radar CHARITY KASE London-based drag queen and living art extraordinaire Charity Kase only took until the 1st day January to prove to the world that this year is theirs for the taking. Charity’s transformative talents have enchanted the world of social media, giving a boost to her Instagram following while showing the world her impressive capability. @charitykase
RYAN BURKE Ryan Burke is anything but conventional—in his work or otherwise. His otherworldly self-portraits are entirely personal creations. At first glance, it’s difficult to tell whether the elaborate designs found in his Instagram posts are photos or paintings, but his 90K+ followers dutifully recognize his craft. @ryburk
ERIKA KLASH Erika is well-known for her drag cosplay (crossplay) looks, her character illusion makeup looks of noted video game and anime characters, and for mashing up Japanese street fashion and drag aesthetics. Her unique signature look and campy, high-energy performance style made her a fixture of NYC nightlife for three years. @erikaklash
“The only thing about drag is blurring the gender line and creating art.”
s drag scenes go, Chicago’s is known for its heightened artistry and developed sense of irreverence. The most recent drag queen to erupt out of Boystown into international stardom is Kim Chi, who was one of the top three finalists on Season 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which wrapped up last week. The world came to find Kim, the stage persona of 28-year-old Sang-Young Shin, to be even more extraordinary than the fermented cabbage dish from Korea after which she is named.
Who do you become as Kim Chi? What does she give you access to that you don’t have out of drag? Kim Chi is a live-action anime character who works as a high fashion model. That’s the persona I base everything off of. I like to incorporate outfits that are inspired by the avant garde runways, things that are cutesy, creative, and poppy. Being in drag has opened so many doors for wearing traditionally feminine fashion. Playing with makeup is an opportunity to develop a bunch of different looks. When did you first start experimenting with cosmetics? It was Halloween about three years ago. I was friends with Pearl [another Drag Race alumna formerly based in Chicago]. She was going to try drag for the first time, and she asked if I wanted to do it, and I said sure why not. It’s just escalated from there. Everything I do is self-taught. More so than most of the queens who have been on the show, you are deeply inspired by haute couture runway fashion. Who are your favorite designers right now and why? Definitely Guo Pei. Ever since Lee McQueen died, I feel like she’s the next McQueen of our generation. Just in terms of the artistry and the avant garde-ness of it all, there’s no one to compare to her right now. In the political campaign challenge you confronted prejudices within the gay community, often expressed as “no fats, no femmes, no Asians,” and during the finale, you based your anthem around addressing this problem. Tell me more of your thoughts on this issue. I’ve never really met up with anyone on hook up apps, but I’ve used the apps before to just see what’s available out there. Seeing things like “no spice, no rice” or “no fats, no femmes, no Asians,” just feel like jabs, as if someone has decided what they think about you before they’ve even had a chance to meet you.
Throughout the season, you proved how hard you were willing to work at challenges that were far outside of your comfort zone. What were the most difficult moments in the competition? Probably just dealing with other personalities on the show. But honestly I had a blast throughout the whole experience. It wasn’t so hard; it was a lot of fun. Anime is a big inspiration for you. What are some of your favorite titles? Madoka Magica, Death Note, and Another. Soul Eater is also really good. You are much more than a female impersonator—where would you like to see drag evolve to? Bob [the Drag Queen, fellow competitor and winner of the season] said it best: The only thing about drag is blurring the gender line and creating art. Several times during the season, you opened up about your insecurities with feeling fat and unattractive. What would you say to viewers who are struggling with self love and confidence? Once you learn to love yourself and stop listening to other people’s opinion about you, life just becomes a lot easier. Accepting that you’re a beautiful person is the start to discovering happiness. What are your current inspirations? What new fantasies are you eager to make into looks and performances? I saw a picture of a bobbit worm, which I think will be a really interesting look to make. It’s this worm that lives underground in the water. ●
“GONE” by Sasha Velour
My mother always wanted to be a redhead. When her hair grew back,she dyed it. She worried she would never be glamorous, too shy, short. But to me she was the essence of refinement... The world is not the same without her. How can we turn pain into a beauty, injustice into change, violation into strength. We live with grief every day.
I learned that it can be empowering to wear your mother’s dress. At first I was worried that it was a little Norman Bates Psycho, but then I just embraced it and now
I’m a murderer. We live with grief every day.
Drag Drag Drag Drag Drag Drag Drag Drag Drag Drag Drag Drag Drag Drag
is is is is is is is is is is is is is is
for for for for for for for for for for for for for for
danger safety remembering recovering distracting saying it straight hope hugs family sadness liberation suffering good poetry tacky poetry
Drag is for me, itâ€™s where I belong.
Drag is for dressing up, and this is my motherâ€™s dress.
Call her on the Ouija Board!
I NTERVI EW
The spooky, fashionable drag queen Sharon Needles has been busy since she won season four of RuPaul's Drag Race. She's kept up with her mantra of "when in doubt, freak them out," releasing a record full of catchy songs about Ouija boards and Halloween and recently starring as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in a live production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“LIKE ANDY WARHOL ONCE SAID, YOUR WORST DAY IS YOUR BEST EPISODE. SO IN HINDSIGHT, AFTER IT'S ALL SAID AND DONE, I THINK IT MADE LEGENDARY TELEVISION.”
You've been good about performing in Arizona in the past. What keeps bringing you back? You guys have a lot of Republicans and a lot of religious people. I find that gay communities that are surrounded by political or religious repression tend to be a lot more punk rock. I think there's a big calling for Sharon Needles in Arizona. I was just in Tucson and I had a really good time. A lot of people find my show very offensive, so I like going to places where we're pushing buttons. Send me to Russia. When you come to town this time, you’ll be performing as part of Fetish Prom. Will you be doing anything extra kinky? There is something very beautiful and sexy about my character. Sharon Needles, the way I’ve designed her is I want people to think she’s sexy, but not want to ever have sex with her. It would be borderline necrophilia. Necrophilia is a topic that pops up more than once on my album. People who are very visually outrageous tend to be so fucking vanilla, so there will be a lot of acting. I don’t know anyone who has a latex collection like my own. So you can expect a lot of latex, and of course I have to be in the hottest fucking place in the United States to be wearing full rubber, but the only way to get me to wear rubber is if it’s turned into a gown.Well, it is inside, so it won’t be as bad. The air conditioning better be set to morgue. I was raised on bands like My Life with the Thrill Kill
Kult and Lords of Acid, which were very heavily influenced by the fetish scene. My aesthetic is definitely derived a lot from the European, mostly German and Amsterdam fetish scene. I don’t get peed on in them as they’re intended to be. I’m sure you’ve been asked about the breakup a bunch, so I won’t get into it too much, but you did tour together for Battle of the Seasons shortly after the break up. Are you on amicable terms? Yeah, we’re grownups. We have too many good things in our life to try and make each other’s lives miserable. When you’re on the road more days than you’re not in different cities, it wasn’t a boyfriend/boyfriend relationship anymore. You sacrifice a lot to make dreams come true sometimes. Sometimes that’s a relationship sacrifice, but you drop the word “boy” from boyfriend and what do you have? You have a great friend. She was stunning last night. I forget how pretty of a drag queen she fucking is. ●
AGES 3 AND UP
Trixie Mattelâ€™s look is unusual and distinctive, even for a Drag Queen, and, combined with her Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent, it helped her become a standout contestant on her series, and one of its most loved alumni.
I NTERVI EW We see that you recently celebrated your birthday, so happy birthday, how did you celebrate? I spent the entire day on a plane! I am a legend, icon, and a star, so I don’t get time off. Tell us a bit about how you first got in to Drag? I got in drag for the first time because another drag queen in a show I was in was unavailable. I filled in quickly and I looked rotted. But i just kept doing it and now I’m a wealthy legend. Where do you find inspiration for your looks and make up? I always look for the skin/structure of Barbie, the eyes of My Little Pony, and the proportions of Polly Pocket. I like to look like the girl toys I wasn’t allowed to play with as a kid. Is there a particular look of yours that stands out in your memory as the best, most iconic Trixie Mattel look? My season 7 finale look was this giant, magical pink barbie fantasy. It was equal parts glamorous and ignorant. As a standout contestant from season 7 and a fan favourite, we where surprised you didn’t return for All Stars 2. Why do you think that was and, if there was a third series, would you be up for it? I love All-Stars 2! I am literally snatched bald watching it in my Katya shirt. I am living for Tatianna as well. My version of the All-Stars 2 cast would be a little different- I would have included Milk and BenDelaCreme. And Ongina ! Kim Chi and I are more focused on doing The Amazing Race together anyway. WE COULD WIN. How has RuPauls Drag Race changed your life, and your experience as a working Drag Queen? Every time I see Ru, I thank her for changing my whole life forever. I am living the life I have always imagined for myself. I have become a better man.
“I like to look like the girl toys I wasn’t allowed to play with as a kid” Through competing on Drag Race and going the subsequent tours, you’ve got to spend a lot of time with a lot of Drag Queens. Are there any you’re friends with away from the stage (we know from our interview with Courtney Act you recently hung out with her and Katya!), and who are some of your favourite fellow Queens to watch perform? Katya is my ride or die. Meaning I will ride her all-stars coattails until I die. But I also remain close with Kim Chi. Major Scales, Jinkx Monsoon’s stage partner, is another close friend of mine! Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about, or any plans to tour anytime soon? You have no idea. I’m touring with my stand-up show “Ages 3 and Up” for the next few months! See it- you’ll die. It’s like watching UNHhhh but with no KatyaWIN WIN ! Even better! Speaking of tours – what are your on the road travel essentials? I require my Snuggie for the flight, my guitar for downtime in my hotel room, and my black eyeshadow- Bulletproof by Sugarpill. ●
WHO SAYS DRAG CAN’T BE FI N E ART?
From Marcel Duchamp to today's hot young drag performers out of Brooklyn, drag and fine art have a long, twisted history.
Are drag performers fine artists? A case could certainly be made. The elaborate, handmade dresses of Bob the Drag Queen could give couture designers a run for their money. The intricate makeup of a queen like Kim Chi verges into high art. The distinction between the two worlds is blurry. And as drag’s popularity increases, spurred on by the success ofRuPaul’s Drag Race and pop-culture crossovers, a pair of gallery openings are exploring the ways in which it’s only becoming blurrier. Tomorrow, drag legend Tabboo!—otherwise known as Stephen Tashjian—opens a new exhibition of his tender paintings of friends and contemporaries at New York’s Howl! Happening Gallery. At first glance, his portraits of avant-garde stalwarts appear to have little in common with his outrageous and outspoken drag personae, which has graced the stage of both the renowned Pyramid Club and notorious drag festival Wigstock. But Tabboo! renders portraits of several figures who have performed drag, such as Flloyd and Agosto Machado. You’ll even find a restrained portrait of himself without makeup on display, a bold move for any queen. The opening is preceded by a group show, which opened October 1 at New York’s Bureau of General Services–Queer Division, a queer bookstore located in the city’s LGBT Community Center. The show examines the wide range of art, fashion and performance emerging from Brooklyn, a hotbed of American drag today. Curated by Chris Bogia, director of the Fire Island Artist’s Residency program, and visual artist and drag performer Montgomery Perry Smith, Coney Island Babies: Visual Artists From The Brooklyn Drag Scene introduces a new generation of queens with artistic practices to a wider audience. In many ways, they’re Tabboo!’s drag children.
These aren’t the only recent shows that brought drag into an art setting. From Howl! Happening’s May exhibition When Jackie Met Ethyl, which looked at the theatrical careers and artistic influence of queens Jackie Curtis and Ethyl Eichelberger, to Jürgen Klauke’s drag-influenced photography from the 1970s in his show Transformer at New York’s Koenig & Clinton, which opened in January, it seems like the intersection of drag and fine art is a clear one. And considering the artistic prowess needed in drag, maybe this isn’t such a surprise. “Drag is such a visual art form that it’s natural. It would be against expectations if a person with that talent wouldn’t also go in another direction,” says theatre historian, drag expert and Drag Show Video Verite director Joe E. Jeffreys. “If a drag performer is a person with too much fashion sense for one gender,” continues Jeffreys, building on an oft-repeated quote from the 1995 drag classic To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar, “ then these people have too much talent for one medium. They need to express it in painting, drawing, graphic design, fashion and music.” If the staggering amount of artistic disciplines on display at Coney Island Babies is any indication, he’s right. From a giant structural lobster claw used in performances by queen Hystee Lauder to Fred Attenborough’s Polaroids of Brooklyn’s drag scene to intricate drawings by Matthew de Leon, the creative prowess of drag performers is wide and varied.
« In Drag with Polka Dot Cape and Gold Eye Make-up», 1988.
« Black & White Graphics », circa 1985.
« Beauty & the Beast », 1984.
022 ▼ "Room," a work by Sasha Velour.
"Room," a work by Sasha Velour.
▼ Sasha Velour by Magnus Hastings
It should be said that, for some of the artists, the line between their studio practice and drag career is more defined. One of the show’s co-curators is Montgomery Perry Smith, who is both an artist and participant in Brooklyn’s drag scene as Patti Spliff ( yes, she performs drag send-ups of Patti Smith songs). Smith started his drag career while attending art school in Chicago and continued doing drag after moving to New York to pursue his art career. While Smith talks about his art and drag as two separate endeavours (“I focused on drag more for a while but still had my art”), his fellow co-curator Chris Bogia sees aesthetic similarities between Patti Spliff onstage and his opulent sculptures. “I feel like half the time you’re channeling Patti. There’s formal comparisons that can be drawn,” says Bogia. (continues on page 22)
"They're taking their bodies and transforming them—much in the way other body artists would with piercings, suspensions, tattooing or corseting. They're using their bodies as a medium."
▼ Marcel Duchamp in drag.
i n a s e r i e s o f M a n R a y p h o t o g r a p h s a s S é l a v y, D u c h a m p a l s o a t t r i b u t ed several of his artworks to the alter ego, signing the pieces in her n a m e . “ E v e r y o n e c a n m a k e a r t , b u t n o t e v e r y o n e i s a n a r t i s t ,” s a i d B o g i a . “ I t h i n k i n t h e d r a g w o r l d , i t ’ s p r o b a b l y p r e t t y s i m i l a r. ” W h i l e drag queens have always refused to be boxed in by any one definition of their work, what’s clear is a strong tradition of crossover exists between the two seemingly distinct worlds. Jeffreys said he understands
their trademark and defined the era’s aesthetic through their iconic Pyramid Club flyers, backdrop design for Wigstock and the typeface for album covers such as Deee-Lite’s World Clique. Of course, the lines between drag queen and fine artist had been tested well before the East Village scene. All the way back in the 1920s, Dada master Marcel Duchamp put aside the urinal f o r f a l s e e y e l a s h e s w h e n h e c re a t e d h i s f e m a l e a l t e r e g o R ro s e S é l a v y. W h i l e m o s t re c o g n i s e d
d r a g a s a r t w i t h o u t q u e s t i o n , c a l l i n g i t “ b o d y a r t .” “ T h a t ’ s w h a t t h e y ’ re d o i n g ,” h e a s s e r t e d . “ T h e y ’ re t a k i n g t h e i r b o d i e s a n d t r a n s f o r m i n g t h e m — much in the way other body artists would with piercings, suspensions, t a t t o o i n g o r c o r s e t i n g . T h e y ’ re u s i n g t h e i r b o d i e s a s a m e d i u m .” ●
The variety of practices seen today is a near direct descendant of the much-romanticised East Village art and performance scene in the 1980s and 90s, duri n g w h i c h a r t a n d d r a g s e e m e d t o f i t t o g e t h e r s e a m l e s s l y. I t w a s a p e r i o d w h i c h saw drag queen Linda Simpson capture her experiences in the Downtown nightl i f e s c e n e t h ro u g h p h o t o g r a p h y, a r t i s t H u n t e r R e y n o l d s p e r f o r m i n b o t h g a l l e r i e s a n d n i g h t c l u b s a s q u e e n P a t i n a D u P r e y a n d C h r i s Ta n n e r m a i n t a i n a d r a g c a r e e r a l o n g s i d e h i s b r i g h t , g l i t t e r - f i l l e d p a i n t i n g s . A n d , o f c o u r s e , t h e r e ’ s Ta b b o o ! , w h o got their start in 1982, producing the swirling graphic design that became both
We talked comics, collage, and drag with the 'Rupaulâ€™s Drag Race' Season 9 contestant.
Drag queens are basically real-world comic book heroes. Both take on new names and identities, with flashy costumes to match, face marginalization for being exceptional, and turn this potential source of exclusion into a source of power. It makes sense that Sasha Velour, the drag persona of Brooklyn-based artist Sasha Steinberg, who’s currently starring on this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, first began life as a comic book character. Velour is an artistic polymath—she holds a Masters from the Center for Cartoon Studies, and spent a year studying LGBT art in Russia as a Fulbright Scholar. She creates collages, enamel pins, and co-founded and edits a drag magazine. Her early dabbles in drag began on the page. “I’d started playing with makeup, but my skills [and wardrobe were] too limited,” Velour tells Creators.
Drag and LGBT themes pervade Velour’s art. She’s working on a full-length graphic novel about the Stonewall riots, which sparked the contemporary gay rights movement and in which drag queens and trans women were integral players. Velour creates drag-related collages. But one of Velour's most moving works is also among her most personal. Her comic What Now was written in the aftermath of her mother's death, and depicts Velour going through her mom's belongings. "I'd selected a couple of pieces from her closet that I wanted to incorporate into my drag, as a way of bringing her with me," she says. In particular, she latched onto a wondrously 80s neon-bright turquoise suit, which she'd secretly tried on while growing up. “Are these things mine now?” reads the accompanying text. The grief of this ownership is analogous to drag itself, which explores the sometimes painful reclamation of new identities, finding male performers adopting modes of femininity that society has insisted they’re not supposed to access. Velour performed Shirley Bassey’s What Now My Love?—a mournful song of goodbye—while wearing the suit. “To me, what’s most interesting about drag is that addition to changing the body, it changes the space,” says Velour. “When a drag queen walks into a room, suddenly the whole environment changes.”●
“WHEN A DRAG Q U E E N WA L K S I N T O A R O O M , S U D D E N LY T H E WHOLE ENVIRONMENT CHANGES.”
“So I started fleshing out the character on paper, where anything is possible.” Sasha Velour didn’t leap directly from the pages of comics and onto TV screens. Before her time on the show, she was a star in Brooklyn’s drag scene, a community that embraces a definition of drag that spans far beyond female impersonation, and prizes artistic innovation in lip syncing. Velour’s signature look—beautifully bald with a striking unibrow—and sensitive, video art-accompanied syncs made her a local success. And she’s kept up her visual art practice even as she’s become a well-known performer.
â–˛ Sasha Velour by Magnus Hastings
SHEâ€™S A The drag supermodel of the world on how straight people steal from gay culture, meeting David Bowie, and why educating the youth is a waste of time.
030 RuPaul was born November 17, which makes him a Scorpio — a detail
he has said accounts for his observant and analytical nature during interviews. I could feel his gaze settle on me as he sat down on a gold couch at the London Hotel in New York, wearing rectangular black glasses and a suit made of thick brocade in a resplendent print of pink roses. This was not the light and effervescent RuPaul-in-drag the American public has come to know since the release of his single, “Supermodel (You Better Work),” in 1992, but rather workroom Ru: serious, sober, and slightly intimidating. During our conversation, RuPaul, 55, clapped back at critics who said RuPaul’s Drag Race used transphobic language, dismissed Spike TV’s Lip Sync Battle as a ripoff of his show, and explained why educating younger generations is a waste of everyone’s time. Grab your reading glasses, because the library is open. Congratulations on the 100th episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. With the eighth season, how do you keep things fresh? We’re always inspired by the queens. And because it’s like a school, we get a new crop of kids every single year — that’s how it stays fresh. This year especially, it’s the children’s Drag Race. These are the kids who grew up watching it, and their whole drag aesthetic comes from the show. So it’s an interesting shift. And we knew this would come if we stayed on the air long enough — we’d see what we produced in the public. And they’re beautiful! They’re smart. We have to actually work harder to stay one step ahead of them. Has that given you a chance to take a step back and reflect on what you’ve created on the show? You know, I normally don’t. I only even entertain those ideas when I’m talking to someone like you, from the press, and they ask me. I’m always looking forward. I do understand we’ve launched the careers of 100 queens, which is really the most important part of our job. What are some of your favorite moments? Because the kids are so courageous and their stories are so rich, they bring such a unique
“I don't think there is a life in the mundane 9-to-5 h y p o c r i s y. That's not living. That's just part of the Matrix. And drag is punk rock, because it is not part of the Matrix.” story every single time. I always think about Roxxxy’s story when she revealed she was abandoned at a bus stop as a 4-year-old. It’s usually their stories that surprise me of how resilient and strong they are. One of the things I love about drag is that it’s an art form about survival. It is, because each of those kids were little boys, sometimes in small towns, who were alienated and ostracized. And even in the face of such adversity, they prevailed and shine today. So it’s a story of strength. That’s what the appeal is for the audience. Here are these people who have prevailed and succeeded against insurmountable odds. It’s a great story for anyone who watches.
Would you say that drag saved your life? It actually didn’t save my life, it gave me a life. I don’t think there is a life in the mundane 9-to-5 hypocrisy. That’s not living. That’s just part of the Matrix. And drag is punk rock, because it is not part of the Matrix. It is not following any rules of societal standards. Boy, girl, black, white, Catholic, Jew, Muslim. It’s none of that. We can do whatever we want. Do you feel that drag can never be mainstream? It will never be mainstream. It’s the antithesis of mainstream. And listen, what you’re witnessing with drag is the most mainstream it will get. But it will never be mainstream, because it is completely opposed to fitting in. Throughout your career, have you ever felt like you are part of the mainstream? No. You know, I've never been on Ellen or David Letterman or The Tonight Show, and there's a reason for that, which I don't want to go into, but there's a reason that I've never been thought of as someone who can go on there. Because it makes those hosts feel
▲ RuPaul Charles circa 1973
They often say that drag saved their lives. Right. And I’ll tell you why. Because you get to a point where if you’re smart and you’re sensitive, you see how this all works on this planet. It’s like when Dorothy looks behind the curtain. Like, “Wait a minute. You’re the wizard?” And you figure out the hoax. That this is all an illusion. There’s only a few areas you can go. First, you get angry that you’ve been hoaxed and you get bitter. But then, take more steps beyond the bitterness and you realize, “Oh, I get it. Let’s have fun with it. It’s all a joke. You mean I don’t have to stick with one look or one whatever? I can shape-shift? Great.” That’s when you can save lives because otherwise the mediocrity and the hypocrisy is so mundane, it’s better to just not do it. I’m not going to say “end it all.” But that’s why it saves lives. Because for people who are highly sensitive and super-intelligent, it tickles the brain. It gives them something to live for. It’s the irreverence. I was the same way when I was 15. I said, “Okay, I’m gonna do this life. But I’m gonna do it on my terms, and I’m never gonna join the Matrix.” That’s why it saves lives. very, very uncomfortable, especially if we really talked. It would be the opposite of what they're used to. So am I part of the mainstream? No. People know my name, people know what I look like, but am I invited to the party? No, and there's a reason for it. Would you want to be? No. In fact, I made a pact with myself when I was 15 that if I was going to live this life, I'm only going to do it on my terms, and I'm only going to do it if I'm putting my middle finger up at society the whole time. So any time I've had yearnings to go, "Aw, gee, I wish I could be invited to the Emmys," I say, Ru, Ru, remember the pact you made. You never wanted to be a part of that bullshit. In fact, I'd rather have an enema than have an Emmy. The show is clearly one of the best reality shows, so it's insane to me that you haven't been nominated. It's not insane when you take the car apart and you really look at what the car is. You understand that it can't recognize it, because in doing so it would recognize all of the flaws in their doctrine, in their whole ideology. Drag doesn't conform. It's actually making fun of [conformity]. Now, the talk-show hosts … get it if I'm making fun of myself and if I'm a punch line for them, but not as a human being. They would have a transsexual on because a transsexual is saying, "This is who I really am. I'm real." I'm saying, "No, I'm not real. I'm actually everything and nothing at all.”
▲ RuPaul with Nirvana and Courtney Love
“They talk so much about acceptance now today and it’s like, yes, but trust me — I’m old and I know this shit — it’s superficial.”
â–² RuPaul circa 1987
“[LIP SYNC BATTLE] IS A POOR RIPOFF OF OUR SHOW. REGULAR, STRAIGHT POP CULTURE HAS LIBERALLY LIFTED THINGS FROM GAY CULTURE AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER. AND THAT’S FINE, BECAUSE GUESS WHAT? WE HAVE SO MUCH MORE WHERE THAT COMES FROM. TAKE IT!”
That’s very Buddhist. I didn’t come up with this shit. I studied. It is very Buddhist, and all roads lead to Zen and Buddhism. If you are a seeker and you want to know the answers, you’re not the first person to go there. And you don’t have to look that far for the answers. They’re not encoded in this ancient scripture. It’s actually right there in front of you. It’s in that flower that I’m looking at right now or that tree over there or that mountain. It’s all there. What do you think of Lip Sync Battle and Jimmy Fallon? Oh, I don’t think of it. It’s a poor ripoff of our show. Regular, straight pop culture has liberally lifted things from gay culture as long as I can remember. And that’s fine, because guess what? We have so much more where that comes from. Take it! That’s why [my new show] Gay for Play is such a fun thing, because we’ve taken the best of the gay sensibility and put it all in one place.
RuPaul in an advert for LA Eyewear
And we’re showing these bitches how it’s really done. But it’s funny how that works, even in gay culture. There’s a certain “gay shame.” Gay people will accept a straight pop star over a gay pop star, or they will accept a straight version of a gay thing, because there’s still so much self-loathing, you know? They talk so much about acceptance now today and it’s like, yes, but trust me — I’m old and I know this shit — it’s superficial. Because as soon as the lights go out, you’ll see how advanced people’s thinking is. This so-called “Will & Grace acceptance” era is just people fucking posing. Things haven’t changed that much. You see it in politics right now — that’s the fucking truth of people. And you know, people will have you think, “Oh, we’re fashion. We’re gay. That’s my gay over there!” It’s like, no. We’re still a very, very, very primitive culture. Gayness is still treated as an accessory. Exactly. But if we can just cut out the self-loathing, we could get really far. ●
BO W ERY
Art's agent provocateur used to 'give birth' to his wife Nicola Bateman on stage - amid a flurry of sausages and blood - and threw ice cubes into her bath. But, she recalls, they also went to Sainsbury's together.
One can just about spot Nicola Bateman in Fergus Greer's Leigh Bowery Looks (Violette Editions, £16.95), a collection of photographs of the late art-fashion agent provocateur in various of his eye-catching guises. Among the images, there is Leigh with a giant tulle pompom where his head should be and a 'pregnant' bulge; Leigh sporting a pubic wig, Leigh staggering under the weight of a giant velvet bushel. The one featuring Nicola depicts her naked, hanging upside down in the foetal position, trussed up in a harness attached to Leigh's front, with her face rammed into his crotch. Which is what she had to do on those occasions when her friend and husband, Leigh, 'gave birth' to her onstage as part of the act for his performance art band, Minty. At a signal, Nicola would slither out of her harness, covered in 'blood', lubricant, and links of sausages, as Leigh wailed and screeched in a grotesque parody of childbirth. So, how was it for you, Nicola? 'I just remember hoping that he wouldn't fall over.' Born in 1961, in Sunshine, Australia, Leigh Bowery studied fashion and design in Melbourne, before leaving for London in 1980. After running a clothes stall, and working in Burger King, he did commercials for Pepe jeans, promos for pop artists (most notably David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes video), collaborated on costumes with dancer Michael Clark and established himself as a cult figure in London nightlife, helping launch Taboo (the seminal sex, drugs and fetish club) in the mid-Eighties. Gay, 6ft 3ins, and 17 stone, Leigh was hardly the shy, retiring type. At one party, Mick Jagger, thinking Bowery was dancing too close to him, said: ‘Fuck off, freak!’ Leigh instantly replied: ‘Fuck off, fossil!’ Over the years, Leigh became infamous for dressing (and undressing) to chill, with ‘looks’ such as a giant turd emerging from a toilet seat, and for performing live enemas onstage. He often emphasised his size with viciously cinched corsets and enormous gaffer taped ‘cleavages’, finishing the ‘look’ by popping on a fake vagina that made it impossible for him to urinate all night.
No wonder the world couldn’t decide whether Leigh Bowery was a genius or a prat. Boy George, the creative force behind the musical Taboo, featuring Leigh, observed: ‘The rest of us used drag to hide our blemishes and defects, he made them the focal point of his art.’ Nicola agrees: ‘Initially, he just wanted to shock. He often used to say: “That’ll spook ‘em.” But it was never without an aesthetic point of view.’ Part of Bowery’s later work, perhaps the most enduring part in mainstream terms, was posing for a series of portraits by Lucian Freud, acting as his muse from 1990 until Bowery’s death, from an Aids-related illness, in 1994. ‘Leigh and Lucian were quite similar-minded,’ says Nicola, when we meet for a chat at the launch party for Fergus Greer’s exhibition of the Bowery photographs. ‘They were both mischievous little boys who had their own head about art and how to go about it.’ However, Nicola doesn’t agree with the perception that Bowery was lent ‘high art legitimacy’ via his association with Freud. ‘I think it’s more the case of two great people aiding and abetting each other. At that time, Lucian needed a great model, and Leigh was looking for someone to help his career. It’s like this exhibi tion tonight. Leigh’s obviously benefited, even though he’s dead, and so has Fergus.’ Nicola smiles. ‘I think these kinds of liaisons are fantastic.’ When I meet her, Nicola is pretty, poised and wearing some kind of Singapore-themed headdress. Raised in Hampshire, at 16 she underwent major spinal surgery. ‘I think that’s when I became crude. It was all the indignity. The first thing that ever went up me was a metal speculum.’ She first met Leigh around the time she was an art student, and he was the public face of Taboo. ‘He was the person I’d been looking for, he had such immense charm.’ Leigh scribbled down his number with lipstick, but couldn’t remember her when she rang the next day.
“There was one period when my favorite fabric was flesh. Human flesh. I didn’t wear any clothes for a while” – Leigh Bowery (1961-1994)
Nevertheless, they became friends. She helped him put his outfits together, and they would dress up and go out. ‘Making yourself up and going out was much more important than staying out,’ says Nicola. ‘You’d do your make up, you’d arrive and then you’d leave.’ The pair became lovers briefly. ‘We did actually have it off at the beginning. As Leigh would put it: “Let’s get the sex over with, and then we can be friends.”’ When Leigh asked her to marry him, Nicola was ‘flattered, amused and suspicious’. They married in Bow registry office in May, 1994. It happened to be Friday the thirteenth. ‘Perfect,’ said Bowery. Did this unconventional couple ever consider having children together? Nicola laughs: ‘No way! Leigh was the sole important person in our household, the only person. There was never going to be any babies. Leigh was my baby.’ Was Leigh as abusive towards Nicola as seems evident from reading Sue Tilley’s candid biography, Leigh Bowery: The Life And Times Of An Icon. Nicola sighs: ‘Probably, but taken out of context it looks nastier than it actually was.’ Let’s hope so. These days, Nicola is a mother-of-two living happily in Brighton with her partner. Back then, she would be called upon to eat Leigh’s ‘vomit’ and drink his ‘urine’ onstage (actually vegetable soup and apple juice), and her home life didn’t seem a lot better. Abusive, paranoid and divisive, Leigh could be, Nicola admits, ‘an absolute monster’. His behaviour ranged from ‘naughty’ (tipping ice-cubes into her bath; locking her out on the balcony) to downright cruel (constantly undermining her psychologically). In Tilley’s book, Nicola is described variously as ‘long-suffering’, ‘Madge Allsop to (Leigh’s) Dame Edna’ and ‘a willing slave to his master’. Is this true? ‘Only to a certain extent. You’re only willing to give to someone who’s going to give back.’ And what did Leigh give her? ‘Loyalty, amusement, friendship. He was a great mate.’
“Everyone wanted to know Leigh because he was trendy, but we just went to Sainsbury’s together. We had more normal times together than freak times”
In the Tilley book, Leigh is quoted as saying that of all his friends, Nicola was the one he felt he could be ‘himself’ with. ‘That was true’, she says. ‘Everyone wanted to know Leigh because he was trendy, but we just went to Sainsbury’s together. We had more normal times together than freak times.’ Leigh told Nicola that he was HIV positive early on, but then pretended he had been lying. ‘But I don’t think I ever believed it was a lie. There were incidents - cuts and bruises here and there and he would only let me near him. I sussed it deep down.’ Bowery’s condition was kept secret - even after he died on New Year’s Eve, 1994, instructions were left to tell the world he’d gone to Papua New Guinea. Was he disgusted with his illness, or did he view it as an inconvenience? ‘Disgusted, yes. I think he felt that such a big body shouldn’t succumb to such an illness. But it was definitely much more of an inconvenience. He still had so much more to do. Leigh would have so enjoyed things like this exhibition. He’s really coming into his own now.’ How would she like him to be remembered? Nicola smiles: ‘How he would like to have been remembered, I suppose. It’s his classic quote: “I don’t want to be remembered as a person with Aids, I want to be remembered as a person with ideas.”’ ●
▲ Leigh Bowery circa 1993
THIRTY YEARS OF VOGUING AND BALLROOM DRAG IN NYC
Nicolas Jenkins’ new film ‘Walk’ traces three decades of voguing in the Big Apple – we speak to the filmmaker and one of the dancers from the era
“I am constantly seeing young white drag queens appropriating this, talking about their ‘inner black woman’, A new documentary named Walk has been released by underwhich is a BIG no no.” ground filmmaker Nicolas Jenkins, which traces 30 years of the voguing and ballroom drag culture in New York. For anyone who has seen Jennie Livingston’s iconic 1990 film Paris is Burning, this one is also not to be missed. Jenkins’ archive of footage features trailblazing ballroom houses such as House of Xtravaganza, House of Latex and House of Chanel, alongside some pioneering forces like Willie Ninja and Kia Labeija. Black and Latino ball culture emerged in Harlem over 40 years ago, where members of drag houses would walk, vogue and showcase their ‘realness’ at all night dance battles. What was once sub-cultural faction of the New York underground has now become popularised by the wildly successful RuPaul’s Drag Race, creating an explosion of lip-syncing fierce queens around the world. Walk documents decades of drag ball culture through a combination of video material and interviews with prominent figures in the scene. Filmmaker Jenkins has been attending balls since the late 80s and has witnessed a seismic change in the scene. “Both the music and dance have evolved - earlier ballroom was heavily influenced by house and disco, but today a new generation of kids have reinvented the music. It’s much harder and revolves around an MC chanting over minimal beats.” While voguing was exposed in the 90s, Jenkins claims the scene didn’t die, but only went back underground. However, its prominence now does worry him. He says: “While the resurgence in its popularity across the globe is fantastic, I’m a little nervous that voguing is crossing over into the mainstream and the ballroom scene may be losing its connection to its roots which were historically marginalised urban black and Latino gay and trans communities.” As with anything, popularity can often be the kiss of death for fringe cultures as they become a victim of their own success. “I’ve been around long enough to watch many subcultures get absorbed into the mainstream and eventually get commodified, but a generation of kids will come along and reinvent things and bring them back underground.”
“The Ballroom scene has evolved tremendously, as all subcultures do,” she explains. “Many people are generally interested in Voguing today, big name artists want it in their music videos and on their world tours, designers want it in their fashion show presentations. Voguing, like all forms of black and brown art, has become a worldwide phenomenon and as with anything that becomes mainstream, it is bound to be diluted some” Madonna first made Voguing a global phenomenon in the 90s with her song and video, ‘Vogue,’ and it has since been in our collective conscious. LeBeija continues: “Everyone wants a piece of it, as it is currently in the spotlight. Balls are being held all over the world, a sort of mimicry of what exists here in New York. I think it is wonderful for people to love and appreciate Voguing, but as it is a cultural practice, it should also be respected as such.” When asked what she makes of the sudden interest in drag, and more specifically ballroom drag, she tells me there is a fine line between appreciation and appropriation. “Much of the language and overt femininity is a performance of The Black Woman, young black men imitating their mothers, aunties, and sisters. I am constantly seeing young white drag queens appropriating this, talking about their ‘inner black woman’, which is a BIG no no.” While LeBeija doesn’t know what the future holds, she maintains the scene will continue to “birth legends, statements, and stars.”●
â–˛ Inxi (center) competing against Lasseindra (right)
Drag Is Activism
The potent and confrontational art of drag has often been visible on the front lines of LGBT activism. That tradition continues today in the performances and campaigns of prominent queens here and abroad.
In 1971, the day before the U.K. Gay Liberation Front planned to hold London’s first official Pride march, half a dozen radical drag activists took it upon themselves to run a dress rehearsal. It was a resounding success, one which saw them chased down Oxford Street by the metropolitan police. Over a decade earlier, drag queens in Los Angeles had fought back against overzealous cops arresting their friends at Cooper’s Donuts (1959). Those in San Francisco rioted against relentless police harassment at Gene Compton’s cafeteria (1966). And of course, New York queens hurled bricks, clashed with police, and made history at the Stonewall Inn (1969). Drag queens have been fighting on the front line since the dawn of the modern LGBT rights movement. Even after these flashpoints in queer history, many continued to do so, using their prominent community status to champion equality.
“Drag is a statement in itself,” says Panti Bliss “And the statement says you’re all wrong — fuck you.”
Post Stonewall, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson formed Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) to fight for vulnerable LGBT groups, including homeless drag queens and queer runaways (including the transgender women they advocated for, though this was in an era that predates the language we now use for trans and gender-nonconforming people). Since their first performance on Castro Street in the late ’70s, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have used drag, protest, and highly controversial religious imagery to raise over $1 million for various AIDS– and LGBT-related causes, educating people along the way. And many queens joined ACT UP during the AIDS epidemic, attending die-ins at Catholic churches and protesting against pharmaceutical companies that withheld HIV drugs.
History is (g)littered with queens who saw their roles as so much more than just performers. No queer fundraiser, protest, or riot is complete without at least one drag queen, it seems. But really it is no surprise that they’re so often at the heart of these movements; for many, the front line is seldom avoidable. “We’re the ones walking out in the street in drag, so we’re the ones that people know are gay,” says Lady Bunny, herself no stranger to political engagement. “So if you’re a homophobic, drunk asshole out on the town to harass anyone, you might not know if the straight-acting gays are gay. But if you see a big drag queen or a very effeminate male homosexual, that’s going to be who gets the shit on the street — the people who were gay 24-7, not the straight-acting gay men who can pass for straight except for the one day a year they wear a rainbow outfit at Pride.”
◄ The Stonewall riots (were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay (LGBT) community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn. ◄◄ Previous Page: The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot occurred in August 1966 in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. This incident was one of the first recorded transgender riots in United States history.
The past few years have seen drag surge in popularity, inspired in part by greater acceptance of LGBT culture, as well as the more obvious global success of RuPaul’s Drag Race. When Miley Cyrus performed with Shangela, Laganja Estranja, Alyssa Edwards, and others at last August’s VMAs, it signaled to some that drag was now mainstream. Such sentiments may be premature, but drag is definitely going through a golden era that a number of drag queens say hasn’t been seen since the 1990s. Even as drag becomes more commercial, a host of queens continue to use their podiums and performances to challenge inequality and homophobia around the world. In the past two years, Ireland’s accidental activist and gender discombobulist Panti Bliss (a.k.a. Rory O’Neill) has been threatened with legal action, sparked a national debate about LGBT rights, seen a video of her speech on homophobia go viral (over 200,000 views in two days) then be remixed by the Pet Shop Boys, and become one of the figureheads for Ireland’s successful referendum on same-sex marriage. While she’s now viewed as one of the most prominent present-day LGBT activists, Panti sees it differently. “What I see myself as is, well, just very determinedly being what I fucking want to be, and if in order to be that I need to get into the odd scrap, then yes — I’m just not the kind of person to shut up and stay quiet,” Panti says. “Most of the sort of things here that I’m particularly known for, from an activist point of view, is stuff that I’ve wandered into, and I’ve had to become an activist to get myself out of the situation. But I do think of myself as an entertainer first and an activist second.” In early 2014, when O’Neill appeared out of drag on RTÉ’s The Saturday Night Show, he suggested that two Irish Times journalists, John Waters and Breda O’Brien, as well as the Iona Institute (a Catholic pressure group), were homophobic. And “Pantigate” was born. In the aftermath, O’Neill was accused of defamation (Ireland’s defamation laws are stricter than those in the U.S.), causing the Irish broadcaster to pull the episode from its online player, issue payouts to those mentioned, and have TV host Brendan O’Connor issue an on-air apology. “When I made the speech that went viral, the night before I’d met with one of my lawyers — because at the time I had a team of lawyers — and one of my lawyers was a little uncomfortable with me doing it in drag,” says Panti. “His argument was, and I appreciate the argument, that people wouldn’t be able to see past the drag, or they’d be frightened off by the drag, or that it would somehow come between me and my message. But I was very determined to do it in drag, partly because it would have felt like a defeat if I hadn’t, because that is who I am and that is what this is all about.”
“Every day I live the point is made.
049 ◄ Marsha P. Johnson was an American drag queen,sex worker, and gay liberation activist. A veteran of the Stonewall riots, Johnson was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and was a popular figure in New York City’s gay and art scene from the 1960s to the 1990s. Later in life Johnson became an AIDS activist with ACT UP. ◄◄ Previous Page: Conchita Wurst is an Austrian pop recording artist and drag queen. Wurst came to international attention after winning the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 as Austria’s entrant with the song “Rise Like a Phoenix”. Neuwirth uses masculine pronouns when referring to himself but feminine pronouns to describe Wurst.
“Just by the nature of what I do, my voice is louder than other people’s,” she says. “I think the activism enhances the entertainment. A good activist needs to be an entertainer in a way too, because people are more likely to listen to you if you’re way entertaining. They don’t need to be high-kicking and wearing funny outfits, but they need to have a stage presence in a sense, because that’s why people listen to you. And drag queens are used to that. Stagecraft helps.” Despite astounding progress since Cooper’s, Compton’s, and Stonewall, so many issues remain unresolved. But even in such a desensitized era, drag continues to shock the establishment, empower the marginalized, and challenge the norm. It’s transgressive and provocative, symbolic and subversive. In the fight for universal LGBT liberation, the role of drag queens and their art shouldn’t be underestimated. “[Drag] is a statement in itself,” Panti continues. “And the statement says you’re all wrong — fuck you. It still has the power to discombobulate people, to upset people. And it should, because these issues, about gender and sexuality, are all unresolved.”●
I exist, I matter, and I am alive.”
Sussi is SECCIĂ“N
sta r of Scotty Sussman is living proof that the nightlife wheel is still turning, as fierce and fast as it ever did. On the morning after the night before, we meet the man behind the make-up.
clu bla nd
The young New York nightlife denizen Scotty Sussman arrived in London in September 2016 with a specific instruction in mind, one only the twilit secrets of the underworld know how to pass on. “When you get to the top, leave,” he says, only half-joking, sitting in the basement of a coffee shop on Lambs Conduit Street, a stone’s throw from his Bloomsbury rental. Today, Sunday, Scotty is sporting daytime realness, a newsprint sundress over a black polo neck and chequerboard pants, clodhopping jackboots with his own Prince Charming buckle detail, an elasticated pleather corset from Camden Market and a black blouson with piped gold trim. “I’m giving fake Vivienne Westwood and New Romantic,” he explains. “That needs to come back. We’re living in such a dark time now - and I did not expect to be doing this, I did not want to be doing this - but if this is happening we have to dress royal, in our romantic looks because we have to create the kingdom that we want to live in. I’m trying to dress like a leader.” By ‘this’ he clearly means Trump, Brexit, the whole global backshift, out of the light. “I’m wearing a lot of headpieces,” he continues, “and even though I’m wearing a lot of horns it still comes from a friendly place.” Last night Scotty was at Savage, the Cambridge Heath Road party at renovated pole-dancing club, Metropolis. Scotty’s eyebrows are shaved. “They went on the first day,” he says of his entrée to NYC nightlife six years ago, smuggled under someone’s coat into a Susanne Bartsch party as a 15-year-old schoolboy, boarding somewhere on the East Coast midway between New York and Boston. “You can’t work in nightlife if you don’t shave your eyebrows. The only person who hasn’t is my boyfriend, Harry. I’m making him keep his.” Scotty talks in waspish, clipped and audibly ambitious sound bites. Street-cast, he has been shot by Bruce Weber and Steven Klein. His vernacular is recognisably learned from the door, bar and dancefloor of the best basement discos. At 21, he is the young scholar of Big Apple luminaries; the grand dame Susanne, former WestGay proprietor Frankie Sharp and Scotty’s great hero, Ladyfag, the Toronto-born hostess who brought him to maturation under her auspicious wing at the epic ecclesiastical Chelsea rave, Battle Hymn on Sunday nights, and then at 11:11, the East Village log cabin on Fridays. (If you look closely at Scotty’s Instagram thumbnails there is a picture of him with Katy Perry by 11:11’s secret door). He is conversationally fun, smart and focussed. Of arriving in London, he says, “I needed to know who Princess Julia was, in person. I needed to meet her. I needed to talk to her. I needed to be with all of that.” Now he is. “I love Scotty,” says Julia later that night. For anyone waylaid by the night-time shutdowns that have pockmarked the capital these last two years, worrying about whether Floating Points will ever play Fabric again in a new London grid defined not by its nightlife personae but social media stars, a face like Scotty’s is gratifying notice that the wheel is still turning, as fierce and fast as it ever did. He’s the type who could, and does go out five nights a week out of an emotional compulsion to work it.
"I don't want gender to be a part of my biological name. If I am no gender I'm every gender." He thinks social media might even be helping nightlife’s grand cause. “It’s my business card, my rolodex, my identity, my thumbprint,” he says of Instagram. Scotty has a particular phrase he likes to use for the power of the night. “We call it The Vortex,” he says. “Where you get wrapped up in the full fantasy, where you forget where you are and where you’ve been and what you’re doing and it all begins to feel right. That’s The Vortex. It’s like the episode of Ab Fab where Eddie goes in the isolation tank. Turn everything off, tune everything out, turn the lights on and the music so loud that you cannot hear your own thoughts.” This is Scotty’s happy place. “Complete immersion.” Scotty’s history is short and colourful enough to warrant note. He was born in Venice Beach, by the pier on the Pacific Coast Highway, the son of Canadian dreamers who made their fame and fortune under the full glare of Hollywood’s winking eye. His mother, Heather Hartt, was one of the first hosts of E! News. “She’s very VHS,” says Scotty, clearly enamoured of the early glamour inklings in his gene pool. “She was such a drag queen. She was the blonde, the outfit, the whole thing, so for me growing up there was never a problem. They were fine with me doing my thing.” His father, with whom he has partied at Battle Hymn, he says was “always bumbling about, doing business, signing something crazy. They loved a good Hollywood swirl. So that’s where I came from.” His earliest indicator of what nightlife had in store was Lady Gaga, an artist about whom he now has mixed feelings, but whose triumphant early
fanfare for otherness affected his young self hard. “She made us think about costume a bit more.” He was 12 when Just Dance hit. “What she is doing now is not what she was doing before. Compared to that pink hat? I was so happy with what she was doing in the past. I don’t want to make this about her but…” Does Scotty feel betrayed by Gaga’s all-American reinvention? “Yes. Absolutely. I want an anthem again. And it needs to be hellagay because in Trump’s America, she is the one person who needs to use her platform again. If she doesn’t use her platform for good, fuck her.” This is nightlife thinking at its sharpest. Is Gaga’s recherché Joanne era partly responsible for Trump? “All I’m going to say is there is a time for that. But we do not need an all-America album right now. We do not need a John Wayne fantasy. We are not in the right time for Americana. We don’t need any of that. We need to be thinking about the future. When she first started with everything that she did, it sparked a queer culture that could develop toward the future. Someone had to do it. She was the one.” It should come as no surprise that Scotty Sussman has ambitions that supersede twirling under a mirror ball, busting a look. “Doh”. He gave up painting on canvas at 15 and decided to use himself as the surface onto which to project his creative brain. Next stop, other people. “I was the hot glue queen,” he says of his nascent adventures in the nightlife. “I loved my trash era. I had to do the garbage looks but there comes a point where I have to look editorial and I can’t look like I come from nightlife. A lot of people who do nightlife look like they’ve been sitting in a club for 100 years. The make-up is still on from six days before. I’m going to look editorial, clean and presentable, shake your hand and look you in the eye. At that moment I cannot be dripping in hot glue. There are so many people in the future that I want to work with but I want to work with everyone so I’m not going to name names. It’ll all happen one day.”
The Oxford English Dictionary, the ultimate authority on the English language, recently added “cunty,” meaning “highly objectionable or unpleasant.” So we thought it was high time some drag terminology made it into the dictionary as well.
DRAG QUEEN GLOSSARY
(Beating a face) v. To apply the perfect amount of makeup on the face, resulting in a flawless look. The term references the motion of constantly dabbing a makeup sponge or brush against oneâ€™s face.
n. Vulgar slang for a womanâ€™s vagina. Considered to be obscene and offensive. n. A mean, disagreeable, or difficult woman. n. A term used to describe someone who is fierce or someone very fishy or beautiful.
An acronym for “Dressed Resembling A Girl”, from which the term “Drag” is said to ostensibly originate. The term is said to date back to Shakespearean times when male theatrical actors would play female roles.
Having high amounts of elegance.
adj. A term used to describe a drag queen who looks extremely feminine, or one who convincingly resembles a biological woman. The term is a reference to the scent of a womanâ€™s vagina, which is colloquially likened to the smell of fish. Although the term is considered to be a compliment among Drag Queens, it is often considered to be an insult among biological women.
- v. To react intensely, usually as a result of shock; also may be used as an exclamation.
H HOUSE DOWN
A great deal; a lot. Often used to punctuate the end of a phrase for emphasis.
n. A term used for gossip, small talk, chatting, or a heart to heart.
A queen’s face.
A combination of “okay” and “don’t even question me.”
P PEANUT BUTTER
adj. To be spreadable.
n. Something which is spreadable (i.e. Buttcheeks, legs) v. To spread your legs, like a slut or a prostitute.
v. To wittily and incisively expose a person’s flaws (i.e. “reading them like a book”), often exaggerating or elaborating on them; an advanced format of the insult. The term is a reference to the film Paris is Burning.
n. The casting of aspersions. A form of insult. Bluntly pointing out a person’s flaws or faults. Derived from the term “Reading”.
n. A back-formation from the letter T for “truth”; refers to gossip, news, information or true facts.
v. A term meaning to “work your body.” v. To strut, especially on a runway. v. To give an outstanding presentation.
Published on Feb 19, 2018
Published on Feb 19, 2018
Para la clase, nos asignaron hacer una revista sobre un tema que nos encante y, por supuesto, escogí drag queens. Así que les presento a Cun...