Find out more about the project here.
You may ask: “VREELAND? Is that even a word? Why would you call your book that?”
My grandparents lived on Vreeland Road in Ann Arbor, Michigan for many, many years. Whenever the family was referring to things out there, we’d just talk about stuff “at Vreeland” — the word was synonymous with the life my grandparents had created out there on their rugged five-acre parcel of land.
They spent fifty or sixty years together on Vreeland Road. I spent four.
I had just graduated from college, and I was a mess. I was convinced that if I could just make good art, everything in life would magically open up for me. I was wrong. It took several long, hard months back home with my parents in Wisconsin to realize that.
It was around that time, late in 2005, that we visited Vreeland for the holidays. My grandparents were in sad shape, their house a mess. Although they had someone coming out twice a week to help out, it was clear that they needed a lot more support to stay at Vreeland.
It was my parents’ idea: I would move to Michigan, head out to Vreeland each afternoon, make some dinner, then have the rest of the day to work on my art. My parents would chip in, along with other family members, to help support me.
It seemed like a good match — I needed something worthwhile to do with myself, and helping my grandparents was a noble cause.
But even years later, I still don’t know how to think of the fours years I spent at Vreeland. I got to know and care for my grandparents on a level I never could have imagined. There were profound moments, funny ones, and there were ordeals I barely pulled through.
I hope to capture that complexity in my comics about that time, to share and make sense of it.
I’m drawing Chapter 2 right now, and Chapters 3 and 4 are still just rough drafts. So it might take a while. I hope you get something from these stories, that you share them, and that you enjoy your time at Vreeland.
One of the most enduring questions of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 2 is:
Why didn’t Raven win?
It’s fair to say that Raven is one of the most iconic beauties from the show, right? And that she has a mouth to match it.
But it’s fascinating to look back at her in Season 2, then in All Stars, and now in the Fashion Photo RuView. In the second season, she served up pure pin-up realness, unclockable bombshell beauty. In All Stars, she brought a much more exaggerated mug and outrageous outfits, aiming to be more of an avant garde spectacle. And in the more casual videos she does for WOW Presents, she takes a much more laid back approach, serving up impeccable face with occasionally ridiculous and subversive outfits. (Remember those crazy airbrushed T shirts?)
Her attitude has evolved, too. Raven came into Season 2 as one of the older, more accomplished queens. She acted entitled to the crown, fiercely judgmental toward the younger, less experienced queens, especially Tatianna. And she wasn’t as eager to make a spectacle of herself, to play along with the more ridiculous challenges of that season. (Remember that chicken outfit from the “Country Queens” episode?) ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
I fell in love with Jujubee all over again in Season 2. She was essentially the shining star among the cast, and I’m a little shocked she didn’t steal the crown. (If Season 2’s winner had been selected by popular appeal, surely she would have!) In any case, Jujubee was kind enough to answer my interview questions after I had thoroughly gushed about how great she is.
CHAD: First, let me say that I had a ton of fun re-watching Season 2. It was such a great cast of queens with the perfect blend of ego, drama, and talent. But frankly, you really stood out as the heart and soul of the season—both with your humor in the workroom and your impeccable performances onstage. What were your favorite experiences on set that we didn’t see on screen?
JUJUBEE: Rupaul’s Drag Race Season Two is the BEST EVER! Just ask us! Haha. There was so much that happened that you guys didn’t get to see onscreen, and a lot of those moments will forever be with me. So many precious and special moments happened. Believe it or not, we all had a wonderful time competing against one another. Sure, there was drama and arguments, but all that only happened because each of us had passion and something to fight for. We wanted that title!
JUJUBEE: The friendships that were created on set will always be close to my heart. No matter what, I am connected to every single sister I met there. We will always have each other’s backs. Raven and I became really good friends, and that was more apparent on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. Pandora, Tatianna and I were always around each other. We’d help one another all the time, because that’s what sisters do. Jessica Wild is someone I adore and see whenever we both are in town (Boston) at the same time. Not many people know this, but Mystique and I had our morning coffee together before our pickup. It’s moments like that I will always cherish. It’s funny to think that our lives were changed just by being chosen by RuPaul! THANK YOU, RU! ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
Okay. Let’s talk Tyra.
In a lot of ways, Season 2 set the stage for every Drag Race season since. So much of the season’s foundational structure and most beloved traditions (Snatch Game, The Reading mini-challenge) started there. Season 2 was so good, was filled with such amazing personalities and performances, that it should be held up as the gold standard of competitive drag queen reality programming.
Except that Tyra won. Or, at least, that’s the complaint you’ll hear from many, many Drag Race fans.
The first three seasons of the Drag Race were filmed in their entirety long before they started airing. The winner had been chosen and crowned, regardless what fans thought about it. The winners of Seasons 4 through 6 were only chosen after most of their episodes had already aired, and those selections certainly seem to have been based on which queen had the most vocal fans.
So the most recent season winners haven’t necessarily been the best queens, but rather the best reality TV characters. They’ve been the queens whose talent, personality, and style appealed to the most fans. Which isn’t meant to dismiss Sharon, Jinkx, or Bianca — I was rooted for all three!
What I’m saying is: Tyra would never, ever have won on the Drag Race based on fan reactions. Obviously. But that’s not what her season was about.
Ru picked her Season 2 winner based on her performance record in the challenges and on the runway. Tyra was alright in the performance challenges, but she was superb in that season’s frequent fashion challenges. She reliably brought dramatic, versatile looks to the runway, often with clever little costume changes. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
Season 1 of RuPaul’s Drag Race featured an eclectic cast of queens: lavish showgirls, sharp-edged genderfuckers, and… Tammie Brown.
But Season 2 narrowed the focus on fishier queens who could rock both the runway and the lip sync. Pandora Boxx stood out from the cast and brought something different, a contribution of camp and comedy.
I was lucky enough to chat with Pandora about her time on the show and the years since it aired:
CHAD: In recent seasons of the Drag Race, the show has celebrated a wide variety of approaches to drag. But you stood out in Season 2 with your comedic skills and campier sense of fashion. When you first met the other queens of that season, did you feel like the odd one out, or not?
PANDORA: I so did! I felt like I had walked into a room full of women. Everyone looked gorgeous. I quickly realized I was the campy queen. I didn’t realize how much I’d stand out as a campy queen but everyone was real, real fishy. The Season of the Fish!
CHAD: Do you consider yourself shy or introverted? What was it like to be filmed for the weeks of shooting under so much pressure and competition?
PANDORA: I feel like I’m an extroverted introvert, if that makes any sense. I can be quite quiet at times. Can you be funny and on 24 hours a day? That would be exhausting to me, and fake. There is a lot of pressure being shot that much. Plus, you want to stand out so you can last longer BUT still come across as genuine. It’s tough, but still exciting and fun.
CHAD: In every season of the Drag Race, queens struggle to find the right character for the Snatch Game–but your depiction of Carol Channing for the first one ever still stands as one of the most unforgettable Snatch performances in Drag Race herstory! How much were you told about the format of the game, and how did you prepare?
PANDORA: We knew NOTHING about the game until the day of the challenge. All we knew is that we might have to do a celebrity impersonation. Ru says it every season, “Make it funny.” Some queens choose people they do well in a lip synced show, but it’s harder to do for a few hours with NO lip syncing. I felt like, with Carol, I had the most leeway to do anything I wanted. Plus, Carol has the most amazing voice. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…