Joining me this week to discuss the Drag Race is IMP QUEEN! She recently celebrated her very first year of drag, but she’s already an indelible presence in the Chicago scene. (Photo by Jo Control with styling by Daniella DeLuna)
Chad: I was so thrilled with this week’s episode — I think it might be the high point of the entire season! There’s plenty of fun stuff to talk about, but first, let’s dig into the workroom drama between Naomi and Derrick. What do you think was at the heart of their bickering?
Imp Queen: I think last night they reached the point of the competition where politeness and tact and desire to appear “unbitchy” on TV went out the window. Derrick accused Naomi of attacking her to cover up her own insecurities, but sometimes I think the behavior you imagine you are seeing in others is really the behavior you are refusing to see in yourself. I think Derrick seemed really shaken by the journey of the competition, the struggle to find his own “authentic” identity in drag. And I think Naomi was rightfully annoyed that Derrick kept criticizing Naomi’s objectively superior visual drag. Also, as much as this is “the big fight of the season,” there really wasn’t all that much animosity, just spirited disagreement. This wasn’t a Shangela/Mimi or a Phi Phi/Sharon moment. Which I think speaks to the increasing media savvy of the queens each season.
Chad: One of the reasons I enjoyed this episode so much was that, even after all that animosity, Naomi and Derrick made an effort the following day to talk and help each other out. It was very humanizing and warm — the bonds of their sisterhood were evident.
Chad: Naomi was described this week as the underdog of the season, but honestly, I had been thinking that was Chi Chi’s storyline! Who do you think deserves a spot in the final three?
Imp Queen: I’ve been saying since week one that Kim and Bob are locks for the top 3 to me. I just could never for a moment imagine the season going any other way. But the third spot could really go either way. Both Naomi and Chi Chi have performed extremely well in all aspects of the competition. They both are endearing. I think Chi Chi’s edit has a little more storyline, but only because the judges were kinda sleeping on Naomi at the beginning of the season for some reason. Pageant answer: they both deserve it. Non-pageant answer: I pick my Neverland sister Naomi.
Chad: I would truly be happy to see either in the final three, alongside Kim and Bob, of course!
Imp Queen: Also, like, heaven forbid Kim Chi gets cut next episode– it would be really cool to see an all Black top three, especially since there hasn’t been a black queen in the top three since season 2.
Chad: I can’t even contemplate such a thing — No Kim Chi in the final 3? I think that’s officially sacrilege, especially in the city of Chicago.
Imp Queen: Yeah, exactly. It’s actually just not possible to comprehend.
Chad: I have two questions for you: Are you a fan of Strangers With Candy? And were you a fan of the queens’ performance that paid homage to it?
Imp Queen: I LOOOOOOOVE Strangers With Candy! I thought the queens’ performance was like the Ball challenge opening numbers always are– silly, pointless, sloppy, and wonderful. It was a lot of fun to hear Amy singing (I would LOVE a Strangers With Candy musical…) but like, what was with the false teeth they were all wearing? None of them were able to lip sync!
Chad: I know! That was the weirdest part of it. I’m also a huge, huge fan of Amy Sedaris and her work on Strangers with Candy, but I agree entirely with your summation of the homage. But… at least it was short!
Imp Queen: Kinda great, though. One of my favorite lip sync moves is to do the Coco Montrese point-at-your-mouth thing, but then get all the lyrics wrong.
Chad: HA! I love that so much. I wasn’t initially thrilled with the Book Ball challenge — I was worried that the use of paper would echo the Money Ball from Season 3. But I actually LOVED the autobiographical theme of the challenge, and the runway looks slayed me. Which were your favorites, and what are your thoughts on their construction/innovation/concept?
Imp Queen: Kim was hands down the winner of the Ball. The queens were joking about it in Untucked, but she really did “embrace the material”– and not just paper, but the whole idea of an autobiography challenge focused on your relationship with drag and your mother. She went deeper conceptually and emotionally than any of the queens, crafting a clear and compelling visual story that HAD ACTUAL CONTENT!!! Her looks said something deeply personal about her life experience, something that has a real emotional cost for her to share. She didn’t win because of her flawless construction and her perfect taste. She won because she showed us something special and sad and beautiful about herself.
Chad: I thought Kim’s looks were utterly stunning. Her story and her performance were so masterful!The way the challenge was constructed to allow the queens to visually convey their history and character was fantastic, but I think it was particularly suited to Kim’s skills — she knocked it out of the park! I adored both Naomi and Chi Chi’s eleganza looks — what did you think of them?
Imp Queen: Naomi’s was absolutely stunning– the silhouette when she leaned back was just gorgeous. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I look exactly like Naomi Smalls. We’re practically twins. (lol in my imagination) I think Chi Chi was also great, especially the hair and face pieces. I think both Naomi and Chi Chi’s looks felt a little bit similar to their looks from the wizard of oz challenge, but amplified. I think that makes a certain sense; you’re creating all of these pieces so close together, and I know my drag sort of moves through phases of similar visual obsessions.
Chad: I agree — I’m obsessed with those hairpieces that Chi Chi made. And the earrings, too. I had to draw her close up, because the angles were stunnnnning. I thought her use of the varied textures were really interesting, but I wasn’t quite as drawn to the overall gown.
Imp Queen: Yeah, the way she placed the earring to extend the lines of her bone structure was super QT
Chad: I guess you’re quite knowledgeable about unconventional uses of paper applied to one’s face, aren’t you?
Imp Queen: lolol what can I say, I love a nice natural lash… just one pair of 3001s. I actually really liked Bob’s look, too.
Chad: Yeah! The colors were gorgeous, and I loved that hair on her.
Imp Queen: I think it’s very smart to spray yourself a strong color if everyone else is walking out in off-white.
Chad: Do you feel like she skirted the challenge by using primarily cardboard?
Imp Queen: I mean, I guess so, but i don’t get the sense there’s a real advantage to cardboard over paper– so it doesn’t feel like cheating or dishonesty, just like missing the opportunity to give the judges what they really wanted. I’m glad cardboard-gate didn’t turn into tulle-gate 2.0
Chad: Bob got a lot of shit from the other girls about her makeup — what do you think of her paint?
Imp Queen: I mean, it’s not good… Kim said it best– it looks like she wears lips and lashes. But like Bob said, her paint isn’t really the point. So, like, I think I can be a sickening drag queen even if I can’t death drop or tongue pop or serve you Rihanna in a one-armed leotard. And i think Bob can be a sickening drag queen wearing one pair of 301s and some strawberry lipsmackers. It’s all about what you DO have to offer. That said, once you get to a certain level, maybe it’s time to step your pussy up (and I think Bob has, paintwise. She looks so much better now gigging the gig than she did shooting a year ago.)
Imp Queen: I LIVED for her Sylvester lip sync!!!!
Chad: Ha! It was fabulous! And I was so tickled by the song selection!
Imp Queen: One of my favorites, and you could tell Bob really loves the song, too. Derrick did a great job, too, but she was definitely the supporting actress.
Chad: I took a million screengrabs during the lip sync for reference, and I was struck by how many wonderfully expressive and varied faces Bob was pulling at every moment in her performance.
Imp Queen: I loved the moment when Bob slid on his knees, and then Bob and Derrick sort of scooted along the floor together in sync.
Chad: And then her moment with Derrick after Bob was told to stay — I think that was a magnificent moment of tenderness between them. It was an incredibly WARM episode. They’ve been through a lot, but there was a lot of reconciliation this week.
Imp Queen: Also, like, from an appearing-on-reality-TV standpoint, that was really smart. Like, Bob knows some shit went down with him and Derrick, he doesn’t know 100% how the edit will go down, so he makes a point of saying, in a very public moment, how positive he feels about Derrick and how much they’ve grown.
Chad: I think Bob is EXTREMELY smart with how she comes across onscreen. Compassionate and fun and creative.
Imp Queen: She and Kim both I think are being very genuine, but also playing the TV part of the game very intelligently– like Bianca and Willam did, where it felt like they were holding up little storyline signposts for the editors to pick up on and use. That’s Kim’s ultimate embrace of the material.
Chad: HA! Brilliant. That leads me to my final question: When’s dinner?
Imp Queen: lololol seriously though, I’m hungry.
Chad: Did you have any other topics you’d like to discuss?
Imp Queen: Last little thought about Kim Chi the entrepreneur— I think Trixie and Katya changed the game last year in terms of how to market yourself online and IRL during the airing of your season. And I think Kim is really taking what Trixie did and going, like, ten steps further. She’s far and away the best businesswoman to ever be on the show. Releasing gorgeous Adam Ouahmane photos of every runway look, a new limited edition T shirt of every catch phrase… She’s playing the fuck out of this game, and building the kind of platform that will keep her one of the top Ru girls for years to come.
Find Imp Queen on Instagram, SoundCloud, and Snapchat! (@impqueen) She’ll be performing May 4th at Hydrate’s #FACE, and she’ll be at SmartBar’s Queen! on May 8th. She’ll be performing and hosting at IT Presents’ next party May 12th at Berlin, and then at Neverland’s Animal Farm IML party at Charlies. Every Monday, she’s at Annex at the Boom Boom Room, and every Thursday, she’s at Debonair Social Club for Neo. (Photo by Erik Michael Kommer)
Find all this week’s art on my Etsy store!
Chad: Sara! I’m really excited to talk Drag Race with you! I’ve totally fallen in love with you, your style, and your performances since you moved to Chicago – about a year ago, was it?
Sara: Yup! I fell asleep in sunny 75 degree Florida and woke up in a 10 below zero blizzard last January.
Chad: Ugh, I apologize on behalf of the entire city of Chicago. Now, you’ve been really outspoken about the show’s general politics of representation on social media, but first, I’d like to hear what you thought about the week’s “political” challenge.
Sara: I loved it! Drag is meant to be a lot of fun, of course. But it’s also good to be vocal about important things like politics, too, if you’re in the public eye. It made me love Bob even more. It showed that he was more than just funny. He had some depth, too.
Chad: That’s true! I felt like the most political discussion in the show wasn’t in the challenge, but rather with Bob in the workroom. I LOVE me a socially conscious queen!
Sara: Oh, for sure! If you have a voice, and you don’t use it for good, you’re wasting it.
Chad: Did you know she’s also auctioning off a lot of the clothes she wore on the show for charity?
Sara: I saw that! That’s incredible! I absolutely adore her!
Chad: I felt like the actual challenge this week wasn’t really about any kind of heightening of political consciousness, but rather about making fun of each other. But that was still pretty entertaining! I thought it was a cleverly designed exercise. The queens knew that they couldn’t be TOO mean about their partners, but they also had to be entertaining. It allowed for some character work, some jokes, and a lot of Pit Crew action!
Sara: It was a good ratio of serious to entertaining.
Chad: So aside from Bob, whose performance did you like most?
Chad: Yeah, it was an interesting challenge in that regard — the partner often helped carry the other queen’s commercial with their goofy acting! I didn’t feel like Derrick’s jokes were that strong, but she was committed, and like you said, Bob helped out a lot. And admittedly, Derrick’s “baby eating” contributions to Bob’s commercial were also… delicious?
Sara: Hahaa! For sure. I enjoyed Chi Chi’s as well! Being a southern girl, I thought a lot of her jokes were funny. I was surprised that she did so much better than Thorgy in the challenge.
Chad: Chi Chi definitely had some great jokes! Do you relate at all to her turmoil about playing up her “deep South” roots?
Sara: Oh, for sure. I grew up without a pot to piss in as well. Hahaa! Even though I hate that she uses her poverty as an excuse so much, I understand where she’s coming from. But sometimes, you just gotta laugh about it.
Sara: Not at ALL! I honestly thought she’d be one of the first to go. I’m all for an underdog storyline… but not a whiny underdog.
Chad: Oh really?? See, I think she’s proven to be one of the very best lip sync performers this season. Would you agree with that?
Sara: I think I could definitely agree with that. She’s from the South, after all. Drag down there is a little more old school. It’s all about what you can do on the stage. So it make sense that she would excel in that area. From what I’ve seen, southern drag is to Broadway as northern drag is to Hollywood.
Chad: That’s a fascinating analogy! (haha, anal)
Chad: Kim had a really rough week, but I have to say that I adored her commercial! I think she embraced her oddball sense of humor and pulled it off. How do you feel about her performance and longevity on the show?
Sara: Omigosh! You know I’m the biggest Kim Chi fan ever! I really liked her commercial a lot! I think there was only one joke that went over my head. The rest were hilarious to me. Kim is so quick witted. And, being that I’m a hill person from the backwoods of Tennessee, I can be a bit slow, sometimes. So it often takes me a little extra time to get Kim’s jokes backstage.
Chad: I thought her “don’t trust a skinny cook” angle was super smart. And self-deprecating jokes are always a safe bet, but I just hope she isn’t really that hard on herself! How did you feel about the black and white runway? I’m glad that they at least acknowledged that they totally got the idea from Detox!
Sara: Ya, I am too! I loved it. Kim was my favorite, of course. She’s just such a visual spectacle and a makeup genius. I liked that hers was outside the box from all the others.
Chad: Hers was the only one that made me flip my shit. Kim is a flippin’ genius! What did you think of the lip sync? Was it even close?
Sara: Not at ALL. I think we only saw 2 half-second clips of Thorgy the whole time… probably for good reason. Those 2 clips were terrible. But, also, I’ve believed for quite some time that they choose the songs specifically for the queen that they want to stay.
Sara: I really liked Thorgy in the beginning. But as the show went on she became more an more unlikable.
Chad: When Chi Chi’s beads broke, what was Thorgy doing? Did you see how she kind of stopped performing and was grabbing for Chi Chi?
Sara: I did see that! I was wondering what that was all about. But it seemed like Thorgy seemed to not know a lot of the word. And, how any drag queen could not know the words to that song is beyond me.
Chad: I thought that Thorgy might have been worried Chi Chi was going to trip on the beads? Or something? It was a strange moment.
Sara: Maybe. Thorgy does seem like someone that would be caring like that.
Chad: I think Thorgy is a VERY strong personality. The competition played up her quirks and competitiveness, which is too bad. I still dig her, though!
Sara: Ya, I like her, too. I’ve learned not to judge the girls on the show too harshly. I’ve met too many that I loved on the show and ended up not caring for in person. And vice versa. Often times my least favorites on the show are my favorites when I work with them.
Chad: You don’t have to answer this question, but here it is: You are given this week’s challenge, and your partner is RuPaul. Where do you even start?
Sara: Hahaa! You know how I feel about RuPaul. I want to like her soooo bad! She was my idol growing up. I even drew her and sent her a fan letter when I was 14. Bought her autobigraphy, albums, watched her talk show on VH1. If it had to do with RuPaul, I had it. But I feel like she’s quickly becoming the Caitlyn Jenner of drag. It’s great that she’s shining a spotlight on her community. But the ignorance she has for the current state of said community is mind boggling. Not that I’m one to talk, really. Kids these days have so many terms for gender and sexuality, it’s confusing. But at least I’m making an effort to understand it all. She’s very set in her ways.
Chad: In her controversial Vulture interview, she said that trans people take gender too seriously. Do you think that’s true?
Sara: I think it can be. But I also know a lot of drag queens who take their gender too seriously. And I know a lot of trans people who don’t take theirs seriously at all, too. It seems to me that Ru sees the trans vs drag issue in black and white (as does much of the media) when, in fact, it’s actually a very colorful spectrum. I chuckled to myself when I saw that the runway challenge was black and white, by the way. How fitting…
Chad: Ha! Well said! What perspective do you think a trans performer could bring to the show?
Sara: I feel like drag today is all about saying, “Fuck you,” to gender norms and the gender binary. But I feel like Drag Race still caters to those norms a bit at times in order to appeal to a wider audience. I really think a trans perspective could push the boundaries that Drag Race is trying to push even further. And why not?! The trans issue is HUGE right now. Heck. If we have a right wing Republican trans person in the media, why not the opposite end of the spectrum – a trans drag queen?!
If you liked the black and white sketches in this week’s post, you can get your own custom postcard sketches every month though my Patreon campaign! And you’ll find this week’s Bob and Kim art on Etsy!
Hi folks! It’s just me and my dumb art this week. My interview didn’t work out, but that’s okay, because after talking Drag Race non-stop for 4 days in Seattle at Emerald City Comic Con, I’m happy for a break! (Thanks to everyone who came by! It was great!)
With the Wizard of Oz runway, I was really hoping for wild, avant garde looks from the queens. They don’t assign you a poppy-fueled interpretive dance challenge if they don’t expect you to pull some crazy shit, right? But the majority of queens brought out underwhelming looks. Some simply lacked the imagination, others probably lacked time.
In any case, let’s get to the good stuff:
I liked the looks of Thorgy and her partner — I didn’t actually know what the “Citizens of the Emerald City” looked like, but after googling them, it’s clear that Thorgy stuck pretty close to the source material while giving her looks a sleek, simple consistency.
Kim and her partner came out in fairly simple garments, but they had a fabulous graphic appeal. And those brooms! Trading, hitting, flying on them. Maybe even sweeping with them! Plus, I’m a total sucker for stripes.
I was excited that Naomi stepped it up this week. I like her a lot, but I agree with the judges that she needed to branch out beyond her lingerie sets, and it’s clear she’s learned a lot from those Barnes & Noble fashion magazines!
Joining me this week is Toyota Corona! She’s a fairly new Chicago queen who won the first cycle of CRASH LANDING, Trannika Rex and Nico’s talent contest at Berlin. (Photo by Meg Strobel)
Chad: So, my expectations were exceedingly high this week — for both the Snatch Game and the juicy rumors I had read about the episode’s lip sync. Neither ended up being quite as exciting as I had hoped. What was your impression of this week’s episode?
Toyota: I thought it was a a good episode. Overall, I liked a lot of the impressions. I was so looking forward to whatever Bob was going to do. He’s such a charismatic performer that it didn’t even matter who he did. There are always going to be a few underwhelming performances
Chad: If a queen knows that comedy isn’t her strength, what do you think she should do?
Toyota: Every queen has a gimmick, and they need to work it if acting/impressions aren’t their forte. Whether it be using props or flirting or reveals. Kim blew me away with the commitment to that ridiculous character. At the very core, you have to know the person you’re impersonating. Even if you’re not witty, have at least a few references in your pocket.
Chad: I thought Kim made a really smart choice — going with an over-the-top character who is funny from the start, just from her crazy appearance! I feel like Pearl would have been the wrong choice — queens with low energy in the Snatch Game often go home, so impersonating such a character would have been risky!
Toyota: She definitely chose correctly out of the two.
Chad: I felt like Thorgy absolutely nailed the look and behavior of Michael Jackson — to a creepy extent!
Toyota: You can tell she studied him and really put work into it.
Chad: I think what kept her from winning was the subtle, somewhat subdued nature of the performance — the most effective aspect of her impersonation was Michael’s soft voice, which doesn’t steal the spotlight like Bob’s louder characters did.
Toyota: Michael had a soft voice, but he also had a larger than life personality on stage. So Thorgy could have channeled a bit of the other persona if he wanted to make it bigger. I think Michelle or someone called out Bob for “showboating,” which was a ridiculous critique. It’s a competition for drag queens. That’s literally our job. If you’re fighting wig and nail for something, you’re gonna try to make everything you do as big and flashy and memorable as possible.
Chad: Ha! I think that’s a fair point. However, as a somewhat introverted person, I often want my artwork to stand by itself, rather than having to fight for it to be seen. Bob is that motormouth extrovert that can be a great ally and friend, but only if he lets you get a word in!
Toyota: Ahh I do understand that. I think the nature of the reality tv competition lens that their art is being shown through gravitates towards the grandiose.
Chad: Yes, definitely. And clearly, drag is a performative art! I’m FASCINATED by the friendship between Bob and Thorgy — in fact, I think the show is doing a really great job this year of depicting the complexities of these queens’ relationships.
Toyota: I agree. I think the whole season has been really fantastic because we’re getting to know the queens as people, and I feel like they’re doing a great job of humanizing everyone. Acid was pegged as a mega bitch, but everyone has a struggle, and you could tell the bitchiness comes as a defense mechanism. Same, I think, with Derrick.
Chad: Yup, I agree — We saw Acid unload on Thorgy how she feels like such an outcast in the drag community.
Chad: What do you mean? That tagging each other and liking each other’s posts don’t equate to an actual community?
Toyota: At the end of the day, the people on social media aren’t at your gigs. They’re not in the dressing room when you just performed your heart out for $3, and you’re staring at the mirror asking if you should even be doing this. It’s a lonely sport, sometimes. So I understand Acid’s feelings.
Chad: You recently moved from Milwaukee to Chicago — was it specifically to join this unique community?
Toyota: Absolutely. At Divas of Drag on Saturday, Trixie said Chicago is still the best place for drag in the world, and I believe that. There is so much art and talent and drive, and people here are at the forefront of this drag Renaissance. I was a public high school English teacher for 4 years, and I quit everything to be a part of this.
Chad: Yeah, that’s quite a leap! One of the most striking elements of your performances has been your use of character, jokes, and (occasionally) props. So I think you’re the perfect person to be chatting with for the Snatch Game!
Toyota: Everything I do has an element of humor, and I have wanted to make people laugh from as soon as I could talk. It’s been a crutch, a defense mechanism, an art medium, a way into job opportunities and now I’m making (a very little amount of) money from it!
Chad: Speaking of queens in bankruptcy, what did you think of Chi Chi’s performance this week?
Toyota: I am absolutely enamored with Chi Chi, as I think most of the world is by now.Her Eartha Kitt was purrrrrrfect. The runway was also great because she: A) made that all in 6 hours and B) didn’t wear a kimono. Kimono-Gate was so freaking uncomfortable. I was talking to Naomi last night, and she said they all thought it would be a look no one would do.
Chad: Yeah, I’m sure! It was just a really unfortunate coincidence.
Toyota: My question is why didn’t anyone whip up something new?
Chad: Eh, I’m guessing the producers WANTED that drama — like, “who wore it better?” But FOUR? It was somewhat interesting to pick apart the differences between their approaches — Thorgy went for a very cartoony take, Kim did an authentic one, Naomi put on a red sheet and looked amazing.
Toyota: And Derrick’s looked like a Mexican blanket from the flea market.
Chad: You didn’t like it?
Toyota: Those blankets are fierce! I have a fuzzy blue one with a beautiful lion on it.
Chad: The artwork on Derrick’s kimono absolutely slayed, but I felt like the overall look was flat.
Toyota: I’m definitely, definitely not one to talk about fashion. But I felt like it was tacky. Beautifully illustrated and crafted, but it was more “Madonna fan” than “Madonna.”
Chad: I see. I wanted something more — the wig was too simple, the makeup was too simple, the palette of the kimono was too simple.
Toyota: What did you think of her Britney?
Toyota: There’s been such a big build up about it. Like, is she gonna make it to Snatch Game? (Duh) Is she gonna do Britney? (Duh) She was lively, but didn’t take the character to the over-the-top place that’s needed to do well.
Chad: I thought she was firmly in “safe” territory, yeah.
Toyota: I don’t agree with everything she says, but she’s playing the game as well as she can.
Chad: I really like Derrick! I think she’s trying her damnedest, but this just really isn’t her game.
Toyota: I like her, too, and I hope her portrayal on the show doesn’t hurt her.
Toyota: As a Maxxinista, I had never heard of her character. So I think that put her at a disadvantage. And she was already feeling the pressure of being in the Seattle shadow of Jinkx and BDLC.
Chad: Yeah, I was dying to see her do Liza — she’s performed as her for years!
Toyota: That would have been so much better, even if it was bad. The recognizability would have helped a lot, and Liza has a lot more to play with in terms of gestures and mannerisms.
Toyota: Betty and Naomi were let-downs, so there was no surprise they were in the bottom two. Naomi should have done Celie/Whoopi. I don’t know if it was editing, or if Bob got in her head, or what.
Chad: Yeah, that was disappointing! Naomi is talented, but SO YOUNG, and I can see how she would be intimidated by the more experienced queens.
Chad: So, we may or may not want to venture into this territory, but with something like the Snatch Game, what do you think about the queens impersonating characters who might be deemed problematic — the mentally ill, accused child molesters, etc? And what about a lot of queens of various racial backgrounds coming out in kimonos?
Toyota: Oh geez, here we go! Let’s do this. As far as problematic characters, I think it’s okay if it’s done correctly. RPDR/Snatch game is a pop culture microcosm, and so meta, and already such a critique of many of society’s issues, so I like when a queen can dig into something in the world of the media and make it humorous. For the the first round of Trannika Rex, Nico, and Lucy Stoole’s Crash Landing, I impersonated Kim Davis. She’s a shit human and hurt a lot of people, but I got to turn that into something funny and turn the tables.
Chad: Right! I saw that! That was at the peak of her fifteen minutes of infamy!
Toyota: Mine too! Thorgy as Michael didn’t skirt around any of his issues, but he also showed that this person was a human being, and a very talented, but damaged, one.
Chad: I mean, I really liked the performance, but I could see how someone would have a problem with him making light of what may have been sexual abuse.
Toyota: That’s very true. There’s always a question with artists–can you appreciate the art but despise the artist, or are they inseparable?
Chad: I hope people like my art despite me being a terrible human being.
Toyota: Let’s face it, most celebs/artists have a facet about them that should not be glorified
Chad: So very, very true. Some of them even host reality shows about drag queens.
Toyota: Bloooooop. Are we going there?
Chad: If you have some thoughts you’d like to share on Ru’s recent interviews and such, I’m happy to hear them!
Toyota: In all of my years of school, and also as a teacher, I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to speak on this, but I am going to anyway, because I’m an American, and that’s what we do. A few quotes from an interview with RuPaul and a follow-up tweet have incited quite a bit of controversy in our community.
Chad: About the inclusion of cis-women and trans performers into the Drag Race?
Toyota: Yeah, they’re kind of different issues, but also kind of the same. Ru said that drag mocks gender, and trans people take gender very seriously, so while the general public thinks they’re similar, they’re opposites. Not the exact quote, but that’s the gist.
Chad: Right, I think that’s a fair summary of that particular point.
Toyota: And with that statement, he widened this already present “us vs. them” gap between gay men and trans women. It’s driving a wedge between people and further boxing and labeling and other-ing, which are all things that the queer community doesn’t need more of.
Chad: Right, well said.
Toyota: One side of the argument is that he’s entitled to his experience and opinion, and we can’t fault him for feeling the way he feels.
Chad: True. It’s his show, he can cast whomever he wants.
Toyota: But as pretty much the biggest icon of our community, he’s got a platform and a megaphone, so he should use that to help as many people as possible. It’s not just about casting. It’s this idea that all trans people take identity so seriously and “drag queens” don’t. It’s obviously not that cut and dry. It was just a small answer in a much longer interview, but the way he just easily dismissed the issue was painful. I know tons of queens who still take their gender and masculinity very seriously and only do drag as a job.
Chad: Right, and trans performers who have a lot of fun with gender norms!
Toyota: Exactly. The first people that come to mind are Sara Andrews and Kelly Lauren. They’re both like, fuck your ideas of what you think I am and what you think about my gender. Really, ultimately, at the end of the goddamn day, drag should never be boiled down to genitalia.
Chad: That is a supreme point.
Toyota: And I didn’t wake up thinking that, or start drag thinking that, but it became pretty obvious after working with amazing people on every point of the spectrums of gender and sexuality.
Chad: Exactly, you and I both know amazing performers across the spectrums, and we think, “They would be amazing on the Drag Race. And in fact, the Drag Race would benefit from including them and expanding its boundaries.” And apart from the show, they’re amazing, period. I don’t mean to frame everything as, “They would be soooo good on that TV show!”
Toyota: That’s what it boils down to these days, unfortunately. One of the only ways to get that world-wide exposure that these people deserve is on Drag Race. Of course, there have been entertainers who have made it big without Drag Race, but they’re exceptions to the norm. The goddamn acronym for the essentiality of drag is CUNT for crying out loud! It’s not Gender, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent.
Chad: Ha! Imagine!
Toyota: Ru can host GUNT with the fellow small-minded men who want to hold on to at least a little privilege. I get it. You fought. You struggled. You had to work to make drag what it is today, and you definitely blazed the trail. But, girl, you gotta see the bigger picture here. We are in this together.
Chad: Yeah, you can’t expect to be a trailblazer and then get offended when others want to follow in the path you’ve made! ESPECIALLY when you’ve inspired so many varied people to do so!
Toyota: I just don’t ever want anyone to be denied the joy that drag can bring. It’s unlike any other type of art or performance.
Follow Toyota on Facebook and Instagram! Or find her at Bingo Brunch at Dive Bar every Sunday from 11-3. Get Ur Freak On is at Berlin on April 20th and every third Wednesday. She’s competing in Shea Coulee’s #FreshFace on April 13th and performing in “Gender is a Drag” at improvOlympics on the 18th. She’s the special guest at the SAIC drag show on April 28th. (Illustration by Jen Wiley)
As always, you can find my latest prints, postcards, and posters on Etsy! I’ll also be in Seattle for Emerald City Comic Con April 7-10! The pencil sketches of Robbie, Chi Chi, and Sara Andrews are some examples of the postcard sketches I send out every month to my Patreon supporters!
Kat Sass joins me this week to discuss Episode 4 of the Drag Race! Kat is an amazing singer and performer in Chicago, so I was excited to hear her thoughts on the New Wave challenge! (Photo by Sam Probst)
Chad: This week’s episode was a breath of fresh air for me — I loved the challenge, I loved the workroom dynamics. What did you think of it all, Kat?
Kat: I loved that they were able to write their own lyrics and come up with their own looks. I thought the New York team came across as bullies, but I’m pretty sure they were all picking at each other during the work room time, and the New York team got a rougher edit. It’s a lot like when we all get ready for a show together, we pick on each other one second, and lend each other nail glue and shoes the next.
Chad: I 100% agree with you that it was SO GREAT to see the queens picking their own teams, writing their own lyrics, coming up with their own goofy acts. The NYC team had especially funny choreography and timing.
Chad: The workroom shenanigans with Thorgy were absolutely priceless. I love that the quirky qualities that make her such a joy to watch also make her difficult to work with.
Kat: Thorgy reminds me of my dad. A consummate, classically trained artist, approaching things from a really specific viewpoint. Highly trained classical musicians tend to approach work in a way that is less overtly aesthetic and more about the rhythms of the words, the way it feels… it’s why her comic timing is so dead on, I think.
Chad: Oh, that’s fascinating!
Kat: She can feel the rhythm of it and find the space where the beats of a joke belong. She’s also terribly silly and easily distracted like my dad.
Chad: HA! Would you also consider yourself a classically trained musician?
Kat: Hmm, not really. I am, in fact, a classically trained performer — I was raised on Chekov and Shakespeare and the like. My parents are both artists, and I was, like, basically fed art and music from the second I popped into the world. So when I told them I wanted to be a lawyer when I was 8, they were super confused.
Chad: You’re a trained singer, though, surely?
Kat: I am trained, but my voice still needs refinement and work, things I can hear, you know? Some people’s voices are instruments – they are pitch perfect, the tone is great, and so on — mine comes from my guts, my feeling.
Chad: I see, well I remember being struck by your skills when I first saw you in Snow White and the Seven Drag Queens! I was eager to hear what you thought about the singing and performances this week — but first, I was curious about your opinion of Lucian’s vocal coaching!
Kat: I think that Lucian seemed… too vague in his direction to help them change their tactics and be more successful. I didn’t love that he told the NY crew to be “less musical theater” when they seemed to really just all be parodying the genres, anyways.
Chad: Yeah, Bob wasn’t the only one who was confused by that. I thought their campy approach totally fit both the song and the challenge!
Kat: Lucian suggesting Lorde literally made zero sense to me. I came away from it not sure how many of them could actually sing, what about you?
Chad: Ha! Well, despite a bit of acting in high school and college, I have a TERRIBLE ear for singing. I felt like both the Streetmeatz and Les Chicken Wings delivered fun, punchy performances, but anytime they sang in unison, I didn’t really hear any effective harmonizing. Most of them stuck with the “speak singing” which more or less worked for me!
Kat: The speak singing was….probably for the best.
Chad: What about Derrick — Debbie Harry claimed she sang well, but Lucian cautioned her not to.
Kat: I don’t think she was good. Perhaps she was the best of the day – or at least the only one harmonizing. But I’ll be damned if I’m gonna argue with Debbie Harry. She’s obviously a witch –
Neither her face nor her rack has aged in 30 years.
Chad: HA! She wields VERY powerful magic.
Kat: I can’t decide if I want to fuck her or be her. Aren’t those the best people?
Chad: Yes, the best. I feel like there must be a very steep learning curve to overcome in singing live for an audience — the mic, the nerves. How did you think the queens did at the basic task of…. being heard and putting on a show?
Kat: I was overall really really pleased with that part. Hell, I still get nerves. These queens are extremely tough to manage the task for TV, especially if some of them are not comfortable singing. I personally was super-loving Kim and Naomi for their enthusiasm and embodiment of their characters.
Chad: Ha! Yes, even if Kim isn’t necessarily someone I think of as “punk,” her sheer enthusiasm and spirit absolutely sold it.
Kat: Punk would be literally THE LAST TERM I would use to describe Kim, but she slayed. I have never met someone so overtly and profoundly glamorous who also totally is a sweet, humble goofball.
Chad: Do you think Robbie deserved the win this week?
Kat: Robbie led the team well and made sure everyone was able to provide input. I think she is a fucking great stage performer… I just hate the edit they are giving her.
Chad: I found Chi Chi to be an extremely compelling and complicated character this week — on one hand, her teammates found her difficult to work with, but on the other, we learned more about the challenges she’s struggling with at home. What were your impressions of Chi Chi?
Kat: Scrappy, hungry, talented. She has a long way to go to develop into the type of pro they are looking for, but she is incredibly smart and fast on the uptake. I admire that she has gotten to where she has, and she could potentially be a dark horse for the season. I would be surprised if she is a difficult team member again. She seems to want it bad enough to change habits quickly!
Chad: I hope so! It seemed like some of her detachment was due to insecurity about her wardrobe. At the start of each season, we see the queens show up in the workroom as if by magic. And each week, they whip out some fabulous runway look, often with little explanation of where it came from, who made it, and how much it cost them. It’s been really interesting to see things from Chi Chi’s perspective, where she’s working with such limited resources and finds herself trying to compete with queens who have likely spent thousands of dollars on their looks!
Kat: I definitely agree that the detachment was from that very insecurity. And yes…. we all end up spending a lot to do drag. I feel like if you love it and want it enough, you will fashion anything you can to make a look happen. I myself have used crazy things to build a look out of.
Chad: I find myself wishing we had more of a look at the queens’ lives at home — I wish RPDR did something like Project Runway, where Ru would travel around to see each of the finalists at home, see their drag closets, and kiki with their families! As brief as those glimpses are, it can be so insightful to see where the contestants have come from.
Kat: Thats a terrific idea! I dislike not having enough background knowledge of the queens to understand their motivation, and that’s a terrific (and possibly very juicy) solution.
Chad: I just doubt Logo has that kind of travel budget!
Kat: HA! Agreed.
Chad: Although the runway section of the episode went by at lightning speed, I loved the neon concept! Who were your standouts?
Kat: Kim, Betty, Naysha were my standouts. You?
Chad: I had definitely been waiting for this look from Acid, ever since getting a peek in the season’s trailer!
Kat: those GILLS THOUGH.
Chad: Are you pro or anti-gill?
Kat: SO MUCH PRO
Chad: I don’t always love everything about Acid’s looks, but I think this one was kind of perfect.
Kat: It was a gorgeous makeup.
Chad: The subtle scales painted on, that incredible wig…. It was sublime.
Kat: I couldn’t stop looking at it. Every angle was enticing.
Chad: I really, really, really hope we see more looks like this from her. When she does more conventional drag make up, I just don’t find it quite as compelling. But when she goes all out like this, it’s genius.
Kat: I think she is more of a creature than a woman, and I live for that.
Kat: Drag shouldn’t always be about gender, anyways.
Chad: Right! Speaking of drag and gender and breaking the mold, do you ever expect bioqueens to be on the Drag Race? (Is “bioqueens” the right term? “Faux queens?”)
Kat: I just say drag queen – but Bioqueen is the term I use when calling myself a drag queen makes people squirm. And, I hope we make it onto Drag Race. I think I have a shot someday if I keep busting my ass and growing as an artist, and my feet and ankles don’t go! Drag is excruciating on the body… people don’t realize that.
Chad: Are high heels what make it so excruciating? Or are they just one component — corsets, wigs, makeup, etc?
Kat: Oh, well the back bruises from corsetry and the knee and ankle injuries and torn fingernails and so on… But as you go, you find solutions to allow yourself to do it quickly and often. And not get hurt. IT’S A TOUGH SPORT I TELL YOU
Chad: You’re a WARRIOR, I have no doubt!
Kat: I don’t even have to tuck my dick. Imagine what other queens go through!
Chad: I generally try not to!
Thanks so much to Kat Sass for joining me this week! You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter! Some of Kat’s upcoming Chicago gigs include Trannika’s Most Wanted on April 6th at Berlin and Michelle L’Amour’s Spectacle at Untitled at 10 pm on April 7th.
Kat is also co-producing a new Bioqueen show that premiered with a sold out show at Second City! Follow her on social media for future dates and cast announcements. And if you would like to be considered for booking, please e-mail her: email@example.com
(Photo of Kat by Shann Treadwell. Gown designed by Michael Buounincontro.)
If you will be in Seattle next week, find me at Emerald City Comic Con! I’ll be at Artist Alley table F-01!