I told myself at one point I was never gonna avoid anything because of fear. Not mine.” It took awhile for me to learn that, but I’m there now. Sit down, paint my face in 45 minutes, put my wig on, strap my genitals to my back, and then throw on all this padding and cinchers and tights that I’m wearing right now.
I could avoid it because it was stupid, I could avoid it because it wasn’t me, I could avoid it because it wasn’t gonna be enjoyable, but fear was never gonna be a factor. So I was like, “Yeah, I’m afraid when I leave the house, but goddamn it, I am not going to let, not even homophobia, I’m not gonna let other peoples’ concerns about themselves affect what I do.” Because a very confident straight man is never upset to see me. One time I was walking by this guy’s Porsche and he almost fell off. It can be a two-hour process if I’m just jumping up and going. The only thing I wanted to put in here is that there was a drag competition at Barracuda Lounge in Chelsea a couple years ago and they were short one girl. They’re like, “We need one more person,” and they pulled this girl up from the audience, a drag queen that was not in drag, and she put a scarf on her head and did a number just as a boy with a scarf on her head for hair and won.
Some queens do, but I don’t change at all for drag. You doubt yourself, you doubt yourself, you’re not sure if you’re looking, you put on the lashes, like, “Oh my gosh, she’s a woman. So I like to take the train and walk the street because I want as many people to see this as possible to make it worth it. This experience that we have together when you are in the same room with a drag queen, that’s what I want people to have. It’s like if a queen falls in the forest, is she fabulous? If a queen death-drops in a forest, is it fabulous? When I walk out on the street, first of all, it’s enjoyable to take that risk. We could hide who we were all the time and get ragged on, or we could just celebrate who we were and be really strange and be really Jew-y and get ragged on.
This is my voice, this is how I act, this is my scatterbrain behavior. The only difference is that I’m having a good time because I look amazing. Here she is.” That’s when like, if you have a cold or if you’ve been broken up with, or you’re broke yet again, all of that stuff slides away because the person that’s broke is the guy. It makes you feel a certain type of way and that makes me happy. So we just chose the second one because we were gonna get ragged on either way. Some queens take a long time, but from sitting down at my vanity—which is a pile of furniture that I’ve pulled out of the garbage over several years—sitting down at my vanity to walking out the door, it can be like two hours.
Brogan: One thing I’m wondering, just about the practice of putting makeup on, and I ask this as someone who has never applied much makeup in his life, but do you have to think big when you’re doing drag makeup? There’s Trixie Mattel, who’s a living nightmare up close because her contours are so hard. Then there’s Miss Fame, who paints so soft, so beautiful, so feminine, and it takes you a minute to be like, “Oh, I guess that’s a drag queen,” but all you see is a model. Brogan: It sounds like that’s a great pair of case studies in the importance of makeup, though, because it sounds like the style of applying makeup is part of what a person’s drag persona might entail. And it’s like the story of who you are as a drag queen is in your makeup, because you learn from different queens.You’re like, “I know that You Tube video” or “I was there that night too.” “I was doing drag at a time when people were doing that with their lashes as well.” So there’s a story in the face. These are all sort of mixed together and then I make them my own. Alexis Michelle taught me how to raise my eyelashes so that they hold up on the sides and give me an almond eye instead of drooping down in the corners. There’s a college for almost everything else, but there’s no school for queens. So now you’ve clamped off your genitals and your anus and you’re experiencing toxic shock, adrenaline is rushing through your body and you’re ready to do a show.You can tell a queen, where she’s from, by her face. So the only school is experience and the only teachers are other queens. You can look at a dress in the store and be like, “A drag queen wore this.” Do you know what I mean? Over-sparkly, overly bright, big, all the areas that women don’t want to accentuate. We go overboard with things that women want to hide generally, or are supposed to want to hide. Then wig-making is the process of going from that very flat thing to this. I was like, “White victory rolls.” Then I looked at it and I was like, “White victory rolls,” it just sounds very KKK to me. I was like, “White hair, comma, victory rolls.” So yeah, it’s like you do what you have to, to torment this hair to make it behave how you want. It used to hurt to tuck because I had to take my scrotum to my back, essentially. Once you’ve done all of this work, you’ve built an outfit, you’ve made your wig, you’ve got some beautiful gloves on, you’ve got your makeup on, you’ve got your enormous testicles tucked up as far as you can get them. A show is essentially, there’s a very set format in New York City.If you’re a member, enjoy bonus segments and interview transcripts from Working, plus other great podcast exclusives. I have this girl that I work with in Jersey, her Instagram is Nails for Queens and she sent me these gloves with these incredible rainbow gems all over them and I saw them, and I was like, “I have to make an outfit inspired by this.” So everything from head to toe is sort of inspired by these gloves that she made. She’s wearing a pistachio garment made out of neoprene, which is my favorite material because it has this nice weight to it, and then covered with AB stones from head to toe. Then you’ll do side gigs, you’ll do charity stuff, you’ll literally do bat mitzvahs. Finally, five years in, I started getting enough gigs so that I could quit my job as a fundraiser.Cracker: My wig is sort of a super-white, victory roll, like 1940s futurism thing. But for most working queens, you get paid a certain very low amount per gig and then you try to double or triple that with tips from the audience. Brogan: Your persona, the Miz Cracker persona, is clearly part of who you are as a drag queen.Liza's note to Ellen: She should have stopped and acknowledged they were friends, but instead Ellen blew through to the next joke, so it sounded mean.