It ain't easy being queen: Luke List on the "anti-masculinity" stigma of drag performance

Categories: Performance

Could it be about potentially emasculating yourself when deciding to do drag?

Well, all of that was running through my head. Like, "Oh, people are going to think I'm a drag queen." Or that I myself am this character. I hear it all the time; guys say, "Oh, I'm not into drag queens." It's an over-generalized statement. There are so many types of drag queens. When I'm Zoe O., I do Judy Garland and Andrews Sisters numbers. It is very different from that lip-sync-for-your-life-type show, you know? Then I thought, am I perpetuating this drag queen stigma?

I've actually never gone out as Zoe into the community. A lot of performers will come to events as their drag personas. I've never done that. When the show is over, I wash my makeup off. For me, I bring it back to performance, back to my theater days and curtain call. At five o'clock, I put on my makeup and get ready for what I am going to do, do the show, take my makeup off, go home.

If I go out after the show, I go out as me. And almost have to reaffirm myself as a man. After the last couple shows, I've gone down to the Wrangler. It's not like I was going across the street to JR's -- which doesn't exist anymore. I'm going across the street to the Wrangler.

Where did Zoe O. herself come from?

For Queen of Aces, we had to create a drag persona. At the time, I decided to base my character off Zooey Deschanel; I wanted to be cute and quirky. That's was my angle -- I didn't think that I could pull off this brassy diva. I didn't think I had it in me, and that's not the direction I wanted to go. My original name was Zoë Gayshanel. Like, "Ha,ha. Gay. See what I did there?"

But after doing benefit shows, I thought, okay, that's a little too specific, a little trashy. Especially since I used the word "gay," and that's like, come on. So now it's Zoe O., and I made that change to help it be a little more broad.

In some drag circles, it is tradition to start as an understudy of sorts to an established queen. Then, as a performer, you may carry that on queen's last name -- like a dynasty or a "House of."

This happens a lot -- a performer will say, "That's my drag momma." And that means this person either introduced them to it or mentored them, or something along those lines. And in turn you will hear, "She's my daughter."

I kind of like this Queen of Aces thing because people have come to it on their own, you know? It's a choice. I don't know if I love that whole "family" concept because it does seem dramatic. I have heard other people say that without that "drag momma" connection is to feel less connected in the drag community. You might not be getting invited to perform at certain shows, but with Queen of Aces, it's kind of meant to be a free-for-all.

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