interview conducted & written by

Victor Simmons

The Coachella Valley Art Scene’s Beauty and Fashion Contributor

For some entertainers there is an undying need to not only create, but to experiment and explore boundaries. Does it stick? Is it shtick? The choices they make in their act can either make or break the illusion they set out to convey. Those that know this all too well are the gender-bending artists of the drag world. Beneath disco balls and strobe lights, a story unfolds each night in almost every city across the nation. Not as simple as donning a skirt or penciling on a mustache, the art of drag is a craft all its own. Within the nightlife of Palm Springs, there is a group of performance artists who have carved a name for themselves. Before the stage is set or the lights turn down, what goes on behind the face?  I went backstage of the new drag review, Flamboyance, to interview some of the personas setting the runway on fire. Without further ado, ladies and gentleman:  Libra, Nikki Glam, Landon Cider, Jayla D. Foxx, and Kristie Champagne.
The art of Drag, to me, is one part paint, one part garment, and two parts acting. How do you balance all the different elements in your act? Do you focus on a particular one?
Nikki Glam: With me, I try to focus on my act and have the outfit follow in my presentation.
Libra: I really interpret the song. At the end of the day it’s the acting for me. I focus on makeup after the acting.
Landon Cider:  Coming from a theatre background, my artistic side is expressed through Landon. I challenge myself to be eclectic and find a fan in every demographic.
Jayla D. Foxx: It depends on the venue, the show I do at brunch for Hamburger Mary’s is going to be different than the one at Hunter’s.
Kristie Champagne: For me, who am camp and funny, it’s the acting and interacting with the audience.  Obviously you need everything, it all comes together.
 What was your first experience with Drag?
 
Nikki: Mine was being invited out to a party and asked to dress up… I did and am glad I   listened.
Libra: At a competition at Oasis nightclub in Ontario,ca about 7 years ago. Besides performing, one friend I was at dinner with told me my face was soft and I could do Britney Spears. We went back home and did my makeup. I didn’t expect to go out, but I covered up my body hair and did it.
Landon:  Outside wondering who Rupaul was growing up, there was a weekly show in Long beach. I fell in love with Delta Work, Raja, and Chad Michaels. I was inspired by some of the best in the industry.
Jayla:  The first drag show I went to, a friend looked at me and said go for it. 17 years later I still am.
Kristie: In Las Vegas, I went to what used to be a Hamburger Mary’s. I never thought I’d be doing drag. The owner had a son who is famous Drag performer. I started out helping out with dressing and different things. It was an evolution.
 
What is the difference between Palm Springs clubs versus where you started out?
 
Nikki: Out here it’s more professional. It’s not just who you are and what you do.
Libra:  Oasis was a competition, so I had to constantly better myself. Out here, I’m booked to perform so I get to do it just for fun of it.
Landon:  Out here it’s hard for them to realize I’m a real girl. That comes with any new Venue. There’s not much of a girl scene out here. I love my boys, but I have a stronger lesbian following at home in Long Beach.
Kristie: I started in Seattle,Wa.  My Drag experience was very showgirl, classy, elegant. Out here in Palm Springs you get show, fishy, tranny… there’s more of an eclectic mix of styles.
Jayla: I agree that you get a mix of styles out here. When I was in Ohio, there were a lot of pageant queens.
Beyonce has a song, “Who Run the World?”. If you had a planet ruled by your Drag persona, what would you name it? How would you run it?
Nikki: It would be called Glamazon. Everyone would be sparkly and fierce. Everyone would be secure with themselves because without insecurity there would be no cattiness. Just love and peace.
Libra: It would be called Libra of course.
Landon: Packandbindia, it would be like a utopia of love and understanding. No Judgment.
Jayla: It would be Foxx, there would be free love and zero tolerance for cruelty. No politics.
Kristie: Champagne, it would be just like Alice in Wonderland. Everyone would have fun.
In June 27, 1969 a routine police raid of a gay nightclub escalated to what we now know as the Stonewall Riots. A pivotal catalyst in the Gay Rights movement, the bar patrons turned on the police in a violent demonstration. The Drag Queens were some of the first to start the counter-attack. What is it about Drag that pulls out such a powerful spirit in someone?
Nikki: The fact that you can be someone else gives you courage to stand up for what you believe in. There are a lot of guys who are quiet, but in drag they become more outgoing and stand out. It’s like Clark Kentinto Superman.
Libra: In Drag, you portray someone different. Women, I believe are very powerful, so when I’m dressed up I’m powerful.
Landon: It makes you completely accept gender as something you can poke fun at. Drag is embracing both sides. Gender is such a small part of who we are.  Having that kind of self-acceptance brings out confidence.
Jayla: It’s very liberating to put on a pair of heels and makeup. We can be anybody, and do anything.
Kristie: I agree, it takes a real man to put on heels and perform. Also, the actions during the stonewall riots had to do with the times. There was a double stigma. Not only did you have to fight society because you were gay, but also because you were a drag queen as well.
Describe your ritual before a show.
Nikki: I eat as much as I can.  Hot dog, donuts, and a red bull.
Libra: I eat and have to get some type of energy whether with a shot or an energy drink. I like to have a 2 hour window before the show.
Landon: Everything has to be in order. I take a quick inventory of everything and set up my station. I try to come with my hair already done. It takes about 1- 1 ½ hour to do my makeup and really sculpt my face. The body tape. I try to get into the zone and pep up, let the testosterone flow.
Jayla: Lots of cigarette breaks in between getting ready. I like to keep everything organized. It’s nice that here at Hunters we have the space to set up and spread out.
Kristie:  Show up, start on my makeup, and get dressed. There are a lot of things going on like the director taking music, stage set up, and people running around.
 
What are some beauty or style tips that go beyond Drag? Something people can do every day.
Nikki: A little light powder on the face. Make sure to contour, get those cheeks out.
Libra: Make sure the eyebrows are on point, they define the face.
Landon: A little powder, eyeliner. Lip gloss with not a lot of shine. Guys ask me to how to fill in their 5 o’clock shadow.
Jayla: Trim the eyebrows.
Kristie: Be yourself. Wear whatever you want. It’s always good to brush your teeth.
 
Is there anything that you would not include, or never do as part of your work?
 
Nikki: I’ve mostly done it all, even stripping down to my tuck and bra. There’s nothing I  wouldn’t do.
Libra: I wouldn’t do nudity. There’s little else that I wouldn’t do. I also would never shave off anything that makes me a boy. I would rather cover it up with illusion.
Landon: Hard hip-hop or thug. I have a respect for those Kings that do. If I do anything like that, it’s with a comedic twist.
Jayla: Not really, besides naked drag.
Kristie: Nothing vulgar, like blood and guts. No political stuff.
Check out these two clips 
By the 1980’s Divine had amassed a lot of mainstream success and was trying to bring his act to the forefront of society. Unfortunately, Divine passed away at age 42 of an enlarged heart. After spending many years in the Atlanta club scene and many more, Rupaul and Lady Bunny were fortunate to reach Divine’s success. Where do you see Drag going in the future? Are there still boundaries to break?
 
 Nikki: Drag is taking over primetime with Rupaul’s Drag Race. I see there being drag soap operas. It’s going to be everywhere.
Libra: You have reality shows now featuring drag queens. It’s more mainstream and being accepted into society.  It’s becoming more common .I see drag performers starting to have more cameos or guest spots in radio, film.
Landon: There’s definitely more boundaries to break. It would be an idea to have drag performances in professional theatre in a generally accepting crowd. It get people talking and the dialogue gets going.
Jayla:  Kristie has been doing drag 2 years, me 17. Over time we see things like Rupaul’s Drag race as almost killing drag, I think she would agree.
Kristie: When they came up, they were pioneers. Not as many people were doing it, there wasn’t drag on every corner. It’s almost like once you reach the show, then you’re done and don’t need to go farther.
 
For people who haven’t experienced a show, what would you tell them to expect?
Nikki: I wouldn’t say there’s an expectation to have. When you think you know the difference between a guy and a girl, this shows you can’t.
Libra: A lot of fun and excitement. As a performer, we give a lot of energy and excitement. Come and expect a great show.
Landon:  Usually there is a little confusion at first. Then I’ll flirt with you and then I’ll get you. I also love to make people laugh.
Jayla: Expect the unexpected. When I walk in they’re like, “that crazy bitch”
Kristie: Expect to have fun. Even if I was a hot mess on stage, I’ll give you a performance that will have you walk away with a good time.
It was great sitting and watching everyone’s character take shape as we talked. Something about being surrounded by the artistic element and the excitement around a show always brightens up my eyes. There is so much diversity within this enclave of eye shadow and duct tape. It’s easy to see things as they are, but it takes an incredible eye to look past the physical and create an illusion.
Flamboyance is every other Sunday night at 9:30pm alternating with Jersey Shore’s Dragapalooza. Hunters Nightclub  302 East Arenas Road, Palm Springs, CA 92262 (760)323-0700

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