Each month, Smashing Magazine curates a selection of desktop wallpapers. I’ve made a habit of picking a new one on the first of each month, and this was my background all September:
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” It was my mantra the whole month, as I prepared to throw my hat into the ring I’d been only watched (scrutinized, critiqued, adored) until now: last week, I hatched into a fledgling faux queen.
Yes, that’s yours truly, making my performance debut with The Other Show. I spent a solid chunk of August and September ramping up to these three minutes, starting with an unrelated Lady Bunny illusion for Atlanta’s nerd-paradise-weekend, Dragon*Con, over Labor Day weekend.
Given she was my first try, I was mostly pleased with the Lady Bunny costume results: I coaxed my Bunny-cut dress from my 1970s sewing machine, styled my own hair (using two different wigs, some internal-structure bubble wrap, and this tutorial), and glued my brows down and my lashes on. I eschewed Covergirl for drag makeup brands. My primary goal: to properly Do Drag, as much as possible without having a proverbial secret to sit on.
My paint was just-okay, and I got clocked as a cis-girl more often than I’d have liked, but I spent the afternoon hearing “Oh, it’s Lady Bunny!” from across crowded rooms, stopping to pose for photos, and--by some people, at least--being mistaken for a bona fide drag queen.
(As an aside, I know that some cis women who do drag dislike the term “faux queen,” but I embrace it: I have no junk to tuck, I came equipped with hips and boobs and a woman’s voice, I’m fighting my face’s natural inclination to serve boring fishy daytime realness. I’m attempting a drag queen illusion, not a female illusion; my gig is more akin to a drag tribute than anything else. “Bio queen” doesn’t feel right, and anyway, “faux queen” is more fun to say.)
But I digress: after Lady Bunny, I was hooked. The next week, I asked Edie Cheezburger about appearing in The Other Show’s “And Then Some” showcase, a monthly single-number gig for new queens. I was equal parts thrilled and terrified when she gave me the thumbs-up, and that was when the mantra “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough” took over my September.
Hey, Ivy Winters, what does "equal parts thrilled and terrified" look like?
Yep. That face.
I spent two solid weeks just choosing a number. I made mix after mix, letting the from-scratch creation process run its course; I’ve learned from writing that often, the first pancake out of the pan isn’t worth serving, that with new endeavors, you generally have to barrel through your first pent-up deluge of creative output before your better work has room to stretch its wings and come out. I became fixated on selecting the right First Number, discarding songs and ideas for being too pedestrian, too esoteric, too reminiscent-of-another-queen, too short or too long, too ambitious or not ambitious enough. I finally landed on this cover of "It's the End of the World As We Know It," after sending it through audio effects to bring it up to REM’s original speed.
Where I took my sweet time choosing a number and conceptualizing my look, the actual costuming execution was a frenzied ten-day blur of sewing, gluing, and practice-painting. I have a proclivity for privacy about works-in-progress, but I dropped that guard to seek guidance from two queens I trust and adore most: my brilliant drag mother Jaye Lish, whose steady support, lessons, and advice were mission-critical in executing last Friday, and my kind-hearted friend Evah Destruction, who quelled my insecurities and bolstered me with sisterly strength.
Jaye Lish, Evah Destruction. Photos: Maggie Towe
By some measures, I’m the drag sprog of The Other Show itself, their friendly stray cat who showed up purring noisily, nudging through the door, looking for a home. Although I’ve been attending The Other Show nearly every week for several months now, and have certainly joined the devoted, tight-knit community of weekly regulars, I was apprehensive about making the leap from in-the-audience to hanging-backstage, both because I’d never been in the dressing room during the show itself and because, I dunno, newborn faux queen, right? I shouldn’t have worried--this is a cast of queens who understands how earnest I am (for I am nothing in this world if not earnest), and Jaye, Evah, Edie, Miami, and Violet set me at-ease and showed me an amazing Friday night.
Edie Cheezburger, Miami Royale, Violet Chachki. Photos: Maggie Towe
And by a grace indistinguishable from magic, the performance itself went pretty well! I can’t help but self-scrutinize and clock a thousand little problems, but performing in drag--both the lip-synch itself and a jaunt of between-queens stage banter with Jaye--was exhilarating fun, incomparable to anything I’ve ever done. The audience was packed with people I love, friends old and new, and this baby gorl couldn’t have wished for a warmer welcome. If you were there: seriously, thank you, because I got my life, and you were a part of that.
(Once Kat has uploaded last week's videos, my performance video will be right here!)
Earlier this week, the Tuesday after last Friday's show, I opened the new desktop wallpapers for October. I saw this one, and found myself getting teary-eyed at 10:00 AM at work.
“Let the beauty we love be what we do.” Perfect, right? It’s advice I’m already taking, given unambiguously and applied literally. I’m captivated by drag, by the performances and the personalities, by the glitz and the shade, by the magic of transformation and the ballsy nerve underneath each queen’s paint. I love flawless polish and glamorous, enthralling productions, and I really love weirdo drag and tacky-obnoxious-bullshit numbers. Drag is the beauty I love, for all the definitions drag loans to beauty, and it’s exhilarating to drop myself into it, not just as a writer and fan, but now as a queen.
I don't know when I'm performing next, but "when" is the operative word. The Dilettwat's look and persona are still cooking, and I'm still making beginner's mistakes--do you have any idea how many different ways an eyebrow can go wrong?--but I'm learning, and I'm motivated. What I'm saying is this: The Dilettwat is arriving on the scene. I'll see you out there, friends.
Hold up! One more, very important thing:
I'm participating in AIDS Walk Atlanta, and we need your support! Show our community some love and pitch in a dollar (or ten) (or forty). If you didn't make the show, but you donate there instead, you're officially absolved of missing-the-show guilt! But seriously, money raised is spent locally, providing services for Atlanta-area people living with HIV/AIDS, an incredibly important endeavor. Please and really, click and give. Thank you in advance! <3