34 Drag Performers Around the World Sound Off on the Influence of 'RuPaul's Drag Race' & More

34 Drag Performers Around the World Sound Off on the Influence of 'RuPaul's Drag Race' & More

by Patrick Crowley
June 28, 2017, 4:53pm EDT

The impact of RuPaul’s Drag Race is undeniable. In this past month alone, the show’s creator (and namesake) graced the cover of Entertainment Weekly and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

To celebrate the end of the show’s ninth season, we surveyed queens (and kings!) across the globe about their favorite divas, the gay scene in their hometowns and how Drag Race has affected local drag culture: “I think that a thesis could be written on this subject to be honest,” says the NYC-based Maddelynn Hatter.

Check out their responses and then fire up our playlist inspired by their answers below. With offbeat selections like Björk and Bob Seger to more obvious drag staples (shocker: these queens really like Cher and Bette Midler), the 100-song playlist is sure to provide inspiration for a performance or two.

Moltyn Decadence, Kansas City, Missouri
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Kansas City?
Eclectic. It’s not unusual for the queens to include live singing, playing an instrument, magic acts, balloon art, etc., into their performances. And the audiences live!

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
It would have to be
Janelle Monáe. I don't know many artists who are so unapologetically committed to their art that they often choose to produce something beautiful rather than put something out in the hopes of raking in the coins. Her music, fashion sense and political stances would give us at least three hours of material to kiki about.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
“Lovin’ Is Really My Game” by
Brainstorms. It technically was a throwback when I first heard it, but it's been in my repertoire ever since. It was in an episode of [Logo's] Noah's Arc, around the time I first started performing. Noah’s Arc was the first show about gay black men I'd ever seen, and Rodney Chester playing Alex, an HIV/AIDS educator and aspiring drag performer, was pretty much my life. At the time I was working as a sexual health peer educator and was dabbling in makeup with friends in my dorm room.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
Any queen worth her weight in rhinestones should be on the pulse of anything new and hot coming from our community. It's unlikely that queer musicians are going to get the radio play they deserve, so if your local queens aren't turning the party to artists like Big Freedia, Alex NewellMNEK or Mary Lambert, then who will? The standard divas and radio jams are fantastic, but there's something so beautiful about performing one of our own for our own.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
So many people attend shows who are familiar with drag that might not have before, which is very exciting. With that extra exposure Drag Race has brought to the craft, it’s also created a surge in "social media queens" that couldn't lip-sync their way out of a paper bag. With just a few clicks on Amazon, a few YouTube tutorials and a trip to the local hair store for a lace-front wig, so many “performers" think a decent following on Instagram is all it takes. Drag Race creates a false sense of reality, and it’s made us bar queens have to step it up even harder to compete with Drag Race girls for regular bookings. The hustle is what you make it though, and the gigs are there if you are willing to put in the work, talent and time. There's not a Drag Race challenge or YouTube video to teach you how to do that though.

It also has taught the world the value of a wig change and death drop, so there’s that.

Lucy Stoole, Chicago
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Chicago?
Diverse. It's a beautiful melting pot where originality, diversity and community is really important.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
I would have to choose Divine. I've always been incredibly inspired by her drag, persona and her own activism and would love to talk filth with the queen of it.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
"Sunday Morning" from No Doubt is one of my favorites. Tragic Kingdom was the first album I bought with my own money, and just hearing those songs takes me back to that little gay baby lip-syncing in my bedroom.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
Absolutely. I think it's an obligation that the entire community should be happy to do. We've secretly been the backbone of the arts since the beginning of time, and a lot of that history has been erased. It's up to us to make sure that this doesn't continue to happen.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
Ultimately, I think it's been positive. It's helped give some history to the youth, and it's changed a lot of these queens' lives in really great ways. I definitely think it could be more inclusive of different forms of drag and more vocal about certain issues in our community, but I truly believe it has opened doors and started conversations that we may not have had televised.

ABOVE: Drag Race Queens Sound Off On Dennis Rodman, Lady Gaga & Sylvester

Ikaro Kadoshi, São Paulo, Brazil
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in São Paulo?
Unique. The gay scene in Brazil is unique because we have the carnival influencing all the art, the people and the gay community. And we are Latino, so, hot by birth! Rhythm in veins, happiness in the blood and pride in the brain. In São Paulo, we have the biggest Pride parade in the world. If you go in a club here, you see everyone hanging out together in the same space.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
​Beyoncé. She is the most complete artist that lives in my era. Who would not want a drink of her wisdom? Talk to her body and make her sing, “I love to love you baby.” I dreamt about it once -- really!

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
Annie Lennox’s “Why.” It’s more than a song; for me it is poetry. I listened to that song when I was discovering my sexuality. When all bullying and violence against me and my LGBTQ friends suffer, it’s a song to remember that we are made of relationships.

Brazil is the country with the most LGBTQ murders. In 2016, 357 people were killed because of their not-straight sexuality. One of our people are killed nearly every day. And like the song says, “I don’t think you know what I feel / Tell me why."

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
Of course. We are used to being forgotten. We are used to having no representation in several parts of society. It is our obligation to let the fans know that we have people who break this cycle, that are creating art, telling our history through songs, poetry, books, performances and painting. Especially music.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
Drag Race in Brazil makes the people remember that we exist -- loud and clear. The drag community was in a dark place, going to be a line in the history books. We were confined to nightclubs only, even though we have one of the oldest queens in the world still doing performances, Miss Biá, with a career of 56 years.

But now, nine seasons have passed, and people agree that the only type of drag that matters is the types that are shown on Drag Race. The makeup, the wigs -- everything. For example, I haven’t worn wigs in 17 years, and now all the comments I hear are, “It is so beautiful that you do your drag inspired by [season 9 winner] Sasha Velour.” Before that, I was compared to The Princess [from season 4]. Drag Race shows the American culture of drag. We have to start to think: Are these people really fans of drag as an art form or just fans of the show? There's a big difference.

Pixie Aventura, New York City
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in NYC?
​Werk! For the most part, almost every girl I know works at least four to five nights a week. That also goes along with continuously creating new material. You're always in competition with the bar down the street. One must truly "werk" to keep the kids coming.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
I've had many divas inspire me, but I have to go with the Queen of the Night: Whitney Houston. She had the it-factor and I will always remember her with reverence.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
The Goofy Movie had some amazing music. "I2I” and “Stand Out” are by far some great songs to perform. They are vocally challenging songs and can stand on their own as pop songs.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I believe it goes beyond gay artists -- there are so many different performers out there that deserve a chance to be heard. I'm constantly searching for new people to create new material for myself. In a way, that's how it used to be: You would hear new artists or singles at the club and that's how it would become famous.

I'm currently listening to Laura Mvula and Sharaya J. Laura's musical vision is very unique and soul-grabbing. Sharaya has such a fresh sound and eclectic look, dance skills, and humor.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
I feel it has been a double-edged sword. A door has been opened to include drag as a true art form. However, at the other end, there has been an interesting "I know all about it" attitude with audience members. There is a lack of respect for the performer onstage at a bar.

TigerLily, Beijing, China
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Beijing?
Polarized -- for many reasons. Most LGBTQs still feel they have to hide their identities at least part of the time. We don’t explicitly say we are gay and the person we're interacting with won’t ask. To Western ears, this might sound oppressive, but you also have to see it through the prism of Asian culture. Aspects of everyone’s lives are compartmentalized here. Certain parts of who you are remain closed off to certain people, and that applies across the board.

But the scene is polarized. For years and years, a single club ruled the gay scene with an iron grip and actively fought against new places. A few years ago a direct competitor opened with real financial backing, but it closed in the end. Finally this last year, a handful of grassroots places have cropped up. We have more choice, but the cost is that we mix less. Twinks might prefer one club, bears at the other, "masc for masc" gym bunnies at yet another. We do need more options, but that’s the cost.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Britney Spears, for sure. She’s a queen that knows how to lose her mind and hit rock bottom and still come back to the top. Drag queens don’t have it easy, and I think many of us can relate to reaching a low point in life.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
To be honest, I mostly perform current songs. And actually, I’m terrible at lip-syncing because I can’t remember lyrics. Most of my drag performances are stand-up-comedy style.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I applaud performers who are gay and who have come out. They are role models. However, I feel strongly that talent should come before gender identity or sexual orientation -- queer musicians shouldn’t be held to a "pity" standard. At the same time, there are gay performers who play music that isn’t really fit for a Saturday night. Are there blues musicians, country music stars, jazz guitarists -- you name it -- who are gay? You won’t hear them played at gay bars because they don’t perform party music, but the cisgendered world shouldn’t blacklist them and force them to hide who they are to make sure they can still get record deals.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
In the gay scene [in Beijing], people definitely know about it and the show has encouraged drag queens and aspiring drag queens to dare to be fab. The drag scene is so new that even the gay scene really hasn’t been exposed to drag culture.

VivvyAnne Forevermore, San Francisco
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in San Francisco?

Queer. While there's a bunch of debate about the use of the word queer right now and what it denotes I think San Francisco has a strong history of queering all its nightlife and social scenes.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Beth Ditto. She looks like she has fun and I like fun.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
“Rock Star” by Hole. I love Courtney Love. I do the song with my best friend as two trash monsters, it goes against expectation and is a horrible idea. I love horrible ideas.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I feel it is the obligation of queer artists with platforms to uplift and amplify the works of other queer artists.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
Yikes! I've only been doing drag for only years and in that time it has changed because, well, time. Drag Race has affected, more than anything, the way fans interact with local queens. It used to be that a local drag celebrity could sell out a venue, but now if you aren't on the show, you might as well be brand new. That type of thing bums me out, because there are so many legends here in San Francisco.

Aurora Sexton, Nashville
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Nashville?
I would say the gay scene in Nashville is ‘spicy.’ Just like eating hot chicken for the first time, many visitors are sweetly surprised by the warmth, diversity, local fair and people of all flavors that make Nashville a hot place to party and a friendly place to live.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
I actually had a dream once that I had an all day kiki with Bette Midler in this beautiful house with lots of gardens and she was an absolute riot. I'm hoping it was more like a premonition then a dream, maybe it will happen when I go see her in New York in Hello Dolly on Broadway.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
Garbage was the first real concert I ever remember going to. The lights came up and introduced me to the fiery haired goddess that is Shirley Manson as she belted out “Only Happy When It Rains.”

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
It's not easy to crack the mainstream as an openly gay artist. We should absolutely support our own and give talent a chance whenever possible, but it has to be something people want. Good music is good music.

How do you think the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
It's affected it immensely, not just locally, but at the worldwide level. When we have Drag Race guests at Play Dance Bar in Nashville the kids line up around the block bringing in things to sign and gifts. They show off fan tats and art. There are wedding proposals and fans crying hysterically. It's crazy see the social phenomenon that it has become.

I was just in L.A. for DragCon and there were all these little kids -- 6, 7, 8 years old -- with their parents waiting to meet their favorite drag queens. Congrats ladies, you have replaced Saturday morning cartoons.

Before Drag Race -- before it was legal to dress as a woman in some places, the only way for queens to earn their fortune and fame were drag pageants, balls, runways and acting roles if you were good. Now with Drag Race, YouTube, Instagram and all of the other social media platforms, anything is possible. The pageantry and ball room scenes, however, have such a rich and vibrant history in our LGBTQ culture. I hope people will continue to support it. As RuPaul always says, "know your herstory."

Mayhem Miller, Los Angeles
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Los Angeles?
Competitive. WeHo is the center of LA drag with a few places that showcase drag talent. With the increasing popularity of drag we see more and more queens flocking to the clubs hoping to make it in the biz. We have established queens, reality TV stars, legends and newcomers all fighting for gigs and the spotlight.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
​Mariah Carey, duh. Cuz it’s Mariah Carey!

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
I’m a child of the 80s and 90s, so a lot of my performances reflect music from that time: throwbacks and feel good jams. Nostalgic.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
Getting queer artists more visibility begins with us. As a community we need to start pushing and lifting our own. We are the trendsetters and have created mega stars with our loyalty and devotion. If we do the same for our queer artist as we do for their counterparts the rest of the world will follow.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
What was once taboo is now becoming more of the norm. Ten years ago, it wasn't cool to be a drag queen. But now, everyone wants to be one.

Katkat Dasalla, Manila, Philippines
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Manila?
Fun! It's a guarantee that you will end the night with a big bang and a big smile. Filipina queens are world class and the performances are to die for. And the best part is: the guys are really cute.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
I love Lady Gaga so much. She's like a Wonder Woman in music industry -- she can do different genres. I love her flexibility and passion in music. My all-time fav Gaga music video is “Born This Way.” Her love to LGBTQ community is overwhelming. I love you, Gaga!

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
“I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis. I used to sing that song back in the day. Now it’s one of my favorite songs to perform

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I wouldn't call it an obligation. It is the right thing to do. There is so much queer talent out there that we have to recognize them and nurture it in our own safe place, which are the gay bars.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
Drag Race has a big impact to us local drag queens, because we get inspirations and ideas for makeup, lip syncs, costumes and even giving shade.

 

Tricky Dick Dodger, Seattle
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Seattle?

Wet. It rains all the time.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
​RuPaul, because I want to chat with him about the stigma against drag kings.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
“Old Time Rock and Roll” in the form of Risky Business because watching that scene was the first time I decided I wanted to be a performer. As a kid, I used to run around the house and slide on the floor in my dad’s shirt and now, as an adult, I can do it naked on stage.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
Absolutely. My drag company, Dapper Down Productions, tries to incorporate queer-made music into our drag shows wherever possible

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
I think it’s made straight people more comfortable with attending a drag show, at least a drag queen show. Drag king shows have not enjoyed the same leap in popularity.

Ruby Roo, Brooklyn
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Brooklyn?
Art. The Brooklyn drag scene varies from other parts of New York, and drag across the world, because it is really focused on performance art. Even top 40 pop songs are presented with original concepts and exciting twists.

As the Brooklyn drag scene has developed over the last 5-10 years, it has become more polished. While other queens used to critique Brooklyn drag for being sloppy or lazy, the queens who are currently excelling in the area are really thinking outside of the box with performance as well as fashion and style.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Elaine Stritch. At heart I'm a Broadway baby. Watching Elaine's Live at the Liberty really shone a light on how different the Broadway industry was in the '60s and '70s. New York was an entirely different beast in those days, and as I try my best to conquer this city now I look back toward women who fought their way to become legends doing what they loved: performing.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
I perform “High School” by Superchick from time to time, complete with a ‘yearbook’ full of pictures of various nightlife figures and drag queens in New York. The song is about the pettiness of high schoolers and how it seems the drama will never stop. As gay people, we live for drama, and drag queens are perhaps the worst when it comes to perpetuating social media disputes. So while the song reminds me of driving on back country roads blasting the CD I burned on my PC, it’s a way to give a bit of playful commentary on an issue that is relevant in our community -- which is really an awesome way to use the drag platform.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
As a drag queen, my only obligation is to entertain. A lot of drag audiences respond more to songs they have heard before that are currently on the radio, or they are familiar with. Introducing new music to this community is difficult, especially because in this era people are much more vocal about their opinions.

Being in the Brooklyn scene, however, the queer community is much more receptive to original tracks. My DJ Cameron Cole at my show Mondays on Mondays at Macri Park, for example, plays a variety of songs released by Brooklyn artists.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
Drag being at the forefront of pop culture means that more venues want to incorporate drag into their lineups. Now, while still an uphill battle, it can be done with persistence and hard work.

The drawback however is that Drag Race has made drag so mainstream that anyone who wants to do drag feels a sort of built in "right" to do drag. This has flooded the drag scene with young gays who maybe don't actually have the chops to cut it in such a cutthroat field. Because they are so eager to perform they will take any opportunity to hit a stage, for whatever price. This is problematic because bars are businesses -- just like drag is -- and being able to have a lower payout is appealing. The quality of drag may be subpar but the bars that book these queens still get a night of entertainment. This makes demanding a higher booking rate -- what would be likened to a livable wage -- difficult to secure at some venues.

Heklina, San Francisco
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in San Francisco?
Cycles. Every few years there's a new batch of queens who come along who think they invented everything. But that's youth, I was the same way once.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Shirley Bassey. Or Nina Hagen.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
"School's Out" by Alice Cooper. I love rock and roll, but most gays don't -- or they just don't know the song.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
No, the only obligation for music to be played is if it's good. That should be the only qualifier.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
As a promoter, it's been a blessing of sorts. Booking the queens can be profitable. But there's been a terrible dumbing down of the average drag fan, who refuse to explore any queens not on the show. It’s much more difficult to get booked if you are not a Ru girl.

Also, people aspiring to drag are not forming their own identities, but copying or trying to fit into the mold of what they think will get them on the show. Oh well.

ABOVE: Drag Race Queens Sound Off On Madonna, RuPaul, Britney Spears & Adam Lambert

Margaret Y Ya, Mexico City
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Mexico City?

I’d have to say: fiesta. There’s a lot of diverse characters in the drag scene: there’s color, spice, flavor. You can find all types of drag in Mexico, from the club kids, to the pageant queens, the polished, the ugly, the funny, the political. We have everything.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
I’d pick Marina and The Diamonds. She’s definitely my favorite artist right now. She’s a huge inspiration on my drag aesthetic.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
I’d have to pick two. “Pobre Estúpida” from Mexican group Maria Daniela Y Su Sonido Lasser is the perfect pop song, It’s fun, dancey, with hype beats, funny -- it’s everything I want to feel onstage. And the other one is “Dancing Queen” from ABBA. I even have a tattoo on my arm with the title. I feel like a real queen when I listen to it.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I’m not sure if it’s an obligation but at least I try to. One of my biggest inspirations is Chilean artist Alex Anwandter. He takes gender, feminist, queer issues that happen in Chile and turns them into music. That’s what I try to do in my performances. It even inspired me to make a song, “La Más Perra,” that talks about fights within the drag community and how we should be more concerned about how we are being attacked as the LGBT community.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
It brought a lot of exposure to what drag is and it made a lot of us want to try drag. Sadly, most of drag fans in Mexico are married to the idea of how a drag queen should look like: the American beauty. So there’s a lot of comparison.

Brigitte Bidet, Atlanta
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Atlanta?
Available. If you have the talent and ability to make yourself relevant, that space is available to you.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Bette Midler, if not only for the fact that bathhouses contributed to the success of her career. She's a stunning, self-made diva who lives to entertain. Her sense of humor is something that should be taught in public education

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
“Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. It starts off like a boner killer, but then evolves into a boner buffet. Turns the party every time.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
There are plenty of queer musicians that people should already know about. I think it's more about playing good music, but there's also the argument that queer musicians aren't put on the same platform as other stars, and it unfortunately doesn't give us the chance to appreciate or even idolize their music in the same way.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
Drag Race is why I started drag. Now, being a queen accounts for over half of my income; it's a central part of my life and artistic expression. But the visibility of drag is a double-edged sword, and internet culture also takes away from the beauty of being a real person in real life. Whatever becomes of drag culture is ultimately progressive, and a positive contribution to the next generation of people like us who will, hopefully, go through less of a struggle when discovering their true selves.

TeTe Bang, London
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in London?
Camp. So many cities and countries are into the glamour and the pageant vibe, but London and the UK is historically sillier and camper than any other city. It’s because of the British history of drag -- the seaside town end of the pier or panto dames. That’s one of the things that makes us special.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Dolly Parton. Obvs, she is one of drag’s matriarchy and we can all only aspire that her levels of fabulous. When I was growing up, my mum would play Dolly as we were driving in the car. She would describe these imaginative acts she had planned for every number on the album, so I guess Dolly was my first showgirl influence.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
​Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman.” It’s probably one of the most underrated feminist ballads of all time.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
Absolutely! Although I do think people should go out and seek it more. Go to small events, look for new talent, support the queer arts. There is a really amazing queer music festival in Berlin called ‘Yo! Sissy’ that showcases the best queer artists, and there are more and more of these kind of events popping up.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
I think that’s pretty obvious. Now everyone and their pet cat wants to do drag. Previously, you would maybe not see a drag queen until you were old enough to go to a nightclub, but Drag Race has meant that young queer people are actively looking for drag shows.

Calypso Monroe Lords, South Florida
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in South Florida?
Party. There is something to do almost every day of the week. Like they say, "I live where you vacation."

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Rihanna. She is literally my spirit animal. I've been inspired by her for so many years and she has influenced me and my drag tremendously. The fact that she is still so down to earth and close to her roots makes me love her even more. I know she would be so fun to just hang with. Her personality is magnetic -- you gotta love bad gal RiRi!

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
I grew up listening to Whitney Houston because my mom and grandmother were huge fans. I remember always hearing "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." That song just always turns me out.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I would ‘help a sister out’ if I feel a connection to their music or them. I think it's amazing that there are more people coming out, not scared of the judgment that still many people have.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
It sometimes affects what people think drag should be. Drag comes in all shapes, sizes, colors -- you name it. What you don't do is compare a Drag Race queen to your local queens because they are working just as hard, if not harder. Support your local queens.

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Kristie Champagne, Seattle

What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Seattle?
Eclectic. Seattle has so many types of drag queens. Everything from trash queens, pageant queens, comedy queens and so many more. Seattle is a very diverse place and the drag scene certainly shows that off as well.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Adele, for sure! I got the pleasure of being the first drag queen to be pulled up on stage by her at one of her shows. Getting to meet the diva that you impersonate is a true honor. I would love to have dinner with her and just ask her about her and her music and any advice she would give to someone like me -- see what I did there?

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
“Emotions” by Mariah Carey. I used to lock myself in my room and listen to this song over and over again and perform it like I was the only diva. How my parents did not know I was gay is far beyond me.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I look at it as a huge obligation. It is up to us -- and by ‘us,’ I mean any kind of queer performer -- to uplift and support each other.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
Drag Race has allowed those of us who perform as our drag characters as our full time jobs to be more accepted and looked at in a more serious light. It allows local performers to be among people they see on TV and allow them to partake in opportunities that they may not normally get.

Mado Lamotte, Montreal
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Montreal?
Alive. I travel a lot and every time I come back to Montreal I feel reborn. Montreal is a very open-minded city and it’s easy to be gay all around the city.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Without hesitation, I would love to party with Kylie Minogue.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
“Gigi l’Amoroso” by Dalida. Thirty years ago I started my career singing that song and I still do today. It’s a real crowd pleaser -- you can be sure the crowd will sing it with you. It’s probably one of the five best French songs of all time, up there with “La Vie En Rose.”

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I think we should introduce any new artists, regardless of their sexuality. Every artist should be allowed to play anywhere on any stage and any radio station. Art has no sexual orientation.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
It gave a chance to young kids all around the world to see drag as a form of art instead of only a way of living or a deviancy, like I’ve sadly heard many times in my career. It also took a little bit of individuality in some drag queens who have a tendency of copying what they see on Drag Race.

Valentine Addams, Chicago
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Chicago?
Varied, because there is something for everyone -- from queer POC dance parties, to gay goth dance parties, to your typical top 40 dance bar.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
I would have to say 70s Cher. Those outfits she wore on her television show have always been such an inspiration to me and the work I do now. How can someone be fully covered but yet look so naked at the same time? I lived for it as a kid.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
"Corazón de Poeta" by Jeannette. My mom used to sing songs by her to me as a child so they have such sentimental value to me. Such a pretty soft voice over cold, pretty beats.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I don't feel an obligation, but I definitely enjoy introducing fans to music in general. May it be queer musicians to Latinx performers to the spacey Italo disco I've always been into.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
I feel like it has made drag a little more mainstream, so of course there are way more drag queens in general, especially compared to when I started doing drag eight years ago. With some of my closest friends making it on the show, I don't get to see them as much.

Creme Fatale, San Francisco
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in San Francisco?
I would describe the scene in San Francisco as freaky. The definition of drag here has always been so unique and art-fueled. Subversive drag has become very trendy as of late, but it is something San Francisco has been doing for decades. Something wild and strange and unsettling has always been the norm here.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
It would have to be Siouxsie Sioux. She is the artist I have performed more than any other and the ones I most enjoy. She the definition of a bad ass woman, she truly does not give a f--k. She creates music so filled with beauty and raw energy and emotion with a side of witch! I want to soak up her energy and confidence!

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
I love performing "Coin Operated Boy" by the Dresden Dolls. It's a song I listened to religiously when I was in middle and high school just dipping into alternative music and visuals and it's still a song that speaks to me and brings me back to little wannabe Goth me. If only she could see herself now, covered in pastels.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
It is incredibly important to introduce people to queer artists, especially local queer musicians. Musicians like Vain Hein, his band Lady Fair Cigarettes, Saturn Rising and my drag mother Laundra Tyme in the Bay Area are creating incredible art -- not just music, but their own insane visuals and putting their hearts and souls into it. It's amazing the work they produce and it needs to be celebrated. You are obligated as an artist to celebrate other artists, how can you not?

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
I am just as insanely in love and obsessed with the show as anyone else, but it is very obvious who does drag for the love of drag and who does it because they hope it will put them on TV one day. Those queens usually only last as long as the season airs then go back into hiding.

Tyona Diamond, Des Moines, Iowa
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Des Moines?
Fierce. A lot of people have the perception that Iowa is super conservative. Our state may have unfortunately flipped red this election year, but the fierce LGBTQ community in Des Moines did everything they could to stop it. We're not all bad.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Cher, duh! She's the diva of all divas. As much as I love and adore all the divas out there, no one comes close to her.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
Anything by Anastacia, really. She's such an underrated artist.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
As long as it's great music then yes. It's our obligation to introduce great music to the masses, period. I think it's important to be supportive of not just queer musicians, but also local artists.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
A lot of fans only come out to the venues when we have special guests from the show which is not cool since the shows here have so much to offer. But the show definitely introduced the world of drag to the mainstream. To me any visibility for the community is great and much appreciated.

 

Pussy LeHoot, Phoenix
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Phoenix?
Diverse. There are so many different facets of our gay community here in Phoenix -- from teens to very active senior gays, all economic, racial and educational backgrounds. I would venture to say every type person you would find in the straight world you could find a gay counterpart.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
I would love to have been able to hang out with Mae West. She was an original diva and had an amazing life and career. Runner up: Elizabeth Taylor.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
“Paper Roses” by Marie Osmond. Marie and I are the same age. When I was 13, I was home sick and my father came home to check on me during his lunch hour and brought me her album. When I did my first amateur night, when I was 18, it was one of my two performances. I still love the song and it still gives me the thrill of that first night, long ago.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I actually don't know a lot of today's artists or their sexualities. I feel as a more seasoned soul, it’s my duty to remind and introduce the kids to the gay past -- artists, movies, theater, etc. It blows my mind when I make to a reference to a song or a movie and no one knows what I’m talking about.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
I don’t watch the show. It certainly has brought drag mainstream and right up into the folks front room, however it’s giving everyone a tunnel vision of what drag should be, and unfortunately not what it can be: a venue for a person to express their creative avenues, whatever they may be.

ABOVE: Drag Race Queens Sound Off On Gay Dating Apps, Slacktivism & Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way'

Adam All, London
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in London?
Evolving. There is always constant change in any group but London’s scene has experienced huge changes over the last few years; some major losses and some awesome new bars and events too. There is also a drive in our queer community to encourage inclusively which has seen broader representation and a more diverse club culture, though there is still much to be done.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
If I was to have a house party, I can't imagine anyone more appropriate than Freddie Mercury. He and his music have been a massive part my life since I was very small.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
I really enjoy performing “The One and Only” by Chesney Hawkes. It's probably the first song I ever learned all the words to and felt an affinity with.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I think it's important to be a role model these days with so much pressure to fit into often very explicit and restrictive social expectations. I don't think you need to be in any way famous to do that, but I do think it's particularly important to show openly successful queer people as they are and celebrate them.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
There has been, certainly in London, but most probably in many other cities, a sort of revolt towards alternative drag -- a boost to the queer political performance art side of drag, pushing and breaking boundaries in terms of what is and isn't 'acceptable.’ However there are still stages that don't book drag kings because they are yet to understand them. Perhaps we need our own TV show.

Enigma Von-Hamburg, Cape Town, South Africa
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Cape Town?
Open. I come from a very conservative community but today we can talk openly about homosexuality. Cape Town is renowned for its LGBTQ nightlife and is must visit for the international travelers.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Most definitely Lady Gaga. She is an outspoken lady that has shown time and time again that you don’t have to be defined by what people say or think of you. I also remember when she dedicated her Super Bowl performance to inclusion, love, kindness, equality and compassion which are all things that resonate with my soul. Watching her on Drag Race made me realize how inspired I am by who and what she is as a human being.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
"Dancing Queen" by ABBA. I remember the night when I participated in a pageant and they announced me as the first place queen for our city, Stellenbosch. The song played when I had to take my first walk as the queen.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
We are very talented and hardworking performers that push boundaries, and yes to an extent, I feel that it is an obligation to introduce our fans to queer musicians. In the same breath, everyone has different taste in music.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
Almost everyone nowadays has RuPaul on their lips. Apart from the drama and fun the TV competition brings, it also shares a better understanding of what being different is all about. 

Madison Basrey, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Playa Del Carmen?
Multicultural, because of the variety of tourists, it is a parade of gays from all over the world

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Cher, because of her long career, experience, passion and dedication. My favorite song is “Dov'e L'Amore” because it was the first song I heard of hers.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
I love “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus -- it says to break the barriers, which resonates with the drag world.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I believe it is important to support queer music and groups from our gay community.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
It has helped people appreciate drag as an art.

Mitz Mangrove, Tokyo
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Tokyo?
Healthy. The straight world wants us to be underground and dangerous. For the young people, there is less darkness living as sexual minorities, at least in the gay scene, which I think is a good thing.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
For now, George Michael.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
"Electric Youth" by Debbie Gibson. I remember dancing to it all alone with a hairspray can as a mic in my bedroom. It’s so funny doing it now in front of the audience and get paid.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
Making straight people pay [money for shows] is more important because our lives are to be their amusement. Sympathy doesn’t cost a thing.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
Motivation is the most important factor for young generation to do any kind of thing. They want to win and get prize to justify their lives. We enjoy watching it over here in Japan. The show made us be aware of that there is manual and logic and rightness in drag.

Karen From Finance, Melbourne, Australia
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Melbourne?
Progressive. A good drag show is becoming harder and harder to find in Melbourne as a lot of the dedicated bars are closing down, but the ones you do find are the ones that are pushing the boundaries and offering something new and different.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Dolly Parton. She's both off with the fairies and completely grounded all at the same time. I reckon she'd be up to party all night long but she'd never let you step out of line.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
The first drag mix I ever made and performed included both The Offspring's “Why Don't You Get A Job” as well as the Round The Twist theme song. That was 4.5 years ago and I still love to perform it today.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I don't so much see it as my duty to introduce them, but more so to celebrate them. My job is to entertain, and if I can do that at the same time as pushing new material onto an audience then that's a win-win.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
More people are doing drag which means more people are seeing drag. Drag is an untamed beast, and if the influx of new queens means that the older ones have to work harder and be better to stand out from the crowd, well then everyone wins.

Ivanna Cupcake, Houston, Texas
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Houston?
Diverse. The gay scene has so many different walks of life and with Houston being the city with the most diversity, it truly describes it to the T.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Cher. I remember listening to her as a child when it came on the radio. As I was growing up, her music was the theme of my gay youth.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
“Dancing Queen” by ABBA. It's such a feel-good song that I enjoy performing for a crowd or on my own.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I choose songs that the audience wants to hear because it's on the radio. There are occasions where I'll do a song for myself, where I take a risk into a song that no one has heard of. No matter what, if you give your all into a performance, it will show through the audience and your tips.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
It's amazing to look at the following the Drag Race girls have versus the local queens. Most of the local drag queens I know in Houston can compare to or are even more outstanding than most of the contestants of Drag Race.

Eden Alive, Little Rock, Arkansas
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Little Rock?
Young. In all honesty, the ‘below-40s’ are all you see in show bars except for a few nights of the year that draw out the diehard pageant crowd. They had their heyday and have now moved on to quieter corners of the city. We have a very young, active demographic who are bringing about a lot of change to a community that has been steeped in old-school female impersonation for decades. It's a scene in flux right now, but I'm excited to see where it is going.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
​Bjork. She is a fascinating human who has made herself into her own kind of icon. I would love to hear her thoughts on art, creativity, and inspiration.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
I have this undying love for Auf Der Maur. She is an artist I was introduced to as a young angry closet case at the age of fifteen. One of my favorite nights in drag was performing her song, "I'll Be Anything You Want." It's so fun and sassy in an ‘indie rock goddess’ sort of way.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
Funny you should ask that because my partner and I host our own monthly show at Club Triniti in Little Rock. We recently had a show celebrating LGBTQ-identified recording artists. It was a really educational experience for me that I was so happy to share with people. I ultimately chose to perform Miley Cyrus to highlight a person who didn't fall into the usual class of queerness. Our goal was to bring more names to the forefront who aren't just the classic icons of our community, but people of this generation who are being bold about their identities now.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
While it is a beautiful thing -- that our subculture is being given a platform that allows us to be understood -- there are those who never move past the TV show and get out to see what's happening in their local drag scene. That is where the injustice lies, for both the television show and our own bar shows. Each entity can supplement one's appreciation for the other. All in all, it's been a step in the right direction that will hopefully make us less a freak show to the straight world and more the respected artists that we work hard to be.

Kris Knievil, Boston
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Houston?
Evolving. When I moved to Boston, there was a different huge cavernous dance club to hit every night of the week. Now that era has pretty much gone away. There are still great dance clubs here, but the city offers other choices to have fun. If you like sharing a cocktail and singing along to videos of show tunes, we got you. If you like watching and shouting at sports games, we have great gay sports bars.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
I would go back in time to hang out with Bette Midler in her NYC bathhouse days. She was performing on Broadway and singing for the gays on the side. She was ballsy, bold, so funny and just making her own path.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
My parents took me to a regional production of A Chorus Line when I was like ten years old. My dad installed all the mirrors in the production so we got great free tickets. I loved it. I still perform “Dance Ten, Looks Three” from the show. But I also do Bette Midler's song "Pretty Legs and Great Big Knockers." Both songs are about boobs so you see where my head was at as a child.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
As a drag entertainer, I can only perform to songs I connect with in some way. It’s difficult to perform a song you don't like or feel -- it doesn’t matter if the artist creating the music is gay, straight or bi. Good music is good music.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
The success of Drag Race has been a blessing and, in some ways, a curse to the local drag community. I have had the good fortune to see some close friends and girls I performed with go on to huge success. My besties Jujubee and Katya have found great success from Drag Race. I know Laila McQueen very well and have loved performing with her many times. Joslyn Fox came to Boston many times to perform with us before she was on Drag Race. It’s been great to see these girls find success, but it seems the public is less willing to pack a show if there is not a Drag Race diva attached to the night.

It’s a hard process to get an amazing audition together and get on the show with all the elements: acting, sewing, performing, dancing, etc. I do the audition every year and will keep trying. Drag isn’t for sissies.

Maddelynn Hatter, New York City
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in New York City?
Thriving. And expanding! There’s always new shit going on. You can get jaded after a while but this place will rip you right out of that and give you all the life if you let it.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
​Tori Amos. She is someone I would love to have a real conversation with. Legendary!

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
“Paradise Circus” by Massive Attack or “Long Hard Road Out Of Hell” by Marilyn Manson and Sneaker Pimps. For “Paradise,” you can be sultry and terrifying at the same time. “Long Hard” is a song you can really lose your shit to.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
Not really. If it’s good, it’ll catch the ear of the masses. I do Melissa Etheridge all the time. I’ve been meaning to do k.d. lang too -- I should do that next.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
I think that a thesis could be written on this subject to be honest. The show is an incredible phenomenon affecting both pop culture and the underbelly of what was once a subculture. The sheer strength of it has influenced and changed something that was super minimal and turned it into an industry for so many incredible small businesses and artists. It’s allowed people to express themselves so wonderfully in the face of a tyrannical administration.   

Drag Race has also made it very difficult to get gigs that established non-Drag Race girls would have been able to get had they not been overlooked and eclipsed by the power of television. They're going on to season ten now and, new to old, there’s 113 of them. So now, the local girls are having to fight tooth and nail on a budget of $50 to $150 to turn sick looks in a sea of new queens who would take the gig under your toes at the first given chance because the hierarchy has been shaken to its core.

Rita Malverde, Mexico City
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Mexico City?
Original. People in Mexico have a lot of talent, and that makes us stand out, in every outfit and performance.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Lady Gaga. I think she’s an artist that breaks every stigma in music. She’s a creator that transmits feelings that are not easy to make people feel. Not every artist can do that.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
“Love on the Brain” by Rihanna. It fills me up, each lyric of the song. It’s painful but it transmits a lot of hope. I think that what we need: love and hope.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I feel it’s important to the community itself help each other. We should recognize the achievements these artist do to help us advance as a society and to respect each other.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
With it being such a mainstream thing, it helped break a lot of walls and stigmas that existed about drag queens. The only difference in Mexico is that a lot of people expect the same level and same way of thinking from the Ru girls. Maybe that’s why we are more judged about our aesthetic.

Prada Clutch, Sydney, Australia
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Sydney?
Allowing. The gay scene in Sydney allows you to be yourself. The scene caters for all facets of queer culture and provides events and networks to connect with like-minded people. It really is a fabulous city to be gay in.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
Bette Midler, because she’s a creative musical genius and she continues to have an epic career. She presents as an absolute professional and true master of her craft.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” I use to perform this song as a 15-year-old boy in talent quests.  The song helped me win a lot of money at the time.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I’m currently in Las Vegas and the two biggest shows I’ve seen during my stay have been headlined by openly gay men: Ricky Martin and Adam Lambert. I think it’s a great idea to introduce my fans to queer musicians, although my real focus is to introduce my fans to musicians and their music that showcases my voice as I’m a live-singing drag queen.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
Drag Race has affected Sydney drag culture by breeding a new younger generation of drag queens that think that there is a stereotypical style of drag that is acceptable. New queens need to also look to past and present female divas and artists, as this is who they should be gaining inspiration from. After all, that is what the art of drag is all about!

Gottmik, Los Angeles
What word would you use to describe the gay scene in Los Angeles?
Powerful. The LA gay scene has such strong men and women that are constantly prepared to fight to help evolve and change the world. West Hollywood canceled the LA Pride parade this year and created the Resist March. We all marched and stood together stronger than ever and ready to tackle any obstacle thrown our way.

If you got to kiki with any diva, who would it be?
I would die to kiki with Divine. She created her own market in the drag community when so many people told her she couldn't. She inspires me so much and I am so thankful for the impact she had on the drag community.

What’s a song from your youth that you enjoy performing?
I love performing “Don't Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl. My mom introduced me to Broadway music at a very young age and Funny Girl was one of her favorites.

Do you feel an obligation to introduce your fans to new queer musicians?
I almost strictly listen to queer music, so I try to bring it into my club life as much as possible. Most of my performances in bars are lip syncs to drag queen albums or other queer artists. Some of my favorites are PWR BTTM, Sateen, Adore Delano, the AAA Girls -- really anyone who is making a statement and changing the game.

How do you think the success of Drag Race has affected local drag culture?
Having RuPaul win an Emmy, have an Entertainment Weekly cover, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame has created such amazing opportunities for queens to show their art in the mainstream. I'm so proud to be able to be a part of this community at such an amazing evolving time and I can't wait to see how far we can take it.

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Gay Pride Month 2017