Women in Music 2018

VIZIN Talks Growing Up Gay & Native American, Shares Video for Sylvester Cover

Shaun Vadilla

When recording artist and drag queen VIZIN saw her remix of Sylvester’s 1978 gay anthem “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” reach No. 24 on the Dance Club charts, she was speechless. “I have no idea how to respond,” she said in an interview with Billboard. “It's exciting, and I'm really just looking forward toward the future and what else I can come up with to wow people.”

That something may be her new video for the John Dish remix of the song, which premieres below. The video features VIZIN dancing around a bar, showing a fresh-faced young man (played by model Brandon Bailey) a good time. She said that her original concept for the video was to portray what it’s like to go to a gay club for the first time.

“It's a young gay boy coming to his first gay club, and I'm a bar queen coming in,” she said. “It's supposed to be that first experience that everyone has at a gay club.”

It was for that particular reason that VIZIN wanted to cover the disco song  — to introduce young people to music of an older generation. “I think disco definitely harkens back to a time when gay culture was at its peak,” she said. “I wanted to give the children something that reminds them of the past and connects them to it.”

A member of the Native American Arikara tribe, VIZIN grew up on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. In fact, her name is a tribute to her heritage. Pronounced “vision,” she said that her original name was “Vision Quest,” referring to the Native American rite of passage.

“One of the first pieces of advice I got was, ‘When you come up with your name, make sure that when they see it on a marquee, they know who it is,’" she said. “I thought, ’Oh, well let's put a 'V' in there just because it'll give it a really graphic vibe when you see it.’”

She said that while the culture she grew up in was relatively conservative, she always knew that she was a “two spirit” — a term used in Native American culture for someone with both a masculine and feminine spirit.

“It's not generally accepted, but it's also not disrespected,” she said. “Nobody called me names or anything for being gay.”

Along with dealing with the coming out process, VIZIN dealt with a long, hard weight-loss journey. Weighing 703 pounds at her highest, VIZIN opted for a gastric bypass surgery in 2009. Today, she weighs around 250 pounds, having lost the rest through a long process of diet and exercise. “I still work on it daily,” she said with a laugh.

VIZIN has seen her star rising over the last year, having worked with world-renowned producers like Hector Fonseca and Chris Rosa. That’s rare for a drag queen who has never walked the stage of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

But now that she’s found success, VIZIN isn’t sure that she wants to audition for Drag Race. “I never ever thought I was ready for it, and even now I still don't feel like I am,” she said. “What I really wanted to do was to make a career performing music, and so now that all of these opportunities are coming up, it's like … I don't really need the show.”