This is the twelfth installment in an ongoing series that explores drag culture and the nightlife scene in Brooklyn, N.Y. Over the past several years, following the large-scale exodus of artists across the East River and into northern Brooklyn, those engaged in drag culture in this outer borough have created a new, queer world entirely their own. Accompanied by a larger movement to understand drag culture outside of the pageant circuit, many individuals engaged in the drag community in this borough approach drag culture through a nontraditional lens of "alternative" drag or performance art, enabled largely by the malleable and queer nature of this part of New York. Visit HuffPost Gay Voices regularly to learn not only about the individuals involved in Brooklyn's drag community, but more about the culture of the community itself.
The Huffington Post: How did you get your start in the drag world?
Crimson Kitty: I was a burlesque performer for several years before I got tired of the scene. Prior to the whole "Drag Race" phenomenon I experimented with gender but no one got what I was doing because I wasn't doing a drag king style of performance, and my schtick wasn't properly developed. I was at a crossroads in my performance career when a faux queen pageant popped up and I knew it was something I had to do. So I changed my stage name to Crimson Kitty (formerly Agent N or “N”) and entered, writing my own parody song to Lady Gaga’s "Born This Way" with backup dancers and a dress made entirely out of latex. I didn’t win (nor come close) but I knew I had what it took to do this. I focused on lip-syncing performances and honed my craft and one day I met a queen by the name of Rebecca Glasscock -- the first queen that really believed in me. I started doing shows with her and my drag family at the world famous Stonewall Inn and things really hit it from there!
Drag King K.James described you as a "female-to-female or FtF drag queen." As a cisgender woman, what would you say to those who would claim this isn't, in fact, drag at all?
In early drag times (when I first started) I had no idea what to call myself or how to promote what I did, so I started saying that I was FtF because at the time, gender labels were huge in the queer community and I wanted nothing more than to stand out. I loved the term, friends loved the term, and then I realized that it was offensive to some. My intentions weren’t to offend -- my intentions were to be fabulous! Rather than deal with backlash, I simply dropped the FtF identifier and just started calling myself a drag queen and, honestly, it felt so much better and much more appropriate.
As for as those who would claim that my drag isn’t drag at all -- please, by all means get on stage and lip-sync a Whitney song to PERFECTION! I can do it… can you?
All T and shade aside, while I have a growing fan base of those who adore what I do, I also still get naysayers and resistance. I’ve been called everything from a novelty and something not to be taken seriously to a feminist. Since when are dicks taken seriously? Also, who are the inspirations for drag queens anyways? I feel like it’s the circle of drag life. I’m inspired by drag queens inspired by strong women who made me into a strong fierce female!
(The interview with Crimson Kitty continues after the slideshow.)
Describe the drag scene and community in Brooklyn -- how is it different from drag culture elsewhere?
What I love about Brooklyn is that anything goes! It’s a mishmash of different styles and it’s not all pretty or put together -- but it’s amazing! Ever since I moved to Brooklyn, everything has happened and Bushwick is where it's at right now. I love the artists and performers inhabiting this area and the fact that everyone lives fairly close to one another. There is a better sense of community and experimentation that you can’t find elsewhere.
Do you find empowerment through drag?
When I was a baby lez, I would hang out with my gays because I wanted to sleep with lots of women, but had no clue how to navigate the lesbian bars. Everyone stood around and no one danced -- I was confused. So off with the boys I went to many clubs and parties that no longer exist today. From there I was introduced to NYC nightlife and saw Amanda Lepore for the first time, who I thought was -- and still is -- stunning. I also saw so many drag queens that I was enamored with -- they were everything to me. I wanted to be them because at the time I had no self-esteem or sense of self. They were a HUGE influence for me in my "coming of queer" age and they always stuck with me. Now that I do drag, I feel like more of a woman that I ever thought I could be.
You're a part of the Brooklyn-based drag alliance Switch N' Play along with K.James and Pussy Diet. What role does this organization play in the Brooklyn nightlife community?
My hope is that we bring in a whole new generation of drag performers in a nurturing and growing environment. Eventually I would like to set up a "dragucation" program that will help aspiring performers harness their inner drag and set forth to inspire future generations to come!
What's amazing about our organization's open drag nights at Outpost Lounge is that EVERYONE is welcome. With other shows, the cast is already picked out but open drag nights invite anyone to step on the stage and lip-sync their little hearts out! This is the only drag venue in Brooklyn with this format and it is an invaluable asset to our community.
Where can you be found throughout the week?
I am a regular performer at Circus Of Dreams at Bizarre Bar in Bushwick every other Wednesday, a free show for all of those on a budget. Switch N’ Play hits up a new residency at Branded Saloon Jan. 18 followed by our DRAGIVERSARY at Outpost Lounge on Jan. 31.
Also, for girls wanting to be boys dressed as girls check out my new show FAUXVasion: All Female Drag Revue at 9:00 p.m. on Sunday March 9th at Stonewall Inn.
Missed the previously featured drag performers and installments in this series? Check out the slideshow below.