A drag queen who’s found joy and success in the world of burlesque, this unique performer was properly crowned Miss Nerd 2017 just four months ago (note: when pageant producers tell the runner-up she’ll have to step in if the first place winner can’t perform her duties, they aren’t kidding), and she’ll already be passing the crown along to the new winner in just one week! Hazel Tart shares her impressive nerd credentials with us, and tells us what she’s got baking.
Thotyssey: Hazel! I see you were at Parkside Lounge recently, performing in a burlesque tribute to folk rock band the Mountain Goats. That’s not an obvious choice for burlesque inspiration! How did it go?
Hazel Tart: It was absolutely amazing, and full of feels. So many burlesque acts were vulnerable, personal, and beautiful… It was really powerful to share that with an audience, and see how each performer personally connected with the songs they chose. I give huge props to Anja Kiester for putting together these shows. She’s always making these unique experiences that you’d never expect. Hell, a couple weeks ago they did a Homestar Runner burlesque show!
You’ve recently gotten more involved with burlesque as a performer. How did that come about… and are you officially a “draglesquer” now?
I am what I am when I am, I guess? Haha! That really started when I was doing the weekly show with Petra Fried at Rockbar. Our show was back-to-back with White Elephant Burlesque, and I clicked with that group immediately. Over time, I’ve been asked to do more and more burlesque and less straight lip sync drag. So its been a very organic transition, but I’m so glad it’s happened. I connect with the burlesque community more than I ever connected with the drag community, and it’s really challenged me in new ways (in and out of drag) I never would have expected.
So, where are you from?
A little town outside of Portland, Maine called Westbrook. And I’m the only living member of my family who doesn’t live within 30 minutes of it!
Wow! Were you always into theater and the arts?
Oh, absolutely! I started in like third or fourth grade, when a play I wrote was performed at a local theater. I loved seeing my story on stage, but I was so sad that no one knew it was mine. The audience was congratulating the actors… so I did acting instead! I did theater all through middle school, high school, and my BFA is in Performing Arts with a focus on acting and writing.
And how did Hazel get born?
Eh, it was one of those things where, as a queer person, I wondered what my name would be IF I ever did drag. I never really expected to, until my friend M’Lady Uppercrust asked Petra and I to do her Pride show at the old Boots & Saddle. We stressed out and prepared for an entire month, me mostly trying to get my makeup to NOT suck. After that, it was a snowball effect of nightlife friends seeing me performing and inviting me to do their upcoming show. Eventually, I found myself booked up and learning a ton about myself in the process.
What have been done favorite moments for you as s performer, drag or burlesque?
Oof, that’s a big one… I have two categories of favorite moments:
- Performing the acts that I have personal resonance with, and having a conversation with an audience member after who had similar emotional experiences. We click and we talk, and it’s really profound to have those deep conversations unexpectedly. (That actually happened at the Mountain Goats show, with several people… and it straight up brought me to happy tears.)
- Whenever a stranger on the train or on the street starts talking to me because I’m in face. Those conversations are always so interesting and impactful. ESPECIALLY with kids. When they don’t understand why I look the way I do, I say, “You know how clowns exaggerate their feet and noses and stuff? I do that but with gender! I’m exaggerating a gender for fun, or to make you think about things differently.”
Would you do Drag Queen Story Hour?
Oh lord… I’ve done story hours, but never as Hazel. I think I would read The Rainbow Fish, wear all Holo, throw in a mediocre death drop at the twist of the story, and end it by giving every kid a bottle of glitter and whisper to them, “Go nuts….”
So, we’re halfway through 2018, but you’ve only recently gotten the crown for Miss Nerd 2017! That’s a geek-centric produced by Shane Cherry drag pageant held at Rockbar where you won first runner-up, but after the winner Apocalypta couldn’t continue with her responsibilities, the crown was passed on to you! So how long exactly have you been Miss Nerd 2017 now?
The crown was handed off to me in February.
Congratulations, better late than never! What particular type of Nerdosity do you best represent?
My brand of Nerdosity is…. varied? I grew up a pastor’s son, so I wasn’t allowed to consume much secular media. My early obsessions were Harry Potter (which was forbidden, but I hid the books under my mattress), Pokemon, Digimon, and Star Trek.
Nowadays, my Nerdosity is a bit more expansive, but still super varied. I’m a Tiefling Monk in a D&D campaign, I still listen to Wizard Rock, and I’m obsessed with podcasts like Adventure Zone and Welcome to Night Vale.
Oh, and Steven Universe. Steven Universe is single-handedly going to make future generations more in touch with their emotions, and more welcoming to diversity. It’s queer space rock, people. Get into it.
What was your number for Miss Nerd?
I did my Tinkerbell burlesque act. It starts with dialogue from the Tinkerbell movies, of Tinkerbell dying and needing people to clap to save her. Then I cut into Lady Gaga’s “Applause,” and take my clothes off in a last ditch attempt for life-saving applause. I have a bra full of glittery fairy dust. It’s fun!
On Saturday, June 9th, you’ll be back at Rockbar for Miss Nerd 2018, passing the crown down to this year’s winner. I’m gonna be a judge this time around! What should I be looking for in the contestants?
Ugh! I’m so excited that you’re joining us this year! I’d say, look for a passion for what they’re bringing. It’s easy to put on a Mario hat and say, “Look, I’m nerdy!” Similarly, it’s easy for a judge to say, “I don’t know that fandom, so… points deducted.” We’re celebrating nerd culture, and the legion of fandoms that entails. I feel [that if you were a pageant contestant who wants to win, the] key is to bring what you truly love and make it accessible for an audience to enjoy, even if they don’t know the fandom.
Or if you wanna get real RuPaul about it: you’re looking for Nuance, Entertainment, Regality, and Drama.
All great advice, and I’m psyched to join the party!
So what else is coming up for you?
And then in July, I’ll be performing at the birthday shows of Tucker Bowles and Witti Repartee, as well as Anja Keister’s wedding reception! There’s always stuff being added, but I always post it to my Instagram.
A busy summer for you! And happy Pride! Oh wait, before I let you go… I almost forgot to mention one of your most amazing accomplishments. You are the director and producer of the greatest film ever seen by man or womankind… the video for Svetlana Stoli’s seminal “Welcome To My Hole!” That of course originated as her entry for the multimedia challenge of the Miss Barracuda 2015 pageant, but it’s since gained a cult following. What was that production experience like?
Bahaha! I forget that it happened, too, but the moment it pops back in my head, it’s hysterical all over again. That was probably the most fun I’ve ever had filming something. We basically just dropped an old mattress in the middle of her living room, turned out the lights, and shot a penetrationless comedy porno for three hours. My mother, the pastor’s wife, would be so proud.
Okay, last question: if you were to take a “Which Gem from Steven Universe are you?” quiz (and Cambridge Analytica would probably exploit the results but whatevs), who do you think you would get?
UGH, this is the hardest question! Honestly, I relate most to Lars, especially in Season 5. Also, Sadie Killer. But if I had to pick a Gem, I’d say…. Lapis?
That’s the perfect, nerdiest answer! Thanks Hazel, see you soon!