Hail to the king! Rising drag star and Long Island native Oliver Herface chats about life during the apocalypse, the joys of titillating his audience, and the evils of chest binding.
Thotyssey: Greetings, Oliver! How are things this Quarantine Wednesday?
Oliver Herface: Hello! Things are going okay, trying to stay afloat.
It’s a challenge! The Covid quarantine has been a challenge for all, and now the horror that came out of Minnesota and its global aftermath have given us some very apocalyptic images. Is it an effort for you to stay positive and hopeful?
Honestly, I don’t think I could possibly stay positive or hopeful about what’s happening. I feel so hopeless right now, and do not have much energy. Right now, I guess I’m just trying to do what I can. It’s a lot.
It certainly is. Were you able to go to any of the protests? It’s very anxiety inducing, what with the pandemic and violent pushback from many of the cops.
Yeah, I was at a protest Sunday night. It was intense; a lot of people were arrested, I was lucky and just fast enough, I guess. I want to go to more, but I’m an essential worker, so I have to debate the risk of exposing so many people. It’s so necessary, though.
Are you a native New Yorker? And were you always involved in the arts in some way?
Yea, born and raised in Long Island (unfortunately). I’ve been performing pretty much since I could walk, always singing and dancing and putting on shows. In high school I was involved in theater and kickline.
How did you discover drag and create Oliver?
I discovered drag via RuPaul’s Drag Race when I was in high school, but I had no idea the depths of drag beyond a clackity-clack cis male queen. I discovered drag kings on Instagram like Andro Gin, Landon Cider and Demon Daddy; before that, I didn’t know I could do drag.
The first time I performed in drag as “Danny Matrix” at a random open mic in 2019. For a while after that, I would practice makeup in my room. 2019 was a really hard year for me–I had dropped out of college, became nocturnal and depressed. I created Oliver out of the characteristics of myself I don’t really like. Oliver is a villain, and a good one. I first performed as Oliver Herface in March of 2019.
Lots of people dismiss drag kings as being limited in what kind of looks they can give, but Oliver has given us some ferocious beats and costumes. What inspires your looks, and how might you describe Oliver as a performer to the uninitiated?
For my makeup, I try to use a lot of color and harsh lines and shapes. I love experimenting with weird brows, too; it really changes your face. As far as my outfits, I don’t like to wear very much clothing. I aim for slutty punk Disney villain. Lots of ripped fishnets, ass and cellophane. My goal is to make everyone in the audience turned on, regardless of their sexuality. I love pushing the extremes of masculinity and femininity.
As a performer, I’ve been described as very high energy. I perform to a lot of punk / metal / showtunes, and no matter what’s playing I love high kicks, splits and sprinting around the venue. If I don’t need my inhaler afterwards, than what’s the point?
Do you have a favorite number to do?
I have a number to “Boy Division” by My Chemical Romance that’s probably my favorite right now. It’s about a boxing match between me and my dysphoria, specifically surrounding my chest and binding. I haven’t been able to perform it for an audience yet, but I entered it in the BoiPkg Drag King / Thing contest and won most likes!
Does binding present a great difficulty for you?
Yeah, especially with performing and looks. I have to usually plan a look around how I’ll wrangle my chest down to look flat. I use gc2b binders daily, but mostly in drag I use trans tape, which is expensive and kinda painful. If I’m feeling bold, I’ll wrap my chest in cellophane, which flattens slightly but my chest is still visible.
Obviously. the bar scene is dominated by cis male queens. Kings are definitely on the rise, but is it still frustrating to deal with that lack of representation and opportunity?
Definitely! I feel like those who aren’t cis drag queens in this city have to work ten times harder to receive recognition. It’s been really cool connecting with other kings-and-things in New York, and online over quarantine. There’s no absence of kings, just of bookings for kings apparently. I’m actually a member of the Cake Boys Collective in New York, with a bunch of other talented performers.
Several of the Cake Boys put together a great digital showcase recently.
Oh my God, that was amazing!
How are you liking digital drag so far?
It’s been hard for me. I miss performing in front of live audiences. I miss my community. Lately I’ve had no energy to create content. I was supposed to host an Instagram Live show on Saturday, but I decided to postpone it.
Oh, I didn’t know that! Do you have a rescheduled date for your POC drag showcase “Reverse Racism?” yet?
I plan to do it at a later date, I’m not sure when yet. The cast is spectacular. though, so I’m excited for when that does happen.
We hope to see you soon, on the screen or–God willing–on the stage!
Yes, I hope so, too!
Which brings us to our final question: what will be the first thing you do when quarantine is over?
Ideally, I’d be performing! I’ll probably take virtual tips still, though. I need community so bad!
We hear you, sir! Thanks, Oliver!