One of drag’s most wholly original, enigmatic and enchanting figures, Untitled Queen last spoke to Thotyssey in the wake of a bittersweet Pride season following the Pulse shootings. It’s fitting that we’re catching up now at the end of another emotional Pride weekend, and on the eve of her most ambitious project to date.
Thotyssey: Hello again, Untitled! How was your Pride weekend?
Untitled Queen: Amazing. I attended the incredible gathering and fundraiser for Black Trans Lives and specifically GLITS. It was a wondrous, uplifting, challenging, moment shared with our community. I also took part virtually in New York Lives Arts Pride with Tyler Ashley and Bubble _T, as well as Bushwig. I really haven’t thought of it as a set aside weekend. Pride is every day to me.
Amen! The last time Thotyssey spoke to you, we were coming through another sad time in queer history and therefore another unique Pride: the Pulse shooting aftermath. But with all the fear and progressive anger of these past few months, it has been inspiring to see so many people stand in solidarity against injustice, right?
It is definitely hopeful. I think this Pride is so special because we are seeing and enacting the roots of activism that gave us our rights, but with an even deeper understanding of intersectionality; that it takes efforts from all different people to dismantle white supremacy. We are fighting for LGBTQIA rights, Black Lives Matter, Black Trans Lives Matter together. The focus on direct action and resource sharing and community building is inspirational. It’s hard work. It’s difficult times, but possibly the most eye-opening and most directed towards change in recent memory.
So long before quarantine, you have withdrawn more or less from weekly bar shows in favor of more artistic, editorial productions showcasing your performance art. What inspired that shift?
Oh, ha! The shift from doing weeklies was because Mom is getting old, and I work a full time day job. So doing that with a weekly on Wednesday became too taxing physically… although I do miss it sometimes. I’ve tried more recently to focus more time on my art practice, which includes drag (they’re one and the same thing). I’ve found I can spend more time creating ambitious projects if they’re a bit more spread out.
You’ve put together some amazing visual and performance installations, at The Rosemont and elsewhere. And you’re a resident performer in Sasha Velour’s elaborate showcase “Nightgowns,” which now takes the form of a concert docu-series on the QUIBI platform! Tell us about your involvement in that.
Filming Nightgowns for QUIBI was such an exciting and wonderful opportunity. Sasha has always allowed the artists involved to create and dream big with their work. We each got to make our own world on that stage to invite the audience in. I performed a poem by Rita Dove called “Daystar” with a smoking sculptural cube and dress by Quce Studio, and a landscape sound piece by my friend Jess Ramsay. We filmed for a week at the Connelly Theater, and my mom and my eldest sister Cora came to see the live taping!
Has your family seen you perform before?
My mom had never seen me perform live. My parents and other siblings don’t live close, except for Cora who has seen me and supported me many, many times.
That’s amazing! By the way, totally random… but I was recently revisiting Felix And The Future’s amazing video for his song “Karen” from a 2017, starring you. That name has now been co-opted for a very specific type of person!
She represents an evil / dark side in the song, as I remember Felix describing it to me. So it’s fitting. And I’m defeated in the end, which is also fitting for all the Karens. Shoutout to Felix, who I love.
A true prophet! Well, you are about to embark on what might be your most ambitious project yet: “(Untitled) America” on Twitch July 4 will digitally bring a POC drag performer from every American state and territory together for a massive online showcase! This is all produced and arranged by you. So first of all, what inspired you to do this?
The idea came to me in the shower, thinking about how the virtual realm eliminated physical location barriers. Suddenly we could engage with and experiences artists from everywhere. And I thought. “I live here, but I don’t know what drag is like in most states.” And I asked “how can we address that, and discover more artists, and give voice to QPOC people?”
And by drag performers we mean queens, kings and beyond.
Yes, it’s an important distinction and also a call to our community–myself included–to stop limiting the drag conversation to just meaning drag queens. There are so many other artists in the world of drag that deserve the same platform.
I can just imagine that drag in states not known for having queer scenes or even big cities–like South Dakota or Montana–must be scant… let alone featuring queens of color.
In finding artists, I asked my network of friends who programmed a lot of shows / festivals to help with recommendations. Horrorchata, Merrie Cherry, Rify Royalty, Miss Malice and more helped me out a lot. But certain states were very difficult, and I didn’t have connections to some. West Virginia and the Dakotas were extremely hard. But we found them, thanks to Google and Instagram searching until my eyeballs fell out! What’s exciting is that I only know five out of the 52 artists, so everyone who watches will be meeting them with me. I learned a lot and have tremendous respect for my artists, some of whom are the only or one of few QPOC in their community.
That’s incredible! I guess We’re Here taught us a little bit about rural drag.
Actually, one of our artists was just featured on We’re Here: Lady Shug representing New Mexico. One of my stipulations was that the artist could not have been on television; I wanted artists that had not had much exposure or opportunity for their voice to be heard. But when I got her, it was before [her episode] was released. We are so lucky to have Lady Shug representing the Dine territory of the Four Corners area.
Now, it’s been a carry for me to organize events in the past that just have eight queens on a single stage. I am getting a panic attack just thinking of what it must’ve been like to have to collect 52 pre-recorded performances from as many drag artists across the country.
I had about 501 meltdowns. I had to chase people a lot… which, PSA for drag artists: don’t do that to your producers, lol! It was the biggest undertaking I’ve ever attempted. I had a lot of help from friends, but if I wasn’t bald already I’d be now, lol! Wrangling 52 videos and artist info. And editing. Captioning. And making promo, and organizing. But I’m so happy and excited about sharing the show.
How long did this all take?
Two months, basically. This was also a very challenging time for these artists, with all the police brutality and death and protest and the pandemic… so much could not be helped. But we made it! So many beautiful, touching, heartbreaking, political, powerful pieces in here.
It’s going to be an incredible showcase that everyone must tune in to!
So dare I ask, what’s next?
I know I’m nuts… but after this, I’m contemplating “Untitled (World).” One drag artist per country, asking “what does it mean to be a queer person in the World?” Premiering on World AIDS Day. It’s a simmering thought! But I think I might just do it.
OMG, you’re insane! But I absolutely love that! I can’t wait to see who you can find from Lichtenstein! Well for now, have fun with “Untitled (America)”… it’s gonna be epic! Last question: who should win Drag Race All-Stars 5?
I don’t watch Drag Race. But I’ll say Shea, because she’s incredible all the time.
As are you! Thanks again, Untitled!
Previously: Untitled Queen (6.15.2016)