This young, burlesque-flavored, Southern-born multimedia queen has been giving us digital and social distanced shows these past several months, despite the lockdown. But the future is bright for this new drag family matriarch and wonderfully shady lady, Charlotte Harlot!
Thotyssey: Hello Charlotte, thanks for chatting with us today. So! The holidays are coming, the virus is worse than ever, Trump is on his way out but he’s not doing anything to help at the moment, two vaccines are in the works and the buzz is good, there’s a new Kylie album… November 2020 is such a mixed bag of emotion! How are you handling it all?
Charlotte Harlot: LOL, to be honest, I’m not sure. I handle my emotions in really weird ways–sometimes mostly through compartmentalization. But as of today, I’m doing great! Happy the stale Cheeto is getting the boot, and happy our country might actually have a chance of fighting off this pandemic that has stricken us all so badly.
Yes, those are all good things! As far as nightlife lockdown goes, you must have an interesting perspective. You really started to come up as a live gigged performer during a time when most venues were closed! Has that been a very wild experience for you?
Honestly ? Not really. I started my entertainment career in theater, and if there’s one unfortunate lesson to be had (especially when you have rent to pay), it’s that the show has to go on whether you like it or not. I wish I could say this has been a super amazing and awe-inspiring season of drag, but I’ve done it for the money more than the feeling this year.
So that’s a good segue into the origin story: where are you from originally, and how did you begin as a creative person?
I’m from a really small town called Columbia in Mississippi. My mom’s family lived in New Orleans for her whole life… and then for some reason she moved there? Not much happens there but horses and car races, lol. I got into art when I was a small kid with illustration. Then I started to become a singer, and from there I tried to pick up any and every creative outlet I could! I think I counted about seven hobbies that are now my “creative passion.”
How did you discover drag and burlesque?
I found out about drag like most gay babies: Drag Race. I have always been really loud and over the top, and drag was a great vehicle to explore that. Burlesque came later, as I didn’t get exposed to it until I was more around 23, but it also inspired a large portion of my costume and song choices before I even started doing it.
Was there ever a concern that as a trans woman (aka a non-cis male) that you might be shut out of drag, or that you wouldn’t have the same opportunities?
Oh, I’ve always known I’d never be afforded the same opportunities as my cis male counterparts… no matter how much harder I worked, or how much better I was. So that’s why I stopped caring about who was going to give me my opportunity, and I started giving myself the ability to create work that let me be free of validation. I create my art as a way of healing and nurturing my creativity. My drag and art have always been a source of pride for me. No matter how big or small I decide to go, it was always for me–and no one could make me feel like I’m not enough.
Jupiter Doll is actually your drag child, right?
For going on five years, yes. I met Jupiter through Instagram a long time ago, and we–along with a few other friends–were a part of an online art collective. When I started doing drag after college, Jupiter asked me if I would teach them as I learned, and the rest is kinda history.
When I moved here, Jupiter introduced me to Lucia Fuchsia who was at the time their drag child. Then the opportunity arose to, as a family, begin a show together [firstly at 3 Dollar Bill, then later Now & Then]. It was all very in the moment and spontaneous!
That show the three of you did came to be called “Girls Gone Viral.”
As of this week, we’re actually taking an extended break into the spring… just to tidy up some of the tech and really streamline the show to become an even bigger and better event. I want the show to be even more accessible to everyone, so I’m planning on drafting a version of it that is totally live and one that’s meant for digital audiences to enjoy, too!
Looking forward to that! By the way, how would you describe a Charlotte Harlot performance today, for the uninitiated?
Sexy, sultry, and very, very black. I grew up listening to a lot of 70s and 80s slow jams courtesy of my dad being a hopeless romantic, and I guess I really latched on to all the women of that era. A running joke that me and Janae SaisQuoi have is if there’s a song out there, I can make it sexy! But more than that–my sexy, sultry performances are for me. I use them to reclaim my own sexual identity, and show myself I can be desired and intimate even if only for those three to five minutes.
Speaking of Janae, you and Jupiter will be part of her digital dragiversary show on November 21st! “It Takes a Village” will benefit the beloved Ali Forney Center. What more can you tell us about the show?
I can tell you that Janae always pulls some of the most amazing, awe-inspiring groundbreaking stunts and theatrics ever. She knows what works–not only for stage, but for video. And she’s brought together a cast of queers that truly showcases what being in her life is like. All the cast members are exceptional, and I’m ecstatic to be involved with anything with her name on it!
What else is coming up for you?
Well, I’m also a part of a really cool show brought to you by Catrina Lovelace themed around my absolute favorite show: Steven Universe! There will be so many amazing performances to some of everyone’s favorite gems, femmes and fusions! That will be December 3rd at 8pm, which is coincidentally two days before my birthday *wink wink* (Venmo is @lilhottieart, lol!)
Awesome! What else do the children need to know?
Remember to protect your trans black and gender non-conforming family. We are out here and we are struggling like the rest of you, but unfortunately we have a much higher mortality rate than most–which isn’t a walk in the park. So make sure you use your voice, position, and privilege to help those who would help you.
Heard! To conclude: what would be your dream project, if you had complete creative control?
I want to release a creative art book of all the looks and art illustrations I’ve ever done, and release it with a video themed around me being a walking piece of art. I’ve always loved mixed media animation, and that just seems like something I could really sink my teeth into.
That would be incredible! Thanks, Charlotte!