Drag book author, former “Hey Qween” staffer and now a GLAM-nominated podcaster, NYC native Caitlin Tepper’s love of all things drag is both a limitless pursuit and a gift for us all.
Thotyssey: Caitlin, hello! Thanks for chatting with us! So… shit’s crazy, lol! How are you navigating 2021 thus far?
Caitlin Tepper: It’s been an absolute crazy month! The world is still ending, but I adopted a bodega cat and have been busier than ever since the pre-pandemic.
Thats a good thing! Has the bodega cat evolved into an apartment cat yet?
Yeah! Who knew? A lot of jumping around and meowing, but the litter box has been fully conquered! Good job, Oreo.
Aw! That reminds me: Chromatica cookies! Are they for eating, or, um, display?
Eating! I’m dying to get my hands on them. Someone send them my way, please and thank you.
You are clearly a RuPaul’s Drag Race superfan. Season 13 is only two episodes in, but there have already been quite a few format hacks! What are your thoughts?
I love the talent a lot this season, and am so happy there’s finally some trans masc representation (long, long overdue), but the format and twists have left me feeling a bit bored and “been there done that.” Realizing they’re following the same episode format as Season 12 for the first two episodes have left me a little sleepy. Hopefully things will ramp up in the episodes to come, because the twists have not been it for me.
I hear that! We must still concur, though, that overall New York produces the world’s greatest queens.
Absolutely! There’s a reason New York has the most winners out of the all the places in the U.S. My wish is that they expand their casting pool outside of mainly Manhattan talent. There’s so many great and interesting queens from Brooklyn that would bring such interesting points of view and unique skill sets that the show has never seen. Sasha Velour, Acid Betty and Thorgy Thor are just the tip of the talent iceberg.
Right now BK’s got Kandy Muse to do them proud!
So, let’s get back to you! Where are you from, and what were your early creative interests that ultimately put you on this path?
I’m New York City born and raised–particularly in Staten Island, though I’ve recently moved back to my birth place of Manhattan. I definitely was a theater kid growing up, obsessed with Broadway. I was always intrigued with the art of drag, but of course it wasn’t until watching RuPaul’s Drag Race that I really zeroed in and understood the technicalities of drag artistry. Although I loved Drag Race, it was seeing the local talents of Bob the Drag Queen, Monèt X Change and Miz Cracker years before they were featured on Drag Race that made me realize that I could access a different version of theater on a daily basis much closer to home. Watching them thrive and be successful on the local level really inspired me to analyze why I enjoy drag as much as I do. It made me want to find out what makes drag performers tick, and what their influences were.
I see, care of your Instagram, that you’ve sported a few drag looks of your own. How close have you come to being a full-on queen?
Personally, I’m not too interested in the performance aspect of queendom for myself. But I really fell in love with the 90s Club Kids aspect of nightlife. I’ve been very inspired by Susanne Bartsch’s party “On Top,” and Amanda Lepore who [with Susanne] are both constantly turning lewks and bringing it year after year. I like to experiment and cosplay from time to time, but it’s more of a very side hobby than an actual goal of being a full time queen.
You worked on the set of Hey Qween, the long-running drag-centric YouTube and Netflix chat show best known for its interviews with Drag Race girls. That must’ve really stoked your drag love, and your familiarity with the interview process.
Jonny’s been a major influence for us! And the loss of Lady Red Couture is still so painful.
Yeah, it was devastating losing her. When I lived in LA, she’s someone who I spent so much time with–whether it was on set grabbing her fried chicken and rolling papers, being her assistant at multiple DragCons and leading her across the convention floor as fans fawned over her, hearing her sing live, and even watch her dance during her number at The Drag Queens Of Comedy show. She was truly larger than life, and a real drag legend–someone who I will never forget, and miss so much. I deemed her my unofficial “drag mom” despite not being a performer, and she embraced that role and said she was always a “mom to everyone.” So much so, it was her title in her name: “Mother Lady Red Couture.”
And after Hey Qween, you published a drag interview book of your own: The State Of Drag. Compiling that must’ve been both very rewarding and very agonizing!
Absolutely! The amount of rejections for interviews over getting access to queens and kings is kind of mind-blowing–out of the 170 interviews I did get, I got at least 300 rejections due to lack of interest and follow-through. But I felt beyond fortunate for the interviews I did get. I loved being able to catch queens before they made it big on Drag Race such as Monèt X Change, JanSport, Monique Heart, Dusty Ray Bottoms, Dahlia Sin and Sasha Velour. The best part was having a lengthy interview with one of my drag idols, Miss Coco Peru. I felt so grateful to get to talk to her and hear her views on life, New York City, and drag overall. Definitely a highlight as a drag fan, and someone who loves studying drag history.
After I self-published the book, I was not done with interviewing queens, and continued with Martyr for a Werrrk.com article. They were such an interesting performer to me, because they were fearless and vulnerable with a message. While interviewing them, we realized we were on the same wavelength when it comes to our interest of drag and documenting performers. We decided to take the interview format I had with my book and translate it towards podcast form, where you hear from the performers directly. The rest as they say (to be cliché) was herstory.
Thank you so much! I don’t think I’ve ever been so surprised and incredulous over something. The GLAM Awards have a huge place in my heart; I remember going almost every year and being in awe of the towering queens in their full glamour and beauty. I never, ever thought someone like me could be nominated, and it’s all thanks to Cherry Jubilee for expanding categories to include Best Podcast. It’s crazy that the awards are still going on after the year that was 2020, but it’s thanks to Cherry’s vision for seeing outside of the box and finding new categories to feature. For me, it really is an honor just to be nominated. It’s been beyond my wildest dreams.
In the meantime, Martyr and yourself will be joined by another GLAM-nominated podcast pair, Adriana Trenta and Isaac Butler of My Wig!, as guests of Cissy Walken’s Facebook game show Dragbox (another GLAM nominee) this Wednesday at 8pm!
Yeah, I’m so excited! We shall be playing games online and competing for the prize of “Best Podcast.” Only one can win, so tune in to see!
What else needs to be said, in closing?
Just that Wigging Out is a labor of love. We do the podcast without advertisers, and if you’re interested in what goes on behind the scenes in NYC nightlife or just want to hear about drag performers from the exotic locales of Bangalore, India, Johannesburg, South Africa or the faraway land of Long Island, we have a show for you.
Everybody had better tune in! Thanks, Caitlin!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Caitlin Tepper’s upcoming appearances, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Subscribe to the “Wigging Out” podcast on Amazon, Apple, Spotify and similar platforms.