This beloved Boston creepy-campy-comedy queen and third season “Dragula” alum (the one who wouldn’t jump out of a plane to win a drag competition, i.e. the smart one) has become one of digital drag’s most prolific producers and performers this past year. Thotyssey discusses the great diversity of Boston nightlife, Covid blues and the joys and challenges of the virtual stage with incomparable Violencia Exclamation Point. [Cover photo: Helix Pinecomb]
Thotyssey: Hey there Violencia, how are you tonight?
Violencia Exclamation Point: I just woke up! My sleep schedule has been crazy, lol.
That’s the new reality, I guess! It doesn’t really matter what time we wake up, the day is still the same. This quarantine has been happening a year now, how have Bostonians been behaving through it?
You know, I haven’t really gone out… at all, so I don’t really know! I go to the grocery store, and that’s literally it. Other than that, I haven’t really left my house. It’s kind of bad… I need to get out just to go walking and stuff. But with this weather… how [could anyone] want to do that?
We’re still doing some outdoor shows here in New York, even when it’s 30 degrees outside!
There haven’t been too many outdoor shows here [in Boston] that I’ve noticed. There was that one outdoor drive-in drag show thing that Voss Events did, where they asked local people to do security, basically. I’m like, “no, that’s not my gig.”
You have been very busy online doing digital shows, and producing several virtual showcases of your own. You even have your own virtual network! What do you think about the whole realm of digital drag?
At first it was very difficult to learn all this new technology that I had no idea about before. Like, I’m still learning stuff to this day. But I do like it! I think it’s a good way to connect with people that you wouldn’t have connected with otherwise. I’ve learned of so many people from around the world, people [that come back to view] these shows all the time–I see in the traffic people from Canada or Puerto Rico or, like, Argentina… literally all over the place.
Your performing style is very visual and conceptual; it translates really well to the screen.
Thank you! I do miss live performance, and the nitty gritty of that. I miss using the senses; I use a lot of food in my numbers sometimes, and you don’t get the smells with it anymore. You don’t get the fear of maybe getting some fucking nail stuck on your clothing if you come too close. All that’s been taken out.
But I do like video for certain things. I don’t know if you were able to see my coffee enemas or cheesy potatoes numbers? I have different ways of cutting the video and editing it, making it look so much better than when I did those numbers on stage. I’ve been taking a lot of the numbers I did onstage and turning them into digital form. That the cool part of digital drag–it can be solidified. Those numbers I always did onstage can now be on my Instagram forever.
Right alongside the Pikachu numbers you did for the Poké Ball the other night! So cute!
That was very successful; I’m glad people were into it! We’re doing another one on February 27, and we’re going to be doing it like every last Saturday of the month–for as long as people are interested! We’re trying new things out all the time.
How would you describe the Boston drag world?
It’s very comedy-based. We do a lot of comedy here, a lot of personal “spoken word” stuff. There’s a show called “The Boston Drag Gauntlet” that I was a judge for, and if people weren’t doing conceptual pieces like that–if they just did a basic number–they wouldn’t get very far with the judges.
I was just interviewing a young queen who’s very recently moved to New Jersey that did that competition: Poise’N Envy!
Oh, my God, yes! We love Poise so much! She was so smart, and her numbers were so fucking good.
Also, Boston has Majenta With a J.
She was the first winner of the Gauntlet, and is also killing it in the digital shows.
And then of course there’s Neon Calypso, who’s a legendary Boston queen that’s also really making her mark as a New York presence as well.
Lots of interesting digital stuff coming out of Boston!
We’re doing something almost every day of the week on The Serve Network. It started as mostly a Boston thing, but to be honest it’s so much past that now. Sometimes the majority of the people [in the show casts] aren’t even from Boston.
Tell us a bit about how you came to be a Boston queen. Did it take awhile for the city to “get” you, or did the people embrace all your campy comedy immediately?
They kind of embraced it immediately. I did this show called Dirty Sexy Mondays–it was an open stage once a month on Mondays, and I kind of solidified myself in the Boston scene by winning that competition. Before that I was doing drag in New Hampshire, where I grew up and where I started drag–at the same club where Laila McQueen started out, 313 in Manchester. We were doing drag up there, and then I was coming down to Boston for this competition. I ended up winning the competition in 2012.
After I won the competition, I got my own gig at Machine Nightclub on a Wednesday, then eventually started working other gigs in the city in Boston. Then I came to the point where I was working more in Boston than I was like in Manchester, so I moved to Boston. I’ve been doing drag for twelve years now.
You have a great story because you discovered drag while you’re in college, and actually left school to pursue it full time because you had such a great passion for it.
Yeah, exactly. I was in like, “what am I doing wasting my fucking time getting some liberal arts degree that I literally had no idea what to do with?” I wanted to do drag, so that’s what I did.
And this was pre-RuPaul’s Drag Race! You’re inspirations were more along the lines of Divine and Rocky Horror.
Exactly. I started before Drag Race came out, but only by a few months (I started in December, and Drag Race and came out in February). It was super exciting when Season 1 first came out; I was like, “wow, this is so fucking cool!” I got super into it, and I was obsessed with Nina Flowers. It was so new to me, you know what I mean? Like, I just started drag, and now I was watching it on TV! That representation is really fucking cool when you hadn’t really seen stuff like that before. And [besides Drag Race,] I would watch every drag movie that I could get my hands on.
Yeah, and all those movies that came out in the 90s–Hedwig & The Angry Inch was another one of my favorites. All of John Waters’ movies… literally anything that had a drag queen. I was just so intrigued by it all, and I really wanted to do it myself.
So drag as an art form was just becoming more visible at that time, yet was still fringe and far from mainstream entertainment.
Drag really didn’t get fully mainstream until maybe around Drag Race Season 4 or 5. Yeah. That’s when I noticed people were starting drag because of Drag Race–because of Sharon Needles.
That must have been a cool time for you, when you saw Sharon be so successful–given your own style of drag.
Yeah, I mean, I was always doing alternative or different drag. I wouldn’t necessarily think I was doing “horror” drag back then–I don’t even really consider myself doing horror drag now. I mean, I do, but I do more comedy. I don’t even know what the fuck “alternative drag” even is anymore! [What we called] alternative drag is now the mainstream, and pageant drag is now alternative.
That’s weirdly true! Describe a favorite number of yours that you do today, that really explains who you are as a drag queen.
I like my Monster energy drink number. There’s this conspiracy theory where they say there’s all these codes on the Monster can, So I’m just like this old lady, talking about Monster energy drinks and these coded numbers like “666,” and then I take a sip of it and turn into a demon. I have a big reveal with horns underneath the wig, and I have upside-down crosses on my chest. It’s just one of my favorite numbers to, this spoken word thing. I haven’t done it in the digital era, but I want to. My friend’s doing a conspiracy theories-themed show, so I think I’m going to do it for that.
Yes! I did a number with Neon in NIGHTGOWNS. That was so much fun!
It must be great to be able to perform in front of such a huge audience, compared to, like, an intimate bar audience.
Yeah. I mean, we also have this show in Boston called Dragathon, with, like, a thousand people in the venue and [onstage its] RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10’s Top 7, as well as a group of local queens like myself, Neon, Severity Stone… it was awesome. I hope we can get back to that someday, because I miss performing in front of that many people.
And then, of course, you appeared in the third season cast of Dragula, the popular broadcasted horror drag competition. That was a big season for the show, as it was the first to premiere on a streaming service.
It premiered on Amazon Prime, then Netflix [picked it up] after that whole season came out. And that’s fucking awesome, because when I go through my Netflix menu [and see Dragula], sometimes I’m the cover photo–me, [my co-stars] Maddelynn and Yovzka. I love seeing myself as a main title on Netflix! It’s like, “who’s that bitch with the donuts on her tits!?”
Overall, your time on Dragula was sadly brief… but was it a positive experience?
Oh, I don’t know if I’d say it was a positive experience! It definitely helped out my career because people know a little bit more about me than they did before. People recognize my name. If I pop up in a chat on Twitch or something, people are like, “oh my God, Violencia from Dracula!” So it definitely gave me [some recognition]. And during this quarantine I could just be like, “hey, can I be part of your show?” And [digital show producers] would say, “sure, we’d love to have you!” So that definitely helped out.
During the filming, though… it really sucked to go home first. I did not expect it. It’s like, I built up my drag career for ten years to this point. And then it’s just… that’s what happened. That’s what I got.
Contestants with the lowest scores on Dragula have to compete in ghoulish, humiliating or dangerous stunts to continue on in the competition. On that season’s first episode, you were asked to jump out of a plane (!) and refused, disqualifying yourself.
Yeah. I’m just super, super afraid of heights, and I couldn’t do it. I really fucking wanted to do it, I thought I could do it… and then I got there and was like, no, I can’t jump out. I couldn’t do it. It’s literally the most terrifying I could have done. Any other challenge from any of the three seasons I’d do, except for that one. Drink some blood, eat a roach, get a tattoo… oh, please, give me a fucking tattoo!
I would 100% not jump out of a plane either: not to win, not for a million dollars… not to save my family! Honestly, I enjoy the looks and skills and drama on display in Dragula, but I always found the stunts they make the lower scoring girls do to be a bit off-putting and difficult to watch.
Yeah, I mean, [Dragula hosts and producers] the Boulets love to make it unpleasant! They love to fuck with us. But it was definitely hard for me to go home first. You know, the whole time, you don’t actually get to go home. You’re there for six weeks, in the hotel. That’s the worst, and the whole time my fucking inner voice is telling myself “you’re not good enough, all these other people are better than you.” You know what I mean? That really fucking took a toll on me for a while.. and still kind of does, to this day. But I know that I’m good at what I do, so I have to put that out of my head sometimes.
Actually as far as Dragula alums go, you’re certainly one of the most prolific today. As we said earlier, digitally you are just everywhere. But the best place to see it is the prior-mentioned Serve Network on Twitch. It must be super challenging, though… not only are you creating and editing your own videos, you’re also collecting them from other queens all over the globe and editing them all into collected showcases, among other things. Do you have it all down to a science?
I wish! For some reason technical difficulties still happen… like, how? I haven’t changed any settings… why is there an echo, what’s wrong? It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does I call my friend Mike from KikiPedia–who set up our Twitch and helped us with everything–and he’ll troubleshoot, and we’ll get it right.
But yeah, it’s so much work. Not only do you have to get in there and perform the number in front of your camera or whatever, but then you have to shoot all that B-roll footage (depending on what the number is), and you have to get a clear shot of you doing this certain thing. And then you have to take that and edit it all and export that shit!
And then, because I’m usually the one hosting and technical directing all these shows, I have to take everyone else’s videos and put in everyone’s pay info. And I do behind the scenes tech stuff for some of the other shows, like Neon’s show. It’s a lot of work, and the pay really isn’t as [much] as it was in the clubs. But it keeps me busy… and if I wasn’t doing it, I don’t even know what I would be doing!
It’s all about keeping drag alive!
It’s not making anybody rich, for the most part. But it’s it’s definitely keeping people creative and engaged. So it’s really been a blessing in that respect–creating an entire new generation of drag. Some of these people that are performing are just starting drag, during the quarantine. Sometimes, their first number was on our network!
And some of these people that were able to do the shows with us on this network can end up like, you know, traveling to Boston for shows—or I could go to their city, and we could kiki. That’s what I’m hoping for one day, when people get their shit together and wear masks and all that.
Hopefully that day will come! In the meantime, we can all get Served on Twitch. You mentioned earlier, Serve Mondays is the big weekly show you co-host with Neon and Coleslaw, featuring several guest performers from Boston and beyond, Dragula and Drag Race. In fact, Mystique Summers (Drag Race Season 2) has been a regular cast member in recent months!
She’s so fucking sweet, and we’re so happy that she’s been able to do the show every week with us… since June or July now. At first she was doing the show every once in a while, and then she was like, “hey, if you want me to, I’ll do it more often.” And then Neon was like, “hey, would you want to do it every week with us?” And she said yes, and I was like, “fuck yeah!” It’s been awesome to get to know Mystique a little bit more… that’s another person I’d never met before quarantine, and now we play video games together. It’s cool!
And there are always tons of other performers weekly on that show… it must be a bit of a carry to keep track of who’s on what week.
Yeah, I have an application on our website. There’s a process on there: people fill out the application, and I usually look at it every two weeks or so. Then I will book the show for three weeks out. It’s been a pretty steady stream of entertainment. I fucked up a couple of times, when I realized “oh shit, I totally never put that person on the flyer!” I mean, it happens. People have been very understanding with any of the fuckups that we have–they know I’m doing this all by myself. My partner helps with the flyers, but the casting and putting the pay info on the video and all that, that’s all me.
Aside from Serve Mondays, we can also find you on The Serve Network co-hosting the virtual open stage “Wide Open Wednesdays” alongside Severity Stone and Sham Payne twice monthly (first and third weeks), and co-hosting “No Filter” with Belle Awesome & Raquel Surpreeze on third Fridays. And there’s an additional wide variety of programming on that Twitch page, which is fully scheduled on the website!
Oh my God, I’m so excited for that! It’s an all plus-sized entertainer show!
I’m doing a show with Just JP about Anastasia–you know, that Russian princess animated movie that wasn’t Disney? I don’t even know why I’m doing it. I just need money, so why not?
Awesome! And you host digital karaoke every Tuesday! How does that work?
So usually everyone will come into the Zoom (I also air it on Twitch). Everyone gets a chance to put up their music loud and sing, and we spotlight their video. They’re just reading the lyrics on their screen and singing their hearts out; it’s the total fantasy!
We’re so grateful that you are serving us so much content! So in closing: what regular pastime are you most looking forward to getting back to once we’re all vaccinated up?
Besides going to clubs and performing again… I know it sounds so gross right now because of Covid, but like.. I miss the buffets. I can’t even imagine how unsanitary and disgusting, but… I love going to buffets!
Save me a seat! Happy Valentines Day, Violencia!