Named after one of her hometown’s most prolific artists, dancing queen Freeda Kulo is making herself known to new fans across the globe as a digital drag darling. [Cover photo: Luisa Madrid]
Thotyssey: Hello Freeda! How are you today, and how has your quarantine year been treating you?
Freeda Kulo: Hola! Today has been a great day… starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel! This pandemic has been quite the test: I still haven’t been back to work and I’m going through a divorce, plus I injured my right knee and had to undergo two surgeries. However, the silver lining in all this is that as a community, we can no longer be tone deaf to bigger plights that have been swept under the rug for many years–from the BLM movement, to immigration reform, to exercising our right to vote. We have a responsibility to do what’s right, because if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we are in this together and we can’t do it alone.
Well said! And I’m sorry that it’s been a particularly crappy year for you. Being able to perform, even digitally, must be a welcomed creative release.
Absolutely! Before lockdown I was doing drag only for corporate gigs and was just about to hit the nightlife animal, but lockdown has blessed me with time to improve on my art and learn things I thought I could never do!
You’re part of an interesting chapter of drag history, as a queen who largely came up on a virtual platform. That’s going to give you a really unique perspective once we reopen and you can take to the live stages.
Absolutely… this [experience] has been my drag incubator, and you can’t keep a good Kulo down.
Tell us a bit of your origin story! Where are you from originally, and what sort of arts and activities were you into while growing up?
I was born and raised in Southern California and Mexico. As a first generation Mexican American, I experience obstacles from language barriers and trying to understand where I fit in culturally. Like the quote from the Selena movie where Abraham Quintanilla says “Being Mexican American is tough… we gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more Americans than the Americans; both at the same time! It’s exhausting!” But I managed to be fearless and always creative. I would fill notebooks with drawings, learned to dance at a young age at all the fiestas, and found any opportunity to perform–whether it was a family variety show at Christmas, or as a mascot in high school.
Besides the name, was Frida Kahlo a particular influence of yours?
Claro que si. I’ve always had a fascination with her life story and ability to express love, hardship and heritage. She challenged gender norms, and was always determined to find a way to express her art. I was bedridden post-surgery in order to recover, and an image of Frida on her bed painting is what helped get me through it. She had such a resilience!
What brought you to New York, and how did you become Freeda?
I was working corporate retail, and after relocating from California to Puerto Rico they gave me a chance to move to New York City. In 2018 I decided to attend DragCon as my favorite queen, Valentina. That same day changed my life when I meet the Group Fitness Management team at Crunch and decided to pursue a career in dance and fitness, since it was always a hobby of mine.
Was your knee surgery the result of a dance injury, by the way?
No… I wish it was a more exciting story! I was jumping a fence and my shorts got stuck from the back of my left leg, making me land on my right foot and my knee popped out. You would think as a Mexican, I’d be good at jumping fences and walls. But I just tell people that I injured it during a Kama Sutra zoom class to spice things up!
Lol, we are all such fragile creatures! But we’re happy to see you mended and digital dragging. How would you describe Freeda as a queen today, for the uninitiated?
She is the Mexican novela vixen that needs to be on Real Housewives. I got the tagline ready too: “I may be Mexican, but my dreams won’t be trumped!‘
How do you enjoy the process of virtual drag?
I honestly really like it! Of course there is the hurdle of figuring the technology out, but once you have that under your belt the creative juices can’t stop flowing!
I did! Such a great opportunity, and I appreciated the constructive feedback from the judges.
It’s always a pleasure to work with [Ducky and Patsy]; we successfully fundraised last year, so I’m really looking forward to the impact we can create with this event! Plus, we are joined by the talented Miss Rockbar 2020 Victoria Williams, and the fabulous Gorgina too!
And looking ahead, March 21st will be “Netflix & Drag” care of Michael Block, featuring a large and amazing virtual cast including yourself! Any shows you’ve been binge watching during quarantine?
Too many to name! But currently I’m watching Mariposa de Barrio, a novela based on the life of Mexican American singer Jenni Rivera, one of my many drag inspirations.
Anything else coming up for you to discuss?
I had the pleasure of recently working with the DM Dance Company, where they curated a show of artists supporting artists. Not only was I a critical part of production, but I also performed in drag. The show has a great variety of performers from pole dancing, to hip hop dance, contemporary and live singing. The event, “We Move: Love Moves,” is available on demand until the end of February. It has been received with so much great reviews that we will be launching more virtual events in the near feature… so stay tuned.
To close, who are you rooting for in the current Drag Race season?
I hope you’ve thrown out all your H&M items!
Lol, not yet… but I’ll be sure to glitter and stone the sh*t of them.
Lol! Thanks, Freeda!