On Point With: Klondyke

The winner of Brooklyn’s intense “king and thing” drag competition “Takes the Cake,” Klondyke’s been performing constantly in recent weeks. Now’s the time to explore their story and intricate stage style before they get even busier!

Thotyssey: Hello Klondyke! So you certainly had a busy spooky season… how did it all go?

Klondyke: Spooky season was a hellishly busy time, but I’d say overall it went extremely well!

Did you have a favorite stage moment or look from October?

Funnily enough, my favorite look ended up being my Sweeney Todd costume. I say “funnily” because I was worried that people wouldn’t like it because of an anachronism. The white shirt I wore was for a pirate costume for Ren Faire and I–being the nerd I am–was all like, “technically this shit is 100 years too late to be in Sweeney Todd.” And my partner was like “babe, no one’s gonna notice or care.” And they didn’t, lol! I also tied a bunch of fake locks into my real ones to make my mullet more dramatic and scraggly, and I loved that too.

The burdens of being obsessively detail oriented, lol! But that of course makes for a formidable drag presence. Would you say you were more of a cosplay person prior to drag?

Ugh, I would’ve loved to be. Being obsessively detail oriented means that I never had the clothing pieces I wanted for the characters I wanted to cosplay. I also just didn’t have a lot of extra time and money to devote to cosplay growing up. Then by the time I got to college and found drag, I didn’t need as much specificity when getting started to feel good in a performance. That’s actually something I’m trying to more consciously keep in my drag: a DIY, punk aesthetic.

As I get older and have more experience and access to resources, it is easier to buy “nicer” clothes and get “newer” stuff, but so much of what I love about Klondyke is that they’re ephemeral. Each look is just for that moment. Every show will be different–every look, every beat will be different. And I don’t need expensive and “polished” looking drag to get that feeling of gender freedom.

So where are you from originally, and how did you ultimately discover drag in college?

I grew up in western New York–a small town called Greece, outside of Rochester. Then me and my mom moved to Atlanta in 2014 when I was 18. I went to Sarah Lawrence College (class of 2018), and that’s where I discovered drag… but that feels like such an understatement.

When I started at SLC, I identified as a straight cis woman. I had never interacted with queer and trans people before, and that was a huge part of the community of Sarah Lawrence. By the end of my freshman year I was questioning not just my gender, but my sexuality–which is funny, because the school has a joke slogan, “gay by May or your money back!”

Come sophomore year, by the end of the month I had shaved my head and was out as queer and non-binary, at least at school. My dear friend and drag mom Molly Amoresse and I would get blazed and watch Drag Race together, and eventually there were Drag Race viewing parties and shit… which was so much fun. Thomas (Molly Amoresse) eventually started a drag union! We’d give shows around campus, and it was a great space for people to dig their toes into drag.

Klondyke started off as a traditional drag king. Then as I medically transitioned, I realized that having Klondyke present more masc was just gender-affirming (I realized that when I cried while wiping off my beard one night, lol) so I didn’t need them to be “a man” anymore. But they didn’t become the full alien tr*ggot superstar until post-grad.

It’s really just been recent that drag folks who aren’t cis men have started to become publicly embraced and celebrated. Did you ever feel in your young career that gender politics could hold you back as a performer?

Oh yeah. I feel so weird so often in spaces; it’s like there’s always something missing. Whether it’s that there’s not a lot of black and brown bodies in a space, or not a lot of trans people, or both… it sometimes feels like I have to bring a certain type of drag in order to be valid. Sometimes I want to walk out with very little makeup on, and just lip sync a slow song that means a lot to me. But I get bogged down in the anxiety of, are they gonna think I’m not in drag, or cis man, or a cis woman, is my drag enough, etc. I deal with a lot of imposter syndrome anxiety.

Fortunately, [events] like Sylvester, and In Living Color [and nights produced by] The Cake Boys exist for me to be able to bring whatever weird drag [I can bring]. Also thankful for the space and ability to put on my own show, and really let it be as nebulous as I feel on the inside. Presentation be damned!

Speaking of The Cake Boys, I think many drag fans came to know you for winning the epic, multi-week “King & Thing” competition they produced, “Takes The Cake!” That must’ve been quite an experience–fun, educative, stressful–competing among such a large cast of diverse luminaries.

Yes! It was definitely an undertaking. The end of the summer in general was just a wildly busy time, so the way I remember it is just like… there was drag everywhere, and I’m just excited to see what’s gonna happen! I’d never done any kind of competition like that before, so I was truly going in blind. Once I saw what everyone was bringing, I just wanted to give bigger and better shows. Across the board inspiring. I especially loved the feedback portion that happens during the first rounds of competition. I still use those notes well after the competition!

That’s the spirit! Speaking as a frequent drag competition judge, not everyone loves our notes, lol!

How might you describe a “typical” Klondyke performance today, to the uninitiated? What are your looks and numbers like, and where do you draw your inspiration from?

The smile and the lashes are a big part of like, “the look,” although they change a little… that’s always a throughline. I will probably scream or maniacally laugh at some point. A lot of Klondyke’s energy is about not understanding the human world, and getting people to open themselves up past the systems they don’t realize confine them. So I like to make mixes that subvert the intention of the original song for my purposes. I pick songs that I love, and I have weird tastes. It’s either a new take on an old song, or a song no one else has heard of.

There will probably a moment of me taking my clothes off, and a moment of some peak emotion–whether it be mania or or depression or humor or rage–and then a moment of silence. My looks are always mostly handmade or thrifted. I love messy, torn, “real” things… or the most obnoxious campy thing possible.

[We can’t embed this Klondyke performance from this year’s Bushwig because it’s age-regulated, but check it out!]

An experience indeed! So you have tons of stuff coming up, let’s discuss it all! Starting with: “HyperFantasia” at The Brick on Friday (11/4)! It’s billed as a “transdisciplinary sci-fi fantasy drag cabaret” hosted by “Tiresias” and featuring yourself with Sweaty Eddie and Esther! What on Earth, lol!?

I’m so excited for this show! It’s gonna be a wild time. I’m excited to do some more abstract drag and performance, as well as use my own voice a bit… singing is a big part of my life. And I’m so excited to give shows with these folks, because all of their art and drag is so boundary-pushing in such different ways. So being in a space that encourages that type of expansion will be wonderful!

Next up: a fashion show at 3 Dollar Bill on Saturday (11/5) for BoiPKG, an essential queer underwear brand most notable for their products for trans men. The Cake Boys are producing… are you performing, modeling or both?

I belieeeeeeve both!? Haha! I know I’m performing, and I’m excited! BoiPKG’s pieces are so comfy and affirming and I love The Cake Boys, so it’ll be a good time!

Then Sunday, it’s “Snap Crackle Drag” at C’mon Everybody, starring “The Aunties,” Thee Suburbia and Islaya! You’ll be guest performing alongside Elizabeth James and Twiggy Malone. This will be a three show weekend for you!

I know… I always do this to myself, lol! But I love me some drags, and I love me some Aunties… so I couldn’t say no!

After a little break you’re back in action next Thurs (11/11) at Brooklyn’s Starr Bar for “Rock Starr,” hosted by Oliver Herface and featuring yourself with ShowPonii!

I’ve performed at Starr Bar before, and I love the space… but never done drag there. So I’m excited to be able to have fun in that space! And I’ve followed Oliver for a while, but never done a show with them… so that’s exciting! And I love ShowPonii, so that’ll be so much fun! I think it’s gonna give campy, rocky, queer energy.

Then it looks like a new recurring event is gonna be premiering at Club Cumming in the East Village on Friday the 12th, again from The Cake Boys: “Fruitcake Fridays!” you’ll be performing for the premiere. What do you know about that show?

Not much, actually… but I’m excited for a regular space for drag kings and things!

And the next Friday (11/19), it’s “Drag Out Loud” at Brooklyn’s Purgatory, hosted by Anson Reign, with a large cast of performers including yourself!

I’m so pumped for this one! I’ve been talking about singing in drag for ages, so I’m so happy to be able to do this! I met Anson years ago. And I’m working on a drag / music project, so all good things!

Anything else to discuss? Maybe more details regarding this music project you just mentioned?

Oh, it’s still very in the works… so I’ll wait on that. But! I would like to plug Haus of Quench’s televangelist brunch on 11/21 at All Night Skate, and Evangeline’s emo themed show at Dromedary Bar on 11/27!

Lots to look forward to! Okay, to wrap up: Mariah and Christmas carols in early November! Yay, or nay?

Okay…I am one of those people that feels like Christmas music before Thanksgiving is premature. But! That’s been changing of late. As a kid, I had all of December to really enjoy Christmas. But now that I’m a grownup with ‘sponsitilities, I feel like the holiday season flies by. So I’m like, get ya holiday cheer where ya can!

Heard! Happy holidays, Klondyke!

Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Klondyke’s upcoming appearances, and follow them on Instagram.

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