A traveling artist and a gorgeous new addition to New York drag, the queen known as Privilege is a first time Glam Award nominee this year… or rather, that honor goes to their alter ego, photographer Bryan Clavel!
Thotyssey: Hello Privilege! I saw you in the audience last night for the Polish the Queen competition at Playhouse, where I was judging.
Privilege: It was such a fun night! I was actually hopping around a couple different venues last night, so I had a good time.
The city is back! Most venues have reopened, and now there are a few new ones to boot. Isn’t this an exciting time?
Absolutely! We are on the cusp of a new generation of nightlife.
And you’re here to shoot it all. Congrats on your GLAM nomination for Best Photographer! Did that nomination surprise you?
Oh my goodness, I was very much surprised! I was not expecting it all… the nomination has made me feel visible in the New York City scene.
You’ve been a photographer here for a while before you became a queen, right?
Yes and no. I moved to New York last September to continue archiving and immortalizing queerness across the country. However I have been a drag performer for the last three years… but when I moved here, I made the difficult decision to let one skin emerge before the other. So, in retrospect, I have always been a queen, and my relationship to drag and photography has always been twined, twinned, and woven together.
I want to ask more about that journey, but we better start at the beginning. Where are you from originally, and how did you emerge and develop as a young artist?
I am from Las Vegas, Nevada, a first-generation child of two immigrants who gave up everything–this includes both professional careers and familial relationships. And they did all of this because they believed that a future in the States would give genesis to more opportunities for a better quality of life.
But unlike my mother and father, and later my siblings, I always gravitated towards the arts and performance. I have vivid memories of announcing to my kindergarten class that I would grow up to be an artist, as opposed to archetype dreams of being a doctor, firefighter, or lawyer. It is this kind of clear-sightedness that has kept me focused on art-making through the years.
Amazing! Did identifying as trans / non-binary inform or affect your art from an early age?
Truthfully, I didn’t develop the language to identify myself until college. But it is, undeniably, a very beautiful portion of my life that informs my practice currently.
So you have been traveling and documenting queer art and nightlife. What prompted this journey, and where else have you been?
The journey began about a year before I emerged in drag for the first time. I was probably about halfway through my first photo degree and beginning the search for my visual integrity when I asked myself the question, “who am I?” This transpired into looking for myself in other people; drag was just the first thing I looked at, and ever felt represented in. From this, I’ve built a career on documenting queerness and the myriad of skins it encompasses. To me, the work immortalizes pockets of time in hopes that other queer people can see themselves in these portraits of power, glamour, and humanity.
As far as where this journey has taken me, so far it has only taken me from Las Vegas to New York… but I firmly believe that my journey is only beginning to unfold.
So you might not remain a New Yorker forever!
I’m not sure–I don’t speak in absolutes, lol! The only thing I know for sure is that wherever I end up, I know that I will be making art.
Tell us why you are called “Privilege.”
My drag name emerged the minute I realized I wanted to be twined to politics and the social construction of reality forever. Drag gifts people the unique platform to speak on things that matter, and interrupting the cyclical patterns of oppression matters to me. So every time I can speak up, I do. As a brown queer trans femme and non-binary individual, it is important to declare visibility… because doing so inadvertently gifts people permission to emerge as themselves, authentically and unapologetically. My name is Privilege because the most beautiful thing about me is what I have to say against it.
And what are your stage numbers and looks generally like?
I choose to believe that my best numbers are those in which I can truly emote. Moreover, my identity as Privilege is not about always conforming to binary constructs of gender. Instead, I want to exist beautifully, vulnerably, and at the same time, powerfully.
I’ve seen you compete a number of times in competitions like Lady Liberty at The Q, and you always win the audiences’ hearts! How do you enjoy competing in the competition circuit?
I despise and love it at the same time, lol! I have a really hard time separating my art, and inadvertently my heart, from competitions–which means I am often left a little insecure when I lose. However, I am so in love with pushing the boundary as to the person and artist I think I am. There is something special to be said about competing and meeting all the wonderful competitors who all equally believe they are not only worthy of winning, but deserving of it as well. That kind of passion fuels me. I love seeing people love what they do, and I love seeing people believe in themselves.
As far as your photography goes, are there specific subjects that you are really drawn to?
It truly depends on what lens I am looking at my work in. For instance, from a fine art perspective, I am very attracted to photographing myself and archiving my own journey of self-discovery. But in a commercial lens, I am immediately drawn to curating editorial portraits that relay narratives. I do not think that I will always photograph drag. I do, however, think I might spend a lifetime photographing authentic forms of queer expression.
What might be next for your photography or drag, as far as gigs and projects go?
I’m very excited to be competing in my drag mother [Maddelynn Hatter’s] competition at Hush! I really wanna show up and show out!
Good luck! Last question: what do you want for Christmas this year?
I just want to be gifted the opportunity to keep doing what I love full time. Being an independent artist is everything I could have imagined!
Thanks Privilege, Happy Holidays and congrats again!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Privilege’s upcoming appearances, and follow them on Facebook, Instagram (drag and photography) and Twitter. All above photos by Bryan Clavel aka Privilege except where noted.