The creator and Girlboss of essential drag resource WERRRK.com, Chiffon Dior has had a long and storied career with drag and especially drag pageantry. And starting this weekend, she’s leading one of her favorite Judys and collaborators into a long overdue spotlight with a WERRRK-powered showcase of her very own!
Thotyssey: Hello Ms. Dior, what a pleasure to finally have this chat! You are a very busy lady these days… how do you balance it all and stay sane?
Chiffon Dior: Yes, there is no rest for the wicked, or those who write about them–but I do greatly appreciate you thinking I’m sane. Balance is something I struggle with at times, but lockdown really forced me to reevaluate my priorities and organizational skills… and I think I’ve gotten better at my work-life balance. How have you been doing?
Same, except for the whole “achievement of balance” thing, lol! So nightlife in the city is bigger than it’s been in awhile, with so many new venues, DJs, queens, etc. As the creator and editor of WERRRK, which reports on drag and “drag-jacent” activities, did the City’s post-lockdown rapid comeback surprise you?
It didn’t, honestly. I think we both know the one thing that is constant in this city is change. Even pre-pandemic, there’s always a turnover of venues and talents on a fairly regular basis. Everyone always wants the hot new thing.
Ain’t that the truth! These days there are so many hot new things it’s hard to tell what’s newest and hottest! We’re also sort of in drag pageant season now; National Comedy Queen in Florida and Liberty Continental are this week! You follow pageants closely, right?
I’m actually very interested in pageantry! My second time in drag I was competing in a pageant, and I even placed Top Four in a Miss Gay USofA prelim more years back than I care to admit. Two of my biggest inspirations to start in drag were national title holders: former Miss Gay America Catia Lee Love and former Miss Continental Michelle Dupree. You see, kids… back before a certain television show began, drag pageantry was one of the biggest ways to make your mark in this art form.
I actually still have a hand in the pageant world, as I coach queens in interview/ Q&A. I’ve even helped four or five of the last Miss’d America pageant winners in that category. One of my drag bucket list goals is to make one final pageant run before I hang up the heels for good!
That would be incredible! What do you think about Roxxxy Andrews‘ very recent Miss Glamorous win? It’s easy to be cynical and say that her Drag Race fame gave her an advantage, but that would be ignoring the fact that Roxxxy is one of the greatest pageant queens of recent years.
I was not shocked in the least. If I was competing in a pageant and saw Roxxxy was as well, deep down I’d probably know the competition at that point was for first runner up! Regardless of her being a RuGirl though, she has always been one of the best, more prepared, more creative pageant queens on the circuit. You don’t get to be Erica Andrews‘ drag daughter and not have the full package of pageantry skills!
You’re currently based on Long Island… is that your place of origin?
That is where my origin story begins. Whether it’s a super hero or super villain origin depends on the day, and who you ask.
Were you always a performer or artist of some sort?
I wouldn’t say I was a performer, but I was always a creative type. My nose was always buried in a comic book when I was young, and I’d draw my own heroes and characters as well.
And how exactly did your drag journey begin?
My infatuation with drag was solely the fault of daytime television talk shows! I remember being enraptured by Jimmy James as Marilyn Monroe on Donahue, Frank Marino on Jenny Jones, and numerous other performers that became staples of the daytime talk scene back in the day. One Halloween I decided to do drag… just the one time. It’s always just the one time, right? Via the wonders of AOL at the time, I reached out to the legendary Ariel Sinclair, and she painted me for that night and miraculously helped squeeze me into my gown. Six months after that “just one time,” I was on stage competing for a crown.
What have been some of your fondest remembered moments as a queen on the scene?
One of my favorite memories was the first time I performed in the city–it was at Bar-Tini with Holly Dae and Sabel Scities. I knew it was going to be a good night when I found a spot less than 15 feet from the bar; and while they performed rings around me, I still had a great time and consider both of them to be friends of mine.
The other big memory was when I competed in that Miss Gay USofA prelim I mentioned earlier. Alyssa Edwards–years before Drag Race–was the reigning national titleholder (not the crown that they made into a storyline on the show), and they have a private area for her at the bar. She was literally only in there to get ready, and spent the rest of the night when she wasn’t on stage back in the contestants’ dressing room helping, giving advice and talking with all the girls. It really imprinted upon me how a titleholder should comport herself.
I never competed in SYTYCD… my God, I would have gotten gutted like a fish by all the amazing girls that have come through that event! I reach out to Paige about doing some weekly coverage of the event on my site for… I believe it was Season Five, which was overflowing with talent. Alexis Michelle won that year, and Dusty Ray Bottoms, Holly Box-Springs and Schwa de Vivre were all in the top five. I met so many people from the season that became friends and colleagues of mine.
We continued the arrangement through Season Six, and that was where I met Strawberry Fields, who eventually became my best friend here in the city! After that, we stepped it up a bit and Paige granted us backstage access for the final two seasons… and that is where WERRRK.com’s video series, “Backstage ‘Berry,” was born. We were able to do video interviews with Paige, the guest judges, and all of the queens competing throughout the night.
I met so many amazing and talented people through SYTYCD. I really miss having it because, while it was a huge commitment time-wise and financially for the girls, I think it was such an amazing opportunity to show their wares on a huge platform in front of large crowds each and every week. While every queen wants to win of course, I think the improvement and confidence gained from a competition like SYTYCD were well worth it.
Tell us a bit about how WERRRK… works! I know you do interviews with queens all over the world, you have Drag Race recaps and other contributed columns, and you share some drag social media highlights. What’s your mission and purpose with the site these days?
Well, I have always liked to describe the site as a sandbox that everyone is welcome to come play in…..unless the person is a staunch Republican, obviously. Then they can go take a long walk off a short pier, as the saying goes. Our primary focuses have always been drag, fashion and pop culture since we launched in 2014. We initially started as NotSafe4Werk.com, which was not nearly as clever as I thought it was since people just assumed was a porn site when I would reach out for media requests… so the name change happened within the first year. I wanted WERK. com, but someone owned it already and wanted over one hundred thousand dollars for it. I opted for WERRRK with three R’s for 12 bucks or so on Go Daddy, and that’s been our identity ever since.
In our years since then, we’ve provided live coverage of every single DragCon: New York, Los Angeles and the United Kingdom. We’ve also partnered promotionally multiple times with the Austin International Drag Festival, and the main stage for several years was known as the WERRRK.com Stage. In 2019, we actually had a half dozen our people (myself, Spencer Williams, Sidney Stokes, Kaddie O’Keefe, Strawberry and Gilda Wabbit) down there on site, and conducted a panel entitled “A WERRRK in Progesss” moderated by Courtney Conquers of Drag Coven, celebrating our then-five year anniversary.
Probably our biggest achievement to date was in January of 2019, when we were selected by the US Library of Congress for our site to be preserved in their LGBTQ+ archive. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I got that email!
Yes, that was incredible and well-deserved! And I see that Martyr and C. Tepper’s GLAM-nominated podcast Wigging Out can be listened to on WERRRK. Do you have a hand in producing that now, or something?
I proudly present a video version of it on WERRRK.tv, our YouTube channel. All the credit and hard work on that great show goes to them. YouTube is a tough social media to get a lot of traction on if it’s not your primary focus… and with drag, its hard to monetize a channel because you get tagged for music in the shows. So I’ve demonetized our channel, and have opened it up to people across the drag community to use our channel for their projects to help get additional exposure. We had Heidi Haux’s amazing First Haux: The Rise of Dr. Jill show on our channel. We’ve had two seasons of incredible drag competition from Northern California created by Hellen Heels called “Into The Draglands.” We opened up the channel to numerous queens here in the city for digital drag during the pandemic, including Pussy Willow, Cissy Walken, Cherry Poppins and more.
The thing I’m most proud of, though, is the “Winter WerrrkFest” [digital] event we put out in 2020 which featured over twenty performers from all across North America and raised several hundreds dollars for the Trans Law Center! It was a lot of work putting it together, but I’m hopeful we can do it again this holiday season!
And I recall there was also a digital pageant the site hosted, Miss WERRRK, long before digital drag was a thing.
We did four cycles of that as well, which was a ton of work! We did our best to get special judges each week, and it was like trying to herd cats! We were really lucky though to have some amazing performers compete in those events, many of them have gone on to bigger and better things since then. In fact just this week–speaking of Miss Comedy Queen–Venus Envy, who competed in one of our pageants, claimed the title of Miss Lady Comedy Queen 2022! I always say that I don’t take credit for any of their success post our pageants, but I do take great pride and think of them all as extended parts of the WERRRK. com family.
Well, I’ve become sort of her de facto manager of sorts; our skill sets really seem to compliment one another. She’s an incredibly gifted singer and performer, but as far as the online part of drag goes, well… let’s just say she’s an analog queen in a digital world!
We’ve been looking for the right platform for her for a while now–with Strawberry’s live singing and vintage looks, she’s not really what the bar scene is looking for, and that’s not where her passions really fall either. A few weeks back she was having lunch with her fiancé at Cooper’s Crafts & Cocktails, and found herself really liking the space and the vibe of the place. She inquired with her server, and she ended up speaking with Patrick Kelly, the manager of both of their locations. In what can only be described as a bit of fate, it turns out they were in the process of going through a rebranding, and had actually discussed adding a drag brunch a few days prior!
Everything came together pretty quickly, and we’re very excited to be debuting this Sunday, March 27th… and hopefully for many Sundays to come! People can get more information and make reservations [here]; seatings begin at 12:30. Strawberry will be singing Broadway hits, Disney classics, and staples from the American songbook. She’s even added several new songs from some of her favorite streaming shows such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and The Prom. I think the idea of an all-live singing drag brunch is really going to resonate in Chelsea, and we hope people will come join us for a musical brunch and for $12 Botanical Spritzs!
I’ll be there soon and I can’t wait! So, what about your own drag? You don’t get to perform much these days thanks to WERRRK and all your other responsibilities. Might you take the stage again soon?
I always say as far as good drag performers go, I’m… a good drag journalist! But in all seriousness, I have already begun working on a pageant package for the future, and I might need to twist some friends’ arms to let me hop on stage with them at some point to work off the rust!
Very exciting! And is anything specific on the horizon for WERRRK that we should be looking out for?
We just got our press passes approved for DragCon in Los Angeles this year, so look for our Managing Editor Sidney Stokes providing onsite interviews and coverage of the big event this spring! We also have a new podcast slated to join WERRRK.tv in the near future, so keep an eye out for that announcement. Beyond that, we’re just rolling along with our usual slate of features and interviews. If anyone has ideas that they’re working on and are looking for a platform and promotional partner, I encourage them to reach out to me. Our community is stronger when we work together, and being a hub for our community is a perpetual goal for me and for the site.
The work you do for the community is remarkable! So in closing, assuming the current season of Drag Race actually does eventually end (lol): who are you rooting for to win?
This season really feels like an episode of Black Mirror or The Twilight Zone, right? I honestly haven’t really picked a #team for this season, but I really have enjoyed how much this cast seems to care about each other. Is it too Cady Heron of me to say they’re all winners?
The limit does not exist for “too Cady Heron!” Thanks, Chiffon!