BibleGirl on Drag Fandom, Political Makeup, & Hot Topic
Self-proclaimed Internet Reality Trash, drag queen BibleGirl (AKA Zack Gottlieb) has a lot on her plate. Weekly shows at East Village gay bar Easternbloc and running the mega-successful DragQueenMerch.com would be enough, but she even has an app: BibleGirl’s Big Apple. She’s also making an appearance at this year’s RuPaul’s DragCon in LA.
Bible sat down with Milk to talk about FaceTune, Hot Topic, and her politically-charged makeup tutorials. Check the interview below, and catch BibleGirl at RuPaul’s DragCon in LA April 29—30 at Booth 1026.
Can you tell me about when you started doing drag?
It was Halloween, three years ago, at Avenue on 17 and 10. And it was the one opportunity where I was like, “I can do this without it being questioned,” because it was before drag really hit the precipice of being mainstream that it is at now. So there was still a taboo to it. So that’s when I started, and it was really fun and people liked the idea of it. And then it snowballed, and here we are.
And here we are. Even over the last few years, I’ve seen drag grow in prominence on social media. Do you feel like the internet has changed drag?
It’s definitely changed the landscape. Now, if people know how to brand a platform, they are able to sometimes supersede the hierarchy, for lack of a better term, that Rupaul’s Drag Race has really set the precedent of in the industry. Drag Race is great because it’s helped project the industry and the art form to a mainstream stage, but because of that, there comes a certain level of expectation, as if TV is the end-all-be-all. So if you’re able to navigate social media properly, you can wiggle away from that because you’re giving yourself exposure. And it’s on a more global and accessible platform than US cable, then a few years later on Netflix and in the UK. It takes a while for that to have outreach. But on the internet you can kind of…I mean, it’s the internet.
But I think it’s also made things hard because there’s an over-saturation, even more so than the hundred-plus alumni from Drag Race. There’s an inundation of people that are now names, that people know and can rattle off. It’s great because people are able to get that exposure, but on the flip side, it’s hard because—I don’t know, for me, there’s this reality versus not-reality. Like everyone uses Face Tune, but there’s drastic versus a touch up. I feel like that really muddies the waters in terms of who can sculpt their career, because some girls who really kind of fake it out a little bit get a little further and it’s just like, “…Okay…” You still work hard for it, but that’s definitely something I’ve noticed, that there are girls who are just filtered to hell and back. And if people live for that, then they live for it. And it’s not a bad thing, it’s just a situation.
Totally. Since we’re already talking about the internet, can you tell us more about your website DragQueenMerch.com?
So, DragQueenMerch was an idea of mine awhile back. When I first started, it was just a pet project to see what I could do. I had the idea because my dad has always worked in licensed merchandising and sales. I have a background in graphic design and he taught me photoshop. It’s just a bunch of tools that I started to put together. It was like, there’s a market here, something needs to be done. It wasn’t getting capitalized upon as the industry is rapidly growing. I also wanted a platform where, again, instead of having TV be the main goal for exposure, there’s an all-access place for people who—I treat drag like a start-up. So if people want to have a portal on the website and start selling a t-shirt, they can. That’s how you market. That’s the best form of marketing: a t-shirt. People see it, it’s a conversation starter.
That was the initial genesis of it. It didn’t really pick up until a year and a half or so ago. It took awhile to convince girls of how it works because it is very information heavy. There’s logistics behind doing business in general. So, speaking as a drag queen, we don’t like reading anything. [laughs] So I had to do some convincing, but eventually it became a word-of-mouth situation, and it’s become this kind of juggernaut.
And you guys just did a collab with Hot Topic, right?
Yeah! My dad has done business with Hot Topic for the past like 10 years with licensed merchandise. And Hot Topic, for the past couple of years, has been vocally looking for a new genre. The most recent new genre was MMA years ago. So it’s been that long for a new “theme” to launch, so to speak. They were wanting to find a new market. And aside from the American Apparel deal that Alaska, Courtney, and Willam did, which was a limited run, there was never a mainstay for drag merchandise. And it’s budding as a younger generation is now becoming this drag fandom. And I feel like it’s been this parallel for someone like me. When I was their age, Hot Topic was my mall goth fantasy, along with MySpace. I feel like we’re on that same trajectory with Instagram and Twitter, it’s all the same. It’s all the same branding techniques that Jeffree Star did on MySpace. So I was like, “Why don’t we just pitch it?” And they wanted to do a test run immediately. Now we have a new roster going up in May. It’s insane. It’s now been pushed to more, if not all, stores in the US and it’s starting to trickle into Canada. And we’ve got kiosks that are going in soon, with accessories. We’re expanding, it’s…it’s really surreal.
That really is insane. You’re so right, it really was that middle school mall goth fantasy. And now all of my friends and I are into drag and we were all into Hot Topic. Those two things coming together is so perfect.
And it’s been a decade since 2007, which was peak MySpace culture. Everything reinvents itself, it’s so cyclical. Things come back, just in a different form. I feel like this is the new evolution.
For sure. I really loved the Kellyanne Conway and Tomi Lahren makeup tutorial videos you did. What was your thought process for making those, and becoming more political in general?
Drag at its core is a subversion of societal construct. I think that in and of itself grinds the gears of a conservative ideology mindset. Everyone is taught that people have to act a certain way based on the genitalia they were born with. And there’s so much more than that, obviously, but I feel like drag can shake things up. It’s battle armor. That’s definitely a phrase that’s been used before, but I agree with the sentiment, always. You feel invincible and it makes you empowered to a certain degree. I feel like drag has given me the platform and knowledge about how to talk and project outwards and use my words.
In regards to the makeup tutorials, I don’t know, I always felt it was taboo to talk politics. But I felt like, especially with how problematic the entire election process had been and, obviously, the outcome, I felt like shit wasn’t really being talked about properly. With the media, obviously there’s a lot to be blamed on the media in general. It has its charms and what not, but there’s a lot to say about how this outcome really came through the media giving platforms to the wrong people. I wanted to do something that counteracted it with the principle of keeping a name somewhere, but keeping it as a reminder that this person’s a fucking dick. I don’t like doing makeup tutorials, but I had been wanting to do something with my YouTube channel, to create some content. However I didn’t want to sit there and put on drag makeup, only to take it off, and make it this whole three hour process. Then have to edit it. It…It wasn’t going to be fun for me. I know my makeup process. And I don’t want to share my secrets. But it’s also just kind of passe. Like it should be nuanced, so to speak. So I was like, well Kellyanne is at her peak right now, in terms of crazy, so I felt like it would be good to trash the administration a little bit. Oh! And Tomi Lahren. Mess. I wanted the Tomi Lahren one to pick up a little bit more and get her attention, but I’m just glad she’s fired now. It’s so funny.
It is! I don’t like that a woman can be fired for being pro-choice—
Oh yeah, I can still clock the misogyny.
And while that’s problematic, we still have to think about every other thing that she’s said.
It’s just desserts for her, man. And she’ll never work ever again. What a mess.
Featured image courtesy of Nikki Lipstick
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