Queen Bees with Virgin Xtravaganzah
Virgin Xtravaganzah is one of a kind. Dressed as a sparkly, bold, and genderless version of the Virgin Mary, he is often referred to as The Holy Mother, and for good reason. Combining elaborate headpieces, long dresses, and a mustache, Virgin Xtravaganzah is a queen like no other. We caught up with the man behind Mary to ask about the best parts of drag, and the biggest misconceptions of being a performance artist.
How did you get started in drag?
By means of desperation! I graduated drama school in 2007, and was so successful that I ended up working in a call center for nearly 7 years. Ha! I had always wanted to pursue drag, but was told by acting industry people that no one would ever take me seriously as an actor if I became a drag queen. But, one day I heard of a drag competition happening at the (late) Madame Jojo’s and decided to enter, and ended up winning! The rest is biblical history.
Can you tell me about your beauty look in this photo?
For this shoot, I was going for a very androgynous look with just a plain body suit and corset. Pushing the sexual ambiguity of the Virgin Mary and stripping the character down to a very sexless/genderless body.
How does makeup contribute to your performance and expressing your identity?
Makeup doesn’t express my own identity at all, but rather the identity of the character I play, which is The Virgin Mary. I was raised Catholic in small town America, and was always fascinated by The Virgin- mainly her imagery, and her insinuated power, but it always confused me how silent she was within the whole story of the bible. She was a women to pray to, ask for forgiveness from, beg, plead- but never ever heard. I wanted to give this woman who had inspired me so much as a child a voice, and a personality; something the bible never gave her. I saw her as sexless, and almost genderless, so that’s where the moustache comes from. She is neither totally female nor totally male — I see her as somewhere in between as a consequence of how the bible has portrayed her. In her incarnation as The Virgin Xtravaganzah, she is sparkly, bold, fierce, and LOUD, and her makeup reflects that.
What’s the best part of a performance?
Being able to change or move the people watching me. That can be emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or even physically. Performance is never about just what happens on a stage, it’s a conversation between performer and audience. So the space between performer and audience is where the magic happens, and that connection and vibration is what inspires me to keep doing what I do.
What do you want readers to know about you as a performer that they wouldn’t know from your social media?
That I have something to SAY and I’m not just an image. The heart of my work has to do with my skills as a writer and performer, not my visual image.
What do you think is the most misunderstood part of drag and performance-based art? If you could explain one thing about drag to readers, what would it be?
Drag is seen as mainly a visual art form — which of course it is, and there are hundreds of drag queens out there who are purely visual, which is totally valid. But it doesn’t always have to be about just that. There is a message to every piece I write, I use my own voice and don’t lip sync. Drag toys with gender — but this is obvious. Drag doesn’t have to be just about blending the lines of gender, it can be about so much more and can be about much BIGGER things than just gender. It can be political, it can tackle societal issues of all kinds- not just those regarding sexuality and ender. Drag is a mask, and as a drag artist it is possible to use that mask in whatever way you want! As with all art forms really, the possibilities are limitless.
How differently do you see your identity being interacted with in outside spaces vs in a performance space?
No different, really. I frequently travel all over the country in drag via public transport, and I have performed in public spaces several times. The only difference between a public space vs. a theatrical one is that people EXPECT different things. In a theatre, people expect to be entertained, in a public one they don’t. But as I said above, that connection between audience and performer, no matter what the physical circumstances are, is still a conversation, it’s still just an interaction… just with different surroundings.