Hi there Trannika! It’s only taken me a year to sit down with our first ever WERRRK.com Queen of Chicago. How are you doing? Did you have a nice holiday season?
Bon jour Chiffon! The holidays were packed for me and now I’m catching up with a little R & R (reruns of Law & Order SVU & random trade)! As you know I’m very popular and an international party girl so I did a little traveling in December. Have you ever heard of Louisville, Kentucky? Milwaukee, Wisconsin? Milwaukee is the Bordeaux of the Midwest they say. 3/4 of my diet is melted cheese. I friggin’ love that place.
Legally speaking, isn’t it mandated that at least 3/4 of your diet is melted cheese in Wisconsin?
Legally speaking, the US government thinks I died in ‘98. Did you know the city of Milwaukee doesn’t even have coffee? They just eat a sharp cheddar in the morning.
They must have the most interesting Keurig machines there then! And don’t worry, the only government officials who read this site are closeted Republicans and they won’t blow your cover.
If anyone reading this interview voted for Trump they can all suck a fart out of my ass.
We won’t even give him the time of day so instead, let’s talk about how your global tour of those thriving metropolises go last month!
I also went to Philly for the first time. I honestly believe that Philly will be the next drag scene to get international attention. If you ever get a chance to go to DOOM at Tabu, do it! It’s the closest to Chicago’s drag scene I’ve ever experienced. It reminded me of when we were first getting about 5 years ago and everything was a little dirty and offensive and random but the audience is super supportive and loves the filth of it all. There’s something bubbling in Milwaukee too. I feel a kinship with the shows that are dirty and loud and fucking random and not just saunter saunter pretty drag all the time. I think that for a drag scene to step into the future it needs to embrace counter culture drag. Any good show has a wide variety. That’s Chicago’s biggest strength. You can see a bald girl doing a MySpace song and next is a pageant winner covered in stones and then someone is rapping live… it’s a full meal. You get every drag food group!
Is there an FDA recommended food pyramid chart for the drag food groups?
Yea and the people of Chicago have a balanced diet.
You said drag needs to embrace the counter culture. I would say that each year, there is more and more counter cultural influence in drag scenes around the country and the world for that matter, At what point does the counter culture just become mainstream drag culture?
The counter culture will always exist because it usually answers the question of “What’s next?” Counter culture is where trends start so many times. Trickle up is real, now more than ever.
It seems like everyone is borrowing from drag culture these days. Do you think the fascination with drag culture will continue on or do you think it will start to fizzle out soon?
I think in the beginning of the cultural surge it felt like a gold rush and I kind of felt like “are straights gonna take all our gold in three years and deplete our resources?”, “is this bubble going to pop?” But it’s only gotten bigger and every day 300 new queens are born and they become Instagram celebrities three weeks later. At this point I think their are too many superstars for it to fizzle. We’re being understood as not just party clowns and people have started to absorb us into the comedy scene, the music scene, reality TV… its past the novelty stage where a talk show would have a one drag segment and an oogling audience would ask questions like “where do you put you put your penis?” We’ve moved into the next stage. There’s still education to do but we’re in the same space as the other guest stars and we can do a show without having to first answer the question “what are you?”
**Crosses “where do you put your penis?” and “what are you?” off list of questions** Can we talk a little bit about your start in drag? Where did you hail from originally and what was your first exposure to the world of drag?
I’m from Fort Pierce, Florida, I went to USF in Tampa for two years, then moved here nine-ish years ago! I started drag eight years ago while I ran a vintage clothing store out of my apartment. I would go to parties in dumb outfits and used it to promo my shop. That lasted about two years and drag just took over as I started to go out and get bookings in Boystown.
What was the drag scene in Chicago like when you were first starting out compared to now?
Chicago is home to Miss Continental– one of the world’s leading drag pageants. There’s a lot of that in our blood and I think when the scene was smaller back in the day it was the majority and now it’s kind of sprinkled in. Drag Matinee was around for about four years when I started but it was only bi-monthly and it was known as the counter culture show. . I would estimate that today there are about sixty queens in the city that work main shows on a weekly basis and if we include the amateur shows I would say it’s two hundred plus. Back in the day I think there were probably about thirty queens working and around seventy five including the amateur shows. You can find drag anywhere now. You used to have to look for it more.
Drag Matinee seems to be your baby. For someone that has yet to witness it in person, how would you describe a typical show there?
The show is an hour of nonstop performances while I scream on the mic. You’ll see queens of every variety at every stage of their career. We get more special guests than any show in Chicago and you’ll never see the same show twice. Last year we had 45 guests- Drag Race queens like Jasmine Masters, Milk, and Pearl, queens from outside of the US like Cheddar Gorgeous and Lady Galore, legendary queens like Jackie Beat and Lady Bunny.. At this point the show is also a social gathering. You don’t need to text your friends before you come to Drag Matinee because they’ll be there and so will a bunch of off duty queens. It’s where Saturday night starts if you go to drag shows. It really is the shit.
You talk about the variety of performers and experience in your show. What do you think makes Chicago’s scene so diverse?
I think it’s because we allow it honestly. You water the plants you want to grow and we’ve created a universe where they can all grow. That doesn’t happen everywhere. Crash Landing is our amateur show at Berlin hosted by Nico and I with Lucy Stoole behind the bar. It’s geared towards club kids and weirdos. The show has been around 2 years and it’s really helped spotlight local talent and create upward mobility. Each cycle is only 6 weeks so we’ve had 19 winners… that’s 19 people who win a prize, get to perform at Drag Matinee, and get the encouragement they need to keep going. The counter culture scene has existed here a while so tons of people are involved, right? Okay so part of my intention with the show is to help groom the weirdos because they didn’t really have a place before if they were super New. There were so many times a queen would totally biff it at an amateur show- wig came off, looked terrible, disorganized, just not good… and then I would see a Facebook status that says something about “they don’t like weirdos there and no one understands my drag” and I wanted to be like… you’re missing the part where you weren’t good. You can be weird but you’re leaning on weirdness as an excuse. So now we’re like- here’s a stable where you can see weirdos succeed and take notes and make friends and if you fail you can look around and go… yea… I failed fair and square and the next cycle is in a few weeks so let me try again. We have upward mobility and I think that’s a huge part of it. If your drag scene has two queens in charge and they only book ten people who all look the same… you’ve got a problem. Put a spot lite on the kids and they will surprise you. Trust me! I was a fucked up little drag queen once.
Who do you think are some of the up and coming Chicago queens that we should be keeping our eyes on?
We’ve had so many people blow up in the last year. In the new generation there are some that are going past Boystown and really getting traction across the city. Aunty Chan will be the next big host in Chicago, mark my words. You can see her parody of Reclaiming My Time on YouTube that went viral a few months ago. Follow her on twitter at @AuntyCherryChan. She’s hilarious and incredibly nice. Bambi Banks is an incredible dancer and has been getting all the gigs. She kills it live. Both of them won Crash Landing cycles last year. Tenderoni was probably the biggest drag premiere in Chicago last year. He premiered and was booked every week between like five different gigs within two months. He’s one of the best performers you’ll ever see- tons of 90’s throwbacks, always covered in stones and sequins with a giant smile and he drops into a split and the audience loses their shit. I’ve never seen a Tenderoni performances where the audience wasn’t screaming from the very beginning til the end. He’s just magical. Maureen San Diego is a comedian who plays he trombone badly and has been creating these insane one woman shows with original music- I’ve been to two of her shows and I cried both times. She also won Crash Landing! They’re the breakouts getting all the gigs right now! No one else be mad at me for not giving them a shout out!
We love Maureen here at WERRRK. She took part in one of our online competitions and was a riot!
Maureen is part Carol Channing and part Phyllis Diller. For a lot of her performances she gets wheeled into the space in a trash can and she pops out and blows confetti. It’s just so beyond extra but also filthy… love it
So with all this young talent coming up, where does that leave you? What kind of goals do you have on your proverbial drag bucket list?
Well I started a new show last year (Plot Twist) which brings me to four that I’m in charge of. I don’t think I’ll be creating anymore any time soon because my plate is full. We broke a bunch of attendance records so we’re full steam ahead right now. It’s a constant game of keeping it new and fresh but also consistent. I’d like to travel some more. I really want to write more comedy and do more stand up. I’ve been toying with a one woman show that could see the light of day if I found the right venue.
I‘m sure there are a lot of people who would like to see that. Is that something you would potentially like to tour with?
Absolutely! I’ve spent a lot of the last year kind of mining through my childhood memories to find the truly weird stuff that brought me to this point. All the fun stuff is repressed!
What about possibly being on television? Is that something you aspire to? The past year showed that there are more television opportunities for queens beyond Drag Race.
In my head I’m extremely famous so becoming actually famous would be an easy transition. I’ve never auditioned because I never felt ready and I always dodge the question but I’m here to tell you once and for all, undeniably- maybe one day!
You heard it here first kids! That’s a definite maybe! In the meantime, would be down tackling…….THE LIGHTNING ROUND?
Let’s party Sister
Must have makeup item?
Sugarpill Dollipop used as blush! My face isn’t done without it!
4am post drag food craving?
I’ve actually be on a diet and I used to say spicy chicken wings but now my post club snack is Wheat Thins and hummus. *laughs* I’m an old ass woman.
Best part of drag?
Making people forget how disgusting the world is right now. You come into my house for a couple of hours and don’t think bad thoughts. Bringing people together to laugh. Nothing like it.
Worst part of drag?
Tights on and I already have to pee.
Most surprising thing about you people might not know?
It takes me about a week to decide on a show lineup. Every day I spend at least an hour looking at the next 3 months and deciding on the perfect lineup.
If not for drag, what would you be doing?
I’ve always wanted to direct porn. I think I’ll do that one day. Seriously I don’t know why I just always wanted to.
Queen you would pay to see perform?
Monét X. Change and Evah Destruction are two of my all time favorites live. You don’t forget seeing either of them perform. They’ll take your breath away.
I watch every single Real Housewives show, even the bad ones and like even the ones in Australia and shit. Did you hear about the new one in Bangkok? I don’t know why I am like this. I love watching rich women scream publicly at each other. You can’t tell me I’m not Dorinda Medley.
Death row last meal?
Popeyes spicy tenders and a sweet tea. Sweet Baby Ray’s to dip. If I die I don’t have to deal with the instant and aggressive diarrhea coming within the next 23 minutes.
Last movie to make you cry?
Coco. I cry in every Pixar movie.
Netflix binge recommendation?
Big Mouth! I’ve watched it three times. Also watch Shot in the Dark if you like getting anxiety during shows. It’s insane.
Last one, most embarrassing song on your phone?
The only song on my iTunes is Kim Chi- Single. I don’t use iTunes I just bought it because LOL. For the record it is truly the worst.
Congratulations Trannika! It was touch and go for a moment but you survived THE LIGHTNING ROUND!
Wow this is my moment
Your big prize is….a chance to shill your social media! Where can people keep tabs on you on the interwebs?
–Drag Matinee is every Saturday at Berlin, 10:30pm-12am (@DragMatinee on Instagram)
–XYZ is every first Sunday at Roscoes, all 90’s/00’s music w/ special guests, 9pm-2am w/ performances every hour
–Crash Landing is every second and fourth Monday at Berlin, 10:30pm-12am
–Plot Twist is every third Monday at Berlin, 10:30pm-12am! And RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties at Roscoes every Thursday w/ tons of special guests including every queen from this season of all stars!
Well my dear, I think we have just about reached the end of the read here but I just want to wish you a super duper late congratulations on being our first ever WERRRK. com Queen of Chicago award winner! Do you have any final words of wisdom to leave our readers with?