Queens and drag fans alike had only a few weeks of calm after the Battle of the Seasons tour to prepare ourselves for Rupaul’s Drag Con. Despite having performed at every single BOTS date (no, literally. Every single one), Ivy Winters was kind enough to sit down with me for a quick chat about the tour, crafting… and juggling live chainsaws.
Courtney Conquers: Hi Ivy! How are you!
Ivy Winters: I’m good! How are you doing, honey?
CC: I’m great! Did you have a nice dinner?
IW: I did! We had BBQ drumsticks.
CC: That’s fancy. Are you visiting your parents?
IW: We’re visiting [my fiancé] Keith’s parents. Keith says ‘Hi’!
CC: Hi Keith! Are you guys feeling any better?
IW: Yes! Still coughing a lung up, but feeling much better! I was touring, touring, touring, working like crazy for three months and then right when we get off, I’m like “Why am I sick now?!”
CC: Well at least you didn’t get sick during Battle of the Seasons!
IW: Well I did a little during the beginning, but I pulled through, so whatever!
CC: You’re a champ! I got sick just following you guys.
IW: That’s because you kept talking to Sharon.
CC: Tell me how it feels to be home!
IW: Aside from being sick, it’s weird! Being on tour, it was non-stop crazy for three months and we were on it the entire time. It’s been so nice to sit and not have to do anything. I still feel like ‘oh my god, I have tons of stuff to do!’ and, I mean really, we still have tons of stuff to do, but it feels great to relax. Of course, I miss being around all the other girls and, it’s weird, I miss performing even though I still perform nonstop.
CC: Well it’s nice that you get to go home and relax for a little bit!
IW: Yeah, we have about two weeks to relax. We got a truck, so we’re officially lesbians now! We got a liner put in it and a topper on it and everything. We also have potential apartments to look at when we get to Michigan! We get to pick up our two dogs, which we’re really excited for! That was probably the hardest part of being away, missing our two dogs!
CC: Where did they stay when you were on the BOTS tour?
IW: They stayed with a family friend in Michigan. Two weeks before the tour started, we moved all our stuff to a storage unit in Michigan from New York. We were actually homeless the entire tour, which was kind of awesome because we had no bills to pay!
CC: What were your favorite and least favorite parts of being on tour for so long?
IW: My favorite part was definitely getting to see the world! This was the first time it’s ever happened where a traveling drag show has gotten to travel on a bus. I mean, we started in Vegas and ended in Barcelona. Iceland was unreal. There were places that I never thought I’d get to see in a million years and I got to go there because of the tour, so that was a big highlight. Being able to perform for everyone on that big of a scale was amazing. On Drag Race, we didn’t really get to show off everything we can do, so I was able to fulfill that as a performer and it was awesome.
CC: I’d say you did a pretty good job showing off your stilt walking!
IW: Yeah, I figured I’d throw in some of that and a few magic tricks, you know? My least favorite part was probably missing our two dogs. No, that was definitely the hardest part! Other than that, the performers were all easy to get along with and stuff! I mean, some of them are a little bit rambunctious on the tour bus, like when you’re trying to sleep and all you can hear is Jinkx singing. It can be a little nerve wracking, but that’s what alcohol is for!
CC: We just saw Jinkx the other day and she was telling us about the crowd in Iceland. She said it was amazing because even though it was small, everyone crowded up against the stage to see you all.
IW: Yes, Iceland was small but full of really amazing people! When Keith and I got to our hotel, the concierge guy at the front desk was like “Well hello, Mr. Winters and Mr. Book!” and we were like “How does he know who we are?” They’re super, uber-fans and what’s crazy to me is that they don’t have it on TV over there, so they all have to illegally download it or watch it on YouTube, and yet they still know who we are and are dying to take pictures with everyone. It’s so cool! When we got up to our hotel room there were a couple of balloons with our names on them and two cards written out to both Keith and I. It was just amazing!
CC: That’s so sweet! What was the first thing you did when you got back from BOTS, or is there something you always do as soon as you get home from traveling?
IW: Well this was actually the first time I’ve ever traveled this much at once!
CC: You did every single show on the tour, right?
IW: Yep, I did every single one! The first thing… hmm, what did I do? Oh! I told myself no more Red Bull, and I haven’t had any Red Bull since! It can be hard to keep your energy up on tour because we’re always so tired, so I had vodka with Red Bull every show. I’m trying to wean myself off of it. It’s hasn’t really quite happened, but…
CC: You’re drinking one right now, aren’t you?
IW: No, but I actually am drinking, like, the best cocktail ever! It’s this sage and herb infused vodka and I’m drinking it with tonic water and limejuice, and it is freakin’ tasty.
CC: That’s sounds delicious! How was it having Keith on the tour, and how did it come about that he got to go with you?
IW: It was so amazing having him with me because he kept me completely sane! If he hadn’t been there, I probably would have gone berserk or killed someone! Just kidding. But it was really, really nice because he kept me calm. He was also such a big help back stage with both of my numbers, helping me with my stilts costume and being on stage for my first number. He also packed stuff and got things ready for me. Him just kind of being there for all of it was amazing. I got lucky, our booking manager asked me which numbers I was planning on doing because he knows all the different stuff I can do in a show. He wanted big numbers, he wanted my magic trick box, he wanted stilts, and he wanted my ‘Strongest Suit’ number with all the quick changes. So I told him, you know, having all this stuff is a lot. Getting to Vegas alone was eight checked suitcases, and only one of them was guy clothes! I told him I needed Keith to be a part of this with me because I wouldn’t be able to do those numbers without him, period. I can’t rely on local stagehands that don’t know how the number goes to know what to do for my safety. With the stilt walking alone, I need someone who actually knows the safety portions of doing it, otherwise something might go wrong or they might fuck up and it won’t look bad for them, it’ll look bad for me in the number. So my booking manager said that was a great idea and Keith came with me!
CC: I have to ask… how did you get stilts on an airplane? Do they come apart or what?
IW: They’re actually in a large army duffle bag. There’s a leg portion that snaps to your leg with these shoes screwed into the foot part, then under where your foot is there’s the long pole that hits the ground. That part unsnaps so they shorten.
CC: Did everyone else have eight bags too, or what it just because you have all your extra things?
IW: No, it was all my extra props. I even had curtains. The first week and a half of the tour I did my magic trick box which is a large wooden shipping crate. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, but it comes on stage and they show all sides of it and then I come out doing a ballad in this black and white striped evening gown and handcuffs. Keith’s off stage in this executioners outfit and he’s pulling me on stage, it’s all very dramatic. All of a sudden he opens the box and I get inside. He latches it shut and then he stands on top of the box and brings up this curtain and the music changes. As soon as the curtain is above his head, it drops and I’m standing on top of the box in a different costume and Keith is locked inside the box. It’s a cool magic trick, very like… tacky Vegas.
CC: But that’s the best kind!
IW: I know! So that box alone was two huge portions of checked baggage. We saved it with us, it was actually on the tour bus until Ft. Lauderdale which was our last tour stop in America. It was $400 alone for that thing to ship on an airplane though, so we just threw it out. It’s in the trash somewhere.
CC: You threw it out? Like in the garbage?
IW: Yeah, we had to get rid of it!
CC: So will you make another one and keep the number up, or will you just create something else?
IW: Oh, I’ll create something new! I’m already working on two bigger, crazier numbers! I mean, I’m already planning on doing the tour again next year, and there’s already talk about new cities, maybe even in Australia or Japan… I think I even heard someone say Guam. So I’m already planning bigger things than last time, which is kind of hard to do when you already have so many crazy things happening. I’m trying to keep it new and keep people interested, you know?
CC: How do you choose which talents you want to showcase in your numbers? You do so many things!
IW: Well I already had those three big numbers planned- my stilts, the box trick, and My Strongest Suit with all the onstage costume changes. They kind of just popped into my head, really. I love to stilt walk, even though it’s hard to perform stilt walking. I developed that ‘Wings’ mix, the butterfly with the costume change. It’s something that people like seeing in performances and, you know, they saw it on TV for a hot second. That’s why I switched the box trick to that, it had more of an impact. And it’s all us on the tour, like whatever I want to do I can pretty much do and they’ll say ‘do it’! They’re always excited to see bigger, crazier things. I can actually sing too, but I don’t normally sing in shows. I don’t have an album out or anything. I might be working on that, I’m not sure yet. So many of the girls are singing now and they can really connect with the audience on a one-to-one basis doing that. It’s a little harder to connect lip-syncing, especially when I do all the crazy stuff. It’s good because I kind of add some variety to the show. When there are so many singers, I don’t want to just be yet another one otherwise I get boring. People would rather see someone like Alaska because she was more of a fan favorite, you know? So I just try to think of fun crazy numbers that showcase the things I can do that you’ll all be wowed by! I fire eat as well. I’ve done it in some of the past tours, but it actually gets really expensive. You have to have a fire marshal there, so we have to pay him, and you have to get permits and insurance… it gets to be so much money that I’m not even making money doing the tour anymore, so it becomes pointless for me to do it.
CC: I’ve only seen videos of you fire eating online. It’s impressive, but slightly terrifying! I was even a little scared of the stilts.
IW: It’s weird, I love stilt walking! I get so excited when I’m on stilts, being so tall and stuff. During a show though… I mean, I’m never drunk on them, but I like to have a cocktail or two in me before the show. Then I just feel so fluid and I can move so much easier on the stilts, it’s really weird! I hope people aren’t like “You’re drinking and you’re on stilts! What!”
CC: Do you need a special license for that, or….?
IW: Nope! You just do it! I’m excited for next year because Keith works out a lot, so I’ve been starting to work out with him to build up my upper arm strength. I have this chainsaw that I want to incorporate into the tour to juggle with…
CC: WHAT? To juggle with?!
IW: Yeah, I’ll juggle a chainsaw, a knife, and maybe a bowling ball or something, I’m not too sure yet.
CC: Oh my god.
IW: Yeah, it would be so killer because I’ve never seen a chainsaw juggling drag queen!
CC: Nope, can’t say I’ve seen that!
IW: I know! It’d be something that would make the audience kind of take a step back and be like “oh shit”! So that’s why I need to work out a little.
CC: Where do you get your crazy costume ideas?
IW: Really anywhere. Every household item. It always pops into my mind, “how can I turn that into something?” Whether it’s jewelry or a headpiece or a costume. I mean I really started doing that from the very beginning of doing drag. Drag was always a hobby then though and I never made tons of money at it and it was always so expensive to do, so I tried making outfits out of really cheap, inexpensive materials like toilet paper rolls. I saved them for like a year and I finally made an outfit out of them. It’s just cheap materials that make me think “I could turn that into a wearable look and it’ll be cool”! Any other costumes that I made, I really get inspired by old movies. [William] Travilla was an old famous designer that did a lot of Marilyn Monroe. I love that old school style. That Hollywood glamour. I think it’s beautiful.
CC: What’s your favorite outfit that you’ve ever made for yourself?
IW: My favorite outfit still, to this day, would be an outfit that I wore on Drag Race- my Le Jazz Hot fringe costume! It was that floor length fringe with all the rhinestone chains. I saw the movie years ago… have you ever seen Le Jazz Hot?
CC: Not all the way through!
IW: Oh my god, Julie Andrews is so good. You need to watch it all the way through immediately. After seeing the costumes in it I thought, holy shit. This is the one costume I will spend a fortune on just to make because the materials alone for that were really expensive. It’s probably my favorite. I still have it, I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it!
CC: I hope not!
IW: No! Keith and I are actually going through all my costumes that I wore on the show for Drag Con because I actually want to sell some of my old costumes that I’ve worn and made. I thought it would be fun to have t-shirts, and have my posters and some jock straps that I’ve made, and then also have costumes that I’ve made that people can buy if they want. I take cash and credit card!
CC: Don’t tell me that.
IW: You’d fit in them!
CC: Don’t tell me that. What’s your favorite outfit that you’ve made for someone else?
IW: My friend Jesse Volt, who’s never been on Drag Race but is a really good friend of mine- she lives in New York and she’s a Cher impersonator and a Joan Rivers impersonator. I made her this costume with this huge feather headpiece that looks like a big Mohawk. If you’ve ever seen Cher’s Farewell Tour video, she does Bang Bang in it and it has this giant black feather headpiece and this tribal bodysuit with an off the shoulder coat. It’s really, really cool. I made it for Jesse like three or four years ago and she’s worn it once a week for the past three years and the headpiece has still held up. I’ve made the bodysuit two or three times now because of wear and tear, but that’s pretty good over that many years of wearing it. That’s still probably one of my very favorites.
CC: It’s obviously really well made then if it holds up that well.
IW: Um, obviously!
CC: Can you tell us about a unique gift that you got on tour, or a funny fan story you’ve experienced?
IW: Oh god, well there’s this group of girls that made me this ‘She-mergency kit’…
CC: No, not me!
IW: Yes, because it’s exciting! We love getting little presents and things! I don’t think I’ve gotten this many presents from anyone else but [Drag Coven]. We did get a lot of gifts towards the end of the tour in Europe though, and by this point our suitcases were jam packed, over flowing, totally full. I was like oh my god, where am I going to put these! I could never throw them out. Also, Lush company came and gave each one of us this wooden box and when I opened it up it had shower gel and shaving stuff and bath balms… it was so cool. I had no idea where to put it all, but we made it work!
CC: How’d you get it all home?
IW: I just paid a lot for the extra weight in my luggage…
CC: Was it nice being back around some of the girls from your season when you were on the BOTS tour?
IW: Yeah, it was really good seeing them! When I lived in New York they would always come through and do their one-woman-shows at the Laurie Beechman, which was like a block away from our apartment, so we could just go see them. Surprisingly, we get to see each other quite a bit. But this time we were with each other non-stop so it was a little different. It’s good to get a little bit of a break! It was great spending time, but we’ve all been away for so long now that everyone is glad to be home and doing other shows and changing it up a little bit.
CC: Is there one special new outfit that you’ve got planned for Drag Con?
IW: I’ve been trying to wrack my brain actually. It’s so hard because we’re leaving Louisville the day after tomorrow to go to Michigan and find an apartment and get our dogs, and then I leave a couple days after that to go to Raleigh, North Carolina. By the time I get back, we have like a week to prepare, so I’ve been trying to think of different ideas. I know I’m bringing my stilts, so when we all try to take pictures I’ll be up on my stilts. Plus, I’ll be walking around at the convention too up on those stilts, so I’ll be like this beacon of beauty and people will just flock to me, right?
CC: Oh, absolutely! Of course!
IW: I’m excited to do those. Did you ever see my Titanium number? The silver outfit with horns? I think I’m going to pull that back out and make some stilt covers for it, so that’s a possibility. I also thought of bringing my butterfly outfit from BOTS just because it’s so big and pretty, and so many people have seen the number so it might be one that people would like pictures with. I’d love to make something brand new for the stilts to talk around in, I just don’t know if I’ll have time!
CC: We barely have time to make ours, so I can only imagine how it is for you.
IW: Right? You still have to make your own butterfly outfit just like mine so we can take pictures.
CC: Oh yeah, I’ll make my own set of stilts too, that’ll go well. What part of Drag Con are you most excited to be a part of?
IW: I just think this is so cool. I love ComiCon, I love any big convention where you get to dress up and just have fun crazy people walking around buying shit. I’m also really, really, really excited to meet Pee-wee Herman! He’s like up there on my list, I literally can’t wait to get my picture taken with him. I’m just excited for the whole experience. I love shit like this. I would totally still go if I didn’t have my own table there!
CC: Good! Okay, I’m going to say a word, and you just talk about the first thing that pops into your head. First: hot glue!
IW: Hot glue! I made an outfit that was 99% hot glue and 1% zipper! I spent forever trying to figure out how I would make it and I finally figured it out. There are so many queens that use hot glue to make their outfits, so I figured why not make one that is completely hot glue? I had so many blisters though. Even the wig was hot glue. The heels were covered in hot glue. My jewelry was hot glue. It was very fun.
CC: I remember that. I screamed. Next word: New York City!
IW: Aww, a place I’ll always call home! I’ll miss it. …But not really.
CC: Michelle Visage!
IW: Health addict! Those are the two words that I associate with Michelle Visage! If you don’t know if it’s healthy or not, you just say “Hey Michelle Visage, are peanuts good for you?” and she’ll say “No they’re not”! She’s very knowledgeable about what should be going in and out of your body.
CC: Tour bus!
IW: Alcohol! Alcohol and lots of really old movies. Every time we would stop at a truck stop, they always had the weirdest old movies that were just god-awful but with some really good gems. Whenever we stopped, one of us was getting at least five DVDs and we ended up with giant stacks, drawers and drawers full of DVDs so we always had movies to watch. I think ‘Slither’ was the best one we had.
IW: Canada, EH? No, no. Hmm, Canada… Drag Coven!
CC: Aww! Okay, my last question is always a cheesy one. What’s your biggest goal for the next year?
IW: Oh god… well…. oh shit, I have so many goals! I have so many things I want to accomplish this year! Biggest goal… All Stars, if it happens this year! I don’t know if it will, but fingers crossed. That’s number one. Number two, sew as many new costumes for myself as possible. Three, I would really like to work on doing a number involving singing and circus, and if I do that…. I really love stop motion animation and creating little puppets. I’ve been working on a ventriloquist puppet for the longest time. I have the head done, I just need to work on the body and hair. But I just love doing stop motion animation, so if I ever did a song, the music video would be completely stop motion animation! I have a little clip of something I was working on just to test out a new camera, but it takes forever to do. Hopefully I’ll have time to do something like that.
CC: I can’t wait to see it all! Thank you so much. It was so great talking to you!
IW: It was my pleasure! See you at Drag Con!