Let LA queen Marta BeatChu tell it, and she’ll say she’s a bitch with a reputation for shade. However, sitting across from her at Joey’s Café in West Hollywood, all I can see is a hardworking queen who suffers no fools and is no stranger to the grind. Between self-producing numerous shows, regular gigs in DLTA and WeHo, and supporting her sisters any chance she gets you can call Marta anything but lazy. Still with her many accomplishments, even she had to start somewhere.
“I actually got started doing drag through a sober competition, it was my first time doing anything like that. It was called Miss AALA – and it was a competition for people who were sober.”
Not a common beginning for a drag queen, a profession mostly centered around bars and nightclubs. Typically, queens get their start through a local bar “amateur queen” or new queen competition, or they have a “drag mother,” but Marta took a much less conventional approach.
“When I first got sober I went to a convention and they had a drag show, and they looked like they were having so much fun; so I was like “I want to audition next year.” I got one year sober, auditions came around, I auditioned and I was picked. I had no idea what I was doing, but I went out and did it.”
Since then Marta has been busy building a name for herself in the Los Angeles drag community. It hasn’t always been easy, but Marta isn’t shy about blazing a path for herself.
“I had to make the opportunities for myself, and I still do even now, sometimes, even though I’m “known.” People do book me, and I’m grateful for that, but I also feel like I always need to find the next thing.”
In the course of 5 years in drag, Marta has learned the ins and outs of the business side of drag, producing her own shows and creating a reputation in the drag community. As with anyone starting a new career, she learned valuable lessons along the way, such as the need to invest in yourself.
“When I produce a show, the venues will pay for certain things, like the queens, but I invest in the fliers, the promotions, [my] costumes. In the beginning when I wanted to book someone and they were not that booking fee that the bars gave me, I would take out of my pocket or I would just not pay myself, just to make sure I had a good show.”
Even today, Marta never stops the hustle to put on an amazing drag show. Currently she’s working on a Drag Con closing party show.
“Right now I’m just focused on the drag con thing [Con Artists 3 at Redline, May 13th at 6pm] that’s the next big thing I have going on. All day today I’ve just been dealing with that. Yesterday I was at my friend’s house who does my fliers and we looked over the final edit, I had make sure all the queens were on it, you know, no errors, everything like that. And then today I had to make minor adjustments to the individual fliers that everyone was getting, getting things in order, sending emails back and forth and all that.”
No stranger to the hard work that goes in behind the scenes of drag, even Marta is pleasantly surprised with being able to pull it off so many nights of the week.
“It’s a LOT of work. I didn’t realize when I first started. I call myself a “Business Fish” because it’s more like, the business side of it. I have been able to produce these big shows with so many queens, and sometimes I’m like “how do I do it?” I don’t always get someone there to help me, it’s very hands on.”
But without question she pulls it off, usually seamlessly. And when she’s not producing, she’s performing all over LA. Many queens stick to the neighborhood where they got their start, but Marta takes opportunities as they come.
“WeHo is where I got my start, so I always feel a little more… not “loyal” to WeHo, but just… I mean, it’s home. Downtown for me was an opportunity, and it was right before the majority of the other gay bars opened. Someone said, hey I know you do drag, do you wanna host a show here and so I said “Ok.” I didn’t, you know, have any hosting experience, but I was like, well, I gotta learn somehow.”
Learning by throwing yourself in there is one way to do it, and from beginning to now, Marta is used to taking the bull by the horns.
“It’s kind of like how I learned in WeHo. I learned how to do my makeup and stuff at Project Drag 2, at Mickey’s, in front of people. So, I went out there looking busted and still had to do it. I learned something new every week.”
From humbling beginnings Marta has grown from baby queen to formerly dubbed “Costume Queen of WeHo,” to producer and LA drag staple. She’s won various competitions including the first (and possibly last) title of Scream Queen to Die For (2015) A title well earned, as it’s her love of “scream queens” and classic horror movies that inspires the fire inside Marta BeatChu.
“When I was a kid growing up my favorite [horror movie] was Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 4. It just really hit me, it’s one of my favorite films – I think it was because the main character was like a geek. She was the goody-goody and then all her friends were dying and she gained the powers from her friends – they had that storyline. And then at the end, she had no friends left, but she took on all the best qualities of her friends who had died, and she went from being this shy, timid person to this badass bitch who was ready to beat the bad guy.
I think that’s why I like drag; it’s a transformation. I mean, it’s me, but it’s like a heightened form. When I’m in drag I can be really loud, funny, obnoxious, I can have the shady bitchiness and I’m just having fun.”
Since starting her career, the face of drag has changed drastically. With the rise of social media “stars” not every drag queen even needs to perform to get noticed anymore.
“It’s all about the “likes.” When I started, social media wasn’t what it is now, you know, I couldn’t get ahead by likes and followers, I had to earn every spot I had. I had to work really hard to prove myself, to myself and to this community in WeHo, who didn’t know who I was. I came out of nowhere, they all had previous relationships with each other, had worked together and had sisterhoods and I came out of nowhere like “I wanna do this.” Even now, I try to challenge myself every time I get in drag. Even being “established” I still have to work hard to remain relevant. People know who I am, but other people are more social media savvy, they know how to take something and milk it, and I just do it because I love it and want to do it. So I work hard to stay… booked.”
An even bigger change in the face of drag has been the phenomenon of RuPaul’s Drag Race, a show that has played a major role in the mainstreaming of the art of drag.
“I think Drag Race has done what we have been trying to do for a long time, kind of making it available to everybody and not just a portion of the gay community. It’s kind of like a big shout of “We’re queer and we’re here” you know? It’s taken over, especially now that it’s on VH1; now it’s like everyone wants to be a drag queen, everyone wants to be on the show, and a lot of people do it for the wrong reasons.
Too many people I think are interested in the fame or money, I don’t always do it for the money – I mean, I do, it’s my only source of income – but like if I could [afford to] do it for free, I would. Just do it for fun. I think the best thing about going on the show would be getting to travel. You don’t get to do that as a local queen, because who’s gonna fly out someone no one’s heard of?”
Beyond the “stardom” the queens featured on RPDR enjoy as a result of the show, a perk that all queens can enjoy is the broadening fan base of drag in general.
“I see younger people now, I remember maybe two months ago at Mary’s there was a little girl there. I pulled her up on stage and danced with her, it was the first time I’d seen like, a little girl at Mary’s. I mean, it’s fine for me, none of my songs are like, vulgar or anything, so it was fun. I think it’s a lot more open now, which is great.”
So, where can these new fans, young and old, hope to find Marta?
“Check my social media, because right now it changes every week. Every first Saturday I’m at Mary’s for Misty Violet’s show, [Dumbelles.] Often times I do Jackie Beat’s show “Hamburger Jackie’s,” I’ve recently started doing brunch at Blazing Saddles, but not every week; even my bowling show [Queen Pins] I do it every month, but the dates change. So, yeah, the best thing to do is check my social media pages. I always put where I’m going to be on my Instagram story, a day or two before, and then again day of, so check there.”
“CHU” can follow Marta Beatchu at:
Facebook: Marta BeatChu