Not just a pretty face, WeHo drag queen Kalista Stage is sweet, creative and has a passion for the art of drag.
I started doing drag when I was 17, I started sneaking in to clubs when I was 16, 17 was when I got caught, and I got caught by one of the drag queens. My choice was either get be escorted to the police, or do their amateur drag show. So I did their amateur drag show. And I ended up really loving it. I’m a stage performer, I’ve done that forever, so it was just sort of a second medium and a different canvas to play upon.
While we’re certainly not encouraging sneaking into clubs underage here at WERRRK.com, Kalista was lucky enough to not only find a new outlet for creativity, but to find that she had the love and support of her mom as well.
I really liked it and I started sneaking in again and again, and they would let me to do their amateur drag show. And then after a while I guess my mom caught on, and then she found me one night, at one of the shows, and she was just in the crowd. I didn’t expect it, I went after her and she just asked me ‘why didn’t you tell me?’ And I said sure because I’m going to tell my mom that I’m a cross dresser. And she was like ‘No, I mean I could help you, I could chaperone you. I could make sure that you do this and you’re not going to get in trouble, up until you’re 18.’ So the rest of the time that I was 17 she helped me out and took me there. She’s very supportive, I just didn’t know where she was going to react. She was probably going to be OK with the gay thing, but I didn’t know how she would react to that.
Though she started at a young age, Kalista had no question about who she was, or who she wanted to be, as evidenced in her name.
Kalista is a Greek name meaning “most beautiful” and it can also mean “feminine.” So, that’s basically who she is she’s the epitome of femininity, and she’s – I want to say she’s beautiful. She is a woman. And then Stage, of course, that’s where my influences come from, stage meaning thespian, being on stage since I was a kid, it just all ties into that.
Not just a name, Kalista knows who she is, through and though.
I always say, if you were to mix Marilyn Monroe and Britney Spears, you would get Kalista Stage. It’s the sweet and innocent, bubbly, but then there’s also this super vixen, sexy side and there’s both edges to both of them, so that’s just where it comes into play. And then mix in the theatricality of Audrey Hepburn, Liza Minnelli, old-time, golden age women. Those are the ones I derive my theatricality off of.
Every queen has a different story, how they got started, how drag has shaped and influenced their lives, and as unique as these stories are from queen to queen, so is the process of becoming your drag persona.
I light a candle, get a good atmosphere going, and then I just start painting. Painting takes about an hour and a half, hour if I’m like, really quick, and then I go to my drag closet, pick out what I’m going to wear, and pad, and that’s it. I put my little slippers on, a robe, a shake and go wig and then I get to the gig. I just want to make sure I look presentable yet not ready for the stage. Like I feel like a glamour girl when I do that, just put my robe on and get to the gig! Then I go backstage and then I get ready. You know, I don’t wanna give the entire illusion away.
As we’ve seen by the amazing Alyssa Edwards, some queens really prefer to take their time and feel the fantasy as they get ready, but ever the professional, Kalista knows there is work to be done.
I’m not the kind of person who likes to waste my time, I like to make good use of every single second of my life, or I try to at least. So when I’m painting I’m not like ‘oh, let me take all this in!’ I can take all that in later, I’m not like Alyssa Edwards staring into the mirror for a good 30 minutes, that’s not my thing. Once everything is on, once I’m at the gig, then I can admire myself because then the work has been done.
Feeling the fantasy or not, setting a good atmosphere is important to the process of becoming Kalista. I wondered, aside from the candle, what else helped to set the mood of the evening.
My playlist is always on, and I just have whatever I’m obsessed with at the moment, recently I’ve been really into pop songs, like, really bubblegum-y pop stuff. There’s Kim Petras, I’m obsessed with Carly Rae Jepsen right now, Ariana Grande… just a whole bunch of poppy stuff, that I never would have thought I’d be into, but the songs are just so much fun. I have “Cut to the Feeling” literally on repeat… there are just so many good ones.
Being a drag persona is almost like being both the puppet and the puppet master at the same time. How much does one affect the other? For Kalista, it seems to be about balance.
Kalista and [boy name redacted] are kind of one in the same, they’ve kind of meshed… before they were very separate. She’s this, she’s that; he’s this, he’s that… but now they’ve kind of meshed together. I’m a very fun, bubbly, cute personality, which has a very serious undertone to it. I can be very serious and quite intense sometimes; I’m a lot to take in. I’m not light-hearted about life. You know, I have fun in life and I make sure that I don’t take life too seriously, but also I know the severity that we are on this Earth for just one life. Might as well take it quite seriously. I guess you could say I’m serious about enjoying this life. I mean, if you’re not, then why are you here? I like to have fun and be out there, and Kalista is the same. She’s actually helped me become more… open with receiving other people. I’m really quite shy, but having to be on 24/7, it’s exhausting, but it’s actually kind of helped me speak to people and be more open to conversations.
Becoming a woman night after night, as both a creative outlet and career, seems exhausting, and one would assume these performers wouldn’t do it unless it brought something to the table other career options couldn’t.
I like being able to be whatever woman I want to be that night. You know if I’m feeling edgy and I’m feeling really dark, I will go for super 90’s Goth girl and just pull it right out of the bag, if I’m feeling super bubbly and I just want to live my 1960s glamour girl realness, convertible, I’m going to do that and I’m gonna wear my scarf with it. You know, I think the transformation part is the end all, be all of why I do drag. It’s just so much fun, and I guess the secondary portion would be connection, being able to connect with people on a different level. I love being able to connect to people over for what I see as art, what I feel is close to my heart, and when I do that makes me happy, being able to connect to people in that way.
Speaking of connecting to people, the phenomena of RuPaul’s Drag Race has created more “drag fans” than ever before. For someone who seems so centered and down to earth, I had to ask, is it weird having fans?
[Pregnant pause] Sometimes.
Sometimes fans can be a little weird and I’m not big by any means at all. But there are some fans that treat me like I am and it’s kind of like, woah… calm down. I get where you’re coming from. I’ve been a fan of other people, so I know what it feels like. But at the same time we’re just people, I’m just a dude in a dress. Somebody wanted me to sign their body and they were going to get it tattooed. I thought they were kidding, but they actually got it tattooed. So, that’s on their body forever, or at least until they want it gone. I think that was the weirdest for me. At first I was like ‘what did you do?! What did I do?!’ But then I took a moment and I had to tell myself, well… they really like me. There is also the issue of weird, I mean I wouldn’t consider them “fans,” but like creepy guys who are like, suitors. That happens a lot. I’m out there they’re always just trying to get out at your girl.
The predatory line for drag queens is crossed more often than is acceptable. It’s not only male fans who can be overzealous, female fans are just as guilty of getting grabby. Unfortunately, being a female impersonator also comes with the darker side of the female experience.
I guess I understand, I can’t empathize because I’m not a woman, but I can deeply sympathize because I’m so connected with the female form and with what they go through.
But, of course, not every fan experience is a bad one. Most queens, Kalista included, appreciate their fans more than they can say, and with the current mainstreaming of drag, more and more fans are being born. I wondered how Kalista felt the popularity of Drag Race has affected her career.
I think it’s helped it so much. I mean I wouldn’t I wouldn’t have as large a fan base. I wouldn’t even have the opportunity to grow as much as I have over the past three years without Drag Race. I mean it’s made it so mainstream and it’s made it so easy for anyone to become a drag queen or anyone to appreciate drag. You know Drag Con is such a marker for just how far we’ve come in the drag community. So I really appreciate what Drag Race has done for the girls.
Aside from creating a higher fan base, Drag Race has also created a new medium to showcase drag, if invited to be on the show. As a rule, queens are not allowed to say whether or not they have auditioned, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about interest.
I would love to be on the show, yeah I mean, it’s not something that’s this huge, like ‘I HAVE to be on the show!’ I know those kind of people and those people don’t make it last, you know, they don’t make it past two years in drag. I’m doing what I’m doing and I’m loving it; and if at some point I end up being on the show, then that’d be great because then I can take it across the country and share my art with so many other people. Share how fun it is to dress up in beautiful 1950s chiffon dresses.
Drag Race or not, there is no shortage of gigs for a talented queen like Kalista Stage. She pulls numbers for a variety of genres, and her time in the biz has taught her exactly how and why to select certain numbers.
There are some times where there’s a theme that I have to stick by, but for the most part I get to choose what songs I’m going to do. I’m not going to do a Broadway number at The Abbey. It’s just not going to work. They want something fun, light, poppy, something they can move to, something that they can have fun with, where as Broadway, I feel, takes a little bit more to think about it, so I’ll do those numbers at smaller venues. And it also depends on the sound system; I know the sound system of every single club. So I know what works, what doesn’t, and what sounds good. What’s going to sound like a Lip Service song, what’s going to sound like a Woman Across The Boulevard song, and so on.
Knowing sound systems is a technical side of drag even I never would have thought of, to be honest. And in West Hollywood, there are dozens of clubs to choose from, each with their own unique demographic and allure.
I’ve only performed there once, but I love Micky’s. I just love the way that, you know the stage isn’t always there, but when you look at the stage it’s like wow they really cater to their drag queens. Micky’s is somewhere that you go and it’s like okay, this show is a show. There’s lights, there’s a camera filming you, action. You know it’s good. The Abbey of course has a beautiful large crowd and there’s an open space that you’re just able to play in. You can go into the crowd if you want, you can go up on the rafters if you like. There’s a stage to play with.
We’ve discussed getting ready and we’ve discussed doing the damn thing, but at the end of the day, all the hard work needs to be washed away. Kalista – if you’re just looking for a reason to hate her – has unnaturally perfect skin, I had to get the inside information about her skincare routine.
It really changes all the time because I’m always finding new things. I’m a product junkie, I try to be very minimalistic but I’m always looking for the next fun, best thing. So I’ve always got new things to try and The Crème Shop gives me a lot of stuff, and I get stuff from another sponsors. So it’s just I have a lot to try, and a lot of stuff to go through. But for the most part I guess, taking my makeup off involves some kind of oil, like olive oil, and then Pond’s Cold Cream wipes. So that’s how I take the makeup off, make sure it’s all off, and then I go in with a double cleanse. Double cleanse with something foamy, and then I have like, seven steps after that. My skincare regimen is super, super strict, and it’s quite long, but I enjoy it. You know it’s something that I love to do because when I’m 40, I want to look 20. I’m that kind of person, so much Peter Pan syndrome.
Now you know her and now you love her as much as I do, so where can you find her?
You can find me every Friday, guaranteed, at Blow Fridays at Penthouse in West Hollywood. Online you can find me @kalistastage anywhere. I’m on Facebook, Instagram and there’s a YouTube as well. I’m working on some other apps, there are some newer apps that developers have sent me, so I’m trying those out right now, seeing how the platform works and if the interface is any good, so stay tuned.
Well, you heard it here, if you want to know more about the shining beauty Kalista Stage, click the links below and follow, follow, follow!