One of the most influential artists in New York still working today is, without a doubt, Untitled Queen. They have continually perplexed and dazzled us with intense, yet beautiful art and have cemented themselves as a staple in the Brooklyn drag scene! Untitled is a true artist who constantly breaks down barriers with their drag, and while committing to their vision that just gets sharper as time goes on. I got an chance to speak candidly with the queen of “art queens”, as we discuss her brand new digital show experience, Untitled (World), which features queens from all around the world, and what it is like to create a platform that continues to push art and drag into a new sphere, while still making community the focus.
Hello Untitled how are you?!? I’m so excited for this project!
I’m well and I’m so excited to share it.
You have become extremely vocal about ASL needs and issues. What drew you so close to speaking about this community?
I would say I’ve become passionate about accessibility in general, but have had the privilege in the past two years of learning more about the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. I have always loved the beauty of American Sign Language, but what really got me interested in learning more was I took a trip to Rochester, NY two years ago. My drag artist friend Wednesday Westwood booked me to perform at her party What The Frock Fridays, and when I came to their club, Lux Lounge, I was stunned to discover that all of their drag performances were ASL live interpreted. They had a huge amount of Deaf and Hard of Hearing patrons, and I met my first Deaf drag queen and all of her friends were jumping in to interpret and translate a conversation between us. It was incredible, and also eye-opening because seeing all this accessibility, I realized how deficient and non-existent it was in our scenes and spaces in NYC. This started my journey for accessibility as well as meeting my Deaf friend, ASL teacher, and fellow performer Gregor Lopes. I’ve learned so much from him in the past year.
This show is a huge artistic change for you in the way of production. How did it affect your approach in this digital age of drag?
I don’t consider this show a huge artistic change because at the core of it, are the same elements I celebrate on a smaller scale in live shows: local drag, collaborative group shows, DIY aesthetics. For digital programming, the thing that makes it different and special is the fact that the borders of location and time are non-existent. Now we can invite artists from anywhere to share their work with us, and not only rely on an artist visiting or being in town to showcase them. This is an incredible opportunity to expand our communities and learn new things about how drag is created in other places. Digital drag also allowed me to dust off some older skills with video editing and shooting which I did more in art school.
You never really fallen into any trends of drag and really carved out a path that’s honest and true to who you are. How do you stay soulful, yet current?
I think I’ve just stayed true to what I find to be interesting and to go into that with a deep commitment, joy, and process. I think it is also important to stay curious and to be involved with and watching artists from all generations. That is how I try to keep things fresh and to challenge myself.
What was the biggest obstacles you faced producing this project?
The toughest obstacle was finding artists and getting artists to apply. I thought with an open call that I would receive hundreds of applications without having to actually research and personally reach out, but this turned out not to be true. When I started to research and direct message artists I found on instagram, many of them had never been in a digital drag show and had never heard of me, so they were wary of what the open call was about. Also there are about 72 countries that criminalize being LGBTQIA+ so that’s close to half of the world’s countries. That meant for many artists, they were not public with their practice because of fear of being jailed, hurt, punished, ostracized. Africa I managed to find Belinda QaQamba Ka-Fassie, our amazing representative for South Africa. But I was not able to find anyone else for almost an entire continent. This was a similar dark story in much of my research. However, it made the work from artists from these countries all the more impressive because in the face of such hatred, they create wondrous works of resilience. I was awe struck by them.
You have become one of the most prolific fixtures in the New York scene. Watching what has happened this year with nightlife, what are your hopes for the future?
I hope nightlife continues with the fight towards equity. Meaning accessibility, anti-racism, representation. I also hope that when we return we can talk more openly about mental and physical health, and examine the culture of self-destruction that is implied as part of a rite of passage, i.e. addiction, burn out, self-negligence.
You have a lot of young queer artists who look up to you. What would you say to someone who is having trouble with get it recognized?
This is a hard question, because I understand the feeling of wanting to be included, wanted, approved of within a community. I would say to open your mind. See that you can define your own standards of success, that are far more wide-ranging and interesting than what has been laid out before. I also think searching for recognition is a trap. So many artists try to “brand” “fit to print”, and dilute themselves. I absolutely loathe homogeneity and being watered down. Being true to your interests is the best advice in terms of that I could ever give. My best friend Lucy Balls has said, “give yourself more credit” (to artists like that). You’re creative and imaginative. You don’t need to carbon copy or be like everybody else.
Catch The 1st global LGBTQIA+ Digital Drag Show, DEC 5, 2020, 5PM EDT, HERE. 47 Drag artists each representing 1 country. DJ @jesssamess Open-Captioned. For World AIDS Day we are benefitting: @healthgap @hivlegalnetwork @positivewomensnetworkusa
For more information on Untitled Queen, check out their website.
Dévo Monique moved from Richmond, Virginia, to Brooklyn in 2017. Devo brings her extensive dance training to every performance and is a host with an irreverent sense of humor. Devo campaigns for inclusivity and sexual liberation through her expressive and challenging routines. The club kid in a pageant wig – she regularly performs at beloved venues like The Rosemont, Pieces, and Metropolitan. Follow Dévo Monique on Instagram here and on Facebook here!