Queen of the Universe remains a competition uniquely their own, and that is in no small part due to the eclectic and sickeningly talented contestants. Coming direct from the San Francisco drag scene, Scunt brings a theater pedigree to the Queen of the Universe stage (Scunt portrayed the famed role of Angel in Rent on stage). I jumped on the phone to chat with Militia about her Queen of the Universe experience, the judges panel (and who might have intimidated her the most) and why to her, writing remains “one of the most beautiful arts ever”.
Michael Cook: Doing drag in front of an international audience could be daunting enough, but then when you add in singing live, it’s definitely a lofty goal; how did you decide to audition for Queen of the Universe Season 2?
Militia Scunt: Well, I have been auditioning for television shows since I was about eighteen. I was obsessed with American Idol, all of the shows that were huge in the early 00’s. As soon as I could, I was auditioning. I had auditioned for any show that you could think of, The X-Factor, America’s Got Talent, American Idol, The Voice, hundreds of times! Drag Race came out, so then I started doing drag. Then this show came out and it was like “Oh, I guess this is the most obvious one that is next for me”!
MC: You are from the San Francisco drag scene; what is the scene from that area like from you perspective? If I recall, Rock M. Sakura from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12 is from that area, correct?
MS: Yes, I actually gave Rock M. one of her first gigs in the bay before she moved to San Francisco, she’s from San Jose. My scene, when I came up, I was a bearded queen and I am part of the Haus of Towers. We were more the gender fuck style of drag that RuPaul actually started doing back in the day. We were more so than he was, we had beards, body hair, all that stuff. So the Towers are related to the Moore’s which is also a big drag haus out there. So I just ebbed and flowed and did whatever I wanted. That is part of the beauty of San Francisco, you can be campy and kooky or we have internationally known pageant queens, so I was able to do whatever I wanted, you know?
MC: When did you realize that you had the superpower of both drag and live singing and that you wanted to layer live singing in with your drag?
MS: I knew that I could sing since I was ten, my family is musical and I grew up singing; I always knew that I was going to be a singer. When drag came around for me, I ended up doing it for an assignment in college. They didn’t have anyone that sang, so I had to audition and ended up doing it; I played Angel in Rent. I got that role and then watched Drag Race for the first time as a character study and then thought “I want to do this” so I just started doing it.
When singing came in, that was a couple years later. I didn’t think you were really “allowed” to do that. I was just tired of not having a stage to sing one for a while and I forced people to listen to me at the bar; and it was a hit!
MC: No spoilers, but what do you think one of your favorite or most enjoyable parts of the Queen of the Universe experience was?
MS: Honestly, I feel like it is cliche to say “the girls” but…I am staunchly independent, especially when it comes to competition; I am very focused on myself. When you are forced into this weird pressure cooker and there are all of these twists and turns, you end up trauma bonding (laughs); the friendships have been really great. Beyond that, just the first time on stage…like I said, it was been like ten years since I’ve been on stage like this, so the first time it happened it was so weird and out of body. So yeah…I am always going to remember that feeling.
MC: The judges on Queen of the Universe are titans in the music industry and all bring something different to the table. Were there any that you found yourself terribly intimidated by?
MS: In terms of reputation, obviously Michelle (Visage) has a bit of a harsher reputation, but I knew that Mel B could be a little curt too from seeing her judge. I had met Trixie (Mattel) before in passing, so I wasn’t too worried about her. I was actually the most worried about Vanessa Williams. She is as sweet as can be, but she is an iconic figure to specifically black people in the States; that is Miss America!I It was wild, to be in the same room with her; it was just insane to me.
MC: Where does the absolutely brilliant drag name Milita Scunt come from?
MS: Thank you, I actually have some friends who didn’t get it for years (laughs)! Number one, my family has a super long history of military service. I am not the biggest fan of the military, but I felt like it was a big part of growing up, so militia comes from that.
When I first started, even getting the role in Rent, people didn’t like that I was winning things and getting things so they started calling me a “cunt”. Then when I was starting drag, Maleficent, which is my favorite Disney villain, that movie was just coming out and I was thinking how I could mix all of these things together; ba ba boom-Militia Scunt!
MC: Let’s manifest a bit. You’ve performed as Angel in Rent, so you might have the itch to do a little performing. Are there any productions that you think you would want to perform in yourself?
MS: You know, funny enough, I don’t know if I have the itch. It was fun and I do appreciate Broadway, but there is something about it that doesn’t really satisfy me artificially. I love to go and watch, but I think I would rather write music all day than actually perform the musical. If I had to choose anything, it’s The Lion King hands down. The grandeur of that show is insane. It is one of the few shows that I have seen and I was amazed.
MC: What do you think it is about writing music that really gives you the itch?
MS: Growing up in the late 90’s/early 2000’s there was good music but what was on the radio was all pop, all bubblegum, very Britney Spears/“I Want It That Way” type of vibe. Nothing really resonated really to me being a little Blexican from the hood. It wasnt until I discovered jazz and artists like Amy Winehouse and all of these amazing and well written songs that I started to feel seen. I understood my type of music. Writing has always been a huge integral part of my love of music. The second that I found hat, I have been writing ever since. I think writing is one of the most beautiful arts ever.
MC: You hit on something so important when you said ”You finally felt seen” when you stumbled on jazz music. What about that music made you feel represented and what made you feel seen?
MS: First, my introduction into jazz and that genre was Billie Holiday. We didn’t have any big artists like that who the spoke about the black experience in music at that time, so that was huge for me. The music isn’t always about trying to find the hot guy, having a good time, or partying with your friends, that just wasn’t my experience growing up. Where I grew up, there was a lot more..different sides of life. So even if you’re not talking to the person, it feels like you have someone to talk to or share that experience with; it’s like therapy.
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