The internet is a magical and disgusting place. I have met a lot of people from the internet for a lot of different reasons. Some people I have no intention of ever meeting, but still like to know exactly what they're up to at every moment of the day or night. Most of these people are drag queens.
Instagram is how I ended up meeting two of Florida's most impressive and trashiest drag queens. In 2015, I had an art show called Pink Elephants, which featured drawings of homoerotic, anthropomorphic elephants. I had posted some of the drawings on my Instagram, and one day got a DM out of nowhere that said "I am getting one of your drawings tattooed on me tomorrow."
It didn't say which drawing, and wasn't even exactly asking permission (which is what people sometimes do). It just stated it as a fact. It turned out it was one of my naked elephants, and it was tattooed right above the ass of drag queen Lisa Limbaugh. She and her drag sister, Rubber Child, really helped snowball my fixation on the internet drag scene.
I've always been a big fan of drag, but now I basically only follow drag queens (and pigeons) on Instagram. Honestly, I think drag performers are the most talented and innovative contemporary artists working. They consistently inspire me and push both visual and performative boundaries in so many unique ways. My feed is just continuous chain of insane makeup and wigs and costumes. When people complain about their friends posting pictures of their food I sincerely can't relate. Why would you put yourself through that?
RuPaul's Drag Race has inspired an entire generation of queer youth to try their hand at drag. This is great because drag functions as a conduit of self-discovery for a lot of queer people. Becoming someone else in order to find out who you really are is a really powerful thing. Watching someone's growth through online platforms like Instagram is a weirdly voyeuristic journey that can make you feel more personally connected to someone than you actually are (READ: stalker).
The internet is how a lot of queens get recognition and attention. Like I said earlier, I follow like a million queens on Instagram, and it's honestly a really deep wormhole to fall into that you'll never ever escape from (but do it). Both Rubber and Lisa have built a big online fanbase. The exposure you can get yourself online obviously doesn't compare with being a contestant on a popular TV show, but it works.
Drag is a competitive. In a lot of ways, I am happy I observe it from the outside, rather than as a participant. Queens can be cutthroat. Of course there's a sense of community behind it, and its positive qualities will always outweigh its flaws. Being a full-time drag queen takes a fuck of a lot of dedication and perseverance. Watching their hustle is inspiring in itself.
Anyway, since that tattoo a couple years ago, I've gotten close with Lisa and her drag sister, best friend, roommate, and cancerous mole, Rubber Child. Is there a description of when you're friends with someone but you also stan them hard online? I'm whatever that is.
Rubber and Lisa live in Florida, but get booked to perform in other cities. I went over to Portland last week to watch their show, catch up, and ask them about their thoughts on drag and the internet.
VICE: Do politics impact your drag lives? Do you feel the need to be louder in Trump's America? Do you think drag is still a form of subversion and protest of heteronormative society?
Lisa Limbaugh: I feel like politics aren't directly involved in my drag life, but they affect my overall life as a drag queen. Politics lately have been setting a different mood in the air in gay clubs and bars. A lot of progress has been made in the past four years that has allowed drag to flourish, and now there's this new fear that all of that could end. I definitely feel like I could, and sometimes should, be louder, given the platform that I have. But it's not something I talk about much on social media. Yes, I think drag is a form of subversion, although it doesn't have to be if that's not what you want to make your drag about. But yes, I think it's in protest, or at least poking fun at heteronormative society.
Rubber Child: Politics totally impact drag, as well as anyone's life, whether they are part of the LGBT community or not. Every single person in America is affected and everyone is kind of going to get fucked over in one way or another. I don't really feel the need to be louder in Trump's America, though, because getting into a screaming match really doesn't accomplish anything with anyone ever, it just makes you look like a toddler, which he does a good enough job doing himself. I feel like drag queens have always kind of been in the forefront of politics regarding issues that are affecting us in our community, so I definitely still think we need to use our voices, we just need to use them in the right way. Drag has become so mainstream now, more than it's ever been before, so we really need to take the opportunities to really educate younger people and even older people that may be confused or misunderstood about their political stance, or what people in political power actually stand for.
I remember you two were booked to perform at Pulse two days after the shooting happened. Did having something so horrific happen so close to your lives affect you?
LL: Yeah, it was wild! It left this weird sense of emptiness knowing that we very well could have been there that night. Like you're faced with your own mortality in a way. Also, I'm friends with a bunch of people in Orlando, and it was terrifying not knowing who was safe when I woke up that morning and heard about everything. My mom called me crying because she didn't know if Rubber and I were already there. The whole situation is still terrifying.
RC: That totally affected our lives. It was one of the largest shootings ever, and for it to happen in our community and so close to home really shook everyone. A lot of us were scared to even go out to the club for the next few weeks, because how the fuck are we supposed to feel comfortable standing on stage after something like that? I mean, obviously as time passes, you can't let it ruin your life, but whether you knew someone or not, you were so, so deeply affected, because it really could have happened anywhere, at anytime, to any of us.
What's really fucked up is I think a lot of celebrities didn't give it the attention that it needed, because it didn't directly affect them. They were just an "ally" which sounds fucked up to put in quotes, but I mean a lot of people kept their mouth shut. Like Nicki Minaj, who's got a huge gay fan base. Don't get me wrong, I fucking love Nicki, but bitch should have said something.
I know you have a lot of underage fans. Do you consider yourselves role models, and do you ever censor yourselves because of it?
LL: I love my fans so much. I totally consider myself a role model! People are always sending fan art and makeup they did that was inspired by mine, which is so bomb and makes me feel so proud. I don't really censor myself at all, but I don't feel like I need to. If I were to censor myself online I don't think anybody would really be able to get to know me through social media.
RC: Fuck no, I don't consider myself a role model, period. I understand that a lot of kids do look up to me, but if I was to censor myself and change parts of my drive or my personality, then they really wouldn't be looking up to a real person, they would be looking up to a character, and they can fucking watch TV for that. I feel like a lot of people like us because we are real… in drag and out of drag, we are the same in people who we are on the internet. Plus, if I was to censor myself I pretty much be stripped down to nothing. No pun intended because I'm usually naked anyway.
Drag is as much a community as it is a bloodsport. Why do you think drag is so competitive?
LL: Drag is so competitive because it's performance art. Like it's entertainment happening in real time (in the clerb and on social media) and there is just so much passion there that it naturally makes it competitive.
RC: I think drag so competitive is because people take it so fucking seriously, and don't give me wrong, it's totally serious, and I take it seriously, but you have to kind of step back every now and then and realize you're not really fucking curing a disease. You're making people laugh, having the time, and you're there to party. I am at least. And a lot of times people see it as some sort of success… whether it be a pageant title, or a TV show, or getting to travel… anything. And if it's not happening to them, they think, "what does that bitch have that makes that happen for her and not me?" Like I don't know, just fucking lucky I guess. Not really, I work hard for things that I have, and I work hard to get places and do certain things, and I'm not gonna let somebody make me feel bad for working hard.
What are your ideal end goals for what you do?
LL: I'd like to be able to have drag be my full-time job. Like it would be so much fun to travel around everywhere doing shows and meeting people! And to sound deep, I don't want there to be an end goal! I want the progress to keep on flowing.
RC: Ideally, I would live in a tiny house community full of drag queens with underground tunnels that connect, and we have a giant warehouse of clothes at our disposal that only I'm granted access to. But really, I think it would be cool, and I've been talking with a bunch of my friends and saying this forever, that it would be awesome to do a mini drag tour of girls that haven't had the opportunity to be on the show. Like there's still so many unrecognized girls that are fucking amazing performers and have amazing looks that don't have the platform that some girls have, and don't do anything with it. So I think it would be cool just got a bunch of us together and get to travel to different cities on like a bus, and just show a bunch of people around the country that we're cool.
The girls' Portland show was great. A couple of highlights were Lisa singing Kiss Me , while also opening a can of tuna and spewing it all over herself. Rubber glided around the stage in one of her numbers, handing out straws and little baggies of glitter off of a silver serving platter. Back in their hotel that night, I ask if they do as many drugs as they [post] about online. Laughing, Rubber shouts, "We've never done meth on purpose! Make sure you put that in the article!"
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Photos by RAKEEM