This article originally appeared on VICE Switzerland.
Tristan Eckert has an enviable sort of walk-in closet—his entire guest room is dedicated to clothing. Not for him, but for his drag alter-ago Ennia Face. The 38-year-old keeps his extensive collection of expensive wigs, tights, corsets, and high heels here—everything he needs to perform as Ms. Face in nightclubs across Zurich. "When I have people over and they wander into my drag room, they often think they've ended up in a toy store."
His act isn't just limited to the club circuit. Ennia Face can also be booked for private events—like an upcoming 50 birthday party where she'll be serving cocktails while on roller skates. I met up with Eckert during his lunch break from his day job—dressing mannequins in a retail store—to find out what he loves most about being Ms. Face, what his parents think of his hobby, and whether tucking in your penis for hours hurts or not.
VICE: How much do you charge for an event?
Tristan: My costume is very expensive, so it's not really worth it for me to get into drag for anything less than $190. Still, I invest pretty much everything I earn in my wardrobe—with the wig, makeup, shoes, corset, gown, underwear, and stockings together, my attire for an evening is worth at least $600 to $1000.
Isn't the kind of drag you're doing just a caricature of women?
Well, in order for me to put on a show, my act needs to be completely over-the-top. And I'm trying to create the illusion while some masculine features of my body are working against me—like my broad shoulders and my less than slender legs. Originally, drag might have started as a play on female beauty standards, but the aesthetic has developed so much over the years that it stands on its own as an entertainment form. And there are female drag queens too.
What do your parents think of Ennia Face?
I'm not completely sure because we haven't spoken about my hobby for a very long time. But I'm in a Swiss TV commercial in drag, and I do know that whenever it comes on while one of them is watching, they'll yell at the other to come watch. Which is very cute. They've actually never seen me perform live—but it would be a bit uncomfortable for a couple of 70-year-olds to be hanging out in a techno club.
Have you always loved performing?
Yes—but it's not something I've always been given the chance to do. In school, we weren't really encouraged to explore our artistic abilities. If you had any sort of creative talent, you had to develop it in your spare time. The enjoyment I got as a kid from choir, theater, and music club is the same pleasure I get now from performing in drag.
Do you feel more comfortable in drag?
In a way, yes. Being in drag under the bright lights of a club is so much fun, but I try to make sure that I feel just as good about myself when I'm sitting in front of the TV without any makeup on. Like most teenagers, I went through that universal experience of feeling ugly and without a place in the world when I was growing up. But now that I understand more about life, I see how important it is to be comfortable with who you are.
How do you deal with your body hair?
Luckily, I have very little hair. But I use the old trick of wearing four pairs of tights over each other to hide the leg hair I do have. The first layer is an opaque pink for color balance, the second two resemble my skin color, and the fourth is a sheen pair. That combination makes my legs look smooth and taut, just like a mannequin.
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Do people you perform for ever treat you like a sex object?
Yes, but I know how to look after myself. I'm so used to drunks trying to grope me that when it happens, I just stay calm and defuse the situation by joking that it'll cost extra. I personally don't associate drag with anything sexual, so I would never seriously encourage it.
Does tucking in your penis hurt?
No. Thankfully, Mother Nature made it fairly easy for men to hide their penis. So much so that I'm pretty sure that every dude has tucked their penis in at some point in their life, and squeezed their thighs together just to see what they'd look like without one.
My personal method is pretty simple: After I pull on those four pairs of tights, I grab my whole package and push it in place, back there. Those layers of nylon provide all the support I need. I do have to be careful when I sit down, though.
How do you go to the bathroom when you're in drag?
Yeah that's pretty tricky. Usually, when I'm in drag, I'll only do shots so that I go less often. But if I absolutely have to go, then, depending on the outfit, I'll take a 45-minute break. That's about how long it takes to get everything undone, unbound, and untucked.
What quality does your drag persona have that you wish you had in your life?
Ennia Face finds it easier to talk to strangers, and people seem to naturally gravitate toward her. There's also something about wearing high heels and a corset that allows you to move so gracefully, and just makes you feel so confident.