The Academy of Drag
A pair of queens reveals the tricks of the trade
They're quite the royal power couple. Joseph Gutierrez is Miss Pride 2006, a title given to him at the Albuquerque Pride Pageant for his version of Cher. His partner, Adan Branchal, is Mr. Pride 2006, which he won with his considerable singing skills. Both regularly perform in drag at the Albuquerque Mining Company with the troupe Facade and have been practicing the art for about five years.
I sought their expertise on all things drag but found they had some sensible advice for people everywhere: Buy clothes that fit, no matter your size; when you look good, you feel good; decent posture makes any outfit look better. In putting together our drag how-to, the Alibi capitalized on Adan's maxim: If you ask a drag queen her opinion, you're going to get it.
Pick a name: Joseph (Anastasia) and Adan (Arianna) decided on their drag names at the last minute the first time they went out in drag. They've stuck with them, creating a persona attached to their monikers. There are plenty of drag queen name generators online if you're looking for suggestions, from the clownishly sexual (Ivanna Dick) to classy elitism (Shanda Courtesan). Check out gaymart.com or Google “drag queen names” to find them. The name definitely sets the tone for where your queen will dance along the personality spectrum.
The hair: Big hair helps make everything—shoulders, arms and face—look smaller and more delicate. Stock wigs often have to be trimmed and teased into appropriate bigness. Joseph and Adan suggest beginners take their wig to a salon and pay a professional to get it looking good.
The makeup: “Cover Girl covers girls,” says Adan. No matter how close the shave, a man will likely have a fair bit of stubble to cover. Your average pharmacy-bought concealer is not likely to do the trick. Instead, they turn to stage makeup, the pancake variety, to create a smooth face.
Another difference between queens and girls, Adan says, is most women usually do contouring (creating shadows) and highlighting (emphasizing areas with lighter powders) before layering on foundation. Queens highlight and contour after they've applied a thick foundation, in an effort to alter the shape of their face.
Whatever you do, Adan warns, don't go to a woman and ask her to do up your face. You'll look like a boy in makeup, because the process is completely different. Instead, he suggests experimenting in front of a mirror, trying on different faces and attitudes. “It's like drawing a picture, a three-dimensional picture,” Joseph says, and it takes a lot of practice to get it right.
The brow: Men naturally have a lower brow than women, so Joseph and Adan cover theirs with makeup and redraw them on. This helps open up the face and the eye area as well. Eyebrows have a lot to do with the attitude they carry with them to the club, as they can cast a face in sassiness, bitchiness, demureness--whatever.
Lashes: Fake, long eyelashes are a must, Joseph and Adan say. They make your eyes look bigger and will help your mug stand out underneath that enormous wig.
The clothes: At first, Joseph and Adan began looking for drag outfits at women's stores, but that was a mistake. “Women's clothing is made for women,” Adan says. Longer torsos and broader rib-cages meant nothing fit exactly right—a faux pas in the drag world. So they learned to sew and have since made all their stage-wear by hand. “I've probably spent more on drag clothes than on boy clothes,” Joseph says.
Larger queens should not squeeze their frames into teeny clothes. Ill-fitting outfits destroy the illusion. If you're a bigger man, you're going to be a bigger queen. Oftentimes, Adan says, heavier queens can be the most striking.
Shoes: For some reason, shoes seem to get uglier as they get bigger. Most stores carry up to a women’s size 10, maybe an 11. Add two sizes to your male shoe size, and you’ll get roughly what your female shoe size should be. Coming up with a number like 15? Have no fear. Plenty of online stores (drag-queen.com) offer gorgeous footwear in double-digit sizes. And, again, do yourself a favor and get shoes that fit. They'll be more comfortable to wear, and they help preserve your image.
Breasts: This one's pretty straightforward. Stuff a bra. Create the illusion of cleavage with makeup. You can also buy “breast forms,” plastic breasts with nipples that are attached with adhesive, at sites such as janetscloset.com.
Legs: “A lot of drag queens go out and just shave their legs or whatever,” but Joseph has what he calls “skinny chicken legs.” To combat that, he's found a way to build legs, to fill them out under stockings so they appear shapely and thicker. He's gotten so good at it, he can do a Cher impersonation in a thong with manufactured butt, thighs and calves. He won't reveal what material he uses. It's an award-winning secret. Adan says some people use cotton and some use towels stuffed in skin-toned dancer leggings, which are less flimsy and see-through than standard pantyhose for women.
Hips and butt: Building full hips and a female butt can be the most important pieces for completing the illusion, depending on your body type. Few men have the curves naturally. Cotton-stuffing can help you create these parts as well, though they are available online at sites like tranniegear.com.
Waist: A woman's waist is naturally positioned higher on the torso than a man's. Building hips that are higher up on your body will help you create the illusion of long legs and give your waistline altitude.
Experiment and practice: When Anastasia and Arianna first came into being, everything was done for them, and they borrowed most of what they needed to create their queens. Both strongly suggest that if you're serious about drag, begin experimenting—with your face, your body, your clothes—on your own. “You have to learn how to do it yourself,” says Anastasia. That way you have more control over who you're becoming. It's taken years for them to get to where they are, to stop looking like “boys in dresses,” says Arianna.
Posture: Get comfy in your outfit--and make sure you practice walking in those heels. Adan says he has to be mindful of his natural slouch and keep his back straight when in drag.
Take pictures: Anastasia and Arianna have gone through many incarnations. The first couple times you go out, you can't expect to be flawless, they say. Everyone has ugly nights. Documenting your look as you progress will help you figure out what's working and what isn't.
Ask a queen: You need a mother, Adan says. Feel free to mix with the scene and ask a queen what they think of your attempt. It sounds scary, but if you're serious, it's a good way to improve—fast.
The Facade Show with:
Elton John, Diana Ross, Reba McEntire, Cher, Jennifer Lopez and Celine Dion. Friday, June 30, 10 p.m., at the Albuquerque Mining Company. $5.