Dinner plans were unexpectedly changed and I had about an hour and a half to wait before we went out. I decided to kill the extra time by calling the phone company to ask a few questions about my bill. After answering all of the automated droid’s questions, I was put on hold and told it would be more than 10 minutes until I spoke to a real person. I put the phone on speaker, because holding it to my ear the whole time would mean I’d actually have to listen to her cold, robotic reassurance that “your call is important to us”, and hopped over to YouTube to check out a song that had been bouncing around my head. However, the internet connection began to come undone entirely and set the icon that indicates computer thought in an endless spin. The uncomfortable tightness in my solar plexus that happens when I don’t get what I want began a-squeezin’. Everything came to a grinding halt and I was totally having a Matrix experience. I consider myself a very patient person, but I had reached my waiting limit.
And then, my mental light bulb went on. I recognized this feeling of being on hold with seemingly no way out, this moment of arrest, of seizure, of complete imprisonment. This is the same uncomfortable sensory response my body produces when I am experiencing fear. I have battled fear in many parts of my life, but lately most of the fear is centered around my music, my drag and my art. Sometimes I feel completely surrounded like I’m being hunted and my confidence, success and positivity are the prey. But the question is: who is doing the hunting? Just who is my predator?
I love red hair. Period. Despite what the title might suggest, there will be no distractions to mislead you to any other conclusions. I made the fall I am wearing in the above photo a week ago. Although the materials sat lonely on my basement table for a couple weeks before I paid them any attention, I now never want to put her down! I think I’ll call her Maraschino (pronounced the Italian way, marr-uh-skee-noh, of course) for completely obvious reasons.
Perhaps the fact that less than 3% of the world has natural red hair makes it more appealing to me, but the shades that don’t grow naturally from human follicles are what I live for. Don’t get me wrong, the fiery manes of Ireland and Scotland are beautiful and I certainly wouldn’t kick a wig like that out of my bag. But, when I am in hair town surrounded by racks upon racks of variously hued crimson tresses, I reach for the unnatural every time.
I have dyed my own natural hair every color of the rainbow. My ventures into the world of reds required a bit of lightening and sometimes additional pigmentation. If I used Sun-In (remember that product from the 1990’s) a few times during the summer my hair became a dazzling copper. Soaking my hair in peroxide gave me a mellow chestnut brown with auburn highlights. One day I made a magical discovery. I mixed a packet of cherry Kool-Aid into my peroxide soak and EUREKA! It was awesome! I couldn’t tell you how I thought that concoction up, but it worked so well I repeated it again and again. I probably wouldn’t do it now, because there are much harsher chemicals available at hair town that work much better, but for a bored teenager in a small town it was perfect.
I sit center stage on a high, black lacquered stool in a puddle of soft blueish white light. My deep black finger waves glisten as I roll my head back with the high note of a melancholy melody. You can just see the stiletto’d foot of my crossed leg peeking out from the cascade of sequins of my floor length dress. A very pretty man at a baby grand plays to my right, an intellectual drummer keeps smooth time at my back and a tall upright bassist to my left punctuates the air with long wave exclamation points.
The room is dark and smoky, and from stage the flickering of candles around the room look like fallen stars that refuse to stop twinkling. Swaying folks dressed to the absolute 9’s stir the air with their shoulders. They sip on expensive cocktails while murmuring bits of conversation in each others ear. Servers swim elegantly through the sea of tables balancing liquid and glass works of art on little round trays.
People reserve tickets months in advance for a table at my show. Celebrities, politicians, and social icons come not just to be seen, but to be seen grooving to my newest jams. If you don’t “know somebody”, you get sat at a booth around the perimeter of the room where the sight lines are perfect for watching how much the people in the choice seats are enjoying my performance.
Standing room only jazzers at the back bar keep the tenders shaking ice like auxiliary percussionists I didn’t hire. Around the corner in a curtain lined hallway there is a bouncer sitting with a hard-nosed hostess. She just may have the hardest job of the night with the responsibility of telling the line of walk-in’s who are hoping to get into the packed-to-the-gills venue that the next available table has more than a 45 minute wait. And yet, they wait… their musical appetites whet by the pieces of a refrain that drift by in the wake of a passing bus boy.
Photo shoot days are so much fun! In this one, I was living a 1970’s urban disco fantasy. You can’t tell from the photos, but the gold outfit I’m wearing is a V-neck sequin jumpsuit with a super wide belt. I love it! I’m totally making another one in black with extra big shoulder pads!
As much as I like to think I am when I get in front of the camera, I am not a supermodel. Amongst the many awkward faced and eyes half shut pictures that inevitably get caught by the shutter, there are 4 reliable poses that I hit at every shoot.
1.) Side Eye
It’s flirty without being overly sexy. It’s playful but not crazy. It’s mysterious but not serious. Most of the time it happens because something shiny has entered my field of vision.
2.) CoverGirl Laugh
Easy breezy! I’m sure Tyra Banks wouldn’t approve, but I like it. I can easily get caught up in all serious non-smiling poses and that’s just boring. It could easily also be an advert for Virginia Slims or Dentyne Gum.
3.) Straight-On Botox Face
There is no better way to get to know the angles of your face than staring in the mirror and making your face as blank as possible. It makes you aware of even the slightest facial muscle movements and also forces you to focus on your eyes. And isn’t that what all the haute couture girls do? Instant editorial.
4.) Half Profile
When I want to show off my cheek bones there is only one way to go. It’s a swift pop of the right shoulder with a left head tilt. Bam! These mammoth gold hoop earrings are from the Basketball Wives collection and they did not make this one easy, but I pushed through like a pro and got the shot.
I don’t know about you, but I am totally the kind of person who sometimes casually glances into windows when I walk by a house. Not in a creepy way. It’s not like I stop and cup my hand at my brow with my nose pressed to the glass, it’s just a turn of the head and keep on going. You know? I’m just curious to see how other people live. Besides, I kinda feel that if you have your drapes open at night with all the lights on then you don’t mind people occasionally glancing in at you. As a general rule in my house, unless its Christmas and I want you to see the lights on my Christmas tree, the drapes get closed when the sun goes down. I could never understand how some can live without any kind of curtains in the windows at all. Maybe that’s because as a kid we always had something up at every window. My mother would even hang a flat sheet in the window if for some reason there weren’t any curtains up (like when they were in the laundry or we had just moved).
I also look at other people out in public and try to guess (to myself, of course) what they’re thinking, what emotions they are feeling, where they are going, what music their listening to or even what their name is. You’d be surprised how much you can read in a persons eyes as they speed walk by you.
What do passersby see when they look into my eyes? Is it a never ending list of things I have to do? Is it a slideshow of some past performance? Is it a parade of wig heads with hairpieces I want to make? Is it happiness or melancholia? Kindness or a resting bitch? Gratitude or thoughtlessness? Can they tell when I’m listening to Fantasia or Purcell or a recording I just made?
Oh, yeah, I’m certain it’s easy to tell when I’m listening to Fantasia (whether I’m mouthing the words or not)! Overall, I think it’s very easy to know what’s going on behind my eyes. Whether you are talking to me or passing me on the street, you can immediately tell that my “drapes” are way, way…..WAY open. I tend to be too open, too trusting. I’m also a terrible liar. My closest friends know that if you want to know how I really feel about something just look real closely at my face. My eyes give it away every time.
I never really liked my eyes because they are so dark, like unchanging puddles of ink. I have always wanted some kind of color in them, any color. I can’t tell you how many pairs of baby blue, jade green, wolf grey or honey hazel contacts I have purchased over the years: Drapes. And when it comes to sun glasses, I like them big and jet black: Drapes.
I remember my first stiletto like I remember my alter ego’s childhood Easter outfits. I had shopped around for weeks trying to find exactly the right style and color. When I finally got them, I would stare at them in the closet and just couldn’t wait to step out in my fly new gear.
I was 24 years old and had only been dragging for about 1 year. Up until that point I had 1 pair of brown boots and 1 pair of black lace up platform boots that I wore with EVERYTHING! They were the largest of their sizes on a sale rack at Payless – no shame. But, at that time, I was discovering drag all by myself. I wouldn’t have drag mother for a while after that and my aesthetic was focused on looking “real”. The idea of “drag spectacular” wasn’t even on my radar.
When I decided that I needed to upgrade my shoe collection, naturally I went online. I searched for extra large shoes and stumbled on a website geared to strippers. I was done. I had never seen shoes like these before and no one was gonna tell me I couldn’t have them. There were kitten heals, high heals, high-high heels, stiletto’s, mules, sling-backs, vintage, platform, boots and pumps in every material, color and variation you can imagine. My mind was blown. I was like a kid staring at the world largest Easter basket full of candy.
After days of deliberation, I finally picked out the shoes that would be my very first pair of stiletto heels. They were black lacquer, lucite and clear pvc mules. They featured a 2-inch platform in the front and a 5 inch gold heel that was crowned by a ring of red crystals. And, I paid full price! My first performance in them was a lip-sync number to Queen Latifah’s version of “Lush Life”. You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t hot as Hades when I hit the stage in them. Hindsight, however, being what it is, they were the tackiest kicks I could have strapped to my feet. If I were to come across them now I wouldn’t buy if they were free, but I will always think of them fondly.
So, it’s winter and leaving the house is painful. I actually can’t complain too much because here in Philly winter has been quite mild this year. We got dumped on with 2 feet of snow for 1 weekend, and then it all melted. If that’s the extent of the cold stuff, I’m a very happy girl. Still, I don’t like going outside when it’s cold. Winter sports are not my thing, unless I can watch them from my living room with a tall, hot, chocolatey beverage.
What the winter is good for is brainstorming. Being in the house so much gives me a chance to acknowledge and sit with every passing thought I might have. So many other times of the year my schedule is extremely busy and I just can’t think extensively about anything other than the project I am working on at that time. I spend lots of time crawling around my favorite inspiration generating website (vogue.com), I listen to and try on lots new music, and I write. Its like putting my ideas in an incubator to be nurtured, allow them to develop without interference, and let them hatch when the time is right.
This year, the heat in my head must have been turned up a little bit because ideas were growing like mad and I just can’t wait to share a few of them with you:
For the spring, I’m developing a “story-telling” salon called Under the Covers with Cookie, a one woman show based on the life and works of a LEGENDARY singer (sorry, not ready to reveal that one yet. hee-hee!) for the fall, and a Christmas show! There’s a lot of work to be done, but I’m really excited about it and have gotten many green lights already. Keep an eye out for my future adverts and if you are in the Philly area, come check one or all of them out!
One thing I can share with you immediately is the above featured image that I took this week while I was shooting a video and trying out some new music for Under the Covers with Cookie. Hope you like it 🙂