Are you thinking “Don’t you mean Drag King?” or “But I thought drag was people dressing as the opposite gender?” That’s what I always thought, too! But drag goes much deeper than people of one gender dressing as the other while lip syncing to Madonna.
Today, female drag queen Brandi Amara Skyy is sharing her story.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Howdy Yes & Yes-ers!! I’m Brandi and I’m a writer and drag artist who mentors creative peeps on how to do things that have never been done (or they’ve never done) before! I’m originally from Corpus Christi, TX but I’ve made Dallas my home for the past 10 years – and I love it!
I’m OBSESSED with rhinestones, Lisa Frank, Miss Piggy, astrology, EOS lip balm, my partner of seven years, and our three fur babies. When I’m not neck deep in glitter, I love traveling (cruising is the BEST!) and sipping on craft cocktails. Chartreuse? Yes, please!
For those of us who don’t know, what is ‘drag’?
Drag has been traditionally known and defined as a performance of gender opposites: men dressing as women, women dressing as men.
However, I believe that drag isn’t about gender at all; it’s about the art of queer expression. It’s a way for queer individuals to express their queerness in a very queer way. Defining drag as a performance of gender is like trying to define a unicorn as a just horse with a horn.
The magic, the colors and rainbows, the queerness gets lost in translation and so does the potential to be not only who you want to be but, more importantly, who you already are.
Most of us associate drag with people of one gender dressing and performing as another gender. How is what you do different?
It’s not different, really. It’s all drag. Drag is the umbrella term, kinda like ‘book.’ Within the term ‘book’ you have a plethora of different subgenres: fiction, young adult, erotica, personal essay – but they’re all still books.
Drag is the same thing. Within drag you have all these different sub genres: drag queen, drag king, faux queen, diva, misters, draglesque, genderf*ck – but it’s all still drag.
Where I do feel a different is onstage. My goal when I perform is to take you on a journey, to bring you into my wonderland, and make you feel something so intense that you completely forget about my gender and you just experience the art of drag in its most authentic form – expression.
How did you get into this?
I was born this way 😉 SERIOUSLY!!
I always tell people I came out my mother’s womb a queen because I really feel like i did! But it wasn’t until I snuck into my first gay bar, UBU, and saw my first queen (Aaron Davis – she did back-hand springs in 6” stilettos!!!) that I saw how that feeling could potentially manifest physically for me.
I became really good friends with Aaron and she introduced me to this wonderland of drag; I was 16. I’ve been involved in the art ever since! But it was the early 2000’s that I dove head first into performing it. First back-up dancing for drag pageants and finally taking center stage as Brandi Amara Skyy in 2006.
When you first started performing, how did more the ‘traditional’ drag performers react to you?
There was slight resistance by some who fell into the more drag traditionalist camp, but not a lot.
The one that sticks out and I wrote about in my book was when I came in first runner-up in a charity drag pageant. A queen went up to my drag mother and said she was SOOO HAPPY that a real drag queen had won because she didn’t want a ‘real’ girl to be crowned.
Every once in a blue moon, I’ll be approached by someone who tells me what I do isn’t drag. Their mind is usually changed once they’ve experienced me onstage 🙂
How is what you’re doing different than just putting on a lot of makeup and a wig and lip syncing?
It’s the subtle but BIG difference between the Halloween queen – a onetime dragster who throws on any old wig, dress, and heels and calls it drag – and someone for whom drag is their chosen medium of self-expression.
For the Halloween dragsters, there’s no thought. There’s just this person in a whole lot of makeup, a wig, and dress. There’s no effort. There’s no connections. There’s no transformation.
For me there’s both an internal and external transformation that happens. Externally, there’s about two hours and a shit ton of makeup to turn me into Mz. Skyy. Internally, there’s a shift from me into art. It’s literally an intentionality I can feel. It’s a conscious curation of my body, my mug, my entire being turning into art.
How much preparation goes into an average performance?
More than I like to admit, lol.
I do everything myself – designing, sewing, music mixing. Depending on the extravagance and experience I want to create, it can take any where from a couple of weeks (if I have everything I need) to a year. My perfect scoring Diva USofA talent number took me about 10 months to create.
I do save time because I don’t choreograph (save for pageant talents). Everything I do onstage is improv.
Do you have a performance persona? How are you different when you’re in drag than when you’re Brandi?
I made the very conscious decision to keep my given name, Brandi, as my drag first name. There’s a power in being able to claim and access both energy sets: the queen and the day me in all areas of my life – i mean who couldn’t use a little queen power when trying to navigate the world, right?!?!!
I think the biggest difference between Brandi and Brandi Amara Skyy is what happens onstage. Onstage, I’m an entirely different person. Sometimes I get offstage and i have no idea what I just did. That experience and performance is Brandi Amara Skyy. Offstage I’m very much still the goober me – just a more shiny, hyper-art version of myself.
What beauty products do you swear by on-stage?
- Urban Decay Eye shadow Primer – A MUST if you want true-to-palette eyes hadow color.
- A good black eyeshadow. Right now I’m using Mac’s Carbon, but I’m switching to Urban Decay’s Blackout because I’m cruelty free queen and Mac isn’t 🙁
- Glitter – because, duh 🙂 Here’s a quick tip for glitter application: hairspray. I spray a little hairspray on my finger, dip it in glitter, and apply to my eyelid or wherever else I want to shine!
- Ben Nye banana powder – this really is the holy grail of highlighting powder for ALL skin tones.
Has your drag work affected or influenced your off-stage life?
100 million times yes! From writing to coaching to my personal style, there is not an area in my life that drag has NOT touched – and I like it that way.
Drag has helped me realize that i didn’t need other people’s permission to claim my queendom or to show me my own power, or how to be, think, and live like I queen, I already was one. And so are you 🙂
What have you learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives?
If you want something bad enough, you’ll make it happen. A lot of people told me that I ‘couldn’t be a drag queen’ because I was born a woman. But I had big dreams and even bigger ganas (a Mexican slang word means guts). They told me it was impossible.
What they didn’t know was that I’m in the business of making the impossible, possible. They thought I wouldn’t succeed because the road is easier to tread when the traction of others is already there. But I forged ahead anyway.
And so can you – IF you want it bad enough.Don’t let ANYTHING – semantics, gender, money, your family (mine are born again Christians of the Evangelical denomination) – get in the way. If you want it bad enough and then do the work required to become it, you can be it.
Because if this little 5’0 queer can become a bonafide drag pageant queen (I was crowned the first ever Miss Diva USofA in 2014) . . . GRRRL, you can be, do, create ANYTHING you put your mind, heart, and a little glitter to!
Slay the children by claiming the art in you. And then do it! Dare to be the queen you already are 😉
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Brandi! Do you guys have any questions for her?