Home » Celebrating ‘Legends’ Who Catwalk Among Us

Celebrating ‘Legends’ Who Catwalk Among Us

The idea came to Harry James Hanson and Devin Antheus, while both attended the “church” – their words to describe a drag show.

This special performance took place in December 2017, on the eve of the winter solstice, at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, a beloved queer diving bar in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. The two, who are both now 32, were hit that night by the age of the artists, which they guessed at an average of around 60.

Wisconsin natives and friends, since they met on Myspace when they were both 14, Mr. Antheus and Mx. Hanson, who uses a gender-neutral courtesy title and pronouns, “had a lack of queer seniors growing up,” Mx. said Hanson.

Seeing the queens perform in Aunt Charlie’s Lounge planted a seed in Mx’s head. Hanson, a photographer, creative director and drag artist in Brooklyn, and Mr. Antheus, a floral designer and writer in San Francisco: to highlight drag elders in a publication that, like Mx. Hanson said it, “we wish we had as teenagers.”

In March 2018, the four artists from the San Francisco scene photographed and interviewed – Phatima Rude, then 51; Carla Gay, then 54; Renita Valdez, then 59; and Mutha Chucka, then 56 – and later pitched the project to Sasha Velor, the drag artist and winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 9, which at the time was putting together the fourth issue of Velor: The Drag Magazine. But the edition never came to print.

After a year of sitting on the material, Mx. Hanson posted it to a friend on Vogue, who posted the pictures with one history on its website in April 2019. Shortly after, The San Francisco Chronicle ran one Article on Phatima Rude, with reference to the Vogue piece. “When it ran on Vogue’s website, we realized there was a hunger for it,” Antheus said, and the two decided to expand the project into a book.

Both say they were compelled by an urgent need to capture the stories of an older generation before it was too late, as well as a desire to offer a corrective to the much younger and camera-ready version of drag that has entered popular culture via TV shows such as “Drag Race,” which recently ended its 14th season.

“Some queens feel neglected by the narrow category of traits presented on television,” Mx says. said Hanson. The fact that “there are enough queens in America to even populate so many seasons of ‘Drag Race’,” Mx. Hanson added, “is because of decades of regional drag society that heralds new generations of queens.”

In June 2019, the duo embarked on a cross-country stay with 16 cities, where they photographed and interviewed 77 more drag artists, the oldest of whom was 90 at the time. “We wanted to talk to the punks and the festival girls and the art queens,” Mx. Hanson said, “to capture the beautiful diversity within so many different communities.”

These artists, along with the four whose portraits first appeared on Vogue.com, fill the pages of “Legends of Drag: Queens of a Certain Age, ‚ÄĚReleased June 21 from Cernunnos, an imprint of Abrams Books. Not only a catalog of 81 drag queens, it also contains stories of activism and protest. Many of its topics were at the forefront of the gay liberation movement in the 60s and the AIDS epidemic of the 80s.

The book’s gumdrop-bright portraits of Mx. Hanson was all shot outdoors in broad daylight to separate them from standard drag photography, which is often recorded at bars or in studios. “For many of them, drag is not a day sport,” Antheus said. “It was scary, but they came around.”

Each performer, who all received a model fee for their time on the set, was photographed with flowers selected by Mr. Antheus. Some are shown with varieties that are personally important to them, while others’ flowers were chosen based on the outfit they wore, or the location of their photoshoot. The concept was not just a visual element for the images.

“We wanted to give the girls their flowers,” Mr. said Antheus, using the term meaning to cherish his loved ones while they are still alive.

That feeling turned out to be prophetic. At the time of the book’s last meeting, in September, four of its subjects had died: Phatima Rude, 55; Lady Red Coutureat 43; gudindekaninen, at 61; and Tina Devore, at 67. “Losing Queens Through the Process,” Mr. Antheus said, “really reinforced the importance of these being stories we need to get out.”

Mx. Hanson recalled Kelly Ray, 59, a drag queen from Durham, NC, and said participation in the project may be the last important thing the artist does. “It hit me right in the heart,” Mx. said Hanson.

Although its creators saw the book as an antidote to TV interpretations of drag, some contestants from the “Drag Race” series found their way to its pages. Sasha Velor, 34, wrote the foreword. Chad Michaels, the winner of “Drag Race All Stars” season 1, is mentioned in an interview with Dolly Levi, 64, from Los Angeles. Shawnna Brooks, 54, from Atlanta, is photographed in the backyard of Nicole Paige Brooks, from “Drag Race” season 2. According to Mr. Antheus, these connections show that today’s drag queens are part of a legacy that goes back decades.

He and Mx. Hanson sees “Legends of Drag” as part of a project under development. There are more drag artists to visit, more stories to tell. “There’s a queen in Barcelona at 95 that I really want to meet,” says Mx. said Hanson. “I have a Google Spreadsheet with 75 queens that I want to work with, ‘spread all over the world’ from Tulsa to Honolulu to Argentina.”

The final performer in the book is Simone, a transgender woman who does not use the term “drag queen” and refused to indicate age. (“We’re Not Going There.”) Since the early ’90s, Simone has been known to perform all over New York City, including outdoors near the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, the site of a 1969 uprising that turned out to be a hotbed of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

Simone, Mx. Hanson said, “continues very directly in the tradition”. Marsha P. Johnson, the activist and dragon performer who died in 1992 and is recognized as an early champion of transgender rights. “I do not think there are many individuals who actually justify a comparison with,” Johnson, Mx. said Hanson.

In terms of being named a legend? “It’s such a compliment,” Simone said. “Every girl would be surprised and thrilled to see her face in a book with such amazing divas.”

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.