June 21 2019

Is Money the Real Reason Behind Corporate Pridefulness? Detox and Milk Discuss

Each June, New York City celebrates PRIDE on the last weekend of the month. It brings with it a rush of branded merchandise, rainbow advertisements, and conversations about the LGBTQ+ community. This year, New York City is playing host to World PRIDE, so corporations trying to cash in are more apparent than ever. Of course, we should be prideful of the LGBTQ+ community and spotlight all of the amazing individuals within this community; however, should it just be for a single month, or even weekend? Drag Queens Detox and Milk discuss...
The Standard

June has been labeled PRIDE month in the US. Is consolidating PRIDE into just one month or even just one weekend doing a disservice to the community as a whole, especially when you have brands trying to use PRIDE simply as a marketing tool?

MILK: It really does just come down to them slapping something on the label. I went into Michaels today, and Michaels is notorious for giving money to hate organizations and religious organizations, and they had a whole PRIDE section. And then that got me thinking; did some queer person who worked there set that up so they could feel prideful in their job? Was it some sort of way to get back at the man?

DETOX: I didn’t really realize it until I started traveling the world, but PRIDE isn’t necessarily just one month. It starts in the beginning of April in some places and goes all the way into November in other places. For those of us who work in the industry, it’s all over the place, and that is great because it doesn’t feel like you’re just pigeonholing yourself into one month of the year. It should be all encompassing, but you always see in June the companies doing PRIDE branding for anything you can purchase. I like it for queer companies, yes, absolutely, they should be doing it.

MILK: Well those are the people who should be getting these jobs. Who should be getting these multi-million and billion dollar corporation jobs. This is the thing. These corporations pay us PENNIES to try and get us to do these things. They’re like, ‘you should do it because you’re queer, and we embrace you, and you will get our name behind you.’ And it’s like NO we are still working class citizens!

DETOX: Not to be hypocritical, because I did take their money, but Absolut vodka did a PRIDE campaign, and they’re a multi-million dollar company and were paying us on a scale depending on our followers! I thought about that and then I think about someone like Kettle One. I don’t know if you know this but Kettle One’s number one priority as a company, all year round, is to give back to the LGBT community, which is amazing, but you don’t see them running around saying let’s slap a PRIDE flag on our bottles. Are the other companies donating the money from these pride bottles to LGBTQIAP+ organizations?

MILK: Companies are going to have to become more transparent in putting it out there every day of the year if they want us to buy into their pridefulness during June.

"I think what we do as queer artists in the celebrity that we have is a way of activism, and there’s a part of me whenever I have these conversations where I’m like, ‘I should be doing more.’" - Detox

Do you think the transparency is key or is it more about taking actions to support the community and not feeling like you have to be screaming it from the rooftops? There is obviously value in transparency and vocalizing who you’re supporting but sometimes actions speak louder than words.

DETOX: Milk, you are super politically active, but I think what we do as queer artists in the celebrity that we have is a way of activism, and there’s a part of me whenever I have these conversations where I’m like, ‘I should be doing more.’

MILK: We just have such an obligation because we are the privileged Drag Race girls, and we are offered this incredible platform. There has to be a moment in time when everyone will embrace us, and I think that will also help fix the gross fan base and fandom that exists right now. It’s so hateful!

DETOX: Lately there have been so many girls doing paid advertisements to further their careers and success, but then they’re “sell outs.” I see the comments and it’s like no matter what we’re doing people aren’t going to be happy. It’s like take that energy and focus it on other parts of the community. Why should your life be only what you see on television?

MILK: It’s a weird fandom. I myself am a fan of Drag Race, and there are so many unique and creative people whose flame has been ignited by Drag Race. But then there’s the idea that we’ve always been the oppressed and the bullied, and it’s hard that there’s still that trope that we can use in this world because of the access to social media. Why doesn’t it become kinder? Now that we have these outlets to offer our queerness in and feel comfortable and embraced by everyone. Why now with all of that possibility are some people still like that?

The Standard
The Standard

The advent of social media has allowed members of the LGBTQ+ community in small towns to see what’s going on out there where as before someone in the middle of nowhere has no access to that. But now it all just transforms into negativity.

DETOX: Well that’s important to talk about. When you are growing up in a bubble in a small town and you look to social media, which could be your escape, and you see the fandom attacking these people then it’s like, ‘why do I want to be a part of that community if that’s how they’re going to be treated?’

Or put yourself out there.

DETOX: That’s right! If I’m already getting that treatment from people who don’t see me as [their] peer and these are my peers doing this to each other, then what’s the point of me even trying to go out there?

I remember when I first started doing drag it was because I fell in love with it. I went to a gay bar when I was 15 years old, and I was like this is the kind of life I want to live. I have found my tribe. To be a part of that movement is incredible and amazing, but now I don’t see the passion behind drag. I don’t see people falling in love with drag like I felt during that time. I see people saying “I want to get into it because I want to be on TV.”

"For the queer community, we’ve already been educated on gender fluidity, and now I think it’s going to start moving into performance because people are still so confused. Some people still, even with me, will be like, ‘oh, she has a hairy chest, that’s not drag. Ooop, she drew a mustache, that’s not drag.’ It’s so silly." - Milk

How has the drag community changed since you’ve both started doing drag? 

MILK/DETOX: It’s huge!

DETOX: I recently moved to Chicago, and when I first started visiting my family there I didn’t realize there was such a community. The queer scene alone is amazing, but the drag scene is so amazing because you have places like the The Baton Show Lounge, which is an iconic place for trans performers and former Miss Continentals. That’s what I grew up studying and loving about drag—the pageantry of it. You have that, you have club kids, you have gender benders, you have trans men performers, you have drag kings, you have bio queens.

 MILK: I think as we start to be educated on gender fluidity we’re also moving into an era of drag performer dresser upper fluidity. There are people that probably dress up like a traditional drag queen but they do not want to be called a drag queen. For the queer community, we’ve already been educated on gender fluidity, and now I think it’s going to start moving into performance because people are still so confused. Some people still, even with me, will be like, ‘oh, she has a hairy chest, that’s not drag. Ooop, she drew a mustache, that’s not drag.’ It’s so silly.

Why did you both start getting into drag initially?

DETOX: So, I could get into bars! I always dressed up as a kid; there was always this little femme inside me forever. I got emancipated when I was 15, I was living with my sister, and I went to my first gay bar. We used to throw all of these fashion shows around town. We had this crazy fetish fashion show, at this night club, and that’s where I met all of my first queens that took me under their wing. I was like, ‘I’m going to get into drag, I’m going to put on some heels and wear this crazy fetish gear.’ I should not have been in a bar, and I should not have been wearing this fetish gear.

MILK: Would you say a 15-year-old should be doing that now?

DETOX: Absolutely, it freed me. I luckily had my sister who was a huge supporter and never really forced me to do anything and was like; “Look, I always knew you were artistic, and different, and gay and I have always supported it, and I want you to be able to pursue that.” When I started doing drag professionally, we got into an argument, and she was like “What are you going to be? A 30-year-old drag queen? Who has ever heard of a 30-year-old drag queen?” Now she’s my attorney, my manager, and my business partner. She’s like; “well, foot in my mouth! There are tons of people doing it for the wrong reasons now. I count my blessings that I grew up in Florida at the time that I grew up. Drag was huge there. Quintessential southern drag. And my icons are still out there doing what they love.

MILK: My boyfriend was the first person who I saw doing drag closely. I really wanted to date him. I had just come out to myself. I was 19 years old at the time, and I saw that he and his friends were doing drag, and at that point in time I was still coming to grips with what is gay? What do I like? I thought dressing in women’s clothing meant you wanted to become a woman, I was like, ‘I can’t date a guy like that. I don’t think I’m into that, and he was like “Let’s put you in a wig.”’ And so, he put me in drag for the first time one Christmas we all went out in Boston dressed up like Nutcracker characters. We had the best night ever. I lived my life. From that point in time—this was 2009—I fell in love with it. I loved the ability to release this inner femme, but not always presenting as femme. It was just like this other being inside me, and she’s gone through a lot of changes physically and mentally; it has been amazing.

The Standard

You spoke about people doing drag for the wrong reasons, expand on that.

DETOX: You see the show and how wildly successful it has become and how wildly successful it makes other people. Some people get inspired by it, and they appreciate the art form, but there are some people who strictly do it because they want a piece of the cake. To me, that makes it lose its soul and become so vapid. Yes, everyone wants to succeed, and how glamorous do our lives look, but I’m telling you it’s a hard road. It’s cliché to say, but it’s really, really lonely out there.

Do you think RuPaul has maintained the integrity of the show?

MILK: No

DETOX: No. It was really magically in its first seasons because it was about drag. It never really was about drag but it had a lot more to do with drag. Now it’s like, ‘let’s self-produce our stories.’

MILK: It moved into this whole brand, but they didn’t owe us anything because they were the only ones giving it to us anyway. We do have to commend them for that.

DETOX: Absolutely! It has been life changing to be a part of the whole experience. I do wish I could see more of the heart and people being completely genuine about their passion behind the project and the passion behind what they’re doing as an artist. And less about, ‘I have to come up with this story and this storyline in order to last.’ I want to see the best of the best of the best going at it. Honestly, it falls onto our laps as competitors to make our careers.

 

Photographer
Elvin Tavarez
Writer
Sarah Morrison