In an era where a television show dominates the drag fanbase, many have a one sided view of what drag is. We had the chance to talk to drag queen Venus Envy who rose to fame through Tik Tok. Her hyper feminine pop princess looks inspired by early Gaga and her dry sense of humor are what sets Venus Envy aside from the rest. Several think that drag is solely a field for cisgender gay men, but unconventionally self made artists like Venus Envy show us otherwise."I've had to 'prove myself' time and time again and I STILL find myself having to prove my worth, even with five years of experience, a huge following, and a relative amount of success in the industry," says Envy. Although she is a female identifying drag queen, her gender plays no part in her talent or aesthetic. The Orlando, Florida based artist feels that
a close minded perception of drag only inhibits the introduction to untraditional, yet ground breaking talent, like herself. These toxic stereotypes limit many to only a small facet of the drag that exists. Venus Envy says it's time for a change.
How did you start doing drag? What’s the story of Venus Envy?
"I fell in love with the art of drag as a teenager. I have no idea how I first found out about it (this was before Drag Race went mainstream) but I remember consuming as much drag media as I could. I was especially obsessed with Party Monster and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It wasn't until I moved to Orlando at 18 that I was able to experience drag in the real world, and that's when I knew I wanted to do drag myself. I remember sitting in my dorm room and Googling "can girls be drag queens". I found the Wikipedia page for Faux Queens (that was the most commonly used term at the time) and decided right then and there that that's what I wanted to be. I tried it several times, but like most queens just starting out, I wasn't good at it. I just looked like myself with more makeup on and it really wasn't reading as drag, especially since I was a scene kid and people were used to seeing me with heavy makeup and too many accessories as it was. I wound up giving it up once I got more into the club scene because I was afraid of stepping on people's toes, but I picked it back up again at 23 once I was more established and now I've been doing drag for nearly five years."
Do you think there were any cogent factors in your childhood that influenced your career in drag?
"I've always been interested in makeup and fashion and I definitely think that played into my love of drag. I was a shy kid, but I would show up to school in high heels, ridiculous clothes, and a full face of makeup every day. I have a few high school friends on social media and I don't think any of them are surprised I became a drag queen."
Many like to give female drag queens the title “bio queen” “faux queen” or “hyper queen” - do you think these titles are degrading or sets preconceived expectations of female drag artists?
"I think those titles are unnecessary at best and dismissive at worst. It's almost like they exist to separate the 'real' drag queens from the 'girls dressing up as drag queens' and I am a real drag queen. I also happen to be a girl out of drag, but I don't see why it matters."
What elements of pop culture inspire your drag aesthetic?
"Lady Gaga has been a major influence on my drag. I was actually a Lady Gaga impersonator before I did drag, back when I thought I thought I would be rejected as a female drag queen. I was wearing costumes and wigs, lip syncing and performing in drag shows, but I didn't see it as drag at the time. I take a lot of inspiration from pop culture, current events, and memes to create my numbers. My current aesthetic is heavily inspired by fashion dolls."
What judgement do you face as a female drag queen? Is it harder for you to get gigs and do people often tell you that you “aren’t a real drag queen?” How do you combat that discrimination?
"I think the biggest hurdle I've had to overcome in drag was by far accepting the fact that I can be a drag queen even though I'm a woman. I've honestly had less of an issue being accepted by others than I've had with accepting myself. That being said, I've definitely had to work harder to gain respect as a female drag queen. I've had to "prove myself" time and time again and I STILL find myself having to prove my worth, even with five years of experience, a huge following, and a relative amount of success in the industry. I used to combat the discrimination by attempting to educate. I know my drag history, and I was't afraid to type up entire lectures and give an entire crash course in the comment section of a Facebook post, but I'm beyond that now. You can't tell me that women can't be drag queens because I'm living proof that they can."
You have quite the Tik Tok following! How did you gain popularity on the app and do most of your fans know you from Tik Tok?
"Like most people, I downloaded the app as a joke and I got sucked in once I realized how fun it is. I've only been on TikTok for about a year now and I'm honestly shocked that I've gained the following I have. I'd say about half my followers came from videos of mine that have gone viral and the rest I've gained over time. I had a bit of a cult following before TikTok. I ran a semi-popular Tumblr blog in my early 20s and I built a large following on Instagram pretty early on in my drag career. Social media has always been something I'm good at."
What changes are you making now that you are in quarantine? Is drag your full time job and how has COVID-19 affected you personally?
"I can't share what I do for work since my drag and social media presence would be considered a conflict, but no, drag is not my full-time job. I have a professional career and I am currently working from home, which has given me a lot more time to devote to my drag. I would love for drag to be my full-time job eventually, but right now it's more of a self-sustaining hobby. I do a few gigs and social media campaigns a month and most of the money I make from drag goes right back into buying more drag. COVID-19 has affected me both positively and negatively. On one hand, all this time at home has been nice because my life is usually "go go go" without much time to relax, but on the other hand, being stuck at home without seeing my friends has been hard and I've had a lot of anxiety over the thought of myself or someone I love getting sick. I am very fortunate to have a career where I can work from home. I know COVID-19 has had much more profound affects on my friends and family."
How have you seen the coronavirus impact other drag artists around you and what is quarantine like in Florida?
"A majority of my friends are drag artists and nightclub employees, and because of COVID-19, they are currently out of work. Bars and clubs in Orlando have been ordered to close for 30 days, and they will likely not re-open until all of this is over. Digital drag shows have become the norm here, as they have across the world. I can't speak for all of Florida, but in Orlando, schools and universities will remain closed for the year, theme parks are shut down, and all non-essential businesses are currently closed. There is a curfew from 11pm to 5am and a stay-at-home order for the month of April, though it will likely be extended further. Unfortunately, a lot of people are choosing to ignore social distancing rules and stay-at-home orders are not being properly enforced, so there's no knowing how long this will last."
Why is it important to support drag artists during the pandemic?
"It's important to support drag artists during this pandemic because many artists are left with no income, no insurance, and very little stability during this time. Self-employed drag entertainers may not qualify for unemployment, and many have lost their day jobs as well. A lot of drag entertainers have turned to doing digital shows and creating online content during quarantine, and for me personally, that has been one of the only things keeping me sane and giving me a sense of normalcy during this pandemic. We should support drag entertainers always, but especially now when they need it most and we need them."