Joshua has a large bag full of makeup. He starts by putting moisturizer on his face and gluing down his eyebrows before he applies foundation to make his skin tone slightly lighter.
The idea of becoming someone else is one of the main factors of being a drag queen. Joshua loves putting on his makeup. He feels like he is painting a masterpiece and he is the art. It feels as if he is escaping into a fantasy and can set free the hidden being trapped inside. Joshua is not just putting on makeup; he’s changing into someone else.
Thinking of drag queens, your mind might automatically go toward big hair, outlandish makeup and feminine gowns. Joshua didn’t get that memo; he describes his aesthetic as a “Horror-Alternative-Gothic.”
He recalls starting drag for the first time three years ago at Sanctuary nightclub. That November night in 2015, Jez Extazy made her debut.
“That’s when I did my first drag show, for their first GayFest in Corpus Christi,” Extazy said. “My look was really bad. I looked too much like myself.”
Extazy said she used her real eyebrows on her first performance, whereas most drag queens use glue sticks to hold down their eyebrows to apply makeup over them and then draw on fake, extravagant eyebrows. She said she did not have enough makeup on and thought she was not skilled enough to perform, but gave it her best and felt like she owned the stage.
Extazy originally became interested in drag when she attended her first drag show at the nightclub Cirque. She saw all the performers and knew she could surpass every one. Extazy says no one in town does what she does because she’s so different.
Many drag queens “lip sync” to popular songs for audience members at clubs to get tipped. This is their way of making a living. Most queens perform songs from the Top 40 or old famous hits. Extazy, on the other hand, prefers to perform to songs that are alternative.
“My first song I ever performed was by the band In This Moment,” Extazy said. “The song was ‘Whore.’ I was then offered to be an ongoing queen at the club The Hidden Door.”
Extazy said she would get some rough critiques from other drag queens. Some were trying to help, while others were just them being vindictive.
“Looking back at it now though, I believe I deserved two-tenths of the criticism I got,” Extazy said. “But then it turned into me being bullied for my aesthetic and another reason.”
Extazy said she was also bullied for her HIV status.
“I was diagnosed when I was 19, but I usually keep that information to myself,” Extazy said. “Queens talk though, so I’m sure a lot of them know.”
Extazy said she hasn’t been harassed lately, but she had received a threat about being physically assaulted by multiple people. She said they described her car and were going to attack her simply because of her HIV status. She never found out who they were but isn’t afraid.
“That’s why I stay doing drag,” Extazy said. “If anyone is being attacked, or feeling different, they have someone to go to: me. I don’t have a drag family, but that’s just because I feel like I don’t have that much experience in this art.”
Drag queens are mainly gay men wanting to evoke an identity they can’t share with the world in their normal self. Starting in the 1930s as “balls,” men and women would create their own “houses” and compete against each other for trophies and prizes.
Ball culture became more popular in the mid- to late ‘80s, specifically in New York City. A documentary by Jennie Livingston, “Paris is Burning,” shed light on the ball culture and the people who were in it. The houses represented families.
“I’ve had people ask me to be their drag mother, but I haven’t been doing this very long,” Extazy said. “There are queens though that have been doing this way less than I have who have children, but they can barely take care of themselves as an entertainer and book gigs.”
Extazy said she would eventually like to have her own drag house, but feels she needs to be better put together before she makes the decision to start “training” queens.
The art of drag has become popular and acceptable in recent years with the growth of VH1’s show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” This reality competition consists of nine to 15 drag queens competing to become “America’s next drag superstar.” Originally premiering on Logo back in 2009, the show has since become an international sensation, winning nine Emmy Awards.
The idea of “cross-dressing” has been around for centuries though, whether it was for traditional customs, theater performances or rituals. A suggested etymological root of the term “drag” is 19th-century theater slang from the sensation of long skirts trailing on the floor.
Extazy gets inspiration from her mom because of her strength. Extazy wanted her tenacity to be combined with a multitude of other enduring, fictional female characters such as Harley Quinn from “Batman” and Maleficent from “Sleeping Beauty.”
“I love Maleficent because she could turn into a dragon,” Extazy said. “When I was a child, I always wanted to be Godzilla. So, when I watched Maleficent change into a dragon, I wished that I could do that. Who doesn’t want to be a dragon?”
Mandy Moore Paris, a drag queen who died in November, was a major inspiration and friend to Extazy. Mandy helped her when she first started going to drag shows and performing. Mandy would give her advice, but to still make it Extazy’s own and not lose her creativity. At Extazy’s first show, Mandy was taken away by her alternative style and supported her.
“She helped me so much,” Extazy said as she started to add color to her cheeks. “I recently found a video of Mandy auditioning to be on ‘Drag Race’ and I incorporated her voice from that footage into a song from ‘The Greatest Showman,’ ‘A Million Dreams.’ People came up to me afterwards in tears because they heard her voice.”
Extazy slowed down applying her makeup as she went into more depth about Mandy. Her death was sudden. She still has no clue as to how she died.
“No one has told me anything,” Extazy said. “I think, well I know, it’s because they don’t have respect for me. Mandy was the only queen I was close to. I always felt like an outcast, and she told me she felt the same when she first started. I think that’s why we gravitated toward each other: I saw myself in her and she saw herself in me. She was the closest thing I had to a drag mother.”
Extazy, on the verge of tears, gathered herself before ruining her makeup from talking about Mandy. Her boyfriend, Lane Cosper, walked over to kiss her head and tell her that Mandy is proud of her.
When it comes to dating, Extazy does not like to be in drag while being intimate with a man. She’s in a committed relationship right now, but before her boyfriend, she used to have a Tinder profile.
“My account had a disclaimer that said I was a drag queen,” Extazy said. “Many of the guys would always say ‘No’ right away or ‘I want to start drag, can you help me?’ I was looking for a relationship, not to teach people how to tuck.”
“Tucking” is just one of the many ways drag queens make themselves look more like women. It’s the process of placing the man’s genitals in between their legs with duct tape to make it look flat when they’re wearing women’s clothes. Some drag queens though don’t tuck, such as Extazy.
Extazy said she was in a relationship when she met her current boyfriend.
“I was performing at a show here in town and met Lane,” Extazy said. “We became friends on Facebook, and after my ex and I broke up, we eventually got together. I later found out he somewhat stalked me online and thought I was really cute, which was a turn-on for me.
When asked what drag means to Extazy, she stopped applying her eye makeup, stared at herself into her lighted hand-mirror and said, “Self-expression.”
“How I’m going to interpret this song, how I’m feeling at that moment, and how I want other people to feel,” Extazy said. “My name means an explosion of emotion or joy of how you’re feeling. I want people to feel something. Shocked, disgusted, happy, sad. I want them to feel anything; I want them to experience something new.”
While finishing up her lipstick and blood application, Extazy tells about the competitions she’s entered. She has won two — “Mx. Fright Night” of San Antonio and Disco 3000 of Corpus Christi.
“When I won in San Antonio, I was ecstatic,” Extazy said. “For a few moments though, I felt like I wasn’t going to make it and wanted to back out. My anxiety almost got the better of me, but I persevered.”
She has also competed in talent shows here in town, but has always lost. Extazy recalls losing a winter pageant to be crowned “Miss Snowflake.”
“I painted myself white and had blue eye shadow,” Extazy said. “I placed last and lost to a drag queen who is in her 60s. I know why I lost though: I wasn’t padded. I didn’t have breasts, hips or a butt.”
“Padded” is a term used for making drag queens look more believable as a woman. Queens use materials such as foam or fake breasts to create the illusion that they have curves. Some drag queens go as far as getting silicon injected into their hips. Extazy said if she were to get any work done, she would get her nose fixed.
In her near future, Extazy would like to compete in a drag competition called “Dragula.” It’s a reality show where drag queens compete in horror-themed challenges, such as putting their feet in a bucket of ice for 30 minutes or eating a mass amount of pig brains without using their hands.
Extazy starts to open about her family as she finishes putting on her turban, before eating chicken strips Lane brought her.
“When I first started playing with makeup in high school, my dad always said it was dumb and I shouldn’t mess with it,” Extazy said. “He suggested I go into theater and work on makeup there, but that’s not what I wanted to do.”
She would like to eventually get a job doing special effects with makeup. Extazy said that’s why she always has outlandish makeup.
“I like making monsters and weird creations,” Extazy said. “My dad was never supportive of me. He always told me the worst thing I could do was dress up in dresses and wear makeup. I didn’t know back then what drag was, so I had no idea I’d be where I am now.”
Extazy said she doesn’t want her father to be there when she’s performing or in drag.
“This is the second year where I haven’t told him ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘Happy Father’s Day,’” Extazy said. “I’ve just cut him out of my life. I don’t include him in anything I do, and I feel better about that. It does hurt me every now and then because I don’t have the support from him. At the same time though, I feel like I shouldn’t be putting people in my life that are negative or not going to be supportive of who I am.”
As Extazy heads upstairs to get dressed, Lane starts to talk about her craft.
“I do my best not to influence, because I am a little controlling,” Lane said. “Whenever she is talking about her ideas, I do my best to listen and not give advice. My input does not matter in what she does, especially when it comes to her drag. I stay out of the technicalities of it, but I do try my hardest to go to every show she does.”
Extazy returns wearing a floor-length, black fitted dress. She isn’t padded or tucked, but she does don a silver-jeweled bra. After she straps on her black combat boots, she reaches into a suitcase and pulls out hand-made opera-length gloves. She takes reigns of her photo shoot and has Cosper clean their coffee table, set up candles, and pulls out a deck of tarot cards.
Once she is satisfied with her photos, Extazy goes upstairs to take off her makeup and strip away the drag persona. Joshua arrives back wearing a backward cap, a plain T-shirt, and blue jeans.
“I love drag,” Joshua said. “But once I take everything off, it feels like a needed shower after an exhausting day. I feel like I’m returning to myself; the real me after a long journey.”