By Summer Jones
DragCon & A Growing Industry
This year’s DragCon L.A drew a record crowd of over 50,000 people from around the world over one weekend. With enough booths to span the entire L.A Convention Center to panels and workshops ranging from comedy to activism, it reigned as the biggest celebration of drag culture in the world. The Con also hosted 90 performers and over 300 vendors selling everything drag-related from merchandise to makeup.
Recently, more and more queens have entered the beauty space. In April of 2018, RuPaul himself announced a collaboration with Mally Beauty to produce a 10-12 piece collection with an undetermined release date. In the vein of Drag Race, the All Stars season 3 winner Trixie Mattel teamed up with Sugarpill and launched the “Oh, Honey!” line in early September, with the 6-pan eyeshadow palette and lip color available for $52 a pop.
The Seattle Experience
My partner and I went to a drag show this weekend- a king show, to be specific, the oft-forgotten and just as phenomenal other side of the drag coin. Kings, queens or anything in between, it’s my favorite way to spend a Saturday night and support local artists.
I write this largely as a spectator; like many people, RuPaul’s Drag Race was my first exposure to the idea of using makeup, art and performance to play with the spectrum of gender. As a young non-binary person growing up in middle America, the show was a prime-time doorway into a world of possibility. My personal taste has evolved, but from looks to acts I can honestly say that I’ve seen more raw, unafraid talent on crowded bar stages than in fully funded and produced award shows.
But what is it like to be a young up-and-coming in the scene? For insight I sat down with Mikey Xi, a local here in Seattle who performs as Kylie Mooncakes. Xi is originally from the Bothell area and has been a performing drag queen for over a year.
What was your first exposure to drag culture?
As a child I was a little more sheltered, so I learned about queer culture by a lot of, like, Google-ing and Wikipedia-ing. Before I knew about Drag Race I just knew that drag queens were a thing, so I watched YouTube Videos of queens performing and then Drag Race brought it to the mainstream and made specific queens famous and that opened a lot of doors, especially with social media.
What inspires you?
I draw a lot from other queens and makeup artists on Instagram stylistically. To name a couple I love Aja, Shea Couleé, Plastique Tiara, Naomi Smalls... A lot of my inspiration also comes from pop stars, because I grew up idolizing Britney Spears and Beyonce and K-pop idols, and I feel like if you see my drag you’ll see that.
How’s your experience been in the drag community as an Asian-American?
I feel I’m not taken very seriously at first (...) I notice that people don’t engage with me until they realize I’m talented, which I know sounds conceited but I’m very confident in my abilities as a performer, especially in terms of dancing. I feel like I’ll walk into a club and nobody will give me the time of day until I perform, and then afterwards I get a lot of people asking for a picture or my Instagram, so I feel there definitely is a wall put up that I had to prove myself to break down.
You have a background in dancing?
Yes, I’ve danced my whole life, I’m trained in voguing and waacking. I’ve done battles in the hip-hop scene, and then I went into go-going. It kind of comes with my pop star love but I’ve always loved dancing more femininely and more sexily. My desire to be part of the night life also led me into go-going.
Who helped you get to the point of performing?
As for makeup, I just picked it up and tried it out with really cheap makeup. Not even good drugstore stuff but like Maybelline but like, Wet ‘n Wild and Daiso makeup.
But it was a good learning experience and a way to practice without breaking the bank. In terms of people in the scene, two people who helped me a lot were Angela Visalia, she was the first queen I ever made a connection with, she performed at the club I was go-going at. I would consider her one of my best friends, she was the first person to put me in drag. Another huge help was Jade Dynasty, she essentially founded the ballroom scene in Seattle and is a really amazing queer advocate, I’m really inspired by her. And my partner, Justin.
How long does a look take?
If I’m rushing, two hours but ideally, three and a half hours.
What music do you put on when you do your makeup?
It depends on my mood but I like chill things, but I love a lot of K-pop so I put on more chill music. I love Loona and Red Velvet, R&B and hip-hop. Or whatever song I have to perform to that night.
What’s your go-to product?
For drag your gonna need a lot of things so it’s hard to say, but I’d say a Fenty or Becca highlight. It’s something that adds a little pop.
What part of your growth are you the most proud of?
Just the fact that I did it. It's very surreal to be in the place that I’m at now because it’s something that I’ve dreamed of since I was very young, to be able to perform and entertain people and make them happy. And now with especially how messed up America is, it makes me happy that I’m able to be not only a queer person succeeding but also an asian representative because that’s not always prominent. Just the overall fact that I did it, because I can honestly say it wasn't’ easy. I moved out to Seattle from the suburbs alone at 19 and started taking dance classes and getting into the scene all on my own. I made connections on my own and pushed myself to start performing, so i can say I’m proud of doing it.
What do you think about on stage?
When I perform I’m usually semi-prepared so I’m just like “this is what I’m here to do, and I’mma do it.” The more I perform the more comfortable I'm on stage, so recently it’s been more fun. It’s always been fun, that why I do it, but in recent performances I feel like I’ve grown a lot and I’ve had more ambitious performances and mixes. I think, “this is what I’m here to do, I’m here to have fun and entertain the crowd and represent me, lets do it.”
You can find Xi’s appearance schedule and information on his Instagram.