30-year drag veteran, Mahogany Knight hails from the Mid West. She has won many awards and pageants, including Miss Gay USofA at Large in 2007. This accomplished queen continues her reign in Springfield, Il.
For inquiries, please contact Mahogany Knight on Facebook
Here is an introduction audio clip from Marleina Robson, introducing Mahogany Knight and the interview.
Transcript of micro-podcast
Interviewer: I had the pleasure to interview Mahogany Knight from Springfield, Il. He has been in drag since the 1990’s and it was very interesting to see how his first drag show really impacted him.
Mahogany: We were like oh my god, what is happening? I mean some of them you could tell they were guys, but some you were like no way, but I was so afraid; I was really scared. So, whenever they would come and get close to me, or someone was tipping them and the person tipping them was close to me. I would get really, really nervous and uncomfortable.
Interviewer: From going to uncomfortable to being a drag queen himself, he had no idea what to think when he became interested and bold enough to enter a pageant. He told me that he was very fortunate to have a great support system with family and friends. He even accompanied most of his support to his loving brother.
Mahogany: I have, I think I am one of the lucky ones because my brother is gay. And he made my coming out so much easier because he is older, five years older. He had already dealt with it, and they had already dealt with him. They had experienced what being around a gay person is like, so, when I came out it was, like, easier. I didn’t initially tell my immediate family about the whole drag thing. But, in turn they all found out and my brother happens to be one of my biggest supporters. Actually, when I went to my first big national competition, he was one of my back up dancers.
Interviewer: I really appreciate him taking the time to talk to me and to give me the insight to his style of drag and lifestyle. A big thank you to Mahogany, you were a great participant.
Here is the audio recording of Mahogany Knight’s interview with SIUE student, Marleina Robson
Here is a transcript of the interview
To cite this particular interview, please use the following:
Audio available at http://www.ezratemko.com/drag/mahogany-knight/
Mahogany Knight: Hello?
Interviewer: Hello? Oh man, it must have. There we go, I think we got it.
Mahogany Knight: Okay.
Interviewer: I think my app was just trying to fidget with us.
Mahogany Knight: Oh okay. No worries.
Interviewer: How’s your day going?
Mahogany Knight: My day is going good! After being in the office all day, it is so nice to be outside and just sitting in Mother Nature.
Interviewer: Oh, I know, I do not blame you.
Mahogany Knight: Yes, and you? How’s your day going?
Interviewer: It’s going well, I just got out of class and just trying to set up all this computer stuff that I don’t know anything about.
Mahogany Knight: Oh no! You need a good I.T. person.
Interviewer: Oh my gosh, I know.
Mahogany Knight: They are worth their weight. Trust me.
Interviewer: Oh, I know.
Mahogany Knight: Because, I.T. I know very little about, but I have several guys and girls on hand that I can call if one of them’s busy.
Interviewer: Yep, my little sister knows so much about computers and I’m like, excuse me, I can’t even turn my computer on.
Mahogany Knight: Oh, that’s funny.
Interviewer: Well, I really appreciate you doing this for me.
Mahogany Knight: You are so welcome! I’m honored. I’m always willing to help and give my whole point of view.
Interviewer: Yeah! I have my questions up it’s just, it’s for my class. We’re doing a Sociology of Drag this semester.
Mahogany Knight: Uh-huh, oh okay!
Interviewer: Yeah! We’ve been watching Season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race and we’re going to write an analysis paper on it.
Mahogany Knight: What?!
Mahogany Knight: That is awesome!
Interviewer: Yeah, it’s been super interesting and definitely it’s been great to learn way more than just what, going to a show you would learn about. Getting more in-depth details.
Mahogany Knight: Yes.
Interviewer: I’ve liked it a lot.
Mahogany Knight: Well good! I’ve always thought, I’ve wondered if I’d ever go on there like, “Why not? Why not?” One of these days I might submit my application, just to see what would happen.
Interviewer: Well, you might as well. It’s either you don’t go, or like, maybe you’ve got the possibility.
Mahogany Knight: Right! Exactly, and the worst thing that could happen is like “No, no, no.” and I’ve been told “No.” so many times in my life it’s like “Okay! Alright!”
Interviewer: And just move on with it!
Mahogany Knight: Yes, exactly.
Interviewer: Alright, well, I’ll get into it.
Mahogany Knight: Okay!
Interviewer: Our first question is, when did you first hear about drag and what was your initial reaction to it?
Mahogany Knight: I first heard about when I was a baby myself, back in 1986. And I was actually still in high school, living in Jacksonville, IL.
Interviewer: That is where I grew up.
Mahogany Knight: Oh, okay, yes that’s where I grew up! And so, was dating a girl over here in Springfield. And her friend was always talking about going to see drag queens. And I was in Jacksonville. I had no idea what she was talking about. And she was like, well don’t tell your girlfriend but I’ll take you. My best friend at the time, well, still is my best friend but we were in high school, she was like, “I’ll take you guys to see one.” and I was like WHAT? So, she brought us over here and we freaked out. We were like oh my god, what is happening? I mean some of them you could tell they were guys, but some you were like no way, but I was so afraid; I was really scared. So, whenever they would come and get close to me, or someone was tipping them and the person tipping them was close to me. I would get really, really nervous and uncomfortable. But that was my introduction to drag.
Interviewer: Wow, that is awesome.
Mahogany Knight: Yeah!
Interviewer: I would say mine was definitely probably RuPaul when I was really young.
Mahogany Knight: Was who?
Interviewer: RuPaul, when I was really young.
Mahogany Knight: Oh really? Oh well the first time I had heard her music; we were all like applauding. It was like oh my god! You’re a drag queen. I mean I started doing drag by then, but there is a drag queen singing on the radio. And in the club. So, like, this is unheard of! It was pretty cool.
Interviewer: That’s awesome.
Mahogany Knight: Yeah.
Interviewer: When did you start performing as a drag addi… drag artist; and why did you start performing?
Mahogany Knight: You had it right the first time, a drag addict. I’m just kidding. No, I started on February 14, 1991. It was one of those things where my best friend, another one of my best friends, he was producing a pageant; The Miss Valentine pageant. And I was over at his house, and he was getting everything ready. And I was like “I’m going to do it!” and he was like “you have never even done drag; why would you enter a pageant?” I was like because “I have seen it a lot. I think I can do it. It is just an extension of theater.” He was like what are you serious? And I was like yeah. So, I decided that night, the night before that I would do it. So, I asked a good friend of mine to do my makeup after I finished work. I borrowed everything and I ended up winning the parent, and every category of the pageant. And oh my gosh, that is where the addiction started.
Interviewer: That is awesome. How did your family, friends, and other loved ones receive you becoming a drag artist?
Mahogany Knight: How does my family and friends respond to it?
Mahogany Knight: I have, I think I am one of the lucky ones because my brother is gay. And he made my coming out so much easier because he is older, five years older. He had already dealt with it, and they had already dealt with him. They had experienced what being around a gay person is like, so, when I came out it was, like, easier. I didn’t initially tell my immediate family about the whole drag thing. But, in turn they all found out and my brother happens to be one of my biggest supporters. Actually, when I went to my first big national competition, he was one of my back up dancers.
Interviewer: Oh, that is awesome.
Mahogany Knight: Yeah, so there’s nothing like having that kind of family support, when they’re going to be there to dance for you. As far as friends, they knew that I was going to do it. It was just a matter of time. Now I would say, I have the best group of friends I could ask for.
Interviewer: That’s awesome, yeah, I went to one of the shows in Springfield with some friends. It was amazing. You guys did great.
Mahogany Knight: Oh, thank you. I wish I would have met you then.
Interviewer: I mean I went up to, and I can send you the picture. But I definitely wish we were able to stay, and I was going to meet you.
Mahogany Knight: Yes, please. Definitely, send me the picture, I would love to see that. As long as it is not some crazy action shot where my hair is going one way and my tongue is going the other way and my boobs are falling out.
Interviewer: No, you definitely had the crowd going. It was a lot of fun.
Mahogany Knight: Oh good, that is so important, that’s good. That is what we are all here for, to make sure you guys have fun. I mean you guys could be anywhere you wanted to. But you guys choose to come and watch us. So, we want to make sure you have a good time while you’re there.
Interviewer: Yeah, it was amazing and put on really well. I thought it was great.
Mahogany Knight: Good, good, good, good, good.
Interviewer: Where does your drag name come from?
Mahogany Knight: It comes from a combination of things. Uh, Diana Ross was in a movie back in the 70’s and the name of the movie was called Mahogany. And, the last name I really did not have a choice in. The lady that was producing, or the guy that was producing the pageant, her name was Crystal Knight, and she was like “I don’t care! If you’re gonna do it, I don’t care what you first name is but you’re going to be my sister.” So, I had to be a Knight and I am ok with that. I was very honored to be inducted into her family as her, actually her only sister. We are all that we have. But we have a lot of offspring. Phew!
Interviewer: Yeah, you were talking about that at the drag show. I thought that was super interesting how you guys definitely take in younger performers, who are not necessarily as experienced and help them with them with their performance or with certain things. And I think it is so great that you guys literally call it a family because you guys are together for so long and it’s such a sentimental thing.
Mahogany Knight: It is. And when I say family, I really mean that. They are like my family, I care about, not only about their wellbeing on stage and their performance but how they are doing in life. Are they living their best life? Are they staying in school, getting an education? Instead of just going to the bar and partying and blowing a good chance at a great education. I like to think that I really motivate them to stay in school because I tell them drag is always going to be here. Finish your school, get your education; then come back and put on a wig and a dress. Or if you can do both, great. But, don’t slack, don’t slack off, uh-uh.
Interviewer: I think that is great.
Mahogany Knight: Thank you. Because I really do take that motherly roll now, grandmother, and then I have some great-great grandchildren. It’s like holy shit. Oh, sorry professor.
Interviewer: Oh no you’re okay.
Mahogany Knight: Sorry about that.
Interviewer: Oh no you’re fine. There are a lot of term for types and styles of drag, from drag queen to drag king to glamor queen, male impersonator, comedy queen, bearded queen, so on and so forth. Are there any particular labels you would use to characterize your drag?
Mahogany Knight: I am more of a pageant queen. My first time in drag was a pageant. And it seems like I have always done pageants throughout my career, and then I went to nationals and I won the national pageant.
Interviewer: Yeah, I was definitely doing a lot of research for this. You have literally done so many amazing accomplishments.
Mahogany Knight: Thank you! Thank you, yes, but I would definitely consider myself a pageant queen. I mean I do it all though. I do comedy. I do country. The genres of music I do span the whole thing. There’s nothing I won’t do, because I don’t want the audience to come out and think; oh, she is going to do this, this and this.
Interviewer: Mhmm, predictable.
Mahogany Knight: Yes, I don’t want ever want to get that way. So, I try to mix it up. I do rock n roll, country, R&B, comedy. You name it, I do it.
Interviewer: Does the type of drag that you do affect your life as a drag artist?
Mahogany Knight: Does the type of drag I do affect my life as a drag artist? I’m not sure if I understand the question.
Interviewer: I think it is mostly asking, since you do more pageant queen, does that affect anything else in your life? Or is it mostly just stage?
Mahogany Knight: Oh, okay. I would say that I do focus a lot on perfection as far as when I’m on stage. I don’t know if it affects me so to speak. But I’m always looking and thinking. Every time I hear a song, I think wow that could really be a great talent number for a pageant. Or, when I go to a pageant and I’ll think “Wow, if she only did this, tweaked her talent a little bit she might have won” and I see a gown I think “How can I change that to make that more of a competition gown?” So, my minds always in the pageant mode. Which is probably not good. It’s probably an addiction, I think.
Interviewer: It is probably why you are so successful to be honest.
Mahogany Knight: Maybe! I don’t know. I don’t know if that is true or not. We’ll definitely go with that.
Interviewer: I’ll go with it. Who or what has influenced your drag?
Mahogany Knight: Oh, my goodness, there are so many over the span of my career. I mean when I first started out, of course it was Crystal Knight because her… now she has to be one of the best live MC’s that I’ve ever met. I mean she is my sister so I might be a little biased. But she is literally. Where a lot of comedy people, they have a pre-written skit about what they are going to say, do. But, hers is all live, right on the top of her head. I admire her for that. Um, Anita Mann was the first person to put me in drag. She is very creative. She really looks at a talent number and she can choreograph it, dance in it. And then the late, great Whitney Page; she was out of Texas. Holy Moly. She was probably the one that I look up to the most in drag. Her glamour, her beauty, her stage presence, her eyes; if you ever get a chance google her. Whitney Paige. Amazing entertainer, we lost a good one there.
Interviewer: Do you consider your drag political? Why or why not?
Mahogany Knight: I don’t. I try to leave that for me. I try to leave that off the stage because I know I have a lot of fans who are, who vote opposite than I do. And that is okay. We all have our beliefs. We all get our time in the magic voting booth to do what we feel is right for us personally. So, I don’t use my time on the stage to promote one political party or another.
Interviewer: Thank you. Can you talk about what your life is like as a drag artist?
Mahogany Knight: Sure, it has to be one of the most. A typical day? Not the 9-5 but the drag part.
Interviewer: Yeah, I mean, does it affect anything else in your life?
Mahogany Knight: Yeah, it does, it has, it can, and it probably still will. And a lot of people in the community that will not date drag queens. There is a lot of um.
Interviewer: Stigma around it.
Mahogany Knight: Yes, it’s like come on, I can be more masculine than you. This is just a character I create for stage.
Interviewer: I know, you’re going to go and perform and have fun and entertain.
Mahogany Knight: Yes, they will come and support the shows and be there and cheer us on, and that is it. They want nothing else to do with us. I’m like huh interesting. But then you have the ones that only want to date you because you do drag. Yeah, that is not going to happen either. That is not going to happen. Because I am not a performer that’s in it every day. I enjoy doing my shows, entertaining, hanging out. And at the end of the night, I have a nice Neutrogena makeup wipe, and it goes all off, right into the trash can. I know I am a goofball. But it is true it comes off at the end of the night.
Interviewer: I definitely agree, I love my face wipes more than anything.
Mahogany Knight: It gets packed up to the next show, and on we go. But no I am not one to just sit around and cook dinner in drag, or vacuum the floor in a night gown or nothing, no.
Interviewer: Two different kind of ways.
Mahogany Knight: Yeah, yeah, I mean for me it would be. But, others do it that way.
Interviewer: It definitely is super diverse, and it is definitely a spectrum, not just everybody is like this or everybody is like that.
Mahogany Knight: Yes, that is correct. So many people have a type casted it and when they find out that I do it. They are like what? Because I am a bigger guy. I am not like super thin. You can guess.
Interviewer: I’m in the same boat. I’m definitely not a small person.
Mahogany Knight: They’re like “What? You? You do drag?” Yeah, I do. I throw all this man around on that stage in those high heels.
Interviewer: And I work it.
Mahogany Knight: Yes, I try.
Interviewer: You were great. The reason I was able to get a hold of you was because of Jenny Ritter and her friend Renee. They just talk about you so highly.
Mahogany Knight: That is so sweet. It was so good to see them this past weekend.
Interviewer: Yes! That’s I was going to go with them, and then I got super sick.
Mahogany Knight: Oh no, well things happen.
Interviewer: I know, then poor Jenny got something, something scratched her eye or something. But she had a great time. Every time I talk to her, she always gives me the highest remarks for you, and she thinks so highly of you.
Mahogany Knight: Aw, I got so many of them. This is awesome. I am just kidding, I will be honest I am very well loved and respected in the community. I don’t know how it happened. I just try to do the right thing. I’m not an angel, I am not perfect, but I try to put on the best show that I can and not offend anybody. I try to keep my name out of the paper. So, I don’t know. I often sit back and wonder. How did I get so lucky and receive all this love from this community? And really, sometimes I just sit back and think wow, ok, I did it.
Interviewer: I know. I definitely agree.
Mahogany Knight: Well thank you. All I can say is that I’m blessed. I’m very, very blessed and humbled.
Interviewer: I was very excited for this opportunity and I so happy that we are doing this.
Mahogany Knight: Oh, I am honored, really, I’m so honored. Anytime I can help out, you just give me a call.
Interviewer: Oh, I definitely will.
Mahogany Knight: Do you have any more questions?
Interviewer: Yeah, there is still a good number. I’m sorry.
Mahogany Knight: Oh, no no. I know you said it would take about 30-45 minutes. I do not know how long I have been walking. I have just been walking in the park.
Interviewer: That is where I want to be, but this computer.
Mahogany Knight: It will be here when you get ready.
Interviewer: Oh, yes. How often to you perform and where do you perform?
Mahogany Knight: I perform probably 3 weekends out of the month. Not full weekends, but maybe a Friday or Saturday, sometimes a Sunday. I try to refrain from Sunday since I work early on Monday morning. But, it’s the holiday, like my Labor Day or Memorial Day. Those are already booked. And Station House is my home bar, or Club Station House is my home bar. Which I absolutely love, I feel like I’m a relic in that building but I love it. But I travel all around, all over the country. I have never performed internationally. But I have performed in a lot of the states. I was just in Mississippi for one of their Mardi Gras balls. I have never been to a ball before. They’re really close, they are only like 40 minutes from New Orleans, where I performed at. And I was like “Wow! This is very cool! This is… lots of pomp and circumstance that goes into these things.” So, when I was Miss Gay USA at-large I traveled the country. So, that was probably one of the best years of my entire life.
Interviewer: That’s awesome.
Mahogany Knight: Yeah, it was. I took a year off from work.
Interviewer: Yeah, you have to really enjoy it.
Mahogany Knight: I did. I did. I didn’t have the restraints of going to a 9-5. I had a great company that I was working for. And they said okay, you won, what are you going to do? My partner at the time said if you want to do it right, you’ve always wanted to do it, do it right and take the year off. I will make sure everything is taken care of. I went to my job and they said okay, as long as we know you are coming back, we will hold your position. And they did, they worked short-handed for a year. And when I let them know I was ready, it was like here we go.
Interviewer: It must have been amazing to have all that support.
Mahogany Knight: Yes! That’s what I was telling you. I am so blessed. I often sit back and wonder how and why. Why me? Why was it me? I mean, I’m not complaining, I love it. But I see so many other artists that struggle. That really struggle, they have a rough time, either getting bookings, getting family support, trying to find a job. And I do not know if it is them, or I don’t know. I am just thankful that I have been placed in the position that I’m in.
Interviewer: Yes, I agree. What goes into getting ready for a performance?
Mahogany Knight: First and foremost, I can sew. I try to think of a song that I would like to do for the show or song. And then create costumes, themed around the song. Or if I know I am going to do a big dance number, I will just create a dance costume. Or, if it is a slower number, I’ll make a gown and then add all the embellishments on it.
Interviewer: Wow, that is awesome.
Mahogany Knight: Yeah, I just try to look put together from head to toe when I walk onto stage.
Interviewer: Jenny always talks about how great your outfits are. And I definitely was not disappointed.
Mahogany Knight: That just warms my heart, that there are people out thinking so highly of me. It really does.
Interviewer: Yeah, it is always nice to hear.
Mahogany Knight: Yes, it is, it’s like don’t say it when I’m dead. Don’t save it for your 3 minutes, say it now and let me hear you.
Interviewer: Is there anything unique about the drag scene where you live compared to other places in the country?
Mahogany Knight: Hold on, I am going to have you repeat that. I apologize.
Interviewer: You’re good. Is there anything unique about the drag where you live compared to the country?
Mahogany Knight: Oh, absolutely. I think sometimes drag can be very regional. Like here, I try and groom the girls to look their absolute best and not take short cuts. Because you never know who is in the audience seeing you for the first time. Or you never know who we have visiting from out of town, out of state, out of country. And we want to make sure that what they are seeing is the best, so that way when they leave Springfield, Il they say good things about our queens. I have been to places where, it’s not a read or anything bad, but I have been to places where their version of drag is going to the mall and buying just clothes off the rack. And I was like well, my thing is if what makes us special if the girl sitting in the audience has the same outfit on that you have on. I don’t like that. I think a lot of your drag should be made, custom made. Either for you by someone else, or by you, so that way it’s unique and the audience is going to say “Wow. Where did she get that?” And you say, “You have to have it made.” You can’t just go to DEB and get a little ol’ cocktail dress. But there are girls that do that. And that’s okay for them it’s that is not what I feel appealing on stage. Now don’t get me wrong, I do go to stores and get some dresses that I would use to tip around after the show, or before the show, or if I’m just hanging out on a whim. I don’t have a show this weekend, but I will just get in drag and hang out. Then absolutely I will go and find a little cute dress and wear it. But normally I try to custom make all my stuff, so that it is unique to me.
Interviewer: I think that’s definitely a good take. The next couple of questions are about sex, gender and identity. Are you comfortable answering these questions? If not, I can just skip them.
Mahogany Knight: No, you’re fine. If you ask it, I’ll answer it. That’s always been my motto. If you can ask if, I’ll answer it. That’s always been in my motto, if you ask it I’ll answer it.
Interviewer: Exactly. How do you identify in terms of your sex, gender identity, and gender expression out of drag?
Mahogany Knight: A gay man.
Interviewer: So, pronouns would be like he/him?
Mahogany Knight: Yes, however some people who have known me and have known me in and out of drag, regardless of where I am, they will scream it out, “Mahogany!!” I could be in the mall “There she is, there is Mahogany!” But how I identify out of drag is he/him. And all that is really new to me. I volunteer at the Phoenix Center. This is all the he/him. Yeah all that is really new to me. The first time I went there, and they went through that whole thing, I was so lost. Wait, what?
Interviewer: What are you talking about? Has drag had any influence over your gender identity?
Mahogany Knight: No, not at all. I am able to keep them separate, very very separate. When I’m in drag I like to have a good time, depend on acting like a girl for a few hours in the evening and then I can wash my face and Mahogany is in the trash can or packed up in the suitcase. Then Dean comes out and it is all good.
Interviewer: Thank you.
Mahogany Knight: Of course, you’re welcome.
Interviewer: How has drag impacted or changed you?
Mahogany Knight: Oh. It has impacted my life in a very positive way. I was able to be included in a family that I was not born into. I have created a family that they were not born into. But we are still a family at the end of the day. We fight, we argue, we disagree, we hug, we laugh when there is happiness. We cry together if there is a sadness. So, without my drag family I would be a very, very lost person I believe. They really affect me a lot as far as being there for me and knowing they are there for me. They know that I am always there for them, regardless of the situation or things that they are going through in life. It is just nice to know there are people out there that you can count on, and they are not blood related.
Interviewer: Yeah. Has drag impacted your confidence as a person when you are out of drag?
Mahogany Knight: No, um actually it has not. However, I have seen the difference when guys, or just their guy persona is out, and then they are very weak, quiet, shy, introverted. But, as soon as they put on their make-up, they are larger than life. And I’m thinking who are you? Where has this person outside of drag? Um, my best friend who passed on, he was very shy and introverted. But, once he put on drag it was wow, a whole other person. It really was. It was great to see because at the moment he was living his best life. And like I said earlier, that what it is all about, living your best life and having fun.
Interviewer: That is awesome. If you could go back in time as Mahogany what advice would you give to your younger self?
Mahogany Knight: I would let her know that she is in for a lot of heartache, but through that heartache she is going to continue to find inner peace, within herself.[The audio recording cut out for the last couple minutes. The interviewer and Mahogany said goodbye, the interviewer thanked Mahogany for their time and for sharing their thoughts and stories.]