Twinkie LaRue

Twinkie LaRue is a cisgender woman who is new to and passionate about being a drag queen. She emphasizes that anyone and everyone can try drag, regardless of their assigned gender or their gender identity.

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Interview with Twinkie LaRue, February 23, 2020

To cite this particular interview, please use the following:
Baxter, Destiny. 2020. Interview with Twinkie LaRue. Department of Sociology, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, February 23. Available URL (http://www.ezratemko.com/drag/twinkie-larue/).

Interviewer: Hello?

Twinkie LaRue: Hi, is this Destiny?

Interviewer: Yes it is, hi.

Twinkie LaRue: Happy to finally talk to you.

Interviewer: Sorry about that.

Twinkie LaRue: Oh, it’s okay no worries.

Interviewer: How are you doing?

Twinkie LaRue: I’m doing all right, how are you?

Interviewer: I’m good, thank you. Did you get a chance to look over that participation form? Did you have any questions or anything?

Twinkie LaRue: I looked over it, everything seems alright.

Interviewer: Awesome. So, my very first question is When did you first hear about drag?

Twinkie LaRue: When did I first hear about it? I would say a couple of years ago when I started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Interviewer: Okay, and then what was your initial reaction to it?

Twinkie LaRue: I thought it was really cool. I didn’t really know much about women doing drag, to be honest, because it wasn’t represented on the show. And I didn’t know it was a thing until I had searched it. And then I realized, “Oh, wow, there are a lot of cisgender women that are doing this” and I thought that it was – it was validating for me it was like, okay, well then it’s an option for me. So, then I decided I wanted to check it out, like see some local shows and possibly get into it.

Interviewer: So, when did you first start performing as a drag artist?

Twinkie LaRue: Um, I think it was October 2018 – yep, so I was almost 20.

Interviewer: Do you remember like your first experience in drag, would you like to share anything about that?

Twinkie LaRue: My first experiences in drag. I don’t know, I thought it was like a really cool art form. And I think I felt more confident in drag and just, it was like a really liberating experience.

Interviewer: How have your like families and friends and other loved ones received you becoming a drag artist?

Twinkie LaRue: It hasn’t been easy. For sure. I think it’s been a process. I thought, I believed that everyone would be cool with it. And I don’t think it was- it was definitely hard to understand especially from my family. They are definitely working on it for sure. And I think they are more accepting than a lot of my peer’s parents. They come from a generation where I think it just wasn’t talked about. And even if it was talked about, there wasn’t really that representation of cisgender women being drag queens or really anything else. So, it was definitely, it took a lot of, you know, conversations and like, it’s definitely been a process to put it in short.

Interviewer: And then where does your drag name come from?

Twinkie LaRue: Well, Twinkie it’s because I’ve always been very short. I come from a big family and everyone’s very tall, and I’m 5’3”. So, it’s kind of like the- the slang term in the gay community twink, but also my paternal grandmother’s, they used to call her Twiggy because I guess she resembled the model and kind of like a mix of those two things.

Interviewer: Okay, and then so there are a lot of different types of drag. So, you’ve got you know, glamour queens, impersonators, comedy queens, how would you characterize your drag?

Twinkie LaRue: That’s an interesting question because I, I think I’m more so a performance queen. I am still, you know, learning. I don’t have the- like I’m a student, I don’t have the most money to go out and like, invest in real expensive outfits and things like that, so I think I focus more so with performance. Aesthetic wise – ideally, glamour, I would like to kind of explore that a little bit more like the fashion aspect as well. But that’s the kind of aesthetic that I gravitate towards, with a bit of influence and like the alternative punk kind of scene as well. Sometimes I go for that kind of look, because I was always drawn to that in like middle school and high school, so I guess I can’t shake that influence.

Interviewer: Yeah, so then who or what else has influenced your personal drag?

Twinkie LaRue: Outside of my scene, I would say a lot of the music I listened to. I listened to a lot of, well, I guess being a 90s and 2000s baby, a lot of pop music and the pop stars of the generation like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and I think people like that. I used to listen to a lot of like Marilyn Manson and like Nirvana and kind of alternative music as well. So that’s kind of an influence of mine. Also like, Drag Race scenes and people from- that you see on television as well, I think that they’re, we’re living in a really cool time now where you see drag artists on TV and you can take influence from that even if you aren’t a drag queen, you can- if you’re a visual artist, or a musician or whoever, you can see these people and take influence.  In my scene, there is a drag – there’s a few drag queens that have been very open about accepting people that aren’t cisgender men into queer spaces and allowing them to do their art. Courtney Conquers is one of them. She’s been a very big influence of mine, Scarlet Bobo who is a local performer who has always been very open in booking cisgender women and other people that don’t identify as cisgender men, as well as creating her own competition and just being very outwardly, like outspoken about injustice in the performance world.

Interviewer: And then do you consider your drag to be political?

Twinkie LaRue: I would say so I think, although I don’t, I have never really done a political performance. But I think the mere act of me existing at times can be political. Because I see from other cisgender women that go to the village, which is like where we have our drag shows is kind of the LGBTQ club in Toronto. A lot of ciswomen and other people, I can’t speak on the trans experiences because I don’t identify as such. They have had difficult experiences in the village. A lot of the cisgender women I’ve talked to, like there’s a group of young girls that go to the local drag, they have experienced discrimination, and I feel like me just being in that community and just making myself visible in queer spaces and performing there, I would say it changes minds it kind of, you know, it really is it’s a silent act of being politicized.

Interviewer: Definitely and then so are you part of a drag family or a drag house or collective?

Twinkie LaRue: I am not. I was at the start of my drag career. And I decided to leave. Because just some disagreements and things like that. It’s not for everyone. I think that some people really like that. Some people, they’re not too keen on that idea. But I will say that, really any community that you’re in, you kind of find like a type of kin relationship. Like I have lots of friends that I would consider, like family members that aren’t a part of like a traditional drag family so.

Interviewer: Yeah, and then how often would you say you perform?

Twinkie LaRue: Well, because I’m a student and fairly new and I would also be remiss if I didn’t say, possibly because I’m a cisgender woman, I perform at a- like a regular booking, maybe once a month. I think like I do- we have several opportunities in Toronto for open stages. So, that is a way to kind of like shake off the cobwebs and also, you know, talk to other performers, possibly get a booking. But yeah, it is, I would say it’s difficult, and in a city like Toronto, it’s a small drag community, but it’s the biggest in Canada. So, we’re, there’s a, we have a lot of bars that do drag shows, but even then, they have so many queens and kings and other performers that it’s very competitive. But yeah, about once a month.

Interviewer: Would you say that there’s anything unique to the drag scene in Toronto where you live compared to other places in the country or world?

Twinkie LaRue:  I say what I’ve seen from other drag performers in Canada, I’ve never visited another city’s drag scene. What I see in Toronto, the fact that it is a bigger drag scene it’s kind of similar to what I’ve seen in New York. I’ve never seen it firsthand but like for TV and things like that, it’s a very, you have an alternative theme, which is around the Queen West area. And we have in our village, which is more of a traditional, if you can call it that traditional drag scene, where it’s very much like glam, top 40 performance style and unlike other cities, we have marathon drag. So, a performer will do about 15 minute sets, and then another performer might come on stage and do 15 minutes sets. For about, like a two-hour show. In other cities, it’s usually each performer does about one or two performances throughout the span of a two or three hour show, and that is how they do it there, in Toronto was definitely a different layout. I would say it’s similar to other types of performance styles where you don’t it’s not just one number you do you do like several. Yeah, several different numbers.

Interviewer: And then what goes into getting ready for a performance for you?

Twinkie LaRue: What goes into it? I say ideally, I like to practice some sort of self-care beforehand, like, take a shower, try and rely music on. I think that that is something I like to do but that isn’t always ideal. I say, putting on makeup, listening to the music that I’m planning on performing that night. Finding a costume or an outfit that I can wear, putting on the wig. It’s a process that definitely, there’s this I guess, misconception that cisgender women don’t have to put as much effort into – into drag, I think. It’s definitely a long and strenuous process, but it’s definitely very worth it, I enjoy it. For sure.

Interviewer: And then what do you think are some other misconceptions that people have about drag?

Twinkie LaRue: Um, I think that there’s a misconception that a lot of these drag queen, drag king, and performers are, I mean, that like a lot of these bars and the people inside the bars are very seedy individuals. I think that that was a concern, especially for my family when I started. Although working in the nightlife industry is definitely not the best, but really nothing is. I think that you realize that drag performers are regular people, a lot of them are students, they have day jobs. You know, it’s at the end of the day, they are still people. And I think another misconception that I had watching, starting out watching RuPaul’s Drag Race is that it’s really just cisgender men that are doing this. And then you go to an actual drag show, and you might see a cisgender woman or a trans person and not a non-binary person. It’s a big, there’s lots of different types of people that do drag. It’s not just the traditional men dressing as women or women dressing as men. So that’s definitely a big misconception.

Interviewer: And where do you think that those types of misconceptions come from?

Twinkie LaRue: I would say – I would say that the media for sure is definitely a reason why there are these misconceptions, because if we don’t represent different groups of people on TV or in the media, we won’t know it exists. And I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘I didn’t even know that cisgender women could do that.’ And like they, they just were astonished that like, people like me even existed. And I always find that kind of funny. Sometimes it comes off as a little bit rude, when people say it, but it’s a learning experience for them, and I get to be a part of that experience with them.

Interviewer: And then what different things do you think we could do to help change these misconceptions?

Twinkie LaRue: I think for people that produce shows to try and make them more diverse. I think changing the language that we use when it comes to talking about drag performers, saying performers instead of queens or kings, or because there’s so many different intersections in between. I guess being aware of our pronouns. Yeah, just the language that we use, like, the term fishy is kind of sexist. There’s a bunch of different terms that I think other than fishy, none of them come to mind. I think being aware of our language and who, like the end, you know, somebody says, “Oh, I’m offended by that,” genuinely take it to heart and, you know, make sure that, you know, you’re, I guess checking yourself. Also, I would say, not assuming the gender or sexuality of anyone that is in a queer space. I’ve seen a lot of queens, say to friends of mine, or people, even to me, like just an assumption at “Oh, any cisgender woman that is queer space is straight.” And that’s an assumption that people are making and it really isn’t, you know, it isn’t a fair assumption to make for anyone

Interviewer: And then how do you personally identify in terms of your gender identity outside of drag?

Twinkie LaRue: My gender identity outside of drag I identify as a cisgender woman. Sexuality, I don’t use labels. That’s so – just fluid or label-less I guess or queer, I guess.

Interviewer: Do you use those same pronouns inside of drag, the she/her?

Twinkie LaRue: She/her inside and outside of drag.

Interviewer: Has drag influenced your gender identities at all or anything like that?

Twinkie LaRue: Um, I would say that it’s more so an expression of my gender identity. Has it  influenced it? I would say it has caused me to analyze gender roles and how I might identify and I think I still identify as a cisgender woman but I think it is – it has given me the opportunity to explore gender a bit more.

Interviewer: Has drag impacted your confidence as a person when you are outside of drag?

Twinkie LaRue: Um, I would say, before I started drag, I wasn’t the most confident. I think giving me that outlet has helped my confidence. But I do think sometimes I find it has me looking at myself a little bit more critically. Because you’re altering your body when you become a drag queen or a drag king. There’s a lot of like corseting or people with padding or things like that. And we don’t usually wear that in our day to day lives. So you have to I have to kind of remind myself, like, yeah my waist doesn‘t look like that when I’m going to work or going to school, or most women don’t have hips like that or you know going about their day to day lives or, or whatever. So it does, I would say, I have to remind myself a lot more than before I started.

Interviewer: So, what are the other challenges to you doing and being a drag artist?

Twinkie LaRue: The challenges? I would say there still is even just being accepted and seen as valid. I think that there’s still challenges when it comes to that. I mean, on the internet, it seems like people are mostly understanding. But in the drag scene, I find, I’ve learned to associate with people that accept me and see my art as valid. And it has been a process to kind of like find those people. I’d say that’s one of the biggest challenges because there are still competitions in my city that only allow cisgender men to perform. And I don’t know how they get away with advertising like that because I see that as discrimination. And also, like people don’t really – people that enter don’t really care all that much about it, so I think that is a big challenge because, clearly in 2020, anyone who identifies as a cisgender man doing drag is still getting discriminated against and are not offered the same opportunity.

Interviewer: And then can you think of any additional ways in which drag has impacted or changed you?

Twinkie LaRue: I, it has changed me when it comes to -I mean, I was always that person who would go from school to home. I would really never, I never really went out and then like I was always more of an introverted person. And then I started drag, and I felt like I actually enjoyed going out and seeing people and I didn’t, it was just a nice opportunity. I never had that in middle school or high school where I went into a room and people were excited to see me. Or, you know, I knew people there and you know, like, it seems like you have like a big group of friends. And I kind of, I found that really helpful. And I think it also has made me appreciate my own gender identity as well. I think that I mean, I grew up in a feminist household, my mom and grandma are both self-identified feminists, and I think I always had that influence. But until I started going out and pursuing drag, I think I kind of appreciate that background a lot more, and I’m practicing it more.

Interviewer: You’ve mentioned different things about how gender has kind of impacted drag. Can you share any other examples of how maybe, race, class, age, religion, those kinds of other social identities has impacted your experience of drag?

Twinkie LaRue:  I think I am lucky when it comes to privilege for sure. I’ve noticed through my friends that they’ve had negative experiences, people making racist comments. And I see that as like as a friend, it gets me angry that people are in a community that’s supposed to be accepting and you know, in a safe space, people are still discriminating against others. I do also see trans people being discriminated against and in certain queer spaces. I will say because Toronto, Toronto considers itself a mosaic when it comes to the different cultural groups that we have here. And Toronto, unlike a lot of the cities in North America, the majority of the people that are booked in the Toronto drag scene are people of color, specifically black queens. And that is something I would say that we pride ourselves on that, even then I don’t think many Asian queens or indigenous queens. Or, like, I think that there’s definitely a lack of that in the representation. And I think that I would like to see it change. And if I ever have a show in the future like a local, weekly or monthly show, I would love to diversify Toronto’s drag scene for sure.

Interviewer: Definitely, and then how do you personally define drag?

Twinkie LaRue: With my own drag career, I guess I see it as a celebration of femininity. But with other people, like I think drag as a whole is a, either a celebration, a critique, an expression of gender, whether that be your own gender or practicing, not practicing, like trying out, on a different gender for the sake of art, and I think it’s ultimately inherently political.

Interviewer: And then what do you think is the purpose of drag?

Twinkie LaRue: I think the purpose of it – I think it’s a form of self-expression. I think it helps a lot of people get out of their shells. It helps a lot of people discover who they are. And I also think that it is a good vessel for talking about gender, and helping us analyze what exactly gender is and how the roles that you know we take on in this world are sometimes are ridiculous. And I think that is a good way to do that in an often funny and lighthearted and fun way.

Interviewer: Do you think that drag is sexual?

Twinkie LaRue: Do I think its sexual? I think it can be. I know there’s a big debate on whether or not kids should be around drag queens, like in drag queen story time or even kids that pursue  drag. I do think because oftentimes drag is in bars and nightclubs, I do think it can be sexual. I don’t necessarily – I don’t do that in my performance style. But there is a lot of sexual references. It doesn’t have to be sexual though. I do you think that there are people that can do a drag show and be very benign and appropriate. I think it just depends on the time and place.

Interviewer:  Do you think that things like Drag Queen Story Hour and those kinds of things are good events?

Twinkie LaRue: I think that parents, I do have various nieces and nephews and I think will bring their top —–

Interviewer: Hello, sorry I didn’t hear the last 10 seconds I’m so sorry it cut out completely

Twinkie LaRue: We were talking about the Drag Queen Story Hour- So I think that it depends on the person, if they’re comfortable talking about gender identity and gender roles and sexuality with their kids, I think that it is a good starting point to, let’s say go to a Drag Queen Story Hour, but not every parent is comfortable with that, and that’s totally okay. I do think it’s, again, it’s the time and place. I don’t- I’ve never . I don’t think that there are these, I would hope that there weren’t any inappropriate references and things like that around kids, but from what I understand it’s a very, you know, fun and age appropriate environment.

Interviewer: And then how do you feel about RuPaul’s Drag Race?

Twinkie LaRue: I enjoy the show. I definitely get excited every few months or whenever the show comes around and there’s a new season. I’m excited that Canada is getting their version from – I’m very excited for that. I do think, however, that it definitely needs to be more diverse. And I think that that is something that I would love to see in the future. I don’t know if it’s going to happen, because RuPaul has said some, I don’t remember exactly what he said, but that wouldn’t have cisgender women or transgender women that are already transitioning on the show. which I don’t think is – I think that is missing out on a big opportunity when it comes to – like there are so many cisgender and transgender performers that are incredibly talented and they can do – I would love to see them on the show and I know lots of other people feel that way as well. And you never know, I think that like, there could be a little girl out there like me who was [inaudible] and been like, oh, wow, she’s doing it. Maybe I can do it, you know?

Interviewer: Yeah, definitely. So aside from diversification if you could change one other thing about drag, the drag scene or the community, what would that be?

Twinkie LaRue:  I would love to just in the arts oftentimes performers don’t get paid their proper wage. I think something like a union for drag queens and performers would be amazing because we don’t get benefits, we don’t – our hours aren’t good you know, know, like it’s very much under the table work. So, there have been many times where people have not been paid for certain things or other people have been paid more. In the arts, people don’t necessarily often respect artists work, you know, you get paid in exposure or things like that. So, I think that would be something I would change. I think that it’s super important to be paying artists for their, like, either their time or you know, the effort of actually getting into drag is unpaid work. So. yeah.

Interviewer: Yeah definitely. And then if you could choose one thing you want people to know about or to learn about drag from this, what would it be?

Twinkie LaRue: One thing I would say that anyone can do drag, regardless of how you identify, or you know, or who you are the gender that you were assigned at first, or the gender identity you have you, you can do it. It’s something that I think a lot of people a lot of people don’t know that it’s an option for them. And I think that is something that more people should try out. Even if it’s just for a night to go out in a nice outfit and have makeup on, you know, it’s fun.

Interviewer: And then did you have any other experiences or anything else you’d like to share?

Twinkie LaRue: Any other experiences? I think that every performer, especially if you’re working in nightclub environments, they’ve had good and bad experiences. I mean, I think that for me, I realized that I guess being open about certain topics like saying a competition shouldn’t discriminate against cisgender women and trans people like the local competition we have, I realized how many people were against even me saying that, and other people saying that and there have been, I think that is we don’t necessarily listen to the people when they say things that we don’t like, I was kind of calling for people who, I didn’t say the name of the competition. But I think for people who are local to maybe think about a boycott, because if people don’t enter this competition, then they [inaudible], and an old friend of mine wrote a whole post about me saying that I shouldn’t get booked again, because I was, you know, talking badly about people that were entering this competition. And it was interesting to see that people that identify as feminists and open minded and all of that were not okay with me speaking my mind. So, I do think that there is a problem with sexism and transphobia and racism in this industry, but in every industry, there are those problems. It’s just interesting to see how even me speaking my mind on things, you know, or other people speaking their mind on things can show you other people’s true colors and intentions.

Interviewer: Definitely that is interesting. I think that people would be much more open.

Twinkie LaRue: You’d assume for sure, but I think in other cities I’ve heard it’s more open minded. I think it depends on the place. Every drag scene is different because there are different every city is different. So, I think it’s, I would love to travel and to see what other cities what their scene is like, how their performance style is, things like that. I don’t see that in the cards right now because you know, I’m in school currently. So hopefully in the future, that would be something I would love to check out.

Interviewer:  I, just from personal research, at least in the United States, of course, I don’t know much about Canada, the coasts, it seems to be very liberal. So, New York and then the other coast. You know, California has a really good drag –

Twinkie LaRue: Yeah, I know Chicago has a very big drag scene and it’s supposedly very welcoming. And it’s a really cool place to be, as well.

Interviewer: I hope to be able to travel to those places too soon, as soon as I’m out of school as well. Did you have anything else that you’d like to share, anything?

Twinkie LaRue: I think we covered everything. Is there any other questions that you’d like to ask?

Interviewer: No questions on my part. However, if you’d like to send like a few photos that I could include in like a little biography, when I upload this to the website and everything that would be great.

Twinkie LaRue: Cool. Yeah, absolutely

Interviewer: Okay, well thank you so much for participating. And you have a great rest of your night!

Twinkie LaRue: You too. Thank you

Interviewer: Bye-bye.

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