Female Drag Queens by Frederike De Jonge

Interview with Raven Snook, Female Drag Queen

To me drag is not gender-bound it is a state of mind. I have met several women (born gender female that is!) who are, in my terms, a drag queen, (including myself). Some male "drag queens" say women do no thave enough drama or glamour to be drag queens. I say - what abt the women so many drag queens impersonate? A few names come to mind: Diana Ross, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Midler, Cher, Joanna Lumley, Madonna to name but a few.

During my last visit to New York I met up with Raven Snook ("Designated Diva" drag performer) and Andy Freeze (make-up artist & self-proclaimed drag terrorist) for a photoshoot and some chit chat on the essence of drag.

Frederike: What makes Ravens "Designated Diva" a Drag Queen?

Andy: Raven has always been a girl with a little bit of flair....

Raven: A little bit!? Excuse me ..... Cher is a girl with a little bit of flair!! I have always identified with drag queens, in terms of glamour and in terms of what I think looks feminine. I interpret femininity as what drag queens do - as opposed to what "women" do. Gender lines are getting blurred and I'm sure that ten years from now men and women will be wearing some stupid minimalist, gender neutral look. However I'm still gonna be hockin my glitter lipstick!

Frederike: What would be your response to a male "drag queen" who says women can not be drag queens?

"Drag is not gender-bound, it is a state of mind"

Raven: What is a drag queen? ..... For some it may mean some nasty bearded guy who just throws on a dress, does that really make him a drag queen? For me it totally does not! Drag is about working a look, an attitude and a style. Its not about the gender of the person.

Andy: To me, drag is a cartoon ideal. Just look at all those Hollywood stars who really carve and sculpt a look. I mean really recreate themselves into something that they are not.

Raven: That's what it is! Exactly!! It is taking an aesthetic that doesn't have to be cross-gender. I think that a cartoon is a really good way of putting it. I was attracted to the glamour of the old MGM musicals. That was the aesthetic (the cartoon) that I was predisposed to be.

Andy: You also discovered punk......

Raven: Yeah, I discovered punk too.... My mom made a good point about that! She said: "You know, even when you were a punk you were never ugly. You always tried to look glamourous. You took the look and cleaned it up". For me punk was about dressing up.

Frederike's friend *BOB*

My friend *Bob* has been working the drag-circuit professionally for eight years, performing at various venues in Paris, Amsterdam and New York including a show at Wigstock 99. She is often mistaken for a drag queen. People are fascinated with her. Women who come into contact with her sometimes thinks she is male and say "I wish I could be a drag queen". To people who say that female drag queens do not exist her response is - My career exists - that's proof of what I am and that's all possible because I do not believe in limits. Negative remarks about my career as a drag-performer are completely irrelevant and don't deserve any attention whatsoever. As for day to day drama in drag, if it's not on stage and you are not getting paid for it, it's worthless!!'

When I asked her how she felt working alongside other drag queens she said: It is very inspiring and I absolutely have the best drag-mother in the world Jackie Beat!! I seldom impersonate other people. I only impersonate different aspects of myself. The only person I do impersonate, other than myself, is Angelyne THE Billboard Queen of Hollywood....

Drag to Symony

Drag to Symony is in the detail. It could be a pair of shoes or an accessory. It doesn't have to be an entire outfit. In her opinion some women are constantly in drag. Its not just about what you wear it's the attitude that comes with it and how you carry yourself. You can look like shit but if you walk out there smiling, loving yourself, you're gonna look good regardless!!

Personally I don't get all that many opportunites to be in drag, as I have to remain focused while photographing others in drag. I know that if I were in drag on these occasions it would hold me back. However I too very much feel that drag is a state of mind. For me personally it is hard to describe in words alone. It is a feeling I have inside - a feeling that I need to express myself best through my photographs and not only those I take - but also only those I pose for. After preparing for these pictures I really like to go out and party. The attention you receive when dragged up is fabulous and can be addictive.

Amazing amounts of people want to link "drag" to gender category. If anything - drag should be seen as a form of expression, an art form, free of gender stereotyping.

by Frederike De Jonge