Thursday, June 2, 2016

Bentley James: Detroit's Drag Princess

Photo by Tony Lowe

Reigning over the city of Detroit, Michigan, Bentley James takes pride in being the fishy queen. But don't let her beautiful looks fool you. She is determined to separate herself from the cookie cutter mold of beauty and femininity and wants to take her work to a new level and also use her creativity to win hearts everywhere. Her ultimate goal is to distract her audience from their everyday life at home even if it's just for a few minutes and truly entertain them. Bentley is a fierce beauty queen with a heart of gold, silly sense of humor, and outgoing personality that will leave you gagging and demanding more. 

1. Who is Bentley James?

Bentley James is, in a sense, what I like to call the ultimate fantasy. To present myself as Practically perfect in every way, I pay a lot of attention to the small details a lot of people would sometimes ignore. I'm a glamour girl at heart so I love sparkly, sexy costumes, showing a lot of skin...being in my eyes, the epitome of femininity. I'm a walking, talking wet dream. I wouldn't have it any other way. 

2. When and why did you begin doing drag?  

I started doing drag when I was 18 and in my first year of college, my friend took me to a gay bar for his birthday before I even came out of the closet, and I still remember to this day the very first queen I saw and how I felt watching it, drag is such a positive, uplifting, energetic experience. And I feel like you forget all of your problems when your watching those girls strut their stuff, performing for you on stage. And I remember thinking to myself... "If I could make other people feel the way these girls did, I would be more than happy and fulfilled in life" so I did, and I haven't looked back since, and it's been such a fun and amazing ride, meeting all of these other performers and fans from across cities and states, it's very surreal, and I can't wait to see what's next for me!

3. How did you come up with your drag name? 

It was actually what my sister wanted her kids name to be, I was going though names , left and right. From stuff like Roxy Hart, to more eccentric names like Vanity Rayne. (Awful I know) and when she told me about the name Bentley James as one of her options, I really liked the way it sounded off the tongue, it's masculine yet feminine. I think it's alluring and sparks curiosity, like a good perfume. So when she decided to go in a different direction, I took the name for myself. And it stands out for sure, I haven't met another Bentley yet!

4. How would you say drag has changed your life? 

It has changed my life so much! It's made me a not only a more confident man in my day to day life, but a stronger one as well, growing up, I was always extremely meek and mild mannered. I was the quiet one in the room who always was drawing or playing my video games, keeping to myself, so I didn't step on anyone's toes. But drag has boosted my confidence and gave me the courage to not only realize what I want in life, but to pursue it and make it happen, and not to be afraid to stand up for myself and say what I need to say when it needs to be said. People aren't lying when they say drag is a very powerful tool if you know how to use it, and it can do so much good for you if you let it. 

5. What is your biggest accomplishment so far?

Oh gosh, that's a tough one! I've been given so many wonderful opportunities doing this art, from performing in Chicago, to doing shows at Cesar's Casino in Windsor, Canada. But I think the biggest accomplishment I have had so far is performing at the Andiamos Celebrity Showroom with the girls from Rupaul's Drag Race, it's a show venue from my city where they bring in a lot of big name entertainment, so it's kind of surreal to sit there and realize that you are getting ready in the same dressing room as people such as Joan Rivers, Margaret Cho, and Kathy Griffen have before, and stepping on the same stage that they have stepped on, performing for over a thousand people, underneath those stage lights, looking out into a crowd cheering at the top of there lungs for you, you really feel like a superstar and on top of the world. That I think, is my biggest accomplishment yet, and I'm hoping I'm afforded luxuries like that in the future. (Thanks Murray and Peter!) 

6. What is something you want to achieve in the future with your drag career?

I want to be able to make a difference, to travel the world and leave a positive impact on people's lives with my art in some way, shape, or form. Ideally that's why I would want to be on Rupaul's Drag Race, because it would give me such a big platform to do what I love and do just that, and meet people of different cultures, ethnicities, lifestyles and backrounds, and do my best to make everyone feel the same way I felt when I watched my first show, to make all of their problems go away, even if it's just for a few minutes. 

Photo by Tony Lowe

7. How has your family reacted to the fact that you do drag? 

They are my biggest supporters! They went to my first show and still go whenever they can, I'm very lucky and blessed to have such a loving caring family, who supports any decision I make and loves me unconditionally, because I know, sadly, a lot of people in the LGBT community don't really have that.... Plus,  I mean, it doesn't hurt to have people who don't mind helping you stone your costumes! 

8. How did you learn to do your makeup?

My drag mother Melony Vonkruz taught me most of everything I know, she's a absolute knockout beauty who's inspired me in more ways than I can tell you, always inspiring me to step out of the box with my illsuion and step my game up, to find new ways to mix beauty with creativity. Taking inspiration from things like legends and fairytales, to video games and books. She used to tell me all the time, that being pretty is fine and dandy, (because we both are, not even gonna sugarcoat it, haha) but to be the pretty and creative queen, that's what's going to get you work, and what's going to keep you going further and further, because you will never be a one trick pony, and you will always have something to keep the crowd wanting more. And let me be the first to tell you... She was right! My mug would be a busted, crusted mess if it wasn't for her. And I'm very thankful for the day she stepped into my life. 

9. How long does it typically take you to get ready for a performance?

I paint rather fast, so that's only like a hour from start to finish, it's the pre show prep that takes all day, like I said, I show a lot of skin, but I'm actually a pretty hairy guy outside of drag, so I shave everything from my face down to my toes, because I don't wear tights either so everything has to be baby smooth , and then I use a self tanner to add a glow to my skin too, it just really adds a nice touch under the spot light, it's important to go through details like that, So a show takes like the second half of my day away. But the end results, as you can see, are so worth it. 

10. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I would love to go to Greece! It's my ideal place to visit, I've always been obsessed with Greek culture and myths and legends, even as a kid. Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and beauty, is one of my favorite characters to perform as, not to mention it's such a beautiful country, and right in the middle of the Mediterranean. It would be a dream come true to visit there.

11. What is the most bizarre thing someone has ever said to you while you were out in drag?

Honestly the most bizarre things come from the chasers on Facebook, who love to try to sleep with the dolls, your jaw would drop if you'd seen half of the perverted and downright weird things people send us, from asking to wear our panties, to spanking them with a belt while their wearing our wigs or something, and then on top of that, These people never have real photos  of themselves, so getting these weird requests from people with pictures of koalas and stuff is just downright strange and cryptic.

12. If you could work with anyone in the future, who would you work with and why?

Marco Marco!!! I love his work and it would be a honor and a dream come true to walk in one of his shows!!

13. If you ever decided to try out for RPDR and you made the cast, who would you pick to do for snatch game?

I would probably do Frankenfurter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I do a lot of characters and illusions (Adele, Jessie J, Britney, and the Grinch just to name a few) but i think Frankenfurter has a dark theatrical comedy that nobody's really touched on, and it would be Intresting to see how that would play out. 

14. What's your favorite makeup product? 

Highlighter and illuminator! I use like 4 of them on my face,  (Pearl from Becca is to die for!) I love, love, LOVE the dewy look. I think it's just so fishy and feminine and i can't get enough of it. 

15. What advice do you have for younger queens just starting out?

Never be afraid to pay your dues and put in the work! And don't be against accepting constructive criticism, both are essential in drag, to build yourself into a better and more rounded entertainer, and I think a lot of new girls are forgetting that these days and thinking that they can go and demand a crazy booking fee right out of the gate. We ALL had to pay our dues, and they are no different. And it will only make you better in the long run. OH AND DONT OVER EDIT YOUR PHOTOS, nobody's going to book someone who looks like Beyoncé on Facebook and shows up looking like pepper from American horror story. A filter is fine, but don't go crazy.

Follow Bentley James:

Instagram: @bentley_james

Photo Credit:

The Drag Enthusiast:
Twitter: @DragEnthusiast
Instagram: @dragenthusiast

1 comment:

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