Monday, September 12, 2016

May May Graves: True Passion and Success

Photo by Amanda Rebholz

Taking most of her inspiration from the punk scene, May May Graves is determined to create a community for the weirdos. She uses her platform to find people like herself who have big dreams and want to do the same thing. One of the most beautiful things when it comes to performing is when someone is passionate about what they do, it always shows. Whether it be onstage or just having a conversation, May May Graves is someone who is greatly passionate about entertainment and inspiring others.

1. How would you describe your aesthetic as a performer?

I've never liked the idea of being solely a "female impersonator" in a sense. I like to describe myself as a drag "creature" or the Monster under the bed. A fabulous trainwreck that you can't turn away from, all the glitter and carnage. When I was first trying to figure myself out as a brand, I was talking it out and said, "I want to be known as the Genderfuck of your Nightmares!" and it just kind of stuck. I'll have an emcee laugh when they read it from a cue card. Trash, fetish, glamour, and horror are my bread and butter you could say.

2. When and why did you begin performing? 

I've always loved the idea of performance and circus arts, etc. anything to get on the stage. I started my journey into drag while I was still preaching at an old southern Church of Christ. Something I fell into, but as much as I hate to say it, it really shaped my drag. Many of my looks have some kind of fucked up religious imagery. I guess one day I just snapped and shaved off my eyebrows. I really loved glam rock and industrial music at the time and wanted to be this androgynous punk rock superstar. So I started eating and breathing fire in this awful clown makeup on the street corners of East Texas. Once my brother, Jay Scarlet and I recorded an album together, we started hosting small parties in hotel rooms across the state, selling merch out of the trunk of our cars and playing gigs that earned us pennies. One thing led to another and I finally admitted to myself that I was a goddamn drag queen and things escalated from there. 

3. How did you acquire your stage name? 

Back in high school, people would call me May May for no good goddamned reason. It was a condescending name that I wasn't too fond of. I decided to keep it and turn it around. I think I started liking the name "May" after watching that film (the one with Anna Faris). It's a super yummy mindfuck. The name grew on me like a terrible cliche. So I kept feeding it and it never left. I go by that name in and out of drag. hell, my parents call me May. 

4. What has been your biggest accomplishment so far in your opinion?
      1. Being the one in my high school that didn't kill someone. (true story)
      2. Getting to travel and meet so many performers from across the globe
      3. Winning my first title last year, Evil Queen of Burlesque 2015/2016
      4. Creating some kick ass new projects for the coming months 
      In all honesty, I can't figure out what my favorite accomplishment is so far. I've achieved so much of what I've always wanted to do in the past few years. I've also survived so much in just the past year. It's really amazing. my favorite opiate is success. Everyone should try it. Holler. 

5. What was the experience like when you were the first drag queen able to perform at the 2014 Dallas Burlesque festival?
It was really an honor. I've performed every DBF since then and I absolutely LOVE the audience at the House of Blues. Now, let me tell you, my nerves done fucked me up that first show, girl. I started out as an Elvira Impersonator when I really got into drag. And I also didn't have a "no drinks before shows" rule at the time. Picture me sitting there, suddenly nervous that I'm performing in the same show as some of my biggest idols looking like a terrified puppy. My eyebrow to lip ratio was out of the world and I looked like Elvira got into a fight with her lipstick and the lipstick was like, "Girl, you'd look so good dressed as bozo. lets fix that." Not going too into detail, although I always like to have a good laugh about it, I was NOT laughing then. but, as I always say: It's Fine.

6. What can you tell everyone about your time at the Austin International Drag Festival this year since you were announced as the Dallas Ambassador?

I'm so glad I'm lucky enough to perform with some of the biggest names in drag for the second year in a row! I made lifetime family members with some of my favorite performers. I was actually reunited with my overseas twisted sister Dis Charge while she was on her HELLBENT TOUR (Check her out if you want to see some fucking ART) and we ran away to the San Marcos area to do a shoot in the middle of the woods (That's a whole other story!) I performed not one, but THREE showcases that weekend! April 28th, I had the honor of performing with none other than Cynthia Lee Fontaine from this season of Rupaul's Drag Race at Swan Dive Bar. I performed the Superstar Showcase on Friday, and I also closed the weekend at the Bye Felicia Brunch show on Sunday. I was EVERYWHERE dammit!

7. Which shows do you perform at regularly and what should people expect when coming to see you perform?

MY PLUGS: I'm performing all across Dallas mostly. Just scattered across the city. regularly though, I help with the producers of the monthly shows at the Historic Texas Theater called "Texas Burlesque Peepshow" (you can check out our themes and grab tickets at I also am a part of Dallas's ONLY drag KING troupe "Mustache Envy" and their sister troupe "Panty Raid" every third Friday at Sue Ellen's. I perform and host the after-party Dance contest at Tuesday Tease @ Sue Ellen's. And occasionally I'll make it out to this cute little queer punk rock show called Glitterbomb in Denton.  A lot of my shows revolve around a mixture of Burlesque, horror and Drag. We have faux queens, drag queens, genderfuckers, and so much more! I really like to perform within a character. Sometimes, it's a character that I created or it's a fucked up version of a cartoon character. Sometimes I'm a terrifying werewolf. Other times, I'm a latex fetish clown, other times, I'm Cruella DeVil, skinning my "puppies" onstage. At times, I'll shock myself with how far I go. I'm working on this super terrifying Ronald McDonald number. without giving too much away, I'll say that it involves some fabulous onstage torture. there are times though, that I bring it back to classic. I have this very beautiful Ziegfeld Follies-type Ghostly Blue Showgirl routine. it's one of my most favorite routines. I've been doing it for years.

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

It depends on the night, I guess. Some days I'll have to give up an extra hour to just worry about loading and unloading my large props (I have red velvet benches, comically giant mallets, etc.) Usually, I've gotten it down to a science. 45 minutes for makeup, 30 minutes for costume dressing, and probably an hour for shaving (I have the genetic predisposition of a bear.)

9. What is a makeup product that you absolutely cannot live without?

Oh goddamn. I wish I was ever prepared for questions like these. Let's see. I'd have to say that I don't know where I would be without good ol' NYX and their Bettie black gel liner. Once you get the formula down, that shit can paint a whole damn face for monochrome filth! I use it for my liner, my brows, my lip liner, my nose contour, my cheek contour.... hell, if I need some quick brows before work, I live on that shit. Available at Target. 

10. What advice do you have for anyone who is interested in becoming a burlesque performer?

I'd like to give some advice that I wish I'd had growing in this industry: 
      1. the first rule of Burlesque is that absolutely no one knows your routine. so when you fuck it up, ham it up even more. Play if off. You meant to do that. you meant to sit on your bench right before it collapsed from under you. you set that up goddammit.
      2. No one will give two shits about what you do until you're good. But that doesn't mean you should quit. Success is staying in the game long enough for you to prove yourself as someone who can triumph and create a decent product. 
      3. Take advice when someone gives it to you. don't use "That's just my aesthetic" as an excuse to not let yourself grow. The number one thing that young queens and performers do is come in thinking they have to claw their way to the top. You never peak, you always need to learn if you want to grow. Say thank you when given advice, EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT.
      4. Commit to your ideas, but stay marketable. A hobbyist does it for themselves. But a professional puts the audience first. Don't call yourself "genderfuck" if you just don't feel like tucking. An audience can see when you're being lazy. Call yourself "genderfuck" because you spent hours of effort stoning a HUGE cock sock that says "here's my dick, audience. you're not allowed to look away because I KNOW you love it."
      5. Burlesque is like high school. When you first enter the industry, you may be surrounded with so many people that seem to throw themselves at you. DON'T BE AFRAID TO SAY "NO". Walk away. Find someone who want to see you succeed. Gain a support group and give yourself some time to breath between gigs.
      6. Don't you dare forget to have some fucking fun!

11. In your opinion, what would you say is your best quality as a performer and why?

I really like myself, as most queens do. I would like to say that I have this great versatility, or my makeup is on point, or I'm oh-so humble. (Let's face it, we all love attention, darling.) But these are things that I would prefer to hear from other people rather than myself. I think my best quality in my opinion is how proud I am of myself. It took me a long time to really be able to say that I LOVE the performance that I do. I'm really putting myself out there, because I think I am ready to be seen. I was always beating myself up because I wasn't quite exactly like the performers that I admired. One of the funnest things to learn is that you will never be successful being anyone else but yourself. 

12. Who would you be most excited to work with in the future and why did you choose this person?

You know that I absolutely CANNOT choose one person! I'm actually planning a US tour next year and a Euro-Trash Tour in Berlin and Bristol later this year with this international collection of Trash performers called #GARBAGEFAM I cannot wait to get things started with these lunatics. Hell, I would love to tour with so many amazing people. One person that I have a personal vendetta of working with is the incomparable Peaches Christ. I have grown up a child of cult films and independent B-horror and she has this forever cemented place in history as THE leader dragon of the cult film. A damn genius. 

13. What can you tell everyone about the musical you're working on, "May May's Nightmares"? 

Girl! I would love to say so much about this project. So much is done and slated with it, but until casting and dating is done, it's still a fetus. What I can say is that It's not just like every other drag/burlesque show. It's a fabulous mixture of horror, drag, punk rock, and sex that has been in the works since I was a baby performer. I've been getting some help from amazing punk and industrial bands like Girlflesh and even Angelspit. Picture an immersive and interactive horror movie, where "Don't go in there!" might actually save someone's life! I'm planning on creating a whole world off of this project where viewers and fans of this can continue creating it all their own. It's gonna slay.

14. What would you say is your favorite thing about performing? 

I have always had this sick, disgusting obsession with the stage. I love the idea of standing on a blank stage and creating this world that only the audience and I can see. It's a secret world that, for only a small amount of time, can be seen. Aside from my monopolization of other people's stage time, I feel like I'm in service to a younger me. I remember going to these weird punk concerts and paying the little money I earned after school to buy a meet and greet pass and tell these artists how much they really have helped me and made me want to pursue my dreams. My goal, always, is to be that same artist. To be able to inspire that weird kid in the back of the audience to come forward and feel safe telling me that they have dreams that are just as wild as mine. I love that feeling. that's why I keep doing what I do. To find other people like me and help them find each other.I attended a workshop taught by the incomparable Peaches Christ (Joshua Grannell) entitled "Creating a Cult" where he described the very same idea. He said, "I grew  up thinking I was the only one who loved these weird things. So I decided to create a system where other's like me could find each other and bond over something we worshipped." (Paraphrasing, of course. All I can remember verbatim are Bible verses.) 

15. Where do you see yourself taking your career in the future? 

Success, as a good friend has told me, is a series of elevators. There will come a time when one elevator will go as high as it will go. You can stay comfortable on that floor, or you can take a chance at finding an elevator that goes higher. I've already come so far with achieving these great goals that I've set for myself. Titles, shows, music, making a name for myself. It's time to go higher! I want, in the end, to create an empire of these fucked up kids that have been too scared to chase their dreams. I want to create this haven for glam-punk drag to really come together. I have so many projects in the works, and it's hard to pick just one. Right now I'm focusing mostly on setting up my new show and a future tour. I've also buckled down this past spring to focus on a certain specific audition opportunity that literally everyone and their dog is always jumping on. I'm glad I'm confident enough this year to really say how confident I am in my art to really put myself out there like this. It's really exciting! I don't think I'll ever stop.

Photo by Amanda Rebholz

Follow May May Graves:
Instagram: @maymaygraves 
Official Website:

Amanda Rebholz: 
Instagram: @omgithasawatermark 

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

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