Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ophelia Bulletz: Dangerously Beautiful

 Photo by Adam Ouahmane
Chicago is one of the most diverse cities when it comes to their drag community. Their drag scene is filled will all types of art, from club kids to pageant queens, to drag kings, and everything in between. Ophelia Bulletz is a performer who started performing in Chicago almost 2 years ago. She is now part of a monthly show called Squad Goals which takes place every 4th Tuesday of the month at Berlin Nightclub. She is also known for making a lot of her own outfits and is starting to gain notoriety especially for making leather harnesses. She has definitely proven herself as a multi talented performer and is about to take the Chicago drag scene by storm.   
1. Who is Ophelia Bulletz?

A drag succubus: beautiful, ethereal, and dangerous. (At least, that's how I like to describe her.) Ophelia is a character that allows me to explore gender, identity, emotion, sexuality, etc. She's basically a living creative outlet for me. I studied fashion design, performance and creative writing in school and Ophelia lets me incorporate all of those things in one way or another.

2. When and why did you begin doing drag? 

I started playing around with makeup in high school, going to Rocky Horror, and then doing performance and video art in college. I started taking drag more seriously and performing in Chicago almost two years ago. I think it started with a desire to feel beautiful and to see myself in a different way, and has evolved into continuously exploring myself through a different lens. For me, a big part of drag is self discovery and awareness.

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

Ophelia is from Hamlet, and Bulletz is a tough, sharp contrast to the first name. Hamlet's Ophelia is this "tragic" female trope, who went insane and, ultimately, died from unrequited love. I see Ophelia Bulletz as the opposite of that, the girl who has this enormous wealth of emotion, has gone through a lot of shit and has probably gone insane but decides to take it out on men, to use her sexuality as power. I guess that's where succubus comes in, I'm fascinated with how history has portrayed powerful women as monsters (witches, demons, sirens, etc.) and I try to incorporate that into my drag.

Photo by Andie Meadows

4. What would you say is your best quality?

I think one of the more obvious answers is the fact that I design and make a lot of my own outfits. I also do a lot of work with leather and make custom harnesses. But I also think subtlety is one of my strongest attributes, which is usually a negative for drag where everything calls for exaggeration. I like how some of the smaller details have a big effect on the total package; things like the perfect nail color, a lightly feathered or iridescent eyebrow, leaving off bottom lashes, adding leather straps to a shoe to match an outfit, all of these smaller things that, to a lot of people, might go unnoticed. Those are my favorite parts of drag. 

5. How did you learn to do your makeup?

YouTube videos and a lot of practice. Another thing that really helped me was actually going out and seeing other queens in person, looking at their makeup up close, talking to them about what they're doing, what works and what doesn't. You can learn a lot from someone else's mug. It can also be incredibly helpful to talk out your looks with someone you trust beforehand. Me and my sister Krissy Feetface are constantly bouncing makeup ideas off each other, sending each other posts of makeup on Instagram, things like that.

6. What is special about Chicago drag compared to any other city in your opinion?

Chicago embraces all kinds of drag and I think that's what allows so many people to grow and be successful. There's space for club kids, theater kids, pageant queens, weirdos, literally anything you can imagine, and despite all of those differences, there's a sense of community and collaboration. You can go to one show in Chicago and get the full spectrum of drag, without having to bounce from club to club around the city. I think Chicago is just big enough to have a really thriving drag scene but small enough that the queens here really get a chance to know and support one another. 

Photo by Brendon Brown

7. If you could travel anywhere in the world to perform, where would you want to go and why? 

Berlin! (The city, not the nightclub). I think the most exciting part about performing in a new place is seeing how the audience reacts to and absorbs what you're doing. I think going to a place with significant cultural differences would be an amazing experience, especially places that don't necessarily have drag queens/ a major drag scene. I'm also very interested in taking drag to local places it doesn't regularly inhabit— taking it out of the nightclub setting and performing in an art gallery or warehouse space or house party, just shifting the way that performers and audiences interact.

8. What makes you unique?

Like I said earlier, I think noticing the smaller details and being able to fine tune those things all add to uniqueness. Something I'm really proud of is  consistency— being able to communicate who Ophelia is regardless of the song I'm performing or the club I'm in. I think that's the marker of a successful queen, when you look at her you get the full story, you know who she is and it resonates with you. 

9. What is something no one knows about you?

I almost always draw my left eyebrow slightly higher than my right. It's not really intentional but sisters can be different!

10. What is something you wish you could change about the drag community as a whole?

I think the biggest asset and also the biggest detriment to the drag community is competition. I think competing is a great way for newer queens to gain experience and recognition, but it also causes a lot of tension between queens. We are constantly sizing each other up and trying to further our own careers. I think it just takes time and experience for queens to feel comfortable in their own communities and confident enough in themselves to bond with other performers and look to help others grow and succeed without seeing it as a detriment to themselves. 

11. What is your opinion of Rupaul's Drag Race?

I think RPDR is a double edged sword: it's brought an amazing amount of visibility to drag and has really elevated the level of execution and polish that we see in queens now; as it gains popularity, however, viewers kind of fall into the trap of thinking that the show is the only real marker of talent. In reality, there's an amazing amount of talent and diversity among local queens and performers that will never be showcased on television. If you're using a TV show to base your opinions on something as multifaceted as drag, then you're really missing out. I think one of the most beautiful parts of drag is seeing a performer in the flesh, and you can never imitate that experience on tv.

12. Do you have a most embarrassing moment?

Lipsynching to Nickelback's "Photograph" while covered in birthday cake in a strapless dress that slid halfway down my torso right after my wig flipped off. Drag is weird!

Photo by Johnny Bianco

13. You're part of a show in Chicago called "Squad Goals" at Berlin Nightclub. When does your show take place and can you tell everyone what it's about? Who else works with you? 

Yes! Squad Goals is a group of Chicago queens who came together when we were fresh on the scene and started our own show, currently happening every fourth Tuesday of the month at Berlin Nightclub. It's a show where I basically get to perform with my drag sisters and show the audience what it's like to be a part of a squad of drag queens who all came up together. Most of us got our real "start" thanks to the Drag Matinee Pre-Show (RIP) and the competition Crash Landing, both hosted by Trannika Rex at Berlin Nightclub. We all kind of found each other as newcomers and got together to support each other and hang out. We're at the point now where most of us have really found our individual voices and can be found at  various shows in Chicago, and now Squad Goals is our opportunity to come together and regroup every month and just have a great time putting on a show together. We do solo performances as well as duets, trios and full group performances, and we like to end every show with a lipsynch battle. We also include special guests from the Chicago drag scene. Our full cast is me, Joonage Á Trois (our host), Krissy Feetface, Logan Zass, Alex Kay, Blondebenét, Claire Voyant and Ana Budjit.

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

I'd like to continue exploring opportunities as they come along and seeing where Ophelia goes from here. I want to start doing more fine arts projects involving drag, photoshoots, short films, zines, etc. I also want to continue making custom costumes, harnesses and accessories. 

15. What is your advice for anyone who wants to get far in the drag world? 

I think the best advice I have is to be authentic and be open to critique (especially if you're new). Be willing to work hard and also play hard. I think it's important to remember to take time and thoroughly enjoy what you're doing. It's easy to get burned out from all the shows, clubs, partying, etc. Find the people who value what you do and help you grow— stick with them.
Follow Ophelia:
Twitter: @OpheliaBulletz
Instagram: @opheliabulletz
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jasper.drummond

Photo credits:
Adam Ouahmane: https://www.facebook.com/adamouahmane
Johnny Bianco: https://www.facebook.com/pissingpottymouth
Brendon Brown: https://www.facebook.com/brendon.brown.16
Andie Meadows: https://www.facebook.com/andie.meadows

The Drag Enthusiast
Twitter: @DragEnthusiast
Instagram: @dragenthusiast
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dragenthusiast/

Interview done by: Natalie
Twitter: @urjustadrag
Instagram: @urjustadrag_
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/natalie.drag.enthusiast

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Abhora: The Classy Trash Queen

Many performers take their inspiration from something beautiful. Abhorra is a different story. She finds her best material when taking inspiration from the ugliest items you could possibly find. A lot of her inspiration comes from icons like John Waters and Divine, and she never fails to stand out in a crowded room. She says one of her goals is to be the most interesting looking trash queen in the room, and from the looks of it, she doesn't seem to ever disappoint.


1. Who is Abhora?
Abhora! No Arrohba! When people add that last bit it makes me lash out at the WORLD! Thanks, Facebook, for the kindergarten name policy!

2. When and why did you begin doing drag?
 I started doing drag as petty revenge. I wanted to show the world how quickly I could flourish in it and the world showed me it'd be a little harder than throwing on a wig and memorizing a bubblegum, Mickey Mouse bee bop, doing a split, a windmill, and a hi kick ka ka kow.

3. How did you come up with your drag name?
When I lived in Miami, there was a legendary queen named Adora. She was funny and bright, and positive and lit up the room. I wanted to do the same thing, but I knew the way I wanted to go about it was the flip side of that coin. I chose to show my ugliest sides, but to do so with the same, overly joyous punch! I miss her! 

4. Where does your inspiration come from?
I take inspiration from John Waters and Divine and I seek out the ugliest parts of being human. When I find something that truly unnerves me, that's when I have the biggest success. I put it on myself like a mask and I explode it to the biggest proportions that I can! A lot of times, I'll take a trip to Goodwill and find an ugly antique and put it in a new light. I also love to morph things that are innocent into vulgarity, blasphemy, and silliness. I also have a lot to say about gender variety and human rights, but I don't think it's come through in the character yet.

5. What would you say is the most unique thing you have to offer?
What sets me apart from other "trash queens" is my dedication to a clashing higher aesthetic. I think having worked in the demanding field of costume design and party performing with WILDCHILD WORLD prepared me to be resourceful, and to never leave myself unprepared. I owe a certain lot to Sean Fountain, CEO and owner of WILDCHILD WORLD, even if some feelings got hurt along the way. When I tackle delicate subject matter, I make sure to do so in a respectful way. I've seen how hard it is to make art that is powerful without crossing the line into something that would be, say, be profiteering from tragedy. I think if I didn't donate every single dollar I was tipped for my PULSE angel number, the day OF THE TRAGEDY, there would be something very wrong at the core of what that performance was meant to me. And I wanted to share with my audience.
As for my latest performance, where I laid an egg as Jesus Christ, I took a chance on alienating the largest audience on earth, but it embodied everything I believe in American culture. I guess I also try as hard as I can to live purposefully. I'm always afraid of doing a number that isn't meaningful, or telling a joke that doesn't make the listener think. I guess I just need to get over that.

6. You referred yourself as a "trash queen". How would you define that?
A "trash" queen is typically a new queen who doesn't have a lot of money and relies on the sloppiness of their look, to carry some sort of punk attitude for them. I identify with the genre to an extent. I like the defiant ugliness in an environment where beauty is the ideal.
7. What are the most common misconceptions about your aesthetic?
I run into the assumption that my drag is weird for weird's sake, I guess. I'm often told it's a refreshing surprise to talk to me and find out I'm not a screeching creep like my persona. Everyone thinks my drag is dumb because it is.

8. How has The Other Show impacted your career or just you as a person?
Being on cast at The Other Show is a high honor and delight. (Don't tell Edie I said that!). Being considered up to par with the talent that has been showcased there is a huge ego boost. BUT, it's also motivating because you wanna be the BEST.

9. Do you find it more difficult to get gigs as compared to non "trash queens"? Why?
I'm not the first to be reached out to, but I think that's a feeling most performers have. I do find that I have to be a lot more polite and positive in the dressing room because of the outward appearance, being so abrasive, looking and sounding.
It was harder in the small town of Asheville to get ANYONE to give me a chance! The scene was so small and the bars were always so empty, they didn't want to risk anything on a girl that wasn't a pageant title winner. But I find booking is 99% asking. You have to get yourself out there and not wait for somebody else's  permission. 

10. Performing alongside the cast of The Other Show, have you ever felt that you weren't taken seriously? Is your craft appreciated?
My craft has always been taken very seriously by the cast of The Other Show. It was refreshing to to have a show director say, "We want you to maintain your vision, but we have an expectation of excellence" Which that has kept me going and wanting to push my ideas, instead of scaling them back. Now, I will say, that some of my ideas were too off the wall for the audience to grasp, and I can sense a disconnect. Ultimately, being at The Other Show, the scrutiny is higher, but not to, "HOW MANY GODDAMN RHINESTONES CAN YOU SHOVE ON A MAXIPAD...". Actually, I kinda like that idea.

11. What has inspired your signature mug? The shaped teeth and long, pointed nose, for example?
My face comes primarily from DIVINE. I've pulled inspiration from illustrators like Camille Rose Garcia and Michael Hussar. The nose was never intended to be so integral to my look, but it has won me some individuality and I'll take what I can get.

12. What is your getting ready process like?
My process has evolved over the years from screaming a lot, to now screaming very little. I think it's funny how I've started using something called the Ben Nye "bruise wheel" palette to "beat my face". Typically, makeup takes about an hour and a half. I've started to vary the style or look, based on the act.
My main motif is always blacking out some significant feature of the face; nose, teeth, neck, and ears. And also distortion is a major key to my face. I generally want to be the most interesting looking person in the room, so I pair my outfit with an obtuse headpiece.
13. What has been the most successful experience you've ever had as a drag entertainer?
I'd say that it's simply that I have gotten to work with my best friends. My favorite night is the one where I went BACK to Asheville, where I started, and I did a show with my SISTER, Priscilla Chambers, whom I started with, but, ironically, only performed alongside ONCE, because I was unbookable for a long time where she performed and she was banned and I took her place, all the week after our first show together.
We performed her curated night at the ODDITORIUM, which was my favorite bar back then because I used to do standup drag. It was very full circle for me. I even founf great onstage chemistry with a fellow performer I never really considered my friend. My friends are my greatest success.

14. Is there anything you'd like for people to know about you or just about drag in general?
I want people to know as little about me, except that I am truly sorry if you get in my way and get hurt!

15. Have you ever had interest in being a part of Dragula? Why?
HAHAHAHAHA Being apart of the Boulet Brothers' franchise has been my goal from essentially the start! I wasn't an established performer during the live campaign of the Dragula competitions and this Saturday, at Drag Con, it will be my FIRST! I want to turn it OUT HENNY.

16. Where do you see yourself and your career in 5 years from now?
Sadly, I don't see this going as far as 5 years. I really need to start focusing on my illustration career, and once I get back to it. I got started on drag a little late, I feel. At 24 is when I feel a lot of THE CASUAL LOT of them start to retire, but that's when I STARTED!

17. What is the most encouraging or discouraging thing you've ever experienced during a show?
Most easily, I was moved by the solidarity during my Pulse tribute number. I felt like we, the audience and I, were in sync and it was powerful.
The discouraging bits are are often me misreading the audience, and when there is a disconnect. I'm often disappointed when my message is not fully actualized or the interpretation is not something I'd intended, which is ultimately my fault. 

18. Have you ever traveled for a gig? Where would be your dream place to perform be?
I've traveled as far as 1 or 2 states away, but I hope to make connections in Chicago, New York, Berlin, London, Panama City... Dreams.

19. You're an artist in many ways. I've seen some of your artwork. What inspires you to draw?
I haven't really been inspired to draw anything serious in a long time. My other art forms are begging for some attention into drag because it feels right. But when I used to draw, it would, more or less, be of my friends.

20. When people hear "Abhorra" what do you hope people think about or say in response to it?
I would hope people get excited, a little apprehensive, and I love when people laugh. So, yeah, I hope people will be excited to see me, and also afraid for their lives!

Follow Abhorra:

Instagram: @theabhora
Society6: society6.com/abhorra

Photographs taken by:
Jon Dean and Aubrey Longly-cook

The Drag Enthusiast:
Twitter: @dragenthusiast
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