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

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