Mother of the Strange Doll Haus, Electra Cute is determined to set up her drag family for success and navigate the drag world while staying true to who she is as an artist and also encouraging her family to grow with confidence. She's very well known for her style and audience interaction during her performances and she also takes her role of a mentor quite seriously. A mixture between goth girl and cougar mom, she definitely doesn't disappoint.
Photo by Flaming City Photography
1. Who is Electra Cute?
Electra Cute is first and foremost the mother and founding member of Strange Doll Haus, Chicago’s premiere drag family. When she's not nurturing talent she can be found performing monthly all over the city such as Logan Square, Uptown, Andersonville and Lakeview. Electra’s aesthetic falls somewhere between the goth girl in high school all the boys secretly wanted and your friend’s hot cougar mom. Her electric performance style is high energy, powerful, sexy and known for her audience interaction. I feel like a lot of Electra comes from different parts and layers of my personality.
2. How did you come up with your drag name?
Well when I first started drag my name was Samantha Darko (after Donnie Darko's sister and I happen to have dated a lot of girls named Samantha) but as I started going out I realized I was just getting called Samantha and I didn't think it had enough energy for me and when I mentioned that to my boyfriend Zach he suggested Electra Cute and I feel in love right away and never looked back.
3. When and why did you begin doing drag?
The very start of my drag had to be cosmetology school and falling in love with the beauty industry, then I found Drag Race. If anyone remembers they showed the first season or two on VH1 and that was my girlfriend Sam and my favorite channel at the time and I’m not ashamed to say that I was absolutely inspired by Drag Race and the artistry it presented. Fast forward like a year and a half and insert learning good makeup skills. Shortly after I started going out I was introduced to my eldest drag daughter, Fox E. Kim, and started to teach her what I knew about drag makeup and our friendship quickly blossomed and so did both of our drag. A little later we ended up at FABITAT...Lucy Stoole's show where Fox E was asked to perform on a whim and absolutely slayed me and inspired me to start performing myself. Lucky for me, Lucy Stoole reached out and gave me my first performance opportunities...thus my entrance into the drag community. She kind of showed us the ropes a bit and gave us encouragement.
4. What is something that sets you apart from other performers?
My energy and stage presence and ability to work every damn corner of the stage or floor or what have you without being much of a dancer. My first performances were mostly just crazy energy practically moshing myself onstage to a song I liked ending up shoeless and wigless on the ground. I have since refined that while keeping a similar in your face attitude with how I approach a crowd. As a drag haus something that sets us apart is the spaces we take over, like our regular show in Logan Square at Slippery Slope is a total takeover of a not typically seen as queer space and I think spreading drag to all types of people and places is really important and extremely fun!
5. If you could travel anywhere in the world to perform, where would you go and why?
This is an easy one! Literally everywhere, I haven’t done a lot of international travel in my life and would cherish the opportunity to experience that...worldwide drag culture is exploding and the more of that I can experience the better person and queen I will be. I have however started to take my drag to a few other states with my drag family Strange Doll Haus...such as Iowa, Wisconsin and South Dakota and am always trying to get us booked in new places around the country.
6. What is one thing you would change about the drag community?
I'd say something that really stands out is how little drag is spread around the city and shows/events can suffer sometimes when its not at your typical venue or in a designated queer space. I do think this is something that is in the process of changing with the growth of the community and the ambition of all sorts of talented individuals trying to create a space for themselves. So, really, what I would change is more shows all over the city and to see people support even the most obscure events.
7. What is your favorite and least favorite thing about doing drag?
My favorite thing about doing drag is that feeling you get right when you finish your beat and then that feeling you get right when you step on stage and then letting all your feelings out on stage and seeing people live for it. That brings me so much joy and it showers all the other good and less than good things in drag with a really pleasing warmth. I also love the endless creativity that comes out of me doing drag. My LEAST favorite thing about doing drag would definitely be the mess. I’m already a less than organized person and adding an entire elaborate wardrobe on top of that is like an avalanche of mess.
8. What is something that sets apart Chicago drag from everywhere else?
I think being the 3rd largest city in america makes us feel like we have something to prove to the bigger cities that we can keep up and put out fierce drag and to the smaller cities that we can be just as much of a hub for talent as say New York. It makes us shine, and it's the drive to be something collectively great and have our space be known that has pushed the talent to the level its at now.
9. How did the Strange Doll Haus start?
I have always been a close friends kind of person, relying on a base group for my general social needs. Getting into drag, I realized that not only was it a huge community, but also there are close families and that was an instant draw. The whole time I was teaching myself drag, all I wanted was friends to learn with...but my social anxiety really blocked me from making many friends and beginning to learn before I was 21 added a level of difficulty. So once I was of age and I had met my eldest daughter, Fox E. Kim, my social life grew and my confidence grew. I started to reach out to some of my particularly pretty clients that I thought would be good queens, it should also be noted that the first 3 members of Strange Doll Haus I met through my day job doing hair. Once there were 4 of us all together and we were starting to do stuff together, I added the house name Strange Doll Haus, which I think is really fitting for all of the queens that have been involved. Since then we have all grown close and challenge and inspire each other with just a little shade ;)
10. What would you say is your favorite quality about each of the other members of the Strange Doll Haus? (Fox E, Lexi, Mikki)
I’m just going break this down one by one and in family age order starting with the youngest, Mikki Miraj- my favorite thing about Mikki is how much of a go getter she is. I was instantly blown away by her energy and charisma and her "take charge of her own destiny" no nonsense attitude. It has taken her far already and her growth is something really magical.
Lexi Pro Cute-my one and only full drag baby. She was my client and I pushed her to do drag until she finally decided to let me put her in full drag for a hair show event and she never looked back. We get ready together probably 98% of the time and it's also one of my favorite parts of doing drag. So my favorite thing about Lexi is not a single quality...it's seeing her grow and change and adapt and learn about who she is as a queen and finding herself and her aesthetic. It's been an amazing process with her and she makes me so SO proud every day.
Fox E. Kim-I could say so much about her because she's done so much for me but I'll keep it simple….after I gush a little bit. Fox E is the fastest learner I have ever met. When I started showing her what I knew about makeup, I'd show her on one eye and then she would do it almost exactly the same on the other eye. She learned everything she could from me and has grown so much and created such a beautiful character its really amazing. I'd say my favorite quality though is her professionalism. She has a really fantastic work ethic and it's taken her so far in the community. I can honestly say I learned a lot about being a professional from her. and I'll always appreciate that.
11. Do you have a most embarrassing moment while performing? If so, what is it?
Well, to be honest, not really. My approach to drag has always had a level of trial and error so I expect myself to fuck up sometimes. I have fallen out of shoes, broken corsets, ripped off failing garment reveals, slipped on tips, spun too hard and lost my footing, lost wigs...and the list goes on. Of course I care and want to do a good job, but I really try and not be to hard on myself about my fuck ups because drag is hard. I think it's important to always try and improve though, never stop growing.
12. If you were stranded on an island, what are 3 things you would need to have with you?
I hate this question because I’m a total realist with it. I'd want things to help me survive like 1. an extensive book on tropical plants and fish 2.lots and lots and lots of rope and 3. a really solid hunting knife. I think those things would be pretty essential to surviving on this imaginary island. Can I just say I want a huge box of survivalist equipment? I wanna live, not be pretty!
13. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
Doing absolutely nothing occasionally in my free time. I love to binge watch TV and smoke a TON of weed and lay in bed. Not all the time but, hey that's a guilty pleasure right?
14. What would you say is your favorite performance you've ever done?
Hmmmm...this is a hard one because there have been so many with various feelings attached...but I think any group number I have done with my family with one or all have always been really special. Our very first family show we put together we named “sexy summer sacrifice”, and we did a couple large group numbers that told a story of us killing each other off and sacrificing our baby sister (Lexi Pro) by tearing out her heart...oh and I also cut a brain out of one of my daughters wigs so it was pretty epic. I'd also say a recent duet I did with my daughter, Lexi Pro, for the Harem of Oddities at Berlin where I shaved off her beard and threw her around on stage for a mommy dearest effect really shined in my mind, it was a really raw expression that will stick with me for a long time.
15. If you could give advice to younger queens that are just starting to perform, what would it be?
DRAG IS A SLOW BURN!!! Don’t rush yourself or get ahead of yourself. Focus on now and growing at a comfortable speed. It can be really discouraging when you realize how hard it can be so don’t give up. Also don't be afraid to ask for things and create your own space in the community. there's not one “drag scene”in Chicago...everyone doing drag makes up a wonderful map of talent so push your pin in that map wherever you want. As a drag mother, I could go on an on because its in my heart to mentor, so I'll add one more thing...be humble and be nice, bitchy entitlement is never a cute look, so don’t wear it.
Follow Electra Cute:
Strange Doll Haus:
Ernie Rey Photography: https://www.facebook.com/ErnieReyyPhotography/
Erik Michael Kommer: @lad_of_leisure on instagram
Joe Lewis Creative: https://www.facebook.com/joelewiscreative/
Flaming City Photography: https://www.facebook.com/FlamingCityPhotography/
Interview done by: Natalie
The Drag Enthusiast