Howdy, friends! Welcome to the first installment of RoyalTea, an op-ed where we get in touch with the drag performers you want to be following. Performers who work for the community, whether it be through gathering and hosting, delivering important political messages, or just really making ya smile; these are people who not only know how to rock an audience, but roll your hearts.
Not roll, like actually- more like rock n’ roll because this month, he’s a rock star- You know, two time winner of the Market Market PansySlam (2016+2017)? First Runner Up of the Miss/Mr. Berkshire Drag Pageant 2018?
Photo Credit: Tommy Venus
Well, this month, I had the pleasure of getting to chat with Brooklyn-based drag king, Maxxx Pleasure! Recently crowned Brooklyn Nightlife Award’s Drag King of the Year 2018, Maxxx took a few moments to sit down with Queeries this week to talk about his breakthrough into the drag scene and how he got to where he is now, hosting his own show and appearing on nationally recognized stages.
Queeries: So, would you call what you do drag* at all? There are so many titles out there now, I just wanna make sure we’re speakin’ the same language!
Maxxx Pleasure: Yes; what I do is definitely drag. I also call myself “a nightlife performer” when I want to sound impressive and “a performance artist” when I gotta be vague! [laughs]
Q: Tell us a bit about your origin story; how did Maxxx Pleasure come to be? Did you have any awareness of drag kings before you started performing?
MP: I started doing drag when I was in college at SUNY Purchase. That was the spring of 2014 so it’s been a while! [laughs]
I was f*cking awful when I first performed – I didn’t have a vision and I had yet to peek outside of the box of toxic masculinity. It took time for me to step back and be like “Wait, this is not the man I want to be,” and to start asking myself who that man was.
I was only exposed to the other kings at my college and, although they are all very talented and good at what they do, I didn’t see the kind of persona I wanted to be in them. It was a very inward/soul searching process from there.
I decided to try drag at school as a way to feel more involved with the queer community there – it wasn’t until I did it, that I was like “Wait- I actually love doing drag, I need to do this!”
Q: How do you describe your drag style?
MP: I love a good two to three minute lipsync with some rock n’ roll flair! I’ve also been getting more into the idea of telling personal stories through my drag… my Duran Duran “Save a Prayer” number was the first act that I did that felt really cathartic to do. Stay tuned for more of that-!
Q: Maxxx Pleasure is a kick ass name. How’d you come up with it?
MP: An ex-boyfriend came up with it! He just thought it sounded cool and I was like “Alright, word! I’ll go with that one-.” [laughs]
Q: What is Maxxx’s defining characteristic?
MP: I often get told by other performers and audience members that they love my rock n’ roll charm. (And how I look like Russell Brand!)
Q: What’s your dream gig?
MP: I’d love to do Sasha Velour’s Nightgowns again! She’s such a pleasure to watch perform and the House of Velour curates such a wonderful variety of drag performers for each show – it feels so special and I would love to be a part of that again.
Photo Credit: AJ Jordan Photography
Q: If Maxxx could travel to any other decade, past or future, what would it be? How about yourself?
MP: Listen… he loves his 60’s rock n’ roll but he’s definitely gonna have to say to the future! [laughs] I’m holding a little bit of hope for a future that’s more accepting for all types of gender identities and sexualities. Fingers crossed.
Q: You currently produce your own monthly* show, Guilty Pleasures. Could you tell us a bit about running that and how that all came to be?
MP: I came up with the concept of doing a show based on the idea of ‘guilty pleasures’ back in the winter of 2017 but didn’t have the guts to start putting it on until months later.
Once I decided that it was a good time to finally make the leap, I had to reach out to the venue (Gold Sounds Bar in Bushwick), find a host (Angelica Frankenstein – the hostess who’s the most stressed), find a dj (TenYards – also a talented clothing designer), and reach out to another producer with a show with a similar concept to check in and get her blessing (because that’s the etiquette – I highly encourage you to see Fancy Feast’s Maim That Tune when it happens again!)
And then after all that was done it was time to pull together a cast! Which is my favorite and also the most stressful part.
Doing Guilty Pleasures is such a rewarding experience – I’m really happy that I made the leap into producing and didn’t let the fear hold me back.
Q: Drag stories being told right now tend to put the spotlight on queens. Why do you think it’s been different for drag king representation?
MP: I actually think that kings are starting to get a little more representation and a little less flack lately, which is so exciting to see!
Kings have been kind of in the shadows for so long because people are so dismissive and really not receptive of the idea of female/AFAB people performing “as a man”. I could go on forever about the idea that performing “as a woman” is so easy for audiences to accept because femininity is taught to us by society as this inherently performative thing, while masculinity is not inherently performative so it’s harder for people’s brains to like comprehend the concept of a drag king, etc. so all I’m gonna say is- is that it really comes down to misogyny.
Q: Are there any misconceptions you’d like to clear up about performing in drag, as a king or just in general?
MP: You don’t have to adhere to the gender binary when performing drag. It’s actually more fun and interesting when you play out of it!
Q: Has drag changed your life and if so, in what way?
MP: Drag has changed my life in so many ways! Doing drag has led me to question and adjust the way I perform my gender in daily life. I’ve met so many wonderful and inspiring artists through the drag scene. I don’t know what I’d be doing with my life if I wasn’t doing this.
Q: Any parting thoughts?
Photo Credit: Eric Sager Photography
Short and to the point! Not one for flowery language, you’d be better simply seeing what Maxxx Pleasure’s all about in person. He’s got a few up gigs, always looking for new faces in the audience: Hot Face at Bizarre- Bushwick (6/15), Switch n’ Play at the Branded Saloon- Brooklyn (6/23), and back at Bizarre for Full Moons (6/23)! If that show is anything like what I’m hoping, given the name ‘Full Moons’, you can bet your bottom it’ll be an audience full of werewolves-!
You can also follow him on Instagram at mr.mpleasure for more information on upcoming performances, behind-the-scenes extras, and never-ending style (I mean, damn just always lookin’ sharp-)!
Photo Credit: Travis Magee Photography
If you have an artist you feel should be profiled or are one yourself, feel free to reach out to me, @madsleighfaire (all held social media platforms). Remember, when life’s a drag, we’ve always got drag-! Until next time, this has been RoyalTea with Mads Leigh-Faire, interviewing Maxxx Pleasure for Queeries blog; you make sure to have a great day, yeah?
Mads Leigh-Faire (he/him) is a freelance theatrical dramaturg, literary assistant, and drag performer. Mads hopes to use Queeries as a platform to educate and engage not only himself but the LGBTQIA+ community with a productive and empathetic dialogue surrounding our hopes, needs, dreams, fears, and accomplishments. They also have a lot of feelings about the sentience of droids in the Star Wars canon.