RoyalTea: Maxxx Pleasure

Photo Credit: Reverse Images

 

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?

MP:  Nope!

 

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?

 

“We Are All Becoming A Gamble” – Remembering Pulse & the Queer History of Mourning

Two years ago, the Pulse Orlando shooting took 49 and wounded 53 of my community. Today, I still barely have the words to talk about it, but I do know the LGBTQIA+ community has always known mourning.

There are so many days of my life I’m thankful I journal.

There are days, however, that I wish I could forget. I wish I could tear the pages out and burn them. I wish when I burned them, the memory would burn with them and when the fire is put out I could dump the ashes and let them wisp away into non-existence.

I have tried to write about the June 12th, 2016 Pulse Orlando Night Club shooting for two years. Every year I have fallen short. I have tried to incorporate the tragedy into the plays I write, but it feels exploitive so I stop. I try to write poetry for my 49 killed, 53 wounded brothers and sisters, but I don’t know how to speak to them so I stop. I try to post tributes on the anniversaries of the events, but I don’t know what to say when the world is still as unsafe as it was that day so I backspace, backspace, backspace, until eventually I am silent for another year.

I recently stumbled upon the journal entry I wrote on the day of Orlando, and then another one in a diner a day or so after – scrawled after pages of inconsequential To-Do lists, appointment reminders, and doodles as if to concrete how impossible such a mass tragedy seemed.

The only way for me to jump into writing about that day is to start by transcribing my own words from those journals – to remember that, as a writer, there are always words and perhaps those words have power:

June 12th, 2016
The day of the Orlando shooting.

I don’t know what to say. I have no clue how to write or respond to what has happened in my lifetime.

I know it could beans of us. I knoww that at any time any of us could be lost.

I vow to give up on petty infighting and love the people in my life – from all walks. 

We have all done wrong, but we must hold tight to each other and fight another day.

There’s something incredible about public spaces that are split down the middle. I’m in a diner N.J.  Right now Fox News is playing Trump talking to Bill O’Reilly. Someone who is eating in here supports Trump. I can tell by the sticker on their car outside . I feel unsafe – and because of that I’m forced to hold my head high and look forward. In my diners at home – I can do whatever the glittery hell I want. But you never know. 

You can never know if a bar will be safe or not. You can never tell if a diner, a store, someone’s parents will be safe. 

Public life is a necessary gamble. 

Social media has become part of this public web of unsafety-safety.

We are all becoming a gamble.

The day of the shooting, I was at work. Bustling hard around my little cafe, I had no connection to the outside world and my mostly conserative clientele gave me no clue during my 7 hour shift. It was the day of the Tony Awards – I was dreaming about what snacks I would make for the viewing party for me and my friends. The minute I got out of work, it all flooded in. I sat in my car in disbelief – drove home in disbelief – sat on my couch in silence in disbelief – showered and sobbed.

Kingston, NY Pulse candlelight vigil

I learned that a vigil would be held in a small local park. I flip-flopped between going or not at first – I was afraid to be surrounded by so much sadness – but I eventually cancelled on my Tony viewing and headed down. My then long-distance partner, now the fiancé who I live with, drove nearly three hours to attend with me.

I don’t remember exactly how many people attended, but there were over 100 that came and went and at least 50 or 60  people at the sight at all times. People had created a heart out of tea lights around a small printed paper that read a memorandum for the victims. Flowers were laid around the site and people stood huddled together in the wind, holding their candles and their loved ones close. I knew almost everyone. I remember at one point looking up and counting 49 heads at random – those were the amount of friends I would have lost. The number felt impossible.

 

Picture taken by Raine Grayson
Kingston, NY Pulse candlelight vigil

The night was silent except for crying and howling wind. The air was too heavy and when people tried to smile or crack a joke to help cut the darkness, no one could bring themselves to find the joy. I hugged people I hadn’t spoken to in years. I hugged everybody that showed up. Every once and awhile, someone would burst out in tears and the masses would swoop in to comfort them. I was greeting someone who had just arrived and saw out of the corner of my eye my partner crumple, then disappear in a mass of support. We were literally holding each other up. In times of crisis, I try to put myself on the frontline and do everything I could do help. There was nothing to do – I kept searching and searching to help hand out candles, get people safely to their cars, offer emotional support – but we all were just one mass of people who didn’t know what to do but stand together as a community and keep the candles lit.

 

Randy Wicker, laying flowers at Marsha P. Johnson’s “people’s memorial”. Screenshot taken from Randy Wicker’s film “MARSHA P. JOHNSON – PEOPLE’S MEMORIAL”.

When I look back on the night of the vigil, I feel connections between that moment and the queer history of mourning. I think about Marsha P. Johnson’s vigil – everyone who had known her marking where her body had been dragged out of the Hudson River with empty liquor bottles and candles, filling the inside with flowers and branches of evergreen over a handmade memorandum poster much like the one used during our vigil. Randy Wicker, videotaping as street youth remembered Marsha with stories in a way we were unable to at our vigil – because there were too many people it felt so hard to focus on any one life.

When I look back on the night of the vigil, I think about ACT UP’s Ashes Action in 1992 during the AIDS crisis.  How the ashes of those who were neglected by the government and died of AIDs have fertilized the white house lawn because people couldn’t handle candles and vigils anymore.I think about the immensity of the AIDS quilt. How my community tried to make beauty in memorandum and also tried to make change, with tears in their eyes and loss in their hearts.

 

When I look back at the night of the vigil, I think about the seven burned during Upstairs Lounge fire that police refused to call arson, the five dead after a bomb was detonated in the lesbian nightclub Other Side Lounge, how someone poured gasoline into a stairwell of Capital Hill Night Club in order to set ablaze everyone inside during a New Years party. I think about all the queer that have been gunned down and beaten to death by police.

When I look back at the night of the vigil, I think about how many shooting have happened since. I think about the threatening letters left at the houses of my local trans sisters in a town that is known for being liberal. I think about how I am afraid to apply for jobs in my new hometown because there is a confederate flag hanging on a house down the street from me and someone in the neighborhood mows his lawn with a handgun in his holster and if I have suffered so many atrocious assaults for my transgender body and soul in the liberal town I just moved from – how much worse would it be here? I think about how badly I do not want to get shot and how badly I do not want the ones I love to get shot, but I know it is only a matter of time and until then I am just one of the lucky ones. I think about how I do not want to be in public because being in public at all means I am open for attack. I think about how I’ve come to terms with being afraid every time I am celebrating or proud.  I think about how the average life expectancy of a trans woman of color is 35 years.

I think about how to be queer is to be in a constant state of mourning and to never get too comfortable because soon there will be another wave of death. To be queer is to constantly be on the outskirts or the in the middle of an epidemic of death. To be queer is to know death personally.

Visit The Coalition To Stop Gun Violence.

Know you your representatives are and know where they stand on gun violence. Then, do something about it. 

If you have, give –  to the onePULSE Foundation, to The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, to the Hetrick-Martin Institute – to your local LGBTQ center or any LGBTQIA+ NPO you are passionate about.

To the victims of the Pulse Orlando shooting,
rest in peace and rest in power.
They should not have been, but your spirits will always be with me.

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

Amanda L. Alvear, 25 years old

Oscar A. Aracena Montero, 26 years old

Rodolfo Ayala Ayala, 33 years old

Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

Angel Candelario-Padro, 28 years old

Juan Chavez Martinez, 25 years old

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

Cory James Connell, 21 years old

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández, 31 years old

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz, 22 years old

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old

Frank Hernandez, 27 years old

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

Javier Jorge Reyes, 40 years old

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

Brenda Marquez McCool, 49 years old

Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25 years old

Kimberly Jean Morris, 37 years old

Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, 20 years old

Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez, 25 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez, 27 years old

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado, 35 years old

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old

Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan, 24 years old

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24 years old

Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez, 37 years old

Luis Sergio Vielma, 22 years old

Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez, 50 years old

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

List From: http://www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/

 

Welcome to Queeries Blog!

Hello and welcome to the official launch of Queeries Blog!

This blog has been in the making behind the scenes for a few months now and we are so excited to bring the work of the 16 amazing artists to the public!

Founded by Raine Grayson, a playwright, director, and activist, Queeries is a platform for LGBTQIA+ identified artists to share their work, thoughts, and experiences with the world. We have a myriad of different artists and writers contributing to Queeries – journalists, sculptors, poets, authors, burlesque performers, actors – all from different perspectives and identities. It is meant to inspire, inquire, educate, and provoke as the contributors share with you all their art and themselves.

This blog will offer up to the world a work as varied as it’s contributors – we will share with you tips and tricks of our various trades, interviews, podcasts, featured artist slots that lift up the work of our artists (and all LGBTQIA+ identified artists), the stories of our own journeys, our relationship with the world and the media around us, and so much more. Like life, we are unpredictable. As artists and creators, our work is ever changing. However, we are excited to share with you.

Check back on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays every week for new posts!