Ever wonder what its like to perform in a burlesque show or dress up in drag. Recently I was able to interview Jean Batt about what its like to be a Drag King:
How did you find out there was such a thing as drag kings?
I guess I always knew they where around in many different forms. I watched a lot of 30s and 40s movies when I was younger and a lot of the movie starlets of the time would wear drag for different movies and magazines. The real kickers that this was and is an art form where the films Victor/Victoria and Just One of The Guys.
What made you want to get into it?
I was a kid when I started out. But I was a tomboy or a gender non-conforming kid who played heavily with gender. It was a way of expressing my male side openly. I never had to hide it, but this let me be a boy when my mind felt male.
When did you start performing as a drag king?
I was a baby by drag standards when I stared out. I was only 13, in junior high, the very first time I went on stage a king. By high school I was doing impersonations of male rock stars mostly. And in a school of all girls, I would be cast in a few school plays as a boy because I was comfortable doing it.
A lot of people don’t even know that Drag Kings exist, how do you battle stereotypes?
For the most part I have been lucky and not had to deal with much stereotyping. Usually just the explanation of kings being the flip side to queens works. Even had a comedian MC one time explain it and it really clicked. Also with being a performer that skirts the line of trans so closely, the trans community sees me as a part of them and one of their representatives.
Do you get any flack from others in the Drag community for being a woman?
In all the years I have done drag, I have never gotten flack. If anything, I have been given a lot of respect for being born female, gender fluid and close to trans. This has been celebrated by some of the drag powerhouses, including the Queen Mother of Drag herself, Sondra St. James.
I have actually had more flack from being a goth, furry, kinkster, nerd and burlesque dancer and crossing these into my drag than my gender identity. Some welcome it, but many of the old school glam queens have been fighting the changes that I represent. I have been actually threatened with violence (yes, this was dealt with.) I have had so many try to change what I do and what I represent so I “can get more gigs”. But I am doing way more shows and events by being who I am than trying to fit in a mold someone else made.
What’s the hardest thing about being a Drag King?
It’s literally a pain in the breasts. Binding can be very painful. As a woman, I am more than top heavy and when I bind my breasts down fully to do burlesque (I dance as a man or trans man and I’m one of the only if not the only transman in burlesque out there). I wear four layers of binding at times to make the male body line. I have been asked if I’m going to have top surgery to make this easier, but I have no intention of that.
What is your favorite thing about being a Drag King?
Oh gods, there is a lot. I love a lot of the people. I have people who I see as my family in the drag community. And I met my best friend doing it too.
I have been able to do shows all over the place and have competed even at the national level doing drag.
The people I have preformed for have been mind blowing too. Anyone from NASA scientists to members of The US Congress (both doing drag and trans burlesque).
Who influenced you?
I have been doing my own thing for the most part. But if I had to pick a few they would be John Belushi, Rozz Williams, Dave Vanain, Gary Oldman, Jim Morrison and the cast of Interview With A Vampire (save for Tom Cruse).
How long does it take for you to get ready for a performance?
It used to take me three hours to get ready, but now it takes me about an hour to get into my usual costumes and full gothboy makeup. Naturally the crazier stuff takes longer to do. And on really hot nights, I have a very simple eye, lip and foundation I do that takes maybe ten minutes at most. It looks good on stage but not for photos.
What is it like for you backstage at a performance?
There is a joke with a number of promoters that it’s a given that I’m the first performer to show up and actually help get things set up. It may be a joke, but there is a lot of truth to it. I’m the performer that is texting if I’m even running five minutes late. I usually show up close to ready to hit the stage so organizers turn to me to help herd cats or to do the check in with other kings and queens or dancers.
Some shows run like clockwork, on time and perfectly. Others, it’s totally crazy and unorganized.
Most of the time, everyone is helping each other backstage to get into gear and face. But there is sometimes the one diva that doesn’t want to play with the rest of the group or has to much of an ego to mix with everyone else.
How do you choose what music you will use and what the act will be about?
First off, I chose songs I actually love. Even if there is a theme to the show, I try to pick songs I love that fit in. Passed that, it’s playing with costumes, props and makeup that fit the theme and who I am.
Do you make your own costumes?
I try to. I used to do film costuming a while back so I know a lot about building costumes.
However, I do turn to artist friends when it comes to national competition. These costumes have to be beyond what you see at most shows. This is the best in the country so things have to be perfect. And it puts my friends artwork on the national stage and helps get their names out there.
Do you create your own choreography?
Yes, even my burlesque dancing is all mine. Once in a while I am lucky enough to learn a few things from other dancers, such as how to do a death drop safely at my age.
What is the process for making costumes and how long does it take you?
It depends on things. Some of my costumes are just out of my closet. Part of the joy of being a gender fluid goth. I have a trans burlesque piece that has crystal incrusted boxers that took me about ten hours of hand work to do.
For more information on Jean check her out on facebook: