Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Queen of the Week - Esme Rodriguez

Esme is a FIERCE queen hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I unfortunately did not get the chance to meet her on her last trip out here to San Francisco, but she is very connected here and all the queens I've talked to absolutely love her. One thing that really stood out to me in her answers is how intelligent she is! In an industry known for big hair, but not always big brains, it is a breath of fresh air to meet a lady with both!

Esme Rodriguez

Age: 31

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Single or taken? Always open to new faces!

What is your drag style like? My drag style is a car accident between Carmen Miranda and a bus coming from a Las Vegas showgirl revue.

How long does it take you to get ready in drag?
SSS= 20 minutes.
Putting on my face= 1 hour
Padding, stockings, costume, nails, & hair= 20 minutes.
SO, in all, about 2 hours.

Do you have a favorite number you perform? My favorite number of all time to perform is “Ooh la la” by Goldfrapp. I love that she mentions Baudelaire in the song!

Where can we see you perform? Regularly, I am at the Townhouse in St. Paul, MN, at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater, at Babalu, and from time to time at other locations. I just signed a contract to produce and direct new bi-monthly show starting in October, which I have titled, “Dragmanity.”

How did you first get into drag? I was studying for my Masters at Boston College. During the summer in between my two years there, I moved to Provincetown to work as a personal trainer. Every August, Provincetown celebrates Carnival, and I was asked to be Gloria Estefan for the Hollywood Squares Parade float. So, I put on makeup and threw on a wig (My first time in drag, I seriously resembled a trailer park hooker on crack…LOL) Then, when I moved to Minneapolis to begin my PhD studies, I was concentrating on elements of race, class, and gender, so naturally , drag popped into my mind as an area of study. I entered a drag contest at one of the bars and was ‘discovered’ by my drag mother and auntie. I still remember their words. “Dear, you have a lot of potential, but, oh, honey, you must come over and let us teach you how to do stage makeup!” That was almost 8 years ago!

Who have been your biggest inspirations? I adore Mae West, Leigh Bowery, & Layla LaRue.

What would be your three biggest tips for a new drag queen?
1.) The definition of a true Diva does not mean being a nasty bitch, but rather presenting yourself as a strong, compassionate, and visually flawless entertainer.
2.) Choose music and pieces with which you connect, not just the most popular song on the radio. It shows when you love your music! And change up your repertoire- no one wants to see “I Will Survive” for the fortieth time.
3.) On the practical side, buy pre-glued nails. It saves time and they don’t fly off!

If you could perform anywhere in the world where would it be and why? The pinnacle of my performance experience has happened in San Francisco and Amsterdam. If I could choose another place to perform, I would forego a new location and choose to return to San Francisco to perform with my gurls there! That is where my heart and my heels desire to be!

What is something that might surprise us all about you? LOL. Where do I begin? As a teenager, I was head-over-heels for CC Deville, the bass player for Poison. I should have known that I would grow up to be a queen!

What makeup items could you not live without? Without eyelashes and glitter, I would trod a sad existence. ☹

Do you design any of your clothes, create any of your wigs, etc? I design almost all of my costumes and I rework my rooted wigs. I think that costume design is both an expression of individual taste and creativity, as well as a challenge to the traditional ideals of the mass media and fashion market.

What has been your all time greatest moment in drag? I think the most fun I’ve ever had was performing at Trannyshack, San Francisco. The energy at the Stud and the lovely queens in the show made it a once in a lifetime experience! And to have shared the stage with such amazing and fierce gurls like Heklina and Peaches Christ, it just makes me all warm and fuzzy!

What else should we know about you? I am finishing my dissertation this year and am an academic instructor of Gender and Sexuality Studies. This semester I will be teaching a course titled, “Beyond the Binary: Trans and Intersex Studies.” Here is the course description:
“The construction of gender is a foundational theme for examining social justice, feminist and queer theory, as well as leadership issues. This course focuses on the multiplicity of gender identities, which exist beyond the traditional binary system of male and female. Through the process of examining textual, personal and unstaged/staged performances of gender in the context of trans, genderqueer, and drag communities, this class will raise significant questions, which will problematize, investigate, and reconfigure binary constructions of gender identity, assumptions about the intentionality of gender performance, and the mythical ‘ownership’ of gender. We will also focus on non-traditional gender’s impact upon relationships of power and privilege, as well as social relations between individuals and groups. Through the students’ interactions with multiple areas of knowledge production, including visual art and film, live performance art, and textual academic/activist theory, the method of study becomes vitally interdisciplinary in nature.

We will posit questions such as, “Who defines the concept of man and woman? Who “qualifies”? By what means is one named outside of these bi-polarities? Who is accepted as a woman? As a man? As trans or intersex? As “other” or without a claim to labels? What are the stakes in adopting or rejecting gender identities? How is the performance of gender in unstaged and staged environments policed or enhanced by gender expectations? Who benefits and who perishes?”

To find out more about Esme Rodriguez check out her myspace page at

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