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In this episode of the Behind the Drag podcast, we hear from Tiffany Fantasia, BenDeLaCreme, Aurora Sexton, and Baby Love on how they use their art and performances to gain self-love and acceptance.
TIffany Fantasia (@tiffanyfantasia) is a South Florida-based queen who has been a staple of the drag scene for over 15 years. Being both Black and gay, Fantasia uses her platform to represent multiple minority groups on stage, while never losing her creative, playful spark.
For Fantasia, drag was a means for overcoming a traumatic childhood, giving her a tool for expression that didn’t exist growing up.
“As a child I knew I was different. I spent a lot of time in hiding as far as expressing myself because my dad was very verbally abusive,” she said. “He made me scared to express myself in certain ways.”
But Fantasia was able to find an accepting community through drag. “When drag came around it was like, “Oh my goodness, I can express myself how I want to with no problem,” she said.
Even after entering the drag world, Fantasia’s road to acceptance was far from easy.
“When I first started doing drag it was a challenge. It was hard to find people to help me,” said Fantasia.
A big part of Fantasia’s early struggle was the fact that she had to deal with “prejudices on both ends, being a Black male and a gay entertainer.”
“It’s a constant fight. I’ve fought the gay battle, now I’ve gotta fight the Black battle, now I gotta fight this other battle and it’s like, a lot of weight on your shoulder,” she told In the Know.
Despite the struggle, Fantasia understands her platform and uses it to help spread messages of acceptance. “[I have] to be that representative for everyone and everything,” said Fantasia. “It can be tiresome but you know, you have to do it.”
BenDeLaCreme (@bendelacreme) is a queen who first entered the drag scene as a way to overcome tragedy and loss, ultimately creating a space where he can share his unique, realistic views on love and life.
“My childhood was very difficult. I was a very, very overtly queer kid from a very young age,” said Ben. When Ben was 13, his mom passed away, which caused Ben to “plunge into a difficult time.”
“She was the person who made me feel that it was OK to be who I was,” said Ben. “[When she passed] I had no outside voices saying that who I was was OK despite the fact that I was very, very different from all the people around me.”
As BenDeLaCreme, Ben gets to use his art to inspire the audience to become vulnerable, and think about some of the more negative aspects of life.
“As a writer and as an art maker I get to use this character who is optimistic and upbeat, almost to a fault, where she doesn’t want to look at the negative,” said Ben. “And I get to use her as a way to make the audience look at more difficult things”
Through BenDeLaCreme, Ben hopes to serve as a role model for the next generation, inspiring them to persevere through any challenges they may face.
“I can’t believe the life that I get to live, and when I think about going back in time and telling that 13-year-old me ‘My god if you stick it out, this is the life you’re gonna get,’” said Ben. “Now I get the opportunity to say that to a generation of 13-year-old boys.”
To Ben, drag, and the platform that successful queens have, reaches bounds that are way beyond pure entertainment.
“I do consider it something spiritual and something sacred,” he said. “I really think that drag is bigger than just performance.”
Baby Love (@babylovebk) is an inspirational queen who promotes self love and body positivity through her boundary-pushing performances.
“The whole vibe of a Baby Love show is really to have a warm, open embrace. I like to explore this very positive embrace of my body,” she said. “A lot of my performance is taking emotion and cranking it up to an almost satirical level.”
Baby Love grew up in New Jersey, in a town that was “conservative socially.” She first started performing in college, when she joined the student production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“When I started doing The Rocky Horror Picture Show in college it was my first taste of shoving in peoples’ faces that gender doesn’t actually mean anything,” said Baby Love.
Baby Love enjoys using drag as a way to give a big “FU” to conventional ideas about gender and body imagery.
“Generally, the world doesn’t want men to be feminie, period. And I like doing a super feminine look,” she said. “I like to wear things that society says somebody of my size shouldn’t be wearing and make it look really good.”
While Baby Love appreciates the rebellious nature of her character, she also knows that she can serve as an inspirational figure for anyone struggling with their body image.
“It was important to go out into this queer space and represent a different body type and being desirebale, cool, sexy [and] all of the above,” she said. “What I’m trying to do here is project an image of somebody who is happy, successful, [and] desirable.”
Aurora Sexton (@aurorasexton) is a trans woman and drag queen known for dressing up as iconic movie villains, who has overcome serious hardships while on her path to stardom.
Aurora was born and raised in Colorado, and was raised by a single mom and her grandmother. “Unfortunately a lot of bad things happened to me at a very young age where I had to grow up very fast,” she said.
When Aurora was 13, she made the decision to leave home. After leaving, a community of drag queens took her in. “They taught me how to do makeup, they taught me how to walk and strut and be fabulous,” she said.
Growing up around drag queens molded Aurora into a star, but as a trans woman in the drag community, Aurora is in a unique spot.
“For trans people, gender is a very serious topic. For drag queens, it’s a very unserious topic. I walk a fine tightrope between both worlds,” said Aurora.
Despite this, she hopes to knock down any barriers that may exist for trans women hoping to break into the drag world.
“If transgender people can be doctors, lawyers, airline pilots, why can’t they be drag queens too?” wonders Aurora.
Aurora is a strong role model for trans people around the world, but she hopes that her performances can light a spark for anyone in the audience, regardless of their gender identity.
“I like to think that what I present, the art that I bring, inspires others, and makes their world just a little bit more colorful and magical,” said Aurora. “I have learned to channel all the different experiences of my life, good or bad, to my art. It makes it honest. And it makes it something that is mine and no one else’s.”
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