Drag queens are the epitome of glamour. Hollywood starlets ain’t got nothin’ on them--they need an army of stylists, makeup artists, hair people, etc., whereas drag queens are true do-it-themselfers. Through trial, error, creativity and guidance from their fellow queens, they become a character of their own design, inside and out.
I’ve been inspired by the glamour and attitude of drag queens since I was 18 years old and moved to South Beach right out of high school. Back then, it was riding a wave of European tourism, the international modeling community’s business, and an exploding nightlife scene. Every party I went to had at least one drag queen, and they were as revered and worshipped as any visiting princess or supermodel.
Plus, they put on pretty wicked lip-synching shows, which really got the parties going.
I’ve befriended some of the most badass queens in the world over the last 20 years, and I took the opportunity on a recent trip to Miami to attend the world’s premier drag queen awards event, the Shelley Novak Awards. There, I asked three of my favorites--at various stages in their careers--about their personal journeys, and of course, their best beauty tips. (I mean, come on--how on earth do they keep their makeup looking perfect all night in hot, humid Florida?)
Elaine Lancaster is truly the Queen of all South Beach Divas. I’ll never forget the first time I saw her in 1997, towering at 6’2”, not including heels and the blond wig. She must have been closer to seven feet tall in all, and oozed Southern charm.
I was dazzled by the incredible height and beauty of this gorgeous person. Luckily, she was extremely nice to me, and we’ve now been friends for years.
Currently, she can be seen on "The Real Housewives of Miami," but I hope the geniuses at Bravo develop an “Elaine Lancaster Show” soon.
YESENIA “BOOM BOOM” PHILLIPS
Yesenia “Boom Boom” Philips has carved out a serious name for herself as a lip-syncher extrodinaire in South Florida, and has among the most extraordinary talent with hair and wigs.
When I saw her at the Shelley Novak Awards, her hair was nothing short of jaw-dropping. I asked how she achieved her look, and she said, “Four hairpieces, honey.” FOUR! I took, like, 50 pictures from every angle, and not ONE hair was out of place.
Guys, it was 100 degrees and a 1000% humidity. She was perfection.
Liv Demure is a fresh face on the scene. She was nominated in the “New Artist of the Year” category at the Shelley Novak Awards, and most certainly is a force to be reckoned with.
In true diva fashion, she changed her entire look three times throughout the evening. Also, she lip-synched an incredible Liza.
She makes all her own costumes, which that evening ranged from bridal, to a white suit, to a sparkling blue cocktail number. Much respect.
And this is what these three amazing queens had to tell me...
Allegra: What or who first inspired you to do drag?
Elaine: Charles Gregory.
Yesenia: I got into the art of female impersonation because of my love for high heels.
Liv: Those episodes of The Maury Povich Show when you had to guess who the real women were had a lot to do with the start of my career. That gave my four-year-old brain a lot of interesting ideas. Also, I’ve always been wearing my older sister’s clothes because I’ve always loved being a ladyboy.
Allegra: Did you teach yourself to do makeup, or did you have a mentor?
Elaine: I looked in fashion magazines and at other drag queens whose look I wanted to emulate.
Liv: I frequently call myself a drag orphan, because I’m self-taught. Thank God for the Internet! However, now I have met such talented and wonderful performers; they have filled in a LOT of blanks that only a seasoned professional can teach.
Allegra: What are some classic mistakes you think women make when doing their hair and makeup?
Elaine: American women do not take the time to do their hair and especially makeup when they go in public. Beautiful makeup is the most important accessory a woman can wear, especially in the evening. If I did not have to shave my face, put on so much foundation and then use loose powder, I could do my eyes and be out the door in ten minutes. If I can do that, so can anyone else who wants to.
Liv: Well, every woman is unique and it sucks when a girl wants to attempt a look that doesn’t compliment her own special coloration; perhaps it’s something she saw on some celebrity with whom she shares no characteristics. Not everyone can be a platinum blonde or wear lime green eyeshadow!
Allegra: Do you think women have begun to overdo it with the makeup, hair and nails, and are taking themselves into drag queen territory?
Elaine: There's a difference between overdoing hair, nails and makeup and just being tacky. There are a lot of tacky women today who completely miss the mark when trying to create a look of glamour!
Yesenia: I think if they are attending a special event, it's OK to use some fake lashes and great makeup to enhance their beauty, but not for everyday use.
Liv: I would assume its just a phase--haven’t we all heard that at one time or another?--but even though women today are definitely overdoing it, is that so bad? It’s all just helping further express yourself! I’m sure the natural look will come back, eventually, and we will be more than ready for it.
Allegra: What are your must-have products?
Elaine: I created my own cosmetic company, Elaine Lancaster Cosmetics, which is in its infancy. Currently, I have two lip lacquers available: Pusswah Pink (a super-sexy hot pink) and Shine (a sparkling, spectacular nude). Also, I have another color in the works, with the colorist fine-tuning the perfect shade of red!
Yesenia: Vintage Coty Airspun Loose Face Powder, liquid liner, bonding glue, and lip gloss.
Liv: I'm pretty versatile, and I’m constantly finding new products or losing my necessities. So my "essentials" vary greatly on how essential they really are, but I love my MAC Full Coverage foundation WHICH THEY ARE DISCONTINUING! And my St. Ives Apricot Scrub.
Allegra: Is it true if you spray your fully made-up face with hairspray, you'll set your makeup all night long?
Elaine: Yes! If you hold the can of hairspray about 10 inches from the face and spray it quickly it will set your make up for the evening.
Liv: I’ve got an embarrassing problem of accidentally rubbing off some of my face on people throughout the night--I just think everyone deserves a piece of me--so what I started doing is shellacking my finished makeup with a thick layer of hairspray. It’s not exactly good for your skin, but I’ve got good genes so I think I’m safe!
Allegra: What is your best beauty secret?
Liv: If your skin is anything like mine, exfoliation is essential, then follow with moisturizer and primer. This makes a great, smooth base for your makeup. Also, you can use a sealer to keep your makeup locked in place if your face can stand it. Drags look flawless all night because that’s not even their face you’re looking at--it’s a handmade creation that is uniquely designed by them, and everybody’s formula is different.
Yesenia: For hair you cannot go wrong with some Tresemmé Tres Two Extra Hold Hair Spray; and for makeup, always keep a powder puff and blush brush in your purse in case you get a little shiny.
Elaine: If I tell, you it wouldn't be a secret.
Despite Elaine’s selective secrecy, I’ve learned so much from these ladies. Serious points are awarded for individuality, but community is key for helping develop each unique look
Speaking of community, let’s talk: Have you borrowed any beauty tips from drag queens?