Not many can claim to be the future of drag, but RuPaul’s Drag Race season 7 winner Violet Chachki is changing the game one sickening look at a time.
Inspired by early 20th century fashion, inimitable silhouettes, fetish and her own inner fantasies, Violet is a leader in the latest generation of progressive performers. As a sex-positive, gender non-conforming burlesque and drag performer in Trump’s America, her platform as a role model and embodiment of queer counter culture has never been more vital.
TSA had the privilege of meeting the beautiful Violet Chachki – in a neon yellow wig, corseted beyond belief in a cartoon-inspired gown – ahead of her performance at AXM Glasgow, home to the best drag performers in the city.
This isn’t your first time in Glasgow, Violet.
No, it’s my second time here actually; we came here in March for the RuPaul Drag Race: Battle of the Seasons.
That was amazing! We loved your aerial performance, how did you get into that?
I had a really good friend who does circus performance, so I was thinking it would be smart to incorporate that. What you saw at BOTS was my first aerial hoop performance, I’ve gotten a lot better since then!
It was something completely different to anything the other queens were doing, was that a conscious decision?
Yeah, that’s kind of what my drag character is about: being a little different. I’m not super glamour, I’m not super punk, I’m somewhere in the middle.
How would you describe your aesthetic and persona to anyone unfamiliar with your work?
Take my name: “chachki” is a Yiddish word that means knick-knack or a trinket., and it ties in perfectly with what I’m all about. I like aesthetics and clothing and attention to detail: I want to be as visually appealing as possible. That can sometimes come across as conceited, but I really take pride in detail and being the ultimate drag fantasy. I really sense glamour, fetish, and extreme beauty – extreme silhouettes, corsets – and I try to elevate the game constantly.
How did RuPaul’s Drag Race affect your aesthetic and persona?
Honestly, it just gave me a killer budget! I know exactly what I want and how to execute it, I just needed a sponsor and RuPaul has been that sponsor.
What is notable about you is your commitment and reference to the past; why should we continue to emulate and preserve what came before us?
I think now more than ever, with social media and technology everything is over so quick, trends fade and are no big deal. There’s something special about classic imagery and it’s timeless. I think in the 40’s and 50’s, things were built to last back then and there’s something special.
I really appreciate how, with such a young fan base, you incorporate so much LGBT+ history into your work.
I love being queer. Living in Trump’s America, I don’t want to just live in our little gay bubble and think it’s important to pay tribute to those who came before me, acknowledging all those icons and how underrated they are.
Well you are one of those icons now; you’re the next chapter of that.
I know, which is scary, because young fans will know who I am but not know who I’m referencing. It’s almost problematic because there are so many important unsung heroes I’m referencing and I try to make that really clear to give credit where it’s due. Not even that long ago either, like the 80’s and 90’s, people like Leigh Bowery….
Ugh I love Leigh Bowery.
Right? Gay icons who have a huge cult following but don’t get the recognition.
I think you’re also a positive force in presenting sexual and gender expression; with your platform, do you think it’s important to demonstrate sexual and gender fluidity?
There is a lack of representation; when I started doing drag I looked around and said “I don’t like any of these drag queens, they aren’t bringing what I want to see.” I give what I feel is missing and want to be the kind of drag queen I would want to see: a sex positive, queer gender–fluid role model for people who see me succeed and say “I identify with them!” I didn’t have that.
Of course in December we lost George Michael: he was pretty much the only queer, sex – positive pop star that managed to be so successful, even when he was slammed for his sex life.
There was so much hate, especially following the AIDS era. I mean, I didn’t know what AIDS was until I was thirteen, fourteen: my generation missed that whole crisis. That part of queer history is crucial and I want to be sex—positive to break down the stigma of queer sex.
Don’t you think there is so much inherent misogyny within our own community? What do you think are the worst things and that we need to address?
Personally I think it is frustrating living as a drag queen and gender non—conforming person. Sex and love should be easy, and being a feminine or femme—presenting person should be a part of that. There is a lot of masculinity in what I do: I am a boss ass bitch, running my own business, I do what I want when I want and I am in control of my life. That is a typically “masculine” quality, so when I’m perceived as a “feminine” person, it’s conflicting and offensive to connect femininity and weakness.
How does it feel to be so influential within our community?
My character is strictly visual, so if someone is inspired by that, that’s amazing. But to be anything more than a visual artist has been a great evolution, becoming an advocate for queer and women’s rights. For me, it’s all about creating visuals that make you think and advocacy ties in with that completely.
Even in the drag community, girls wearing leather and bondage to the club? That wasn’t as popular a thing before you were on drag race.
The show has changed the scope of drag forever. There are pros and cons to the show: I think it’s becoming more mainstream, but the thing with straight culture is it’s always five years behind. I’m always asking myself “What’s next?” And for the straight audiences, they’re just now picking up on us, giving us airtime. It’s like, you guys are late!
Do you think the fans have become too intense?
Yeah, but that’s what it’s there for! Drag Race is supposed to be a fantasy while taken seriously. It’s up to the girls themselves to decide how they navigate it: some do it well, some don’t. It’s not like they give you a guide book when you get on the show.
Once you’re off the show, you’re on your own. I’ve had ups and downs, which people don’t see, but that’s the journey. As a winner, there is constant criticism, which is so stupid! I did a TV show, let’s move on. I didn’t curate this to be for everyone, so I don’t give a f**k about your criticism.
What are your plans for 2017?
Without jinxing them, I got a few music projects coming up and touring with some fun people as a burlesque artist. I’m branching out; the drag circuit can be so narrow and sometimes it’s hard to create meaningful work and interactions with people when you’re being put through the ringer and it’s all about money.
So that’s what 2017 is about for me, working to my own schedule and creating work that means something.