The stage was set at Le Poisson Rouge, a nightclub in New York Metropolis, as a part of the month-to-month “Nightgowns” drag showcase run by performer and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Sasha Velour. After a brief montage of reports clips discussing the numerous controversies surrounding him, the embattled New York Rep. George Santos made his entrance. Form of. Relatively, the Los Angeles-based drag queen Meatball made her entrance, dressed as Santos.


Performing a camp traditional from the movie, “The Biggest Showman,” she reworked from Santos’ slacks-and-sweater Congress apparel (in drag, this is called a “reveal”) into a duplicate of the glowing purple robe he’d worn throughout his personal dabbles with drag as a younger man in Rio de Janeiro, replete with the feather boa and low cost wig.

That was maybe the hardest half, Meatball defined in an interview with CNN Opinion, as a result of in any case, “a drag queen’s worst nightmare is a flat wig.”

Past the emotive lip-sync — which yielded an unimaginable response from the viewers, and has since gone viral throughout social media — Meatball’s act hit all-too-neatly on the intersection of plenty of present “tradition wars.” The borderline-campy spectacle that surrounds Santos, sure, but in addition the politics; particularly the fear-mongering and rhetoric concentrating on LGBTQ individuals and communities which has, lately specifically, led to a drastic rise in anti-trans and anti-drag laws. Final week, Tennessee grew to become the primary US state (although virtually definitely not the final) to limit drag reveals and performances.

“The present local weather’s a large number,” Meatball advised me in a dialogue over the state of drag on this second. “I simply don’t perceive what drag has to do with any of this… In the previous couple of weeks, I’ve seen (stories of) individuals arrested for assaulting kids; not a single considered one of them was a drag queen. They had been preachers and lecturers and youth leaders. Why are you so obsessive about trans individuals and drag individuals? The issue is at your door. That is one thing that, in the previous couple of years, has been changed into a difficulty that by no means existed. It’s by no means been with us.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

CNN: When was the primary time you encountered drag, or felt the urge to carry out?

Meatball: Once I was a child, my mother had most cancers. So she had a bunch of human hair wigs, and he or she did say I’d put the wigs on rather a lot. She was like, “You set them on slightly an excessive amount of. You had been having an excessive amount of enjoyable.”

However I wasn’t taking part in with make-up or drag in highschool and school — it simply wasn’t one thing I considered. I didn’t begin performing till after I’d moved to Los Angeles as an grownup. I’d all the time needed to be a slapstick comedian; I went to pull reveals right here and instantly linked with them as a result of it was the primary time I’d seen drag queens telling jokes. After which there was a season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” with this queen named Latrice Royale. She blew my thoughts — as a much bigger woman, she was doing splits, demise drops and all these methods. She was hilarious. She was 100% herself. I used to be like, oh, that is one thing I believe I’ve been interacting with for years. However I’d by no means seen myself in it till that second.

My first drag present, I carried out Whitney Houston’s “It’s Not Proper however It’s Okay.” I used to be carrying a stable gold kaftan that didn’t breathe, so I used to be very sweaty. I used to be completely terrified to be on stage. However I slayed. I don’t wish to toot my very own horn, however I completely ate it up. All of my associates in that second had been like, you might have discovered your calling. Seven years later, it’s my full-time job.

You’ve acquired a ton of consideration in latest weeks for one explicit efficiency. How did your “George Santos drag” come about?

Meatball: I noticed the photograph of him in drag the day that story broke. I’ve a podcast known as “Sloppy Seconds with Massive Dipper and Meatball” and the minute the information got here out, I used to be like, oh, we have now to get Marisa Kabas on — she’s the journalist who first obtained the photograph.

As a joke, I dressed up like him for the interview, and he or she stated to me, “It’s so uncanny, it’s onerous to have a look at you.” A good friend messaged me after like, “It’s worthwhile to flip George Santos into your new persona.” I made a few TikToks, however I’m an previous man so that they flopped.

Meatball as George Santos

However, I don’t know, there was one thing in me that knew there was one thing else for me to do. So I stated to myself, I’ve obtained to do a George Santos quantity.

Now, the backstory behind “This Is Me” — which is the music I’m lip-syncing — is that it’s a complete drag cliché. It’s so overplayed; each time somebody performs it, they wipe their make-up off and take their wig off and it’s an enormous proclamation of, nicely, that is me. Everybody hates it.

However I assumed, okay, if George Santos was going to lastly do drag once more, that is what he would do. He would choose the worst music. Every little thing form of fell into place after that. The vitality within the room that night time — I’ve been doing drag reveals for seven years, and I’ve by no means felt that earlier than. Somebody commented on one of many movies that they felt like they had been part of drag historical past.

Why do you suppose there’s been such a specific fascination with this a part of Santos’ background — and what do you suppose it says about this second in tradition?

Meatball: He did look form of unhealthy, you already know what I imply? You’ve obtained to confess it wasn’t the very best look. However I imply, it was his first time. Give him a pair extra tries, perhaps we’ll see what occurs.

Look, drag is extraordinarily controversial proper now and Santos sits in Congress (at a time when) lawmakers are actually making an attempt to ban drag reveals. So for him to have taken half in drag — in a method that appears like he was slightly bit extra dedicated than he’s keen to confess — actually sticks with individuals. I’m certain he was simply having a very good time, like he stated. So there it’s: you had enjoyable. You weren’t making an attempt to harm anyone. You weren’t aiming to groom anyone.

What’s the influence of this political local weather — with such a drastic rise in anti-drag and anti-trans rhetoric — in your neighborhood?

Meatball: It’s a particularly scary scenario we’re in. Lots of issues are getting used in opposition to drag queens, queer individuals and the LGBTQ neighborhood — we’re being villainized in a method that’s virtually obsessive. There’s an actual degree of hazard we have now to work beneath, simply referring to incidents just like the Pulse capturing, or the capturing at Membership Q in Colorado Springs final 12 months. Homosexual golf equipment are actually investing in issues like bulletproof shields behind the bar.

I threw a celebration in Austin, Texas, at a venue final December which obtained calls making threats — we needed to have plainclothes police within the viewers to make everybody comfy within the atmosphere. We’ve got heightened safety at our venues in Los Angeles now. However I can’t cease what I’m doing simply because there’s slightly little bit of worry.

A homosexual bar is like church, you already know what I imply? It’s the place we go to really feel comfy in ourselves. There’s a must get again to that; you don’t go for a few weeks and then you definately understand, I have to be round my individuals, I have to be who I’m. There’s a stronger sense of neighborhood. I do know individuals right here in Los Angeles who wish to go to Tennessee and carry out at Play Dance Bar in Nashville due to the legal guidelines handed there. There’s a way of like, we are able to’t be defeated by this.

However I do worry for what queer nightlife will turn into. And I worry for what elementary and excessive faculties have gotten, with ebook bans and all that. Are we going to start out burning books once more? What is going on? Remember the fact that a few of these legal guidelines aimed straight on the LGBTQ neighborhood are only the start. What’s behind it? What are you actually making an attempt to get at? As a result of I don’t suppose a person in a wig is the actual difficulty right here.

A spotlight specifically of right-wing legislators and activists has been the argument that drag — and LGBTQ tradition extra broadly — is innately inappropriate for kids. What do you suppose they’re getting mistaken?

Meatball: Look, each present that I do is 21 and up. Each social media account that I’ve is about to limit viewers who’re under the age of 18 — or at the least say they’re. I’m doing all the pieces in my energy, and each drag queen I do know is doing all the pieces of their energy, to verify we aren’t performing in entrance of youngsters. I’m not having children at my reveals, interval. My previous day job was as a nanny; once I was nannying, the youngsters didn’t know I used to be a drag queen. The mother and father did. A few of them would even let me get into make-up at their homes after placing their children to sleep.

However that doesn’t make it mistaken. In case you have a look at what queens are doing at drag story hours, they’re not performing numbers or acts — they’re studying books. To me it’s corresponding to, say, having a clown are available and browse. I imply, have a look at me. I’m a clown! And that’s to not say {that a} drag queen can’t do a quantity in her bra and panties at a 21-and-up occasion at a bar one night time after which go the following day and gown up like a housewife to learn to kids, however these articles or these Instagram posts will take video of a queen doing a membership efficiency and use that footage to say, your children are seeing this. I don’t know many mother and father bringing their kids to a membership.

What do you see because the influence of those bans and restrictions on younger individuals, and queer people who find themselves already usually marginalized?

Meatball: It’s about inserting restrictions on an artwork kind that’s existed for a lot of, a few years. If a excessive schooler sees “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and thinks, oh, I wish to begin taking part in in make-up, there shouldn’t be something mistaken with that. There isn’t something mistaken with that. There ought to be a method for them, on the proper age, to interact with drag in a method that’s totally applicable — in a protected house like drag bingo, a daytime brunch or one other all-ages occasion.

Wouldn’t you, as a loving dad or mum, need your youngster to come back to you with all the pieces as an alternative of making an attempt to cover from you? As a result of the extra you ban stuff, the extra they’re going to wish to do it on their very own.

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