The interview corner: A day in the life of a drag queen

October 10th, 2013

The Carroll News sat down with drag queens Erica Martinez, Sonshine La Ray, Ursula Steel and Maya Tack after their performance

The Carroll News: Do you consider drag an activity or a lifestyle?

Sonshine: I think it’s a lifestyle, and some girls are going to disagree. I think it’s a lifestyle because one, if you own a business, it becomes your life. You don’t want to put money into something that you’re not going to end up doing for the rest of your life or at least for a period of time. I would completely say that it’s a lifestyle. You know, not all of us are as womanly as others, but I think in general idea, yes, it’s a lifestyle. You live by it. Most of us, daily we talk about it or we’re doing it. It’s in our lives no matter what. It becomes a lifestyle.

Ursula: I would say that it’s a lifestyle for some people. It’s a lifestyle for myself because I put so much into it that I will go times with not even buying myself a new shirt to wear as a boy to be more concerned with what new fabric I can buy for drag.

Maya: I also think drag is a lifestyle, at least for myself. If it’s a passion of yours, it’s something that lives in you and it’s not just something to do like a sport or go bowling. It’s something you think about a lot and very creative, so anytime you hear music or see something I think would work in a costume, I’m always trying to create something in my head and want to put that onto a stage.

Erica: I also think it’s a job, too. It’s a job and we make a living off of it. Plus, we’re competitors too. And I think one of the things I enjoy, I enjoy competing more than even entertaining. I love to be a competitor.


The CN: If there was one thing you could tell outsiders about your lifestyle, what would it be?

Ursula: I would say that my lifestyle has made me very pushy and complicated.

Erica: I think it’s made me very insecure because I’m a perfectionist and I’m never happy if something’s not right.


The CN: When you say that it makes you insecure, then how can you go up on stage every single night?

Erica: You know what, I think it’s because it’s something I’ve just done for so long, but I’m always insecure. I’m never satisfied. I never feel nothing is right. I was very lucky to win Best Drag Queen by Scene Magazine two years in a row. They came to my house and did a whole write-up on me, and they were talking to me and I said that, and they said the same thing that you did. I said it makes me insecure because I’m scared. I’m scared that I’m not going to be good enough. I’m scared I’m not going to make them laugh. And you know what, I’m an entertainer, and I have to entertain those people. And if you cannot entertain those people, then I get very insecure and very nervous. But once you’re up there, I think the nerves just leave and the crowd’s there and you just kind of laugh. But then there’s times I’ve been on the road and I’ve traveled to places where they’ve just looked at you. And you’re like, “What do I do next?” So I’ll roll around and I’ll whip my wig off or I’ll start swearing in the microphone. Couldn’t do that here.


The CN: Have you performed at a lot of Catholic universities?

Erica: I did a college. Ohio Northern. It was a Christian school. So that was the first time and they actually came to my night club I was working at and they hired me and they said, “No swearing.” It wasn’t a drag show. It was a fashion show. So I had to go up there, and I’ll tell you that was one of the funnest times of my life. I don’t know how I did it, but I pulled it off. Then they invited me to their party afterwards, and then I realized I was real old and I shouldn’t be going to a college party.


The CN: Were you nervous about coming to a Catholic school?

Erica: Yes. I was very nervous. Because I don’t want to disrespect and because the school opened up and allowed us to come, I’m afraid. Being an entertainer, I swear a lot, and I say filthy things in the microphone. I don’t say them every day, but that’s part of my stand-up act. It’s part of what I do. And one of the things I love to do is the microphone, and I didn’t want to make that mistake. I didn’t want to disrespect the university.


The CN: Where do you shop for your costumes and your makeup?

Ursula: I have my costumes actually made for me, and I buy a lot of my makeup at MAC or I can go to a random costume store.

Sonshine: Most of our costumes, as drag queens, we actually do get them made. We have a seamstress or we sew ourselves. We do go to that means to find somebody that does so. And then makeup-wise, as Ursula said, I am cheap. I do buy a lot of theatrical makeup and stage makeup, so the old Steins and stuff. They spend hundreds on makeup. I don’t.

Maya: Most of my costumes I do make myself. Some have been handed down through other drag queens through the years. But most everything I wear, I make, and I taught myself how to sew because I did not want to pay someone else to do it for me. My makeup, just like the other two, I wear a lot of theatrical makeup, I have MAC in my case, I have all sorts of other brands, and it’s really whatever perfects your look. That’s what I use.

Erica: I get all my stuff usually made. My makeup is Richard Stevens, and I use MAC.


The CN: How long does it take you to get ready for a show?

Maya : Usually I give myself about an hour and a half to do my makeup because I’m a perfectionist and I want it to look just the way I want it to. And then I get all my padding and everything else on to go out. So about an hour and a half to two hours.

Sonshine: I am probably the quickest. It takes me 20 to 25 minutes to do my makeup, and then it takes me 20 minutes or so, or half an hour to get ready with costume and all of that and hair.  So probably about an hour, hour and 15.

Ursula: Just over three hours.

Erica : Not less than 4 hours.


The CN: Just a guesstimate, how much do you spend on makeup and costumes per year?

Sonshine: Per year is too much. I would probably do monthly. I would probably say, you know, it depends. Because if you have already a lot, and depends on how many shows you do. Monthly, I would say an estimate of $250-$500 a month. At least. And that’s bare minimum. That’s me. Some of these other girls are much more expensive than that.

Ursula: I would say between $300-$600. A month. It depends on pageants.

Erica: The most I’ve ever spent on an evening gown is $2,500. So I just did a pageant last year and spent almost $2,000 on my evening gown. So it depends if I’m in competition because I’ve been competing for years. If I’m in competition, then I spend thousands more, because I’ll spend about $4,000-$5,000 on a pageant. I’ve won four national and I’ve won eight Miss Ohio’s. I’ve won a total of 45 crowns.

Maya: I’d probably estimate $5,000 a year. Could be a lot more, could be a lot less. I really don’t want to know how much I’m spending.


The CN: How did you come up with your drag names?

Sonshine: My mom has always called me her little sunshine because she had four boys and wanted a girl. Never had one. But she got the next best thing, which was gay. So she always called me her little sunshine, ever since I was a kid.  Whenever I started like, well I’m going to become a drag queen, I’m looking into it, and everybody was like, well, what’s your drag name? And I said, “Sunshine, that’s simple.” And to get the last part of it, the end of my name, la Ray, was very easy. I was like, ok, sunshine, what does it do? Ray. Sonshine la Ray. That quick. Five minutes to get my name, that was easy. 

Ursula: I was at a Halloween party six years ago and I went as Ursula from The Little Mermaid. At the time, I was a lot smaller, and a little more built, so I figured, kind of like Superman, who is the man of steel. So that’s where my last name came from.

Maya: My drag mother’s name is Sandy Castle, so learning from her, she said when I was looking for my drag name, think of something quirky and funny in that kind of respect. So I thought and thought; everything was not funny. Eventually, I thought of one of my friends who is a singer. Her name is Maya Days. And I thought well, Maya. And then I thought of Maya Tack. And that’s just how it happened, and it stuck.

Erica: How I came up with my name, it was supposed to be Sabol Kerrington (?). And then I was into Dynasty and Dallas and all that, but I loved Susan Lucci, Erica Kane from All My Children.  And one of my good friends said, “You’re Erica.” He says, “How about Erica Martinez?” And that’s what I did.