When visiting your favorite local venue to be entertained by some of the badass queens that grace the stage, what snags your attention first? The flawless faces, the snatched body, or the hair that has everyone wishing they had THAT on their head? The hair can transform an outfit and performance from “Okaaaay” to “YAS BABE!” and there’s an immersive process that goes into wig creation to have that perfect moment.
Queer Kentucky’s by Brittany Bennett sat down with Eldar Gorak, the wig creation, styling, and design extraordinaire to hear his story about how his business has grown exponentially and what we can expect to see from it in the future.
No video call can start properly without meeting the pets of the house. Eldar brings his tortoiseshell cat, Midnight, into view who quickly becomes disinterested in everything we have to say and that’s where our interview begins.
Q: Where are you from and where do you call home?
A: Originally from Kentucky, but was born and raised in Bosnia. Whenever I tell people my name they’re always like “El what? Is that from Lord of the Rings?” And I just say “No, I’m just a foreigner.” Home is still Bowling Green, but I’m always in Nashville.
Q: Your family relocated to what part of Kentucky?
A: Bowling Green directly, in 1995 the war ended and we came here in late 1999. There were two areas on the east coast with refugee centers from that specific war-torn area – Bowling Green and Ellis Island.
Q: What was life like growing up in Bowling Green?
A: A constant battle. From the sense of growing up a foreigner and finding where I fit in. If it wasn’t being the weird kid to the kids that were from this area to be the odd man out for being feminine. It always felt like a battle. After coming out in 2014, it was literally the day I felt reborn. As happy as that day was, it was also the beginning of a new battle because I grew up concealed and hiding who I was and always felt like I was acting odd by trying to fit in. I felt free after coming out because no matter how weird I acted then I knew it was completely me and how I had always wanted to be. I’m so grateful for the life-changing ness of waking up one day and saying “Enough.” I can’t imagine now living my life the way that it is now.
Q: It’s crazy that a lot of us feel that way once we come out. It’s hard to imagine living our lives any other way than being out.
A: It’s honestly mind-blowing! I look at my upbringing and overcoming all of those traumas, it taught me what I want in life. I recently went to Bosnia this past summer and got to visit with family, but seeing the lifestyles there and how regressive it makes me love my life in every shape and form. Your life is what you make it. It’s given me an outlook on life where I couldn’t be happier.
Q: When did you get into styling?
A: Honestly, I have no idea. I started a fashion merchandising degree in college. My entire life I knew I liked fashion, I had the creative aspect and loved to draw, so I thought this was the path. I did hair and make-up in Nashville during college, worked at TJ Maxx in Bowling Green, and was also a bartender in Nashville. Styling kind of started when I was working at TJ Maxx and I asked one of my co-workers who wore dollar store wigs if I could fix some of them up since I knew a few things about hair. Thinking back on it now, those wigs are awful! I started living my life a little more loudly then and experiencing different types of entertainment. I then started doing hair for a few of my friends who saw the eye for detail that I had. It really helped me hone my craft. Two years ago, I quit my bartending job and decided to do wig styling full time. I wasn’t classically trained since I was in fashion merchandising, and I had no idea what hair education meant so I took my styling into every aspect of my life. I started teaching stylists wig education and poured my all into it. Over the past year, I officially started my business, Eldar Gorak Styling + Co., and really started to branch off. I’m proud of the fact that I’m in the process of manufacturing my own wigs. We’re working on how to bring it all together. At the end of the day, I don’t care about my notoriety, I care about what I’m doing for this industry.
Q: Speaking of our designs, the finger waves wig you posted on Instagram this week – OBSESSED!
A: She’s actually going to Melody Valentine at Play Louisville!
Q: What’s your favorite detail when it comes to styling?
A: I love big drag hair! I also can’t help but love a good Kim K unit too – I love doing both. It’s a learning experience and an opportunity to grow.
Q: Is there a favorite wig you’ve styled?
A: There are so many! I’ve probably done 8,000 wigs. One of my favorites, that ever went viral was my big Glow. And another that I’ve done for an event is the I heart radio awards for Jorgeous and when they announced they were going on Drag Race. Just saying, Season 15 will be amazing!
Q: Oh, that’s good to know! What’s next for you and your company?
A: A move to Nashville, and hoping by the middle of next year we’ll have a location similar to Drag Stop. You’ll be able to walk in as a man and leave a drag queen all from local artists. We’re ready to be able to have ready-to-wear wigs for whoever wants them and they’ll come with the Eldar Gorak touch. We have big hopes and dreams and can’t wait!