by Josh Brown (he/they)
Sigourney Beaver will be stopping in the Bluegrass state next week, December 2nd, at Play Louisville for a Hard Candy event. Beaver, who often describes herself as a “female impersonator impersonator,” is one of the first cisgender woman to compete on Boulet Brothers’ alternative competition show, Dragula.
Sigourney Beaver came to Chicago by way of Des Moines, Iowa. Though she is a midwesterner at heart, Beaver is no stranger to touring and travel
“Previous to the show, I had been touring myself for years and had competed in drag pageants out of state as well,” she said. “I competed in Kentucky and won a state title, Miss Kentucky USofA Diva, at this lesbian bar with a funny cat-themed name and hilarious stock photos of girls in denim all over the walls (EDITOR’S NOTE: the bar was Purrswaysations; pour one out for our girl).”
Beaver added that the lit candles on the judging table almost caught her dress on fire.
“I’m wearing a gigantic mermaid gown and I’m not expecting candles, so I just chucked the skirt off,” she said.
Despite the rising star and expanding platform she has experienced, Beaver’s brand of ethereal, hyper-femininity wasn’t always accepted by the community at-large. Her first exposure to the art of drag was John Waters’ Hairspray, featuring the incomparable Divine in the role of Edna Turnblad.
“I remember my mom telling me ‘that’s a drag queen,’ and I was like ‘whaaa?’ I would love to trick people like that. And also, when you’re younger, it’s not like I was going out and seeing drag on the street or seeing drag shows when I was 15.”
Beaver also said the iconic 2004 drama Connie and Carla was a core influence as well.
“It’s about these two women who are best friends, who go into hiding from the mob by becoming drag queens,” she said. “I thought ‘this is perfect, they get to perform, they get to wear the wigs and all the outfits that I want to wear all the time to the grocery store or the bank.”
Building upon these early film influences, Beaver explored her burgeoning love of performing in high school theatre. As she grew and began expressing herself with body art, she describes her dissatisfaction with being cast in “very small, weird” roles.
“I loved performing, but there’s not a lot of roles for people that are heavily body-modified. I started getting tattooed and found myself only considered for, like, person-in-the-back-#2. [In drag], I get to be the makeup artist, the costume designer, the director, the writer, the star. I get to have complete control over what I put out.”
This liberated autonomy gained through drag was a pivotal experience for her. As she gained control over her art and her presentation, Beaver’s perspective clicked into place: “I’m gonna do what I want, and I like what I like!”
There is cultural significance of Beaver’s role as a “hyper-femme AFAB queen” in a position of high visibility, and she described an outpouring of love and inspiration in response to her work.
“For me, I know that I am representing a group of drag that doesn’t get a lot of spotlight — they didn’t pick me, but I’m here — so I’ve been trying to do my best because I do know that through the show, I’m a lot of people’s first experience with a cis woman that does high-femme drag,” she said. “People are like ‘I had no idea that that could be a thing,’ I love it. I hear from all types of women saying ‘I really want to do drag, and I never knew that I could.’ There is a lot of pressure as a cis woman who does drag, but I also put a lot of pressure on myself.”
There are a lot of terms floating around for what Beaver is — AFAB queen, hyper-femme, hyper-queen, diva, femme queen — but as drag diversity becomes more of a mainstream experience, certain terms have become outdated.
“[Terminology] really changes all the time, it’s hard to keep up. There are people who still use ‘bio queen,’ and that’s been thrown-out for years,” Beaver said.
“Bio Queen” is an outdated term for AFAB drag performers that has since been retired in favor of more inclusive descriptors. “Drag queen” would be enough for Beaver, but she wears her gender as a badge of honor.
“There are so many people that are annoyed that I use that to ‘other’ myself or to reduce [my drag] down to my gender, and it shouldn’t.” she said. “My experience in drag has always been that I was othered by other people based on [my gender], and that everything I’ve done has been a little bit harder or more work because of that. From where I started to today, I’m extremely proud that I was able to work through that and overcome that barrier that was put up by other people.”
As far as the ‘othering’ thing goes, yes — first and foremost, Beaver said she is a drag queen. But as long as people are still using that term to separate the drag scene, especially in the pageant world, she said she will still use it because she’s extremely proud.
Beaver said she can’t wait for her stop in Kentucky.
“Expect a killer lip-sync, big hair, a stunning outfit — probably a dress — and prepare to be hypnotized,” she said