By Mikkel Hyldebrandt
Photos courtesy of Lady Bunny
The original creator of Wigstock, superstar DJ, and queen of all things uber-camp: Lady Bunny, is coming to Atlanta – and DAVID got a chance to talk to the legendary queen and former Atlanta local about the current state of drag, big wigs, big careers, and her show at the Atlanta Comedy Theater Underground.
First of all, welcome back! You had to cancel your show in April because of a foot injury – so I gather all’s well and you are back in heels?
I did break my foot, so last Easter, Bunny wasn’t hopping at all. She was limping! But I am back in heels. A year before that, Covid caused us to cancel. So thanks to ticket buyers and the promoters at Wussy Mag for their patience. I haven’t performed in ATL for about five years, and I have loads of new material to tickle, delight, and horrify you with!
Your career in drag spans over decades – besides a big wig and (always) lashes, what makes Lady Bunny, Lady Bunny?
My pronouns are slutty and Sugar Tits. And my sexual preference is often! I grew up in Chattanooga, where I got to see great performers like Taisha Khan, Daisy Dalton, and even Lady Chablis when she came through town. If you want to find out what makes me Lady Bunny, just google Trixie Mattel—she stole my entire look! And she made me thinner and younger!
Tell us a little about your time in Atlanta as an up-and-coming drag superstar.
Honestly, RuPaul and the other queens in our crew were the town boogers back in the 80s. We shopped in thrift stores since that’s all we could afford. We loved the Charlie Browns and Yetteva Antoinettes, who starred at the big venues, but we were too artsy to fit in with that crowd. I can’t overstate this. I am very proud to be a southern drag queen. Despite living in NYC for several decades, there’s something extra about southern queens, which I adore. You do not get up on that stage with nothing.
And on the subject of drag: Drag is being weaponized in politics right now. What is your take on that whole thing?
Drag and trans issues are a wedge issue, which the GOP can use to gin up their base to vote for them. They can’t focus on the economy, since the GOP’s only answer has been Reagan’s failed trickle-down economics. We’ve tried that for decades, and it hasn’t worked. Democrats also like to focus on the drag/trans wedge issue, because if they had a fix for the economy, they would’ve used it over the last two years. And they did not.
Why do you think drag queens are the subject of so much conservative vitriol? Conservative/evangelical voters are often two-issue voters: stopping abortion and gay rights. That gets them to the polls. Attitudes have softened towards average gay people even among GOP voters—the world didn’t fall apart (as some predicted) when gays could get married or serve in the military. And even GOP senators felt they had to vote with Dems to vote for light gay marriage protections after the Supreme Court overturned Roe and said the ruling could be applied to same-sex nuptials. I go into this in my show because there’s something else which strikes me as odd. I’m a drag queen, as are half of my friends. I know none who wake up and think “We’ve got to read stories to more kids.” So who is setting this agenda for the community? GLAAD and HRC? They’ve both been very wrong about other stuff.
Since I perform in clubs where underage people can’t get in, I’ve never had to deal with kids at my shows. I don’t want them there because my act is dirty. I put on the ticket links to my shows not to come if dirty humor offends you—cuz I’m too dirty for some adults. And definitely not PC enough for some pride events. That doesn’t mean that all drag is inappropriate for kids, or that queens are sexually grooming kids at these story hours. But I say the same thing about whoever is pushing trans people and pronouns. Do you know any trans people? In my world, it would be an insult to ask a trans person their pronoun, because that implies that I can’t tell what sex they are, or that they aren’t “passing.” So if most drag queens aren’t pushing for story hours and a lot of trans people aren’t concerned with pronouns—who is creating this movement for us?
Drag gone mainstream: good or bad?
It’s mixed bag. There are more opportunities for drag queens, but mainly for the queens on Drag Race. And bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. I agree with what Drag Race queens like Sasha Velour have said, that if you don’t know your local performers’ names, yet you obsess over Drag Race challenges, you’re not actually a drag fan. You’re a Drag Race fan. Big difference. Drag Race de-emphasizes performance skills by only making the losers lip-synch. And many young queens just copy what they see on the show. So we’ve got lots of young queens with incredible make-up, costumes, and wigs, but who sometimes lack talent. If a queen walks on to stage looking like she spent hours on her make-up and hair, I‘ll clap for her. But that’s just the look. Now entertain me!
The word “shade” is being thrown around a lot among the younger queens (especially on drag race). Now, as the queen of throwing shade, can you tell us the correct definition?
I mainly know that term from the voguing community in NYC. Throwing shade” means insulting someone. Or you might call someone with unethical business practices “shady.” Drag Race has appropriated so much of ballroom lingo that they should be credited! Shade, slay, fierce, gagging, bring it to the runway—all that’s from the ballroom community portrayed on Pose. C’mon now, Ru, give those girls some credit. Cuz they also came up with “You better work.”
What about the word “camp”?
It’s hard to define. There’s an element of outrageousness, humor and sometimes a gay sensibility to camp. So, Liberace was camp. Charo is camp. Carol Channing was high camp. Grace Jones put a high-fashion spin on camp. Today, I’d say that Jennifer Coolidge characters are camp. It’s a vibe which gays love, and don’t always know why!
For people who have never experienced a Lady Bunny show, what can they expect when you come to Atlanta to perform at the Atlanta Comedy Theater Underground?
I sing a lot of song parodies, with new ones by Ariana Grande, Adele, Bruno Mars and Kylie Minogue. I also like to read celebrities and spread vile gossip—especially about RuPaul, Bianca Del Rio and the Drag Race crew. There’s a teeny bit of politics, an original song or two, costumes changes, two hysterical videos, and even a Broadway showstopper! And I’ve re-written Cardi B and Meghan Thee Stallion’s WAP for us older gals, who just don’t get as moist down there as we used to!
Will you have any special guest stars?
Yes! A different queen for each show. I believe the only one I’ve met is Bridget Bidet and she’s a hoot!
Lady Bunny’s Pig in a Wig – One Woman Show is playing September 1-3 at the Atlanta Comedy Theater Underground. For more info and tickets, please visit atlcomedytheater.com.