”Gloria is a lot more daring“ — introducing The Moment: Gloria Viagra

Photo & Styling / the Moment

What happens with us and our identity when we get dressed? In HFT’s new series The Moment we investigate the instant we put on our clothes. In this premiere we learn that we can become a little bolder, while watching Berlin drag queen Gloria Viagra getting ready for the night in our first ever video production

 

We all do it every day — we get dressed. Even though it is one of the most mundane activities, the decision about what we wear does have consequences. Too sexy for the office but not sexy enough for my date after? Do I dress at eye level with my clients (to show I’m an equal) or do I dress up (to signal my success)? Do I want to express that I’m up to speed with the latest trends — or do I ”not care“ because I worry about ”more important“ things than fashion? Even if we belong to the latter, we’re making a statement with what we put on our backs.

By means of our clothes we cannot only express ourselves, in reverse, they can also determine how we feel: a flowing bias cut dress will make us feel free to move, whereas a three piece suit almost forces us into a certain posture. In any case, our clothes are part of our identity and the way we communicate this identity to our peers and others.

In HFT’s new series The Moment we will be asking different people what happens in the very moment they get dressed. First up is Berlin drag queen Gloria Viagra. In a candid interview she tells about her first time in drag, whether she becomes a political figure the moment she puts on a frock and that Gloria has a little more guts than her male self Michel.

 

 

BEFORE GLORIA

I’ve always said I was born with sequins. Even as a kid I wore long night gowns, sashaying up and down the hallway with my sister, pretending it to be a catwalk.

The first drag queen I have ever seen was Zazie de Paris when I was 13 years old. A friend who ran away from home stayed with her. I went to visit them. A man in a dressing gown opened the door but it was a woman who said good-bye. I was utterly fascinated.

And then there was my mum. She kept going to Romy Haag’s club on the weekends. She loved all the men in women’s clothes and the fact that nobody would harass her. She was totally smitten by the queens on stage.

 

THE FIRST TIME

The first time I did proper drag was in 1987, together with Gerome Castell, Kreuzberg’s godmother of drag. I made a show for community television with her. We did a „Break Away“ number, lip-syncing to Tracey Ullmann. It was fantastic and afterwards I didn’t wanna take my frock off anymore. I kept sashaying up and down Gräfestraße in Kreuzberg.

It is very fascinating to see yourself there, as a different person, which is the fascinating thing about drag, you wear a mask, and still, to this day, I’m a lot more daring as Gloria than as Michel. Gloria gave me self-confidence. I used to be the type who sucked up to everybody, no back-bone. That has changed.

This is how it started. This was the birth of Gloria von Tuten und Blasen, how I used to call myself before I became Gloria Viagra.

 

 

”TUNTENTUM”

Drag used to be called travesty, though I consider myself more part of the queer movement, the ”Tuntentum“, in Berlin back then. [A ”Tunte”, in this context, might be best described with the term queer, ”Tuntentum” being the according movement; another potential translation could be ”Radical Faerie“]. Travesty meant feather boas and sequins and had basically become a swear word for us.

We were political. This is where my roots are and actually I’m quite proud of that. It wasn’t glamorous at the time. When we started out we’d take our grandmother’s clothes from the attic so we’d look like our grannies. The ”Tuntentum” was a caricature of travesty. It was our criticism of the accommodating and compliant.

That has only changed when I went to Ibiza in 1997/8 and started to follow all those genius drag colleagues out there. I started to glue away my eyebrows, to shave my arms and my chest. Just a more professional look. And I changed my name to Gloria Viagra because the Spanish couldn’t pronounce ”von Tuten und Blasen“. It still wasn’t to make money but the satirical moment of the ”Tuntentum” had gone.

 

 

DO YOU BECOME A POLITICAL FIGURE THE MOMENT YOU PUT ON DRAG?

There are people who say that drag is political the moment you put it on and leave the house, but I don’t agree 100 per cent. I think it depends on the environment you’re in.

When Gerome Castell went from bar to bar on Kreuzberg’s Oranienstrasse in the 80s, that was political. It was a different environment back then. Today, I take a cab to the place I’m playing. That is a safe space. That is not making a political statement in my book. Of course, if you’re in drag in some small town in Brandenburg, then it’s a political statement.

But if I’m in my safe environment, then I don’t automatically find it a political issue. I find that too comfortable.

 

THE MOUSTACHE

In my opinion drag has become comparatively well-behaved and contained. Maybe also because it has become more mainstream, see Rupaul’s Drag Race. On the one hand that’s obviously a good thing as the art of drag is now broadcast to a wider audience. However, a lot of the political gets lost on the way.

But I find there’s also a counter movement. Trash drag is coming back again, which I love. Or look at all the beardy ones that get attention now, thanks to Conchita Wurst.

The first time I saw a moustache was on Freddy Mercury. Then never again until I went to Pride in Israel, where a couple of drag queens wore staches. They’re all so beautiful down there anyway and I simply thought ”geil“. So in 2012 I grew one myself. In the beginning I had to add mascara because it was too short.

 

 

It does take some time to get used to, even I have to admit. Barbie Breakout had one before I had mine and I didn’t like it. But now I love it and I feel naked without it.

The reactions were – and are – divided. Some love it, some hate it. If it’s the latter, reactions can be quite harsh, especially from within our own community. Of course that makes me even more resilient to shave it off!

Now it has become a kind of trade mark. It challenges gender clichés. Before the moustache I used to flirt a lot more with straight men. Some of them were even pretending I was a woman. My drag was always an excuse for them to flirt or even have sex with a man. However, it keeps the straight guys away, unfortunately! I love sex with straight guys.

 

GLORIA VS MICHEL

Gloria is a lot more daring than Michel. When you’re in drag ”anything goes“. I used to do this more often, that I’d approach people that I never would have dared to. As Michel again, I’m more shy but the first steps were made by Gloria. And, since I have Gloria, I can act out my queerness with her. As Michel I am much more butch.

Some separate their drag persona from their actual self. I used to do that as well but the lines blur more and more. Gloria Viagra is a part of me. Of course she’s more cheeky, she’s my political, my public figure, but at the end of the day we’re the same person. We share the same values.

 

 

The Author

Bjoern Luedtke is a freelance journalist, editor and writer specialising in fashion and marketing