Violet Chachki Talks Being The “Shadiest” Drag Queen
23-year old Violet Chachki slayed all and then some while she competed on RuPaul’s Drag Race this past season. Despite winning the award for “Shadiest Queen” Chachki went on to win the competition, impressing the judges with her technical skills, executing and serving jaw-dropping Lewks with a capital L, like this reversible tartan jumper and a hello kitty ensemble that was so dolly cute it bordered on creepy. Chachki isn’t wasting anytime sitting on her laurels, despite the fact that she’s certainly earned some time off. She’s been busy since the show wrapped, with a new EP and two music videos that dropped in June. Chachki is unapologetic about her dynamism and expertise in what seems like endless areas of creative expression. She isn’t afraid to let you know, she may be famous for being a drag queen, but Chachki is first and foremost a visual artiste who is pushing towards a new era of queer world making.
Victoria Durden: What have you been up to since the show wrapped?
Violet Chachki: I just got back from Pairs, I got to go to the Miu Miu show for couture week–it was amazing. And I just put out two new music videos. I guess since the show wrapped, I’ve kind of been living the dream it’s been crazy, I mean my whole life is totally different. I’m just constantly traveling and I’m barely home. I miss my friends but it’s worth it.
VD: I loved your sense of style on the show, where do you draw inspiration from in terms of your fashion sense?
VC: I draw a lot of inspiration from different time periods. I just love glamour so any time period that had a lot of excess and glamour I draw inspiration from. All the stuff from from the 60s and 70s, very specific times in the 80s. I just take inspiration from anything that visually stimulates me. I really look at drag as a visual art.
“I don’t want to be a personality, I don’t want to be a talk show, I literally just want to be a visual.”
VD: What was being on the show like?
VC: I went on the show to do my visuals. What I do is drag, and it’s a very visual thing. You get on the show and they want all this background on you. I went there just to be creative and do my visual art and it was like “Okay we want to know all about your entire background, your entire family history”. There are layers that are involved with the show and it can get pretty dramatic. I don’t want to be a personality, I don’t want to be a talk show, I literally just want to be a visual. And that’s what my name means the word chachki is a yiddish word for a trinket, and it kind of has no function, it’s literally just there to be visually appealing. So that was kind of hard for me on the show. It was difficult for me because I was just there to do my art, not all the dramatic bullshit.
VD: Do you channel your love for visual art through your music?
VC: That’s exactly what I wanted to do when I started doing music stuff. I wanted to create a soundtrack to a visual. It’s always been about the visual for me, so I just wanted to create a soundtrack to my art and to my life as a background thing. I never set out to be a popstar.
VD: Do you think that a lot of people dismiss the performance of femininity because they don’t understand it as real work or real art?
“I’m changing genders and doing it in a very thought out, methodical, uncomfortable kind of way. It’s dedication to my craft. Performing femininity is a lot of work, and I don’t think people realize that at all.”
VC: It takes a lot of work. I use a lot of fetish stuff, it can be very uncomfortable. Fetish wear, pumps, corsetting– drag in general can be really uncomfortable and I don’t think people realize that. They’ll say, “Oh she’s not very talented, she doesn’t sing or dance or act or whatever”. But you know, I actually am very talented. I’m changing genders and doing it in a very thought out, methodical, uncomfortable kind of way. It’s dedication to my craft. Performing femininity is a lot of work, and I don’t think people realize that at all.
VD: Drag has, in some ways come under fire, within the context of a bourgeoning trans rights movement that is gaining momentum. How do you understand drag in that context?
“At what point are you in drag? You know RuPaul’s thing is ‘You’re born naked and the rest is drag.’ Everyone is performing all the time, and everyone is in a certain costume all the time, and it’s just what you’re comfortable performing in that day. So for me it’s not about female illusion or female impersonation.”
VC: When you start to ask questions it just creates more questions. At what point does someone become trans? That’s really the same question that keeps coming up with me. What makes you trans more than me? At what point are you in drag? You know RuPaul’s thing is “You’re born naked and the rest is drag”. Everyone is performing all the time, and everyone is in a certain costume all the time, and it’s just what you’re comfortable performing in that day. So, for me it’s not about female illusion or female impersonation.
I do strip teases and people call it drag and female illusion, but I’m not trying to trick anybody. It’s very obvious that I was born male and am performing in a gender fluid kind of way. I don’t wear boobs a lot, I don’t pad sometimes, so I do some androngynous stuff, and it’s still considered drag, but at what point is it female illusion and at what point does that become trans?
It just raises more question than it answers. So I kind of feel like it’s a silly argument to have. But, I understand where trans people are coming from. It becomes a safety issue. I think that getting misgendered is one of the worst feelings anyone can experience. A lot of this conversation comes from years and years of misguided information and hatred, and hate crimes. So, I understand that the conversation is a necessary conversation.
But, at the same time I think, do you have to get bottom surgery to become a trans person? Am I a female illusionist? A drag queen? A performance artist? It’s the verbage, we get caught up in the verbage. But, we’re all fighting the same fight. The enemy is not within the the LGBT community, it’s outside of it. And we’ve overcome a lot of stuff recently and I hope it will keep going and we can stay united in our fight for equality, and just general respect for the entire LGBTQA community.
VD: Do you think it’s important within the drag communities and trans communities to make space for gender fluidity?
“There’s a lot of people out there who are trans who aren’t represented in mainstream media, who don’t blend in, who aren’t passing, and who don’t want to.”
VC: Yes. Sometimes I feel more feminine, sometimes I feel more masculine. And I feel like I should be able to express that freely. It’s not all black and white like that. There’s a lot of pressure on trans people to be stealth or to blend in or to be one gender or the other. But as a gender queer person, it’s not all black and white. There’s a lot of people out there who are trans who aren’t represented in mainstream media, who don’t blend in, who aren’t passing, and who don’t want to.
VD: Sort of a misplaced significance on passing.
VC: Yes, passing, passing privilege, it’s a misplaced significance.
VD: Did you ever get push back on the show for doing performances that were a little more gender fluid?
“There’s a whole range of drag and because the show is a TV show, it’s drag for TV as opposed to what drag really is. At the bars, there’s a lot more variety, it’s a lot more punk, it’s a lot more accepting.”
VC: I definitely got pushback from the judges, I came out completely naked and had duck tape on and was tucked. And [when I did that], I got pushback for not being feminine enough. [The experience] was kind of off putting coming from this network and this show. Last year, they played this video at the reunion, “What Is Drag” and it went through all these famous drag queens and models. There’s a whole range of drag and because the show is a TV show, it’s drag for TV as opposed to what drag really is. At the bars, there’s a lot more variety, it’s a lot more punk, it’s a lot more accepting.
On the show, it’s kind of like mainstream drag, and they want it to be about female illusion. It’s that misplaced importance on passing–because it’s TV and it’s mainstream media which is fine, but for me it was a hard pill to swallow. I think that fellow drag queens understand because we’ve all worked in nightclubs and bars and we’ve seen the different types of drag, fellow drag queens are more accepting of different thought processes I think outside perspectives– they want pretty, fishy, passing queens, queens that they can relate to.
VD: You had the smallest waist in the history of RuPaul’s Drag Race, what was your experience like with waist training?
VC: I started off using cheap corsets that are super easy and comfortable and stretchy. Then I graduated to a big girl corset, then had a custom one made. A custom made corset is the best way to go, it’s made for your body so it’s safest for your body. You have to listen to your body and listen to what it’s saying. If you need a break and need to take your corset off, then take a break and take it off. Sometimes I sleep in my corset. You just have to be careful.
VD: Do you have any live performances lined up in terms of performing your music?
VC: I kind of do. I am getting some remixes done of the music and I want to do an aerial show and have the music be the background to a really awesome visual. This is the first time I’ve had off in the past two months so I have some time now to develop that and think about what that looks like.
VD: Who were your drag role models and mentors?
VC: I had two drag moms, my first one taught me how to go out and be more of a social queen, how to get free drinks. My second one, Genre, taught me more technical skills like sewing, clothing construction, costuming, and professionalism. I’ve got a great drag family. Being a queer person is about finding your tribe, finding your family. And I’ve definitely done that.
VD: How has your actual family reacted to your success and being on RuPaul’s Drag Race?
VC: I don’t think my parents understood what exactly I was doing in the beginning. But, I think once they saw the show and they came to the taping of the finale they were very supportive. It only took me getting on television for them to get supportive! (Laughter). No, they’ve been great.
VD: Have you ever face any sort of harassment in public for being a drag queen?
“I think it’s important to take up space as a queer person, it’s important to show that we exist.”
VC: I had an experience happen to me in Australia, which was really weird, because Australia is such a progressive country. It was just one little homophobic incident, but it comes with the territory. People are always going to be assholes. I would never try to stifle myself or dumb myself down in order to exist. I think it’s important to take up space as a queer person, it’s important to show that we exist. And when that kind of stuff happens I fight back to gain control of the situation. I think it makes you stronger and more sure of who you are as a person.
VD: Any style tips you can give for achieving that your level of glamour?
VC: Buy vintage! You can never go wrong with anything vintage. And, change up your silhouette every now and then, it’s so important to switch things up.
Violet Chachki is a visual artist and winner of Ru Paul’s Drag Race Season 7. She recently released her music video for her single “Vangaurd”. Check out her new EP “Gagged” and make sure to follow her on Instagram and Twitter.