With the popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag queens are becoming mainstream and are a large part of pop culture. Where are the drag queens counter parts, the drag kings? I did some research and found a very talented drag king or male impersonator.The following interview is with Landon Cider, “Drag King Extraordinaire.”
Abby: I have attended drag shows for decades, and I’ve always seen drag queens, but your show, The Drag King Explosion, was the first time I’d seen drag kings perform at a live show. Are there as many drag kings as there are drag queens?
Landon: I can’t say for sure. I believe there aren’t. Especially there aren’t as many working as often as drag queens do. We do have a community, but it’s something smaller and not as highlighted in the professional feel.
Abby: Is that because being a drag king is seen as more of a taboo than being a drag queen currently is?
Landon: I guess taboo would be a good word to use. Also, people in general are more fascinated with the glamour, costuming and makeup of drag queens. It’s kind of hard to pull off fabulousness in male impersonation unless you’re doing constant flamboyant male characters, which I love to do, too. But in general it’s kind of a hard sale to do a male impersonator unless you’ve cornered some kind of market or have a gimmick.
Abby: Do you think it’s that way because women are seen as seeking empowerment by becoming a drag king, and in society that’s really not what women are traditionally supposed to do?
Landon: That could easily be a good reason for it. In my mind, it’s pure entertainment. The reason why drag kings can be boring is if drag kings don’t take it seriously, and a lot of them, in my experience, kind of don’t. They’re okay with just putting a baseball hat on and a T-shirt and go out having fun with it. Which is great, and everyone should be able to do their own version of whatever art they’re doing. On a professional level it’s just that if you’re not giving your all, you’re not entertaining. And if you’re not keeping us entertained, then why are we going to book you as a king. In my opinion, that’s more of the reason why kings aren’t respected as much.
Abby: Well, I’ve seen Lady Gaga perform as a guy, and the reaction is not the same as when she’s straight up Gaga.
Landon: No, not at all. That was a great moment for drag kings because that really blew peoples’ minds; they were confused. The people in the crowd and on TV didn’t understand that that was Gaga as a drag king. They were confused with it at first. They’d never seen anything like it. I think that was great, and I could definitely see the male-woman power struggle comment in that denial. But just in general, as drag kings, I’m not one to jump to female submission or anything, that part of it, because I see it as theater. I see that side of it more than the political side of it. It’s an art.
Abby: Let’s talk about you. You’re a captivating and award-winning drag performer. Is drag your passion?
Landon: It has quickly become one since my debut. It took over. I’ve always had an interest in art. I’ve done makeup, but mostly on myself and just for fun. I grew up acting. I was a live singer for a few years. Always been artistic and expressive, and always kind of made my little costumes for Halloween. Not sewing but kind of put it together, piece pieces together. Once I found drag, it was a beautiful fusion of all of my artistic expressions into one platform where I was able to become who I wanted to become and not read a script that someone else wrote for female characters — which has always been the lady waiting for the man to save her, and be swept off her feet because she’s in trouble. I’m tired of playing that type of role, and I was finally comfortable with my androgyny and everyday presentation of “I don’t care if it’s butch, fem or whatever, if I like it, I’m going to wear it.” I express myself in all levels of feminism and butch-ism, and all the different variations of lesbianism, I guess. Once I found all that, it all came together. I love creating my own art and my own character.
Abby: Is drag your full-time job?
Landon: Not yet. I say ‘yet’ probably because I made a promise to myself and to the universe and to Facebook a couple months ago that this time next year I will be a full-time artist. Whether that be only performing drag, or maybe I’ve grown into designing costumes for other people or whatever avenue it takes me in. Drag is definitely my passion, and I would love for that to be a full-time job.
Abby: Can women make a living doing drag?
Landon: There have been a couple kings that were full-time performers and touring and doing their thing. But still not nearly as much as a booking rate as the queens do. The queens can make $500 a show for these big huge events, and you’ll see drag kings booked for $75.
Abby: So even when you look like a man you still get paid like a woman. You have to love what you are doing.
Landon: I do.
Abby: How long have you been doing drag?
Landon: Three years. Three years in February was my “dragiversary”.
Abby: When you’re doing drag at one of your shows, do you feel less inhibited than on a daily basis?
Landon: Definitely. I have a mask on. When I’m in drag, I have a different face, and I’m able to express a level of comedy and expression and drama and musicality. I’m able to show more because I have a mask on, and I think I’m a little quicker. All different levels of it come out. As much as I try to stay humble, a little bit of a diva comes out sometimes and I get to poke fun at it. I have all these queens and all these fabulous men that are back stage talking to each other. It’s so funny how they talk to each other. Every once in a while I throw in something, and they trip out because I’m not usually one to “read” anyone, because I think it’s mean sometimes. All of that, all of those sides of me come out in drag, the drag experience. Whether I’m back stage and putting my makeup on and getting into the character, I think I play differently with people than when I’m just everyday walking around being Kristine.
Abby: How does your family feel about you doing drag?
Landon: I don’t have any immediate family; I don’t have any siblings, and my father is never around. My mom passed away when I was 21, before I was even out of the closet. So I’m sure that my mother – I always say this to myself and to people who ask that – I know she’s supportive, wherever she is now. I have an incredibly beautiful and supportive fiance in Gabi Luna and we encourage each other to fulfill our dreams.
Abby: Congratulations on getting engaged. I wish you two the best! How does the average person react when you tell them that you’re a drag artist?
Landon: I experience this often, actually. I’m a server-bartender at Marie Callender’s, which is sort of a conservative bakery/restaurant, America-style restaurant and a little sports bar. They’ll ask what I’m doing tonight, and I’m like. “I have my second job.” What’s that? Then I go into it, they’re confused, they don’t know that we exist. Some don’t even know that drag in general exists. Then I excuse myself to go to the office and get my phone. I come back and show them the pictures, and that’s when their jaws drop, and they immediately take my Youtube website down, my Facebook down. I get people adding me, and emailing me, and commenting on things from work just because I told them to check it out. Then they become fascinated with it. Sometimes you get some others looking at you as “whatever.” I’m a good enough judge of people to know how much to reveal. When I do, I’ll say enough to open their eyes, but if I can tell they’re not going to listen, I’m at work most of the time, then I’m just gonna drop it because I like getting a paycheck.
Abby: I saw the reel you did for USC. Are you a student there?
Landon: No, I’m not. I was just hired to present a kind of workshop/seminarish type of event for a club fair. It was for diversity week at the college. So they invited Miss Barbeque who is an L.A. based artist, and Feliz Navidad who is another L.A. based artist, and they contacted me to come on board to panel questions to drag and the diversity in drag. I was able to talk to students and answer a bunch of questions, and presented that reel as an introduction to a miniature performance that we did, and then a panel discussion that we had.
Abby: On the reel, you listed yourself as an actress, a director, comedian, makeup artist, costume designer, and choreographer. Are those in relation to drag?
Landon: Correct. I am my own “everything” career. I take credit for all aspects for it. I give myself the proper credit for the certain titles that encompass what I create and present on stage. Whether it’s just my solo performance or I have a performance group that I perform as a drag king.
Abby: You show a lot of diversity in your characters. How many characters do you do in drag?
Landon: I haven’t sat down and counted. I do my celebrity impersonations which include Ricky Ricardo, George Michael, Beetlejuice, Justin Bieber, Adam Lambert, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks… Who else? I know I’m missing a couple. The different characters I do vary widely. I have about 50 songs or numbers in my repertoire with all different types of characters.
Abby: For all of these characters, you have to buy clothes. How are you treated when you buy men’s apparel?
Landon: Very well. Most of my shopping is at thrift stores and fabric stores. And most of the time, if I have to buy a nice piece/product, I’m usually dealing with pleasant people. I haven’t had any negative responses, luckily, cross my fingers. I also live in a community that is very gay friendly and open to lots of different things. So I think I’m lucky, too.
Abby: When it comes to the drag king culture, is it similar to drag queens? I mean, do you have a drag father in the way that drag queens have a drag mother?
Landon: I do not. But I do have a drag mother (Miss Conception) that adopted me on my birthday last year. I worked with her a few times, and she has worked with kings. Jewels of Long Beach I would also consider to be drag family too. But the drag culture outside of LA is much broader, and they have many drag fathers all over the country that have many drag children. In the pageant field, as well, there’s a lot of male impersonators and drag kings that hold onto that community as well. I just happen to not have any because there weren’t any drag kings around when I started performing. So no one taught me anything. I just taught myself everything.
Abby: So there are drag king competitions, but is there a “ballroom” circuit?
Landon: That’s a good question. I don’t believe so. There’s a stud circuit or stud pageant and stud things that are kind of similar. I guess they’re kind of… I don’t want to put this word on them, but from the videos I’ve seen they are kind of strippers or exotic type of dancers. They look very butch-like and look to be impersonating men but they don’t pack and they show their breasts. It’s a unique kind of blend. I think that maybe the closest thing to a ballroom circuit, but not that I know of. I only know of pageants and contests.
Abby: Are the competitions local, regional, and national?
Landon: For the most part, yes. There aren’t any in our local area. But the ones that I competed in, I was “drafted” to represent the titles that are regional and then took me to nationals. But there are so many pageants that are in the Midwest and back East for miniature bar titles and city titles, and pride titles and all these things at different levels. There are a handful that go up to nationals, but most are just local and regional.
Abby: As I mentioned at the beginning of the interview, you are an award winning Drag Artist. What awards have you won?
Landon: There are only a couple. I was named SoCal Premiere Drag King shortly after I made my debut, in 2009. Then in 2010 I was appointed King of the Desert,USofA MI first alternate. That was in Arizona. Then I came in 4th in the national title for Mr. USofA MI where I won the creative eveningwear award, which was great, because I got a national title for costuming and eveningwear. And most recently I was named Male Illusionist of the Year, (MIX) which is a title appointed and voted by my peers. I knew that I was nominated, and that was great. I didn’t really think twice about it, and then proceeded going on my way. Then a couple months later they made the announcement and I got a logo. It’s fantastic. It’s so satisfying to know that it’s not just a contest that gave me the title. My career and the way that I present my art is what gave me the title in everyday life. Not just a week in the contest.
Abby: I’ve seen you listed as drag king of the week on SoCal Drag.
Landon: Oh yeah, you’re right, I forgot about that. King of the Week, and I’ve also been Drag Entertainer of the Month in West Hollywood.
Abby: Drag Entertainer of the Month in West Hollywood is no small achievement. There are more drag entertainers in West Hollywood than there are in some entire states!
Landon: Yeah, I was the only drag king in WeHo. It was great to be among all of the drag entertainers. So that was great, too.
Abby: You mentioned RuPaul’s Drag Race should have a drag king on it. Do you think that someone would be interested in putting out a drag king edition?
Landon: I think a lot of people are ready for a drag king competition. I think viewers are; I think the artistic community is, the drag community, the gay community … everyone. I think all communities are ready for a drag king competition, but I guess whether the investors are or not is the question. For whatever reason, RuPaul decided to not include drag kings in her competition. I hope that changes in the future because I will be submitting my video next season.
Abby: I wish you the best of luck with that. Landon, until we see you on TV, where can your new and old fans see you live or learn more about you?
Landon: On Facebook: Facebook.com/landoncider. I do have Twitter, which is Twitter.com/landoncider. For videos you can find me at youtube.com/landoncider. I’m all over Southern California. I’m at Hamburger Mary’s in Long Beach which is my home bar.
Abby: Thank you Landon. I look forward to seeing you perform again.