The Bratpack at one of their regular meetings at Jem's house. Here they discuss promos for the lead up to Season 5. The dynamics of any family are present - with all the highs and lows. They share a very special intimacy and the strength of their bond is evident both in and out of drag.
Perched in the quiet space between two worlds, Jane Smoker stands with her back to the men’s wardrobe and her face toward the floodlit stage.
As Parker begins his transformation to Jane Smoker, he’s nearly all male with his muscled torso, shaving cream and razor, dirty towels, and grooming products strewn about. But hints of the feminine creep in as he gently taps his elegant fingers before applying a rainbow array of makeup.
Getting in character is an hours-long process, mostly spent in front of the mirror—the physical and spiritual gateway to a stage persona. During those three hours of makeup and hair prep, Daniel would flirt subtly and engage with his character, Synthia Kiss, like greeting an old friend as she slowly emerged.
Synthia, herself, expressed that she looks like a lion flicking her mane and that her prowess is starting to shine!
Drag queens are often photographed in vulgar or grotesque ways; I wanted to reflect the vulnerability, authenticity, and intimacy of their dressing room experience. Here, as a performer steps back to review her now feminine shape in the mirror, I could feel that her transformation was now nearly complete.
Jane Smoker, in full dress and makeup, takes a smoke break with her manager. Throughout her hours of preparation, she stepped out many times for a cigarette; this final one helps settle her nerves before showtime.
Giorgio rehearses for his solo show later that week. He is the only member of the group that performs the "death drop". His drag persona Gia is well aware that this is a favorite move among her fans and does not want to give up, but Giorgio has been injured multiple times performing it and while he shares her fearlessness he also worries his body is being pushed too far.
Traces of Synthia Kiss cover Daniel’s apartment like those of a live-in lover. Her wig sits on a mannequin head above drawers overflowing with her hand-crafted costumes, made by Daniel, who has a background in fashion. Daniel’s own camera waits nearby as he evolves into Synthia in front of his large mirror.
He is on a new preventative HIV drug that requires he get tested at the clinic every 3 months. He gets anticipatory anxiety in the lead up to the technician entering the room. They make him wait for a long time which adds to the stress.
“The Bratpack” are local celebrities and are frequently approached for photographs. Kendall obliges to one such request while Gia politely declines. Caught between two worlds where her transformation is not yet complete Gia takes a moment to calm her nerves before the show with a cigarette - her back turned - she searches for a moments peace to help focus her mind.
In the moments before their special Pride Show, anticipation builds among the drag queens. Synthia Kiss waits before the rainbow lit curtain as a fellow queen pulls on a stiletto boot; nerves will soon give way to the exhilaration of performance.
Kendall Gender is the wildest of the five drag queens in the troupe. She funnels her need for a buzz into her time onstage, where she gives electrifying, high-energy performances.
Backstage after the show, glamour starts to give way to comfort as characters are slowly peeled away and the drag queens count out and divvy up their earnings for the night.
Backstage, the gentle soul of Giorgio shines through the glitz of Gia Metric. Each performer in the group works hard to make their transformation flawless for the stage, but up close, the scaffolding may show in the reveal of a hairnet or the shading of makeup. Giorgio's trusting vulnerability and quiet sadness came through as I photographed Gia after the show; these moments of intimacy and trust are integral to my work with this group.