Ballet, Opera, Spirituality and Talking Handbags, are you Faux-Real?! Talking Toxic presents; the Wonderful World of FAUXNIQUE!!!

Monique Jenkinson, the multi-media, inter-disciplinary master mind of bio-drag-queenery is exhilarating. Swooping from otherworldly heights, Fauxnique, Jenkinsons alter-ego, transcends the barriers between performance art, comedy, camp and even elements of high fashion to navigate a path for her audience, that exports them away from the mundane into escapist fantasy, whilst simultaneously allowing and enouraging vital concepts of gender, sexuality and body politics to be discussed and experimented with.

I first became aware, as many have, of Fauxnique via her perfomances as a guest vocalist for electronic performers SilenceFiction/Never Knows, famed for their song, ‘Lipstique’. Its mesmerizing synthesized bubble and swagger as well as captivating video accompaniment starring contemporary drag luminaries such as Peaches Christ, Vinsantos DeFonte, Hoku Mama and of course, Fauxnique herself, applying their makeup from beginning to end, sneaking us a glimpse of what it takes to transform into their glorious characters, has garnered thousands of views worldwide through youtube.

I was struck not only by a fantastic song, but by the incredible aesthetics that Fauxnique employs/ed. As I dug deeper, a rich history began unfolding; the first cis-gendered woman to win the infamous Trannyshack, musician, accomplished modern performance and visual artist whose glowing reviews spoke for themeselves. The collected images and video works which incorporated aspects of opera, ballet, vogueing and perfected comedy timing, were and are inspiring…

ENOUGH TALKING MISS DIS! It’s time for FAUXNIQUE, to grace the stage….

C/O Michelle Blioux

Dis) Okay, let’s get a little background – how did you get started and what defines the nature of ‘Fauxnique’?

Fauxnique) I started performing as a little ballerina in my tween years. I evolved into contemporary dance, and then emerged out of the refusal aesthetic of the theatrical dance scene (from the 70s) still holding strong in the 90s into the San Francisco drag scene via Trannyshack. Fauxnique is a Drag Queen – me (a bio female) performing drag as a drag queen. The name Fauxnique is a play on my name and the term ‘faux queen’ which is sometimes referred to as a ‘woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman’. However, for me, the drag queen transcends this gender binary. The nature of Fauxnique is mutable. She is not only a drag persona, but at kind of filter or lens through which I consider my particular concerns around the performance of femininity. Fauxnique often comes from a very, very physical place and a place of deep and strong emotion. She often appears in the guise of a faerie, butterfly or earth goddess and sometimes appears in the guise of one of her heroines. Fauxnique is a feminist – like myself.

D) Your performance aesthetic mutates gender and contemporary (as well as classical) images of glamour, into tools of expression that ultimately cross boundaries of comedy, drama and even the monstrous. Can you elaborate on your perception of these archetypes as well as your utilisation of them in your work…

M) I think that feminine power has historically been seen as monstrous and/or transgressive. This is what struck me most when I first became an avid drag fan. The very first night I attended the legendary drag club Trannyshack, it was ‘Riot Grrrl Night’. I was astounded. These were queens honoring feminist rebels. I was immediately hooked, and I really got the way in which drag plays with and highlights what we may find radical or monstrous about feminine power. I keep thinking back to my copy of RE/Search Magazine’s ‘Angry Women’ issue, which was a total reference tome for me. The cover was a graphic novel rendering of Medusa. And I think about a piece I made many years ago, my gateway to drag work, that I still bring out occasionally as part of my solo cabaret show Faux Real, about opera diva Maria Callas. Part of the soundtrack is an interview with her. At one point the opera-queen interviewer broaches the ‘inquiring minds want to know’ question of her weight loss, implying that someone made her do it. And she replies: ‘I was playing Medea then, and I thought to myself, well, the face is too fat & can’t stand it & I needed a chin for expression.” I died. This quote kind of contains how I formulate my relationship to the humor, comedy and monstrosity of drag. Clearly you need a chin to play a the archetypical child-murdering witch. Deep psychology and specific physicality.

C/O Parker Tilghman

D) Drag as performance art and as a method of reclaiming the body are twin themes employed by a plethora of visual artists from Cindy Sherman to Leigh Bowery, Claude Cahun and beyond. How do you view the cultural dialogue created by drag and its varied forms?

M) Big question. Drag is certainly both to me – a finely honed craft and a method of reclaiming the body. And you bring up some of my very favorite artists. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Leigh Bowery & Cindy Sherman – whom I kind of see as opposite poles of my heroine spectrum. As a classically trained dancer, I respect and delight in the rules and strictures of drag as performance. I love doing the assignment, I love getting the lip-synch, making sure the makeup goes over the top (and the eyebrows go well above the actual eyebrows) and out of the territory of pretty lady. I love honing my ultra-studied feminine moves. So drag as an art is very serious to me. And I have certainly reclaimed my body via drag. As a classically trained dancer, I sustained the very common damage of that vocation – the body dismorphia stuff – that drag and drag queens helped me get over. I have seen such a multiplicity of female bodies – and experienced my own body – embraced and celebrated in the drag world and that has been an experience of reclamation.

Parker Tilghman

D) You’re no stranger to controversy, following your crowning as Miss Trannyshack in 2003, there was a small uproar that focused on the fact that you are a biological woman as opposed to a man performing the drag role. How did this affect your perception of the community and now, what do you view as your position within the world of drag?

M) From the moment I attended that first Riot Grrrl Night at Trannyshack, I felt like I was home. And from the time I first took to the stage there, I was treated as one of the family. Trannyshack was already upsetting the gender binaries and biases in drag. The only concern there was the quality and creativity of the performance: whoever you are and however you identify, be fierce and we will welcome you. My decision to participate in the Miss Trannyshack Pageant came with a tremendous amount of support. Other faux queens, or cisgendered female drag queens had participated before, but I was the first one to win it. I think most memebers of that particular community were ready for me to win. The audience was certainly with me.

In the aftermath of the win, I felt the love more than the uproar. But I think folks who heard through the grapevine that a woman won were more up in arms – the ones who weren’t there or weren’t part of that community. Heklina (the creator & queen of Trannyshack) really stuck up for me in those cases. I don’t know if she literally protected me from the fallout of anyone’s dismay, but no one went out of their way to express it to me personally.

One thing that did happen, was that I had quite a few queens come up to me, after seeing me perform sometime after the fact and say something to the effect of: ‘I was really put out when you won, but now that I’ve seen you perform, I get it.’ I’m a good drag queen. I do my homework, I work hard, I think about it a lot,and I honor my ancestors.

Fontaine Weyman

D) Returning briefly to aesthetics; you favour a high glamour, almost couture expression of styling when it comes to your use of cosmetics. This tessellates with a subcultural, punk and DIY approach to costuming. How have both the mainstream and counter-culture affected and influenced your visual extravaganza?

M) Fashion has always been vital for me. I was a teen in the 80s in suburban Colorado – not the most stylish situation. It was a time when, to wear something out there was really to declare yourself as outside the mainstream. We forget that now. Now we remember the fabulous looks of the 80s and think of Boy George & Cyndi Lauper as icons of the 80s. But people really did get beaten up at school for listening to that music and looking like that. In those pre-internet years, my lifelines out of the flat, square, Christian whiteness of that place were fashion magazines (my stylish mom had subscriptions to all of them) and cable television. Weirdly, we had this public access cable show coming out of Broomfield, the suburb where I lived (outside of Boulder, the big college town) called Teletunes, that predated MTV. And they played all the weirdest shit. That is where I came into contact with Devo, Kate Bush, the Buggles, etc. My other favorite show was ‘Style’ on CNN, which showed the runway shows and talked to designers. I would get up early on Saturday to watch those shows. And then later I would spend my babysitting money on the 2-month old copies of The Face sold at the one hip record store. That totally formed me. On Saturday I would watch a Valentino runway show and then a Snakefinger video and then cobble together something fabulous to school on Monday.

D) Further to classical images of glamour, ballet and opera have also featured in your live performances, for instance, in Faux Real. You contrast these often considered, romantic forms with comedy and sometimes sadness to brilliant effect. How do you design these pieces and also, why, as in the aforementioned piece, do you prefer to actively expose the process of building an immaculate image (a practice which many drag artists seek to oppose) and thereby draw attention to the application and maintenance of illusion?

M) Thank you for the kind words about the work!

I really came to opera and back around to ballet because of, and through drag.

So the short answer is, that I found the drag and camp elements in opera & ballet – of which there are many – and used them. There was tremendous freedom in returning to ballet – especially the rigors of pointe work – through drag, because no one expects a drag queen ballerina to have perfect ballet technique or to weigh 90 pounds. So I come from a place of understanding and love for ballet, but also an awareness of how over the top & ridiculous it can be.


The design, choreography and conception of a piece like Mimicry & Flaunting, in which I consider and work with the image of the queen of all divas, Maria Callas, came from a few sources, and it is my oldest piece. When I first started listening to Callas, inspired by Wayne Koestenbaum’s fantastic book The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality & the Mystery of Desire (the title from my piece also comes from this book) I came across an interview with her, and that really inspired the piece. Then I started thinking about the facial expression of the opera diva as a dance, and the way in which the performance of that dance is the improvisational element in a form in which everything else is so composed.
As for drawing attention to process, I have just always been, and remain, fascinated both with transformation and simple theatrical magic. I don’t think it makes the illusion any less magical. Or I think, somehow it lends depth.

Parker Tilghman

D) What inspires this position?

M) The beginning of Mimicry & Flaunting in which I sit at a mirror that faces the audience and put on my Callas face, came out of necessity as it was the final piece in a solo show, so I had to change onstage and make it look interesting. The mirror bit was a piece of problem solving that became really integral to the piece.

D) In your work, ‘A Glamour’, you sought to unify practices such as makeup application and the arrangement of artifice with spirituality and meditation. Drag, which can at times be incredibly restrictive and focus largely on artifice, is not often considered spiritual. Do you feel that through the elevation of what many would consider mundane practice, i.e. costuming, makeup artistry etc. that we can also be spiritual or at the very least, imbue these ‘rituals’ with meditative significance?

M) Thank you so much for talking about this piece! I love what you see in it and your wording, so my answer might just be ‘yes.’

With A Glamour I did indeed seek to look at the transformations and totems of drag as part of a serious ritual. The clothing and accessories in the piece were a bunch of bangles given to me by a friend who had recently died (legendary Trannyshack superstar The Steve Lady), a beaded sweater that had belonged to my grandma that I wear ALL THE TIME and a raffia dress that falls apart. So there is a lot about ancestry, death, and presence. I am always aware of presence and live performance as ever-dying moments.

D) Further to ‘Glamour’ you often exalt movements of dance such as vogueing, associated with the LGBT community, by including them in performances that also utilise ballet and again, operatic scoring (‘Crying in Public’) always with a tremendous sense of humour of course, but a genuine affection and studied approach to these genres is obvious. What is it that draws you to these aspects of dance culture and why do you feel that it is important to include these in your live events?

M) Vogueing is an exalted form all on its own, and I am happy to try to serve it was well as I possibly can. I come at everything from an embodied place, so I am attracted to a huge variety of dance forms. When we talk about vogueing especially, we tend to focus on the sociopolitical aspects of the performance. While these are crucial, there is also tremendous artistry and technique there. That technique is serious and deserves to be recognized and honored. I also like to use tasks that present difficulty and change my state. I thought a vogue-ballet  in soaking wet clothes in a puddle of water while attached to an aerial bungee cord would do that.

My using Vogue vocabulary with Vivaldi’s ‘Stabat Mater’ in Crying in Public was also partly my processing a thought and a feeling that I have a lot which is that if I had been born about 10 or 15 years earlier all of my friends would most likely be dead from AIDS. So I think I meant to honor my dead would-be friends. And then again, all my friends are not dead. So with that part I am also making fun of my own tendency to be maudlin & overdramatic. At the beginning, I say, in my best imitation of my friend Glamamore ‘Oh Mary! Enough! Quit your blubbering.’ Humor is essential to our survival.

D) How do you feel that these performances are interpreted by your audience, and how do you hope for them to feel when watching or engaging?

M) I am really lucky to have a mostly generous, game and intelligent audience. For the most part, they go along for the ride. I don’t necessarily want them to feel any one thing, and what any one person feels or gets out of it is really subjective, but of course, I want them to feel something. With my last evening-length piece, Instrument, I experimented a lot, and the drag elements were really just traces, so I may have lost some of my Fauxnique audience (one person boorishly & publicly told me so on Facebook), but most of them went out of their way to tell me how much they got out of it.

I think one of the jobs of contemporary art is to push the culture forward. That can sometimes run counter to entertaining and pleasing. Drag and dance can both and alternately fall into the categories of art and entertainment. I think good drag pushes the culture forward just like good contemporary performance.

D) Moving into music, you provided guest vocals for SilenceFiction/Never Knows/marc Kate, whose now iconic video, ‘Lipstique’ has been viewed by thousands of people all over the world! There must be more, tell us there is and also, tell us a little bit about the duo….

M) Oh my! The duo was both a one-off and ongoing, as Silencefiction (now known as Never Knows and also as Marc Kate) is the love of my life! I don’t want to disappoint, but I don’t know when you’ll see anything from us as a duo. He, however is coming out with a fantastic album in the Spring and you will LOVE his podcast ‘Why We Listen’. Listen to the episodes with Justin Vivian Bond, Joshua Grannell & Vinsantos! Find info at marckate.com

I am so proud of ‘Lipstique’ and it was such a pleasure to make. As a live performer, it was thrilling to just do something that can be seen and move forward without my body having to be present! I would love to do more work like that, and I certainly hope there will be more collaboration between me & Marc artistically. However, I think one of the cornerstones of our relationship has been that we are both relentlessly supportive of each other’s projects, and adamantly free about doing our own work.

Parker Tilghman

D) Finally, what for you makes a great performance and what advice would you impart to those seeking to step into those stupendously high heels?

M) Lots of ingredients go into a great performance. The first step is DO IT. And then do it some more. Watch performers you admire with an eagle eye. A great teacher of mine just said that technique is knowledge, not merely repetition. I think that is really important. Go deep. Be honest. Ask questions. Try new things. And wear your own damn shoes, because you are on your own path.

D) BONUS ROUND Where can we catch you next, where can we buy our Fauxnique branded clothing, music and accessories?

Maybe I need to bring back the Fauxnique t-shirt. Or maybe a hankie for those who are easily moved, like myself?

I make regular appearances at Trannyshack, Some Thing, and various theatrical stages around San Francisco. I also perform nationally and internationally. I would LOVE to come to the UK again soon, so let’s make that happen! Also, I will be performing in March as part of Work More at SOMArts, curated by Mica Sigourney & Kolmel Withlove. I will be collaborating with Maryam Farnaz Rostami aka Mona G. Hawd on a piece that is a part of a larger group show paying tribute to the benchmark feminist collective/installation/show Womanhouse.

Join my email list at fauxnique.net and I will keep you posted.

A huge thank you to Fauxnique for taking part in this edition of Talking Toxic! I loved every second and every syllable! And, if like me, you want to keep up to date with all of the lovely ladys’ latest goings on, subscribe to the mailing list and buy a copy of Lipstique available on Amazon, now…

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lipstique-featuring-Fauxnique-Original-Mix/dp/B001N8M010/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1390252985&sr=8-5&keywords=silencefiction

Bile and Bruises

Dis Charge

xo

Black Unicorns and Queens (Or Kings) of the Freakers Ball: Talking Toxic with the BOULET BROTHERS

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Yes, hello and welcome back to Talking Toxic and our first installment for 2014! I hope you’ve all been bad boys and girls over Xmas, because frankly, if you’ve all been on your best behaviour – how in hell did you wind up here?

To drag us in to January (take that pun, TAKE IT!) and all of its frozen wonder,  we welcome Los Angeles and NYC nightlife legends; The BOULET BROTHERS, curators of Dragula and Black Unicorn, the wildest of wild fetish and alt. lifestyle parties. They’re dashing, they’re delicious AND… they’re positively dirrrrrty…

D) First off, a little background; Why did you choose the name, Boulet Brothers and how did you get your start in club promotion and performance – in a recent interview with Frontiers magazine you touched on your days in New York visiting the legendary club kid parties. Can you elaborate a little more on this time?

Boulet Brothers) Well, in our opinion, the period in New York nightlife we were brought up in was one of the“glory day” periods of the city’s party scene. This was the period of Disco 2000 at the Limelight, the actual party that the movie Party Monster was based on. Gay nightlife then was amazing. You had your choice of everything. You had these elaborate, three thousand people gay house clubs that wouldn’t even start until 4AM and would go all Sunday afternoon – where drag queens like Kevin Aviance would come out in these dramatic performances high in the clubs rafters, and it was just magical. At the same time, the east village was in its heyday with these amazing grungy gay rock clubs like Michael Schmidt’s legendary Squeezebox, and Mario Diaz was just starting to throw these dirty little gay rock clubs with these really talented punk drag queens (who were new at the time, but you now know as drag legends). There was just everything you could imagine going on – underground tranny clubs, gay sex clubs in illegal warehouses in the meat packing district, rock and roll gay dive bars, leather / fetish parties – it was a vital, pulsing time to be living in New York and we reveled in it all.Now as for how we started doing club promotions and performance, it was a natural evolution for us both. We were both artists and both loved nightlife. One of us was a nightlife magazine editor / art director, and the other was a theater actor and art student who performed and gogo danced in clubs on the side. When we moved from New York to Los Angeles, we just didn’t find our cup of tea in the nightlife scene, so we decided to start our own club – the rest is history. Oh
and as for how we came to be called the Boulet Brothers, that’s our own little secret.

Pretty in Pink

D) The Dragula and the Black Unicorn events you co-run and organise favour a much darker aesthetic than typical drag and mainstream gay or straight performance based events, what draws you to this aspect of the culture?

BB) It’s just what we like, plain and simple. It’s the same interests we had before we started doing clubs, and our events are just a celebration of what we love.

D) The performers you work with such as the inimitable Squeaky Blonde, are stalwarts of both LA nightlife and outsider drag. How do you go about selecting your hosts/entertainers? Do you have a specific criteria?

BB) Yes. It’s all about chemistry for us, and that formula is for our eyes only.

WITCH!

D) The Boulet Brothers image is extremely theatrical and blends the masculine and
feminine with influences that are as much subcultural as they are glamorous. How do you
design your complimenting imagery? Where do you draw your inspiration?

BB) We draw inspiration from ourselves and each other, it’s just who we are when we are set free. We want to take you outside of your normal life and give you a little fantasy. We want to scare you a little, tease you, and maybe turn you on for reasons you don’t understand. We like to think we are exactly the characters you would meet if you were in a sadomasochist, drug filled fairy
tale. It’s our job to guide you through the fantasy and tempt you, and we have to look the part to be effective.

D) To return briefly to you Frontiers magazine interview, the question was posed to you that in spite of the ‘Brothers’ name, you are in fact lovers. How did you meet and when did you begin working together in club land?

BB) We met in New York through a mutual friend, and moved to Los Angeles together a few years
after that. We started our first event Miss Kitty’s Parlour about thirteen or fourteen years ago.

D) The world of drag is currently undergoing a major renaissance – what do you make of the contemporary circuit and how do you feel the mainstream as well as the counter- culture interprets what promoters and performers such as yourselves contribute to the
landscape of LA nightlife?

BB) Well, Rupaul’s Drag Race has changed the landscape drastically, and we both love and hate what it has done to the scene. We hate it because you have these queens that were on the show that really aren’t very talented being booked and paid big money for being mediocre, and some of the local queens who have amazing talent are getting trampled and left in the dirt. They can’t
compete with the draw that the tv queen’s names bring. At the same time, the show is bringing a level of mainstream acceptance to drag that I would have never thought possible, and that is a great thing. Ultimately it’s progress, and progress is good and seldom smooth – you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette as they say, so it is what it is.

Leather and Lace

D) Your recent event: Dragula, Makeup Massacre – Siouxsie vs. Divine celebrated twin icons of Queer and Punk/Goth culture. You place images of subcultural significance with twisted glamour onto fabulous pedestals. How important have performers such as Siouxise and the Banshees and Divine been for you both?

BB) We wouldn’t be who were today without them. They were the embodiment of how we felt as kids in a place and time where no one was like us. They showed us we could be who we were on the inside on the outside, and how to tell people who didn’t like it to fuck off.

D) Fetish plays a large part in what you do, of course you will be hosting at Wasteland in the coming weeks. How did you come to be involved with this scene?

BB) We hosted the LA Bondage Ball last year, we are hosting the Vancouver Fetish Ball this summer and next week we are going to host a fetish party for the AVN awards at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas. We’re just attracted to the sexuality, freedom, fashion and creativity of the fetish scene. We’re not really into the nuts and bolts of BDSM, it’s all about the fantasy, fashion and mind fuck for us. It’s more Anne Rice in our heads and less out of shape older guy beating a captured girl in a d-grade basement porn. In fact, we absolutely hate to even see the latter.

D) Both of you are very busy boys! I’ve heard there are great plans in store for your Halloween event, set to be the biggest of the season for LA’s nightlife denizens. Can you give us a sneak peek at what’s in store for attendees?

BB) Well that event is now done, and in the history books where it deserves to be. It was an absolute fucking madhouse, and we loved every minute of it. I can say with confidence that there is no Halloween party in Los Angeles like it – we blow our own fucking minds every year. We’re pretty humble normally, but we will always jerk our own dicks in regards to that party because it
deserves it.

D) Where can we catch your gorgeous selves in not so distant future?!

BB) Well we are about to relaunch our own monthly Black Unicorn party in a major way for the 2014 season, and DRAGULA starts back on Saturday January 25 which we can’t be happier about – it is our absolute favorite party ever, hands down, and we have some new surprises for the new year. Oh and speaking of, we are debuting DRAGULA San Francisco on Feb 8 at the SF Eagle –
that is going to be amazing, and we have Heklina from Trannyshack helping us with that and we are adding Laganja Estranja as a guest exorsister, and just a ton of amazing alternative queens. We are also happy to be hosting our regular gig EVITA which is also reopening at a gorgeous new venue and will run every Tuesday night starting the 14th. Last but not least, we are helping
promote Trannyshack Los Angeles featuring Lady Bunny and Vicki Vox on Saturday January 31 with Heklina at the Dragonfly.

A massive thank you to Boulet Brothers for Talking Toxic with me! Make sure to hit them up on Facebook for details of their latest parties (and on Twitter too!) https://www.facebook.com/bouletbrothers?fref=ts

In related news: Psycho:Drama, Bristol’s only gay alternative event is back this Friday at the QS: https://www.facebook.com/events/265396813609308/

January