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    HomeCultureQ&A: Pickle Speaks on Activism, Art of Drag, and Being the First...

    Q&A: Pickle Speaks on Activism, Art of Drag, and Being the First WeHo Drag Laureate

    Pickle is the City of West Hollywood’s inaugural Drag Laureate. She is a powerhouse host, performer, and community activist who can sing and make people laugh. She has been performing in drag professionally for eight years and has collaborated with many people and organizations to bring drag into people’s lives.

    In this exclusive WEHO TIMES interview, she spills the tea on the genesis of Pickle, her work for the city of West Hollywood’s Drag Story Hour, the current criminalization of Drag, and what we can expect from her as the City’s very first Drag Laureate.

    ===

    Where did you grow up?

    I grew up in Los Angeles! Tinseltown! Right in the Miracle Mile, and then in a small neighborhood called Country Club Park right over in Koreatown. I saw the Lord of the Rings AND the Harry Potter movies at the Grove, and I remember when there was an FAO Schwarz there. My first date was to see Tristan Und Isolde at the Music Center, and I fell asleep (it was 5 1/2 hours long).

    What’s your connection to the City of West Hollywood?

    I have partnered with the City on Drag Story Hour for a few years now, so I had that working relationship directly with the city. But I also got my professional start at Flaming Saddles, where I performed at first as a guest in their drag show, and then gradually over the course of about three years, worked my way up to being the mainstay host of all their drag shows every weekend! I was very sad to see Saddles close, as it had such an enormous part in my growth as a performer and as an Emcee. It was at Saddles that I started to sing in drag, and the consistency of that audience gave me the opportunity to really build my signature style as a host and entertainer. I owe them a large debt and hope they’re having fun in NYC.

    Pickle at Drag Story Hour in West Hollywood – WEHO TIMES

    What is the genesis of Pickle?

    I had dabbled in drag in high school and college but hadn’t really settled on a name or like, a point of view. Then once I got back to Los Angeles (I went to school in New York), I decided drag was actually the artwork I wanted to pursue; it was the art form I saw the most creative potential in, and it interested me the most. I am and always have been an advocate for interdisciplinary study and creating, and because drag is so new to the public discourse, it has the fewest rules and lends itself to that kind of flexibility.

    How did you come up with the name?

    Growing up in LA, my stepmom and I had the same In-N-Out order, which was a number 2 with no onions and extra pickles. So I kind of pulled from that. Also, Hedda Lettuce was a big inspiration for me when I started doing drag, so I also wanted to pay homage to her in a subtle way.

    Pickle Drag Queen at WeHo Pride 2023 – WEHO TIMES

    How has Pickle evolved since the early years?

    Nope! I haven’t grown or changed at all. I’ve learned nothing and am not interested in getting better, thank you—Yes! A thousand times yes! Every year I look back on the work I did the previous year and think, WOW, I’ve come a really long way. And although that can be challenging (I can be very self-critical, believe it or not), it also encourages me because I think it’s so important to be constantly evolving. I have always kept the same point of view and am always building on the same foundation, so the evolution of Pickle I like to think has always felt natural and organic. But definitely, I’ve learned how to make my own costumes, I’ve learned how to sing, I’ve learned how to ACTUALLY sing, I’ve started working with live music, and now I work with multiple instruments. Most importantly, I’ve discovered the heart of what’s important to me, which is connecting to the people in the audience, interacting with them, and making them laugh.

    What do you enjoy most about Pickle?

    I’ll say that I think Pickle has unlocked many doors in my life. I never thought I was a good singer, I never thought that I would be any kind of children’s entertainer, and I never thought I would be a community leader. I just knew that I wanted to perform or create, and Pickle gave shape to that desire. Pickle has sort of given me permission to be my best self and given me an outlet that just keeps challenging me and satiating my creative appetite.

    Thinking back to those early years, did you ever imagine drag would one day be criminalized?

    I’ve never felt that drag is controversial. I think people make it controversial because it’s an easy way to rile up conservatives and certain voter bases. I think it would be pretty naive, given the gerrymandered and incredibly fluid nature of our political system, to believe that this kind of criminalization was not possible. The government in this country has time and time again found a way to criminalize marginalized communities—from the “war on drugs” resulting in an utterly tragic number of innocent Black people behind bars, to the public, untried executions of innocent Black citizens by police, to the criminalization of sex work, to abuses of innocent migrants. These are all evidence of a political structure that makes it possible to leverage institutions against groups of people on the whims of not even the people in power but the voters they are trying to rally. So I’ve always imagined that these kinds of scenarios are possible.

    Pickle hosts Vibez Sober New Year’s Eve Party in West Hollywood – WEHO TIMES

    With today’s political climate attacking drag, are you ever concerned for your safety?

    I probably should be more concerned, but I think that’s what makes me well-positioned for my work with Story Hour. I’ll have moments where I get nervous or where I have a very real thought of “wow, I could be killed RIGHT NOW,” but mostly I’ve accepted that there’s going to be a level of danger in the work that I do, and that it’s just too important to back down from. It’s bigger than me.

    What prompted you to apply for the Laureate title?

    I was so excited by the idea of being able to expand my work not only as an individual artist but as an advocate for the art form as a whole. I knew that the title and the resources would give me the opportunity to more formally connect myself and my fellows to bigger and better opportunities.

    What was your reaction when you learned you won the title?

    I was incredibly relieved. I was almost a little embarrassed to admit to myself how badly I wanted it, and so I had done a lot of mental and spiritual work around accepting the outcome either way. I think the downside of that is that my reaction, win or lose, was kind of neutral at first—I genuinely had a vested interest in the position itself more than me having it, but now I’m getting back to that excitement I had initially when I filled out the application and thought, “wow, this could be me!”

    What does the title mean to you?

    The title represents the dignity and attention that I feel drag deserves. On a personal level, it represents the work that I’ve put into my drag and my performances over the last nine or so years and the path that I’ve been carving out for my unique brand and style. I have never been someone who fit neatly into a box in entertainment and art, and so this is a really fun new challenge that has actually made me feel so much better about that. Today, I am proud that I’ve worked outside the norms to make a career that I can be proud of.

    What do you say to your detractors both in and out of the LGBTQ community?

    I say get a hobby! It’s impossible to be a public figure without detractors, so it really doesn’t bother me. Just part of the job.

    What’s up on the agenda as West Hollywood’s first Drag Laureate?

    Well, first, I want to work on making the installation event on July 16th at 3pm in West Hollywood Park memorable and fun for the community and for me! Luckily, with Pride season coming to a close, I have lots of time over the next two weeks leading up to the event, both to work on it, and to focus on putting together an action plan for my work, including the fun part, which is going to be deciding what my style journey is going to be. I haven’t had time in the last two months to sew and create much in the way of fashion, and I want my style to reflect the joy and power of the title.

    How do we find you on social media?

    @pickledragqueen and www.pickledragqueen.com

    Pickle
    Drag Laureate, City of West Hollywood
    Pickle Drag Queen LLC
    5 2 votes
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    Paulo Murillo
    Paulo Murillohttps://wehotimes.com
    Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist. Murillo began his professional writing career as the author of “Love Ya, Mean It,” an irreverent and sometimes controversial West Hollywood lifestyle column for FAB! newspaper. His work has appeared in numerous print and online publications, which include the “Hot Topic” column in Frontiers magazine, where he covered breaking news and local events in West Hollywood. He can be reached at [email protected]

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    West
    West
    Offline
    10 months ago

    It’s great to see this person speak with humanity about stigmatized people consumed by the prison industrial complex and the drug crisis, all theatrics aside it shows real character.

    why
    why
    Offline
    10 months ago

    This is so discriminatory toward women. Only men are allowed to compete for drag laureate in West Hollywood. Seems the paid position should be open to all men and women. Would be great to see a beautiful woman dressed like a man in drag.

    Weho artist
    Weho artist
    Offline
    Reply to  why
    10 months ago

    Did you even bother to do any research?

    This competition was open to anyone (any gender, any identity).

    voting
    voting
    Offline
    10 months ago

    Paying this man taxpayer dollars to impersonate a woman is deeply offensive to me.

    Weho artist
    Weho artist
    Offline
    Reply to  voting
    10 months ago

    How does it offend you?

    Kiss it
    Kiss it
    Offline
    10 months ago

    What on earth is a drag laureate?

    Enough!
    Enough!
    Offline
    10 months ago

    Hold the pickles.

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