Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Untitled Queen

Untitled Queen answers the door in her glasses. She is pre-makeup, pre-costume. One of the reigning queens of Brooklyn’s drag scene, I had the pleasure of meeting her when I worked on a piece about the borough’s drag culture last year.
Before that piece, I saw Untitled perform only on video--a few years ago, I wrote about an art show in which a performance of hers appeared. To Judy Garland’s rendition of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” wearing a wildly teased blonde wig and a ball skirt of sewn-together rags, she eviscerated my soul. I felt even then there was a deeper understanding of humanity that went into her work. And then when I saw her perform live at annual Brooklyn drag festival Bushwig, in makeup inspired by Japanese Noh masks to the Dirty Projectors song “Keep Your Name,” I knew how right I was. Onstage, she told a powerful story about what our hopes for love can be and how they can destroy us as we destroy each other. And recently, from the tiny screen on my phone, seeing her performance of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” made me audibly gasp. I was then as I am now not just watching a drag queen at work, but an artist.
It’s fitting, since Untitled has an MFA in Fine Art from Parsons. She started the program focusing more on visual art, later moving into performance art and attempting drag at the behest of a friend. Six years later, she is performing around the world, from Brooklyn’s Bushwig to Miami’s Wigwood to Vienna’s famed Life Ball. She has been featured in The New York Times, Refinery29, Out, VICE (by yours truly) and countless others. Untitled continues her visual art practice as well, exhibiting at galleries in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Tonight she’s hosting the event “Cakes” at Metropolitan Bar in Williamsburg for the drag queen Didi Disco’s birthday. She smudges her face with pink to make an even canvas for the thick white makeup she will put on top of it. Beating her face with a powder puff, powder flies gently away from her face, illuminated to ghostly proportions by the lighted mirror in front of her. She draws on graphic, nearly pop-art eyebrows and eyeliner, adding circles and later lipgloss to complete the equation. After closing up her corset and jumping into a pink and blue dress, she tucks her bald head into a flowery skull cap and presses on clear nails that make her already lithe hands look even longer.
Arriving at Metropolitan, Untitled knows everyone. She kisses hello, says hi baby, sips a cocktail, floating on her platform combat boots. Soon, it’s her turn to take the stage with her co-hosts. She’s a luminous, commanding presence. Queen after queen performs, then it’s her turn. While she performs Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” her fingers curl in Joni’s pain and sweetness, her lip sync flawless. The audience sits in quiet awe then explodes in applause.
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