There are few people as cool as Lee Michael. Whether talking about sex, gender, or veganism, I am always learning something new from Lee who expresses their thoughts openly and without judgment.

Over a year ago, we discussed the possibility of collaborating on a photoshoot. I am a huge fan of Lee’s makeup and drag work. Even though it took us a year before we were able to make our vision come to fruition, I am pleased that we found the time to create art together. Please enjoy the interview and photos below, and be sure to follow veronica.blose on Instagram. —Yeager

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YAP: What about drag inspires you to pursue it as an artistic medium?

LEE:  A lot of people think drag is just dressing up and lip-syncing in gay clubs. While that’s perhaps the most conventional way to do drag, it’s not the only way. Drag is just gender performance, and how that can realize itself is up to the artist. For me, the open-ended nature of what drag can look like is so appealing because it allows me to explore other forms of art in conjunction with drag.

I love art, but I’ve never seriously considered myself as an artist. Now, I’m not here to define who is and isn’t an artist, but personally I just never felt I devoted enough time to any specific medium. But with drag, I get to incorporate so many elements from other mediums, like costuming and dance, and synthesize them into something new or take a new spin on something established.

I also find it fascinating how I can do anything from going to a party to modeling for a photoshoot and just because I’m wearing a different outfit and some makeup it becomes drag. Drag is an art form that can insert itself into any other medium. I’ve heard of drag artists doing violin concerts, web series, and even figure skating. I think that’s amazing and what’s particularly interesting to me is the appeal drag has to audiences across so many different platforms.

I think ultimately it’s because we all perform gender every day and that resonates with people on some level. We all make choices like how long our hair is or what clothes we wear which affect how our gender is perceived, even though most people aren’t even explicitly thinking about gender when they are getting ready. What drag does is it takes all of these choices people make every day and uses them to put on a show. Sometimes it’s self-expression and other times it’s satire, but I think people are intrigued by the dramatic and often transformative take on gender that drag provides.

As a person who doesn’t really feel like a boy or a girl, drag has given me an outlet to take control of my own gender expression and remember that gender is all kind of arbitrary and at the end of the day you might as well have fun with it.

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YAP: Who is Veronica Blose?

LEE: I get asked this a lot by others and even myself, but I’m never completely sure how to answer. I’ve only been doing drag for a short while, and it’s always been kind of on the side compared to the other endeavors I have in life right now, so I feel like I’m still figuring out who Veronica is. There’re several things I know I want her to be: strong, sex-positive, and feminist. Growing up, I always felt very self-conscious about being feminine and sex, particularly queer sex, was always this taboo thing. It took a long time to accept myself, both in terms of my sexuality and gender. Creating Veronica has definitely been a part of this process. In a lot of ways, I feel like it’s the perfect reversal of the narrative where the gay kid who always got picked on turns into this fierce drag queen everyone cheers on when she walks on stage.

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YAP: Do you feel that Veronica Blose liberates or empowers you to do things that you wouldn’t otherwise do as Lee?

LEE: Definitely. I recently did a strip-tease performance where I took most of my clothes off and revealed a chain hanging from my nipple piercings. It was a big hit, but anyone who knows me would tell you it was very out of character. I’ve struggled a lot with body issues and self-esteem in my life. Even having my photo taken can be emotional, but I feel like drag has been able to provide a path for me to grow more and more comfortable with myself. I think it’s mostly because when I’m doing drag, I’ve put in effort into how I look, and it’s easier for me to feel proud or hear criticisms of my work. When I do drag, I want to show people, and in a way, it’s like tricking myself into vulnerable situations. Albeit, I’m sure part of it is also the fact that I’m literally being hidden by thick layers of makeup and skin colored leggings and padding. Baby steps though, right?

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YAP: What are some the negative preconceptions that people have about drag that you wish to debunk?

LEE: Queer and transgender people have always had to deal with being branded as “inappropriate” just for being who they are, and I think that definitely leaks into how people feel about drag. I recognize a lot of drag happens in adult places like clubs and that a lot of drag performers incorporate sexual themes into their work, but drag is so varied that it isn’t always the case. I just wish when I told people I wanted to do drag there weren’t concerns about that affecting my professional life as if drag is inherently unprofessional. I do know things have been changing since RuPaul’s Drag Race has become so popular and more people have been exposed to it. There’s even drag queens reading stories to children at public libraries nowadays so maybe times are changing, but for now it’s still an annoying thing to deal with.

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YAP: Do you think that it is appropriate for heterosexual, cisgender people to participate in drag? Why?

Lee: If you’ve ever seen a Lady Gaga performance or a WWE match, you’ll see heterosexual people already do drag. The difference between a burlesque dancer and a drag queen is often just the context. Drag as an art form has historically been performed and consumed by queer and trans people, and that has led to the formation of many conventions and terms particular to drag culture. That being said, I don’t think you have to be queer to participate in queer culture, but if you’re going to you should be respectful about how you do it. It’s kind of like a queer nightclub. It’s not exclusive to queer people. In fact, queer clubs are usually quite popular among the general public. But the fact it’s for queer people makes a difference in the feel of the place, and if queer people stopped going, you’d lose something. Similarly, with drag, I think anyone should be allowed to participate. Especially because sexuality and gender are fluid and I think drag can be a great way to figure out more about yourself, regardless of how you end up identifying.

But if you are a heterosexual, cisgender person wanting to do drag then I think it’s important to think about who your audience is and the space you take up. Two of my favorite drag queens are a cisgender girl and a heterosexual man named Lucy Garland and Disasterina, respectfully. I think their work is amazing and I can tell the love they have for the art form and the respect they have for the people who have come before them and the queer spaces they inhabit. So long as drag never loses that queer charm, I actually think it’s great there’re other people out there wanting to get involved.

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YAP: What role do you see drag playing in your future?

LEE:  Who knows? It’s hard for me to see where my life is going but I would like to keep drag a part of it in some capacity as long as I can. I always look up to the drag superstars of today and use them as inspiration for my journey, but I probably won’t dedicate myself to it as a career. I guess we’ll see.

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