Since 2014, Glitz has proudly made space for “alternative” drag with much back history, previously penned in our “Brief History of Glitz”. The recent 2018 competition, under the guidance of the previous year’s winner Molly Rimswell, has made it clear the show is stronger than ever and here to stay with an entire introduction of fresh performers on the scene.
RPDR has not fully recognized and in fact blocked individuals from participating if they are not cis men and from the beginning Glitz as a grassroots exposition has rejected such rules and restrictions regarding identity or embodiment. In the international pop-culture scope, this is slowly improving: Boulet Brothers’ famed Dragula, featured in WUSSY’s Vol 5, embrace more visibility, showing an accessible audience the wider range of possibilities. And speaking of Dragula, badasses like Season 2 winner Biqtch Puddin and Abhora both spooked and dazzled the tiny Mary’s dance floor in the earliest of Glitz’s spectacles.
As Atlanta’s unintentional attraction of raucous radical queer drag, what the competition may lack in formal pageantry or monetary stakes is beaconed by ravenous enthusiasm and raw ambition. Greater numbers of baby queens and kings line up each year in hopes for a spot to propel their performance careers in ATL. And with only a week between judged challenges (and subsequent eliminations), audiences witness cunning creative combustion on the clock, no time to loll. One of the most interesting aspects of Glitz is seeing the participant’s ingenious approaches to crafting complete looks and narratives within a tiny timeframe. One great example of this is Videotronic’s Giving Tree number, painted completely white with long spindly fingers made from chopsticks and a gauzy almost transparent robe of leaves.
For many contestants, even if they’ve established their drag in other solid shows, this is often their first competition experience. “Glitz provides the people who do drag their own way a space to share their art and visions. Never anywhere else in Georgia will you see a show like this,” the glam-goth Cabaret-cool D’knighten Day says of the competition’s uniqueness. “It’s a show where you can audition as baby’s first night in drag but come out of it a monthly show director and that’s not an easy thing to accomplish.”
For Thin Mint, the drag daughter of Glitz creator, Ellasaurus Rex, this is exactly what happened. Thin Mint’s classic All-American girliness matched with a bratty veneer and screwball approach to challenges won over the judges and audience alike. “Think Azealia Banks meets Broadway ingenue. She loves to give you a monologue but will also spit some nasty raps and the stank face is rarely hidden,” Thin Mint laughs. For the first challenge, Year of Birth, Thin Mint hot glued a white and gold replica of Tonya Harding’s infamous meltdown get-up and mixed audio clips from I, Tonya to "100% Pure Love". Whether it was her Joanne the Scammer illusion, the musical Legally Blonde and emulating the closet scene in Carrie for Duets week, Glitz is just that kind of show that allows fresh contestants to discover to all their different sides, not just their aesthetic abilities but also the practice of comedic parody and social commentary in the punk as fuck shock of art drag.
Drag king Hayden Fury, who met challenges with a gallant corsair of debonaire, incorporated Dead Kennedys, an Ozzy Osbourne celebrity impersonation and a Rage Against the Machine number with live vocals, defying pop cliches of songs that make gays scream. Post-competition, Fury brings his dandy-licous Dark Prince-ness to the curated shows that will run until next year’s competition. “I am always learning and growing,” Fury says of the process. “Hosting really helped me get my persona.” His sarcasm and dry sense of humor plays off with a coterie of camp and quips, Glitz-ian qualities required of a well-rounded queen, king or drag thing.
Cola Fizz contends as the current show’s kooky party animal, complete with a clusterfuck of anything goes club kid vibes. Cola, who is “caught between the living world and the next, always being pulled at by the forces of good and evil (whatever those are)”, has a duality that is neither hero or villain, sharp, unafraid yet a goofy and glamourous trash duchess.
2018 Glitz brought in more from just the city and suburbs of Atlanta, but many contestants and audience members from Athens as well. Cola’s crew, known as the Kourtesans, is an Athens-based drag house with a much needed and refreshing presence growing in ATL’s drag scene. Videotronic, who also splits her time between Atlanta and Athens, is a beautiful trans femme concept queen who grew under guidance of Molly Rimswell and Mystery Meat, noting her performance persona as “the post lobotomy Betty Boop - she's a cartoon come to life, genre-bending instead of gender bending”. Stunning and shimmering, oft in a mermaiden mien, Video’s Valley Girl meets a flapper-esqe avant garde goddess frolics on a pond frond in the wide world of current artistry illustrated by Glitz as an East Atlanta Thursday tradition.
Challenging the cliches of how you have to look, identify or embody to be a drag performer, Glitz is a hotbed for rising art-drag talent, unfurling armies with its protean potential. There is also great support. Competitions such as these give performers true moments to grow but also to find lightness and community. “For several years D’Knighten was my therapy and a lot of my pain and rage showed through in my drag,” Day says. “Now on later years I’ve learned make D’Knighten the loud, trashy, trailer park princess I always wanted her to be.” Whether it is making an entire outfit out of Pokemon cards, a stray from Day’s modern vamp or Fury pulling flashcards for all the underrated drag types and proclaiming the validity of all, those brave enough to challenge their drag truly feel the extent which Glitz is a grounds to parlay into transcendence.
Of course, the audiences who make the dancefloor of a dive-esqe bar like Mary’s electrified are just as much the energy of the show. “I can't imagine a better crowd to perform for in Atlanta than the ones at Mary's. It feels great to know that I can do anything weird and obscure and still have it be celebrated and contemplated,” Thin Mint explains. “I was fortunate enough to receive some great validation in the beginning, which, in turn, gave me the courage to just do whatever was going to make me happy as a performer. It's easy to feel boxed in as a queen and not do anything too far off the beaten drag path. Audiences like this one help open those doors wide open.”
Thanks to its eclecticism, the rising talent of Glitz positions itself somewhere between the razzle dazzle of homonormativity Midtown pageant queens and the DIY of avant scenes, continuing until next year’s competition as a showcase every 2nd Thursday of the month with alternating hosts.
See Glitz’s upcoming “27 Club” themed event on November 8th 2018 at Mary’s
All photos by Mark Morin
Sunni Johnson is a writer, zinester, and musician based in Atlanta, GA.