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- Mani Queen draws from a wide range of influences to create her unique, experimental style.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with local drag queen Mani Queen before Club Q's "Rising Star," a weekly RuPaul watch party and competition in which local drag performers compete for a cash prize. The show was set to start at 9, but when I arrived at 6 Mani was already preparing.
As Mani set out her makeup and supplies, a package of real gold leaf included, we chatted about gardening, backyard farming and permaculture. When Mani isn't doing drag, she works at a local plant nursery, and has a wealth of information on what it means to bring life to a room in more ways than one.
Mani was born and raised in Colorado Springs, less than half a mile away from Club Q where she does most of her shows. She started drag when she met Porsha DeMarco Douglas, who would eventually become her drag mom — a mentor. She was the first drag queen Mani had met, and made quite an impression. Anyone who has seen Porsha perform will understand — it's not every day that someone leaps off a stage toward you while doing the splits. That meeting set Mani on her path to becoming a queen herself. She eventually decided: "I want to see it done how I see it. I'll see a song and imagine choreography to it. Like, I hear the song 'Video Killed the Radio Star' and think 'Boy, I could do that as the dead little girl from The Ring.'"
I first met Mani a few years back at Colorado College's annual drag show when she was in a morphsuit, her signature look at the time. She took to the stage, a pitch-black and fantastically adorned figure with no facial features, aside from a flash of red lipstick and a wig — a mannequin brought to life to grace us with a thrill, a chill, and a moment of defamiliarization from everyday life.
However, the morphsuit was more than just a creative choice. It turns out that Mani hid her face due to stage fright. This surprised me — drag appears to be the antithesis of shyness. It is a performance of extravagance and hyperbole, bold eyeliner and bolder choreography. It was drag itself that helped bring Mani out of her shell, though. "I came out again. Of the morphsuit this time," she says.
Even without the morphsuit, Mani's style is distinct, ranging from alternative to downright creepy. This might be because of her influences, Lady Gaga being the most notable. "She's my biggest inspiration ... It's about having the balls to be creative and be out there without worrying what people think, but also the care and the kindness and the supporting of each other that she influences and represents. It's not just 'Hey, I'm a pop star, I'm going to put out some music,' it's 'Hey. I'm a pop star. I'm going to start a foundation for queer youth.'" [Editor's note: The Born This Way foundation supports all youth, including those who are LGBTQ]. Another influence is Sharon Needles, "She's the creepy side. She's the punk. She doesn't care what people think as well, but by being crass and out-there. Being horror."
If you'd like to catch a glimpse of Mani Queen onstage, you might only have a few years to do so. "I still have the passion, but I have told myself I want to quit drag at 30, which is five years from now," she says, adding: "I don't have kneecaps [I was just born that way] and I wear 10-inch heels. This hurts." A few months ago, Mani experienced a "moment of mortality" after doing many shows in a short amount of time and being physically unable to go forward with one of the evenings. "Everyone made me go home because they wanted to make sure I take care of myself and can keep doing shows, at least for now."
- Courtesy Mani Queen
That familial concern is reflective of Colorado Springs' drag community, I learned. Drag communities are often broken off into houses — smaller drag families with specific styles. Alliances, of sorts. According to Mani, it's a little different in Colorado Springs. "In the Springs we all have so many different styles, but we mix together. We get ready in the same dressing rooms, we all have barbecues together ... I would say, if there is any house in the Springs, it is The House of The Springs."
If you want to hear about Mani's upcoming events, she welcomes you to add her as a friend on Facebook: facebook.com/mani.queen.5.