Updated: Sep 12, 2019
After speaking with a queen who goes by Sutton Lee Seymour, Gilda realized that she could sing the music she wanted and become a drag queen as a full-time job. She made her debut on an open stage night. She did a song that was a trio, and she sang all three parts. After blowing the crowd away, the queen realized that this was what she was meant to do.
After hustling for months, Gilda finally had enough gigs to pay the bills. She has had a successful career doing shows across the country and now performs weekly at Play Louisville as one of the Play Mates. Using her classical music background as an influence, Gilda would describe her drag as “silly, smart, and smutty.”
Q: How did you get your drag name?
A: “Gilda Wabbit” comes from the Looney Tunes episode “What’s Opera, Doc?” Elmer Fudd was chasing Bugs Bunny and he said “kill da wabbit, kill da wabbit”… I was trying to find a name that is silly and funny, but I also have a classical music background. That was the name that stuck.
Q: Best/worst parts of being a drag queen?
A: “Best parts about being a drag queen? I’m beautiful, and I get to make myself beautiful every night. That’s a really cool part that we don’t get to talk about very often is that you get to choose how you look. When I walk in on days where I haven’t slept very much and I have dark circles under my eyes and I get to throw on a huge face of makeup. Sure, when you look up close it’s not going to look amazing because I’m wearing so much makeup, but once I’m on stage you can’t tell me nothing, so that’s like super fun. Another best part about being a drag queen is that you get to be an artist and get paid for it. (The) worst part about being a drag queen is that it’s very uncomfortable, like very uncomfortable. When I was in Columbus, I had a show on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and I had a photo shoot on Monday, and I still haven’t recovered because my body is just tired.”
Q: Tell me more about being the star of a popular meme.
A: “That was literally the first month after I quit my day job. Long story short, I had gotten this brunch gig. It was our second show, and I was angrily texting; you can see in the picture where I was co-host because she was running late. I was like this is our second show and I don’t wanna get fired, like, get there on time. I didn’t even notice the woman that was sitting next to me because it’s New York. You don’t pay attention to who’s sitting next to you. You’re just on the subway. My friends started texting me pictures asking if that was me on the subway, and I was like “Holy crap. That is me on the subway.” That was when ‘subway creatures’ posted it on their Instagram. For a brief moment, I was a little famous, and then it died away.
“Then, it got picked up by conservative Twitter, and they were making fun of me and the woman sitting next to me. That’s when it really blew up and Buzzfeed and Vice picked it up. One night I was at a friend’s house and my phone started blowing up and I was like “I don’t know what’s happening, but I’ve gotta go.” Like I can’t focus because everyone is contacting me. I don’t know what’s happening, but I’m getting all these mentions and I need to deal with it. Then, it became a meme because people were making fun of the conservatives. It was really cool. I got interviewed by Vice, Buzzfeed, BBC, and local news stations and stuff. A lot of people forget about it now, but every year one of my friends is like ‘You were in this?’ and I’m just like ‘You were following me on Facebook back then, like of course I was in this.’ But I’m grateful for it.”
A: “Oh, god. Everyone asks about my favorite ‘Rupaul’s Drag Race’ girls, and my fave Ru girl is Courtney Act. I’m obsessed with her. She’s so beautiful. She’s so eloquent and well spoken. I just wanna represent myself that well someday.
“I also really like this artist named Lip Synca, who is a legendary drag queen. I actually got to work with her on Sasha Velour’s nightgowns. We were both in that together, which was amazing. She is everything because she revolutionized the way lip syncing is done and drag culture. She was making crazy mixes before computers. She was taking tapes, playing them, recording 30 seconds on a new tape. I don’t even know how she did it. I think she’s super amazing. “I’m really inspired by people who aren’t drag queens. I am super into an opera singer named Beverly Sills. She was a fabulous American Soprano, but she also did a lot of charity work. I think she’s amazing. I try to pull inspiration from everywhere. Literally, anyone who’s a redhead, like Reba McEntire, to die for, the Judd Sisters, to die for. I’m also really into girls who are like really pretty but aren’t afraid to be ugly. Like Kate McKinnon is hilarious. She’s so glam but also be like ‘This is my stupid face.’ I’m just obsessed with that.”
Q: How do you feel about drag moving more into the mainstream?
A: “First of all, I’m appreciative, because I really think that’s the reason that I can make this my living. I know there were girls doing drag full time before ‘Rupaul’s Drag Race.’ I know that that hustle was hard. Drag Race has helped a lot of girls make their artform a job instead of just a hobby. I also think that [drag moving into the mainstream] is really cool because it’s allowing us to have conversations about gender that we weren’t having before. It’s sort of normalizing the conversation about gender. It’s like, hey, I’m a man in a dress, but not every drag queen is a man in a dress, and let’s talk about it. I think that’s really cool.
“I think there’s some danger in [drag moving into the mainstream] because drag has been in the past really political. I try to maintain that in my drag, in terms of talking overtly about politics and stuff like that. I think there’s a lot of young drag queens who don’t know their history. For them, drag is like being a pop star. That’s great. Being a pop star is cool, but you also have an opportunity as a leader in the LBGTQ community for you to say something more than that. I want girls to lean into that. You’re more than a pretty girl on stage lip-syncing to Dua Lipa.”
Q: What do you want to tell those living in Lexington about drag?
A: Step one, it doesn’t matter if you’re a drag queen or not, but when you wake up, you have to believe you’re fabulous no matter what job you’re doing. You’re doing it for a reason, and if you believe in yourself, you’re going to do a hell of a lot better job. Everyone around you is going to see that, and you’re going to be celebrated for it. That’s a lesson I learned doing drag that I should’ve learned before, because I’m fierce, but I didn’t know it, and that sucks.
A big thing I want to emphasize when I’m doing drag is that I’m just a human underneath all this. I feel like a lot of people look at drag queens and they think that we’re just like weird perverts or that they stereotype us as people that want to be women. Some drag queens do want to be women, and some drag queens are women. Not all of us want to be that, but you can’t stereotype us into those things. You can’t just be like ‘That person just wants to be a woman.’ You shouldn’t look at me and be like ‘That person is a pervert.’ I’m a husband, I’m a son, I’m an uncle, I’m a brother. Underneath all of this, I’m a human, and I just want you to get to know me.
Q: What would you tell those who want to start drag, but maybe are afraid to try it?
A: “Practice, practice, practice. Every time you have free time, put on a face, and then once you feel comfortable in it, not like ‘this is amazing’ but ‘this is fine,’ get out of the house. When you put on a costume, leave the house. If you don’t mingle with people, they won’t know who you are. You might walk out the door 10 months later looking like you belong on TV, but no one’s gonna know who you are or care. If you really wanna do drag, you have to get out there. Once you get comfortable to leave the house, leave, meet people, go to a bar, show up. Even if you’re not performing, go to a place and be like ‘Yeah girl I’m fabulous. I might not be on stage, but hi, hello.’ That’s really important. That was really hard for me when I started. My first gig was in November, and my second one wasn’t until February, because I spent December and January scared in my bedroom, like, ‘I don’t know. Am I good enough for this?’ As soon as I started leaving the house, people told me I should go on stage more.”
Story Written by Abigail Feldkamp