THE BLOG

Drag Orphan

08/09/2013 07:00 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
  • Tom Bartolomei aka Mr. Von B, husband of drag queen Vivian Von Brokenhymen
Tom Bartolomei

A piece of advice for any budding queen out there: Before you enter the drag world, make sure you have at least a drag "mother," if not a drag "family." Having one or both of these things is something I would say is essential for any drag queen. Vivian does not have either. She is what I like to call a drag "orphan." Now, I'm not saying that Vivian does not have drag-queen friends, but she is not a member of any established drag family. I don't count the Von Bs as a drag family because 1) drag husbands like me are rare, and 2) a drag family typically consists of multiple drag queens, and I am not a drag queen.

Being a drag orphan in the world of drag families is an interesting position to be in. On the one hand, it does provide freedom to do what one wants and perform where one wants. However, that freedom can result in fewer performances. For a drag queen, performances are a catch 22. The more you perform, the more others ask you to perform. The less a drag queen performs, the fewer offers she has to perform. Performances are the life blood of a drag queen's life.

Not only can being part of a drag family possibly lead to more bookings, but it allows for a queen to learn and grow. When a queen is part of a drag family, she has others to bounce ideas off of and receive criticism from. She also has a support group if things become overwhelming from time to time, or just to borrow items from or simply ask advice from.

Being a drag orphan, Vivian has to work that much harder for her performance opportunities, in my opinion. Plus she has to learn and grow more from trial and error, and sometimes those errors are seen by everyone. If things get overwhelming, Vivian really only has me for support, and that isn't always a good thing, because I'm too close to any given situation, so I can't be rational about it at times. There are even times when I should be talking Vivian down and she ends up talking me down.

Now, being part of a drag family does have a few downsides, as well. Sometimes queens who are part of a family are not taken seriously because members are well-known, and others think that drag daughters are riding the coattails of the drag family matriarch. They sometimes won't be given the respect that they deserve from others in the community. Some members of a drag family won't be booked for performances because others in their family are not liked by the show directors or the queen hosting the show. Drag family politics can be quite complicated.

But when it comes right down to it, if one has to choose between being a member of a drag family and being a drag orphan, I would advise them to choose the former. Being a drag orphan can be lonely and frustrating. I have to say, though, that from my limited experience, drag orphans seem to be a rarity, which just makes Vivian that much more unique and the limited success she has had that much more impressive.

This post originally appeared on Diary of a Drag Queen's Husband.