Clowns Have a Union (and I Think That’s Neat)

I saw a post recently about how clowns have a union (which is true) and how strange that is, and how drag queens don’t have a union. I’m no expert on unions and economics, so I’m not going to try and sound smart talking about that here. But the connections between clowns and drag queens certainly interest me. I mean, what really is the difference between them? We both wear a ton of makeup, often try to look a bit ridiculous, and we’re both entertainers– just for slightly different age groups. 

According to, the profession of clown is as follows: “Clowns dress in outlandish costumes, paint their faces, and use a variety of performance skills to entertain audiences. They work in circuses, amusement parks, schools, malls, rodeos, and hospitals, as well as on stage, in films, and even on the street. Clowns are actors and comedians whose job is to make people laugh.”

According to Wikipedia, drag queens are people who “use[] drag clothing and makeup to imitate and often exaggerate female gender signifiers and gender roles for entertainment purposes… People partake in the activity of doing drag for reasons ranging from self-expression to mainstream performance. Drag shows… occur at events like pride parades, carnivals, drag pageants, and in venues such as cabarets and nightclubs.”

Clearly, there are distinct differences here. But when it boils down to the details, there are a lot of similarities too. Drag queens and clowns work in a wide variety of different locations and events and utilize a variety of performance skills to entertain audiences. I’ve seen a drag queen fix a computer as part of her act before, so there’s really no performance skill that hasn’t been utilized as a part of a drag show. They both wear outlandish costumes and paint their faces, and as drag moves further and further away from regular gendered norms, outlandish and bizarre makeup is a more normalized part of what we expect with drag. Some queens even actively choose to paint more like clowns, myself included many times.

So then what really separates drag artists from clowns? Is it just because we don’t have to go to school for it? If I start making balloon animals, will I suddenly switch from being a drag artist to a clown?

I think what defines drag artists from clowns, or makeup artists or gogo dancers or burlesque performers or any of those other performer types is truly the artists themselves and what they make of their drag art. Drag is what you make it, it’s a performance of self-expression. There’s no real rules to drag, certain way things have to be done. It’s all up to the artist themself. Also, we don’t need degrees to do drag. Sorry clowns.

So it doesn’t matter if I’m dressing in a clown-themed drag look if I’m making balloon animals or riding a unicycle or pulling handkerchiefs out of my sleeve. I’m still a drag artist, I’m still doing my drag in my own expressionist way. But we still don’t have a union as drag artists. Maybe that is something that could happen in the future. Who knows!

Shout Out to the Kings

Now, in most settings, you might say “a queen doesn’t need a man! Fuck having a king!” And normally I’d agree with you. However, many drag queens are cis gay men (by now in this article we should all have learned that you do NOT have to be a cis gay man to be a drag queen and we stan all the trans and AFAB drag queens!!!) and many drag kings are trans men, cis women, or nonbinary icons. Drag kings are certainly a less popular sect of drag, but definitely not any less incredible in terms of performers and artistry. Just because RuPaul’s Drag Race would feature any drag kings doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paying the MOST attention to these icons. So, I’m gonna go through a few of my favorites!


Tenderoni (@tenderoni88)

Tenderoni is THEE Chicago drag king and the current 2021 winner of the Drag Queen of the Year Pageant


Landon Cider (@landoncider)

The winner of season 3 of the Boulet Brothers’ Dragula who has been on tours with Drag Race queens and an icon in his own accord.


Luc Ami (@luc.ami)

Another Chicago icon, this alien drag deity creates some of the most stunning artistry and hosts Queeriod, a drag show for new drag talents!


Inah Demons (@inahdemons)

Considered the “Tumblr Sexyman of Drag”, Inah is a Filipino drag artist who creates incredibly unique and colorful looks online that are truly one of a kind.


Shay They (@shaythey)

A New York drag quing clown who’s stunning in a clown white face and iconic mustache. If you’re in New York and they’re performing, you have to go see them!


Luv Ami (@luvamiking)

Luc Ami’s drag son, a young Chicago king who brings the PERFORMANCE and the looks. 


Vigor Mortis (@heyvigormortis)

A Brooklyn king who does burlesque and drag, known for some chaos and silliness and who I’ve had the great honor to see him perform with googly eyes all over his body.


K. James (@k.james_switchnplay)

Another Brooklyn king who’s a member of the Switch n Play collective and is the coolest cat in Brooklyn drag, and everyone is also in love with.


Andro Gin (@androginking)

The definition of makeup artistry, Andro has some of the most iconic looks and the most beautiful creations put together on their face.


ShowPonii (@showponii)

Another Brooklyn king, ShowPonii is an icon with his clown-white face and unique sense of artistry.


PB (@vainglorious_pb)

Another fresh face of Chicago drag, with a stamped face and some incredible performances. They may be new to the scene, but definitely give them a look!


What “Makes Up” A Drag Queen

Makeup and I have a very strange relationship. I’ve gone through phases of wearing a full face, wearing no makeup, nothing but red eyeshadow, winged eyeliner, funky colorful eyeliner… you get the gist. I started experimenting with drag makeup two years ago, and back then everything on my face mainly came from drug stores. And to be totally fair, most of what I use two years into my drag career still comes from CVS and Target, since a lot of it is cheap and totally works! So I’m gonna break down the makeup I use on the regular for my drag, and my favorite brands to buy from!

The look I’m using utilizes most of the makeup I use and pretty much all of my favorite brands! As seen above, it’s a green medley artistry look with funky eyeliner shapes, glitter and sparkles, and my distinct black lip and lack of brows.

Like most drag queens, I use Elmer’s disappearing glue sticks to glue down my eyebrows. Surprisngly, those kindergarten glue sticks are still the best for glueing brows! I use elf Hydrating Face Primer and cover my brows with The Crayon Case concealer in the lightest shade, as well as my foundation in Wet n Wild photofocus Stick Foundation and Krylon Paint Stick in “TV White”, a staple of many drag queens. My eyeliner is NYX’s Epic Wear eyeliner, and I use Kim Chi Chic Beauty’s The Most Conealer in shade “White” to create my eye crease. And then the fun stuff:

The greens and yellows here are part of the Mango Tango and Virgin Mojito palettes from Kim Chi Chic Beauty. The glitter on my lips and nose is from Midas Cosmetics in shades “Soul” and “Mermaid”. All the eyeliner detailing is either NYX or Glisten Cosmetics, and the black facepaint on my neck is from the Amythest Painting Palette. My go-to black lip is a mixture of NYX Epic Ink eyeliner and Sephora black liquid lipstick.

Besides my drug store basics, I try to mostly shop from queer-owned, black-owned, or other small businesses for most of my makeup. The Crayon Case is an amazing black-owned beauty brand themed around school supplies, Midas Cosmetics is a afro-latina-owned indie brand that offers cruelty-free and vegan glitters and eyeshadows, and Beauty Bakerie (which I didn’t use for this look) is a black-owned makeup brand themed around, you guessed it, a bakery! My current go-to brand is Kim Chi Chic Cosmetics, created and owned by Kim Chi, an Asian drag queen who’s makeup artistry is To Die For! Her brand has adorable themeing with teddy bear palettes, drink-themed eyeshadow palettes, adorable heart-shaped blushes and highlights… literally the cutest brand. So if you’ve learned anything from this article, it’s that Pinball is Obsessed with KCC Beauty and that cheap makeup doesn’t have to be bad makeup!!



There’s More Drag Than Just Drag Race

The premiere of season 14 of the Emmy-winning competition show Rupaul’s Drag Race airs tonight, and while I still plan to watch it with my housemates, I think we should take a moment to remind the audience that Rupaul’s Drag Race (or RPDR, as I’ll shorten it to in this article often), is NOT the bible of drag nor the ideal goal for most drag artists. And just because you watch RPDR does NOT make you an expert on drag. While Drag Race has been amazing for bringing drag into the mainstream, supporting tons of nightlife performers and drag artists, and giving queer people a platform to showcase their art unlike everything else, it’s also done a lot to harm drag artists and drag as a whole.

Drag Race began in 2009 and was the first drag competition show to ever hit a mainstream audience. It was, in its early days, unapologetically queer and made some jokes that have since been removed because they were… well… Bad (looking at you “shemale”). The show was incredible for gay representation, awareness around HIV with Ongina in season 1, heartbreaking stories about gay men, and a beautiful (and sort of insanely unhinged) platform for drag queens to be seen as real artists. But it was also inherently misogynistic and transphobic. Drag itself is NOT misogynistic or transphobic, let’s make that very clear. Crossdressing, female impersonation and drag itself has never been those things. And drag has always been an art form populated by more than cis gay men: cis women are drag queens and kings, trans women are some of the original creators of drag and most prominent queens in our history, and nonbinary people have always been involved in drag since it’s earliest days. But RPDR did not showcase these elements of drag. Only cis men were allowed to audition for the show, and in season 5 one of the queens on the show, Monica Beverly Hills, revealed she had to stop her transition as a trans woman to even be on the show because they wouldn’t allow her to come if she had fully transitioned.

Season 9 of Drag Race featured the first trans woman who was out prior to being cast on the show as Peppermint. Peppermint was very open about her transness on the show, but it was rarely brought up aside from her “tragic backstory” moments to win the show an Emmy. Gottmik was the first trans man to be cast on the show in season 13 last year, who was very open about his own transition and place in the drag community, wearing runways that showed off top surgery scars on the main stage. This year also saw the return of Kylie Sonique Love, who came out as a trans woman at the end of season 2 of the show and returned to win All Stars 6 this summer as the first trans winner of the show, and this season has introduced Kornbread “The Snack” Jete and Kerri Colby, two trans women who are competing on this season. 

So certainly in later years, RPDR has started making strides towards being more inclusive and featuring trans artists on the show, but for a show that is meant to show a community that was literally built on the backs of trans women, it’s horribly behind and paints a very skewed image of drag as a whole. And it’s been, for years, not showcasing the trans people who even make up so much of the drag community across the world. So don’t go congratulating Drag Race for having a few trans women on season 14: they’re doing the bare minimum fourteen seasons late.

RPDR also had it’s first cis woman on season 3 of the UK version of Drag Race, also this year. Cis women have been drag queens forever and are a huge part of the drag scene, so RPDR’s refusal to include them and cast them on the show does not go unnoticed. Drag kings are also a huge part of drag as a whole, and not a Single drag king has ever been cast on drag race, despite the show often doing “masculine drag” challenges thatalmost feel like a mockery of drag kings.

Does this all mean we shouldn’t support Drag Race anymore? No, not entirely. While the show has tons of other issues besides these (their villainization of black queens, the heavy editing, the psychological abuse of the contestants, problematic challenges and queens, etc), it’s still a fun show and has been incredibly queer representation for years, as well as incredible for helping drag queens who would never have had the level of success and financial support the show has given them. But it’s important to be aware that there is SO MUCH MORE DRAG than just what appears on Drag Race. There are other shows that feature drag artists such as Dragula, Camp Wannakiki, La Mas Draga, and beyond that, there’s local drag in every city across the United States AND drag queens to create content online if you’re can’t find any local drag (Evah Destruction, Nemesis LaCroix, the Stream Queens network, etc.). So enjoy the season premiere of Drag Race, but don’t let your consumption of drag end there!

This week’s look is just a fun one to get hyped about the new season of RPDR cause yeah, I’m still excited for it.

Femme and Fantasy


Queer people love fantasy. That blanket statement may not be entirely true, but I, as a queer person, love fantasy. There’s something so enticing about magic and inhuman creatures, the aesthetics of elves and dragons and sword fighting. There’s certainly something about escapism into fantasy worlds, for certain. Fantasy hasn’t always been the most queer-friendly genre, especially considering a lot of the classic, aggressively heterosexual examples that populated many of our childhoods. However, queerness in fantasy (and science fiction) dates back to Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando” from 1928, which featured a queer relationship and a transgender character. But what really introduced queerness into the fantasy genre were Tolkien and “Lord of the Rings”. While not overtly queer, there’s certainly a lot of queer subtext in a lot of the books, particularly noticeable in Frodo and Sam’s relationship. 

Today, thankfully, the fantasy genre has become a lot more welcoming for queer stories and characters. The past decade has seen authors such as NK Jemisin, Nisi Shawl, Rebecca Roanhorse, Rivers Solomon, and many more who have stories including and centering on queer characters and relationships, and arguably more important, on non-white queer characters particularly.

For myself, my love of fantasy comes more from tabletop RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons and the shows surrounding it, such as Critical Role. While these were my reintroduction to the fantasy genre as a young adult, my interest has certainly grown from there. For a lot of my more fantastical or magical-inspired drag looks, I play into the fantasy elements that come with creatures from worlds like Tolkein’s or Gygax’s (the original creator of D&D). I draw a lot of inspiration from fantasy for a lot of what I create.


The look featured in this post is what I wore to the Michigan Renaissance Festival a few weeks back. My inspiration for it came from D&D, specifically the tiefling creatures who are half-demon spawns. There’s a certain safety I find in painting myself to look a ridiculous color or simply not even look human, because even if I play into being a more femme version of myself, I don’t have to be under the constraints of being something cis or “normal”. Walking around the Renaissance Festival, where many people were dressed up in similar, bizarre costumes like mine, my drag felt like it fit right in with the scene. 

What is Drag??

In starting this new weekly piece for arts, ink, I am aware that this topic may not appeal to everyone. It also may not be something that everyone even knows anything about– or perhaps, if you do know what the word “drag” refers to, perhaps its only from Rupaul’s Drag Race or a class on men dressing as women for Shakespeare. So, to properly discuss drag and the culture and world surrounding it, we first need to define drag.

So: what is Drag?

Drag is not dressing as a different gender. It is not putting on makeup, or gluing down your eyebrows. Doing drag does not make you trans. It is not something that can only be done by men. 

Drag is an art.

That’s it. That’s the definition. More specifically, it is a visual and performance art inherently (but not necessarily) linked to queerness and often including makeup, hair, outfits, and live (or digital, in the pandemic age) performance. There are different subsets of drag, such as drag queens, kings, and things. Not all drag queens are men dressed as women, some are cis women, or trans women, or nonbinary AFAB and AMAB people. Same goes for kings, and things don’t really have much of a gender to even be connected to in the first place. For someone to be a drag queen or king or thing or simply a drag artist, they simply have to say “I’m a drag queen. This is my drag.” And that’s it! All forms of drag, no matter what they are or in what capacity they appear in, are valid. 

Not all of them are good, but hey. We all did bad drag at some point. How else are we supposed to become good drag artists?


For this weekly column, you’ll mainly be following drag done by one specific artist: me, Pinball McQueen (see image above). The name is a pun on a Pinball Machine (try saying it out loud). I consider myself a drag nuisance (rather than a king or queen) and I often straddle the line of horror, clown, and theatre kid. I’ve been doing drag for about a year now, changing as time goes on, and creating digital performances and looks for a variety of different shows online. 

You will not be stuck with me for the entire duration of this column. I will reference, include photos of, and talk about other drag artists that you may or may not know throughout the course of this blog. 

This first week, as we focus on defining drag and introducing my drag, I’ve chosen the featured image for the week to be one of my favorite looks from last year. There’s not as much as a clear story or reference I can add to this image other than the fact that it was one of my favorites I’ve ever done. Every week I’ll focus on a more specific topic within my drag or queer culture, such as horror and queerness, dungeons and dragons / fantasy tropes, the met gala, trans representation in theatre… You get the gist. 

Hopefully, this introduction and opening weren’t too boring– and I promise next week will pick up a lot more. Until then, Pin out!