Ginger KaiKai

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Micro Podcast: Featured excerpts from interview
Audio of full interview

Transcription of above micro-podcast:

Interviewer: I had the opportunity to interview Ginger Kai Kai, a drag queen from Rochester, New York. This is what Ginger had to say about how drag has impacted her:

Ginger KaiKai: Mhmm. Um well for a while it provided me with confidence. Well it still does to an extent. It provides me with friends in a sense of community. Not always, but it does. Especially when we had our nightclub here. that was a big beacon. It was a place that I would go once a week, at least, and see all these people that I knew. So, a lot of queens feel connected to people. And I only learned that more recently when it disappeared, and you don’t see these people really as much. So, it definitely did that. It gave me an outlet for creativity. It gave me a way to approach people and meet people without being as scared. And it just taught me to kind of think of myself differently, and to love my self differently, and to take ownership over what I am and what I can do. In a way that I don’t know that I would have been afforded with just not doing it. 

Interview with Ginger KaiKai

To cite this interview please use the following:

Scoggan, Nikki. 2020. Interview with Ginger KaiKai. Sociology of Drag, SIUE, April 28, 2019.

Audio available at

Interviewer: When did you first hear about d rag, and what was your initial reaction?

Ginger KaiKai: Yeah. So, I first heard about drag, funnily enough, when I was about 8 years old. Umm. It was 2002 and I watching the show The Weakest Link, and RuPaul was on it as a contestant. And I asked my mom who RuPaul was. And my mom said RuPaul is a drag queen and I didn’t know what that meant but I just knew that she was different and looked glamorous, and amazing and I looked up to my mom at 8 years old and told her I wanted to be a drag queen when I grow up, I didn’t know what that meant or what that was. Um and she was just like “Oh, Oh, okay” and she just let that be. Then when I got to college, um, and I think that was what? 2011. There was a drag show on campus, and I went to go see, and I fell in love with it there and tried it out that following semester at the student show. And I’ve been doing it ever since.

Interviewer: Aww that is awesome.

Ginger KaiKai: Yeah

Interviewer: Alright, so your family and friends all took it really good when you told them?

Ginger KaiKai: Yeah. Yeah, they are for the most part. Yeah, I don’t think anyone in the family has had an issue with it. Um we don’t all talk about it very much, anyways, but I don’t think they have a problem with it. Um, all my friends, a good chunk of them, also do drag. Or I’ve met since then at shows or through college who are at least interested in it. So yeah, everyone is really supportive or helpful; It, kind of takes a community to produce a drag queen anyways. We can’t do it all on our own. Um so yeah everyone is pretty supportive for the most part. 

Interviewer: That’s good. And then, what is your style of drag that you do?

Ginger KaiKai: Yeah, so that’s evolved over time. When I first started doing drag, it was, it was awful. It was just a cheap blue wig that I found at a Halloween store with some lip gloss and my friends clothes. Then over time from watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, from seeing different drag queens here where I’m from in Rochester, New York, I’ve picked up some of their style because we have a bunch of different styles here. We have more campy drag, some people that do really wild, dramatic makeup, some that look kind of more like clowns then they do drag queens. Then we also have people that are very fishy and feminine, some people that are more spooky and scary, and I’ve tried out all of those styles just in practicing makeup, and I’ve kind of landed on a style that is more dramatic but somehow soft. It’s a polished form of, I guess, semi-dramatic makeup. Um, I mean you’ve seen my Instagram. It varies sometimes. Or I’ll do just more simplistic makeup for a drag queen, that is. And then other times I’ve definitely pushed it and gone darker and more dramatic. When I was doing drag probably for a year or two, I definitely went for more of a vampy, goth, dominatrix look for a while, and loved that. And then over time I’ve done some more high fashion looking stuff. And now I’ve just kinda settled into this style or I like things that are flowy and move and the drama is kind of in the clothing. So, it evolves, and that kind of is where it is right now. 

Interviewer: Okay, and then who or what has influenced your drag?

Ginger KaiKai: Yeah, um, oh god. There have been many influences. (chuckles). Funny enough my uh, when I first started doing drag and practicing the makeup my grandmothers doctor told me I looked like my now ex stepmother and that was the funniest thing. So, women in my life have played a role in it for sure. But then when I started doing drag it was some of my closest friends who were the most supportive and encouraging me to get on stage because I was horrified of getting on a stage. And then it’s been really looking at drag queens from where I am from that have been supportive over that years that have said “Yeah that was really great” or “Yeah I really like when you do this look” or “I really like when you do this number” or “I don’t like when you do this number” or “That wig looks terrible, this one looks great”. And so those influences have been more from friends, sisters, community members, sisters meaning drag sisters. That’s been a major, major influence. And I mean famous people of course too, I mean when I was younger Lady Gaga was the big inspiration for me. But I think I have always been more inspired by looking at the confidence of the performers around me, and taking inspiration from them, more so than I do the people on RuPaul’s Drag Race right now. When I started out in drag, RuPaul’s drag race was a huge inspiration. When it was more queens that were more polished and doing drag for a long time. It was still pretty underground., But now today when I watch the show there are some cool looks, and every once in a while, I’ll think someone is great. But I’m like “Okay, I’ve seen that before” and I can be inspired by more local people and gain something from them. 

Nikki. Yeah! Do you consider your drag political in anyway?

Ginger KaiKai: Yeah! I think that drag is inherently political. It is looking at what generally considered socially acceptable and essentially saying “Fuck you” to it. Not every drag queen will take it that way. I know that I’ve always tried to, at least for a while, I would take a political stance on my Facebook or especially local issues, I would take stances on them on Facebook. I don’t do that as much now. It is too divisive and hard to keep up with having other things to do in my life. So, there is the literal political aspect there. I think that going out in drag and being yourself and getting on a stage and doing something that so many people don’t see as okay. It’s an, inherently a political act. And its empowering. So, I think that most people that do drag, without knowing it, there is a political aspect there. But I do try to get involved in the literal political side, if it seems the right moment. 

Interviewer: Yeah, that’s awesome. And then, how often do you perform and where do you perform at?

Ginger KaiKai: Yeah! So that’s changed throughout time. So, when I first started performing it was barely at all. and then after I was doing it for a couple of years, it was just about every week at a local club here. And that club closed, and now it’s a bunch of us don’t have a place to perform, so a lot of us have been coming together to do shows at a bunch of different places. That’s one thing where it’s good that RuPaul’s drag Race has been helpful, so that more people know what it is so they are more open with having drag shows at their venues. And so now it’s at least once a month. Sometimes it’s three times in one week. But then I’ll go two weeks without doing a show at all. So, it’s quite variable. But it varies from gay venues to straight venues, bar, clubs, colleges. Wherever there is a paycheck, I’ll be there. (Laughs)

Interviewer: (Laughs). What goes into getting ready for a performance?

Ginger KaiKai: Yeah, so I start by showering and shaving. So, there’s that, but even before that there is thinking about what you are wanting to do, what you are wanting to perform. I mean sometimes I don’t know, and I’ll figure that out while I’m getting ready. But there’s definitely that aspect thinking about what you want to do. And then it’s sitting down and doing the makeup first. I don’t have eyebrows during the day. So that saves a step in doing the makeup. But, as my other friends that do drag will tell you, I still take longer than they do. And they have eyebrows. So, for me, when I am doing my makeup, I am very meticulous about it. I want to make sure that it looks a very specific way. So, it’s like sitting down to paint or draw. So, there’s that. It’s making sure that I am caffeinated enough and hydrated enough to go do it. And that I’ve eaten. And then throughout getting ready, it depends on if I have people with me or not. I’ll get very distracted. Then I’ll start packing my suitcase, getting my wigs ready, getting my clothes ready, picking my songs, usually I’m posting on Facebook about it, and trying to get people to come to the show. Sometimes if I’m helping plan the show it is responding to messages. If I’m going to be helping out with hosting the show, it’s freaking out about that, and trying to prepare some things to say. It really depends, but there is always the ritual of doing the makeup, packing the bag, getting the clothes ready. Those things are always there. And that’s the thing I like about it most, it’s very… There are steps to it. But there is always points in the steps to kind of get creative and have fun.

Interviewer: Yeah! What do you think is the biggest challenge with getting ready?

Ginger KaiKai: Yeah, one of the biggest challenges, well if I screw my makeup up then everything’s a disaster and I freak out for a good ten minutes. Especially when I was starting drag. One time I messed my face up two times in a row, wiped it all off, and had twenty minutes to get ready. So that was a disaster, but that was years ago. Now I know kind of how to fix my makeup when I mess it up without wiping everything off. But getting the body on, the numerous pairs of tights, the fake hips, the corset, the attaching a wig to your head. All of those things are exhausting. More exhausting than doing the makeup. But some of the other things that are difficult… Like if you’re having a bad day, it’s going to be hard to get into drag. I mean sometimes it helps, other times it doesn’t. So, um it’s impossible to not have your day to day life fall into it. So, if you’re feeling self-conscious that day, drag can either make that a lot worse. Or it could make it a lot better. But sometimes that can get in there and start to, you know, make it worse or better. It’s kind of a crap shoot, you never know. Most of the time it does help, it does make it better. but not always. So that can be the hardest part. 

Interviewer: Okay. Is there anything unique to the drag scene where you live compared to other places?

Ginger KaiKai: Yeah! So, Rochester New York has a long standing drag history. For a lot of different reasons. We have numerous people that have been in RuPaul’s Drag Race from season 2, with Pandora Boxx, to I don’t what seasons. But we’ve had Darienne Lake on there, we’ve had Mrs. Kasha Davis on there, so we have a pretty well-known name just from being on a national standing. But we’ve also had the longest standing, longest continuously standing drag pageant in the country. The Miss Gay Rochester Pageant. So, I think it’s been almost forty years, thirty years that that been going? So that’s been a very long running pageant. People have come from Ohio and other states to compete in the pageant. So that is interesting. But even with that there is so many different styles of drag. So, you aren’t going to find just pageantry drag. You’ll find people that are doing, you know, very campy clown drag, you’ll find people that are doing burlesque drag, you’ll find people doing spooky drag, more modern drag, classic drag. It’s such an eclectic scene. You can really see anything here. What’s interesting also now, is that we are going through kind of a little bit of a shaking. Because as I’ve mentioned, one of our local night clubs disappeared just about a year ago. And that was awful for a lot of us. It really fucked things up, and so a good chunk of us have been through one of our older queens here, her name is DeeDee Dubois, she created something called DeeDee’s Club Night Out. To really serve as a way to get people to come together. So we find different venues, and different places to do different events. So that’s kind of changing too. We’ve been able to kind of reignite the sense of community that was getting kind of lost, I think there for a little bit. And so it’s, we are going through a lot of change right now. And that’s unique, but we have such a history here that I think keeps it grounded. Like we will never loose drag here. Other cities have lost drag over the years with clubs dying or people leaving. But it’s such a rich history here, and such a unique variety of styles that you’ll never see it leave. And that’s I think what you see here.  

Interviewer: Well that’s good. 

Ginger KaiKai: Yeah!

Interviewer: Alright, and if you don’t mind me asking. How do you identify in terms of your sex, gender identity, and gender expression out of drag?

Ginger KaiKai: Mhmm? Yeah! So, I, oh that’s complicated because that’s changed over time too. Umm I identify as queer all around. I see identity as more of a journey that changes over time, I don’t think it’s ever really fully stable. I was born male and mostly identify as that. I primarily have sex with men. But it is still nothing is set in stone. Nothing is solid about that for me. It’s something that I am still exploring and will always explore with, with I guess with pride and no shame or fear in that. Some people require a stable identity, but I think that something I’ve strived towards not 100 percent having at least in that regard. 

Interviewer: Okay! And then, has your sex and gender identity influenced your drag?

Ginger KaiKai: Yeah! That’s a good question. I think it’s influenced my drag and drag has influenced it back. Drag has made me more comfortable with fluidity. Because when you’re getting called not your name all the time, you get called Ginger, and you have other pronouns used, you get comfortable with them. At least I do, not everyone has. Umm and that’s kind of allowed me to experience and explore how I feel about that. And it’s not something that’s ever bothered me. And it bothers some people. Umm, being open to it as well, different expressions of gender, it’s also allowed my drag to be more fluid as well. You’ll find people that are like “you need to have big breasts, you need to have fake hips, you need it look like an exaggerated woman, you need this, you need this, you need this”. But I kind of approached drag differently. I want to look at myself in the mirror and see what I want. And I want to look at someone else and say “Okay, you look like you’re fitting what you want. You look confident. You look comfortable.” Other people want to project and say “no, you need to look this way to be a drag queen.” And I think that having a more fluid understanding of gender allows you to look at drag in that same fluid way. 

Interviewer: Okay! How has drag impacted or changed you?

Ginger KaiKai: Mhmm. Um well for a while it provided me with confidence. Well it still does to an extent. It provides me with friends in a sense of community. Not always, but it does. Especially when we had our nightclub here. that was a big beacon. It was a place that I would go once a week, at least, and see all these people that I knew. So, a lot of queens feel connected to people. And I only learned that more recently when it disappeared, and you don’t see these people really as much. So, it definitely did that. It gave me an outlet for creativity. It gave me a way to approach people and meet people without being as scared. And it just taught me to kind of think of myself differently, and to love my self differently, and to take ownership over what I am and what I can do. In a way that I don’t know that I would have been afforded with just not doing it. 

Interviewer: Yeah! Okay. If you could go back in time, what advice would you have given your younger self? 

Ginger KaiKai: Oh Gosh. Umm (chuckles). That’s a good question. Umm. take everything a little less seriously. You know it’s, nothing, well a lot of things are serious. But nothing that you are doing is that serious. You know this isn’t brain surgery. This isn’t a war. This isn’t, you know, anything like that. it’s meant to be fun, it’s meant to be inclusive, it’s meant to be loving. So just know that. And people will like you for you, and to continue doing that. At least in regard to drag, that is kind of the advice I would give. Spend a little less money too. Probably that. (chuckles) 

Interviewer: Alright! And then, how would you define drag?

Ginger KaiKai: yeah, that’s a relatively complicated question. Which that’s kind of a stupid answer. Drag is umm, both a mask and a mirror, I guess. Because you can… I think no matter what when you get into drag you’re going to change a little bit. Everyone does. You know, no one knows why. I mean I’m sure people do. But like if you start painting, there is somewhere in the process of putting on your makeup, putting on your hips, and your wigs. For all of that something kind of changes. Or if you’re a drag king, somewhere in your process in putting on your makeup, something changes. Or say you’re some other types of drag, because there are so many kinds of drag, something changes. So, it’s a little bit of a mask. But it’s a mirror because you learn so much about yourself through it. So, I guess an art form really is what it is. It’s an art form that is difficult to define. I mean it’s not painting, it’s not sculpture, it’s drag, and I think it’s meant to be messy and complicated, talked about, and discussed, and attempted to be defined. But I don’t think you’ll ever find a definition that didn’t encapsulate it entirely, because the classic definition “Oh that’s a man dressing as a woman and a woman dressing up as a man.” I mean that doesn’t fit today. 

Interviewer: Yeah!

Ginger KaiKai: I mean you, yet you have trans women that are doing drag. And to say that they’re not doing drag, but if they say what they are doing is drag, then no that’s wrong. They are doing drag if they think they are doing drag. I mean sometimes I will look at someone doing drag and I’ll be like “Okay, you’re not doing drag yet, it’s still a little messy.” But if they are polished, and confident, and doing something that they love and care about, then they are a drag queen or a drag king. I mean I’ve heard some people try to say “Oh there are not trans women that do drag. They aren’t drag queens, they are show girls.” And I’m like, “Well if they think they are then yeah, but if they think they are a drag queen, then they are a drag queen.” So, it’s far more complicated than a lot of people like to give that classic definition to. And I think that’s something kind of excited about drag. It’s an art form that’s messy. It’s an art form that has community value, it’s an art form that informs the community and changes the community in a way that, I don’t know if I can say in main stream America, you see in art form like that. I mean, it’s different. (laughs)

Interviewer: (laughs) Now do you think that drag can be sexual in any way?

Ginger KaiKai: Yeah! I think that it can be sexual. Kind of the same way burlesque can be sexual. As an art form I think that… I mean some people have sex in drag, I don’t. That’s too expensive stuff that I’m not going to get ruined. But yeah, I think that it can be sexual. but with all things sexual, it’s got to be consensual and you know, I’ve done some very sensual and sexual performances before. And I think that it can and should be sexual if people want it to be. I mean I’ve seen people do burlesque drag where they are stripping down in that very sensual, not necessarily sexual way. Yeah, I think it can be and if people want it to be it should be.

Interviewer: Okay. And then if you could change one thing about drag, or the drag community what would it be?

Ginger KaiKai: Just for people to not be so, I guess, critical of each other, or one-minded about everything, or rigid. Like just because you have a different style doesn’t mean other styles aren’t good. I mean, I’ve fallen victim to saying things before that, in retrospect, I’m like “God, no that doesn’t matter. Their drag is just as valid as my drag.” And so, I think that’s the most crucial thing, in fact I can say that for the whole world. Everyone just needs to be a little bit nicer to each other. And I think that the drag community is just like that. If we were all more encouraging and supportive of each other I think that we would see a lot more beautiful drag. but as it gets more mainstream, people get more competitive. And as people get more competitive people can get more mean. And so, I see how it’s happening, and there is nothing wrong with a little shade and a little reading here and there, I mean that’s part of the game. But just general meanness or hate towards each other or discrediting a whole style of drag out of thinking yours is the rights one, and the best one. There is no need for that. That’s pointless.

Interviewer: Yeah. What do you think are some misconceptions people have about drag?

Ginger KaiKai: Mhmm. I think a lot of one of the biggest misconceptions is that drag queens are just a bunch of gay men dressing up like women. It’s not just drag queens, there are drag kings. People forget about them. People delegitimize it as a style in artist form. People think it’s less difficult because they don’t wear heals. And I’m like “Well if they are not trans and they have their breasts, that’s far more painful to hide than tucking a penis.” So, I’ve watched it happen, it’s legitimate. I think that that’s a misconception. I think, I mean there’s a classic misconception that every drag queen wants to be a women, but I think that that ones being dispelled. And I think that it’s opening up people’s eyes to gender more, because of that. Other misconceptions… I think one is that just a lot of people have a misconception of trans women wanting to trick men into have sex with them. A lot of people have that same misconception with drag queens. Some do. Some people do like to that. It’s not the smartest idea, because it’s not safe. But they do. But that’s a misconception. There are many misconceptions, and I can’t think of all of them right now. But I think that a good thing about it is that more people are feeling more comfortable asking questions. So that’s good. 

Interviewer: Yeah! And then if you could choose one thing that you would like people to know about or learn about drag, what would it be?

Ginger KaiKai: Well, it’s more difficult than it looks. But if you want to do it, everyone should give it a try at least once. It’s so liberating to do it. If you want to and you have the desire to try it, go for it. It’s difficult and it’s addicting. So, I always give it that caution. I always tell people go for it, but if you truly are meant to be a drag queen, you are not going to be able to stop. Because it’s going to do something to you that you aren’t going to be able to walk away from easily. But it’s difficult, but worth it. I guess that’s one thing I want people to know. I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t worth it.

Interviewer: Yeah! Then can you tell me a little bit about yourself? 

Ginger KaiKai: Yeah! So, my day job, I work at the local community college as an institutional researcher. So, I work with helping with reports and data and researching different things about the institution, graduation rates, and what not. I have a Master’s degree in Human Development specializing in research. a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and American Sign Language from the University of Rochester, for both of them. I live in Rochester. I moved here when I went to college, which is 2011. Prior to that I lived in Palmyra, New York P-A-L-M-Y-R-A, not Elmyra. Which is where Mormonism was founded, interestingly enough. And I lived there up until I went to college. And now I’m 25, nearly 26 and working and doing drag, and having an itch to go back to school and change everything. because that’s what I like to do. So yeah, that’s me in a nutshell. I’m neurotic, but you know who isn’t these days. 

Interviewer: Alright well that’s all the questions I have for you. 

Ginger KaiKai: Fantastic

Interviewer: Thank you so much for letting me interview you, I really appreciate it. 

Ginger KaiKai: Of course!

Interviewer: It was really nice to learn things from you and to get your perspective. 

Ginger KaiKai: Awesome, I am so glad I could help.

Interviewer: Thank you. Well I hope you have good evening. 

Ginger KaiKai: You too. Bye

Interviewer: Bye.

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