Logan Fisher, also known as Salem Graves is a young self-taught drag artist of five years in commision due to COVID-19 from the St. Louis area. Characterizes their drag persona as spooky glamorous witch who likes to be performative and upbeat.
Interview with Salem
Masching, Heidi. 2021. Interview with Salem. Sociology of Drag, SIUE. April 1st. (https://ezratemko.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Salem-interview-transcript-1.docx)
Interviewer: When did you first hear about drag and what was your initial reaction to it?
Salem: I would say I was not aware of drag until, I would say my Freshman or Sophomore year of high school. That was when I came across the show Rupaul’s Drag Race, I believe my favorite season at the time was airing, I believe season 6, and I still stand by that season 6 is my favorite season of Drag Race ever. That’s when I saw queens like Adore Delano, Bianca Del Rio, Milk, Courtney Act, just really amazing individuals that all had their unique style, and I never really knew there was this side of queer culture, I just kind of knew that being gay did not come with a handbook and I was learning as I go. Sophomore year, we had a queer LGBT straight alliance club where we discussed our favorite things in queer culture and just talk. That’s when I found out about drag from some of my elder gay friends, and I found this community that is really accepting and unique induvial that I found myself being so welcomed in and that when I kind of started falling in love with drag and it had really has changed my life, so I would say Sophomore year of high school is when I started diving into drag culture.
Interviewer: Yeah that’s great. When did you start performing as a drag artist and why did you start performing?
Salem: I wouldn’t say I didn’t start outwardly performing until 2018, like out of high school, that’s when I started doing more public stunts, I became more confident with myself and who I am as a human being so definitely out of highschool. I would say my first time performing-performing was at prom, I went to prom as a drag queen. I got a lot of looks, but it was something I wanted to do forever so prom was my first time ever going in public looking like that, other than that I stayed indoor. I was mostly a social media queen, I posited pictures and I was mostly doing it for social media, but Prom was my first time.
Interviewer: How did your family, friends, and other loved ones perceive you becoming a drag artist?
Salem: My mom and sister were cool with it, they thought I was the prettiest person in the world with makeup on, and getting that kind of attention from my mom was very nice. It was a nice feeling being told you’re pretty from other family members, my grandmother before she passed away told me I was gorgeous. It was all the maternal figures of the house that were very supportive of whatever I was going through, but my dad and my brother I would say were definitely a little more of a cold shoulder towards it, they just didn’t understand, but they were always nice to the face about it. They were just supportive to the face about it and they didn’t understand what I was going through. All the maternal figures really loved what I was going through, so that’s how they reacted to that. I think that my father kind of has a… he just doesn’t understand, he’s just very straight, country, drive trucks, shoot guns, very that and he just doesn’t understand where I was coming from. I think that’s where this gap comes from, so obviously I don’t get along with my father or my brother too well, but my mom and my sister have always been my biggest supporters.
Interviewer: Where does your drag name come from, I guess I should ask, What is your drag name and where does it come from?
Salem: My real name is Logan Fisher, my drag name is Salem Graves. Graves is my mother’s maiden name, I think Graves is a really cool-ass name I’ve always been in love it since I was a kid, Salem Graves obviously paying homage to the Salem Witch Trials which goes along with my drag aesthetic, which is goth-y , spooky, sexy kind of look, so I think Salem just clicked with me.
Interviewer: Earlier you had mentioned something about mainly being online or social media queen, there are a lot of terms for types of styles of drag, from drag queen to drag queen, glamour queen amongst others. Are there particular labels that you would use to characterize your drag? or what is your style of drag.
Salem: I would say modern with a mix of traditional, I like to keep classic traditions of beauty. Clean skin, clean hair, clean nails. ruby woo lip , old fashion Hollywood glamour really does it for me. I would definitely say I like to keep an up-beat dance-y kind of attitude when I go about doing performances, I like to be high energy, kicks, flips. That had always been the kind of drag I gravitated towards. I also like the term comedy because I think comedy can cover a multitude of sins. If you’re funny you can get away with a lot of stuff. So I would definitely say traditional Hollywood glamour with a touch of comedy would be my jush.
Interviewer: Do you think the kind of drag you do affects your life as a drag artist?
Salem: I think whatever type of drag you do has an affect on your perception of the world. Obviously we have seen queens like Valentina and Farrah Moan they all gotten high reaction values from the audience because they’re really appealing to look at, while some other queens who are constantly… The drag race community are sharks, they are aggressive and just very very mean for some reason. We are supposed to be a community of support and love, but when it comes to drag race the gays get a little too aggressive with it. I definitely think the kind of drag that you are and that you have/work with has an affect on your acceptance in that community. I think that mine definitely had an effect because I think that if I came out doing wacky, I don’t think people would get the reference. I think because I keep it like hearted, comedy, I’m just a guy in a wig, you know? I think it makes people feel more comfortable with the fact they are dealing with something they’re not necessarily used to, so I definitely think your drag affects how people talk and interact with you.
Interviewer: Who or what has influenced your drag?
Salem: I definitely have a list of gay icons growing up, a lot of them came from pop culture, like for me a really big gay awakening was the scene from the live action Scooby Doo movie, Velma and Daphne were just powerful feminine roles, you know we always see the macho man save the damsel in distress and save the day, the men get all the spotlight, but whenever it was a woman for me and they were just badass and unapologetically themselves and they got the job done just fine, I think those people were the people I look up to. I loved classic movies, 80’s retro was a really big influence for me. Halloween and horror movies, the original Halloween movie with Jamie Lee Curtis, hair and the scrunchies, just the 80s in general was a big movement for me.
The list of inspiration for my drag, I would say comes from old time Hollywood actors and popular female actors, Meryl Streep from the Devil Wears Prada, Sandra Bullock, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, just really powerful feminine figures.
Interviewer: Do you consider your drag to be political?
Salem: I would say that all drag is political, it is an active form of peaceful rebellion, so I think any drag performer is committing an act of political uprising, which I think it’s very important. I think anyone that has the ability to say something so powerful without actually committing to too much, like all were doing is makeup, wigs, and dancing, so i really do think the effect that we have on the people that perceive us is definitely a powerful tool that we need to use to our advantage, and to make awareness of LGBTQIA+ inequalities, Trans- rights, like it was Trans day of Visibility yesterday and I know some drag performers used their platform to bring awareness to that. So I definitely think drag is inherently political and that it is something to be taken advantage of.
Interviewer: Can you talk about what your life as a drag artist? Are you a part of a drag family or house or collective?
Salem: I don’t have a family or a house, I have friends that have start, I had a friend named Truman, that helped me start and sat down with me and talked about drag stuff like eyebrows or something, makeup, so I would say he isn’t my drag mom but he definitely helped me get started. I would’ve loved to have a drag mom but something about starting drag at an early age doesn’t bode well for longevity. You kind of have to learn how to do stuff on your own and that’s unfortunately what I was suppose to do. If I had a drag mother I would love to have that opportunity, but life as a drag queen is definitely painful, any life as a gay/ LGBTQIA+ individual is not necessarily preferred comfortability level wise, I constantly get stared at, all those uncomfortable questions like “are you gay?” or “what do you do?”, its just not ideal. It definitely comes with some drawbacks that I don’t think are good for your mental health. Being looked at my entire, I’m at this point in my life where I just don’t care anymore, but you get used to it. However it’s just painful and lonely but it’s also one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. I have complete individual freedom, artistic expression and I get to be unapologetically me, and no one can say anything about that to me anymore. I used to let what people said about me affect me so much that it got to my head, then I started to realize that I’m only out here doing this for me, this is to fulfil some dream or fantasy that I had in my head so I’m gonna stick with doing what I do, and everyone else can leave me alone.
Interviewer: How often do you perform and where do you perform?
Salem: I don’t have a club setting, obviously with COVID and everything, that has kind of put a damper on the drag career, so I haven’t really performed in the last year. but I performed at college, I performed at my highschool prom, those were all really interesting settings to me, because it’s not like a drag queen going to a drag show. People that go there know what they’re signing up for, they’re gonna see a man in a wig dancing around and are gonna have a great time because that’s what they’re expecting. When you go to prom as a drag queen, when you go to school wearing makeup the way I did, when you go to college with makeup looking the way I did, the people there aren’t expecting to see someone like that. But whenever they do, it’s in their face and they cant run away from that conversation and I think that draws out a lot of the negative people, and it sheds light on how people truly feel about certain situations I think it puts them in an awkward position that everyone need to be put in because we cant be comfortable as humans until everyone has been made uncomfortable at some point. Being a drag queen in these types of scenarios has taught me to steer clear of some people, but also who is good to talk with if that makes any sense.
Interviewer: Yeah it does. You addressed some of this in that answer, but what are the biggest challenges to doing drag and being a drag artist?
Salem: Biggest challenges I would say are being misunderstood a lot. People don’t understand the kind of gratification I get from achieving a look, or something that I set out to do, they don’t understand how it drives me. This is something that a lot of artists can relate to, its fulfilment, its passion, it’s something that you set yourself out to do and whenever you do achieve it it’s a feeling of overwhelming joy. So when people don’t understand that this is something you do literally out of pure passion, they are very confused, like “why is this something that you want to do? You’re a man putting on makeup.” and I have to have that talk with them, that makeup shouldn’t be something that is inherently for girls, it’s just cosmetics that anyone can apply on their skin, and it brings to me some sort of joy that I can’t find anywhere else. When I put on my wig and I put on my makeup and I dance around to Ariana Grande, it’s a jolt of energy or goosebumps through your whole body that I’m completely addicted to. Another problem I would say is location. My geographical proximity towards other gay people is damn-near nonexistent. The Midwest is just not IT for the LGBTQIA+ community and that has definitely… its troubling not being around people that know what you’re going through, my high school had approximately maybe 3 or 4 gay people. Like I said, in that gay/straight alliance club there was really me, Truman, and two other people and the rest were straight girls that wanted a gay best friend. It really puts a damper on your gay spirit, ive gone 21 years with relatively no one that understand what I’m going through. My dream is that whenever I graduate from college, I can move to either California, New York where I can just experience something totally different and find some people that actually understand. You hear the stories all the time of the gay kids that grow up in the closet because the area they live in are just not accepting, and it weighs heavy on their heart. So I think living in the Midwest where nobody gets you is a very big problem for LGBTQIA+ members.
Interviewer: Is there anything unique to the drag scene where you live in the Midwest compared to other places in the country or world?
Salem: St Louis is interesting, St Louis and Chicago because I never consider them “Midwest”, I picture them as mini New York, they’re just… once you cross those city lines everything about everything changes. Living in St Louis, we obviously have some unique characters, especially when you go to events like STL pride, you get to see all the different types of drag that they have to offer. I don’t think there is anything inherently different about the St Louis scene compared to New York or L.A. or something, i just think there is more population to it in those cities. There’s more of the people doing what they are doing, there’s more feedback, there’s more content, there’s just more of it. St. Louis is cool, I just think that New York does more and they do the dramatics and theatrics cause I think that’s what New York is kind of known for.
Interviewer: What goes into getting ready for a performance?
Salem: I can’t remember too well, it’s been so long, but from what I remember the time it took me from sit-down to stand-up ready it took me about 2-3 hours each time. Which is something I really love about drag. With drag there’s a whole routine to it that everyone has become aware of because, lets just say drag race. There’s the makeup, the outfit, the wig, shoes, the actual performance, what is your personality like, there’s just so much customization that can go into it that really can differ from person to person. I think that’s why people are so in love with drag race because it is a showcase of talent for unique individuals with their own styles and they get to show it off on stage, at least that’s what made me fall in love with it. I got to see people put on their makeup and their outfits and I just thought “that is exactly what I want to do”.
Interviewer: What has the COVID-19 pandemic meant for your life as a drag artist?
Salem: I think what I’m going through and a lot of other drag artists are going through, I definitely think this has put a damper on our careers. Obviously as drag queens we are visual elements and looked at, gazed upon, taken pictures with. Were just something better viewed in person than on television, because there are so many misconstrued elements of television that can lead people to a bad impression, like lighting can make a person look ugly or something. I can’t remember what life was like before COVID if that answers it quickly, but it has definitely changed our lives forever. I don’t see this going away any time soon especially now that people aren’t taking it seriously, and that’s a big problem for a lot of drag queens because it limits, due to regulations, it limits the amount of people that can go to drag settings like clubs, bars, and stages. It has lost revenue, lost profit, and most importantly it has lost people that we’ve touched or reached out to. People that want to know what drag is like, they can’t do it now because they are stuck inside the house because nobody wants to wear a mask. I think it’s so sad that the way drag careers have been built off of building reputation at those bars for years, and working towards the goal of being a drag superstar or legend, a lot of that was taken away because we can no longer leave our house. So I think it’s definitely a bad thing that COVID has done to our careers.
Interviewer: So now were gonna shift gears, how do you identify in terms of your sex, gender identify, and gender expression.
Salem: Out of drag or in drag? Because I’m two different people.
Interviewer: We will start with out of drag.
Salem: Okay. Out of drag, I would definitely say as I’ve matured a lot. I would say that I’ve calmed down in my level of flamboyance if that makes any sense. I use to be very flamboyant whenever i was in high school, I dyed my hair, painted my nails, wore makeup, and even in boy form it was just something for me to do. I guess in high school that was just something I wanted to do, but as I grew up I became more of a laid back personality where i really wasn’t looking for all that attention anymore. People have told me that most people cant tell that I’m gay, which to me is a huge compliment, because whenever people told me that i looked gay in high school i always took it as an insult. I’ve crossed a lot of those bridges growing up and I’ve focused on me a lot more, just like self help and handling situations that I was going through in high school. Now a majority of the time I like walking around as a guy, and I like how people don’t suspect a thing. As for my sexuality, I’m gay in and out of drag so that really doesn’t change. As for when I’m in drag, they kind of contrast. When I’m Salem I like being flirty, it’s kind of the element of being a guy out of drag and then doing that 360 flip of turning into a gorgeous woman that no one would know is Logan. It’s the surprise factor, the shock value, people have no clue that you were into something like this, and when people do find out they have an entirely different outlook on who you are. I think that’s a very powerful tool to have in your arsenal.
Interviewer: What pronouns do you use in and out of drag?
Salem: I’m very gender fluid. I go by he/she/ they pronouns. I didn’t start adapting to these pronouns until last year, when I took a gender studies class and my professor helped me with my gender identity. I learned about things like gender nonbinary, gender fluidity, and I found one that really resonated with me that I didn’t even know existed. I would definitely say my pronouns are he/she/they.
Interviewer: Do you use those same pronouns in drag?
Salem: When I’m in drag I would say I turn to she a lot more. That’s just the dominant personality that comes out at the time. Definitely turn to she more when in drag.
Interviewer: Has drag influenced your sex and gender identities?
Salem: it has helped me come to terms with my sexuality, it has helped me come to terms with a lot of internal bias that I had. You know, you can really learn from any experience that you have, and I think drag definitely helped me a lot with coming to terms with who I am as a person and who I am looking for in a partner as well. I would say drag has had an affect on my sexuality as well.
Interviewer: Has drag influenced how you think about gender?
Salem: It has made me definitely conscious of when I perform gender acts. I don’t like to put too much influence on gender, but it’s something we all grew up learning from society, this is how boys act, this is how girls act, pink is for girls, boys do blue. I think since we all grew up with that kind of mindset, it’s an internal issue but it’s our duty to make it known when we do it so we can acknowledge it and fix it. I would say that drag has helped me realize when I do it unconsciously and it helped fine tune.
Interviewer: Have your sex and gender identities influenced your drag?
Salem: I would say a little bit of it gets carried over when i transform into Salem, not too much though. All those qualities that make Salem Graves the gender and sexuality that she has, I think that comes from the knowledge and experiences that I’ve experienced as a boy and it just carries over.
Interviewer: How has drag impacted or changed you?
Salem: It has changed me so much for the better because I think that having the artistic freedom and individuality of completely being your own independent person, I would say that it helps you come to terms with a lot of your internal conflicts. You spend a lot of time in your head and I think that as weird as it may sound, putting on the makeup and wearing the wig helps you realize a lot of the things that you aren’t. I think it helps fine tune the things that you want to look at and want to be.
Interviewer: Has drag impacted your confidence when you’re out of drag?
Salem: Absolutely it has. I would say that something about getting into the mindset of you are the only one in the world and no one can take you. It boosts your confidence levels astronomically, which is one of the things I fell in love with about doing drag. I may have looked butt ugly in highschool with my makeup and hair, but no one could tell me I was not beautiful because I felt beautiful. I think that’s the way everyone needs to feel 100% of the time because having that confidence can transform you into a different person. That confidence has carried over into the permanent and now I can have those conversations with people about yes, I wear makeup, I do drag, and I do it well.
Interviewer: If you could go back in time as Salem Graves, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Salem: I would say not to take everything so seriously. Take everything light hearted, have fun with things, it’s never going to be as bad as you think it’s going to be. You put your worst fears into the front whenever you’re about to perform and it’s never as bad as you picture it in your head. I’m never going to be 100% ready for anything but that is not an excuse to not try. That’s been my motto for a majority of my life, because those are those make or break moments. Whenever you’re having self doubt, actually doing it is going to be so much more painless than you thought.
Interviewer: I’m curious if and how your social identities have impacted your experience in drag, or vice versa. Can you share how one or more of your identities like gender, race, class, age, religion, or the interaction of these social identities have impacted your experience of drag, or how drag impacted those identities?
Salem: Being in high school and having all the girls want to be friends with me is a unique feeling, however having the guys all hate me, it was a very weird position to be in the middle of. That was my social identity, and it had an influence on my drag, in the sense of I just wanted to be a pretty girl that was bubbly and everyone liked. I just wanted to be accepted and looked at as one of the cool kids. It played a huge part of when I got home after school and all I wanted to do was transform into that person that I knew I could be. It played a huge role in who I became. I saw all these other girls that I wanted to be like because she was popular, or she was friends with all the boys, or she got into parties, and I was like maybe if I was this person with the wig and the makeup and I had the confidence that I did, maybe then people would like me. Scenarios like that definitely played a big part in my identity.
Interviewer: How do you define drag?
Salem: I would define drag as a complete artistic expression, I still believe all drag is inherently political, even if you aren’t in that mindset of doing a political act, I still see it as one because of the way it’s perceived. Drag to me is taking on the role of gendered individual and performing and shedding some light on what it means to do gender, to do sexual identity, to do a whole bunch of stuff and I don’t think people give drag enough credit for the conversations it strikes up. I think it’s a movement for a lot of people and a tool for people to come to an understanding that they may not have been taught in school.
Interviewer: What do you think is the purpose of drag?
Salem: I think the purpose of drag has changed over the years. I think when the drag scene was starting out with movements like Stonewall for example, it was a last resort effort to show people that this is what we’re about, to show people we are unapologetically present and in the moment, and telling people that this is what we do. I think that it was very that attitude starting out and it kind of shifted gears towards doing gender and artistic expression. nowadays its performance based, it’s about putting a show on where people can laugh, cry, and enjoy. It is something painful in the past, but it has shifted from that to being more artistic and performance based in our community.
Interviewer: Do you think drag is sexual?
Salem: It can be, I don’t think it has to be. It depends on the person.
Interviewer: How do you feel about Rupaul’s Drag Race?
Salem: Obviously I am a fan of the show, with that being said I know it has a lot of its own problems. The fan base being one of them. I think the show has done a lot more good than bad, it has opened the door for so many queer individuals that it has given them hope for the future. Like 50 or 60 years ago, I don’t think drag queens could be living off of being a tv personality. It has transformed our society into such a more accepting and loving place. No matter what anyone says about drag race or Rupaul as an individual, I don’t think anyone can take what this show has done for our community away, so I am really grateful for the show.
Interviewer: If you could change one thing about drag, the drag scene, or the drag community what would it be and why?
Salem: I just want people to be nice to each other. That’s all i really want, I think that things are so much more enjoyable when everyone can get along with one another, but that being said I don’t think that’s achievable. Everyone’s going to have problems with someone eventually. I think it’s funny how drag culture is built about being shady and reading for fun. I think there are ways you can poke fun at someone without being mean. I think people take it to a mean place and I don’t think that’s cute.
Interviewer: What do you think are misconceptions people have about drag?
Salem: That I wanna be a woman all the time. I think people took me for being a drag queen as wanting to be transgender. People don’t really seem to realize that those are two entirely different things. I’m here for the factor of being a man one minute and then turning into the most drop dead gorgeous female the next. It’s the transformation and the shock factor, but when starting out people took it as I don’t want to be a man anymore, they saw that when I was a female I was so much more happy and friendly and an entirely different person than when I had n’t had makeup on. People took it as “Oh, he’s happiest when he’s a woman” which to an extent is still true, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to be this permanently all the time. They didn’t understand I wanted to do two separate things at separate times.
Interviewer: What do you think would help change that misconception?
Salem: I would try my best to educate, I would say education and knowledge is the best bet. Especially with something like this, I can’t force people to understand, but sitting down and talking with the people who didn’t understand me in the past and communicating could potentially help them understand more going forward. One on one conversations i’ve found is the best way to settle any kind of dispute or argument.
Interviewer: If you chose one thing you want people to know about or learn about drag, what would it be?
Salem: There are obviously some important things I can say here, I would like people to know that drag is political, it has political influence and meaning to it, even if we’re not conscious of doing it, there are some things that not everyone is going to understand. We are a community of LGBTQIA+ individuals and we all want to fight for equality, because we’ve all been in a position where we were looked down upon, and I think drag has helped me to fight back and stand up for myself and what I believe in.