Published on June 24th, 2020 | by Mutha Magazine0
Get Your Swish On: Talking with LIL MISS HOT MESS about how THE HIPS ON THE DRAG QUEEN GO SWISH, SWISH, SWISH
OK, so: How are you going about celebrating Pride Month, while (mostly) staying inside? We want your tips, especially with kids. And…
Here’s one fantabulous way to bring Pride spirit into storytime—and then keep hip-swishing it year-round—the new Drag Queen Story Hour themed read-along, sing-along, dance-along picturebook, The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish!
Get the book, break out your dramatic reading voice, and then tune in THIS SATURDAY for the Drag Queen Story Hour Pride celebration dance party!
And thanks to Lil Miss for chatting with us all about the who/what/why and wow of her new book…
MUTHA: Who is this book for?
LIL MISS: This book is for anyone who wants to add a little extra swishing, shimmying, and twirling in their lives. It’s for kids who are curious about playing with gender, or just playing dress up and inventing their own characters! That’s the beauty of drag: it’s really a pretty expansive concept, and doesn’t take anything more than what you already have in your closet or under your bed. So my goal is for all kids to give drag a try: all it eally takes is some imagination and a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone. And of course, drag isn’t for all every kid, but it never hurts to try on a new pair of shoes to see how it feels.
And of course, this book grew out of my work with Drag Queen Story Hour, so this book is especially for kids who already look up to drag queens, as well as those in cities and towns that don’t have DQSH chapters yet.
MUTHA: What inspires you about performing for kids?
LIL MISS: I love that kids just inherently understand drag: they don’t care what’s under all of the makeup or wigs or sparkles, they’re there to absorb stories, sing and dance, and ask excellent questions. Kids have a natural curiosity that is so genuine, and they’re not weighed down by all of society’s baggage. And they really like to have fun, so it’s such a treat to get your giggles out together!
Plus, as a queer adult, it’s so nice to see kids get to experience aspects of queer culture that I never got as a kid. I hardly grew up in the most conservative of environments, but it was still “boys wear blue, girls wear pink.” And I was certainly teased for being too effeminate, too swishy: I have a very distinct memory of a kid telling me on the bus that I was “weird” and they might as well have said “queer.” So it’s truly just a treat to see a version of childhood where kids can really express themselves and be who they are without being told they’re doing something wrong.
MUTHA: What are some of the best things kids have asked you at DQSH performances?
LIL MISS: Kids just ask the sweetest questions, most of which are very practical: How do you get all that glitter to stick to your face? Is that your real hair? What’s your favorite color? But mainly I like to ask them questions, like who wants to be a drag queen when you grow up? I recently did a Zoom DQSH, and I asked kids some of the things they’ve done to help other people during this pandemic. So many had made cards for their friends, or called their grandparents, or put drawings in their windows, or gone with their parents to drop off groceries for someone. It was incredibly sweet. And then they were all very excited to tell me about their dolls (which I think was a compliment on my appearance).
MUTHA: Do you have a favorite book from when you were growing up?
LIL MISS: One of the ones that I remember reading most vividly is Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches. And honestly, I think it kind of haunted me more than being a favorite! I remember being quite upset about this battle over their differences, and the lengths they would all go to out-do one another. I honestly just remember thinking it was so silly that they couldn’t just appreciate each other! I mean, it’s such a simple allegory, but still so relevant. But that’s what’s so powerful about children’s literature: it often has these really wonderful messages about social justice. And it’s such a shame that despite those themes, kids eventually end up being taught not to be accepting or thoughtful, despite their profound capacities for empathy, generosity, and kindness.
I must say too that many of my own favorites turned out to be written by gay authors like Arnold Lobel, Tomie dePaola, and Maurice Sendak. I suppose in that context, it’s hardly surprising that so many had themes that would resonate today.
MUTHA: And, who are your drag idols?
LIL MISS: So many of my drag idols are in the San Francisco drag community that “raised” me as a baby queen: people like Peaches Christ, Heklina, Juanita More, Sister Roma, Glamamore, Anna Conda, Fauxnique, Kiddie, Precious Moments, Holy McGrail, a really too many to name, but who really paved the way in the scene I came up in. I also truly love legends like Divine and Vaginal Davis, who I think so beautifully demonstrate that drag is art, that it’s political, risky, and rule-breaking.
Lil Miss… We love you, seriously. Thank you for always being an inspiration.
Everyone… Get a copy, get on up, get silly, dance around, show your kids that you celebrate queer creativity and whatever/whoever they are and want to be.