HUN­GRY

Say hello to the most sick­en­ing queen you’ll never see on Drag Race.

Gay Times Magazine - - CULTURE - Pho­tog­ra­phy Joseph Wolf­gang Oh­lert Words Sam Damshenas

“Ru­Paul’s Drag Race is gen­er­ally quite dan­ger­ous at this point,” Ber­lin-based drag per­former Hun­gry tells us. “It gives this per­cep­tion of how drag is sup­posed to be and how peo­ple’s skills are viewed.” The makeup artist and de­signer – who cur­rently boasts over 300,000 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram – ad­mits (after we pushed for an an­swer) that a fu­ture ap­pear­ance on Ru­Paul’s Emmy-win­ning se­ries is un­likely be­cause of the neg­a­tive im­pact it’s had on some of its con­tes­tants. “The queens that leave the soon­est are con­sid­ered bad at drag, when it comes down to it. Just be­cause they weren’t good TV, or they couldn’t adapt to what this re­al­ity TV pro­gramme is about. It be­comes re­ally dan­ger­ous be­cause it is bad for their ca­reer, and for a lot of them, it turns into some­what of a curse. It doesn’t leave them.” She con­tin­ues, dur­ing our in­evitable Drag Race-re­lated sec­tion of the in­ter­view: “Of course, the net­work wants to bring good TV, but then it also should take care of what the queens take home with them, and it’s a great pro­gramme, but it could teach a bit more about the as­pects of drag. I’m happy I’m not in­volved, but I also wouldn’t mind be­ing in­volved if it changed.”

It may seem like Hun­gry har­bours some neg­a­tiv­ity to­wards the show, but nah. We opened with a con­tro­ver­sial quote to pull you in, be­cause that’s what we do. In fact, Hun­gry loves Drag Race, and cred­its the se­ries with open­ing doors for the art-form, as it’s the “one com­mer­cial fo­cal point of drag”. “I started drag long after Drag Race aired. I watched two sea­sons and thought, ‘This is quite en­ter­tain­ing’, then I watched all of them! I saw the dif­fer­ent as­pects that it was show­cas­ing, so it def­i­nitely changed the pub­lic view on drag. It made drag more of a ca­reer op­tion.”

In Hun­gry’s home coun­try how­ever, that’s not the T. While Ger­many is seen as a bas­tion of cre­ativ­ity and in­di­vid­u­al­ity, drag is still not seen as a le­git­i­mate, money-mak­ing ca­reer. “It’s not great if you wanna make a liv­ing out of a cre­ative field,” she ex­plains. “For that, you re­ally have to mar­ket your­self else­where.” De­spite this, Ber­lin is home to one of the most di­verse, in­no­va­tive drag scenes in the en­tire world. Yes! The en­tire world! Queens may not de­velop mas­sive ca­reers, but they do de­velop avant-garde char­ac­ters that ex­pand far be­yond “pageant drag or Amer­i­can­ised drag” that we’re so ac­cus­tomed to on our In­sta­gram feed. “It’s quite rare to see that here. There’s a few pageant queens here, but it’s mostly per­sonal style. It’s peo­ple who go into very spe­cific fash­ion his­tory, or run­way themes, and then there’s peo­ple who are to­tally go­ing into theatre and not re­ally us­ing it as drag.”

But while the city is “ac­cept­ing as a whole”, Hun­gry says it’s not ex­empt from the pres­sures of con­form­ity that are ram­pant through­out the com­mu­nity. “For mak­ing a liv­ing off drag and per­for­mances, it might not be as ap­pre­cia­tive as other coun­tries or other cities. A lot of peo­ple are re­ally thrilled by the idea of Ber­lin, think­ing it would be this re­ally great, cre­ative scene over­all, but it’s very split,” she re­veals. “The par­ties in Ber­lin are great, but they’re only great if you’re into masc, techno nights with a lot of drugs. For that, it’s per­fect.” Dis­ap­point­ingly, she adds: “But for more of an en­ter­tain­ment night, a per­for­mance night, it’s quite hard to look for, es­pe­cially in drag and that sense. There’s a cou­ple other scenes, like there is a Bur­lesque scene that has shows now and then, but ev­ery­thing is still on a small scale. There’s one weekly show we have, but it’s also not a huge one. Ev­ery­thing ex­cept for techno is try­ing to make a name for it.”

It was her move to Lon­don – and the ex­plo­sion of Drag Race – that en­cour­aged Hun­gry to pur­sue it as a job. “I found Lon­don a bit more open to it. I re­alised that there was a ca­reer in it, and that it’s seen as more of a com­mer­cial en­ter­tain­ment field, when it re­ally isn’t in Ber­lin. Be­fore, it just had been this thing that I would do next to study­ing fash­ion de­sign, with the goal in mind to still work in fash­ion.” She adds: “For me, it’s good be­cause I tour and make my money with tour­ing, and make my money in the UK, but Ber­lin it­self doesn’t hold a lot of jobs for me.”

And while many drag queens opt for a ‘fishy’ pageant lewk, Hun­gry’s ap­peal lies in her sick­en­ing, avant-garde con­cepts and cre­ations. Her eye­pop­ping aes­thetic – which Hun­gry de­scribes as a “per­son­i­fi­ca­tion” of her “cre­ativ­i­ties and fan­tasies” – came to fruition as a hobby, and con­tin­ued be­cause she loved the at­ten­tion when she went out. “It wasn’t re­ally a pas­sion. I went with the re­ac­tion, be­cause peo­ple were re­ally into it, so I thought, ‘Why not? I have time’. I then got the op­por­tu­nity to per­form in Ber­lin on a fre­quent ba­sis, so I started work­ing on my char­ac­ter. It was never an im­me­di­ate de­ci­sion to do it, it was con­ve­nient, and I had time.

Peo­ple were sup­port­ive of it, so I was lucky in that re­gard.”

But where did this in­spi­ra­tion come from? “It dif­fers. It’s still com­ing from the fash­ion as­pect of things. I some­times just see a fab­ric, and I’m al­ready mak­ing it up in my mind, be­ing like, ‘Okay, I can make this look, I can make this char­ac­ter’.” Un­like other drag per­form­ers, Hun­gry has a whole reper­toire of char­ac­ters at her dis­posal. In our shoot, she un­veils the fish, the femme, the pageant queen, a side which fans will be ga†ed to see, and if you check out her In­sta­gram, you’ll un­der­stand why. “I went with a femme look, be­cause that was the only thing in my mind that would be a sur­pris­ing thing for me. It was def­i­nitely fun to do, to be full femme for a day!”

This sur­pris­ing new char­ac­ter stems from the per­former’s con­stant need to find “new things”. When she went on tour this sum­mer, she found her­self show­cas­ing older pieces she’s pre­vi­ously worked on, which didn’t ex­cite her and left her ex­hausted. “I’m so used to de­liv­er­ing things ev­ery week, and I had done that un­til the be­gin­ning of this year. I’d al­ways been post­ing weekly. Then this year, I took a step back be­cause I knew that I would have to tour a lot, and could only post proper shoots. Now, I know it’s okay to step back, go for qual­ity over quan­tity. It’s bet­ter and health­ier for me.”

Be­cause Hun­gry orig­i­nates from Bavaria – which is known for its unique cul­ture and con­ser­va­tive tra­di­tions – we had to ask, ‘Who were your role mod­els grow­ing up?’ Un­sur­pris­ingly, she didn’t have many be­cause “noth­ing re­ally hap­pened in a cre­ative or queer field.” How­ever, she cred­its the iconic com­edy-hor­ror mu­si­cal Rocky Hor­ror Pic­ture Show with open­ing her eyes to the queer out­side world. “Then I dis­cov­ered more queer, cre­ative films with in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter de­signs,” she ex­plains. But later on in Hun­gry’s life, when she worked on her dis­ser­ta­tion, she re­alised that her vi­sion re­sem­bled Aus­tralian per­for­mance artist and fash­ion de­signer, Leigh Bow­ery, whose cre­ations were known for shock­ing au­di­ences. “Leigh Bow­ery had the most re­lat­able ap­proach to things, by be­ing in fash­ion but not re­ally be­ing in fash­ion, and he was on stage but cre­ated his own niche within the nightlife. He had the same ap­proach that I have, to keep mak­ing things but never want­ing them to go into pro­duc­tion on a com­mer­cial level, be­cause he knew that he would be the only one who would ac­tu­ally have the pres­ence and skill to por­tray them in the right way.”

Thank­fully, Hun­gry’s tal­ent doesn’t stop with her aes­thetic. With her live per­for­mances, she aims to en­ter­tain – just like any queen – but more im­por­tantly, she aims for a re­ac­tion. “There are dif­fer­ent moods, there are some per­for­mances which are for a fun gay night out, and then there’s some where I re­ally want to break the mood of the night and turn it into some­thing more se­ri­ous, or maybe some­thing more thought­ful.” Her favourite shows fea­ture a dra­matic sto­ry­line, some of which have gar­nered an emo­tional re­sponse from the au­di­ence mem­bers. “I had some­one come up to me and say, ‘I al­most cried over this’. That’s the best re­ac­tion that I can get from a num­ber.” But if you’re

go­ing to a Hun­gry show (and you should, be­cause they are fierce-as-fuck) don’t ex­pect it to be that hard-hit­ting ev­ery time. She can dance, she can bur­lesque, even though she stands “less be­hind those num­bers”. “I al­ways wanna de­liver a story and feel out some things within the au­di­ence that they can re­late to, if they can, be­cause it’s usu­ally linked to my­self.”

So where does Hun­gry see her­self in a few years? It’s al­ways a cliché – but nec­es­sary – ques­tion to ask. Where does one go after creat­ing avant-garde per­fec­tion, em­bark­ing on a world­wide tour, and work­ing with Ice­landic icon Björk? Oh yeah, we for­got to men­tion, Hun­gry’s worked with Björk. Sur­prise! The two col­lab­o­rated on the eclec­tic mu­si­cian’s ac­claimed ninth stu­dio al­bum, Utopia. If you’re a fan of Björk – and if you’re not, burn our mag­a­zine be­cause we don’t want you read­ing it – then her vi­sion for the art­work will make to­tal sense. Hun­gry tells us: “It’s an on­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion. It’s a very great en­vi­ron­ment to be creat­ing in, ev­ery­one’s open to new things and ev­ery­one’s un­der­stand­ing of each other’s ideas. It’s been in­cred­i­bly hum­bling to work with them.”

So, as we were say­ing, where do you go after all that? “I’d like to keep work­ing on the char­ac­ter, find­ing dif­fer­ent facets of it and try­ing to keep creat­ing around it,” she re­veals. “In the long run, I think about ar­chiv­ing ev­ery­thing and hav­ing some sort of ret­ro­spec­tive about my pieces. There’s a lot of ob­jects around the things I do, it’s not just about the out­fits. There’s masks and ac­ces­sories, that I would like to see ex­hib­ited at one point, and that’s the vague idea that keeps me go­ing. I wanna keep find­ing new ways of ex­press­ing my­self.”

That’s a nice line to leave it on isn’t it? Well we’re not done. Hun­gry wants to stress – and for good rea­son – the amount of work that goes into drag, be­cause honey, it ain’t no 9 to 5. “There’s so much work go­ing into it, and I’m not even do­ing all of it. I don’t wear hair, but when­ever I wear hair I have it made – be­cause I have no idea how to wear hair – and I have a per­son to do my vi­su­als for the per­for­mances be­cause he’s a 3D artist.” She con­tin­ues: “Back when it was a hobby, I didn’t care about it much. But once I started ac­tu­ally putting my cre­ativ­ity into it, it then be­came my baby. So now it’s very se­ri­ous to me, be­cause it’s kind of all I have.” So if you truly ap­pre­ci­ate the art of drag, don’t just sup­port your favourite Drag Race con­tes­tants. There’s a whole tuck­ing world of queer per­form­ers and drag artists out there. Branch out, ex­plore.

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