Category Is… DANK SINATRA

Dank Sinatra stars in season 2 of Drag Heals

Who is your drag persona?  How do they highlight or reveal parts of you in bigger and more dramatic ways?

My drag persona is Dank Sinatra, a non-binary Drag Thing with a critical eye and a classic record collection. Dank highlights and reveals the wild combination of aesthetic, political, musical, and intellectual inspirations rattling around in my brain. I see Dank’s personality as Billy Joel’s Piano Man character, simultaneously a performer and a part of the crowd. 

Does the idea of drag as therapeutic or being healing resonate with you? Why? 

Absolutely. I know many people who have found significant parts of themselves through the practice of drag, myself included. It offers at once an ability to step away from the tender, traumatized, uncomfortable parts of yourself and to reckon with them in a way that can build a greater sense of self when out of drag. 

How important for your health and wellness is the act of playing?

Probably more important than I let myself believe! I live a very anxious and structured life. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve been able to remind myself how much the free space of play is also a necessary facet of the human experience. 

Dank Sinatra on stage. Photo: Cole Schmidt

What did you discover about yourself through the Drag Heals experience?

Where do I start! I discovered that I am significantly more afraid of being seen than I realized, but that I can own that discomfort. Can show it for what it is to people. It’s something within my control and there’s great power in that. I also discovered that I’m way more dissociative than I had ever realized. Talking to my cast mates after we had wrapped, there are times where it feels like we were on totally different sets – there’s so much I missed or was tuned out for, all wrapped up in my own head.

How can the drag community benefit from being more inclusive?

The more creative, expansive, passionate performers you have around you, in your lineups, and in your communities, the better everyone’s art will be. 

Dank Sinatra – photo by Avery Holliday

Did you second guess yourself before auditioning for Drag Heals?  What made you follow through?

Oh, definitely. I was sent the casting call by a friend around Halloween, but sort of wrote it off as something I wouldn’t have time for and probably wouldn’t stand a chance of getting. A month or so later, I saw a post that the deadline had been extended to get more Drag King and Thing submissions. I realized if you were actively looking for people like me, I probably stood a better chance than I realized. 

How would you describe your make-up and fashion aesthetic in drag?

Depends on the day! A little glam, a little cabaret, a little clown. 

What’s been most challenging about Drag Heals for you personally?

I’m a slow processor. It takes me time to chew on my feelings, mull things over, and understand my reactions to situations. Drag Heals required deep vulnerability in an incredibly public forum, an intense mental and emotional experience for which I wasn’t truly prepared.  

The rapid-fire schedule of the process wasn’t very conducive to my ability to react to discomforts, concerns, or questions that I had while in this emotional stew. I worry that I was too vulnerable, too much of an open wound, and that the show will reveal more of me to the audience than I’m comfortable with. 

Dank Sinatra – photo by Fernando Cyneiros

What’s brought you the most joy?

The day we worked with Jeff, bringing in my close-to-completed piece and presenting it for the first time, was a true joy. Having crafted something that felt so personal, it was a relief and a delight to show it to our little family and to have it positively received.  

What has surprised you the most?

The after-effects! It was such a whirl wind journey that I’m still noticing new impacts of it everyday. Drag Heals really helped me to solidify a stronger sense of self, both in and out of drag.  

How has it been working with Tracey Erin Smith to help create your one-person show?

It was very neat! I appreciate Tracey’s attentiveness to individual experience, it taught me a lot about what creating a one-person show could look like in the future.

Dank Sinatra – photo by Cole Schmidt

What do you hope the TV audience gets out of watching Drag Heals? 

I hope people are inspired to sit a bit with their own stories, to wonder what benefit there might be for them to go on a similar journey, whether that is through drag or not. I hope people discover and gain a better understanding of the range of drag that has always existed and exists today. I also hope people really listen to our experiences and conversations around race and gender, especially within the drag community. I think there is a lot people could learn if they are paying attention. 

Connect with @dank.is.a.drag on Instagram, Dank Sinatra on Facebook

Catch Dank Sinatra and fellow Drag Heals star Ocean Giovanni on Category Is! Fridays at 7 on Glad Day TV

Watch Drag Heals season 2 on OUTtvGo, Amazon, Apple TV and Vimeo!

Meet Tracey Erin Smith – Creator of Drag Heals

Tracey Erin Smith is the creator and theatre director of Drag Heals

Tracey Erin Smith is an award-winning, international artist, teacher, and speaker who transforms the individuals and groups who work with her through her company, SOULO Theatre.

Who is your drag persona?  How do they highlight or reveal parts of you in bigger and more dramatic ways?

My drag persona are: The Burning Bush and BuddyThe Burning Bush is my female drag persona She has fiery wild curls, boobs for days and wears a huge rhinestone Star of David necklace. 

She is many parts of me put on theatrical steroids. The Burning Bushes’ journey from drop out rabbi to preacher/stripper has helped me reveal my own path as a teacher/performer. I have never been a stripper (that I know of) but I did take pole and lap dancing lessons for my one woman show called The Burning Bush! which I performed Off-Broadway and across Canada.

Buddy is my male drag persona.  He has long dark hair, wears a navy bandana, a Canadian tuxedo (jeans and a jean jacket) and a handle bar moustache with a goatee. 

Buddy, like Burning Bush, highlights and reveals parts of myself. 

He is a Canadian dude who’s ‘Part Scarborough, part Jewish’. He talks like a ‘hoser’, has a huge heart and teaches kindergarten at a Montessori School.  

I have taught SOULO to pre-teens at a Montessori school, I am ALL Jewish.

Portraying these parts of my own biography as Buddy has revealed a more playful, goofier side to the things in my life that I have taken very seriously (including the Canadian Tuxedo).

Does the idea of drag as therapeutic or being healing resonate with you? Why? 

Yes! I think drag could be called, ‘medicine that sparkles’. My work with SOULO, which I developed when I was an instructor at Ryerson University, is all about using theatre, writing and creativity to make powerful and entertaining solo shows. Along the way, the shows become healing both for the creator and then for the audience. 

In my experience with Drag, I see people finding a persona that, whether they know it or not, comes from a deep place within them. I have heard more than a few drag artists say that their drag persona has saved their lives. 

Doing drag is a great way to get to know parts of yourself and to learn more about how you feel and think about things. As Oscar Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

How can the drag community benefit from being more inclusive?

Great question! Based on what we experienced in Season 2, the drag community can benefit hugely from being more inclusive.  More inclusivity means more people to learn from. During our taping, there was some great creative cross-pollination of ideas and skill-sharing among the performers. I saw the participants of Drag Heals 2 become bigger and better artists from having witnessed different genres of drag. If you want to spark your ideas for your own drag, go watch and work with artists who are doing different things than you! 

And on the personal growth side of things, I believe including people/artists who are different from one another, and sharing our stories, enriches our lives more than we know. 

When the group is diverse the benefits to individuals are truly exponential.

What’s been most challenging about Drag Heals for you personally?

When you create a solo show based on your own life, stuff can get pretty real. By this I mean that in order to create something powerful you have be brave enough to face your own dragons. This can bring up fear and resistance for some people. 

I have spent almost twenty years midwifing these shows, as well as having two certificates in Narrative Therapy, so I have experience dancing with people’s fear. It’s normal sometimes to want to quit half way up the mountain and my job, as a creative Sherpa of sorts, is to normalize fear as part of the process. 

The reward on getting to the other side of the fear can be a deep healing that comes from releasing a story that has been locked inside of you.  The show becomes each performer’s gift of truth for the audience, who may, through their tears say; I thought I was the only one.  

What’s brought you the most joy working with the Drag Heals cast?

What brought me the most joy was that the cast became such fast friends. They trusted each other enough to share very personal stories and stay open and vulnerable when things got challenging. And, to do all of that on camera is an astounding act of courage. 

I am so proud of them. 

What has surprised you the most?

What surprised me the most is the caliber of skills and the level of passion of our guest coaches and mentors. Each one is a super star in their field. 

What also surprised (and delighted me!) is how much we all learned from each participant. Each person brought their own form of magic and mastery.  Everyone on this show is a teacher of their own unique lesson. 

What do you hope the TV audience gets out of watching Drag Heals? 

My hope for the audience is enlightenment. I hope they watch and feel enlightened about the amazing variety of lived experiences in the LGBTQ2S community and that they gain exposure to all the different kinds of drag performers that exist now. I would also LOVE if they leave with a desire to try some form of drag themselves!

How has COVID-19 affected your work as a theatre director?

Since Covid19 hit I have taken my SOULO course online. This means that if you enjoyed watching the creative process on Drag Heals and would like to create your own show with me, you can apply to be in a SOULO course…from anywhere in the world!

To apply send an email to: [email protected]

Connect with Tracey Erin Smith at:

Website: www.soulo.ca

Instagram: traceyerinsmith

Facebook: Tracey Erin Smith & SoulOTheatre

Twitter: traceyerinsmith

Drag Therapy – developed by psychotherapist Leon Silvers

Leon Silvers is a psychotherapist in New York City. He is the creator of Drag Therapy, a therapeutic modality that helps individuals access and embody various parts of themselves through dressing up and the act of play.

Leon Silvers is a psychotherapist in New York City. He is the creator of Drag Therapy, a therapeutic modality that helps individuals access and embody various parts of themselves through costume and/or drag. Leon Silvers is the special guest in Drag Heals season 2 episode 2 ‘Drag Therapy’.

Leon Silvers is a psychotherapist in New York City.  He is the creator of Drag Therapy, a therapeutic modality that helps individuals access and embody various parts of themselves through dressing up and the act of play.
Leon Silvers is a psychotherapist in New York City. He is the creator of Drag Therapy, a therapeutic modality that helps individuals access and embody various parts of themselves through costume and/or drag.

Leon, who is your drag persona?  How do they highlight or reveal parts of you in bigger and more dramatic ways?

My Drag Persona is Pink Freud. Embodying this persona allows me to fully embrace parts of myself that I dont always get to experience so fully. I get to be over the top with my playfulness, courageousness and gregariousness. I dont have to hold back because playing Pink gives me permission to be as big as I would like. 

Does the idea of drag as therapeutic or being healing resonate with you? Why? 

Absolutely! That is why I created Drag Therapy. When you embody a drag persona or simply put on a costume, you’re able to access many different parts of yourself that you typically aren’t able to access. That doesn’t just have to be fierce qualities, it can be more vulnerable parts of yourself too. Being dressed in your particular persona, and you can have many,  can be an easier and gentler way to access those feelings or parts of yourself. The therapeutic power of drag doesn’t even require a full drag look. Try simply putting on a beautiful “diamond” necklace or tiara, look in the mirror, and see how you feel. It can be hard to feel sad when you’re covered in jewels. 

How important for your health and wellness is the act of playing?

It is crucial! Drag Therapy is actually a play therapy. Play is inversely correlated to depression and anxiety. Meaning, the more we are able to play, the less depressed and anxious we will be. I try to center my life around being able to play. Right now, because of Covid, my play is in the wilderness- hiking, camping, exploring. And of course bringing my drag to the wilderness and playing with costumes there. Play also helps us unlock our creativity and spontaneity which I believe are key to improving mental health. 

How can the drag community benefit from being more inclusive?

 I think it is important for the drag community to recognize that drag really is just about play and that there is no one size fits all for drag artistry. Drag can take many shapes, forms, and sizes and it’s really just about being yourself, being creative, and having fun. The drag community really is just a large sandbox where people come to play, create, connect, transform, and help others access their sense of play. 

What’s brought you the most joy working with the Drag Heals cast?

It was truly an unbelievable experience working with the cast of Drag Heals because all of the participants were so open and eager to playing and being challenged . Improv can be a challenging task and the participants were so courageous and took so many risks, despite the cameras rolling. It was also incredible to see how cohesive and connected they were as a group and it was only the second week. That really speaks to the openness of the group and also the amazing skills of Tracey, their fearless leader.

How has it been collaborating with Tracey Erin Smith to help shape the one-person shows?

Tracey is a phenomenal human! She really is an inspiring woman. She is so creative, passionate, enthusiastic, and really creates an environment that is conducive to creative and personal growth. She has been incredibly encouraging and supportive of me and my work and it is a pleasure to be able to work with her. I want to be a participant next season just so I can learn more from her!

What do you hope the TV audience gets out of watching Drag Heals? 

I hope the Drag Heals viewers learn that drag is a playful art form that is accessible to anyone and everyone. Drag doesn’t have to be dressing as a fierce queen or king; it is simply playing with costume, makeup, performance, movement, and/or whatever other creative expression you can imagine. We are all in drag every day. When we can intentionally manipulate our drag, we can access our creativity, curiosity, and sense of freedom, and let go of our inhibitions and control, and have fun!

Connect with Leon Silvers and learn more about Drag Therapy:

@DragTherapyNYC

 www.SilversPsychotherapy.com

Watch Drag Heals Season 2 on your favourite platforms:

Vimeo

Amazon

OUTtv Canada and OUTtvGo