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