A kiki with Deception
Holy untucked! This is going to be a great kiki! This month we had the pleasure of interviewing Nashville’s Barbie Doll herself, Deception! We asked her all the deets on her life and background, and she didn’t hold back a thing. She got really intimate discussing her recent battle with cancer, as well as how she felt growing up trans. We hope that you all enjoy reading this kiki as much as we enjoyed it. So sit on back and get to know this wonderful lady.
What type of problems did you face growing up?
Growing up the only problem I had was knowing that I wasn't the person physically that I was internally. I knew from my earliest memory of about 4 years old thinking I was a girl. I really didn't realize I was a 'boy' until I was about 6. I know that sounds crazy, but I always just though I was one of the other little girls. I had every Barbie Doll and My Little Pony and tried to get anything pink that I could.
It wasn't until I got into the first grade that I started realizing I was a "boy". I would go to bed every night and pray that God would turn me into a girl when I woke up. So my childhood and teen years were difficult internally. That is why I started my transition as soon as I turned eighteen. I do want to clarify that I never have and never will think of myself as ever being a "boy." I just had to use that term to describe the conflict you feel when you are born transgender.
Did you face many hardships coming out? How old were you?
I came out to just close friends while I was in high school, but I came out to my family when I turned eighteen. That is when I started my transition. When I came out the world was much different than it is now, so yes I certainly faced hardships. Discrimination against gay and transgender people was everywhere. Gosh, back then most people didn’t even know the term transgender. Most people just referred to us as transsexuals, and thought it was a choice. I was lucky because I have always been a petite person and passable. So I only faced discrimination if and when someone was told that I wasn't a genetic female, but, trust me, then I certainly got discriminated against.
What advice would you give someone facing struggles with becoming their true self?
This lifetime is too short to live your life for other people. You have to live your true life. Don't waste a minute of it hiding or not being you. There will be hard times in life, but you can’t truly appreciate the good moments in life without surviving the difficult ones. Never give up! A positive mindset is the key to any situation in life.
Michelle Holiday told me when I first started my transition at age eighteen, "Just ride the waves." It took me years to fully understand what she meant. Transitioning has many highs and many, many lows. You have to just ride the waves of the ups and downs, but I am so grateful for the journey!
When did you start doing drag?
I started doing drag when I was eighteen. It was only going to be a one-time thing, of course, but back then you had to compete in a talent night. I won the talent night and was offered a full time cast position that same night. So I started entertaining five nights a week right from the very beginning.
What sparked your interest in it?
I really didn’t have an interest in it honestly. When I was eighteen, I started going out to the local gay bars just to socialize, and everyone thought I was this little lipstick lesbian. When people started finding out I was a "baby tranny," everyone kept telling me I needed to do drag. So I finally said I would do a talent night just one time to shut everyone up. Being eighteen and in college, I took the cast position just so I could have extra money to help pay for my transition.
Explain what drag means to you?
What drag means to me is simply being an entertainer. Since being an entertainer can involve many different aspects, I don't feel that drag is really definable. That is what makes it so wonderful. There are many different types of drag: comedy, dancers, beauty queens, club kid, over the top, female illusion, celebrity impersonators, live singers, drag queens, trans entertainers … the list can go on and on. How wonderful is all of that! People always like to put people in boxes.
What are your thoughts on make-up? Do you criticize others for how they paint?
Well, first things first, I am not a makeup artist extraordinaire. I basically just wear liner, lipstick, lashes, and blush! As I said earlier, there are so many different types of drag queens. For some, their aesthetic is to wear theatrical makeup, or to be over the top with hair and makeup. I absolutely love seeing it on other entertainers. My aesthetic just happens to be more of what I consider female illusion, and to me that means being more realistic in my makeup and hair choices. Some people don't think that is drag. It might not fit into their stereotype of drag, but for me it is my style of drag.
What would you say is the biggest misconception of being transgender and doing drag?
I think the biggest misconception for some people is simply them not understanding why a transgender person is doing drag. People want to lump both things into one category. In reality, they are two separate things. Being transgender is who a person is: we simply were born one way but identify another way. Drag is a form of entertainment.
Why do you think some drag performers get upset about trans women doing drag?
I don't think a lot of drag performers have issues with trans women doing shows. The ones who do might think we have an advantage simply because we have breasts and hips. However, breasts and hips do not make an entertainer. Being a great entertainer is about stage presence, skill, talent, gaining experience that translate onto stage. So being a trans woman has nothing to do with being a good entertainer in the slightest. Some of my all-time favorite entertainers are NOT trans women, and some are.
Have you competed in any pageants or won any titles?
Yes, I have competed in many pageants throughout my career, and won, but I don't consider myself a pageant girl by any means. Some of the titles I have won that have special meaning to me are Miss Knoxville, Miss Tennessee National, Miss National Most Beautiful, Miss North Carolina Continental, and Miss New York Continental.
Miss Orlando has a very special meaning to me because it is the 3rd oldest pageant in the United Sates. Also one of my Drag Mothers, Danielle Hunter, and my Drag Grandmother, Carmella Marcella Garcia, won it, so it’s kind of a family thang. I was also runner up for Universal Show Queen in Honolulu, Hawaii.
What makes pageants difficult?
I think the most difficult part in pageant preparation is managing the team you assemble for your pageant package…. Typically, you hire different people to create talent or presentation costumes, music mixes, design and sew a custom evening gown, and style hair and choreograph your talent, as well as a team of backup dancers. Preparing for a pageant essentially becomes a business, and you are the CEO of it. So that is the most challenging.
Who would you say has been the greatest supporter of your drag career?
The biggest supports of my drag career have always been my wonderful friends. Friends pushed me into doing it. Friends have given me advice or supported different decisions I made in my entertaining career. My mentors, Michelle Holiday, Danielle Hunter, Carmella Marcella Garcia, Sable Chanel and so many others taught me different tricks of the trade in the art form of female illusion, as well as the business aspects of it. And for the last 7 years, the owners of PLAY, Joey Brown, Todd Roman, Keith Blaydes and David Taylor have been so supportive, encouraging and pushing me to go above and beyond what I thought my abilities were. I am forever grateful to them for elevating my skill sets both on and off stage.
What is the best advice you could give?
The best advice I give is to develop a drag persona, just like an actor creates a character. Create something and market yourself. Your drag persona is the figurehead of your working business.
You have been successful as a drag performer for many years. What would you say has been a factor in that longevity?
There are several things that have played a factor in my career’s longevity. As I mentioned earlier, my career really was the result of a snowball effect of things. But once I started doing drag, I listened to more seasoned entertainers that came before me. I created a character and marketed myself as that. I put myself out there and competed in pageants, which lead to my being known all across the country. I invested back into my craft with professional costumes.
I have always stayed true to myself and never did performances that were not true to who I am as an entertainer. I highlighted my strengths, and I minimized my weaknesses. And more importantly, I have always handled my drag career as a real business. I have never gone a day without being a full time working cast member on a show cast, since the first time I did my first show.
We all know about your battle with cancer: how has the recovery process been?
The recovery from cancer has been a wonderful journey. It taught me so much about myself. I always thought of myself as a weak person, but it really showed me what I was made of. I am full of determination, and I never give up on anything: that is important to me.
You would think I would have already known that about myself through all the years of my transition, but it took cancer to really make me understand that. I come from a long line of strong southern women, we are breed to be tough and endure! Cancer taught me that an optimistic attitude about everything in life is key to making the best of any situation, and that is a lesson so valuable.
It also taught me that people are inherently good. My wonderful parents and wonderful friends gathered around me and never left my side. I can’t thank my Momma and Daddy, and especially Joey Brown and Todd Roman for never leaving my side.
I am still humbled and thankful to the Nashville community for coming together to support me and encourage me. I will always be indebted to the Nashville community and so thankful to you all. I am in full remission, so being a cancer survivor is something I am so very proud of and just another plot twist in my storyline.