Pride Entertainment Spotlight: Mystique Summers
Returning to Nashville as the headline act on Play/Tribe Entertainment Stage at Nashville Pride following a raucous, nearly flooded-out show at Vibe Nightclub last summer, Mystique Summers is already sweating the Nashville heat.
Originally from Chicago, Mystique burst onto the drag scene in Dallas, TX, rising through the ranks through her tireless charity work and as a part of the legendary Court System. After a run on the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race provided national notoriety, Miss Two Piece & a Biscuit picked up her skirt and took her high-energy act to Cincinnati.
Now a featured performer on the All-Star cast at The Cabaret, owned by RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5 contestant Penny Tration, Summers also tours the country and shares her thoughts and wisdom on YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter, and most anywhere else her fans are gathering online. O&AN caught up with her in Oakland, CA as she prepared for a show benefiting a friend raising money for top surgery in his transition from female to male.
It’s been a year since you were in Nashville, and your show at Vibe Nightclub was a blast, but was nearly flooded out by a veritable monsoon earlier in the evening. I’m sure you are hoping for a less dramatic welcome from the city this time around
I had a really good time the last time I was here. It was a blast, super low-key and nice. I’m very excited for Pride, but not so much the Nashville heat, because I want to look good when people see me from the stage. Depending on how hot it is, by the end of my performances I may look like Whitney Houston in the grave, or I may go from Missy Elliott to Cee Lo Green in five seconds flat. I didn’t see a lot of the city the last time I was here, but did manage to make it to the MAC counter and a Vietnamese restaurant with you, Hollis! This time I want to eat more Pho and maybe meet Tim McGraw or someone like that.
We had too much fun! One of the things that is important to you is giving back to the LGBT community and raising money for causes you believe in. What drives your activism as a drag performer?
When I started my career, my work was probably 75 percent charity-driven and 25 percent earning my own personal wages. In the charity world people are going to tip you no matter what, even if you are horrible, and it also teaches you how to be an entertainer. It gives drag artists a chance to get on a stage and learn how to perform before they cross over into the “real world” of professional performance. Often new performers can’t even get a chance to get onstage unless they know a person or somehow get in good with a club. At charity shows the attitude is usually, ‘You want perform? Great. Come on out and help us raise money.’ I always recommend the charity route to artists who are just getting started and hope to find their way.
You’ve been at The Cabaret in Cincinnati for the past couple of years. That’s a really special place to see a drag show because the performers come right into the audience and interact with the crowd instead of standing above them on a stage. Are there challenges to that kind of format?
Pretty much it’s a setup I’m not used to because it is a cabaret and I’m more used to a traditional club or bar with a gigantic stage. This is more of an intimate setting where people are right up on you, so you really have to know all of your words and look good and present the whole polished package of an entertainer. Anyone can put on a wig and go out there and lip sync, but it takes a special kind of performer to really go out there and capture an audience up close and personally.
One of the things I think is unique and remarkable about you is the amount of time you spend encouraging young people, not just drag performers, but kids all over the world who are your fans. It seems to bring you a lot of joy as well.
The drag world can be so catty and there are always people out there who are ready to put you down and be discouraging. I think it is important to be positive and encourage anyone who has an interest in performing by nourishing them with correct information. Which is how we all get better.
Right now one of my favorite ways to interact with fans is through my makeup videos on YouTube. Of course RuPaul’s Drag Race got me a lot of notoriety, but the videos have branched me out even more across the world. I can reach thousands of people much faster than I can on, say, Facebook, because once I post a video, anyone anywhere in the world can access it. People who are interested in learning about drag makeup respond to the fact that it’s Mystique Summers from Drag Race teaching them how to do contour.
You have really mastered the art of social media interaction and there are several ways your fans can keep up with you and get to know you better before you hit the Pride stage on June 15. Where should they go to find you?
In addition to my YouTube channel and my website, MystiqueSummers.net, I also have a personal makeup page on Facebook called “Makeup Without Rules.” Our community is a group of makeup artists throughout the world, real girls and drag queens and anyone interested in sharing tips and learning more about the art. People post looks they like and suggestions about products and techniques. It’s just a group to help people learn tips and tricks on how to do makeup. I’m active on Twitter as well and people can follow me there @MystiqueSummers.
photo credit: Jose A Guzman Colon Photography