By Staff, July 2018 Issue.
VAMP, created by Jenna DuMay, has evolved into an all-inclusive platform for performing. Which is how her go-go-boy-turned-drag husband Dixon DuMay became involved.
Echo caught up with the DuMays to find out more about “Tucson’s punk, queer, glam, drag show,” and here’s what they had to say.
Echo:How do you define VAMP?
Jenna: I can only really put it how someone said it to me, ‘A one of a kind experience, you will never see the same show twice’ … It has transformed into something way bigger and better than I expected. The vibe grew with the entertainers, and audiences growing themselves.
Echo:How do you define drag?
Jenna: … I started drag in 2011, and drag is so different [today]. I was raised on hair, lashes, nails and a body was what defines drag. But I have realized that, ultimately, drag really is just anything that’s gender nonconforming.
Echo:How did VAMP come to be?
Jenna: VAMP started as just a “horror” themed show I would do lots of numbers involving spitting out blood. It has transformed into something way bigger and better than I expected. The vibe grew with the entertainers, and audiences growing themselves.
Echo:How was VAMP received initially? And compared to today?
Jenna: Oh my god my first show was HONESTLY just people who were huge supporters of my drag because I gave only a week’s notice about the show. Today the show is huge, people who I have never even met before have heard or have someone pulling their leg to come and see this 'crazy ass drag show.'
Echo: How many VAMP members are there? Are they consistently dedicated or rotating in show dates?
Jenna: Honestly VAMP isn’t just the entertainers that are the members. The community of people who support the show are so critical to who we are. BUT, I will say, there are iconic members who have come to VAMP “fame” if you will: Natalia Flores, Sir Jai, Ima Peepers, Dixon DuMay, Jeena Doucure (aka Weinertits).
VAMP takes the stage on the final Friday of the month at The Flycatcher in Tucson.
Echo:Are you looking for new members?
Jenna: We are welcoming new people in CONSTANTLY. The new generation of girls are already coming full force – Purity La’Chaste, Sarah Catherine, Regina Morteese, “Beth.” If you wanna join just hit me up, honestly.
Echo:What does the current cast bring to audiences that you don’t see in other shows?
Jenna: My current cast is different because of how diverse in background they [are] … people know my rule is that I want no Top 40. Which … everyone hated, but if you want to watch that style of drag, go somewhere that does it. I want you to come into a show where you learn new music and see something you have never seen before.
Jenna DuMay takes the stage as part of the VAMP Spooky Bitches Tour Jan. 25 2017 at at BS West.
Echo:Why are these performers important to VAMP’s identity?
Jenna: These performers we are discussing are VAMP’s Identity. Without them we would loose the authenticity.
Echo:Is VAMP for all drag fans, or do you describe it a certain way when discussing the show’s identity?
Jenna: If you love drag in its entirety you will love VAMP. I would agree with the earlier statement that VAMP is a “Queer” based Drag Show. I find there to be a difference in the gay/queer communities and VAMP definitely falls in the middle and marries the two together well.
Echo:What do you say to people who don’t understand the non-illusionist performers of VAMP (i.e. cis-male performing as a cis-male)?
Jenna: Drag is limitless so when you start saying ‘No’ you really stop doing drag. How my performers identify isn’t a concern. The concern is making everyone feel welcome and they are the crucial reason VAMP is what it is today.
Echo:Are bearded queens just having a moment right now, or do you believe they represent permission we've giving ourselves/community to use expression of our queerness much more broadly than in the past?
Jenna: Girl, all I can say is all drag is valid anyone who says otherwise is probably close to retiring anyway.
Echo:Why is important to have platforms that celebrate broader/nontraditional expression of queerness?
Jenna: The queer community isn’t represented very well, the very people who helped pave the way for gay people today are now pushed aside, and this isn’t right. I only hope that I’m doing my job right by the folk who I try to stand for.
Echo: Are there any shows taking place on a national or global level that inspire you?
Jenna: I hope there are other shows who are out there representing drag in this light! If not I guess I’ll have to make it. Shows I do live for would be like "Dragula,"What the Queer and The Queer Agenda.
Echo:Why are some of your future goals for VAMP?
Jenna: Take VAMP on a huge tour of America, get a huge bus and take some core members and travel all around and show who we are to everyone. I hope one day I can bring names like James St. James and Amanda Lepore to Tucson.
Echo: Anything else I might have missed?
Jenna: Just to clear the air about my name, the “Du” is silent. Dixon’s is a hard D tho.
The DuMays with the VAMP cast.
Echo: How did you become involved with VAMP? How long have you been a part of the cast?
Dixon: I started as an unpaid go-go boy/tip picker about two years ago. Now I’m an unpaid go-go boy/tip picker/stage director/performer. Oh, and part-time personal heckler for Jenna.
Echo: Fair enough. Describe your relationship with Jenna.
Dixon: Jenna is my drag wife. Beyond that I consider her to be a close friend that has helped me grow my drag persona and has helped give me (as well as so many others) a space to explore my creative side with no judgement. I started going to VAMP just for fun, and then it quickly turned into unexpected passion of mine. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of drag, but never saw myself in it. I don’t have aspirations of being the fishiest queen – I like to take aspects of hyper-masculinity and queer it up. Say, male stripping or go-go dancing (fairly masc stuff), but then I’ll be wearing a flower-lace crop top and a hat that says “Fabulous” from the movie Inside Out. VAMP gives me, and other VAMPers, that space to give it a twirl (or slam your ass into a cake, you do you).
Echo: How do you describe Dixon’s style and persona?
Dixon: Dixon is my outlet to not take life so serious. I’m not a wild or loud personality. I’m not a diva of a queen. I may get a little flirty, a little handsy, and I may take your wallet, but it’s all for fun. My style is a mix of go-go boy from the ’80s meets Forever 21 – fairly queer, fairly naked, glitter in several orifices …
Echo:How do you define your style of drag? How do you define VAMP?
Dixon: I’ve struggled to explain to people what my drag is because there aren’t many male performers and I don’t want to take away from the work that drag kings do. So, I just say I’m an entertainer … Defining Vamp can be just as tricky. Maybe Spook Drag? Alt Drag? Freaks? I like the term queer entertainment group just because then we can skip worrying about gender labels and just make art.
Echo: Do you consider yourself a non-illusionist performer? Or something other than that?
Dixon: Oh I kind of like the non-illusionist label! But as Jenna likes to read me on, the only illusion is that I think I’m way more masc performing than I actually am. That witch.
Echo:How do you explain the non-illusionist performers of VAMP (i.e. cis-male performing as a cis-male)?
Dixon: I think that drag is, and should [continue] being, a counter-culture device. It was very against the norms to do drag not too long ago. Now drag is becoming mainstream and is being assimilated into, for a lack of a better term, heterosexual norm … Drag is so much more than that! It’s about creating change, disrupting the status quo, and questioning what reality is …
Echo: How have audiences received your performances, being that you're a cis-male performing as a cis-male?
Dixon: I used to be really concerned about how the audience perceived me. Did they get it? I don’t know. Then I started being more of myself and allowing myself some creative room to explore drag in any shape it took - I think people started picking up on that and like me more just because they see me having more fun. It’s surprisingly hard to be cis-male and perform a hyper-male esthetic that is also entertaining! Society puts so much pressure on men to “be men” that it takes the fun away. When was the last time you saw a pop culture “manly man” be entertaining and multi-dimensional?
Miss Jai and Apple Q Bottoms perform with VAMP.
Echo:Why are these performers important to VAMP’s identity?
Dixon: Vamp only cares about one thing: can you be entertaining. When we say that we don’t care about gender or category of drag, we mean it. Having this spectrum of performers is important, otherwise we’re just like the 100 other shows that say they’re welcoming and open to everything but really only book a certain type of popular drag. We mean it.
Echo: Is VAMP for all drag fans, or do you describe it a certain way when discussing the show’s identity?
Dixon: VAMP is not for everyone, and for different reasons. Sometimes we get a bit gory and messy. Sometimes we blur gender a bit too much and that can shake a person’s marbles a little bit too hard. Sometimes we shotgun a beer on stage and then spray it into the audience (Jenna) and sometimes we tackle triggering topics like rape, suicide or abuse. But if you’re open to something a little weird and don’t mind being in the splash zone, you’ll almost always have a great time. And if nothing else, drink up and take a Lyft home with someone new.
Echo: Are bearded queens just having a moment right now, or do you believe they represent permission we've giving ourselves/community to use expression of our queerness much more broadly than in the past?
Dixon: [With the increase in] queer performers, I think the masses can wrap their minds around bearded queens with a little more ease. As a consumer, I see a man dressing as a woman in a beautiful gown with a stunning beat mug and, oh yeah, it’s a dude underneath that because the beard is showing. As someone looking for talent for the show, I see some amazing entertainers that know how to give a show. I personally don’t try to rate how queer someone is and use that as the determining factor if I like them. If you’re queer and can give a show, hot damn. If you’re more mainstream and can give a show, hot damn – I’ll be tipping you just the same. But if you’re just super queer and that’s what you’re trying to use as your talent, well, I’ll take a pass.
Vera Saucy and Loris Volkle perform with VAMP.
Echo:Why is important to have platforms that celebrate broader/non-traditional expression of queerness?
Dixon: For the children! Think of the children! But for real: My only hope is to gay it forward and hopefully make some young queerling feel a little less alone by giving a spectrum of artists and performers a space to give face. Locking up all this beautiful talent does nothing but perpetuate the feeling of 'I have to change to fit in and be liked.'
Echo: Do you have any future pageant aspirations?
Dixon: Dixon is a pageant virgin! Gay-Gasp! But I have been working with a few male title holders on creating a pageant package to start exploring that field of drag. I look at the pageantry systems as a challenge to really sharpen my drag and my persona. So we’ll see what’s to come!
Echo: Do you personally still book gigs outside of VAMP? If so, why are those shows still important to your drag brand?
Dixon: I’m open to performing in other shows and love helping out my friends that want a duet partner. Not everyone wants my aesthetic, and my stance on certain drag politics may have limited my options, but I’m at peace with that. Dixon is my outlet from daily life stresses, not something that I rely on to pay the mortgage. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll gladly get on stage in a jock and harness for some extra money ... that ultimately buys a new jock and harness. So if you wanna book me, find me on IG or Facebook! Oh! And be prepared for some Dixon merch!
Connect with VAMP
Facebook and Instagram: @vampdragshow
Jenna DuMay: @Jennamayzing
Dixon DuMay: @blondehomobro