Born Naked – The Rest Is Drag
“We are born naked, the rest is drag”, is a motto often heard from RuPaul Charles. We all wear drag – yes even you – the moment we put on clothes, shoes, jewelry to get up and face the day. A uniform you wear to work, whether it is a required uniform, such as military, pilot, cop or your personal style – it’s all drag. It’s all a layer covering our true self. How we choose to present ourselves to the public. For both men and women, from your hairstyle, to your fingernails – it’s all drag.
If you are fortunate enough to work in a job where a uniform is not required, drag can be quite fun and creative, a poke-of-fun at identity. You have freedom to openness and expansive thinking. There is a sense of liberation when you realize that you need not follow the rules of societal standards. For intelligent, sensitive, and especially introverted people, who can see, from a young, age how brutal this world can be, drag offers us an escape. Some of us have seen, since childhood, the wizard behind the curtain, that it is all an illusion. We are in control the whole time and can create fantastical visions of our own design.
For sensitive, perceptive creatures as such, we often get mired down in depression, cynicism, and anger at the state of the world, and rightly so. Growing up in a military family, outside of Washington, D.C., in the Reagan era, I’ve been outraged for decades, which is which has recently culminated in a most massive exhaustion. Drag gives us an opportunity to, at least temporarily, shed the weight of bitterness of a cruel world, and allows us the freedom to play with the illusion. We have the potential to be shape-shifters, to shift beyond the mediocrity and ultimate hypocrisy of the mundane. This play with identity gives us a creative outlet in which we can shine and be whomever we choose to be, with irreverence! For some of us, this irreverence – the proclamation that I am going to live life on my own terms – it can be only thing that gives us reason to get up in the morning.
For people who are marginalized by society, playing with identity gives us the chance to have fun with it. We do not have to colour within the lines – we get to use all the colours of the crayon box and add glitter to it, if we choose! The imagination is able to run free, as one reminds the self that this is all a dream. If you are forced to colour within the lines, there is absolutely no room for expansion. If we’re in the margins, let’s party within the margins, let’s dance. We are able to take our tragedies and rise above them, if only for a brief moment of respite.
Even within the so-called “progressive”, yet amazingly up-tight, community of yoga, there is definitely a conformity of drag, which I resist. As long as I have a pair of inexpensive small cotton shorts and a cheap sports bra to maintain my breasts, then I am good to go. You won’t catch me in a trendy, expensive yoga outfit to prove to the world that I’m a great yogini.
What proves you are great is your positive attitude and your expression of confidence. How did someone with almost crippling introversion, who was a bed-wetter as a child, and who had to take “Public Speaking” at University THREE TIMES before passing, ultimately become a professional yoga teacher/studio-owner where I must daily command a room, with authority, with every person listening to my instruction which is delivered with a combination of sweetness and disciplined strictness? I can only attribute this bold, brash confidence to the previous drag I portrayed on stage as a dancer. When you are a dancer, you aren’t talking to anybody, but you can command attention of a room – you have the power to make people stop in their tracks (both men and women). I grew up a tom-boy and was always inspired by the stage presence of such legends as Mick Jagger and James Brown. Their ability to bring a crowd of people to it’s knees with their charismatic power always gave me chills when I saw them live in concert. On stage I channeled both of them (and danced often to both of them) until I saw that I, myself, had that power. Once you realize you have that power within you, it never leaves.
Now as a yoga teacher/studio-owner, I am not in drag. I make sure my nails are done, and that’s about it. I do not wear any make-up, I have frizzy hair, up in my book-worm’s bun, and I wear my trusty glasses, instead of my contacts. The only logo I wear is my own, emblazoned on a tank-top, which I promptly strip off once class begins, because even with air-conditioning it’s hot and humid as hell on this island, nine degrees from the Equator, and I want comfort. If I shed my clothes, it’s not because I’m trying to seduce you, it’s because I simply want comfort. Sweaty clothes against the skin are not only uncomfortable they can cause bacteria and yeast to grow in this tropical climate, which trust me, you do not want. Because of the confidence I built up in my past profession, on stage – and I was at the TOP of the game, even though I went into it at an older than average age (32 to 38) – I can no go into a crowded yoga class and play it like a conductor of a beautiful symphony, with no one questioning my authority. This is MY house, that I built. I am Leonard Bernstein when teaching, and the class attendees are the glorious orchestra, and together we create beauty, and for a while transcend this crazy world. This is why it’s called yoga “practice”, because we need to be constantly reminded in order to stay somewhat sane. Step to the mat and create beauty with your own body/mind/breath, our hearts all pulsating to a Universal rhythm.
What I love about my custom-built yoga studio in the “hood”, is that I get the foot-traffic of a multi-cultural clientele for yoga. Young back-packers from all over the world, Hostel dwellers and older ex-pats from all over the world. Not just posh people who spend thousands on an exclusive “retreat” where all you see is other people dressed all in the same cultural drag. At Bocas Yoga we pride ourselves on being inclusive and diverse – people show up to class in their daisy-dukes, bikinis, or pajamas – whatever can fit into their backpack or on their sailboat. Just THIS WEEK ALONE, I had class attendees from Panama, Brazil, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Slovenia, The Netherlands, Poland, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and The U.S., with the North Americans being very much in the minority. I didn’t become an ex-pat to be surrounded by people of my own ilk, all in the same drag that culture has placed on them.
Drag breaks the boundaries. This is what true art does – whether you are going to see the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Shakespeare Company, or The Rolling Stones (all shows of which I’ve seen live) – it takes us to a place where we can briefly transcend the ordinary. We get a brief escape from the drudgery and depressions of life. THIS is why I create videos – for myself. You can see the evolution of my video style through the last four years, since my near-death experience. Something shifted once I spent a year exploring ayahuasca, which forces you to completely SHED ALL EGO. I mean shed in the most brutal, violent way to the point where you are at one with the VOID.
Since the ayahuasca experiences I’ve become celibate by choice, and all videos since that period, you will see are directed not towards a made gaze, yet a female one, a benevolent one, my own compassionate gaze as filmed and edited by female friends. I’ve made it no secret that I have a suicidal idealization since I was a child, therefore these videos are a reminder to MYSELF that I have a capacity to be this sparkly, care-free creature, bejeweled in a paradisaical setting, playful and happy. To be clear, I do not live where these videos are filmed, I rent a cabin throughout the Caribbean archipelago in which I live. I spend money to make these videos. True art has value, there has to be a striving intent behind it, it is not effortless by any means. To be clear I live in the hood, so to make these videos, it forces me to come out of my reclusive cave and into the world, to be reminded of it’s beauty, to celebrate that I’ve managed almost five decades of being part of it. Hopefully this will inspire you to celebrate yourself in whichever way you choose. It’s all a dream, we might as well playfully escape the nightmare in a way that uplifts.