If you’re not offending somebody, you can’t call it “drag.” Cross dressing in any form flies in the face of so many societal expectations around gender, sexuality, and the symbols we use to express them. Drag queens take the offense of cross dressing and amplify it to an art form; the best queens try to shock as many people as possible through their performances. Every queen has a scat number, an off-color celebrity impersonation, and a lewd striptease. The cheery mainstream drag represented by RuPaul does not represent the true grassroots drag seen in clubs. Drag is punk rock done up in a wig and heels. It flips off the status quo with elegance and grace.
At the season finale of Dragnificent, Atlanta’s premier drag competition, I saw the most offensive number I believe exists. Celeste Holmes, host of Dragnificent, introduced the performer by telling the audience, “You are not prepared for this.” Celeste has been performing drag for three decades, and she said Mo’Dest Volgare‘s number was the wildest, most offensive piece of drag she had ever seen. I was dubious. I’d seen drag queens do Anne Frank, Helen Keller, and shit-stained fisting numbers. To shock me would take a ballsy performance.
Celeste was right. I was not prepared for Mo’Dest’s number.
The curtain opened up with Mo’Dest as the Virgin Mary kneeling before the angel Gabriel (played by Lola Bundy). Gabriel announces Mary’s impending pregnancy. Mary proclaims her desire to be God’s servant. Mo’Dest begins her lip sync: “Baby Daddy” by jazz vocalist Lil Armstrong. God walks in with a foot-long dong protruding from his robe. The Virgin Mary drops to her knees and begins to serve her gracious savior with professional deepthroat head. She rises to face the audience and reveals an extremely realistic pussy underneath her gown. Mary does not look like a virginal girl down there at all.
As Lil Armstrong wails on about the joys of “Baby Daddy” and “Big Daddy” making everything all right, Mary lies back while God pounds her with his big, heavenly dick. Mo’Dest shows us everything we wanted to know about the Immaculate Conception; she makes Mary’s innocent story a lurid and titillating tale of celestial intercourse.
The second half of Bible Tales by Mo’Dest Volgare gives us a more objective account of the birth of our lord and savior Jesus Christ.
A very pregnant Mary gallops on stage riding a wooden horse; her pubic hair waves in the breeze. “Baby Daddy” by M$ ney comes on, and Mo’Dest starts her lip sync: “I don’t need a job. I need a baby daddy to pay for my Louis and Gucci bag habit. … Imma have this baby. This if fucking payday!” The song and Mo’Dest’s urban-stripper attitude cast the holy mother in an entirely new light.
Once Mary makes it to the stable, she lies back on a bale of hay as Joseph serves as midwife. He reaches deep into Mary and pulls out a large, naked (living) baby Jesus, covered in amniotic fluid, with an umbilical cord hanging out of him. Mo’Dest takes the umbilical cord as a leash and finishes her lip sync; her creamy thighs are covered in blood, and her vulva still hangs out for everyone to see.
This number captures what I love about drag and the spirit of Mo’Dest Volgare so well. When I see this performance, I see a young gay man taking the frustrations and hardships of his life and turning them into a spectacle of depraved humor. Mo’Dest came from a very conservative, Christian, suburban, middle-class, white family. When he came out to them, he was disowned for his sinful ways. As a young man today, Mo’Dest lives the life of urban Atlanta poverty; food stamps, taking public transit, living in dangerous areas, and struggling to survive have been part of his life for years. Mo’Dest’s appropriation of the music, dance, symbols, and attitude of hip-hop is an expression of class solidarity, even if some perceive it as racially insensitive. The joy Mo’Dest has performing this number is palpable; it’s as if this unholy extravaganza removes years of negativity from her soul.
Mo’Dest’s interpretation of the Virgin Birth shows audiences exactly who Mo’Dest is: a strong performer willing to take on the fables of religion, even if it means pissing off the audience. Mo’Dest has consistently used the styles of urban black culture in her outfits, wigs, music, and attitude; this is both daring and truthful to the life she lives. She is a highly political, controversial queen channeling her struggles into conceptual drag, and that is why I love her. In the religious, racially divided South, a ‘hood-style Mary getting knocked up by God, bleeding on stage, and singing about Jesus as a payday might possibly offend everyone in the audience; this is what Mo’Dest lives for.
I would argue that the more people you offend with your drag, the more successful you are as a performer. Unfortunately, this was not the view of the judges of this cycle of Dragnificent. Mo’Dest received third place behind Chyna White and winner Jazelle. But when it comes to exemplifying the depraved catharsis possible through drag, Mo’Dest is always the winner.
Gay Voices – The Huffington Post