“Behind the Drag” aims to showcase the off-stage lives of some of America’s most talented drag queens. The intimate series gives us the opportunity to meet the people behind our favorite over-the-top drag queens.
Milk dons a full sequined leotard, glam makeup and fishnets as she twirls on ice, performing as a modern-day Statue of Liberty. Holding her bedazzled torch high, the New York City drag queen glides with grace and technical talent. While this likely isn’t what the French imagined when gifting Lady Liberty to the U.S. in 1886, it’s the sort of freedom that is relevant in 2020.
“The combo of beautiful figure skating on ice done by a drag queen in a wig and big costume and big lashes and big lips — right now there is nothing better in my brain,” Milk tells In The Know.
Milk, whose “boy name” is Dan Donigan, isn’t your typical lip-syncing, voguing drag queen. Instead, the professional queen is a figure skating star, a classical piano-playing pro and a high-fashion diva in one.
“Milk is anything that I want her to be,” she says. “She can go from the most glamorous, polished woman that you have ever seen to the most busted, ugly, vile creature that exists on this planet.”
Before becoming the amalgamation that is Milk, Donigan was a child growing up in Syracuse, New York. Though he was born into a conservative family, Donigan says his upbringing wasn’t marred by harsh judgment from loved ones or peers. And that’s even as a teen boy figure with an unusual passion — figure skating.
Donigan began skating at 9 years old, teaching himself the technical ropes of skating backwards and simple tricks. But eventually, he decided to pursue the athletic art form as more than just a casual hobby.
“It was so magical,” he says. “You can’t deny the wonder and beauty of skating.”
After high school, Donigan left the Syracuse area, training and performing as a competitive skater. After he “achieved everything that [he] wanted to,” Donigan retired from competitive skating in 2009. That’s when his next step presented itself in the form of glued eyebrows and copious padding.
“[My retirement] sort of coincided with the first time I was ever in drag,” he says.
Donigan calls the transition of creative outlets an easy one, though he says he didn’t realize he’d “fall as hard as [he] did” for drag. And after moving to NYC in 2012, Donigan began to realize he could make an entire career of drag. Soon after, in 2014, he was a contestant on to the sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, placing ninth out of 13 queens. That truly solidified Donigan’s identity as Milk.
But Milk isn’t only a figure skating icon of her own creation. She’s uniquely high-fashion, starring in campaigns for Marc Jacobs and Vivienne Westwood. Not only that, but she’s also a talented piano player.
“There aren’t many drag queens playing classical piano out there, and I would love to be able to show that drag is far too mainstream to remain in the nighttime hours,” Milk says of her talent.
And this multifaceted queen ain’t quittin’ any time soon. In the future, Milk hopes to create a Milk on Ice tour, a high-production performance with all the trimmings of a professional skating show. And while it may not be conventional in the drag world or the skating space, the ambition is truly and fully Milk.
“My existence in the drag world has always been sort of living by my own rules,” the queen says. “For me, it’s being the weirdo that I want to see in this world.”
If you enjoyed this story, read about a Black, proud and resilient Miami-based queen.
More from In The Know: