In this episode of the new Behind the Drag Podcast, drag queens Candy Sterling, Jasmine Rice LaBeija, Milk, and Biqtch Puddin share the hidden talents and side hustles that set them apart in the drag community and help inspire their performances and onstage personas.
Jeff Sterling, aka Candy Sterling is a Brooklyn-based drag queen whose training as a dancer helped inspire him to express himself on stage.
Jeff started dancing at 4 years old and feels that his training helped establish his love for expressive performance. “Dance was a huge part of my life. I learned about my body, and learned about expressing myself through movement,” said Jeff.
“I first got into drag to bring together all the things that I love about creativity,” said Jeff. “Dance, theater, art, fashion, beauty… It’s all about having a good time, smiling, joy, loving ourselves, loving each other, and celebrating everything that we are.”
When Jeff isn’t performing onstage as Candy Sterling, he works a 9-5 job as a marketing manager at a global skincare brand. “A lot of people see it as me definitely living a double life,” said Jeff. “Being able to liberate myself through nightlife and performance, I’m able to bring that same energy back to work.”
Jeff feels that performing helps inspire him creatively in the work setting. “It gives me that balance,” said Jeff about his self-proclaimed “double life.”
“[Drag is an] outlet where I’m able to express myself to storytell to celebrate all of these things I love about the queer community” Jeff shared.
Chris, AKA Jasmine Rice LaBeija, is a New York City- based drag queen who has a background in classical opera.
“Drag itself is a grand opera,” said Chris, who attended the prestigious Juilliard School after moving with his family to New Jersey from Korea, by way of Los Angeles.
“I always wanted to move back to New York City,” said Chris, who was born in Los Angeles before moving to Korea. “I was into the arts, especially classical singing. Juilliard was the place to be.”
Chris loved his experience at the Juilliard School, but admits that the heavy course load was intense at times, and the restrictions that go along with classical music were not ideal. “Being in classical music you have to be somewhat loud and oppressive within the boundaries, but I actually wanted to break those boundaries.”
After graduating, Chris wanted to pursue music as a career, but found it difficult to fit in. “Being in an industry where you’re supposed to be proper in a way, or uptight, it was difficult for someone like me to fit in.”
But Chris was able to find a home in the drag community, showcasing his operatic talents as Queen Jasmine Rice LaBeija. With drag, the restrictions of classical training don’t apply.
“I created my own opportunity, it’s my own unique grand opera,” said Chris.
Steven, a self-proclaimed “Navy brat,” moved around a lot when he was younger, and often found himself being bullied when he would start at a new school. As a way to cope with bullies, he would go home and play video games. “Any strife I would have I would go home and play Street Fighter,” said Steven. “I could get my aggression out by being Cammy or Chun-Li.”
Steven, performing as Biqtch Puddin, transformed his love for gaming into a lucrative career as a digital drag queen. A representative from Twitch noticed Biqtch Puddin when she was on the gamer panel at RuPaul’s Drag Con. Steven was then invited back to the Twitch headquarters, where he eventually agreed to become a Twitch partner.
Slowly but surely, Biqtch Puddin established a loyal fan base online with her drag/gaming hybrid model. “It’s been really fun to play fighting games with friends and also do drag and do makeup on the platform as well,” said Steven.
“The fact that I get to do what I love is a blessing,” said Steven. “It’s fun being around people like yourself who make you feel welcome.”
Dan Donigan, aka Milk, is a legendary New York City-based drag queen who is looking to combine his background as a competitive figure skater with his love for drag.
Dan, who grew up in Syracuse, New York, started skating when he was 9 years old. “I was immediately hooked, taught myself to skate backwards, and it was really that moment where it was like, ‘OK, maybe I should explore this further.”
After high school, Dan decided he wanted to go somewhere to train in figure skating.
“Being a competitive athlete was very fun. Got to perform a lot. Got to train with some pretty amazing coaches,” said Dan. “But then oftentimes the price of figure skating is what keeps people from continuing their dream of figure skating.”
Dan retired from competitive skating in 2009, which was also around the time he started performing in drag.
“It was an easy transition,” said Dan. “I didn’t know I would fall in love with it as hard as I did.” In 2012, Dan moved to New York City and realized he could turn drag into a career. At the time, RuPaul’s Drag Race was rising in popularity, so Dan tried out and was accepted onto the show. “The rest is herstory,” says Dan.
Dan’s drag career as Milk has helped launch multiple opportunities in multiple spaces including the fashion and music worlds. “I would love to be able to show that drag is far too mainstream to remain in the nighttime hours,” says Dan.
Dan is also looking to revisit his skating roots, to create a unique figure skating drag experience. “My goal with skating and drag is to bring “Milk on Ice” across the world,” said Dan. “Drag and figure skating truly go together and I’m excited to continue the journey in joining them.”
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