“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.
Violet Chachki hangs high above a stage, wrapped in red silks and twirling from scaffolding in a mesmerizing performance. Dressed in vintage white lingerie, her corset-cinched waist creates an exaggerated hourglass figure.
This drag queen is floating. She’s carefree, stunning, confident and sexy.
Chachki is a bonafide drag superstar as a RuPaul’s Drag Race season seven winner. The self-proclaimed fashion icon describes herself as an “aesthetic-driven, glamorous queen.” But don’t you dare let the classic beauty fool you.
“I’ve always been a rule-breaker and a rebel,” Chachki says. “For me, drag has always been about rebellion, but also escapism. I think being able to creatively direct your own world is super powerful — and it’s beautiful.”
Violet Chachki is the drag alter-ego of Jason Dardo, a 28-year-old with a model-like appearance and a rockabilly sensibility. Dardo grew up in Atlanta, which they call the “gay mecca of the South.” As a child, they went to Catholic school, where they say it was apparent they stood out.
“I was constantly getting in trouble, constantly trying to break the rules,” Dardo says. “Even when I was coming up in the drag scene, I was known as sort of the rule breaker, the rebel, the bad girl.”
When Dardo found drag, they were able to channel that insubordinate energy into art form — and into the character of Chachki. Dardo based their drag persona off ‘50s pin-up model Bettie Page, which they call their “first icon.”
“I always was inspired by really b**chy, dominant know-what-they-want, go-getter type of women,” Dardo says. “That’s sort of the woman I wanted to reference and that inspires me.”
And the inspiration worked. A big credit to Violet Chachki’s mainstream drag success is the star’s appearance on season seven of RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2015. And yes, she won the show with her glamorous costumes and signature vintage aesthetic.
“Drag Race is a huge opportunity for us to elevate drag culture, to tell our stories,” Dardo says of the show. “It really is a career-maker.”
Even COVID-19 can’t slow this young diva down. She’s been performing at drag drive-in shows to keep drag culture alive in the strangest and scariest of times. And while feeding the culture through performance, Dardo is also nourishing the creative, escapist art form they find community and meaning in.
“I feel like I have a legacy that I’ve built,” Dardo says. “I feel like I’ve made my little notch in history.”
If you liked this story, read about a Black, proud and resilient Miami-based queen.
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