Last week I got the pleasure of seeing my sister Jessica Raynes Starr who was in town. She and I have known each other since our drag beginnings back in 2008. She was actually on my original house cast when we first started — “Buff Faye’s Drag Brunch” at Hartigan’s Pub. Wow! How time flies.
Well, we got to have lunch and went shopping at Mary Jo’s Fabric Store down in Gastonia. Along the way, I did an interview for my column. Being a former Miss Gay North Carolina America, Jessica offers many insights for new aspiring drag queens, her views on today’s drag scene and her hiatus from drag for the last few years.
BUFF: So tell me why did you first get started doing drag?
JESSICA: When I came out, I had a very conservative family that I was dealing with. I had repressed all these feelings — that men had to be a certain way. At the age of 16 I saw my first drag show. I loved it. I fell in love. I loved the performance, the costumes, the hair, the singing,…I loved Cher already. I did talent shows immediately. I lost 20 of them, so by the time I won a talent show I was already hooked. Sometimes when you are rejected, you want it more and more… I learned to sew and do makeup… and that’s how it happened.
BUFF: Well who knew?! LOL. Where did you see your first drag show?
JESSICA: It was at the Scorpio in Charlotte. Kristin Collins, Angela Lopez, Tracey Morgan and Luscious were all in that show, I think. I remember seeing Kristin, and she clogged on stage. And I had clogged as a kid and I said this is something I have to do.
BUFF: Where did the name Jessica Raynes Starr come from?
JESSICA: So at the time I started doing drag, the Dukes of Hazzard movie had just come out, and Jessica Simpson was everything to me. She was country and was hot. Everything I wanted to be in drag. Then Roxy C. Moorecox (now known as Delighted ToBeHere) gave me the name “Raines,” but then I changed my last name when Gypsy Starr became my drag mother to “Jessica Raynes Starr.”
BUFF: How did Gypsy Starr become your drag mother?
JESSICA: Well, I did those 20-plus talent shows trying to win, and Gypsy, who was there, had started to get to know me. She had just taken on Emory Starr as her drag daughter. Emory had also become house cast at Scorpios. We had become really good friends. I would go to Gypsy at Morris Costumes and buy makeup. She would tell me what to do differently. She bought me my first wig and updo. She taught me how to roll hair. She got to be really invested in me and, if you know Gypsy — when she starts telling you negative things to get you to do better, then you know she really cares. I remember she told me once, “How can someone who looks so pretty as a boy, put on makeup and become a monster?” I cried. I cried so hard. Then I thought this woman who is helping me, wants me to do better and loves me enough to say “you need to work harder because you look like shit.” So I appreciated her so much, I finally asked her if I could be her daughter, and she was like “well, that’s fine, but you need a new gown, you need some more hair, you need to do this.”…and like five more things she rattled off….to be her drag daughter.
BUFF: So how long had you been actively doing drag before you took your hiatus a few years ago?
JESSICA: For seven years, I think.
BUFF: And what pageant titles have you won?
JESSICA: Miss Gay North Carolina America, Miss Hideaway, Miss Hideaway At Large, Miss Beautiful at USA, Miss Gulf States America, and I think that’s it…
BUFF: Wow that’s still a lot. And why did you stop doing drag?
JESSICA: I stopped doing drag for now for a variety of reasons. In Charlotte at the time, when I decided not to perform anymore, there were a lot of bar wars going on. Bars trying to tell you where you could work and you were not exclusive or being paid that much money. There was also a lot of negativity surrounding me that I didn’t care for. A lot of the drag queens were fighting about bookings. Why they weren’t getting as many… and then they were not investing in their drag. No new hair or costumes… and there was also this stigma that drag queens were a mess, they did drugs, no job and super skinny, and I didn’t want to surround myself with that. I wanted to have a successful career, a partner at some point and I didn’t feel like drag was going to put me in that place… so there were multiple reasons.
BUFF: I watched you win Miss Gay North Carolina America in 2011. It took you a few times to achieve that success. Why did you want to win that title so badly?
JESSICA: When I was first coming out and doing drag, the America system at the time was the biggest and had such a legacy. I remember looking in the big glass case at Scorpio. It had all the pictures of the former Gay North Carolina Americas and those who won Gay America. When Rick was alive, the Miss Gay North Carolina America system meant something, and it was all about North Carolina America — the biggest event of the year. Winning this title meant something, and you were going to be successful. You are “the” drag queen. I don’t know that I ever wanted to win Miss Gay America. I just wanted to be Miss Gay North Carolina America.
BUFF: What advice do you have for new drag queens coming on the scene?
JESSICA: My initial advice is to definitely express yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot be. But also you need to know the basics and be willing to learn from those who have been doing it for years. Like I have done with Gypsy. Then you can run wild with it.
BUFF: How do you feel about the trend for drag queens to have no pads or boobs?
I will not say what drag is and is not… but I hate when girls don’t wear body pads. I hate it.
BUFF: Okay. Well as we begin to wrap up, how has drag impacted your life today?
JESSICA: What I do now is nothing I ever thought I would be doing. I never thought I would be a drag queen. Because of drag, I started sewing because I was so tall. It was out of necessity. I then learned that I loved makeup and doing makeup. The same with hair, and I enjoyed the creative process behind drag and loved it all. Now I design clothes, do professional makeup and hair. It all has come together, and I never would have expected that.
BUFF: The question everyone wants to know: What will it take to get Jessica Raynes Starr back on stage?
JESSICA: Well I am not in retirement, so it could happen. I don’t think I would ever do a full-time career of drag again. But if there was an event where I felt like everyone was included, and everyone was welcome, an event where everyone could be there that I love, an event that all my friends were able to come and we could express ourselves and have fun, then I would do it.
Thank you Jessica for being such a great sister, sharing your insights and standing up for your beliefs as a drag queen. Cheers!
DRAG TIP: If you’re going to be a bearded drag queen, put some glitter on the beard or something to drag it up.
SHOUT OUTS: Congrats to Kristin Collins on becoming our new Miss Charlotte Pride this past month. Now go forth and create some rainbows!
Buff Faye calls the Queen City her home and performs to raise money so she can find a date on Christian Mingle (and raise money for charities). Find her at your favorite bars and hotspots. Plus don’t forget her monthly drag brunches and other events. Learn more at AllBuff.com. Follow on Twitter @BuffFaye