More than just a drag queen

Short feature on a 21-year-old student who works as a drag queen. 

Matthew Perry works as a host in a nightclub, where he dresses as a drag queen named Tequila Addams. His drag persona is very unique as he paints eccentric designs on his face rather than just a traditional drag queen make up. He taught himself to make these amazing facial art looks.

Nowadays, we see a lot of drag queen performers on mainstream media, but we do not see the hard working side of a drag queen trying to break into the industry. Matthew stands out because he juggles his life between his fashion management studies at the University of the Arts London and his nightlife work as Tequila Addams.

Nervousness is all I feel the minutes prior to meeting Matthew Perry A.K.A Tequila Addams. I had done my research on his social media, and his portraits with gigantic eyelashes and extravagant paint on his face are quite intimidating. He is five minutes late, and I am thinking of how those who possess the talent for creating beautiful art, must have a judgemental eye. Will Matthew judge my appearance? I can finally see him walking towards me and he is wearing big sunglasses while typing on his phone. His tall and thin frame is very easy to spot in the crowd. Matthew greets me by a hug and as he takes off his shades, he reveals a warm and friendly smile. My anxiousness quickly fades away and even seems a little ridiculous to me now.

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We meet outside a well-known Seattle based Coffee House on Baker Street. As we go in, I ask what he would like to order. To my surprise, he asks for a hot chocolate. I would have expected him to ask for a coffee to get through the day, considering he is a nightlife worker. We get seated in two cosy armchairs and Matthew immediately suggests pushing our chairs closer. With his long red hair pulled back in a ponytail, Matthew shows a soft expression on his face. The distinction between Matthew and Tequila could not be more obvious to me.

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Tequila Addams is Matthew’s creation. She is a host at Dollar Baby, a nightclub in London. I ask what pronouns Matthew prefers. “I’m not very bothered about that, ‘cause obviously I’m a man who wears dresses and heels,” Matthew answers. Tequila Addams is different from other drag queens presented by mainstream media. She wears blazers and does not lip synch. She styles her natural hair and never wears wigs. Tequila Addams is what Matthew calls a “creature of the night”.

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Matthew talks about other drag queens styling similar looks to each other and not standing out, which truly bores him. “That’s why I stopped doing the whole pretty look,” he says. I tell him that he still looks pretty to me, to which he laughs and replies: “I mean underneath all the crazy yeah. But I just got bored of doing the whole eyeliner and lipstick and that’s it, leave-the-house-look”. I can confirm that Tequila Addams is indeed, more than a beautiful drag; pictures of a black cross or a drug bottle painted on his face among other eccentric looks are all over his social media. Matthew likes the word “crazy” he always takes it as a compliment. He even hopes that I will be using it for my written piece. Crazy is another word to define something that strongly stands out, and that is why Matthew likes it so much.

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I want to know if a drag mother mentored Tequila. A drag mother often names a new drag queen and teaches her new “drag daughter” how to do drag. But Matthew tells me he learnt everything by himself from watching makeup tutorials on YouTube and reading magazines. The thought of a young boy learning such incredible make-up by himself astonishes me. He explains that he named his own drag persona. “Tequila” was inspired by a clutch bag Matthew owns, shaped in a Tequila bottle while “Addams” is a reference to the Addams Family. “It’s because I’m a little weird, a little quirky” Matthew says with a cheeky smile. When I ask about his life before moving to London, Matthew explains that he did not do drag. Although his mother had always been supportive of his art, and even encouraged him to dress up and play with Barbies as a child, people were too homophobic and too transphobic in his Northern English hometown. “Even as a guy walking down the streets I felt uncomfortable,” Matthew explains.

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I ask if he would have dressed as Tequila on a more regular basis if society was not as judgemental, to which he replies: “no”. To Matthew, the idea of living his entire life like a drag queen is not appealing, and he likes to make a distinction between being a drag queen and being a boy.  Matthew knows that Tequila Addams is a job, even though he used to become her recreationally. Tequila Addams has now become a business and Matthew finds it relaxing to just being Matthew. I can understand why; to transform into Tequila, it takes three hours. As Matthew explains the long process of shaving hair and glued eyebrows, I joke about the silly 10 minutes I take to do my make up, which makes him laugh and to which he replies by: “I wish”.

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Matthew is open to answer all of my questions. He explains that he takes aspects of other people’s drag, in order to create his own drag. When I ask him about his potential idols he answers: “I don’t idolize anybody because I meet a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race drag queens and I don’t really approach them like a normal fan would, because I feel like I am on the same level as them.” He knows that those famous drag queens have the obvious exposure and money, but Matthew adds: “I feel like I am on the same creative level as them.” Matthew is only 21 and demonstrates such maturity to what some people would argue to be an inconvenient art.  

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Our conversation is enlightening, as I never would have thought that a drag queen would have been so relatable. Matthew currently juggles between his studies in fashion management at the University of the Arts London, his work in retail and entertaining as Tequila Addams during the night. Although he eventually hopes to make a living from doing drag, he is mostly driven by a true passion. Fame and money seem to be a bonus, as Matthew is mainly using Tequila as a way to translate his crazy imagination into his favourite canvas, that is his face.

Header Image Credit: Tequila Addams

Author

Andrea Oldereide

Andrea Oldereide

Freelance writer & aspiring journalist based in London. I love to put my curiosity into work and talk about topics that are sometimes uncomfortable.

https://medium.com/@a.oldereide

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2 Comments

  • Bee Snellen

    On 21 November 2018, 21:31 Bee Snellen commented:

    Great interview! I looked at his Instagram and his makeup is amazing! It's almost a combination of Drag and bodyart!

  • Tom Inniss

    On 30 November 2018, 17:28 Tom Inniss commented:

    Great feature! Adding it to the Editors Pick voicebox!

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