Hieeee… creative, colourful cosplay- Florida Thundercloud 500

The venue was freezing but I was shaking more in anticipation than cold. Ivy Winters and Peppermint entered the room, both looking stunning and absolutely beautiful, and walked past to start meeting the cheering crowds. Most of the room immediately went to them, and while I really wanted to, I also wanted to wait for someone else.

As I stood there in a white and red striped corset, red tutu, red and white striped tights and a very haphazardly put together white wig, in fact, two white wigs stacked together, with a pair of white antlers, wrapped in organza, I noticed the familiar ginger hair in the doorway.

Before I knew it, Jinkx Monsoon was heading straight for me and hugged me. “You look amazing!” she told me, and I said it back in return. Considering this was the fourth time I’d met her since October, it was almost like seeing a friend again. But then she said something that truly shocked me.

“We met at Jinkx Sings Everything…no wait, Vaudevillians. You’re Florida, right?”

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At that moment I pretty much lost all knowledge of social etiquette and I feel like I half screamed at her how she was the first person to call me by my drag name and thanked her. The complete joy and shock just turned my brain to mush and hopefully, Ms. Monsoon understood that. She was a complete sweetheart to me, even when I sheepishly lined up to see her again because I’d forgotten to give her the gifts I’d brought her, and she agreed to take some selfies with me as well.

Later, after the mention of Primark nails (I’ve been held responsible for her receiving hundreds of Primark nails since a short Twitter conversation), and being dressed as ‘Sharon dressed as Alaska’ (a reference to my gap teeth) at Heels of Hell, Sharon Needles also remembered me, and made a joke about my current costume not going down well for Jinkx on Drag Race.

Michelle Visage even tried to help me fix my poor wig that was already barely surviving before the show had even started (that’s what you get for not sewing wig clips in!), a moment that just felt so motherly and caring which looking back on it makes me emotional. All in all, Christmas Queens was an incredible night and one that made me feel truly like I belonged in the world of drag.

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Introducing to the stage…

My name is Florida Thundercloud 500, a clear callback to the one and only Alaska Thunderfuck 5000. Jokingly self-named as the ‘Poundland/dollar store version of Alaska.’ I mostly recreate looks by Alaska, but also Sharon Needles and Jinkx, and any other queen I may take interest in. I’m pretty much a tribute act to my favourite queens, I guess that makes me a cosplay queen of sorts. See, before drag, I was a cosplayer. Back when I was fourteen I went to my first convention, a twilight convention, and was in awe of three things. Jamie Campbell Bower, the cosplayers, and the costume collection.

The costume collection was a vast collection of screen used Twilight costumes owned by the late John Henson, and I remember going in to look at them several times over the weekend. Cosplayers were few and far between at these conventions, and I ended up befriending them and becoming the “Mini Alice Cullen” in a small group of Twilight cosplayers.

But I remember seeing the few cosplayers there were at this convention and admiring them completely. I adored Alice Cullen and the thought of dressing up as her was so exciting to me. Since that first convention, I started to cosplay, starting with Alice Cullen and eventually going onto other things, a couple Disney princesses here and there but mostly characters from Supernatural, which was my next big obsession.

Cosplaying brought me so much joy, I was lucky enough to meet some of the cast of Supernatural while dressed as their character, which was always so rewarding. It was nice to just take a short break from myself and be someone else for a few hours.

Fast forward to 2017 and the fateful day I decided to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race out of the variety of shows on my Netflix watch list. I’d always had a low key fascination with drag, something I never really took further besides admiring the drag queens I saw, be it on TV or maybe at a show. As you may expect, this wasn’t very often. Seeing drag in mainstream media wasn’t as common as it is now.

It took me a few seasons to really, truly fall in love with the show, but I enjoyed it from the moment I started watching it. I’d never appreciated the work that goes into it or the sheer variety of drag there was. Maybe that’s why Season four, the introduction of Sharon Needles, was the season that really caught my eye. A queen that broke the mold, who was constantly doubted for her style of drag, and yet was completely brilliant and won a record-breaking four challenges, and the crown itself.

This was followed by Alaska and Jinkx in Season five. I’d always had my eye on Alaska from the moment Sharon said her name on the ow, and the moment I knew she was also a contestant on the show. I was interested to see how the boyfriend of Sharon Needles fared, but quickly gained an appreciation for Alaska and not ‘Sharon’s boyfriend.’

Alaska has been my favourite ever since, she’s a genius, hilarious,  insanely talented and creative and you never know quite what to expect from her. She was a whole new level of weird and I loved it, she quickly became one of my biggest inspirations. Jinkx, also, was a queen who was misunderstood, doubted and torn down during her season. She didn’t fit the so-called mold either, but I adored her. She’s an incredible, funny and talented performer, and well deserving of the crown.

I’ve always been drawn to the misunderstood, quirky and weird people in media, and it was no different in the world of drag. I’ve always felt weird and excluded, and this show only helped me to celebrate my weirdness and encourage me to just be me.

As well as the queens themselves, Drag Race brought me joy in terms of the costumes, makeup and wigs. As a cosplayer, it was a dream, seeing the creativity and imagination in these costumes, and it didn’t take long for my cosplayer brain to start thinking “I want to make some of these.” I think the first time I felt that way was during the Candy Couture runway, where I was blown away by the iconic cotton candy dress creation by Alaska.

I have yet to actually recreate this look, but it’s actually on my list for Drag World this year, albeit with a twist.

Lil Poundcake

A big factor in what turned me from a cosplayer into an aspiring baby drag queen was Alaska’s Poundcake show. I could talk about it forever, but I’ll keep it short. I was dressed in an Alaska style outfit: a light blonde lace front with space buns, a poundcake bow, and my skirt had trash bags over it, without Alaska makeup as I wasn’t brave enough to do it in front of Alaska herself!

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From the moment Alaska arrived at the venue, literally, she was complimenting my look. I even got picked to go onstage during the show; Alaska had wanted two Lil Poundcakes to join her onstage, which was later increased to four.

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Low and behold, there were only two Poundcakes in the audience, so Divina de Campo and Joe Black broadened their search to anyone dressed as Alaska.

An amazing queen dressed as Alaska bounded onstage…and then they spotted me. I’d originally been trying to not be noticed, a difficult feat considering I was lucky enough to be front row, but everyone around me was so encouraging about it, so once they saw me and beckoned me onstage, off I went.

I felt so inferior next to the other three, and even now I see pictures and feel like I’m leagues behind the others. Being onstage was so surreal and I was so nervous and confidence lacking that I didn’t make the most of my time. Alaska was sweet enough to bring me forward to have my own little moment, as the other three had all had theirs. I posed a little bit before scurrying away!

But these feelings of inferiority and disappointment in myself only encouraged me, and I finally decided I wanted to do drag, just as I’d jokingly said for years but now I meant it. Not just make the costume and wear it, I wanted to be a drag queen. I’ve always been a bit of a performer, I did dance for eleven years and in general, I’m nearly always singing, something that I’m apparently good at.

The main, big obstacle is confidence. I’ve never performed properly on a stage before, the fear of judgment is immense. My aim for this year, however, is to perform for the first time. A friend is putting on a show for a college course and they said I could perform there, which I really hope I do. All my numbers would, of course, be Alaska, maybe a mix of singing live and lipsyncing. But I hope this show is the start of many, I’m not aiming to be the next drag superstar or to get famous, I just want to gain the confidence to perform and enjoy performing to others, not just to myself or anyone who happens to be close by.

I want to believe that, if the opportunity ever arose again, I could get onstage with Alaska, or even Jinkx, Sharon, anyone, and own the stage, even for a moment. I’d love, just maybe, for my name to be known by some of my favorite queens. And I’m lucky enough to say that one does, or at least did.

Candy Couture and beyond

And that takes me back to where I started this, Christmas Queens. It was the first show I felt accepted and a true sense of belonging to this community. I’d been nervous rocking up to the venue, my coat covering most of the costume but my wig and antlers and various strips of organza clearly visible. I love getting attention for my looks, of course, but at the same time, I didn’t want to be getting the attention because I was the only one in drag, which I’m pretty sure I was.

Well, besides the queens in the show. But once the coat was off (though it was so cold I almost wished I kept it), the compliments from attendees and queens alike was so lovely to hear. I knew it was something I wanted to continue doing.

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Right now I feel most comfortable in my replications of other queens, I find it much easier and enjoyable to replicate or draw from another look than to create my own. It’s something that I want to hold onto but I also want to develop my own style; I want there to be something typically Florida that’s unique to me. Eventually, I want to be able to have my own style and looks while still also doing existing looks. I don’t think the cosplayer in me would ever stop finding costumes to try my hand at, but I’m excited to use my own creativity too.

My creativity is currently going into my work creating bows, that I often make and give to queens. So far, Alaska and Sharon have received three bows each from me, Willam has had two and Jinkx has one. Of these, Alaska wore two and Willam wore one. Making bows has been another thing I’d been interested in but never pursued until I got into drag. I have an old notebook full of designs for Disney character inspired bows, that simply never came to fruition, as I just didn’t know where to start. Last year, however, I found the set of alligator clips I’d bought a long time ago for bows that never got made, and created my first ever bow, inspired by Sharon Needles’ crowning look from season four.

The response I got was great, even from Sharon herself liking it on Instagram! The bow was so successful that I decided to make another so I could keep one and Sharon could have the other. I was meeting Willam at the same show and so decided to make him something too, and came up with a simple blue and white star printed cotton bow, which Willam was nice enough to wear for the remainder of the meet and greet!

Sharon got so excited about her bow and recognized it from Instagram, and proceeded to tell Willam all about it!

The moment I knew I wanted to continue making bows was also at Poundcake, thanks to Alaska’s pure excitement over the bows I’d made; a Lil Poundcake bow, and a bow inspired by her cockroach dress from the All-Stars reunion, and the fact she wore the Poundcake bow onstage for the first part of the show. I was delighted to see that she wore the AS2 bow a few months later! Just seeing her reaction made me want to keep going, I’d never expected to get such a reaction from my bows!

So now I always aim to bring a bow to every show I go to, whether the queen is known for wearing bows or not. I just like the process of taking a concept or costume and turning it into a bow, it’s my art!

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Alaska wearing one of Florida’s bows in latest episode of Wow presents series ‘These are my giftssss’

As 2017 ended, and 2018 began with watching the AAA girls singing in the year with AAA, I can’t wait to see what this year brings for Florida. I had some amazing experiences in my first year of drag, and I have so many things in store for this year already. This really could be the beginning of something special.

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