We’re back with another World Wide Wednesday, which has seen us go from Australia, USA to Germany and today we land in sunny Spain. Meet Cota, an expressive artist with strong art concepts that allow her artistry to shine. We discuss the expansive Spanish drag scene, how drag has impacted her life and the Drag for All movement!
Drgadventures: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? When and how did you get “into drag” and how has this artform changed your life? Is there a particular person who introduced you to the scene?
Cota: I was born in France with an Ecuadorian/ Italian mother and a Spanish father. I always took pride in my nationalities due to all the different cultures I was closely expose to. I was in an international school in Lyon with all kids from different nationalities, so I couldn’t escape the diversity and learn so much from it. Being introduced to many cultures gives you the power to see different points of views and so I’ve lived my life getting inspired by everything and everyone around me instead of staying with the way of living of one place.
So as I moved to Barcelona this was my chance to be in a known international City, not just a school, and it was a ball. I come from a family that is very business driven and then you have me, the creative artsy one, so when I moved, I started studying product design as a creative safe choice, instead of going to an art school. Sadly on my second year I fell into a deep depression and disconnected from everything and everyone as my whole life was falling apart (my studies, my family, my friendships)… I didn’t recognize myself at all, wasn’t creative at all anymore which is what scared me the most.
I was really into drag race for a while and had played with makeup once or twice but knew that drag is so much more than the facade so I wasn’t too convinced. But it was when I started recovering thanks to my best friend and my boyfriend at the time, and started getting a bit better and becoming a human being again and not a vegetable, that I started feeling this need to dance. I would put music on when I was home alone and start singing and dancing. Something I had never cared for before, little by little it became my only way to feel better, I would look forward to go home and just dance and feel what I feel with no judgement. Luckily ‘my recovery team’ pushed me towards being an artist, they knew I had the potential I just needed to stop running away from it and to just go for it. And seeing that I could do makeup and could surprisingly dance I told my self this is actually what I want to do, fuck everything else and all my insecurities, I’m gonna be an artist.
So from that moment on I just went for it. I didn’t know anybody that was in the drag scene, not even the queer scene. So I just started doing some research and went to events on my own. Little by little I became someone in the scene for my cool makeups and then for my performances. So as I grew in my career, I was battling the depression.
DA: You’re an advocate for “Drag for all”, which is especially needed in times of people trying to put labels onto who can do drag and who can’t. What would you say to all the amazing humans out there doing drag (no matter their genitals, of course!) who face that kind of limitation on the daily? Why do you think people try to put rules on others’ choices? Also, do you think that the situation is influenced by Spanish Culture leaning a bit more towards the male-influenced side? Do you think times are changing?
Cota: I truly believe in the power of drag and how much It can do for the artist and for the crowd. Its an art, the art of using yourself as the canvas, through makeup, concept, performance, humour,etc… You can use your drag so much more than to just dress up, it lets this side of you out, it gives you the strength and confidence to speak up and be seen for you what you people to see you for. So for whoever faces difficulty for doing drag because of what people might say, as long as you remember why you’re doing it, no one can tell you otherwise.
People put labels and rules to pretty much everything, it’s normal, we live in world were everything is classified into categories to understand better, to be able to point to something and say ‘this is this and that is that’ but that’s when the definition of art is there to mess all that up. Art is subjective, you can’t define it really so you can’t define the limits of art, what is and isn’t. You have Dali’s surrealism which its clear that it is a work of art but you also have Marcel Duchamp’s ready made, like the ‘Fountain’ which just is a urinal on a table, a work that causes to this day a lot of questions to what extent is this art, but we still talk and learn about in art history.
So the same goes for drag, people will want to put the label on what it is, mainly anything resembling drag race, but fortunately drag has so many different genres, because we have so many things we can work and change in drag, with the fashion, the performance, the comedy, the makeup and the concepts.. the possibilities are infinite. So if you see drag with this point of view and the power that it has, not just by why its started, to look like the opposite gender, you truly realise that who you are physically has nothing to do with it, so your gender plays no part in it, nor does your body type, skin colour, not even hair colour! You chose what you put out there. I don’t like labels in my life in general, but I understand the necessity especially outside the drag culture to have labels to understand what is it that we do, so that is the only reason I use the term Bioqueen because it lets people know that I’m a woman, not because my gender matters but because people including women, don’t know that a women can actually do drag as well, and its our job to educate on the matter because unfortunately we aren’t taught this terms in school.
As for the male-influenced side of things, Spain does have that going on but I don’t think (especially in Barcelona) that its more than it is in different places. I personally have so much support in my city, people believe in me and my art here and its been very apparent the few times people have tried to say something against me or about cis women doing drag, the whole queer circle in Barcelona sent me messages of support. I’d say its more the businesses that don’t hire me as soon as they find out I’m a woman, they wanna keep it man based probably because it might sell more.. I don’t know, but hey I’m not here to just perform because I can, I’m here to express myself to the people that want to see what I can do and most of my work is outside the clubs and into the studios. So, honestly just do you, do drag because you want to do it and wear or don’t wear a label, that’s up to you, for me my preferred label is Freak.
DA: What does being a drag queen allow you to do or express when you are performing that you normally wouldn’t do?
Cota: The power of drag lets you feel free to do and say what you want. Its like I always say, you know the feeling on Halloween or carnival that you put on a costume and you feel like you can be louder, drink more and overall be more stupid, because the costume takes out the seriousness, the ego we’re all trying to keep up, drag feels the same to me. It takes down a lot of social barriers we and others put on ourselves so you’re now left with you true self that is shielded by the confidence of how you feel and look.
Drag lets me express my crazy feelings and thoughts, that my normal life doesn’t call for me to show. For some people when they get in drag, they become a different person that they wouldn’t be able to be without the makeup and the wig, as for me I don’t change, I can just show what I already show people to a higher degree of intensity because I’m very open about myself. I’m a very emotional person due to having traces of a mental disorder called Borderline Personality disorder, which isn’t the same as Bipolarity, it just means that we have a very high capacity to feel, we’re intense people, we love very hard and laugh very loud but we also hurt a whole lot and battle with a lot of emotional confusion. I’ve had to learn a lot to cope with it, mainly learn to control my feelings and not have them control me, but the feelings don’t disappear so I put them into my art and especially my performances.
Talking about it and acting with it makes it easier for me and makes me feel that I have control over my situation and also I teach people that a disorder doesn’t define you, most people have no idea I have it. But I love how intense I can feel things sometimes because its extremely poetic and entertaining to watch so instead of freaking out at home, I channel my emotions and use them to put them into my performances. Which is why I’m always vulnerable on stage and people can feel that. I’m conceptual and organize my performances, I don’t like to just play it randomly but the feelings are very real and the songs I choose to perform usually reflect the feelings I’ve been having.
DA: Let’s talk about Spain’s drag scene. What do you wish more people know about the scene as a whole? And do you have some fab Spanish queens you could recommend to us?
Cota: Spanish drag is something that sadly isn’t really talked about internationally, but what people don’t know is that Spain has a very rich and old queer culture and especially drag. Think of it this way drag goes hand in hand with the party culture and Spain is known for it’s party scene. I personally don’t know as much as I would want to about the Spanish drag scene because I haven’t been able to go to different cities and experience it but its there, like the drag queen Gala from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which is a televised show where Queens do elaborate and choreographed performances all wearing extremely high platform of 60 cm which weigh a whole lot.
I personally can only speak with confidence about the Barcelona Drag scene because its my actual home and where I started doing drag. Barcelona over the last year has experienced a queer boom, which I think a lot of countries and cities can relate because of drag race connecting the drag queens and the fans together, its become more normal to have drag and queerness in general and more people want to see shows, read about it and talk to us. Barcelona has such a rich culture especially in art and self expression, many artists have paved the way in this city and you can see it just by walking in the streets and seeing how beautiful it is, everything is very poetic and whimsical, like the sagrada familia, its weird but beautiful and I feel like people reflect that.
Take one of the original drag queens from here, Ocaña, she is one of our queer heroes here because she was a performer an artist but especially an activist, walking around Las Ramblas in drag during the Franco dictatorship, which is an enormous rebellious act. Drag queens always had a place with artists, as they usually do, and in the 70’s and 80’s cabaret were where the party was at. As for the drag nowadays, well we have a lot of different styles going on and we’re in phase of trying to find or makes space for all of them. For a very long time the only drag spaces we had were the same type of shows, old school drag which is now little by little merging with the mainstream drag (like the drag race girls) big hair, gowns, death drops and splits. But I’m part of the other group which we are making space for, which I like to call the Alternative Queers.
A lot of us loved the party scene that Barcelona has to offer, partying here is part of our culture people know how to do it, we get really good music, festivals, rooftops and good prices compared to other cities but those spaces aren’t for queers to go dressed as they please. And all the queers spaces end up being the same thing pop and mainstream music with buff guys in thongs and glitter everywhere, don’t get me wrong its fun, but some of us want more than that, we want what Barcelona already offers just in a place were we can be ourselves, a queer space that does represent us. In the past year a lot of projects and events have been trying to change that. We got our first techno queer party called Maricas (@maricxsmaricxs) , which became really known very fast for the authenticity of techno parties where we can be dressed up in whatever we want. More drag/queer parties are being created so that we can see what the alternative drag queens have to offer.
We also have exhibitions such as Drag is Burning (@dragisburning), that are being made to showcase our Queens. What I like about the culture that we are creating in this alternative crowd as that we don’t just grow as drag queens, we all grow as artists all together, its about art not about drag. Which is why most of these places are filled with photographers, designers, models, makeup artist and more, we gives spaces to exhibit all our artists. As for names we have a lot of amazing artsy people but here are the ones that pop into my head:
- Nervio @dragnervio , she represent a lot the Palmas de Gran Canaria style but with a dark twist
- Joan Galo (@allaboutgalo) one of my drag sisters and talented filmmaker and Dj
- Jono Kitches (@jonokitchens) mother of the house of Pluma (which you could day is my house) which gave a space for international queens
- Joss Jaycoof (@jossjaycoff) non-binary advocated for gender issues
- Isaac Flores (@is0ac) Photographer who showcases the real queer scene in Barcelona
- The Woolman Family (@woolmanfamily) anonymous artist family
- Miss Yokim (@miss.yokim) and Queen Bushido (@queen.bushido) amazingly talented drag queens
- Mentah (@mentahhh) the freakiest creature we have
- David Oliver (@stupidavid) queer spirit and influencer
- Virginia (@virginia_ice) artist and trans advocate
- Las Vichys (@lasvichys) crazy talented drag duo
DA: What’s your favorite kind of performance/look? For example,The month of October saw you create an outstanding 31 looks for Halloween. How did you come up with so many different and varying looks, will you do it again for 2019? Is there anything (or anyone) in particular inspiring you?
Cota: I’m a person that has a constant necessity to change, that’s why I almost never redo one of my makeups or looks. But I do have my trade marks such as my pointy lips, my dangling lower lashes and some sort of malformation in my forehead which usually is a circle but triangles are cool too. I like to vary from drag makeup to ‘weird’ makeup. In my day to day life I’m the same not to that intensity obviously because I don’t have time to do an elaborate makeup before uni, but I do change my style everyday, I wear more wigs out of drag than in drag I think. I go from very chic one day to very boho the next, lots of makeup and no makeup, I dress depending on my mood when I wake up, I have so many influences from a particular artist to all the cultures I’ve been exposed to.
I find beauty and inspiration in everything and every style so I like to live all those fantasies. Its like to keep people on there toes, they don’t know what to expect every time they see me and its the same for my drag. As for the clowntober project, it was a very interesting experience… but one that I doubt I’ll do again. The positives of that project was first of all confronting a phobia of mine because even though we drag queens are basically clowns, the clown face just scares me so much, and while painting myself I would freak myself out. I remember some of the makeup that I would do, take the foto and wash it off straight away because I was scared on my own reflection. But little by little I stopped getting scared. Another thing I really appreciated was to force my self to be creative with restriction, everything had to be a clown so I had to force myself to find variation every day. The negatives though were that it was an exhausting project that messed up a lot of my schedule with uni because of how time consuming it is, my skin was also crying for help.
Also the experience of having to create every day, becomes tedious because you don’t want to, you have to. And little by little I started despising makeup, I wouldn’t wear any in my daily life I would look at my makeup box like damn it have to sit down and paint myself again and after that I didn’t post on social media for almost two months and barely did any drag for the rest of 2018… But most importantly my problem was that people just saw me as really good makeup artist that does drag, when what I want to be is an artist. I do so much outside of makeup, I love to dance and perform, but I paint too, I model, I’m studying fashion design and have a passion for music videos and hope to act and direct them one day, amongst many other things… So this is the part that I’m trying to show the world now, my makeups were my entry way to show people that I’m talented but its definitely something that I don’t want to just be known for… because I really don’t like painting other people, even though so many people ask me to, I learned to do makeup only because I love to transform myself.
DA: What are three things your drag persona can’t live without? Does she have any qualities you would like to have in your off-drag life as well?
Cota: I don’t feel like I have a drag persona, I just have me, Cota. That is my name in and out of drag. My original name is Constanza, but I decided a very long time ago that who I really am is Cota, and who I really am is an artsy freak, so when I’m in drag its just another layer to who Cota is. More than what my ‘persona’ gave me, but more what the art of drag gave me was the confidence, seeing people who love you and come to see you because they want to experience what you’ve got to show them, which in my case is something incredibly emotional and raw, that gives you the best kind of confidence there is out there because you learn to be confident with who really are what you really feel. And there’s no better feeling to be able to live your life out of drag that way, people start to actually listen to what you have to say, see you for what you want them to see you for and especially it just gets you where you want to get in life.
I used to be so scared and nervous about so many things, now teachers, interviews, opinions don’t intimidate me anymore. Its like you’ve been freed from so much unnecessary intimidation.
As for things that I cant live without… I’d say my personal space which for me is my apartment, which has been designed to be like my workshop, I have all sorts of materials to get creative in pretty much any activity, sowing, painting, writing etc.. and the space to dance. I’m loud, very present and confident but I can only be this way because I have my home to come back to were I can take all the insecurities, stress and ideas to work on my own. And its very important for me to have that space alone because, let’s be real, things get weird, I’ll dance for hours, cry for no reason write all of the thoughts that go through my head on the multiple chalkboard walls I have in my apartment, play with my cat drink and smoke, paint and walk around naked.. its all part of the creative process.
DA:Where do you want to see yourself (and the Spanish drag scene) in five years? Any exciting future projects you can share with us?
Cota: For the Spanish drag scene, it’ll keep growing and growing and seeing how our alternative crowd gets stronger everyday, hopefully we’ll have established a strong and safe space for all our queer and non-queer artists can share all of this awesome talent this city has to offer. Because in only one year so much has changed, the important part is that it keeps changing the way we want it to no the way the mainstream wants to. I just hope that we are more recognized internationally because we have so much going on here but there rest of the world doesn’t know.. but slowly and surely it’ll happen.
As for me who knows really… I’m a mess when it comes to organising myself, I mean you guys saw how long it took me to actually be able to answer the questions for this interview… I’m working hard on trying to be more responsibly organised… but hey I’m only 21 and I’ve done a lot of stuff for a 21 year old. I for sure know that I will keep doing art for the rest of my life and keep developing my capacity of being a freak because it’s the only thing that keeps me sane, especially after my depression and with my disorder.
In the next 5 years a lot of things can happen, who knows maybe I finish my fashion design career maybe not, I do want to keep travelling here and there because when I travel I network a lot and meet really awesome people, so I’ll maybe move somewhere else like Paris (because I do miss France) or London, or Berlin even though I’ve never been. I want to go the states that’s for sure, USA is such a weird country full of contradictions, but its true that they get me though… Or maybe I fall in love and everything changes and suddenly I want to stay in Barcelona forever.
I honestly don’t know..the only things I know for sure are that I want to live off my art, I want to make a good living because I get more and more used to a high standard of living and I just want to add experiences to my life. That’s the most rewarding feeling. To be able to be old and say when I was so and so age, I saw this, lived there, felt that, learn about this, fell for that and many more. That’s the dream really.
Be sure to follow Cota and stay up date on her adventures: