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Making of a King. The Art of Drag Bonus – full interview with Nicole Miyahara

THE ART OF DRAG – The Making of King

Phantom by Nicole Miyahara
Phantom by Nicole Miyahara

An Interview with the woman behind the kings, Nichole Miyahara

“I like to say that documentary filmmaking is like a long term relationship. I have really enjoyed the entire experience and have learned so much along the way.”

GAG: How did the idea come about and what inspired you to make a documentary?

It was a happy accident that I discovered the Los Angeles drag kings at Hamburger Mary’s in Long Beach. My classmate, and now Producer, Niccole Osborn, took a bunch of us gals out to a restaurant she had recently discovered that was known for their burgers. We had no idea that they hosted a monthly drag king show. The kings hit the stage with their very convincing illusion of a flat chest, facial hair, incredible costumes, and captivating performances. That was it, I was hooked. Niccole and I started going to shows together as often as they had them. When it came time to apply to USC for their graduate program in Visual Anthropology, I knew I wanted to immerse myself in this world for the next year and create a 30-minute thesis film about these kings. Fast forward two years later and I am currently working on the feature length version of the film. 

GAG: What are your goals for the film?

We hope that our film will bring awareness to the drag king community. Kings exist, they aren’t going anywhere, they deserve just as much respect and equal pay, as the queens. Drag is an art form, a freedom of expression, and the audience will appreciate the thoughtfulness and creativity the kings put into each and every number.

People are just beginning to have conversations about the false concept of the gender binary (male/female). There is an entire spectrum of gender identities and the film explores those with the transgender kings. The drag king community is so beautiful in its diversity and we hope to be part of a dialogue that will open hearts and minds.

GAG: What has the response from the drag community been like?

The drag community has been incredibly supportive of the project! It’s one thing to make a thesis film as part of a graduate program, it’s quite another to ask people to support a feature length project. When we ran our Kickstarter campaign we had kings across the country perform numbers specifically dedicated to the film and donating all their tips to us. We got tons of messages telling us how long they have waited for a film like this and that they felt it was for all kings, everywhere. Head promoters of the USofA Pageant system stepped up in a very big way and are now Producers of the film. Several queens supported us with donations, and Jewels, who started the first LA drag king show, performed at our drag king fundraiser. Overall there seems to be a hunger and excitement among the community for a film that focuses on kings.

GAG: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from observing the king community?

We followed Havok Von Doom to Nashville where he competed in the 2014 Mister USofA MI (Male Illusionist) pageant. The first day people were talking about the “brotherhood” and I wasn’t sure that I bought into that idea. I couldn’t understand how at a competition, there would be camaraderie among the contestants. We filmed backstage for four nights. I witnessed kings steaming each other’s suits and giving performance and makeup tips. It was a beautiful thing to see, that even in the midst of tension and excitement there was still time for compassion and kindness.

I’ve seen this happen backstage at LA shows too. Someone forgets their duct tape or scissors and a hand reaches out to loan it to them. Drag kings for the most part didn’t grow up in drag families like some queens, so everything they have achieved they have done it on their own. There isn’t anyone teaching them how to bind or contour their face or sew a costume together. In my opinion this makes them stronger, because they want it more. It also makes their drag more interesting because it’s as unique as they are. I think there is an idea that they are all the underdogs and all in it together. The better they are collectively, the better it is for everyone.

GAG: Do you have a release date?

We are currently in post-production and are hoping to release the film sometime in 2016.

GAG: Where can our readers go to learn more about and support the film?

We are continuing to fundraise throughout the post-production process because making a quality film is really expensive! We appreciate any support big or small to help us get the film finished and into a theater near you! Pledges of support can me made on our website at www.nicolemiyahara.com

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