Remember 2017? Ah yes, RPDR season 9, pandemic nowhere in sight and even though the world definitely had its crisis moments, it was also the year of many wonderful starts for us here on DragAdventures. We went to the first ever DragworldUK convention and shortly after, Dragadventures was born. But, did you know, that even before all of that, our very own Kirsty made her writing debut in the ‘drag realm‘? You might wonder – why are Team DA suddenly a bit nostalgic? You see, the person that not only provided our Kiki with her very first opportunity to write for a major website but also gave her the confidence and space to share her thoughts and feelings about all things drag is todays guest – and let us tell you, this NYC queen is not only the CEO of one of the major LGBTQ+ websites, she’s also delightfully sarcastic and tells it how it is! We absolutely adore her like our very own crazy aunt from the good old USA, so we had her over for a good old fashioned (virtual) afternoon tea and asked some questions about the past, the present and of course, the future! So, grab a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) and get into our interview with Chiffon Dior!
Dragadventures: Hi Chiffon! Welcome to DragAdventures – we are very happy to ‘have you over‘ and are super excited to finally feature one of our fellow online dragzine publishers! Buuut … before we get down to all the ‘werrrk’ you’re doing online, we want to know more about Chiffon Dior, the person behind the online presence! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? For example, what’s one thing you absolutely can’t live without? And, how would your friends and family describe you if we asked them?
Chiffon Dior: First of all, thank you for having me! It’s been ages since someone has had me over for tea and biscuits. Second, I want to thank Kirsty for doing such a wonderful job with Drag Race UK. I’m grateful to have an authentic local voice from across the pond covering that show for us. We all were definitely worried if you were going to be okay when this season ended.
I guess the best way to describe me is that I’m a single drag mom with seven drag daughters and a New York-based writer and drag queen who writes about drag. I think I was going for the record of how many times I could fit “drag” into one sentence there. I’m also the founder and editor in chief of WERRRK.com, one of the more prominent drag, fashion, and queer pop culture sites online. I began my drag journey in the early 2000s when I was….um…..still in elementary school. Yes, let’s go with that. Sadly, I have to say I would be absolutely lost without my phone. I’m fully addicted to being connected to all the goings-on in the world at all times. I try to reduce my screen time as much as possible, but with running WERRRK.com it gets hard.
As for what my friends and family would say about me, they’re all dirty rotten liars, and I definitely do not tell a large number of awful dad jokes. Let’s just leave it at that.
DragAdventures: Since most of our friends (and our team) watch an unhealthy amount of Netflix & Co. at the moment due to the ongoing ‘situation’ in the world right now – let’s throw in a fun question about movies: If you could live in the plot of any movie out there, which one would it be and why? And which character would you want to play?
CD: Well, it definitely wouldn’t be one of these dystopian future stories that have become so prevalent in recent years. I struggle if there is a weak WiFi signal or a slow pizza delivery guy. A scarcity of resources plus zombies, aliens, or a totalitarian government? Hard pass. We can also rule out an Avengers film. My luck, I’d get hit by a Winnebago that the Hulk threw at someone. Give me the Audrey Hepburn role in Roman Holiday. It’s pretty low stress. I get to be a Princess, run around Rome with Gregory Peck, get a new hairdo, probably eat a ton of pasta, and then at the end, I get to go back to being royalty. Sounds like a good deal to me. Also, fun fact about Roman Holiday, Peck insisted that the relatively unknown (at the time) Hepburn received equal billing with him, which was absolutely unheard of back then!
DragAdventures: What does drag represent to you? Do you have a personal top 3 of drag performers? And, of course, since you’re from one of our favorite places aka New York City, which of course has one hell of a drag scene, what would be your suggestions in regards to bars/clubs to visit right after Miss C. has left the universe?
CF: I think drag is equal parts a mask and an outlet. It acts as a protective shield that lets you do and be things that you might have trouble manifesting otherwise. At the same time, it provides a channel for performers’ creative impulses and energies that they might not have otherwise. Obviously, drag gets you more attention. From a journalism perspective, I find the prospect of being interviewed by a drag queen puts the interviewee more at ease and generally leads to a more fun exchange.
I have many favorites, but two certainly stand out because they played a part in me getting started in drag. One is Miss Continental 1998 Michelle Dupree, and the other is Miss Gay America 1999 Catia Lee Love. Pageantry sparked my initial interest in drag, and those two goddesses were very inspirational to me in getting started. I was competing in pageants within a year of beginning my drag career, and I still haven’t lost the itch to compete. I know I want to take one more run at the Miss Continental system before I hang up the heels.
Obviously, there are a lot of queens I enjoy watching live from living in New York. I get to see some of the best queens in the business, such as Paige Turner, Chelsea Piers, Brenda Dharling, Sutton Lee Seymour, Pattaya Hart, Cacophony Daniels, Pixie Aventura, Empres Vizcaya, Heidi Haux, Gary Carmichael, Bootsie LeFaris, Ritzy Bitz, Shequida and so many more. I could be listing the amazing talent in this city all day! So definitely come and visit to see all these fantastic performers before Drag Race snatches up even more of them!
There are excellent venues throughout the city, and hopefully, the ones that are still standing can all survive this pandemic. Personally, I would say Queen at Industry is one of the best shows to see, with a cast of five to seven queens each week putting on impressive numbers in front of red hot crowds. You obviously also have to see drag at Stonewall, one of the most important locations in queer history. Beyond that, if you find yourself looking for a drag show in the city on any given night, I would check out the Thotyssey NYC blog. Jim Silvestri does a wonderful job compiling what shows are going on each night.
Dragadventures: Of course, when talking about drag, we can’t talk about Rupaul’s Drag Race, which is now in its 13th (!) season in the US and has seen various international adaptations in the past years. For you, which season is the most iconic and got you hooked on the franchise? How has RPDR impacted the industry and what are some challenges the format will have to face in the coming years? Also, if you could create a maxi challenge, what would it be?
CF: Seasons two and six were my personal favorites. Season two was crazy because it was so loaded with talent from top to bottom. You honestly could have made a case for almost anyone on that cast being a deserving winner. Don’t get me started, though, or I’ll talk for two hours about how Pandora got eliminated on a challenge I am pretty sure she won. Season six, on the other hand, had the most iconic top three ever. It is worth revisiting just to experience Bianca verbally eviscerating people week after week.
Obviously, Drag Race has opened the door to new eyes on the drag industry. While that is good, it has created this mindset that you have to get on Drag Race, or your drag isn’t valid in many fans’ eyes. I’ve seen queens working in the business for ten plus years get accused of “ripping off” a Drag Race queen who doesn’t have half of her experience by younger fans. So the show can definitely be a bit of a mixed bag for me.
The most significant potential change that the show faces in the coming years is what would happen if RuPaul decides to hang up the wig. The franchise makes far too much money for them to call it quits, and honestly, here in the States, we still have Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve every December 31st, even though he has been dead for eight years now. So the brand name can certainly carry on, but the question is what happens to the judges’ panel.
My pure speculation is that the show evolves to take on more on American Idol format with a host and a panel of three judges with a Randy Jackson – Paula Abdul – Simon Cowell equal say in events, rather than just RuPaul being the final voice. I think her heels will be hard to fill, not just because they’re a size thirteen, nor do I think she would really want to appoint a singular “heir apparent.” Pure speculation on my part, obviously, but if you’re looking for a judge, call me Ru!
My maxi challenge is a no-brainer. All the queens have to make a pizza for me and then deliver it to my home, where I will be waiting in my pajamas with Disney+ already queued up. Best pizza wins.
Dragadventures: With every new season of RPDR, there is a lot of content that hits the internet right after the episode airs – reviews, interviews with the eliminated contestants, critiquing of outfit choices … but one of our favorite things are Rucaps of the stuff happening each episode and of course, your website (werrrk.com) is one of THE places to go when we want to inform ourselves about the latest Drag Race (fun) facts – although that’s definitely only a glimpse of the content you’ve been producing since starting the website in 2014! Can you take us back to the early days of the project – i.e. how did you come up with the idea and how did it start out? Did you ever expect it to grow this fast into the media group it has become? What are some of the challenges people probably don’t think about when running such a multi-faceted group?
CF: So I had been writing online, mostly for fun but sometimes just to fight on message boards, for years. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I didn’t go to school for it by any means. I started writing about drag in 2012 for a couple of sites before eventually deciding to start my own site. Mind you, I didn’t know how to code or anything like that.
At the same time, I was dealing with a severe medical situation in my family, so I really created the site as a distraction for myself. I had no ambition of creating something as substantial as this has become, but nonetheless, NotSafe4Werk.com was born. It didn’t take long to realize that our domain could easily be confused with a porno site, so we shifted the brand pretty quickly, within the first year, I think. Whoever owned the domain werk.com wanted $125,000 for it, so I went with Werrrk with three R’s for $15 on GoDaddy.com instead, and the changeover happened pretty quickly.
Probably the biggest challenge I’ve faced is the catch-22 of what I describe as being “too small to be big but too big to be small.” What I mean by that is we get a nice amount of traffic each month. We have had to increase our hosting plan size, I think, four times since we debuted to accommodate that traffic. Simultaneously, the site is in a very niche product, so getting paid advertisers is very challenging. So basically, I’ve spent more in what I have put into this project than I have gotten back financially for sure. Still, I don’t think I can quantify all the wonderful experiences and relationships I have gained because of WERRRK.com.
DragAdventures: Like many online publications, Werrrk has a big team of individuals that contribute to the site – from all over the world, the US, UK all the way to Australia! How does it feel to have so many people write for the website? What are you looking for in a contributor and how can people apply to become one themselves?
CF: I embarked on this adventure with no expectations whatsoever. I was shocked to find out that people wanted to come along for the journey with me. It turned out to be like our own Fellowship of the Ring, only with fewer hobbits and more drag queens. I think we’ve had between three and four dozen people contribute content to our site since we launched in 2014.
I think it also shows that regardless of what people do for their jobs, unless they’re incredibly fortunate, in most cases, it’s just to pay the rent and put food on the table. The creative itch that many of us have usually needed to be fulfilled outside of professional settings. That is why I have always described WERRRK.com as an open sandbox that pretty much anyone is welcome to come and play in. I’m always open to new contributors, especially if they have a project they’re bringing to us that they’re passionate about. Our site has covered so many different topics that we can squeeze almost any content in. People can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up across social media @chiffondior on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Farmers Only, and others.
DragAdventures: With werrrk.com, you’re regularly representing at the biggest events that the LGBTQ and especially the drag universe has to offer, like Rupaul’s Dragcon! Over the years, you’ve interviewed so many people from Michelle Visage to Deven Green – do you have a top 3 of memorable moments? And, is there anyone on your bucket list of people you haven’t got to interview yet/who you’d love to interview?
CF: Well, those two you mentioned were definitely big ones for me. Michelle was the first interview I ever did, and it was so well received. It set off the proverbial light bulb that made me think maybe I could actually do this. Deven is always an amazing interview, and I’ve gone on to do multiple articles with her since. She has actually become a wonderful friend and mentor for me. WERRRK might not have happened without her encouragement.
In 2019, I did back-to-back interviews with two bright young drag stars, one with New Jersey queen Jolina Jasmine and another with Chicago queen Eva Young. Jolina spoke of how important the Disney film Aladdin was to her growing and Eva talked about what it meant to her to see Manila Lauzon on Drag Race. As a white person, I never had any problem finding a plethora of people who looked like me regardless of the channel I flipped to. Still, for queens like Jolina and Eva, representation was much more limited in their childhoods, and the representation that they did find became even more of a big deal. I had always known representation in media was important, but that moment really imprinted its impact on minority youth on me in a whole new way. I think I have interviewed almost two hundred people by this point and it’s good to know that I’m still learning from them.
DragAdventures: Rupaul’s Dragcon has become such a huge phenomenon, and working it as press, it must be a crazy whirlwind weekend. For you, what’s the best bit about the event, and what tips have you learned along the way to ‘survive’?
CF: Ibuprofen. Lots of Ibuprofen. Concrete floors and high heels for hours on end isn’t the best combo, and it helps a bit with swollen feet. DragCon is definitely a hard weekend to cover for the site, especially when you’re going in full drag like Strawberry Fields, Gina Tonic, Gilda Wabbit, and I have in recent years. Because I live outside the city, I’m usually up around three a.m. to start getting ready. So the weekend is definitely a grind, and I suggest banking your sleep beforehand and allotting recovery time afterward. That was one of the perks of the Austin International Drag Festival. At any time, if things got to be too much, we were able to sneak back upstairs to our room and rest because the event was held at a hotel.
One of my favorite things about DragCon is seeing friends that I’ve only known online in many cases. I’ve always said all the queens should be made to wear name tags at DragCon with their Instagram handles on them, so we all know who is who. I also take great joy in seeing the increased number of families at the event each year. Drag has become more mainstream, and it’s wonderful that so many parents feel comfortable bringing their children to DragCon. For as exhausting as the event is, though, I really found myself missing it this past fall here in New York.
Dragadventures: Speaking of working big conventions, you regularly work the Austin International Drag Fest which began in 2014, what’s the premise of the festival for those who are unfamiliar with it?
CF: We’ve been big fans of the Austin International DragFest since its inception, and we’ve worked with them a couple of times to help promote their event. We’ve even been honored to have one of the stages named after us, the WERRRK.com Showcase Stage. The event is much more grassroots than DragCon is and features an amazingly broad variety of drag from across the globe.
In 2019, many of our team, myself, Strawberry, Kaddie, Spencer, and Sidney, finally made the trip down to Texas for the event, and we had an incredible time there. We made a bunch of new friends, not the least of which was our favorite bartender Henry, saw some amazing performances, and ate our weight in Tex-Mex food.
We even held a WERRRK.com panel about the history of our site, which was moderated by my fabulous drag daughter, Courtney Conquers. You can even check out some of the highlights here!
Dragadventures: What part of Austin International Drag Fest is your favorite and is there a certain aspect of the event that you are looking forward to in particular each year?
CF: I think just getting to meet so many of the amazing drag artists that you normally only get to see on social media in real life makes it so special. DragCon, you get to see people, but that is more of a whirlwind. This is a four-day event where the bulk of the performers are staying on-site in the same hotel. This provides a much better opportunity to get to talk with people and build relationships as opposed to just snapping a picture together for Instagram and moving on.
I know they had been restructuring their organization prior to the pandemic, so I’m hoping they can emerge from all this safe and sound. They have the bones of something great, and I know we would love to continue working with them in the future.
DragAdventures: Unfortunately, big events like Dragcon or Austin International Drag Fest (started in 2014) have been canceled or moved to virtual events due to the health crisis we are all kind of stuck in right now … What is your take on how 2020 has affected the drag industry and how do you see its status in the US in comparison to other places? Is there anything you feel that we will have to live with until further notice when it comes to events?
CF: The biggest thing we learned in 2020 is that drag performers are both resilient and clever. At the flick of the switch almost, the industry went digital, and drag artists developed entirely new skill sets to keep their shows going. Sound and video editing became staples of the business overnight, and many queens continued to thrive. I can’t speak for how it affected the industry overseas, but I think individual drag scenes here went as their states’ COVID response went. Some states opened more quickly than others, allowing for more in-person drag, like in Florida. However, the biggest drag scenes in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago remained closed for a long time. Like I said before, we lost some wonderful venues in New York City, and I know LA did as well.
In the short term, I think we will have to live with smaller crowds, social distancing, and masks, but I hope this experience isn’t lost on the drag community in the long run. That ingenuity that necessity sparked can continue even as we return to the clubs. I hope digital drag remains a tool in performers’ toolbox.
If you can’t get a gig, create your own. If you don’t have a bar in your town, find a venue to host drag. The past year has shown us that drag can be so much more than working for tips and drink tickets, and I am excited to see how this period of uncertainty helps to evolve the art form going forward.
DragAdventures: One day, we all will get to go out dancing and be happy and crazy with our friends on a dancefloor somewhere in the world again – we can’t wait to dance to UK Hun sooner than later … Speaking of music: Which songs can’t be missing from your “First Night Out Post Pandemic Playlist”?
CF: Is there honestly any other song besides Agatha All Along?
DragAdventures: While we wait for 2021 to get its sh*t together, let’s talk about something amazing that happened for you back in 2019 aka the year that saw Werrrk get a huge accolade being selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in their LGBTQ+ archive! How did that feel to have such a huge achievement ticked for the website and what would be some other goals you still want to reach with your media group?
CF: I have to be honest. When I got the email notification, I thought it was fake. I figured a Nigerian prince would be asking me for money next. But once I verified its realness, the honor (or honour, as you would say) actually caused me to take a step back and really reflect on what it all meant. In just under five years, we had gone from starting out from scratch to putting together something that the United States Library of Congress deemed an important enough part of the LGBTQ+ story to be preserved in their archive. It’s really a tribute to the entire team, and it certainly made all the work we’ve put into the site even more worthwhile.
Obviously, continued growth is a perpetual goal. I would like to continue to create more opportunities for myself, my team, and our brand. This past winter, we launched WERRRK for Change, our new charitable wing of the site. I put together a digital drag show called Winter WerrrkFest which featured over twenty drag performers and was hosted by my best friend and sister Strawberry Fields. We raised $350 to benefit the Transgender Law Center and I’m hoping we can continue to do more good for the community via WERRRK for Change.
Another thing we have begun to prioritize of late is our YouTube channel, WERRRK.tv. We’ve been able to use our reach to give a platform to drag artists that they might not be able to have just starting their own channel from scratch. So hopefully, that will continue to evolve and gain momentum.
Dragadventures: You recently launched WERRRK.tv, another notch to add to the expansion of the website, what made you launch the show, and what direction would you love the channel to go in?
CF: WERRRK.tv is our new domain to make it easier than ever for people to get to our YouTube channel! Our channel has been around pretty since we launched the site, but mostly it was used to house our on-site coverage of DragCon, interviews, and other events we ran through the site. With everything changing due to the pandemic, we made the decision to open to drag performers everywhere who might have a smaller reach on their channels or no channel of their own at all. I find that YouTube is a challenging platform to grow your subscribers if it’s not your primary daily social media. So by opening it up to more people, we hoped it would give them additional exposure to new audiences via our existing subscriber base.
During quarantine alone, we featured an amazing, gorgeously-produced, multiple-episode drag competition out of northern California called Into the Draglands, Heidi Haux’s absolutely incredible one-woman show First Haux: The Rise of Dr. Jill, a combination drag-burlesque-variety show called Holy Hell, Pattaya Hart’s Miss Gay America 2021 Dragathon which was an epic 24-hour long drag event, and the first-ever event put on by our new charity wing of the site, WERRRKforChange.org, Winter WerrrkFest: A Digital Celebration of the Holiday Season Benefiting the Transgender Law Center. I would humbly ask everyone to head to WERRRK.tv right now and click subscribe because there’s plenty more to come!
Dragadventures: You’re using the channel to showcase queens who are starting out or directing viewers to their platforms. What are some of the shows that are currently in the pipeline?
CF: Well, we’re loaded with regular content already! Strawberry Fields. has conducted over two hundred interviews with some of the biggest drag stars in the world for her Backstage ‘Berry series. Her playlist is getting so long, I’m actually planning on breaking it down by year soon.
We also feature two amazing podcasts on our channel, the Glam Award-nominated Wigging Out podcast hosted by Martyr and C. Tepper and the new Too Soon? podcast with Malaiya Marvel, Lenda Jo, and Jemma Stone.
Also, we have had live drag performances each week with Two Girls One Show starring Cherry Poppins and Elise Navy-Dad. Easily Baked starring my drag…gulp….granddaughter Pussy Willow. DragBox TV starring Cissy Walken and friends. And, our newest mini-series, Fitness Fridays with Mona Moore!
Whew, I’m exhausted typing all that, but honestly, we have so much great content on our channel for drag fans, and it’s all free! Even in a pandemic, you can afford free! As for the pipeline, all I can say is stay tuned because we have some big announcements to come!
Dragadventures: If you could put on your own TV format, what would it be called and what would be its content?
CF: I’m pretty sure any show with me would be canceled pretty quickly, but given a chance, I feel like a combination of interviews, variety, and sketches would work nicely for me. It would be like a combination of a late-night talk show and The Muppets, only with more tucking. Disney+, Netflix, HBO, Oprah, if you’re listening, call me!
DragAdventures: Thank you again for agreeing to being interviewed by us – any ‘last words’ you want to leave us with?
CF: First off, thank you for having me. I love what you both are doing with Drag Adventures, and we’re grateful to have you as a part of the WERRRK.com family. I’d also like to encourage everyone to trust the science and get vaccinated when they can, so the LGBTQ+ community can be together again soon.
As for last words, I’ve always been partial to “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”
If you don’t already please do go follow werrrk.com it’s offered some fantastic opportunities, and is the best stop for everything LGBTQ+
And also please go follow the icon that is Chiffon Dior:
Facebook: @ Chiffondior