We had the good fortune of connecting with Cucu Chanel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cucu, why did you pursue a creative career?
I chose to pursue an artistic and creative career because I felt like it was my outlet to effectively create change. As a drag queen, if I can create a space online or in the entertainment world where people feel safe, where people see themselves reflected for the first time, where people find their ideas challenged or renewed, then I think I have done what I set out to do. As fun as it is to get dressed up in all these cute outfits and put on the long blonde wig, I think drag is about so much more. By dressing this way and donning the character of Cucu Chanel I am becoming everything I was told a boy or a man isn’t; yet, wipe off the lipstick, and there the boy is. Boom. Gender norms and the idea that gender is one certain thing is challenged and proven wrong. I did it, so can you, and so can everyone else. So wear what you want and be interested in the things that call to you, because pink and glitter is for boys as much as football and videogames are for girls. And I want to take things further than that. I want to incorporate all sorts of people that don’t feel seen or heard or respected in my drag. I want to collaborate with people with disabilities and have their stories told instead of some able-bodied actor’s Oscar-winning idea of that story. I want to showcase cultures that aren’t glorified by the countless white-washed gay media thresholds. Drag is an active way to defy standards, so why not defy and question them all? So how do I start that journey? I find the small things I can do now. Use makeup from BIPOC-owned brands, source wigs from local drag queens that have mastered the art of the hair hat, wear and promote custom jewelry from a small-business owner on Etsy. When my platform grows, then I can create content with people from all sorts of various backgrounds and share their art and their story; that can look like YouTube collaborations or podcast conversations. As long as the next step always includes the backbone idea of creating space for those left at the metaphorical kids’ table, then it’s a worthwhile journey. I can’t imagine being able to accomplish any of this if my career pursuit wasn’t artistic or creative. The arts are where ideas are born and explored and challenged, not the boardroom. The arts are where we connect with our most human instincts and experience emotion, not the breakroom water cooler. And no shade to corporate America because you’re all hard-working people doing jobs that sustain our livelihood; but if there were no arts, how would you unwind after a long day at the office?
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I chose to get serious about drag the month before a global pandemic, so it has been an interesting start. However, I think it is working to my advantage because my mind leans toward the production aspect of drag. Creating a photoshoot concept or filming videos comes naturally to me, so I still find myself busy during these times and always looking at what I can do next. I decided I didn’t need a gay bar to put on a performance, I’ll just film music video tributes and post them so anyone can watch at any time, and I am looking forward to expanding that series as I have just completed the first one. I’m also looking at YouTube and how I can get involved there. It’s a platform I have spent every day on for probably the last decade I imagine, so why not be a part of it? I also have my eyes on everyone’s favorite new obsession, TikTok. The hard part for me is being a perfectionist; I won’t do it unless I can do it right. so naturally I am in a curation stage where I am acquiring all the things I think I’d need to take on these new tasks flawlessly. I’d say that is the biggest challenge I face as well as the biggest lesson I’ve learned. Being a perfectionist is hard and letting go is even harder, but I am learning that nobody expects perfection, they just expect authenticity. The more authentic my content and I are, the more responsive people will be. I don’t have to fit any particular mold of people I think have done it right, I just have to do it and do it my way. With that being said, I have a lot to be proud of, but I think I’m particularly proud of the personal growth this year. I look back at content from earlier this year and compare it to what I’m working on now, and It’s such a change for the better. I can see myself growing into the character of Cucu Chanel and getting better at finding ways to incorporate my overall message, and the makeup is looking better too (insert winky face). I was also very proud to be an ambassador for the nationwide Drag Out The Vote campaign. this amazing non profit had a mission to get young people, specifically young queer people, registered to vote and to the polls. It was honor to be part of something so historic.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I feel like it’s my personal responsibility to bring everyone I know to a good drag show! There are so many places all over Southern California, it’s almost hard to narrow it down. If I had to pick some favorites: Lips in San Diego, Hamburger Mary’s Long Beach, Executive Suite in Long Beach, Micky’s in WeHo (really all of Santa Monica Blvd in WeHo), and sooo many amazing places that have unfortunately closed during the pandemic. Besides the world of drag, I think it’s always fun to do something in nature. I love Descanso Gardens in LA and other nature preserves for a good afternoon walk. The beaches in San Diego just can’t be beat, so of course you have to have a beach day if you’re in town. Head out to the desert and take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway because that’s insane, but so worth it once you’re at the top. Also, all of the Balboa area in San Diego is prime fun-time. I mean you have the zoo, park, all the museums and so much more. It’s a must.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My drag would be nothing without the support of my amazing family. Mom, Dad, Laurie, Nana, and everyone else… THANK YOU! To my best friend and partner in crime, Mackenzee Osborne, I literally would not have a drag persona to show without all your help. There’s no other photographer or executive assistant out there like you. To Eddie, thank you and I love you. Your support and eyeshadow passion make me the woman I am. And Isabella Xochitl, thank you for all the help and encouragement and wisdom.
Cucu Chanel photographed by Mackenzee Osborne