PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO BABYHOUSE @babyhousenewyork @anothertomorrowagency
INTERVIEW JESPER GUDBERGSEN @yessirjesper
HAIR SHIN ARIMA @shinarima @homeagency
MAKEUP LARAMIE @laramiemakeup @homeagency
PRODUCTION NADJA LA COUR @nadjalacour
How did the name Desmond is Amazing come about? It’s obviously very fitting, but we’d love to know the story
After a video of me marching in the 2015 NYC Pride March went viral, my family and I received a lot of hate online, so a friend of my mom’s created a facebook group to create some positivity around me and named it “Desmond is Amazing”. It just kind of stuck as my performer name, it’s unusual, but I like things that way.
You’ve had such a strong presence on social media for years now, with a massive following as well. How do you feel that experience has been different from that of your peers ?
I am very grateful to have the platform that I have because it allows me to reach so many people and hopefully inspire them to be themselves. On social media, I see a lot of LGBTQ+ youth and drag kids look up to me so I try to be a positive role model to them. I think growing up as a public figure you have to grow up faster than everyone else because you are expected to be mature and professional online and in public and events. There is a lot of pressure to be perfect and never make mistakes or else you might get cancelled. That is a BIG difference from my peers.
How do you navigate the online world? Do you ever find yourself struggling, or feeling lost within its constraints? Do your friends?
I don’t really have any issues navigating the internet because there hasn’t been a time in my life when there wasn’t the internet unlike people like my parents who are generation x. I don’t feel like I struggle with the internet but there are a lot of toxic people online. I mostly ignore them or try to turn their negativity into positivity. There have always been, and will always be, bullies. What my generation has to deal with is the reality that it’s easier to be a bully online I guess.
You speak about how drag can be such a powerful tool of self love and learning how to express yourself. What else does drag mean to you?
Drag is an artform. It makes me feel proud. You can express yourself through drag however you want and it doesn’t have to be the same every time or be perfect. Its really based on what you’re feeling that day. Being able to take those inner feelings and bring them to your drag is what its all about, at least in my experience. I know others who do drag and it is all about creating a drag character for them. When I do my makeup I just choose the colors that I am feeling that day and sometimes I put on a lot of makeup and sometimes I will just put on lipstick. I don’t always wear wigs either. I feel most comfortable with my natural hair in drag and some people look down on that but it’s my drag and my expression so I don’t really care what they think. Everyone has an opinion. There’s a million different ways people can do drag.
When you first started doing drag, was there ever a moment where you felt like you were everything you were supposed to be? What did that introduction to yourself feel like?
I’ve always been free to be me and encouraged to make my own choices so whenever I would get into drag it always felt right for that moment. I’ve never regretted any of my looks. Each one meant something because it was what I wanted to do that day. Yeah, there have been times when I’ve gotten annoyed. Maybe I had to wear a wig for an event and would have rather gone without one, but in the end, its not that big of a deal. I understand that people have expectations of what I should wear for specific events or photo shoots. It’s just part of being a public figure. I’ve always wondered if people like JoJo Siwa actually like wearing ponytails and bows all the time or if she does it because that’s what the public wants and expects. Thankfully, I’ve always felt like myself so I’ve never had that “introduction to myself” moment.
Imagine for a second that you didn’t have this platform, or thousands of fans. What do you think your life would look like? What would you want it to be?
Before I went viral, I was just dressing up and doing my own thing. I wasn’t really thinking about what anyone thought. I wasn’t even thinking about the world outside of my school and house. When I went viral, everything changed in my life. Everyone had something to say about me, and my photos and videos were everywhere. In a way it was kind of embarrassing, and scary, and it felt like the whole world was watching me. But there are times where all love love and positive support and compliments feel amazing. I’ve gotten used to the fame now and it’s hard to imagine what life would be like without it. I think I’d just be doing the same things I am doing now. Still doing drag and playing lots of video games all day, just without the famous part. I would definitely miss being a model which I enjoy a lot .
Tell us how you come up with your looks! What is the process like, from initial idea, to execution and feeling happy with the final result? Where do you find inspiration, what are some ways you figure out how to accomplish your vision and how does the process make you feel?
My looks depend on what I am doing the drag for. If I am doing the drag for just an everyday look then I might pull together an outfit from my drag closet. Sometimes I sketch out ideas in my fashion design notebooks and me and my mom go to the garment district to find the materials and make the outfits. If it is for an event then I will probably go shopping to pick out something sparkly. I also like to do impressions for my drag, especially for lip syncs. If i’m going for a specific look, like a Gwen Stefani look, then i’ll study what she was wearing and my mom and I will try to find similar clothes and a matching wig. I think if I had to choose, “Just a Girl” by No Doubt would be my all time favorite song to lip sync to. Sometimes I just like to do weird looks, like the time I did a drag frog outfit. I was trying to imagine a drag version of Kermit the frog. I even hot glued pieces of felt on a pair of shoes so they looked like frog feet! Other times, I like to go to second hand stores and just pick out things that I like. My favorite stores are Out of the Closet and Beacon’s Closet. It all just depends on how I’m feeling. In general, my drag inspiration comes from the club kids, artists, the city I live in, songs I like, drag queens, and RuPaul. The process of creating something feels amazing of course!
What are some of your favorite moments you’ve experienced through drag so far?
I have so many favorite moments! One of them was when I got to meet RuPaul and cut the ribbon with him at DragCon NYC. Without RuPaul, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Seeing myself on a billboard in Times Square was definitely something I’ll never forget either. Another moment was when Madonna followed me on Instagram because she is ICONIC! Some of my favorite moments are just meeting kids like me. At the Pride Marches, I like to high five all the kids I see dressed up in like tutus or holding pride flags. It just makes me feel really good, and I hope I’m inspiring them to keep being themselves in some way. I also felt really grateful when I was awarded the Marsha P. Johnson award from NYC Pride. Marsha is one of my biggest inspirations so that really meant a lot to me.
The world has been such a different place for all of us in the last year – how have you found new ways to continue your activism, performing and everything else you do ?
I’ve had to switch to doing virtual events. Its been hard adjusting to lip syncs virtually since i’m so used to having an audience and I really miss that. The energy that you get when you are actually performing and can feel everyone around you just isn’t there in the same way, so in terms of performing I am not sure it is as impactful. But also I have been able to do things that I couldn’t do in person. For example, I’ve been doing Zoom meetings with a lot of schools all over the USA and even Canada. Being able to talk to the kids is amazing, and I don’t even have to travel to visit them! I was supposed to do a book tour last year but it was cancelled due to the pandemic and that was probably the worst part of last year. But no matter what situation we are in, I will find a way to keep doing what I love.
Gallup released a new study recently, finding that the amount of Americans over eighteen who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community has grown to 5.6%, up more than one percentage point in under 5 years, Can you tell me your thoughts on how you think we are becoming more comfortable expressing our true selves – why do you think it is changing so quickly these days?
Well, I think that people have been fighting for LGBTQ+ rights for a long time and not backing down, so people feel bolder to fight for their rights, and even LGBTQ+ youth feel like they should fight for their rights. I think people just get really tired of the injustice and inequality and want to make real changes and progress. Now, people find others like themselves online and that gives them a sense of belonging. People feel more confident when they have a community than when they feel like they are different and alone. I’m glad that people are now much more able to find their true selves.
What are some ways you think your generation is thinking differently about self-expression?
I think that the more we see inclusivity and diversity on tv, in movies, schools, books, online, magazines, advertisements then the more we feel like it is easier to express ourselves. I think that my generation just doesn’t care what other people think that much. Representation matters! We’re also not afraid to speak up.
When all the lights are turned off and you are not “on” – when and where do you find moments of beauty and happiness ?
Video games! They make me feel happy and some of them make me feel beautiful like a supermodel. My favorite video game is Roblox. I also like a game I play on my phone called High Heels. Talking to my friends makes me very happy too. I’ve been learning to roller skate which has been fun and it’s been really nice to get out of the house. But honestly, at the end of the day when I’m done, it feels amazing to just go home. I like being chill when I’m not performing or doing Desmond is Amazing stuff.