We couldn’t be more excited or thrilled to present Gay Desert Guide readers our pick for this week’s Man Crush Monday spotlight. There is no question in anyone’s minds the immeasurable contributions drag performers and the drag community make on our entire community; miss Rusty Waters is outstanding in such great company.
GDG: When did you first discover Drag? How old were you and describe the scene for us.
RUSTY: I was 19 at the time and went with a dear friend to Ozz Supper Club in Orange County. Tommi Rose was performing her show that night and I was fixated on how fabulous the show and performers were. I was very curious how I would look in drag. After the show my friend and I talked with Tommi about setting up a drag makeover and the rest is history.
GDG: Did you know from that moment when you were introduced to drag, this would be your calling?
RUSTY: definitely not. I thought it would be fun just to see what I looked like, and after I did, I was very curious to see if I could complete the transformation on my own and the idea of learning a new form of art took hold. It wasn’t until Tommi put me onstage to perform for the first time that I knew this was something I would always want to do.
GDG: Like pop stars, movie stars, and sport stars, to me is seems Drag is growing into its own space worthy of stardom. It supplies the growing demand from audiences through television, music, film, celebrity culture, marketing, community events, competitions, bridal showers, brunch, bingo, and even book readings for very lucky little kids. This doesn’t feel like Dame Edna’s drag anymore. Are drag queens destined for million dollar Pepsi deals? Would something like that be widely accepted in the drag community?
RUSTY: you see drag becoming more and more mainstream day after day. But even within the gay community, drag has had massive ups and downs in popularity and acceptance. The pendulum always seems to swing. I think drag will continue to be more accessible until it’s everywhere and loses some of the novelty and excitement to mainstream culture. It will always persevere because that’s what queens do.
GDG: With every stage performer who totally owns it – from the stage to the audience member reacting in the moment, I always wonder where the courage and the ability to perform in such a confident and pronounced way comes from. I’m even more intrigued when the person who performs drag is actually shy and introverted when out of drag. Where does the persona of a commanding stage performer come from and where does it go when the show is over?
RUSTY: honestly, no one really knows! It seems to just be something within us all that the stage and an audience brings out of us. I truly am an introvert preferring to be home alone with a book and a bubble bath to being out at clubs partying with people, but I love getting on stage to engaging with an audience as well.
GDG: Beyond the right hair and flawless makeup, you bring a seriously stellar stage performance multiple times per week – including choreographed numbers with other drag performers, you have to pick the right song, learn the song, design gowns and stage fashion for each performance – not just every show, and always give the audience more of a performance than they could have hoped for. And in case that wasn’t pressure enough, this is a big reason why customers come back to the same venue every night. I guess my question is, were you happy to have the last year off to catch up on soap operas and sleep, and to just to not be so busy and in-demand doing all that you typically do? Is it hard to get that momentum going again after an entire year?
RUSTY: it was my first vacation in 5 years!! So yes in some regards it was lovely. But honestly I didn’t really stop working. I just put that energy into different projects such as starting my own drag jewelry business “touch of elegance jewelry” which can be found on Facebook under the same name. So I’ve been designing and making jewelry and doing live online auctions every Monday night at 5pm PST.
GDG: Speaking of Dame Edna….Is there a future of next-generation Dame Ednas, or is drag of the future so highly competitive & physically-demanding in the way that dance and athletics are, that Dame Edna will be like the Dolley Madison in a Doja Cat world? (I certainly mean no disrespect to Dame Edna – both Dame and Dolley were change makers for their time worthy of infinite respect.)
RUSTY: I think a sharp wit and an ability to be entertaining on the microphone while engaging an audience will never go out of style no matter what audiences want to see in drag performances.
GDG: Imagine the skies the limit, so as far as your imagination wants to go, what would you like to create or do professionally that you haven’t yet? Now, for you personally, how would you put your imagination to work for yourself?
RUSTY: a scripted comedy series a la golden girls and designing women that showcased realistic but comedic stories about drag queens in and out of drag living their lives and doing their jobs.
GDG: How much do you love Wynonna and Dolly Parton????
RUSTY: more than most! Wynonna Judd is an icon and such a down to earth person. It was such an honor just to meet her and I was floored when she gave me her rhinestones gloves she had worm onstage because I was, as she put it, the best Wynonna impersonator she had ever seen.
Dolly is my absolute icon and I still think she is the only celebrity that I think I would become tongue tied, star struck and completely fall all over myself if I ever had the opportunity to meet her. Dolly truly IS the reason Rusty Waters exists….but that’s a story for another day…
Very clever – in the way fitting for a queen of drag – to leave us with a Dolly cliffhanger. Clever and smart with a heart of gold is miss Rusty Waters. And what better way is there to honor a heroic legend like Dolly Parton. Thank you, Rusty Waters, for every bit you gave us in this Man Crush Monday spotlight.