Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mona Lott: Drag Empress of Denver Talks Upcoming Projects, RuPaul's Drag Race, and the History of Drag

By Drew Wilson

Westword says she's "less of a Drag Queen than a Drag Empress" and Out Front named her 2014's Outstanding Drag Queen. Now, Mona Lott is gearing up for her biggest year ever as she launches a new show, works on a web series, and revs up her engine for a possible run on RuPaul's Drag Race.

Drew: Mona, you're everywhere. You must be the hardest working drag queen in Denver!
Mona: I love being busy. I always say I’m not happy until I’m so busy I’m miserable. Basically right now I have three shows – bingo, Stripped Down Stand Up, and now the game show. I’m also working on trying to get booked on some cruise ships. Oh, and I just started working on a web series

Wow. Tell me about the new show.
Mona Lott's Big Fat Dirty Game Show is gonna be a ton of fun. It's the game show for the socially unacceptable!

With my bingo show we used to play little side games like strip-bingo or swing-that-thing where we tied strap-on dildos to people who would have to use them to knock over bowling pins while blindfolded. It was so much fun I just thought, why not put together a game show without the bingo? 

Have you always been such a go-getter?
I’ve been pursuing acting since I was in junior high school. The best advice I ever got was when I read a book by someone who basically said "don’t wait around for someone to cast you in a show, don’t wait to be discovered by a director, get out there and put on your own showcase'. I realized that for me to sit around and wait for somebody to book me is a waste so I just started putting my own shows together. 

It started in Vegas. I was living in Vegas and working as a singing gondolier at The Venetian. We got laid off for six weeks and I read a book on how to be a stand up comic. Then I saw a casting notice that came out for stand up comics and I thought what the hell I’ve got six weeks to come up with something so wrote a set and put together Mona Lott. I went and auditioned and ended up doing the show for two years.

From there I went into LA and did The Comedy Store and The Improv. I also did The Gong Show on Comedy Central, 1 Versus 100 with Carrie Ann Inaba and some other things

You make me want to be a more productive person. So tell me more about Mona Lott.
She’s pretty raunchy but not actually dirty. It’s mostly innuendo and wink-wink. She just says and does anything she wants to do. I had a guy tell me once that he thought a lot of drag queens were scary but there's something about Mona that's charming and not scary. I think that's perfect.

How long have you been in Denver?

I grew up in Denver. It’s my hometown. Then my partner and I lived in Vegas for six years and we’ve been back now for about three years. We had a big debate because I wanted to go to Los Angeles and he wanted to come back to Denver. Of course, in my heart, I wanted to come home to Denver, too. But I wanted to go to LA because everything was popping and my career was taking off. 

I thought if we came to Denver my career would be over. But we came back to Denver and I’ve actually gotten more work and more money than ever before. Denver’s really a hotbed for comedy right now. It’s competitive with New York and LA. So much comedy and so many comedians. There are at least one or two open mic nights every night of the week and different comedy shows every night of the week. It’s really amazing.  

What are your shows like?
I play to a lot of straight audiences, particularly straight women. And I’ve been heckled but you can turn them around if you can make them laugh and show them, like, I’m not a threat to you and you’re not a threat to me. You make them laugh about universal things and the things that make them think they're against you and you can turn it around. I’m a 300-pound man in a dress. Let’s joke about it. We're all people just trying to get along. You can accomplish so much with humor. I got out of so many fights in junior high by being funny.

Casting for season 8 of RuPaul's Drag Race was recently announced. Do you follow the show?
Follow it? I live for it! The first season I actually had a casting agent contact me and ask me to submit. So I submitted a video and didn’t hear anything for like eight months. Then I got an email that they were considering me but they wanted more information. So I answered some questions and sent them back but never heard anything. 

Then the next year they sent me another email and said they wanted me to submit again. Submitted another video. Didn’t hear anything.
When I finally saw some of the submission videos from the queens who were actually on the show I was like 'Oh, that’s why I’m not on the show'. My submission videos sucked. They were so bad. 

So now we’ve really been working toward getting on the show but now the submission and video requirements are just crazy. She wants to see 10 different looks; walk the runway; lip synch to two of her songs; perform another talent; she wants to see your match game celebrity. It’s crazy involved. That’s kind of how my web series came about. I was just looking to do some music videos for my songs and I thought I could use them for my submission tape and put them on YouTube but once I started getting the crew and everything together I thought, why stop with just a music video? Why not do a sketch comedy show with music videos as a segment?
Sharon Needles and Jinkx Monsoon

Who are your all time favorite contestants?
I really liked Sharon Needles when she was on the show. Since then I’m not that big of a fan but when she was on the show I really liked what she was doing. The fact that she was showing up the others who were giving her such a hard time ... like that Phi-Phi whatshername. Oh, I hated her. Little miss Phi Phi. 
Phi Phi O'Hara

And I really liked that one that won the next season - Jinkx. I didn’t understand all the girls on her season who got so mad at her. They kept talking about, 'oh, these girls with all these tricks keep winning' and I was like, you mean those tricks like talent? Tricks like singing and acting and comedy? Why are you mad about that? She’s winning because she’s more talented. The ones you should be mad at are yourselves for not being able to sing or act or whatever!

Right? If there’s anything I hate it’s being in a competition with people who are better than I am!
Jinx showed them what real talent is! Drag isn’t just about putting on a pretty dress and flouncing around. 

What would you say drag is about?
I actually wrote a long letter to Liz Cheney when she made her remarks about drag being offensive

The fact of the matter is that drag came about because there was a time in the country when you couldn’t be gay and you couldn’t be out. That’s when we first started talking about each other as 'she' and 'her' and talking about our boyfriend as our girlfriend because we had to hide it from people who weren’t in the know. 

That way you could talk openly by saying 'oh, I’m going with my girlfriend tonight' and your friends knew what you were talking about but the bigot next to you didn’t. And I think that’s where drag kind of came about. And that's how Stonewall came about. You weren’t allowed to have two men dancing so if one of them could do drag and pass as a women you were ok to dance with them. 

I get so mad when I hear people every year during Pride talking about 'why does the media focus on drag queens? That’s not who we are. They don’t represent us'. You girls better get on your frickin’ knees and thank these drag queens for what they’ve done. They do represent our community. You wouldn’t have this parade if not for those drag queens back in 1968!

Amen. 100 percent.
Drag queens are on the front lines of every fight there is - look at the Imperial Court here in Denver. These queens are doing shows all the time to raise money for gay students, AIDS, Project Angel Heart, you name it! And I don’t know how many thousands of dollars I’ve helped raise. Since January I’ve done two charity shows to raise money for MS. I get so mad when I hear people talking down about drag queens. 

Preach, sister. Is there anything else you'd like to say?
Yes, I’m jealous of you and all your twitter followers. You must have a big dick.