Oral History with Natasha Noir Nightly / Lane Wagner

Special Collections at UNC Asheville
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00:00:00 - Natasha Preinterview material

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Partial Transcript: Tina White: (silence)
Good morning?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Good morning.
Tina White: Give me one second just to arrange a couple things. How are you?
Natasha Noir Ni...: I'm good. How are you?
Tina White: [inaudible] I'm pretty good. I'm tired of... I can't wait till we get through November.
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah, I bet
Tina White: It's just wearing me out. So what is the job you have now?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Right now I'm serving tables at Storm Rhum Bar downtown.
Tina White: Oh, yes. Now I remember... [Govinda] was telling me about it. I had just forgotten for a second. I'm getting old.
Natasha Noir Ni...: It's okay. It's not really... It's not ideal, but it's paying the bills right now.
Tina White: I was going to ask you... I used to wait on tables and with COVID is it just... from a waiter's perspective how has COVID affected-
Natasha Noir Ni...: It's hard. It's really hard. We're at half capacity so all of our tables are... every other one is closed, and people can't come in if they have a temperature over 99-
Tina White: Oh, you take their temperature?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah, we take their temperature at the door. [inaudible] Yeah, which people get pissed off at. They can't walk around any public space unless they have a mask on. We have to wear a mask and gloves the entire time we're on our shift. The way we serve tables is different now because we have to obviously take an order from like six feet back. I try and touch stuff as little as possible on the table. It's tough. It's really tough.
Tina White: Actually, it occurs to me let's say... And Did I lose you? Why? No, my monitor went blank, I don't know why. Anyway, and how is married life?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Oh, it's good. We're good.
Tina White: I wasn't going to ask. I mean I knew it'd be a nice answer.
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah.
Tina White: Would have been awkward if it wasn't. [inaudible] I'm sitting here looking for my pad and I'm sitting here with it one inch from me. Have you ever had that? I remember one time I was talking to someone on the phone and I said something like I was so used to using the phone though as a computer. I'll get back to you when I can find my damn phone because I was looking for it the whole time I'm talking to [inaudible] but as soon as I said it I went, "Oh, wow."
Natasha Noir Ni...: I did that but luckily I was talking to my mom on the phone, so it wasn't anybody important.
Tina White: On a separate note I'll let you know... and this is very chancy at the moment but... and I think I've mentioned it before, [Buch] and I have realized that we can't do things that we want to with just... now that we're doing so much more with all volunteer and so-
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah.
Tina White: I am trying to think about how we would craft someone in a paid role to play something, and I'd love to talk to you about that at some point but-
Natasha Noir Ni...: Would that help?
Tina White: Okay, I would love if you have the time off the cat.
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah, they're going to be in and [crosstalk]
Tina White: I would love to do two interviews if we could, and one would be for the oral history.
Natasha Noir Ni...: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Tina White: And that's your interview in the sense that it's telling whatever story you want and that's for Blue Ridge Pride. The other one is putting on for me a different hat, and for the Asheville View interviewing you as... If I say as a member of the drag community does that... is that a term you would use or just... Okay, it just occurred to me I realized I don't know if you guys think of yourself as a community, like when people say [inaudible]
Natasha Noir Ni...: Right, exactly. Yeah, no it's a community as much as we hate each other sometimes.
Tina White: I've noticed. I'd love to talk to... and then in that one... and it's fine if they overlap, but in that one what I'll be interested in are a couple things. One, I want to... that's why I stopped on your job because [inaudible] actually I think it'd be a great thing for you to talk about what it's [inaudible] about giving them a dose reality. Then the other thing I'd like to talk about is where the audience now are people who are not LGBTQ.
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah.
Tina White: Who don't go to see drag and I want to talk more about the... not the style and the fashions and all that start, more and more the life in the business in the [crosstalk] and stuff like that. Which one do you want to do first?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Whichever. It doesn't bother me.
Tina White: Okay. Why don't we start with you and let me... and I'm going to go by... did you... I didn't look, did you have a chance to just fill in that little intake form?
Natasha Noir Ni...: I did the intake form, I couldn't sign the release form. It said that I needed permission to access it. So, I requested permission but I couldn't actually sign it.
Tina White: Okay, I'll send you permission-
Natasha Noir Ni...: Okay.
Tina White: Let me write that down. I wonder if I sent you permission to sign... because you shouldn't have to have that. If when you get it so as to... you had to have permission to sign it not, you could open it you just couldn't sign it.
Natasha Noir Ni...: I couldn't open it either.
Tina White: Oh, wow. So it's to open or sign form. Okay, I will work on that and then you probably know your way around computer so you can upload it. If you say that... if you have any difficulty or worst cases, you just take a picture with your phone and send it to me or whatever. So, I'm going to... And we're there things just to help me... My goal is to play a lighter role in this interview as possible so that it comes across as a narrative and some people just need a little help.
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah.
Tina White: Are there like... Well, I think you'll be fine, so I won't even... How do you want me for this interview to name you?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Lane or Natasha, either or-
Tina White: Okay, so I'll just-
Natasha Noir Ni...: Or both.
Tina White: Is it just Natasha Noir Nightly?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah.
Tina White: Okay, and that's your code drag name, right?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah, yeah.
Tina White: I think I'll say with Lane Wagner, aka Natasha Noir Nightly
Natasha Noir Ni...: That works, yeah.
Tina White: Okay. This is just my intro for sort of identifying the interview, I'm just going to repeat this information.
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah.
Tina White: What year were you born?
Natasha Noir Ni...: 1994.
Tina White: Okay. God damn it! I hate young people, because I want to have been born then. What city?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Indianapolis, Indiana.
Tina White: Oh, really?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Tina White: Did you live there a long time? I guess I'm going to find out in a few minutes.
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah, I lived there for eight years and then we moved to West Lafayette, Indiana for another eight.
Tina White: Wow. Okay. Well, actually I won't make an assumption, preferred pronouns?
Natasha Noir Ni...: They/them.
Tina White: Okay. You've been living in Asheville... Are you living in Asheville?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah, I think I'm coming up on seven years now.
Tina White: Okay. Okay, great. Are you ready to begin?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah.
Tina White: Oh, it is recording. Okay, good. All right, I had... I did an interview not to scare you and it didn't record but the last two I've done recorded but-
Natasha Noir Ni...: Okay.
Tina White: And everything seems to be working. Okay. One other note, it'll be easy for us to cut whole segments of an interview. If you said later on I'd like you to take out that place name or something like that-
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah.
Tina White: Stuff that we can't do but it's... we can edit a transcript. It's harder to edit over or replace something in a tape, we can remove it. So if you get to something where you want to start over just say let's cut that and go back and that way-
Natasha Noir Ni...: Got you.

Keywords: drag

00:11:50 - Lane Wagner/Natasha Noir Nightly's Coming Out Story

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Partial Transcript: Tina White: Whoever's transcribing this will know that. Fantastic. Today is September 6. All right. Well, today is September 6, I am Tina White and I am talking to Lane Wagner also known as Natasha Noir Nightly. Lane was born in 1994 in Indianapolis, Indiana. They prefer pronouns they and them, and they have been living in Asheville for seven years. Lane, it's good to talk to you.
Natasha Noir Ni...: Good to talk to you too.
Tina White: Let me just open it up by saying... by asking how do you like to describe yourself to people?
Natasha Noir Ni...: What do I identify as sexuality or gender wise?
Tina White: Describe in the broadest sense if someone just said, "Tell me about you," Sort of how would you-
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah. Well, I am a non-binary pansexual person and I am a dancer. I'm a drag queen. I'm a sex educator and I like to do a lot of craft things. Yeah, I'm kind of like to describe myself as a person of many trades, expert of none.
Tina White: A renaissance they.
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah, exactly.
Tina White: So when you... this is about capturing your story, when you tell your story where do you like to begin?
Natasha Noir Ni...: It really depends on like what part of it I'm telling. I grew up in a really conservative part of Indiana. I was born in Indianapolis and lived there until I was about eight, and then my dad got a new job in West Lafayette right around where Purdue is and so we moved there, and I was there from eight until just before my 16th birthday. Those were like some really formative years because once you're eight or nine you get to like, go out and play and everything with friends and you don't have to... it's not like a play date anymore. I like to say that being born in like... Indiana was a good place to grow up but North Carolina was a good place to mature, because in Indiana the town I grew up in didn't even have a stoplight. We had a train track though it was so tiny.
The town we moved to, we ended up moving to Winston-Salem when we moved to North Carolina, and that was so much bigger and there was so much more to do, and there were so many people with different views on politics and all types of issues, that we actually moved to a more liberal place, moving down to the Bible Belt. So I didn't really come out until I was 16 after we had moved, maybe 17 and... but I had known that I was queer from very early on. Sorry, my computer's making weird noises, but I was afraid to come out because where I grew up in Indiana one of my best friends came out really, really early on, I think he came out in like fourth or fifth grade.
He was bullied mercilessly and like got dumped into a dumpster and was just generally physically harassed a lot, and even I as like a more feminine kid was... I was stabbed on our school bus. I had chunks of my hair cutoff at recess. People threw things at me. I got called so many horrific names, and the only gay people that I knew growing up was in Indiana at least was... there were a few in my high school but they all dropped out.
They all lived in the same apartment complex, and they all worked at either convenience stores or at the mall. That's what I thought happened when you came out, is that you couldn't go to school, you couldn't go to college. So it was not great and then I moved to... when we moved to Winston-Salem everybody was... everybody is queer. There was so many people who are out at my high school and I was so overwhelmed, because I thought we're going to be moving to the Bible Belt it's going to be awful, things going to be terrible, people are going to be worse about me being a feminine and they weren't, they were amazing and really awesome.
My choir teacher was gay and my band director was gay and he was married to the color guard instructor, and they were out and like had gone all the way through a master's program or higher education. It opened my eyes a lot to the fact that you could be queer and successful. I came out shortly thereafter because I realized that colleges wouldn't kick me out for being gay and so that was kind of nice. Yeah, so that was really like my coming to terms with myself.
Tina White: How did you come out? I mean was it a singular-
Natasha Noir Ni...: I came out in three days. I came out to my girlfriend at the time first which did not go well. I came out to my parents second, and my friend group third. My parents were super amazing about it, I'm very blessed to come from a very supportive family. I came down downstairs in like, tears telling my parents there's something really important I want to talk to you about. I don't know... it's a big deal I hope you're not mad with all this stuff, and I told them I'm like, "I'm not straight." And my dad goes, "And?" Okay. My mom was like, "Is that it? That's it? That's all?" Because finding out later, my mom thought that I had done something awful or like stole something, my dad thought there was gang activity or something. They were just immediate like worst case scenarios like, "Oh, he killed someone, it's fine." But yeah it was really, really... I'm blessed to have very supportive parents and after I came out a lot of my friends who came out and had not so great experiences with their parents would live with us for a little while.
My mom I like to say had a halfway hotel for all of Winston-Salem's queer youth. She would put anybody up in our spare room and feed them, make sure they got to school and did their homework and everything. So it was really amazing.
Tina White: You've been using the word queer a lot and I'm just curious. It only surprised me because I didn't know... was that the term in use then or are you just using today's term for that?
Natasha Noir Ni...: I'm using it kind of today's terms. For me queer is such like an umbrella term that I use it a lot when talking about most things in my life, because I don't really fit in a lot of specific boxes.
Tina White: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Natasha Noir Ni...: So having an umbrella term tends to fit me better just because I kind of like fluctuate between so many different specific identifiers that I don't really know if I can claim any of them. When I came out in high school I knew that I wasn't gay, but I also was like I don't know if I'm Bi and those are the only two things that you could be. So I use queer a lot when referencing younger me because there was a lot confusion with what I identified as, and so it kind of... it fits better back then as well, even though I know I wouldn't call myself queer back then. I probably would have identified as gay just because it was easier.
Tina White: At that time were there people or events or groups that played a particularly profound role in sort of you wrapping your head around your identity or your future?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah, I was in theater and I was in marching band, and I was in the color guard on the marching band. Like I said my band director was gay and he is married to the color guard instructor who's also gay, and they became some of my biggest role models in life let alone as a queer individual, and actually they ended up moving up to Asheville after I did. So I got to teach with them again and I got to live with them when I was a stripper for a little while, and they... I kind of described them as like my day uncles that I never had because they really helped me a lot. Then peer group wise the theatre department at my high school was super open and super welcoming. My theater teacher was a costumer and costume designer for a drag queen who was on tour for... I don't remember I think I was like five or six years.
So she was in Vegas doing costumes for a Vegas drag queen kind of thing, and so she told us stories about that, about performing. I learned costuming from her, learned a lot about specific costuming techniques, and she just fostered a really open and safe place. Then there were a lot of really amazing kids in both the theatre department and the color guard. I was bullied pretty intensely in Indiana so I came with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder to my new high school in North Carolina. A lot of times things would be said to me and I thought that I would need to be the one to like stand up for myself because I... my friend group back in Indiana didn't really stick out for me at all ever.
So when I moved here I was like, "I just met all these people they're not going to... if I have to fight somebody they're not going to be there for me. They're just going to watch just like my old friends did." And the first time anybody ever said anything sideways to me an entire group of like 14 to 16 year old girls like full on scream matched this guy into submission without me having to lift a finger. It was one of the most amazing things because it was like I found a community that would stick up for me, and actually would help out if I ever needed anything and I got closer to those people in a matter of weeks honestly. They were so amazing and so supportive and really like defined what I view as support and allyship because they were so amazing. We had things... we had a thing called Alt Prom in Winston-Salem, where it was put on by a community queer youth organization but it was always kind of weird, just because there was a lot of... it didn't really feel like a safe space just based off the other kids who attended.
I tried going like twice in my sophomore and junior year of high school and it just never felt right. I don't really know why I just never really felt comfortable in that specific space, and I don't know if it was because the people in attendance just weren't anybody that I would vibe with or the leadership was kind of back not really involved, but it was kind of a little strange. So I never really went to any of the community queer organizations in Winston-Salem. No.

Keywords: coming out; drag; non-binary; pansexual

00:26:13 - Bullying, moving to Asheville, and introduction to drag

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Partial Transcript: Tina White: What's it like inside? What happens to you inside? How does bullying affect someone? How did it affect you?
Natasha Noir Ni...: It made me so angry. I'd never really was afraid, I can't say but it definitely... I still deal with a lot of anger issues that I know come from when I was bullied. Like I've never been the fight or flight response. I've never been the flight, I've always been a fight and I really think that was partly because of how I was bullied when I was in elementary and middle school. It made me not really like trust people very easily and I react to things a lot of the times with anger, instead of being able to be calm and rational about it because if you got angry people would stop bothering you.
I kind of learned... because I've always been on the smaller side. I was a gymnast for a long time, but I never really like gained mass. I was always like the short skinny kid. So I was physically a lot smaller than a lot of my peers, than a lot of the people who were making fun of me but I kind of learned that if you are more petite, if you are crazy, people don't bother you because you're unpredictable and like it's unsafe.
So a lot of times I would kind of like spiral and put myself into this raving mad state where I was like throwing things and screaming, and running around and being really aggressive as much as I could. Just to kind of like put on [inaudible] to make people not hurt me because I was small, angry and loud. That kind of stuck with me all the way through now honestly, where I feel like if I'm ever threatened I start to get into that state and have to actually calm myself down to look at things rationally. So it's definitely stuck with me. I think there's less of a shame based approach to how I react to bullying mostly because I was petty enough to be like, "Well, I'm just going to be the biggest fag you ever saw if you're going to keep doing this." So I've never been shamed from being bullied it always... it just honestly gave me anger issues.
Tina White: So, what brought you to Asheville?
Natasha Noir Ni...: I was dating a guy in college. I started school at Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina and I was scholarshipped into a teaching program. It was a private school. It was super expensive and without the scholarship I couldn't afford to be there. I started dating this guy and we hit it off really well, he transferred into Catawba out of a super crazy Christian school. Then after my first year his first semester there, I did not like the teaching department. I didn't like what it was saying or what it was standing for. I didn't like the rules and regulations around teaching and it just wasn't a good fit for me, but I fell in love with sociology. So, I transferred out partly also because the guy I was dating wanted to transfer out.
So we were looking for programs that fit the both of us, and so we ended up at UNC Asheville, him for philosophy and me for gender studies and I won't say I regret it, but it was not the smartest decision for me to follow a boy, I'd never do that. So we ended up breaking up, he ended up transferring out of UNC Asheville and I just stayed. I graduated and had already made so many connections and community here that I didn't really want to leave. So I just kind of stuck around and haven't left yet.
Tina White: You're involved in the drag community, how did you get involved in that?
Natasha Noir Ni...: When I was 21 I was doing a little bit of modeling just to make some extra money for school and for food, and I kind of veered off a little bit into nude erotic modeling because it paid more. From there I got contacted I don't even remember on where, to be a go-go boy at O.Henry's, which is a gay club here in Asheville. I was a go-go boy for a couple months and just to make money for school and for a dance team that I was competing with, I needed gas money and food money. I met drag queens while I was a go-go boy there, and I noticed a lot of what they were doing and I appreciated the fact that their makeup was good, and their costumes were crazy but I thought I could do it better. It's just... honest with you, I thought I could do it better. So there was a student drag show at UNCA and so I entered in as Natasha Nightly and I painted my face for the first time and it was so bad.
I didn't know what I was doing. I kept my normal eyebrows. I was basically in bra and a skirt one of my friends gave me and a blonde party city wig. I didn't even have a beard then the first time I performed, and I performed as a trio with two of my girlfriends and we did like a Nicki Minaj song, I think, and I had so much fun. So the next time it came around I did it again but I did it as a solo. I'd picked the name Natasha Nightly again and I did Buttons by the Pussycat Dolls and still painted horribly, and in the picture of taking of myself I was in this $12 wig that I thought looked so good, Victoria's Secret bra that one of my friends gave me and a jean skirt that I made by myself. But in the process of making it I cut my finger really, really badly in my dorm but I didn't have bad days because I was a broke college kid.
So I wrapped it in a paper towel and then taped it up with red electrical tape and because I was doing drag, I put a nail on it like a stick on fingernail. So in the picture of me in the bathroom feeling myself with this horrible mug, you can see me holding my phone with this huge [ghazi] electrical tape with this [inaudible] dainty press on fingernail on top. So that was my first time performing solo, and I had to leave early because it happened on a Saturday and I danced at O. Henry's on Friday and Saturday.
So you can actually see a lot of the leg pole dance bruises on my side from go-go dancing in the drag picture too. Its just kind of dumb but from there I met... One of my best friends also did drag and they were so much better at it than I was. They were they painted beautifully, their whole face was just stunning. So we started hanging out more and doing makeup more. I started practicing on my own, and then I got adopted by a drag queen in town and that's where I picked the name... my middle name Noir.
We were house acrylic and we were all named after colors. So every drag queen had a color in their name and I kind of got whipped into shape a little bit, and I started back up dancing for some of the drag queens in town. And anytime a witch would drive show I would go in drag because there was... there were only two places to do drag at this point in Asheville drag history, and it was O.Henry's and Scandals and I started doing drag with a beard primarily because I was in a dance company, and I was known... we were known nationally and I was known for being the only guy on the dance team with a beard. So I had a whole fan following of people who knew me because of my beard. So I didn't want to shave it off when I started doing drag, because people knew me with a beard out of drag.
So I started doing bearded drag and everyone was like, "This is so revolutionary. You're an alt queen." So just kind of stuck. I never shaved for dragged for really vane reasons and then it turned into like a political statement. And then I started... I was with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence for a little while and I started kind of becoming more established I guess as a drag queen.
My first performance was a burlesque night at O. Henry's, it was called Cherry Bomb. So I did a cannibal themed... It was a Halloween show. So it was a cannibal themed drag number and that was my first like paid professional performance, and I started competing in talent shows after that and just kind of bit bopped around town here, Charlotte, Rock Hill and Johnson City. Then I got a call from Priscilla Chambers and she wanted me to perform in the second iteration of Party Foul at The Odditorium, and that's really where my drag got started. I helped get that show up and running. I kind of solidified myself as a good performer in town and I use that as a springboard to compete in Miss Blue Ridge Pride won my year. We've come a long way from cutting our finger off and sticking a fake nail on it.

Keywords: Coming to Asheville; O'Henrys; Odditorium; Scandals; bullying; drag

00:39:15 - Natasha speaks about Lane doing ballet and how drag has changed

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Partial Transcript: Tina White: Yes you have, holy cow. I guess it's that... Yeah, we shouldn't worry about pauses. So today and I don't mean like right now-
Natasha Noir Ni...: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Tina White: But what role does drag play in your... Well, tell me first what else you do in your life and then what role... is drag... for you is it just performing or what does it mean? Or as a community what does is it... what spot does it fill in your life?
Natasha Noir Ni...: So I am a professional dancer. I dance with the Asheville Ballet and I choreograph for them. I dance with a group in Charlotte called Martha Kinetic Works. I think that's their full name. So I tour some with dance. I was a professor at UNCA for dance for a while after I graduated. So I do a lot of performing not just drag but in general, and drag to me is a way of community activism honestly. That's really where I got my start in drag doing charity shows. So it's always been less about me and more about the community because as Natasha, I have an easier time having a platform than I do as Lane because if Lane stands up at a bar and starts yelling at people about consent, Lane is just a little white boy who's yelling. Whereas if Natasha is yelling about consent, people listen because she's a six and a half foot tall glitter monster. So it's just using the privilege that I have as male presenting by putting on a pair of heels, doing feminine presenting things because people tend to listen more.
So if I can utilize my gender studies degree while I'm on the mic talking to drunk people, it ends up doing more good in the community immediately, because I am all about safe space. I'm all about claiming space in wherever you are and as a drag queen, I'm kind of a symbol of claiming safe space because if a drag queen shows up somewhere and is paid to perform, that space is now advertising to the queer community and wants queer money, and if a drag queen does their due diligence that means they're not putting their community at risk. I really like to help my community know where is safe, where can I go and be myself and still have a good time. So, that's really what drag ends up being for me, it's like a... it's an amplifier for my own political views and a tool to claim queer space.
Tina White: Most of the people I've been talking to so far are in the autumn of their life.
Natasha Noir Ni...: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Tina White: And we spent a lot of time looking back on different periods, you're a spring chicken. You're in the spring of your life, and it would be interesting... project forward 30 years from now, and if you were reflecting on the last years... your last 10 years. How would you hope that you would be describing it in terms of its role for you and for... Well, not just your generation for society. What would be the book end for this period?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Sorry, what do you mean?
Tina White: I just mean how would you hope... People talk about the Vietnam War era or the protest era, how would you characterize or hope that you'll look back and characterize focusing on just Asheville and sort of what's happened in Asheville in the last 10 years, what's happening right now. How would you describe it?
Natasha Noir Ni...: Weirdly enough the last six or seven years for me being in Asheville, I think I would honestly describe it as the drag revolution. I'm only 26. I've been doing drag for five years now, and I feel like an old lady in the community. And it's so weird to say but drag generations... you can kind of group people who come out and start performing together as generations, and the queens in my generation changed a lot and started drag in places that didn't have it. And in my drag personas lifetime, Asheville went from having two places who've fought all the time constantly over drag and drag queens. We have drag in grocery stores now, like there is a show at Hopey & co. I get asked to do shows in pizza places, I get asked to do shows outside.
There is so much drag in Asheville now, we have a plethora of places and I feel like an old lady because a lot of these like younger [inaudible] and I hate using that term, but queens that have come out more recently they all of a sudden decide they're like, "Well, I put a wig on and I know how to do makeup. So that means I'm a drag queen, I'm performing and you need to book me and I deserve to be performing right now. Even though like I just got... I just ordered this costume on Amazon and my wig is the lace front, all these things that I know from RuPaul drag race it's perfect and you should book me." Whereas like, I went to hundreds of drag shows in drag before I was ever allowed on stage.
You had to beg to even be a backup dancer as a drag queen in a talent. It just took more work because there were only two places to perform, and now you have baby queens starting up shows when they have no business doing anything. They don't know anything about it. So I feel old in a sense that I am old enough to be like back in my day in drag when it was really only like three years ago. But it's changed so fast in the last seven years that if you don't want to hit wear hit pads, you don't have to wear hit pads. You don't want to wear boobs, don't wear boobs.
If you're going to paint like six eyes on your face with like one eyebrow unifying them all, that's valid, that's drag. Whereas myself and my sister and a lot of the queens that came out with us, I was considered revolutionary because I didn't shave but like you better believe I was still painting on a human face. I wasn't going out painting like a cat. I wasn't going out painting like a rabbit because no one would book me, that was not a thing.
We stepped up the weird level a little bit but a lot now is so far out there like alternative drag has taken a foothold recently, and I just think it's great but it... I definitely am going to look back 20, 30 years from now and like remember being in the pivot point generation of drag, really. It's amazing to see, and I'm glad to have been a part of it. I think it's evident that it did change based on the fact that I won Miss Blue Ridge Pride as a bearded queen. I was the first bearded queen in North Carolina to win a Pride title, if not the East Coast and that was like... to me that is just a testament to how much drag has changed since I started honestly.

Keywords: Drag; bearded queen

00:50:05 - Race in drag, marriage equality, Pride, and doing weddings

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Partial Transcript: Tina White: That's cool. You do sound middle aged when you talk about that. That's funny.
Natasha Noir Ni...: It's weird.
Tina White: What role... I'm trying to think of what question I'm really asking. What role has race played in your life and in the drag community?
Natasha Noir Ni...: So, in Indiana there were white people, more white people and because we were near Purdue there were some people of South Asian descent, but there were... and they're very few of those. When moving down south all of a sudden everything became a lot more diverse, and in turn actually became a lot more accepting. Weirdly enough I am of the opinion that just because we're in the south doesn't mean that everything is racist because there was a lot more overt racism up north than there was down here. Specifically in the drag community Asheville is a very whitewashed town, and that's reflected in the drag community as well.
There are not a lot of queens of color, Kings of color in Asheville and those that are, are sometimes [tokenised] and the fact that it's like, "Oh, we need a diverse cast, we're going to call either one of these two queens because we know that we need a person of color in the show." And it's not great because you... as someone who's been a show director, you want your cast to be diverse but you also can't expect those two drag queens to show up at every single thing because that's just exhausting.
So it's been tough to try and encourage a community that is more diverse because there's not a diverse community that's prevalent in Asheville that's interested in participating in drag. It's really... it's been really difficult to try and change that aspect of Asheville drag culture. I always... I want to, I just like... other than keeping places open and keeping the platform alive for anybody who wants to pursue drag to pursue it. I don't really know how I can change or how I can affect change in the community, and that's one of the biggest struggles I'd say in the Asheville drag. As like trying to make sure that we stay open, positive and supportive of performers of color, but also not knowing how to encourage more people of color to do drag.
Tina White: When you were at UNCA-
Natasha Noir Ni...: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Tina White: I believe the organization has changed its name, were you active in the Pride organization and what was it called then?
Natasha Noir Ni...: It was UNCA Alliance, I think the Alliance club and I was active in it sparingly I would say. When I was there it was not a place that I really found myself most comfortable, because when I got to college I was confident in myself. I had no insecurities about my sexuality. I was young, dumb and a huge slut and so I had no qualms, there was nothing I was processing. There was nothing I was emotionally working on, there was stuff I should have been emotionally working on but wasn't but I didn't know it at the time. The Alliance club was a lot of... at least when I was in school it was a lot of holding space for people who were recently out, or who were recently in a queer space and needed help with language. It was a lot of processing emotions and not a lot of celebrating who you were, and I was very much in the celebrating who I was stage of life and less so the processing who I was, and so I honestly like kind of brushed off Alliance because I was... I didn't need it.
They were offering services that I just didn't Personally need and so I was kind of off on my own doing my own thing for a long time. I always was there if they needed anything but the leadership was not my favorite when I was there. They were chronically... They didn't get a lot done and it kind of bothered me that things didn't get done, but I didn't want to become leadership because I knew that we'll be taking on a huge emotional burden, and I was not in a place that I knew that I could not be in a place for that. Since graduating they have become the out club, the UNCA out and they are a lot more active and a lot more directed and a lot more productive than they were in my time. I participate now as a mentor and alumni and I helped with their drag ball, which is the drag show that I started in. So that's kind of been how I've contributed now as opposed to when I was actually in school.
Tina White: Last question from my side but you can go on if there are the things that we haven't covered. If it's something you want to talk about, I'd love just to know about not the intimate details of your marriage but you're married. Just what it was like... my generation didn't grow up with marriage equality and things, and so I was just curious how the role that your marriage has played and getting married and being married has played in your generation.
Natasha Noir Ni...: We were the first people in our direct friend group to get married, and I honestly... it was kind of a dream come true for me because I remember when it became legal for us to get married, and it was... I mean I remember like sobbing at the kitchen table with my mom thinking about it, but getting married was a huge deal for us and honestly for like our community microcosm and like our larger community. I am not going to [inaudible] humble. I was a pretty big figure in the community when we got engaged. We got engaged on the Pride stage at... when I was Miss Blue Ridge Pride.
Tina White: I didn't know that.
Natasha Noir Ni...: I did a whole speech about like Pride. I kind of said Pride was a riot against the police but I didn't say that because they told me I couldn't, and then I started talking a little bit more about Marsha P. and Sylvia and then I called up Govinda on stage and proposed in front of the biggest pride that we've ever had. And so a lot of people saw us getting get engaged and when... because it was... I was the drag queen Govinda was a drag queen and we ended up having three weddings. We had our legal one, we had our spiritual one and then we had a drag wedding. So we were celebrated a lot and it was a beautiful thing for so many people to get excited about. Not only at Pride because there were 1,000 people watching but also at the auditorium we had a drag wedding where we said vows and our drag personas got married.
It was a Valentine's Day drag show but we still got married at the end of it, and it was so beautiful to be able to celebrate in our way, because we didn't really have a traditional marriage at all either. We got married barefoot in front of a tree at the bed breakfast that I worked at, and all of our wedding party came in the holding pieces of our altar that we assembled. Our first dance was on a rug in the side yard of the bed and breakfast, and it was just a beautiful, beautiful thing and I never thought... I always knew I was going to get married. From the time I was little I've always wanted to be a dad. I've always wanted to be a parent. I've wanted to be in that nuclear family but we made it happen and we made it happen our way, because we don't want a traditional marriage like we're polyamorous and so our third partner lives with us, and they were in our wedding but we still did the whole traditional marriage our way, which I think is why marriage equality exists. Yeah.
Tina White: Is there anything else that we haven't discussed that you'd like to include in your sort of your narrative so far?
Natasha Noir Ni...: I don't think so.
Tina White: Okay.
Natasha Noir Ni...: Yeah.
Tina White: Well, this is... and I'm going to move the camera now [inaudible] after recording. Oh, this must be One Stop Cloud recording.

Keywords: Pride; Race; diversity