One of the most important nights in Seattle drag went down last Saturday. Drag entertainer Cucci Binaca hosted her annual Critter Person Pageant at Kremwerk to determine who would be her Critter Person 2019. The winner gets a
The Critter Contestants (who survived the first round of Critter Person Hopeful tryouts a couple of weeks ago) were a worthy and über competitive bunch of drag entertainers: Monday Mourning, Voodoo Nightshade, Romi, Beau Degas (pronounced like "bodega"), Rowan Ruthless, and Ümlaut.
The conceit of this pageant was simple: a panel of Cucci's closest friends and conspirators (drag queen Amoania, comedian and radio show/podcast host Clara Pluton, performer Jade Dynasty, and former Critter Person 2017 Mona Real) determined who would come out on top at the end of the night. After two numbers, the performer with the most votes would win. Simple, straight forward, clean. No tricks or decibel meters here.
Cucci started her hosting duties off with talking about how fucking ugly the Straight Pride flag is: straight people have no taste! Also, Kremwerk seemed darker than usual (for a basement) that night, which made the performers look XTRA scary. Also I tripped and spilled a bit of my gin and tonic :(
Monday Mourning came out to "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston. Dressed in a giant chiton-like outfit and a giant, bouncy blonde wig, Miss Mourning wowed us with like five reveals—first the dress and wig came off to reveal a sexier outfit and a Joan Jett wig; then that wig came off, dumping tons of blue petals onstage; then she lit that sticky basement up with a bunch of LED lights wrapped around her arms. I was entertained.
Her second lipsync to "Dancing Queen" boasted no reveals but was still fun to experience. Her beat is very '80s-esque and she's a charismatic and arresting performer. It was my first time seeing her and she definitely rose to the very top of the night. She came in third.
Voodoo Nightshade's tuck always has me a little stressed, but that's part of what makes her so exciting to watch. She's a spooky one! In her first number, she came out with these scary fangs over her mouth and a bald head. She eventually ripped off her black cape to reveal a tarantula outfit. In her second act she came out in a giant pumpkin sack to "This is Halloween" despite it almost being summer. Underneath the pumpkin 'fit was a small red leather top and bottom. She rubbed fake blood all herself. Voodoo came in last.
Ok, I had to desperately pee during Romi's first performance, but my friend who I came with said it was delightfully weird. She told me the queen came out dressed as a sexy Shrek-inspired character to Smash Mouth's "All Star" spliced with "Shrek is love, Shrek is life" spliced with "Cake Farts." Uhhhhhh, yes. During the second number (apparently, this marked her third time performing as a drag queen), she did another obscure clip mixed with Solange's "Dreams" mixed with "Watching You" by Charlotte Dos Santos. It was kinda hot, honestly. I love how much Seattle queens throw obscure YouTube clips into a song. Someone get Romi to MUGZ! She came in fifth.
To be completely honest, I was rooting for Beau Degas to come away with the crown (no one was given an actual crown). Not only is her beat incredible (and instantly recognizable) every time I see her, but she has a way of making stalwart songs really fucking hilarious, original, and entertaining to watch. Her first performance to a Whitney Houston song (I was too busy watching to write it down) consisted of Beau psyching the audience out, wearing a giant, lumpy orange dress that looked like it contained at least five more dresses. She dramatically pulled long, red pieces of paper out of various places in her dress that read, "REVEAL," which the audience laughed at.
For her second number, Beau performed "Total Eclipse of the Heart" alongside drag entertainer Bitch Hazel. It was almost as if I was hearing this song for the first time. Beau was like a mad scientist and alongside her kooky assistant, Bitch. There was chair spinning, lap sitting, and sock poppets that was enough to win the crowd over. Beau Degas came in second (though it is this writer's opinion, based on both her performances, she should have won).
Solange proved to be just as much of a touchstone as Ms. Houston. Somehow, Ümlaut (of LüChi fame) mashed up Solange's "Way to the Show" (objectively the best song off of Ms. Knowles's beat sampler of an album) with Nicki Minaj's famous and career-defining verse on "Monster." Ümlaut embodied both the black art heaux and Queens hoe aesthetic, molding both identities and styles into a cohesive whole. I was shook. And so was the crowd.
In the second act, Ümlaut performed in a bright green wig to a Paramore song, eventually tearing that baby off and letting her dreadlocks fly free. In both numbers, the queen was aided by two assistants. I've noticed this a lot with Ümlaut—she's able to use people as props in a way to frame her even more as the locus of attention. It's clever and works dramatically in a drag setting. She's the Diana Ross of Seattle drag. The crowd, predictably, went apeshit.
After the first round, it was clear both Beau Degas and Ümlaut were the queens to beat. Both had a high (and trashy) concept that was executed to near perfection and left everyone in the room wanting more. Ultimately, the judges were smitten with Ümlaut, with her taking home the title of Critter Person 2019. Seattle drag lovers will be seeing even more of her and I'm excited to see what she has to offer within this context, for this show.
Toward the end of the night our hostess, Cucci Binaca, told us: "The incredible thing about all the entertainers tonight is that they are not practicing any fucking self-doubt, they are here to slay for you and to kill the kids, to get the title, to have me say their name every fucking month for another fucking year." It was one of the most engaging and fun drag events I've been to this year.
"Drag is a humongous part of being queer," said Cucci. And fuck if I don't agree!