"I might cheat on my husband onstage" is not something you'd expect to hear from a typical pageant queen. But the drag queens competing in this year's Critter Person Pageant aren't typical.
They're dirty, scary, bedazzled, pretty, and potty-mouthed—and they'll do anything to be this year's Critter Person. One competitor told The Stranger they may even eat a human baby onstage, but that was probably a joke.
Now in its second year, the Critter Person Pageant was created by Seattle drag artist Cucci Binaca as a way to find a new cast member for her drag show, Cucci's Critter Barn, which happens every second Saturday at Kremwerk. The winner of the pageant earns a yearlong spot at Critter Barn, which is a good gig—especially for new queens seeking recurring work in the scene.
"When I started drag last April, my number one goal was to be asked to perform in Critter Barn," said SHE, one of the competing queens in this year's Critter Person Pageant. "It was the first drag show in Seattle that made me want to spend way too much money on plastic hair and eyeliner."
While Cucci Binaca's shows are popular, they aren't what most people think of when they think of drag. Critter Barn is more likely to feature queens lip-synching vaporwave tracks and pouring paint on themselves than anything resembling RuPaul's Drag Race. At Critter Barn's third anniversary this past May, a San Francisco artist named Jader Vision shoved a bottle up a papier-mâché anus they sewed to the lining of their body suit. It was very well received.
"The Critter Barn cast just kept growing, and the scene was exploding," Cucci Binaca told The Stranger. "I wanted to create room for new freaks to perform in front of audiences who would love or appreciate them. I also really got obsessed with the idea of having an entertainer who people came to see every month who was not me. Who was the complement of me. Who didn't get booed."
The six performers fighting for this year's Critter Person title—Angel Baby Kill Kill Kill, Irene Dubois, Miss Texas 1988, One, SHE, and Terrie Belle—were all selected by Binaca, presumably for their potential to be a Critter Person. Binaca defines such people as those who embody "intense self-actualization and an obsessive drive to entertain the people through a sick vision of what drag is."
Sick could be taken literally. Terrie Belle recently ate worms during a performance and spit them into someone's mouth (it was consensual worm-spitting). One claims to be "the best one at throwing up onstage." Miss Texas 1988 won her first pageant—and then had her title removed due to a voting miscount—after foregoing a traditional lip sync to eat a bucket of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. At that same pageant, SHE ate fistfuls of meat out of a prop pig while dressed as a sexy pig.
As queens like to repeat ad nauseam in Seattle: "All drag is valid." But good drag can be determined with one question: Were you gagged? And you can expect lots of gags at this year's Critter Person Pageant.