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This interview was conducted in June 2023 and will be available in its entirety in the forthcoming book "The Queer Talks".

persona con capelli blu lunghi e maglia viola a braccia conserte
Photo and project by ©Clotilde Petrosino all rights reserved

Tell us about yourself

My name is Marta, I am 25 years old and I am a Drag King.

What are your pronouns?

In my daily life I use she/her, but when I am in Drag as Louis, I use he/him.

Within the LGBTQIA+ community and outside of it, do you think lesbian individuals are invisible? What do you think is the reason for this?

I don't have a definitive answer. I believe that living in a predominantly male-dominated society, even within the LGBTQIA+ community, the visibility is given mainly to cis gay men; regardless of the fact that we are all part of the same family. Even when a homophobic person talks about queer individuals, they always refer to two men kissing if they need an example. Two men kissing seem to bother more than two women kissing. Probably because, once again, we are invisible. It's as if in society, two women kissing have less value compared to two men kissing.

As a lover of cinema, I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ filmography. The number of films about lesbian women is minimal and the representation is very stereotypical. There are very few films that depict a female love story accurately, and even fewer with lesbian women as movie directors, which I think is one of the most important aspects on this topic.

In this regard, almost all of French director Céline Sciamma's filmography addresses LGBTQIA+ themes. Some of my favorite films from her are, “Naissance des pieuvres” and “Portrait of a Lady on fire” (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu).

Tell us about your job career

I have a degree in Media Design and Multimedia Arts. I’m a videomaker and I want to become a movie director and screenwriter. 

When did you first engage with Drag? 

It started when I was younger, around 15/16 years old, during the summers in Cagliari, more specifically Poetto, where there still isl a queer venue that hosts Drag Queen performances almost every day. Over the years, I went there as often as possible and that's how I fell in love with Drag.
I would watch the Queens on stage and think that I wanted to be up there too, but having had an inner conflict with my femininity all my life, I thought I could never wear those clothes.

Who is Louis Vatch, when was he born? 

I could say that Louis was first conceptualized and thus born on July 30th, 1998, but it took much longer for him to become real. Louis is the other half of me. A few years ago, I discovered that Drag Kings existed; I only knew about Queens, so for me, the Drag world was just that. So as time passed, I drew my first beard with an eye pencil, bought wool to make mustaches, makeup, and clothes. I didn't even need to search for a name; it was already there.
In general, I think that Drag art doesn't fit into these binaries. I realized this late because I still saw it as a limit. It's a shame because there's also a wrong narrative about the Drag world. In mainstream culture, doing Drag means being a Drag Queen, but it's absolutely not the case; there's a whole world behind it. Drag art isn't femininity; it's 360-degree freedom of expression. In 2022, I started attending theatrical workshops at the Kollettivo “Drag King”  in Milan, where I met Matt, with whom I later created our Duo King.

The Drag King community in Italy is very small, what do you think about it? 

Yes, we are few, but not as few as one might think. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that we are invisible.
A bit like the lesbians (note: laughs). A man, wearing a wig and sequined clothes, attracts much more attention than a woman in less eccentric attire. It often happens that Drag Queen shows are geared towards a male audience, where there's irony about the sexual sphere of the gay world, about the penis, and undoubtedly, this attracts more gay men. However, even within the Drag scene, there is no representation for lesbians. Men do not really fancy Drag Kings. For example, after a performance, a man complimented us and said he had never realized how ridiculous men looked from the outside.
I consider it a compliment; we succeeded! Other times I've been told, "Oh, but men aren't really like that," which made me realize that a Drag King performance stirs something in men. It makes them see themselves from the outside. Until someone does not go to a King show, they would never realize how ridiculous men can be. Of course, "not all men," you never know! (note: laughs)
On the other hand, Drag Queens, in exaggerating femininity, don't bother women. At least, I've never heard a woman complain about a Queen's performance, or it's very rare.

Do you think it is easy to perform as a Drag King in Italy? Can you tell us about your experiences?

No, absolutely not. It's not easy, and I have a lot of difficulty fitting into a world of Queens. In Italy, there aren't nights exclusively for Kings. Even during events with a majority of Drag Queens, it's always rare to find Kings. Sometimes I've had the door slammed in my face, even though competition among Kings is almost nonexistent. The difficulty lies in having to relate and stand out in a context of very talented Queens. We never know how the audience will react in front of a Drag King and that affects our presence.

Drag King con baffi e vestito da cow boy
Foto di ©Clotilde Petrosino

"In Italy, there aren't nights exclusively for Kings. Even during events with a majority of Drag Queens, it's always rare to find Kings "

How do you interact and relate with your audience? Is there any particular moment you want to share with us? 

It depends. For example, once I performed at a non-queer event. It was the first time the audience had seen a King show. During the first piece, I sensed some distance from the audience and discomfort, as if they were thinking, "Help, what am I watching?"
However, the same audience, after the second performance of the night, cheered us on as if they needed time to digest and understand what we were presenting. And we also received many compliments.
On other occasions, we found a super happy audience. In general, the thing I struggle with the most in my relationship with the audience is when they don't recognize me as a man. Often during performances, they use the feminine pronoun when referring to me. It happens very often, and I don't think this happens with Queens.

Looking at the current political situation in Italy, do you think that our community will still manage to move forward in terms of rights and visibility?

I think that progress will be made regardless. However, I'm also afraid that at any moment, we might find ourselves not 20, not 30, but 60 years back. I believe that politics is moving almost covertly, targeting small realities to try to change them. We can do the same to counteract them. For example, we are doing this with the language. We are trying to change it, educating and informing even people outside of the LGBTQIA+ community.

As a King and someone who works in the field of communication and media, do you think there is space for people like you? Is it possible to change things, if so how? 

For years, I felt rejected both as a female director and as a female videomaker because these roles have historically been perceived as masculine. Despite there being women who do these roles, they are still too few. Sometimes, I’ve faced rejection because I have blue hair. I was told that these roles were too institutional and I couldn't have colored hair. Once it was to cover the role on television as an editing secretary, and another time for an institutional dinner. I've had blue hair for 8 years, and it was very important for me to find my aesthetic identity. The first time I dyed my hair, I was 17, and for the first time, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, "Here I am, this is me." So, no, I won't change my hair for someone who says it's not decent enough. It's surreal.
There's a place for me and there's a place for everyone; you just have to be patient and not think that you're not skilled or prepared enough. But then I compared myself to other people who might have had much less experience than me but worked harder, and I understood.

Interview by Clotilde Petrosino
Proofreading & translation by Bartolomeo Goffo

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