Drag Queens Bring Holiday Sparkle to Santa Rosa

Ho Ho Holy Drag Queens! RuPaul's sassiest sister—Tammie Brown—is coming to town.

Ho Ho Holy Drag Queens! RuPaul’s sassiest sister is coming to town. Glamazon Tammie Brown, well-known for her spats with Mama Ru during some of the early seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, brings her Holiday Sparkle Tour to Santa Rosa on December 11.

Celebrating her 20th drag-iversary this year, Brown will be sashaying into the Lounge at the Flamingo Resort with Portland drag queen Clare Apparently, star of the YouTube series Camp Wannakiki. 

Brown, a fixture on Southern California’s drag scene before she appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race, has gained a following for her wit and offbeat personality. She’s queen Katya Zamolodchikova’s all-time favorite Drag Racer and, in a recent interview, Trixie Mattel said her dream cast for a new All-Stars season would be, “Twelve Tammie Browns.”

Tammie Brown. (Photo courtesy of Justin Buckles Productions)

Clare Apparently, known for her camp and sometimes surreal sense of humor, will host the holiday show at the Flamingo. We caught up with Clare to talk about the upcoming show, her drag queen career, common misconceptions about drag, and what it’s like being a transgender man doing femme drag.

How long have you been doing drag? Who is Clare Apparently? 

I began doing drag as Clare in June of 2016. It was actually the same night as the Pulse nightclub shooting (in Orlando), which makes for a bittersweet anniversary but also serves as a good reminder that the community is the most important part of doing drag.

Clare Apparently is a campy theatre queen who is unapologetically queer. I like to have fun, tell stories, and be silly in drag, while exploring themes of identity, expression, and who we would be if we didn’t experience shame and pressures to conform from the mainstream society.

You were just on Camp Wannakiki Season 2! For folks who don’t know about the show, how do you describe it?

I like to describe Camp Wannakiki as a parody of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It follows the same format of competition and elimination but features campy drag performers at a summer camp. We did all the same summer camp activities the girl scouts do, except as adults done-up in full drag. It’s really a hoot–very irreverent and ridiculous, and with a whole lot of heart.

It’s only been a couple of months since the show aired, but what has your drag career been like since? 

My career has been insane since the show aired! My main hometown gig, Portland Drag Queen Brunch, has been selling out every weekend and we have lots of plans for expansion in 2020. Plus, I’ve been traveling a lot more! Since Camp Wannakiki, I’ve performed in New York City, Los Angeles, Austin, and just last weekend I was in Anchorage.

Being out as a transgender man doing femme drag, you represent one way in which the drag scene is much broader than what some folks have seen on TV. Can you talk a little bit about misconceptions people have about drag?

I never ever see anyone discussing trans men who are drag queens. We — as in collective society — have this stereotype of trans women as hyper-feminine and trans men as hyper-masculine, so we never consider them playing with gender in a way that is typically associated with their birth-assigned gender.

Before Camp Wannakiki, I experienced people saying, to my face, things like, “Who’s ever heard of a trans male drag queen?” and “A trans man would never be a queen because that would cause so much gender dysphoria.” While part of me just laughs at what a dismal misunderstanding of gender dysphoria those comments represent, another part of me realized that my invisibility was only adding to the issue and that’s why I auditioned for the show and told the producers this was the story I wanted to tell.

Drag is a lot of things to a lot of people, but one common denominator is playing with gender in a way that we’re not allowed to, or are at least encouraged not to, by society. There is a large part of my drag–and, if I may be so bold as to make the assertion, a lot of people’s drag–that is rooted in exploring and healing gender-based traumas. We lighten this difficult emotional journey with comedy and irreverence to remind ourselves of joy and to more easily connect with others across our differences. 

You’ve been able to reach a bigger audience having been on Camp Wannakiki. What’s it like interacting with fans—particularly trans fans? 

One of my absolute favorite parts of Camp Wannakiki is that it’s so positive and kind-hearted–quite a contrast to many other reality television shows these days that feed off conflicts and drama. This quality has attracted the most beautiful fan-base. People really connect with us campers on meaningful levels–our personal identities and stories we shared on the show as well as the art we showcased.

Since airing, I have received so many beautiful messages from other trans people at all stages of life and transition. I feel very fortunate to be entrusted with so many people’s stories. One thing I’m really looking forward to during the Holiday Sparkle Tour is having the opportunity to meet some of these beautiful people in person.

Clare Apparently and Tammie Brown at DragCon NYC. Photo courtesy of Clare Apparently.
Clare Apparently and Tammie Brown at DragCon NYC. Photo courtesy of Clare Apparently.

Tammie and Clare feel like really compatible and complementary characters. What’s it like to work together? 

First of all, thank you! It feels like quite a compliment to be seen as a complementary character with Tammie. I find it very easy to work with Tammie and I hope she feels the same! We’re both very relaxed, low-drama performers who love to do what we do. I never have to worry or stress about how a show is going to go, because I know that every member of the team, including our musician Michael and our producer Justin, is talented, professional, and dedicated to putting on a well-oiled entertaining show.

It’s awesome to see you and Tammie taking this tour to a lot of smaller cities. Is there a different energy when you bring a show to places like Chico, Anchorage, etc?

Obviously, I live in a decent-sized city and love a lot of things about it, but there’s something really special about LGBTQ communities in smaller cities that I don’t get to experience at home. When the general population is smaller, there are fewer gay people and fewer trans people, so family-like ties and feelings of taking care of each other can really flourish. I love visiting and performing in these communities because they feel more intimate and community-centered. I feel like I really get an opportunity to experience the community and the town rather than just performing a show and then running off to the next city.

What can guests expect from Tammie Brown’s 2019 Holiday Sparkle Tour?

I have a few silly holiday numbers to showcase. We’ll feature some local drag talent and play some games with the audience. Tammie will sing a selection of numbers from her new album, Shubert, along with some holiday favorites. We’ll end the evening with a Meet & Greet with Tammie for everyone who purchases a VIP ticket.

Some answers have been edited for length.