It’s a Sunday morning and there’s a shuffle at 1618 Midtown. Mimosas have been poured and queens have sashayed in wearing discreet clothing, giving us all no inkling about what’s to come. As everyone giggles expectantly over quiche and fruit, there’s a commotion of red feathers, glitter and hair so high it might reach heaven. Her Majesty, Anjelica Dust, has arrived. Electricity pulses through the air as she pumps up the crowd. She’s a professional that’s completely in charge of her act and she doesn’t easily suffer fools. She is exactly what you imagine a drag queen to be: statuesque, biting, completely captivating. She was made for this.
When I sat down with her a week later, she was completely poised. A former Miss North Carolina Entertainer of the Year and one of Greensboro’s most popular and seasoned queens, she is composed, but also wholly genuine and at times, biting and downright hilarious. In her own words, “It’s totally feast or famine and this has been a feast year. It’s been non-stop. Hosting is an art and talking to people, keeping them entertained is absolutely an art. It’s something that you either have it or you don’t.” Well, let me tell you, the Queen has it, honey. All hail Queen Anjelica Dust:
Woven: How’d you get started in this business?
Anjelica: I started entertaining about 13 years ago. There was a bar called Red House 29 and a friend of mine had a drag show; in the middle of the show, they would grab somebody out of the audience and put them in drag and at the end of the show, that person would do a number. I was selected to do the show and I was completely addicted to it. I loved the energy from the crowd. I’m a theatre kid and it’s like theatre. It just kind of snowballed from there.
I also found a drag mother, Paisley Parque, and Paisley has the biggest lips this side of the Mississippi and she is a larger-than-life character. She’s kind of a cross between Ursula, in a nice way, and Mae West. She’s my mother and she taught me how to talk to people in drag, how to get bookings, how to do things on the stage, but more or less, she taught me the financial side of drag and the politics. There’s a lot of politics involved. It shouldn’t be that way, but you gotta know how to play the game. I will always be thankful to her for taking me under her wing and showing me how to do drag.
I started working at Warehouse and doing pageants and it’s been 13 years since. I’m very blessed and thankful to do what I do this many years later. A lot of people don’t get the opportunities that I do and a lot of people do drag for a few years and burn out on it but I’ve stuck with it. I took a little bit of a break to work on me. I was going through my transition and I really wasn’t sure how transitioning and drag were going to work together or if it was possible for me to do it, but I did it and it’s just been non-stop.
W: How did you decide on the name Anjelica Dust?
A: Boy George, in the ‘90s, wrote songs under the name A. Dust and I love Boy George and I love what he represents to the gay community and Anjelica is from The Rugrats. I used to be a heinous, mean bitch. I was a really angry kid. I didn’t know what I was, I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know anyone like me and it just kind of reminds me to be nice because life is not that serious. I’m trans and it took me a long time to figure that out. I’m thankful there’s so much more information than there was 12 years ago.
W: You’re hilarious on stage. What inspires your routine?
A: I’m not a dancer at all. I’ve never been a dancer. I’ll cut up a little bit and give them a jig, but you’ve got to have something to make you stand out. If you can make them laugh, you’ve got them. I love to make people laugh.
I am a pop culture junkie. I love to keep up with things that are happening in pop culture, like the Kardashians. I thought about doing a Blac Chyna number because of the huge split… I write down a lot of ideas. I’m always looking up stuff on YouTube. I try to see what’s trending because as somebody over 30, I don’t want to appeal to just the over-30 crowd. I want to make sure the 18 year-olds know what I’m doing too. That’s a challenge. The older you get, the more out of touch you can feel, but social media has really changed the game. I love keeping up with stuff. I’m on social media constantly. My whole thing is, I pick on everybody. If you just pick on one group of people, that’s a problem, but if you pick on everybody, if you don’t care who it is, that’s what it’s all about. I’ve always been fascinated with celebrity and pop culture, especially reality TV. It’s crazy how big of a platform it’s become.
W: How is drag different today than it was then?
A: It used to be that when you did drag, it really took you about ten years to develop a persona, but with YouTube and the internet and Drag Race and all these things that we didn’t have when we started doing drag, makeup tutorials and how to do hair and all this stuff, queens are coming out of the gate kicking and they are ready to punish and it really makes us older girls work that much harder because no one wants to be thrown under the bus, especially by a new queen. I’m thankful that those other things are there because I almost thought that drag was going to die out at one point. I really did, at least around here. I felt like things were slowing down, we didn’t have as many entertainers. Drag Race and all these things have shown people, “I can have a moment on stage.” It’s not just gay men. At this point, we have women impersonating men, we have male impersonators, women that identify as straight or lesbian that do Femme Pageants- I call them FiFis because they’re females impersonating female impersonators. They get to do drag too. Drag is an all-inclusive term at this point. There is some kickback from it; there are some people who think that not everyone should be able to do it, but why can’t we all be in the sandbox? Why do we all have to be so separate? Why not let somebody have the opportunity to be a star on stage? Everybody deserves their five minutes. Drag is not just for gay people anymore. As much animosity and differences we have in this world, for me, drag is something that brings everybody together. I feel like now, especially, we need it more than ever. People want to feel an escape from the day. We look at our phones all day long with the news alerts and news is important, being informed is important, but at some point you need a break. You just want to have a good time and drink with your friends or raise money for a great cause. Non-profit has always been a big part of my platform and I’m just thankful that I’m still able to do it. Most people are not in the same position as me. After about three, four, five years, people fizzle out and they’re done. I just keep going. As long as they’re still calling me! It’s either feast or famine. You gotta get it while the getting’s good; girl, you gotta make that money.
W: As the drag community has blossomed, what about the LGBT scene?
A: The LGBT community here in GSO, it may be small but it’s compact, everybody knows each other. For me, it’s a good thing because you know your neighbors, especially downtown. I really am thankful for Greensboro. I didn’t think this was how things were going to be ten years ago. We didn’t have a Pride festival, that was not a thing at all, and it just continues to grow. There are organizations out there for LGBT kids where they can meet with other LGBT kids, PFLAG. It’s a resource to help understand what’s going on. Everybody has expectations for their kids, but you want to let them know you support them. Having all the information, I feel like that’s one of the biggest disconnects that we have in our society right now. So few people have the real information of what’s really going on. Some people get this little part and some people get that little part, and because of that, they never see the big picture. Life is a lot bigger than one perspective and everybody’s perspective is valid. Everybody’s perspective should be respected. I really try, when I have a conversation with someone, to put myself in their shoes, especially if they’re trying to get to know what I’m about and I want to know what they’re about too. I hope that that starts again. I think that’s missing a lot in society in general. Everybody is so polarized. There’s no middle ground and we need more middle ground where people can have rational conversations about things. That’s when you learn.
W: Let’s talk about your upcoming projects.
A: I am working on something called The Queen and The Critic. It’s going to be a web series. I have a friend that is a professional food critic, Davina VanBuren. We are going to do a show where we go around to Greensboro restaurants and I’m going to get in drag and we’re going to have a meal. We’re going to talk about the food and what we like and hopefully the chef might let us come back in the kitchen and see a couple of things. I really think that’d be a lot of fun. We might do some cooking at home too, but I really want to focus on Greensboro because we love it here.
W: Last question: what’s your favorite part of a show?
A: When you do drag, you are bound up in duct tape and tights and girdles and you are transforming your body into another shape. Even though I live my life as female, the way I present myself on stage is not how I present myself during the day, so I have about half a roll of duct tape from rooter to tooter making everything nice and smooth and the best part of drag is taking it off. That is the absolute best part!