- Category: Feature
- Published on Tuesday, 01 November 2016 16:52
- Written by Caitlin Donohue
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A few weeks ago, Nark Magazine bestowed upon me the pleasure of email interviewing model/actress/RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Willam in advance of her November 4 book tour appearance at Seattle's Neighbours Nightclub. We talked about Burning Man (she burns) and John Waters (she finally met her idol, at an airport in Brussels with Detox.) Then I asked her what was up with her book Suck Less: Where There’s a Willam There’s a Way, which had yet to be released.
“Imagine you know you’re gonna go to hell,” she wrote. “Probably from like, all the butt fucking and whatever else makes the baby Jesus cry. Now imagine I’m holding your hand and we’re having fun on the way there. THAT’S Suck Less.”
And that is a convincing spiel. And I am not not at a point in my life in which I need self help books. So when my copy of Suck Less came in mail, I lined up a squadron of tall cans and sunk happily into the world of Willam.
Drag Race fans need no introduction, but for the unacquainted: Willam is the first and only queen to be disqualified from the competition (read between the lines and you finally find out the reason why in Suck Less.) She self identifies as a stunt queen. Willam’s performances have included a practice she refers to as butt chugging, and which she recommends in the book as a handy way to limit calories and still party.
Her other greatest hits include the live fisting of a muscled man to the chords of “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” an ad campaign for American Apparel and acting roles in films such as Kicking Zombie Ass for Jesus (currently in post production.)
In Suck Less, she’s pretty up front about the fact that she is no Dr. Phil, much less Oprah. And to be honest, the sections on working with your eating disorder and the one on how women should take lecherous bosses up on a good finger bang should it provide career advantage are pretty painful. I tried to dismiss these missteps as the parody they are meant to be.
In this era of mainstream drag, I often despair for our youth. While they get their tongue clicks and slang (Jesus, the ubiquitous RuPaul slang) from mainstream television, my generation of weirdos got to learn about drag from going to actual drag clubs, being around drag queens, being harassed by drag queens and if you're quick, learning to harass them.
Willam says she first imagined writing Suck Less while advising Neil Patrick Harris on drag for his turn in the Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch (NPH repaid the favor by writing the book’s intro.) As a result, the book's first pages focus on getting the look. I've never read a gloriously nonsensical guide to contouring and baking, or a more useful tucking tutorial. Willam and all queens, your improbable and likely painful ball majick suggests gender is more malleable they would have us believe and for that, I give thanks.
My most valuable lessons on the performance of femininity have come from queens, not to mention the gems they've given me on confidence and sex. There is no one to beat a drag queen when it comes to frank sexual discussion, and there are few people who have a stranger road to travel to the bedroom than they. Few things shock a drag queen and there is nothing you can tell them that they will see as weird in a bad way.
I was reminded of this while reading Suck Less’ sections on sex. Surprisingly, quite a bit of the XXX content seemed geared towards Willam's youngest fans; practical, pointed and gender inclusive messages to those who may not share the author’s identification as a Chinese finger trap.
A page addressed to virgins! Copious admonitions to practice safe sex! The disclosure that Willam often carries an instant HIV test on her, to deploy during foreplay for tricks who are under aware of their STD status! Tips on open relationships? She even explains what a prostate is, the importance of PrEP. I can’t imagine any high school health class being more useful (although again, some missteps — please take the sections on domestic violence and incest, for example, with a grain of salt.)
"I’m dumb to think that people will forget my reality show stint on that great crossdresser game show," Willam said in our interview. "But I hope to continue to reach people with less buffoonery."
Not that there's anything wrong with playing the clown. But in Suck Less, Willam gets to expand on an aspect of drag that only alluded to on reality television, the constructive side of gender fuckery and the personal strength that lies behind high femme visibility.
If you're trying to live your life outside of societal norms, you need back up, you need role models. For all its bad taste and shock value, Willam has put a lot of herself into this book. And at its heart, Suck Less serves as the drag friend you'll never meet watching TV.
Pick up a copy of Suck Less and get it signed in person this Friday night (11/04) at Neighbours in Seattle, click on the poster for more details.