“We’ve been in the shadows of big dick energy and now we can buy our big dicks so easily on Amazon.”
Last week, HERstory was made when Landon Cider, a drag king, won the third season of The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula.
The critically-acclaimed horror-themed alternative to RuPaul’s Drag Race features 10 drag performers, who compete in a variety of disgusting, bloody challenges to win $25,000 and the title of America’s Next Drag Supermonster.
Landon emerged victorious after ten gruelling weeks in which he devoured live spiders, catapulted out of a helicopter and stapled dollar bills to his body. He is the first drag king to win a reality competition series in the United States.
“I want to be a beacon of light to express that kings can reign just as supreme as queens,” Landon told us shortly after his historic win. “We’ve been in the shadows of big dick energy and now we can buy our big dicks so easily on Amazon.”
We caught up with Landon to discuss their groundbreaking victory, the drag king narrative being erased from queer culture and why a woman in a construction worker’s clothes and a suit is much “more ironic” than a man in a dress.
Hi Landon! How are you today?
I’m great. I’m awake, which is great [laughs]. It’s 9am and I’m in celebratory mode, so this is early for me right now. I’m excited to be awake, sober and to not have a headache!
Congratulations on your win. You’ve not only become the first drag king to win Dragula, but you’re the first drag king winner of a US reality competition series. It’s history.
It is, and it’s HERstory, and it’s phenomenal and I haven’t quite wrapped my head around it yet because it’s so magical. It feels like my nightmare has come true, and with that, there’s different emotions, you know? It’s overwhelming in the most fantastic way. It’s Cloud 900, not even Cloud 9. It’s phenomenal.
You deserved it. You slaaaayed this season. Three wins, no bottom placements… You ate spiders.
[Laughs] I know! Fuck you spiders. Get in my fucking mouth.
I want to throw it back a bit: how did your journey as Landon Cider begin?
Landon has slowly been in the creative process since I was little. I’ve been performing and drawing all my life. I really came to a beautiful blend of all my artistic interests when I was 28, after I had some health scares and I wanted to live my best life. I wanted to be back on stage and Landon was the platform I created for myself and I never looked back. I was hooked.
What kind of male tropes are you most fascinated by most?
I am fascinated with diversity, so I love tapping into characterisations of everything, every genre, every style, every trope, like you said. I describe my drag as glamdrogynous storytelling. Sometimes I’m super masculine and I’m making fun or critiquing that kind of archetype. Sometimes I’m a soft, feminine man who just wants to get fucked in the butt, you know? Totally different avenues to take, because there’s not one way to be a man. There’s not one way to be anyone, so I just like to explore all aspects of everything.
People who aren’t familiar with the art-form will just assume drag kings are macho men.
Yeah, I get bored doing one type of thing over and over again. It wasn’t to prove anything, it was to keep my interests artistically alive. I love versatile performers, so I like to dip my toes into comedy, drama and horror, so I brought those aspects to the challenges on the show and it was truly me. I’m a little bit of everything!
Who has inspired your drag the most?
In the drag king world, I didn’t have any experience locally, so I had to go to the internet. Historically, I found Vesta Tilley and Storme DeLavarie’s careers to be super inspiring. Both had phenomenal careers that were respected and political and was just everything that I ever wanted to be. I keep them in mind. There’s a king in Australia, his name is Sexy Galexy. He has been exploring with colourful makeups and he showed me that you don’t just have to paint a super-macho face and be masculine, you can do everything. Those three kings really have helped shape who I wanted to become, and I just went from there.
When you went into Dragula, did you feel like you had a responsibility to represent not only the drag king community, but the queer female community?
Oh yes. I went into Dragula knowing that the weight on my shoulders was so heavy. I know I don’t represent the entire kingdom, there are phenomenal entertainers out there doing things I would even think of doing, and if I did, I would fail miserably! I can only do me and I can only do me at my best, and hope to inspire people to research our drag kings, whether it’s locally or just on Instagram so they can see all the infinite talent. I cannot fully represent, but I can only hope to inspire you to find them. My hope of the season, I even mentioned it in the finale episode, is to take the weight of that responsibility and win, lift it up and put it on my head. I want to be a beacon of light to express that kings can reign just as supreme as queens.
Why do you think the drag king narrative is often erased from queer culture? People tend to think the art-form is relatively new, whereas the kings you mentioned above were in the 1900s.
Exactly! And in other cultures across the world and Asia, there’s been drag kings and male impersonators and theatrical performances for centuries. It’s not known, but we’ve existed the entire timeline of drag, sometimes even longer. We’ve been in the shadows of big dick energy and now we can buy our big dicks so easily on Amazon. I think it’s erased because of misogynistic groups and pre-conceived notions that kings are less theatrical or less interesting. It’s all based in misogyny, where men write history and write women out of it. We’ve had powerful women since the beginning of time doing powerful things, but we don’t hear about that. Drag king culture is just a microcosm of that misogynistic, societal view. I love that our society is evolving. It’s beautiful to see. I’ve seen a huge shift from when I started, more kings are emerging and kings are getting booked and kings are getting paid. That’s what’s most important.
Misogyny is still rampant within the LGBTQ community, what’s your experience been like?
From the beginning, I noticed it. I just decided to tap into my life as a queer woman walking in a world of misogyny, and how I handled it. How I handled it was strapping it on and fucking with it, just like a good ol’ lesbian. Strap it on and fuck it. You can only excuse it for so long before you just think, ‘Fuck it,’ and go balls to the wall. I was fortunate to have a local scene that saw my potential, encouraged me from the beginning and gave me stage opportunity, and wanted to watch me flourish because they saw something special in me. That was my local Long Beach scene and that extended into Southern California, and that’s now extended across the country and now the world. I’ve enjoyed a career of respect for many years now after all the hard work I’ve done, internationally. I’ve been fortunate to travel internationally before I was even competing on Dragula, and I do attribute that to my work ethic and to the support that I’ve received from my family, my friends, my wife and my local drag scene. In short, I did experience misogyny. Sometimes I still do. People used to reach out to me and ask for a gig, and my manager would tell them what my rate was. Their response would be, ‘But he’s a drag king,’ implying they’re not going to pay me that much because I’m a drag king. It used to blow my mind and my manager would get so mad. Slowly, I’m not getting those answers anymore.
It’s so ironic that the drag queen art-form is about celebrating women, yet when women do drag, whether it’s as a queen or a king, they’re told it’s not for them.
It’s fucking bananas. It makes no sense, it blows my mind. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around that and so I kind of just laugh at it because it’s lazy for people to fall into that comfort zone of not realising how stupid that is! A very well known drag queen mentioned that kings aren’t ironic because men impersonating women is irony, and a woman impersonating a man isn’t. It’s like, how are you not seeing that the irony is much more important because we are below men on a societal ladder, and we’re impersonating someone above us. That’s more ironic than someone impersonating someone below them. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m here to prove that all of those standards are bullshit and I’m here to blow all of those mindsets out of the water. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to do so and to show the world that Dragula is the future of drag.
You’ve auditioned for Drag Race a few times. When you sent in your tapes, did you think you would get accepted?
When I was submitting for Drag Race, I did confidently feel that I was ready. I knew at the time that me getting on was a stretch, but I kept doing it because lots of queens sent in their tapes ten times. I did it too because I thought, ‘Oh, maybe they’re just not ready.’ Then Ru made some comments and I realised that Drag Race wasn’t a brand that I wanted to align myself with anymore because they have a narrow scope of what they think drag is, and who belongs in the mainstream or on that platform. I didn’t agree and I was offended. I don’t want to give my art, time or energy to the people to don’t see me – or women – as valid. From that moment on, I had no interest in submitting for that show. From the moment I heard about Dragula, I wanted to submit for it. I wanted to submit for season one. I wanted to submit for season two. I worked with The Boulet’s for many years, I knew them and I trusted their vision. I had no idea what their vision was, but I knew that I could trust it. I was under contract with other projects that didn’t allow me to submit at that moment, and season three came along and I couldn’t wait to submit my tape. It was so much fun. I guess I did good, because it got me all the way!
Do you think RuPaul’s Drag Race will ever open its doors to cis-queens and drag kings?
I’m looking forward to a future where we don’t need RuPaul’s Drag Race to be the only source of mainstream drag. Dragula is already there and teaching people that there’s an underbelly of drag that’s just as valid and beautiful. I see a future with many different artists celebrating our beautiful variety, and I don’t feel or need Drag Race to be the thing to do it. If you didn’t believe in me in the beginning, why would you believe in me now? I do give credit to that whole franchise and to Ru herself because without that show, I wouldn’t have been able to be a full-time drag entertainer, for as long as I have. That show really did give all drag entertainers an opportunity to do this full-time in our local scene. But when it comes to the future of drag, I see Dragula and so many other things coming up. It will showcase that that narrow view isn’t the only view.
This year has already been groundbreaking for drag in the mainstream. You, a drag king, just won Dragula and a trans woman just won Drag Race Thailand. I know it’s still part of the Drag Race franchise, but it feels like we’re moving towards a future where cisgender men aren’t the only ones being praised.
Yes! And in New Zealand last year, we had a trans male drag king win House of Drag. The revolution is happening, the change is happening right now and magic is happening before our eyes. I’m so proud to be part of this shit.
What kind of impact do you think your win will have on the drag community?
I think it’s so hilarious that I can go on a website, watch myself compete in drag and then I can buy a fake dick at the same time. That to me is the perfect blend of my career. I’m here for it. I’m so excited that all these babies out there, all these queerbies can watch it so easily and that alone is blowing my mind.
Final question: what’s next for Landon Cider?
World domination, one roll of duck tape at a time.
The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula is produced in association with OUTtv – all three seasons are available to stream on Amazon Prime.