The Indiana Daily Student recently spoke with Payne Banister a.k.a. Matilda Rose, a local Bloomington drag queen who performed at Pridefest Saturday evening. Banister has been performing in drag for the past 5 years and has decided to take a continued break after Pridefest to work on applications for a doctoral degree. His dream is to be a professor in performance studies.
Indiana Daily Student: First off, what’s your drag name?
Payne Banister: My drag name is Matilda Rose.
IDS: How did you come up with your drag name?
PB: So it was honestly a joke, I was in a fraternity, Sigma Phi Beta on campus, and it was a queer-ally fraternity. We were doing a party for rush, and the theme was "blast from the past," and I was the only one that did not get the memo it was 80s-themed. So I showed up in a toga and the person who was coordinating the party was like, "oh my god you can’t wear that, we need to be cohesive." He was stressing out about it, so to make a joke about it, we turned my toga into a dress and then threw on this ugly wig that my friend had to stress him out more. It just kind of came from there. We were joking about how my wig looked like that awful hair that the girl in the movie “Matilda” wore. It’s pretty tragic. Then they were like "what’s your favorite flower," and I was like, "roses" and then "oh, Matilda Rose," so it really is just one big joke.
IDS: So the joke stemmed into an act, correct?
PB: Yeah, yeah, it kind of did from there because I would perform at our parties together, so it was a joke. But I didn’t actually think of myself as a drag queen until probably when I turned 21. Or maybe when I was 20 and I saw actual drag queens. I was like, "Oh, that’s what I want to do."
IDS: What is your performance like?
PB: When I do perform, I love using sexual humor. It’s my favorite. Really raunchy sexual humor when the song deems it appropriate. That’s what I like to do. It’s basically that.
IDS: Do you ever feel like drag is purposely meant to make people feel uncomfortable or get them out of their comfort zone?
PB: I would say to an extent it is a live show, so depending on what the artist’s aim is. I am very sex positive, and I think do whatever you want with whoever you want within the realm of consent, but I think in terms of making people uncomfortable, I think that aligns with what the artist's intent is. So some things are not political. For some people it’s just them doing a performance, but for other entertainers, it is political. For a lot of entertainers, just doing drag is political, not necessarily what they’re doing, but just existing as an entertainer in a usually queer space is kind of a political discomfort in itself.
IDS: Do you feel like there has been a change in drag culture in the last few years?
PB: I would say it has definitely changed I think in the two years we’ve begun to, as a community, to recognize that not all entertainers — drag entertainers — need to or even should have certain sex organs in order to be deemed as drag entertainers. There’s been a lot of debate as to whether you need to have assigned male at birth in order to be a drag entertainer. I am more on the side of the argument that anyone can do what they want. It’s a style of performance art really. I think we’ve seen a lot more of that conversation pop up and like even though there's been steps in the more inclusive direction, there’s still a lot more work to be done by everyone.
IDS: Do you have any tips for people who might try drag?
PB: For me I would say the biggest tip is to do whatever feels right for you. It’s the biggest take away to do whatever feels right to you. Don’t feel like you need to conform to other people’s perceptions of what you need to do. But at the same time, do what you want to do, if you want to continue and make a big impact in this community and make a name for yourself, I think you also have to be open to critique and also being able to grow from that critique. For me that meant investing more money into my art. I’ve invested probably thousands of dollars into what I have now. Definitely in makeup and in hair. It might just mean investing, it might mean pushing your boundaries and learning how to dance if you don’t know know to dance and if that’s something you want to do.
IDS: So lastly, what does Bloomington Pride mean to you?
PB: Honestly, it's been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember, being on the main stage at Pride. I’ve only done it once, so I am really happy to come back and do it again. Now with actual costumes and not the stuff I got from Walmart for the time before. When I first started, I had no money. Now I have actual costumes, and I have actual wigs. I am really excited to be able to perform in front of my community and show my art. I want to share that with them and also be able to be watched by people who are under-age who can’t see me, like my employees and like my friends who don’t live in town. I’m really excited to perform for an open audience that isn't restricted by age.
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