CHAD: So first of all, Dan, you’ve been involved for a long time in the Chicago drag scene in a lot of different ways -- can you sum all of that up?
DAN: I first was introduced to the Chicago drag scene through Trannika Rex. At that point in time, I was going through a big transition phase in my life, I was feeling very complacent in my personal life and my creative life… I was looking for a community that understood me as a queer person and allowed me to showcase my background in art and design. From that point, I slowly started working with local queens on branding and apparel, Trannika pushed me to get involved with Queen! at SmartBar, I started working with Shea Coulee regularly, working with Neverland and assisting Adam Ouahmane on photoshoots, too. It was cool because it allowed me to creatively push myself in ways I hadn’t before while working in fields I wasn’t entirely familiar with. Then Shea came up with the idea for Lipstick City, which I co-produced and edited… from that point on, I’ve been working steadily and was able to push my clientele to include contestants on Drag Race like Detox, Naomi Smalls, Aja and Sasha Velour.
CHAD: What has it been like to watch the show week by week when you’ve probably heard all kinds of tea and have such a close relationship with some of the contestants?
DAN: It’s been really interesting! I’m such a fan of so many of the girls this season and seeing their point-of-views for each runway has been my favorite part. It’s very surreal seeing people you know showcase their talents on TV and pursue their dream. The girls I know from the show have been very tight-lipped, other than the “oh, just wait” or “biiiiitch, you’ll never believe what happens…” in response to certain previews, a lot of the season has been a surprise to me.
CHAD: Did you have any idea/inkling/warning that this episode would be SO EXTRA?
DAN: Well, being the club kid runway mixed with reaching the half-way mark of the season, I was expecting it to be over-the-top and, frankly, we needed some non-Untucked drama.
CHAD: I have to say that, whatever complaints other viewers might have about this season, this was an amazing week to be a Drag Race fan. Pretty much everything was perfection, at least, unless you’re a Valentina stan. The early workroom dynamic was hilarious, despite the “drag conspiracy” drama with Nina. The challenge was fun, creative, and wild. The runway pushed the queens in new directions, and then the lip sync, was… well, we can get to that later.
DAN: The Nina drama is frustrating because she is so talented but definitely in her own head. At this point of the season, every decision is going to be important and impactful. We’re in the midst of a competition and still seeing dynamics of sisterhood and insecurity… some queens are really pushing themselves and some are crumbling under the pressure.
CHAD: One of the most lovely surprises of this season has been seeing what amazing things happen when Sasha and Shea come together. So to speak. Do you have any insight about what makes them such an unstoppable team?
DAN: It’s been adorable watching the two of them bond, they have really succeeded working together and they complement each other so well. They’re perfectionists, they both have a strong eye for aesthetics, they know the importance of editing and know how to compromise while staying humble. And, no, I’m totally not biased at all...
Also, personally, I’m such a fan of Sasha -- as a creative, seeing a queen who has a more designed style has really... excited my palate. (Hi Sasha! *wink*)
CHAD: I thought this week’s challenge was really fun, and I lovvvved seeing the queens get some room for creativity, improv, and shenanigans. Who were some of your faves?
DAN: Well, I really enjoyed seeing Sasha and Shea working together again... obviously they succeeded the most. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Trinity all season, and her makeup for the challenge really changed from the person we’ve seen every week. I was surprised Nina and Valentina decided to wing it, though -- you’re half-way through the season and there should’ve been more consideration to that decision. And Alexis, girl… stop trying to micro-manage!
CHAD: Now, I know you're especially excited to talk about the Cub Kid runway -- what’s your personal connection to Club Kid fashion?
DAN: I am! I went on a Twitter rant yesterday because the Club Kid era is important, it changed both the drag and fashion worlds, and I think it’s important to know your herstory and credit the right people… also, ya know, it was more than Michael Alig killing someone. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by club kids every Sunday night at Queen! -- it’s a weekly underground party that celebrates queer sub-cultures that have shaped where we are at today culturally. Jojo Baby, one of the original club kids, is a weekly host along with Lucy Stoole… other club kid queens like Nico, Valentine Addams, Imp Queen and up-and-comer Hinkypunk host monthly.
CHAD: I definitely don’t claim to be an expert about that era of queer culture -- who do you think hit the mark this week with the runway theme, and who didn’t quite get it? I associate Club Kid with basically anything avant garde, eccentric, edgy, and over the top -- is that on the mark, or are there more specific reference points I’m missing?
DAN: I think Peppermint, Trinity, Shea and Sasha all understood the assignment. Club Kid looks are usually avant garde and forward thinking, they push some sort of boundary -- it’s definitely not about being traditionally pretty or looking approachable. Club Kid fashion takes a concept or an idea and pushes it to an extreme, it challenges gender and identity, and sometimes there is satire or social-commentary involved.
CHAD: I really enjoyed Trinity’s look, and her bizarre runway walk was EVERYTHING. I was particularly entranced with the way she painted her face, her lashes, and her, um, blue balls.
DAN: I LOVED Trinity’s runway… I enjoyed them showing the work room conversation about her being afraid to do a club kid look because it’s out of her comfort zone. I thought she did an amazing job, she executed the idea of club kid very well and her walk was ev-er-y-thing, it was so quirky and different. I wish they would’ve showed closeups of her face with and without the mask, seeing it in Untucked was exciting... there was so much detail, and her lashes were insane. Her look definitely gave me anything but blue balls...
CHAD: I thought we had a ton of strong looks, obviously, but the real standout to me was Peppermint -- hers was very conceptual and focused. She looked otherworldly, sleek, sexy, and very much… on brand.
DAN: Peppermint’s look was amazing! Her look was easily the best on the runway… it was a Leigh Bowery reference with the kitschy peppermint candy spin on it. She really commanded the runway, and I feel like if her team had done better, this win could’ve been hers.
CHAD: So, let’s get to #maskgate. Wow. There’s so much there. I had heard the Reddit rumors about what would go down, but even so, I still gagged on all of that. First, what did you think of Valentina’s Club Kid runway?
DAN: Well, I think Valentina really missed the mark… her look reminded me of Cynthia Lee Fontaine’s Madonna runway, and there wasn’t much that made me think she understood the concept of Club Kid. The nail-gloves were really cool, and I enjoyed her makeup, but there was definitely more to be desired.
CHAD: Why do you think she kept on the mask for her lip sync?
DAN: Ya know, I thought there was going to do some sort of dramatic reveal at first… but then it became apparent that she wasn’t familiar with the song.
CHAD: When Ru stopped the song and confronted Valentina, do you think Ru went over the line? Was she *mean* about it?
DAN: I think she was pretty candid with Valentina, which was shocking, because we’ve never really seen a contestant get under her skin this much… even Pearl. Even her sashay message to Valentina wasn’t encouraging.
CHAD: I feel like everyone, including Ru, was caught off guard by how things went down. I really think the producers were counting on Valentina making it to the final three, but after such a catastrophic lip sync, things have been thrown off course. Which is kind of exciting, but also devastating for Valentina and her fans, right?
DAN: Yeah, Valentina has a very loyal fan base… she is, like, drag-Selena... she is endearing, adorable, and has a great personality, so I’m sure her being ripped from the show is devastating for them.
CHAD: Thanks, Dan!!! What else should readers know about you?
DAN: You can check out my work at DanPolyak.com and see more of what I’m up to on Instagram. This Sunday is the Queen! 5 Year Anniversary in Chicago at SmartBar! For more about Queen!, check out Facebook.com/QueenSundays and check out a Velour spread featuring Shea Coulee and Sasha Velour art directed by me at TheDragMagazine.com