‘Drag Race’ winner Violet Chachki is feeling in the pink, with a figure that leaves queens green with envy
J. DENTON BRICKER | Contributing Writer
We all know that drag offers the opportunity for drag artists to develop different and unique styles, personalities and acts, but no queen has been quite like Violet Chachki. The champion of the most recent season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Chachki (real-life name Jadon Dardo) was a divisive choice among fans, but there’s no doubt she will pave the way for the next generation of drag. One of the youngest to win the show (at 22, she’s slightly older that Season 2 winner Tyra Sanchez was), her longtime passion for vintage fashion recalls the day of an early Bettie Page, mixed wildly well with a dash of S&M (that cinched waist!) and her notoriously exuberant confidence.
“My favorite moment from the season was winning — obviously — but going in, you have no idea if you’re going to make any friends or not,” she says. “I actually made a lot of really good friendships, hopefully life-long. I think it is really amazing that drag can bring people together … and all that sappy shit.”
“Sappy shit” aside, we all remember that unforgettable scene where she reactively spouted her disdain for Michelle Visage after a rough critiquing from Ru’s BFF.
“I haven’t gotten a chance to hang out with her after the show,” she says. “Every time I see her, it is super cordial so there is no bad blood. It’s OK to have different opinion on things and I think I am learning that you don’t have to agree with everybody. I think about what she said, it’s still touchy for me, but she’s allowed. It can be frustrating not really having a voice when they critique. You just got to take it, do what they say and hope you do better next week.”
Though she is the reigning queen of RPDR, Chachki’s origins in drag are humble.
“I started watching Season 3 of Drag Race around the same time I first started doing drag,” she recalls. “I was dressing up in my own room — I wasn’t trying to be a drag queen, just fooling around with gender when I started. A lot of new drag queens are watching the show or learning on YouTube.
I think we touched on that this season, the culture generations of queens that was raised on the show,” says Chachki. (Cough, cough Kennedy Davenport.)
What a progression, then, to the finale this season. Though all of the queens were on point at the season finale, Violet’s hair-to-toe purple ensemble was simply unforgettable.
“I wanted to look like I was dripping in purple goo,” she admits. “It evolved. I wanted to be glam and corseted. I like my drag to be super-uncomfortable and I don’t think a lot of people do hobble skirts. I wanted to drip in violet, amethyst and lavender — all of those purple hues. It was a rush job, actually. All of my friends hovered over my skirt with tweezers and went to town with rhinestones and beads.”
Her unique and enduring spunkiness carries through in her newly-released album — appropriately named Gagged — that deals with serious issues. The video for her newest single, “Vanguard,” depicts Chachki as the victim of a group of bullies before she turns the tables with the restaurant patrons and issues her own fetish-warrior justice alongside a vicious poodle.
“The idea for the music video is based off of a real life experience I had in Australia,” she says. “I kind of got fagbashed at a McDonald’s at 3 in the morning. It didn’t get as physical as I took it in the video, but it served as inspiration.”
Avant-garde visuals have become a theme of her art. Her first single, “Bettie,” explored fetish roles and presentation versus reality; it was been No. 11 on the Billboard dance charts for two weeks in a row.
“I love fetish, because the line between right and wrong is blurred in a controlled, safe way. It is harmless fun that can really give new meaning to someone’s otherwise humdrum life. I also love the fashion,” says Chachki.
Though she did have the chance to clown around, Chachki never really had the opportunity to show off one of her more physical talents, such as work in silk acrobatics, which are gracefully featured in the “Vanguard” video.
“My latex designer in Atlanta is a jack of all trades. She does aerial acrobatics, silk, trapeze, fire dancing, bullwhip. She got me into it,” she says. “It’s a really beautiful way to get a good workout which is why I really like it.” (So that’s how she keeps that famously itty-bitty waist.)
Even during her comparatively brief career, Violet has noted the sensations associated with the process — and the community’s response to being out and about in drag.
“When you’re a real queen, you do it once and you get addicted to the attention and to the creativity,” she says. “It’s one of the most creative things you can do; you’re literally [inventing] a person. Halloween is when a lot of drag queens are born. Halloween happens and you get all of this attention and love. You feel great for your art and get addicted to the notoriety.”
Her success nationally and in her home base of Atlanta has helped her inspire a resurgence of drag there … at least when she isn’t busy traveling the world — including Dallas, where she’ll be this weekend.
“There really wasn’t this large drag scene in Atlanta when I first started. I, my drag mom and my drag sister,” she says. “I don’t want to say started a drag scene [there], but there definitely wasn’t a lot of drag and now there are a number of new queens. Like I was saying, it is really easy to get a lot of attention. Some queer boys got addicted [to drag] and I like to think I had a hand in that.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 31, 2015.