James Faulkner is an artist and performer who appears as himself and as Fedora Veronica Homburg. Jed Perez was identified as male at birth and appears as Jezabelle Herm Aphrodite Bonaparte, a feminine or queergendered queen ‘mother’, one of the Leeds collective, Party Mom Society.
The Demented Goddess: Drag queens and kings are often regarded by those not regularly attending drag parties as aggressive club harpies who throw shade at punters. But is there a nurturing side of drag, a surprising act of revelation that’s healing, for both performer and audience?
James: It’s funny because when I started doing drag at university I didn’t consider myself a queen. In the early Noughties, people still assumed that if you did drag you liked to fuck truckers in laybys. There was none of this ‘Yas Kween’ stuff. You were on stage, everyone adored you. They wanted you to be a cunt to them. The minute you got off stage, they found you terrifying. Only the people who thought you wanted to fuck truckers would come over and obsess.
But I think (drag performer and singer) Gateau Chocolat expressed the inner experience when they said, “You put on a mask to truly reveal yourself”. I could channel a lot of rage and hurt through this not-quite-character. I was being me… but cranked up to 11.
I see myself as an asexual person, maybe because of abuse, I don’t know. But I see myself as a loving, caring person. I like romance, cuddling. If you want to be scientific or biological about it, sex gives you a dopamine rush; it’s a drug. Whereas any revealing between people is sharing; it’s true intimacy.
Jezabelle Herm Aphrodite Bonaparte: As a performer (male or female) you are given more allowance to show emotion, in fact, it is expected and encouraged. As a character offstage people do tend to respond with more patience, light-heartedness and humour when I present as female.
DG: Do you feel there’s more of an opportunity to be tactile and emotional as a feminine performer or is there not as much difference as people might think across genders?
Jezzabelle: A woman or female presenting person definitely has more freedom to be tactile. In my experience people respond differently to a woman’s touch!
I truly believe the differences between genders are actually very few – despite the world’s insistence that we’re from different planets – and it is incredibly sad that this is the case. That being said I also think it is important to recognise and celebrate the differences that do exist.
James: One project in which I participated, not as my drag persona Fedora, but as myself – yet in an altered set up – was with the artist Rosana Cade. In ‘Walking, Holding’, strangers around the world – Tokyo, Berlin – went for a walk hand-in-hand with another person, one on one, who was local to an area. The local would then pass the stranger to another local. It arose from Rosanna being in a same-sex relationship. Holding hands publicly in this situation can be a protest, it can provoke anger yet ultimately, what are you doing? Holding hands with another person.
I did this in Leith, Edinburgh with people of all different gender expressions. It was a walk and a performance and often turned into a confessional.
I’m not conventionally male-presenting. I find it difficult to dress as a man but don’t dress as a woman because that causes certain reactions I don’t want. At the time, I was wearing thigh-length, brightly coloured kaftans and turbans and brooches. Also because of my dimensions, I’m not somebody who fades into the background. The set-up meant it didn’t feel like real life. It felt like a soundstage. It was being filmed on Iphones, discreetly, over four days and at the end of every day, I was crying because the conversations were like confessionals, for all of five minutes, as I’d walk them to the next person – and I might never see them again.
The majority, I didn’t see again. Anything they told me or shared was safe.
When I’m being the care-giver, if another passer-by makes a comment on my appearance, I don’’t acknowledge it. I’d want to make sure the person walking with me felt safe.
Jezabelle, What’s the most vulnerable you’ve ever felt as a female-presenting queen?
The truth is there is always an element of vulnerability when I am in drag. Whilst we cannot deny the world has come on leaps and bounds in acceptance and equality it is still undeniable that our war is not yet won.
There is no predictability about how people will respond which is why we are so lucky to have events like Party Mom Society (through whom The Demented Goddess first encountered Jezabelle) where you can be confident of safety and fun! On many occasions, I’ve been made to feel vulnerable. Outside a club I was ambushed by a group of young men. Things quickly escalated into abusive and aggressively sexual behaviour. Luckily a group leaving the club interrupted before anything too terrible happened – nevertheless I was very scared. Female presenting queens have become fetishised and others love the power they can exert over those they deem weaker. But not us Party Moms! To us, all are powerful!!
DG: What sort of space does hyper-gendered drag create for the participant? You’re both very nurturing and to hear you talk about your punters, it seems people enter your play-space quite readily.
Does the exagerration of gender in conventional drag make it easier for the punter to see you as matriarchs, slipping into the child position and getting in touch with childish emotions?
James: I must say, my use of make-up in drag is very sparing. I often use lipstick, blusher and sunglasses and hats instead of wigs. It’s mostly because I am the laziest drag queen in the world. But I don’t change my voice or look so much as the content.
My character Fedora Veronica Homburg is sexually aggressive. In a way, she isn’t me, she’s a way of dealing with sexual trauma – you know, when people will show you two cocks in a cunt on their phone and you go, “ooh no, put it away!” Those images would replay in my mind and Fedora was born from that, I think.
Fedora used to work in the porn industry. She was a fluffer and did all sorts of weird jobs. She’s bearded yet very refined and delusional about being featured in Heat magazine and so on. She talks about her multi-award winning campaigns for prostate health. To hear her talk, you’d think she was a cross between the Meryl Streep and Florence Nightingale of porn.
Fedora talks about her deluded romantic connections to famous people. Her character has a way, however, of accessing all sorts of emotions. In one performance, she received an award for a sex scene at a prize-giving and claimed to be having an affair with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. I ended up singing a Radiohead song, ‘Fake Plastic Trees’. For copyright reasons, I couldn’t use the actual backing so I found a karaoke-style, 8 bit verson of the song. The fact that this incredibly emotional song was reduced to sounding like an Atari-game, with Fedora singing rather grandly about fake plastic watering cans meant that initially, the audience were laughing. They were in hysterics. But by the end, they were crying and I was crying.
DG: Perhaps because drag enables high art to be crushed into low art, something essential is released, or transgressed?
James: Hmm. I don’t know if it was the power of song or if something was indeed transported, in that group moment.
Jezabelle: I am the most un-maternal Stepford Housewife you ever met! I once had a drag daughter who I hope I helped build confidence. Now I see her flourishing as a performer in her own right/ I believe I had something to do with that and presenting her for her first performance filled me with pride.
As a Drag Queen I am being nurturing and motherly in setting an example to be visible/proud/loud. I live a different fantasy every time I am out as Jezabelle and I hope that it inspires people to do the same. Mothers might hate me for saying this but my teaching is DO NOT ASK PERMISSION – GO! BE! EXIST! Force the world to pay attention. It is one of the few pieces of my own advice I do take! I hope by being a visible, living example I nurture and encourage or even inspire.
I became a Party Mom after attending the Party Mom Society parties in Leeds. The Party Moms were so welcoming, excited, and encouraging of every performer/artist/guest at their previous events that I begged to become one of them.
They made me feel like a superstar and I wanted to be able to return the favour. That is what we try and do for all the collaborators. They are a beautiful group of artists who just want to fill the world with colour/laughter/sex/fun for EVERYONE!! – and now I am one of them. We are an approachable group who have our own quirky style. WE love everything weird and sexy, and want all people to experience the love and family vibe we are lucky enough to have created in these events. We invite you to come up to Leeds, pick a Mom and help us extend the family.
The Demented Goddess team were speaking with James Faulkner and Jed Perez, also known as Fedora Homburg and Jezzabelle Herm Aphrodite Bonaparte.
Main photo of Jezzabelle Herm Aphrodite Bonaparte.
You can meet Jezzabelle at the next party by Party Mom Society, secret location, Leeds, 27th April. Follow them on Insta for more details.
Instagram: @partymomsociety; @that_jrf