Olivia Gardens "My dress doesn't fit my boobs!" Olivia Gardens says mid-costume change. It's a busy Thursday night at Crescent Ballroom -- the lounge is packed and the ballroom empty as it nears midnight. She studies the plush, white padding and works to create the perfect cleavage. "These are the first boobs I ever bought."
Gardens is toned and petite, the kind of drag queen who might, if you weren't paying attention or perhaps had had one too many, make you do a double take before you realize that beneath all that woman is, well, a man.
"I've always loved being the center of attention, so doing drag made total sense," she says. "[And] when I first started drag, Olive Garden was my favorite restaurant -- it still ranks top five, I can't break free from that salad dressing! So the name 'Olivia Gardens' seemed appropriate. And who doesn't like a good tossed salad joke, right?"
Gardens, who has been crowned Miss Phoenix USofA (2010), Miss Phoenix Gay Pride (2011), and Miss Gay Phoenix America (2012), performs weekly on Wednesdays at Kobalt for Garden Variety Revue and Thursdays at Crescent Ballroom for Truth, Drag or Dare -- always playing with a collection of ladies who, she says, keep "the drag scene wonderfully diverse."
"Audiences can expect fun, frivolity, and a few bad puns," she says.
Coco St. James
The saying goes, "behind every great man stands a great woman." And if that's true, then behind every great drag queen is a great drag husband.
That's the story with Coco St. James (real name Mikee Leon) and his long-term boyfriend, Robert Maynard, who brushes St. James' long, blonde wig while the impersonator sits on a couch in Crescent Ballroom's green room, lacing a pair of stiletto thigh-highs.
"I first did drag because my partner encouraged me to do an amateur drag competition," St. James says. "[And] I loved the feeling when I won! I kept doing drag because of the artistic expression -- I love creating new things."
"My name came from the old way to pick your stripper name: take your first pet's name (Coco) and the street you grew up on (Gaylord)," she says. "After I did a few shows and committed to drag. I dropped the 'Gaylord.' Then Naomi St. James asked me to be her 'drag daughter,' and I became Coco St. James."
St. James teams up with Olivia Gardens for their elaborate Thursday night "game show" of sorts, Truth, Drag or Dare, and the duo is working on a new weekly set at BS West in Scottsdale. "Manic Mondays" will debut at 9 p.m. Monday, July 14, and will also include a collaboration with drag queen Lady Christian.
"Lady Gaga is a huge inspiration to me," says St. James, who has been named "Best Celebrity Impersonator of the Year" for her portrayal of the star two years in a row by Arizona Drag. "I love recreating her costumes and hair and dance routines. I love her story and her vision. I try to do a Gaga performance at every show."