How Vander Von Odd Is Invigorating the Alt Drag Scene

Vander Von Odd will spoke up the stage at Club Volt on Thursday.
Vander Von Odd will spoke up the stage at Club Volt on Thursday. Courtesy of Vander Von Odd
As RuPaul gets flak for comparing trans women drag performers to doping Olympians, drag queens have stood up with fellow performers who don't fit the traditional drag profile of gay, cisgender male. Vander Von Odd is no exception.

"What she said was kind of contradictory to everything she represents," the L.A.-based drag performer says of RuPaul's comments. "I took to Instagram and made a story, an appreciation post for drag performers who are not gay men. It was [celebrating] assigned-female-at-birth queens I really admire, trans-feminine queens..."

As the first-ever winner of The Boulet Brothers' Dragula, it's a world Von Odd knows well. In contrast to the pop culture behemoth that is RuPaul's Drag Race, Dragula has more of a cult following and puts the spotlight on alternative, grittier styles of drag.

On Thursday, March 8, Von Odd will bring her distinct drag to Phoenix during the inaugural alternative drag showcase put on by up-and-coming Valley collective The Haüs. Fellow Dragula alum and Phoenix-based queen Dahli will also be on the bill, along with Rubye Moore, Mynx, Astrud Aurelia, and DJ Image. It's the first of a monthly series.

Von Odd also works as a filmmaker under her birthname and boy alter ego, Antonio Yee. Her lip-syncs and costumes are often inspired by the same pop culture touchstones as Yee's filmmaking. They include Guillermo Del Toro, James Wan, The Others, Wizard of Oz, and Fright Night.

"I think my biggest goal through performance is to connect with people on an emotional level," Von Odd says. "If I had to choose one word to describe what I'll be bringing, it would be emotion. Regardless of what the feel of my numbers are, I think the one core thing they have in common is that they exude emotion."

Before Dragula, Von Odd was never paid for a booking. Now, she spends weeks at a time traveling around the country bringing alternative drag to developing markets. 

In the past few years, RuPaul's Drag Race has gone from a niche Logo channel show, to a VH1 hit that's one of the most popular programs in its viewing block. The show has undoubtedly popularized drag, but it sometimes leaves less mainstream queens on the sidelines in favor of hyper-feminine performers. Dragula is alternative drag's response to this. Von Odd says Dragula validated her style, as well as other drag performers who don't quite fit into a mold.

"I think Dragula as a whole has changed the landscape and is still changing the landscape of drag," Von Odd says. "I think this kind of drag highlights the underrepresented, the bullied, the weirdos. It's like what horror movies meant to me. I was able to appreciate that darkness and that thing that made them different."

Alternative drag doesn't require the constrictive elements of beauty, glamour, and feminity that are often perceived as elements of being a drag performer.

"I think that type of drag and representation is really important because it opens itself up to more than just hyper-feminine drag," Von Odd says. "You have drag queens, hyper-fem, hyper-masc and pretty much every possible person on the spectrum of drag can succeed within the "Dragula" drag and I think that's empowering for people."

Von Odd often includes kink performers in her drag performances, blending in interests in S&M and human pups.

"I think alternative drag lives on the fringe of society with people who live that way," Von Odd says. "A lot of the other communities I love — like the kink communities, S&M — have an appreciation for that darkness, as a sort of umbrella term for it.

Vander Von Odd is scheduled to perform at Club Volt, 3108 East McDowell Road, from 10 p.m. 2 a.m on Thursday, March 8, with doors opening at 9 p.m. Ticket are $10 at the door with meet-and-greet tickets available for additional $10.
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