Irene Dubois on stage at Julia’s on Capitol Hill in a vintage gown.

Ian Hill was a 17-year-old theater nerd in Houston when he saw his first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the TV performers vamping in  gowns and wigs that put even Texas hairdos to shame. Hill was instantly hooked: “Everything from that point on was in service of having a career as a drag queen.” Ten years, a BFA in theater, and a move to Seattle later, Hill’s Irene Dubois persona has become one of the city’s most prominent drag queens, hosting the tourist-friendly brunch show at Julia’s on Capitol Hill between artier turns at R Place and Neighbours. Still a self-proclaimed “weird kid,” Hill experiments with sci-fi and fantasy twists on classic glam. Since stages went dark in spring, the nonbinary, gender-fluid Seattleite has endured the loss of live performances with a philosophical outlook and lots of Sour Patch Kids. “Putting on drag is like a Tibetan mandala,” reasons Hill. “You put in tons of work, tons of experience is behind it. And then at the end, you just wipe it all off. It’s very meditative.”


Drag can be anything. It can be a musician dressing up, it can be an actor playing a woman’s role. It’s anything that notes and embodies a performance of gender.

The two inspirations for my creativity are my grandmother and Star Wars. Sometimes I like to dress up like a very refined older woman. And then sometimes I like to dress up like an alien.

My grandmother was British and very hard to describe. She wasn’t like the most refined Brit, but she definitely thought she was. It’s that level of absurd, dramatic flair that I bring to the stage.

Seattle is a city where all types of drag are embraced. It really matters what you bring to the stage. And it does not matter what you look like, as long as you look the way you mean to look.

There are messy queens who just do a really great job of looking like a total disaster. And people love it. And I love it.

This is what I was looking for when I started doing drag. This idea that we take this archetype of femininity and totally whack it to shreds.

I think the drag is a form of clowning. We live in a very gender-binary enforced society, and that’s what needs to have fun poked at it.

I have plenty of friends whose families don’t get it, don’t want to get it. So I count my blessings every day.

Whenever my parents come to a show, I make sure to call them out. I say, this is what parents look like who support their kids.

Every drag queen should have a marketable skill related to drag. I studied how to carve the perfect piece of foam that you can slide into pantyhose to give the illusion of a thick thigh and a juicy booty.

Queens who put a lot of work into becoming full-time artists are having to backtrack [during Covid], which is really painful. Having the rug ripped out from under you.

We can create as much virtual content as we want, but it just...nothing satisfies that itch for live performance. And landing a joke. And hearing the whole crowd laugh.

The issues facing not just my community, but the Black queer community and the Black trans community specifically, are so much more urgent than anything going on in my personal life.

Original Shakespeare plays had the audience area on the ground, which cost a penny to get into, and they’d yell at the stage and contribute. And then, like, the queen was sitting up in the balcony.

Literally everyone in society was invited to the show. To me, drag is the only performance art that is still like that.

Drag is a cathartic release of joy. I think people like to watch other people have uninhibited fun.

Drag queens are a self-obsessed breed of humans. We need attention. And to just have that completely taken away... 

Blanche DuBois [in A Streetcar Named Desire] is my dream role. Oh, my gosh, I wish I could play Blanche so bad. No one’s ever gonna cast me in that role, so I’ll be Blanche DuBois myself.

 

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