We appreciated the glitz and pomp of in-person performance perhaps most profoundly in its absence. But the trials of the past two years also inspired reflection for local drag performer Reese Umbaugh, stage name Cookie Couture, on all it takes to make live entertainment happen. Couture brings us along for the day, providing a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes of a Seattle drag show.
8am Umbaugh’s morning routine is simple: brush teeth, make breakfast, transform into a platinum blonde Amazon from the waist up. Like many of us, he’s leaned into the silver linings of Zoom life and eschews hard pants wherever possible; “a fabulous sequin top” paired with sweats makes for a very 2022 OOTD.
He blocks his eyebrows, a staple drag makeup technique in which a glue stick is applied to tamp down the actual brow hairs so that they can be erased with foundation and replaced with artful simulacrums. Then, with a nimble application of false lashes and a deft dash of contouring, Cookie Couture arrives.
9:30am Couture’s Covid pivot came when she was approached by Airbnb, anxious to generate more digital content. Since then she’s worked everything from 75th birthday parties to corporate retreats for the company’s virtual drag bingo experience. This gray December morning she’s hosting a birthday celebration in New Zealand, where it’s 10:30pm. Couture says that her virtual appearances help “bring people out of the funk” of Zoom fatigue and doomscrolling, particularly in places where Covid restrictions are tightest.
11:30am The ironing board comes out. Couture painstakingly flattens her drag tips, which are mostly one-dollar bills, and rubber bands them together in preparation for a bank drop-off.
12pm Makeup still in place, Couture puts on her “boy clothes” and heads to the grocery store. She used to feel self-conscious about going out in public while donning an ambiguous blend of drag persona and everyday clothing, but no longer; nowadays, she’ll pick up her four kids from school in full glam. She loads up on salads and energy drinks, and post-show provisions like frozen pizza and firecracker Popsicles.
4pm The worst thing that can happen during a show, Couture says, is that you hit play and...crickets. In these cases, queens marshal their improv abilities. Couture has done her fair share of riffing while someone frantically tries to get the audio fired up; that’s why she heads to Kremwerk two hours ahead of the Lady Gaga–themed show she’s cohosting with Londyn Bradshaw to ensure that all the performers’ tracks are in order.
5pm It’s back to the makeup chair, this time to craft a head-to-toe look.
10pm The show ends, and the queens head to Pony, the “official after-party spot” for Seattle’s drag performers. As the cohost of the show, Couture has spent the evening flitting around ensuring things go smoothly. A vodka soda with the girls is a well-earned respite.
2:30am Couture returns home to the tender embrace of frozen pizza.