SHIFT Magazine: Memoirs of a Drag Queen

May 2, 2011  

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By Nicole Jacobsen
njacobse@smu.edu

To the average person, Joe Hoselton leads a relatively normal life. The glistening blonde hair, neatly manicured nails and flawless complexion are complimented by piercing blue eyes, sly smile and highlighted by strong jaw line.

“He’s a perfectionist, meticulous, and stubborn,” Brandi Amara Skyy, Joe’s drag daughter said. “But he is also loyal, intelligent and fiercely dedicated to his community. He is beautiful both inside and out and very determined and driven in any and all things he does… But Jenna is the yang.”

But who exactly is Jenna?

“Jenna Skyy is one of the most terrific drag performers I’ve ever seen,” Lacey Brutschy said. “It amazes me because she can be one person, defiant in nature, sassy and quick-witted. While Joe is still quick-witted, he isn’t as much of a smart ass. He’s quiet. Almost like Jenna’s alter-ego instead of the other way around.”

Joe, a graduate admissions coordinator at SMU, also headlines as the famous Jenna Skyy, a Friday night drag performer at Station 4’s Rose Room and host of Gay Bingo Dallas every Sunday at the same club.

One would never suspect that Hoselton is an expert at not only applying electric blue eye shadow, painting his nails and strutting around a stage in high heels while singing along to the latest hit from Lady Gaga, but then again, looks can be deceiving.

As Friday night approaches, Joe ditches the ponytail that keeps his hair neatly pulled away from his face, strips his usual t-shirt and jeans, only to replace his everyday casual outfit with layers of bronzer, foundation and mascara along with high heels and scantily-clad evening gowns.

“It takes a lot of ugly to get to pretty,” Joe said. “My look is still changing and improving. Even six months ago I was a different look. I’m constantly refining and learning new things. In the beginning, it’s paint by numbers. You have to get comfortable holding the brush and then you just learn.”

For Joe, becoming involved with drag was something that happened naturally. A born performer, he was the drum major at Sam Houston High School and the University of Texas at Arlington. While performing with the marching band gave Joe the adrenaline rush he craved, performing as a drag queen has fulfilled a more modern and contemporary niche Joe admits his life would be empty without.

“I started helping and hanging out with my friend as he did the pageant circuit,” Joe said. “When I was helping him, it was like preparing a marching show and I was immediately hooked. Here was my marching band, my opportunity to be a drum major again.”

From there, Jenna took over. Over the next several years, Jenna Skyy appeared in more than one dozen pageants, eventually winning first place at the Miss Texas FFI pageant in 2009. Following the win, Jenna was hired at Station 4’s Rose Room as a permanent fixture in the Friday night line-up.

“I really studied and paid attention and immersed myself,” Hoselton said. “I learned to sew, mix music, jack hair and dress myself. I learned to do everything and then started investing in some things and just kind of started it just took off from there.”

But Jenna’s glittery lifestyle has not always been so glamorous.

“Jenna told me about her first drag performance,” Brutschy said. “Her dad let her borrow his pickup truck in Texas to drive there and she lugged her makeup bags in it. I always thought it was almost ironic – a drag queen driving a pickup truck. Such a stereotypical lesbian moment, but accomplished by a first-time drag queen.”

Showing up in a pickup truck was the least of Jenna’s worries; she quickly learned the cruel reality she was trying to fit into.

“It’s really hard to trust people and people are so hateful,” Joe said. “At first, I wasn’t as worried because when you perform at small locations and when you’re not as visible it’s ok if you make mistakes but I’m at a place now where a lot of people see me so the pressure is greater so I’m much more critical of myself and it’s so much harder to maintain now so the criticisms hurts now because there’s more of it.”

But in a world that demands Jenna to look as womanly as possible, Joe insists he is happy staying a man.

“I didn’t like piercing my ears,” Joe said. “I don’t think I would do anything to my body specifically for Jenna. I don’t want to be a woman. I really am happy being a gay man. The gay community looks at drag queens like the world looks at bisexuals, kind of like ‘pick a choice’ and ‘make up your mind,’ and unfortunately they aren’t embracing of the bisexual preference and so drag is sort of like ‘if I wanted a woman, I’d be with her’.”

Fortunately, Brandi says it’s because of Joe’s perseverance and dedicated to stay true to himself that he has been able to overcome the obstacles of a harsh reality.

“Joe has never been afraid to chart his own journey and create new territories in drag,” Brandi said. “He is one of the true pioneers of this craft because he sees potential and acts upon it; he doesn’t wait for it to become trendy or mainstream. But not only that, he’s not afraid to go against the grain, be different, or act upon his intuition. And that’s what makes him a visionary and someone who starts the trends rather than hops on them.”

Joe’s demeanor changes momentarily when asked what the hardest part about being a drag queen is, but his answer helps restore confidence to a profession that deserves just as much respect, if not more, than a normal beauty pageant or dance performance.

“I’ve mad a lot of sacrifices,” Joe said. “I’ve got the long hair, I’ve got no eyebrows . . . nonsense like that, that I do to make my other job easier and guys like to tell me I look ridiculous, and I feel ridiculous sometimes, but whatever, it is what it is.”

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