South Beach on Heels
In the gay world we all know the Drag Queen Personas, but how many of us know the individual behind the make-up? Dmitry Zhitov producer of "South Beach on Heels," will take everyone behind the scenes in this documentary film.
What made you decide to make South Beach on Heels?
I have seen many documentaries and reality shows about drag queens. However, the more I saw the more questions I had about this particular form of art. Yes, I call it "art," because I believe that D.R.A.G. is an art form and these people are true artists that have not been validated accordingly, due to social taboos, stigmas, and phobias. Furthermore, the following questions were percolating in my psyche: Who’s really behind all of the fabulous make-up, wigs, jewels and costumes? Why do they gravitate towards this form of artistic expression? Is entertainment the driving factor? Why do they wish to go to this extreme? Do they do it because they desire to be women? Were they born in a wrong body and want to escape from reality by selecting this job? Is it a formal career?
I realized that the only way I can satisfy my curiosity is to get the information firsthand. That’s how I ended up at the brunch of The Palace Bar in South Beach enjoying a great show of South Beach divas. I approached Tiffany Fantasia and our first conversation was so interesting and genuine. To my surprise and consternation, I soon discovered that Ms. Tiffany Fantasia has a daytime job which has nothing to do with being a drag queen whatsoever. On top of this, Ms. Fantasia exemplifies an open mindset which I truly respect. She is so refreshing and candid. Furthermore, while Ms. Tiffany Fantasia is a "male," who performs in drag several days a week for passion, it also helps him to pay the bills. This engrossing conversation was so touching and heartfelt that I decided to make my own documentary in order to highlight the many colorful and diverse facets of these multifaceted people that have never been explored through the genre of film.
Why did you choose the queens you did?
I did not choose the queens, they chose me. More specifically, when I started shadowing Ms. Tiffany Fantasia, by capturing his life on camera, the other queens saw the quality of work being done and soon realized that this film will change the way the world sees drag. I will show you who these drag queens really are, not just men dressed up as women, but far more. I am honored that they opened up to me (and you) and became part of this magnificent project.
Tell us something you learned about drag queens that you never knew before.
I learned so many things I never even thought of before. I am not going to reveal everything that I learned. After all, you will discover their beauty and wisdom in the film.
I must confess that what really touched me deep inside were all of their hardships and challenges that these entertainers must encounter which often resulted in a rare type of reward. For example, one of the most important rewards that they exhibit so proudly is this profound sense of what I call "freedom of self-expression." In fact, in one of the interviews Ms. Tlo Ivy asserted: "I have something that many people don’t have and will never have and that to me is freedom of knowing who I really am inside."
Hence, these performers found the freedom in their performance D.R.A.G. art form(s) even though they must face harsh "judgment, discrimination and misunderstanding not only from the straight community but also within gay community," as Nina Flowers shared with me during his informative interview. With tears in his eyes, Noel Leon pleaded "If you like what I am doing then applaud. If you don’t, just walk away, but don’t threaten me, try to hurt me, or make fun of me because as tough as we become, it still hurts our feelings!"
You have drag queens who are not from South Beach, like Elaine Lancaster, Vinna Rouge, Nina Flowers, Carmen Carrera, Lashauwn Beyond and Kitty Meow. Isn’t the film called "South Beach On Heels?"
There are so many great entertainers in the world, and South Beach is like a crossroad for many of them. I met a lot of intriguing and enigmatic drag queens from all over the country while working on this documentary. They shared their stories with me, and I want to share their stories with the world. That is what makes "South Beach On Heels" a diverse and global project that will transform and inspire many people on an international scale.
Which queen revealed the most?
They all revealed something unique. Drag queens opened up to me about the entire process of transforming from their street personas to their drag queen personas, starting from gluing over their eyebrows, applying the make-up, showing me their warehouses of costumes and jewelry, walls of wigs, even exactly how they use duct tape to help them look more like divas. I met their families, friends, attended their day jobs, and parties.
Thus, I was there for them during the good times as well as the bad ones too. Elaine Lancaster remarked: "Oh my God, Dmitry! I am sharing some many things with you that I have never told anybody!" That is what you will see in the film: personal disclosures, secrets unveiled, and testimonials.
What will people be shocked to see in this film?
Every time I show the official trailer to people, they are shocked to see how with the assistance of make-up these entertainers transform themselves into dazzling glamorous divas. I often receive the following comments: "Wow, I cannot believe it." "That is amazing." "Can I see it again?"
In addition, my trailer evokes strong emotions and tears from these attentive viewers. So real. So emotional. So honest and heart-opening! The tag line of the film is "Real Lives. Real Stories." We all know that life is not always that fabulous, especially if you decide walk down this particular performance path. As I have mentioned before, drag queens encounter many challenges, but they still find the courage to keep going.
Finally, it was the notorious Oscar Wilde who once wisely remarked: "Illusion is the first of all pleasures." I agree with Oscar Wilde, only I would add that these remarkable "gender illusionists" have opened up the door to pleasure for me and they will for you, too. Shanaya Bright, the queen of costumes, as he is known, once said in his interview, "Through my costumes I want people to enjoy and dream about me because this is all an illusion."
I know you need help with funding to get the film released. How can people help?
Even though I am still in the process of filming, I have already received a lot of e-mails from organizers of film festivals ranging from the following: Miami, Chicago, New York, Montreal, Paris and Berlin. Thus, "South Beach On Heels" is clearly moving in the right direction.
Without being too optimistic, I firmly believe it has the market potential to be a global phenomenon. Currently, I just need the funds to make it happen. I started a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter in order to obtain the financial backing necessary to complete "South Beach On Heels." In order to make a high quality film, I need the following: An upgrade to my equipment, and a team of professionals such as a video editor, a sound editor, and a graphic designer. You can pre-order a DVD or a digital download of the film by going to the "South Beach On Heels" website, and you will find a link to a Kickstarter page of the documentary.
Kickstarter is connected to Amazon.com, so it is like buying things online. There are many great gifts for your donations. There are only a few weeks left to raise the funds. If we reach the goal by September 23, "South Beach On Heels" will be ready in December 2013.
Is there going to be a sequel?
People from all over the country are already contacting me and asking to be part of "South Beach On Heels." Their inquisitiveness and enthusiasm gave me a great idea to have a sequel. There are some projects planned already after the release of "South Beach On Heels." But first things first!
Please go to www.southbeachonheels.com and help me to complete this powerful and inspiring film. Please become part of "South Beach On Heels."