8 Questions With Wesley
Meet Wesley, the fierce and fabulous drag artist who's taking the scene by storm. I had the chance to chat with them and ask eight questions about their life, career, and all things drag. Get ready to hear some tea and discover the secrets behind Wesley's fabulousness.
1) When did you first get into drag and how did you get started?
My first time doing drag was on September 7th, 2019 at Drag Con NYC. I remember it like it was yesterday :) Drag was something I had been thinking about for a long time and going to drag con with my best friends gave me the courage to try it. After that day, everything changed and I just felt in my soul that drag is what I was meant to do. I stood in those cheap thigh-high heels (that I still wear today) and strutted my stuff for 4 hours until my feet were numb because I felt so amazing. After that, I started by making YouYube videos of my makeup learning process for entertainment and to hold myself accountable. My first gig was for a comedy improv group that saw my YouYube videos. From there I went to the competition scene in Brooklyn.
2. You are a wonderful singer and dancer. How did you start incorporating all those skills into your drag performance?
Thank you :) From the get go I knew I wanted to sing in drag. Part of what interested me about drag was the fact that people could perform whatever they want however they want. I was tired of musical theatre and how stale it felt and I wanted to sing and perform my favorite songs, so I rarely didn’t incorporate live singing into every act (even if it meant having to put the mic away halfway through the performance). Now, I’m known in the city for my singing because I refused to take no for an answer.
3. How did you come up with your name Wesley?
Wesley is actually my middle name. My friend and I were on the boat to Staten Island during the summer of 2019 when I mentioned to her that I was looking to be more gender-neutral with my drag name. Something that was closer to home and felt like my natural self. I knew I wasn’t going to be a punny comedy queen. That just wasn’t me or what thought my brand was. During that 20-minute ride, my friend just said “What about Wesley”, and the rest is history.
4. You are a self-taught Makeup Artist. How did you teach yourself how to do your own makeup?
I humbly graduated from YouTube University. Almost everything I know has come from YouTube, or trial and error. During the pandemic, I practiced makeup A LOT and grew tremendously. Just like everything else, when you do makeup a lot, you learn your face structure, how your skin works, what you like and what you don’t, and how different products work.
5. Having a lot of different outfits and makeup sounds like it can get very expensive. Are there any budget-friendly hacks that you have for staying fabulous 24/7?
OHHHH HONEYYYYY! Do I have the hacks for you. Anyone can do drag I promise this. Other than neglecting your personal life and wardrobe, which I do and do not recommend, there are so many ways to save money and look just as good if not better than a lot of drag queens. What I did to start out was shop at cheaper more accessible stores like Forever 21 and H&M for pieces that were not only unique but versatile. You would be surprised how many pieces just scream drag. Every queen has their own personal sense of style, so it's a lot of fun to just walk around these stores and see what silhouettes, colors, textures and shapes are available and which ones speak to you. I rarely wear the same outfit twice, unless it's a nicer full garment, simply because I have so many versatile pieces collected over the years.
The same goes for makeup. You do not need expensive makeup to do great drag makeup. Expensive brushes, foundation, lipstick, and liner don’t really work all that much better than their cheaper counterparts if you do your research on the best dupes. All you need is a good understanding of how makeup works as well as your own facial structure and you can make anything work. Drug store makeup can actually be really great too. If you’re looking for a fun way to learn about the best drugstore makeup, Trixie Mattel has a handful of YouTube videos where she buys a haul of each brand and tests them out.
Amazon is a very powerful tool for me too. The wigs are cheap and great for the price if you know what you're looking for. Learning how to style said hair is key to success. There’s no need to pay someone hundreds of dollars to do it when you have a brush and some hairspray. Again, YouTube has so much information. If you’re looking to keep things super cheap for a special look…well, girl…you just order something on Amazon, use it, and return it just like that (don’t tell anyone I told you this. It's a secret).
Overall, learning the crafts of drag will make you successful. And don’t forget sewing! I've been forced to learn everything on my own because I didn’t have money for anything special, but also because I wanted to learn. Just take things a step at a time. Becoming a great drag queen takes a lot of time and practice.
6. You worked on a cruise ship for a little bit. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience? It looked like so much fun!
It was an amazing experience to travel the world and do what I love. I don’t regret a minute of it. I met amazing people and got to perform and do amazing things. I will say, however, it was hard for me as my own creative soul, to try and make drag culture accessible to people through the lens of a corporation. I am not a vulgar or rude drag queen by any means, but I did often feel like I was losing my voice as an artist on the ship. It was also very difficult to be working on a cruise ship during covid. There were many days when the beauty of the experience couldn’t outway the struggle of everything I was going through. I could talk about this in-depth for hours, but all in all, I’m so happy I took the gig and got the opportunity to sail the Caribbean as a crossdresser!
7. You have 224,000 followers on TikTok. How do you keep up with your content creation while performing, and do you think having a big following on social has helped your overall success as a drag performer?
This is actually a huge struggle of mine. I always knew my calling was performing, but I found myself very stressed about creating content to keep my momentum on the app going. When I finally started drag full-time last year, things did start to settle and I was able to create content somewhat often, but not nearly often enough. What I like creating are fully fleshed-out concepts and character looks that take a lot of time, planning, and energy. During the pandemic, I had all the time in the world to start my career on social media and I took that opportunity for everything it was worth. Now it’s a game of being physically exhausted from performing but trying to get together social media posts on my off days.
I definitely think my TikTok has contributed to my success, but not as much as people might think. The drag scene, especially in NYC, is very cutthroat. If you don’t have connections and experience it's almost impossible to break in and get gigs. I never had a drag family or any connections in the drag world, so I had to work my butt off to prove myself time and time again, whenever I got an opportunity to perform. Luckily my talent and hard work have gotten me where I am today and I am making a living off of performing, but I’m not sure that had much to do with my social media. And because I always try to lead with kindness, understanding, and a positive attitude, I've gained a small group of sisters in the community that I wouldn't be without. I do, however, think that in the future, my social media can help me gain opportunities outside of the NYC nightlife scene, and already has in ways.
It feels like my career is split into two worlds. Real life, and online life. The two don’t really intersect the way people might think, but that’s kind of the fun of it. I think it’s important to be just as great in real life as you are online. TikTok gave me a huge boost during the pandemic, but real life doesn’t often do that for people, so I have to grind to earn my spot in this scene.
8. Where do you usually perform in NYC and do you have any performances coming up next?
I perform every Saturday at Tito Murphies brunch in Hells Kitchen, Sunday at Everdene restaurant in Flatiron, and Boxers in Hells Kitchen. Other than that I perform one-off gigs all around the city solo and with my drag Band The Bad Judies.
Thank you, Wesley! Please follow them on social media.