This week, photographer Adam Ouahmane joins me to discuss this week's episode of the Drag Race! Adam is a Chicago fashion photographer who has worked with a number of notable queens. He brings a strong, conceptual edge to his portraits, and I've already shared a number of them throughout the season!
Chad: So, Adam, I wanted to talk to you about the Drag Race because you've collaborated with a ton of amazing queens in your work. You've done an entire series of photographs of Kim Chi and Shea Coulee, two of my favorite Chicago queens, and I believe you've worked with Trixie and Pearl, right?
Chad: You create some really stunning conceptual pieces with the queens -- how does that collaboration work? And what do you find interesting about working with drag queens?
Adam: I originally started out as a fashion photographer. While in college I enjoyed shooting crazy avant grade looks, and once I moved to Chicago, I realized that the market here for fashion is more toned down, clean, and commercial. All the new young models start here, so they like to keep them fresh. At the time, I was working at Beatnix on Halsted and noticed Kim Chi. I stumbled upon her Facebook, and she had that fashion look I like. So I approached her, and it all began from that. I am picky about who I approach to work with because I want the queens to have that high fashion edge. Sissy Spastik, Ruby Dee, Pearl, all the girls I've worked with have that fashion I like, and I have the freedom to work with them instead of agency models. As far as collaboration, we just text ideas, and I usually like for them to do make up in my studio so I can be hands-on and make sure it's perfect. And sometimes I sketch out the vision.
Chad: What did you think of the "Hello Kitty" theme of this week's challenge? Not exactly avant garde, is it?
Adam: To me it was. FINALLY! A non-acting challenge. It was avant garde in the sense that it is a fantasy. Something you won't wear everyday. I loved it.
Chad: Ha! Okay, that's good to hear. I agree that it was nice to see an unconventional fashion challenge -- FINALLY! The tie-in with Hello Kitty was a little random, but some of the queens really handled it well. And I must admit that I really liked the cartoony creations the queens came up with! Now, having worked with Pearl in the past, are you at all surprised to see her make it so far in the season?
Adam: Not at all. She is very creative, and I always like to refer to drag queens as artists, and that she is. She is amazing at painting her face and coming up with super high fashion concepts.
Chad: I LOVED hearing how she's drawn the character of Pearl since she was ten! And you're right, she has a really cool, artful approach to her drag.
Adam: Her look last night was very Jeremy Scott for Moschino.
Chad: Your fashion references will go COMPLETELY over my head. But I admire you for knowing anything about that.
Adam: He did that Mcdonalds line, if that helps haha
Chad: I thought the minimal dress shape worked, given the crazy print she was working with. And the giant kitty head on top served as a playful, strange shape to make an unexpected silhouette.
Adam: Exactly. And I love a queen with no hair as part of the look.
Chad: What do you think of Violet? She certainly knows her fashion history, doesn't she?
Adam: Yes. I never heard of her prior to the show, but her looks are beyond amazing. I loved her Hello Kitty look, of course, and also her bearded DIOR look. Again, it is very fashion.
Chad: And she's never had to lip sync! I think she's stunning, and it seems like she's the most deserving of the crown -- if not for my beloved Katya! But my fear is that winning the season would further inflate Violet's ego. Can you imagine?
Adam: If it inflates her ego, so be it, as long as she doesn't become a bitch lol
Chad: Ha! I thought she was pretty bitchy early in the season, but I think it's more youthful bravado at this point.
Adam: Yeah, she's only, what, 22?
Chad: She's very, very young.
Adam: Now, what was your thoughts on Santino being back?
Chad: Ha! I've never had any problems with Santino, really. Seeing him flirt with Violet was hilaaaaarious! I think I did a spit take! As someone who's more involved in fashion, what do you think of him?
Adam: I was glad to have them change up the judges, but kinda regret it now, because they don't really have anything to do with the challenges, except for giving acting advice. I don't get Violet and Ginger's lust over him, but good for them.
Chad: Well, the queens have been holed up in those hotel rooms a lonnng time by this point in the season.
Adam: I used to get annoyed with him judging their fashion badly since (no disrespect towards him), he never had a great career in it. But now, I kind of wish he was back, since he has more of a say in it than say, Ross. They need to being Christian Siriano or Heatherette.
Chad: Now, are you the kind of fan who's outraged by this week's elimination? Or no?
Adam: Kind of. It's coming off very staged. Like someone does bad in a challenge, does a great lip-sync, and stays. Whereas someone does great in a challenge, great at a lip-sync, and is sent home, cough (Trixie) cough. And I'm talking about the second time around – Pearl and Trixie should have both stayed that first time.
Chad: Yeah, this season has had really frustrating eliminations. It definitely makes me feel less emotionally attached to the outcome of the show when the decisions feel so arbitrary. I'll say that Kennedy IS a magnificent performer, but I really hate it when queens jump off the stage and dance right in front of the judges. It just seems unfair, like LOOK AT ME DON'T LOOK AT HER NOW YOU CAN'T EVEN SEE HER
Adam: Yeah, they should have a rule about that.
Chad: I think that they should set up the lighting so that the area in front of the judges is just completely dark. So if a queen jumps down there, she'll just be a spastic silhouette.
Adam: Or have a shark tank in front of the stage.
Adam: The winner is never the most successful with any reality competition. Trixie is traveling the most out of all the girls.
Chad: Trixie and Katya are the shit. I think the show will really, really suffer without them in the top 3. I do think Katya totally deserved to be in the top, and she's been my favorite this season. However, I think she made the most of her time on the show, she left with grace, and I was SO glad she was able to bring in her Russian character for the challenge!
Adam: Aren't you mad at no photo challenge this season?
Chad: I'm frankly SHOCKED that there hasn't been a photo challenge. My guess is that the producers think acting challenges make for more lively TV? I don't know.
Adam: That's what bothers me, is the challenges. None of the queens act post the show, yet they all do photoshoots, sell their own products. I mean, have Betheny from NY Housewives on and judge them selling their brand. Have a photographer judge a beauty shoot where it's just about their face and giving expression. That's more interesting, to me, at least. They are losing the inspiration from Top Model and Project Runway, which was their original goal.
Chad: Well, I think Jinkx demonstrated that a "theater queen" can do really well and take drag into unexpected places. We've seen a number of queens do one woman shows, like Bianca, BenDeLaCreme, and others.
Chad: But I do agree that they should have mixed it up more this season.
Adam: But Pearl, Fame, and Violet can do magazines, fashion, something new, you know?
Chad: Right, and the challenges this season have almost NOTHING to do with their approach to drag, except for the runway themes.
Adam: Can you believe it's almost over with?
Chad: Thank GOD! I'm sick of drawing these bitches. (I'm... mostly kidding.)
This week, they unveiled the show's programming, and it is incredible. Be there.