As Madison Absaroka has gone through the ups and downs of life, she keeps coming back to one thing that is consistent: her love for drag. She takes the art of self-expression through an unconventional bending of society’s expectations, and that has helped her discover that the persona of Madison isn’t too far off from her essential inner self. Finding authenticity through performance art has helped this self-starter make a parallel between life and art that people rarely get the opportunity to experience.
Absaroka is a Denver native and has performed at a variety of Pride festivals in Colorado, hosted Drag Against Humanity with her drag sister, and frequently performs at Lil’ Devils and Charlie’s. As she prepares to take the mainstage at Aurora Pride on August 3, Madison talked with OUT FRONT about her beginnings, doing drag, and what makes Madison Absaroka stand out in a city of fabulously unique queens.
How did you get your start performing as Madison?
It’s been something I’ve been interested in doing really since I was very young. I really started getting into drag when I was in school at the University of Wyoming. The first time I went out in drag up there was Halloween, like so many people do when they first try out drag. I wanted to go out and be the fishiest girl I could be; I was probably more like rotten tuna than a sexy fish, but still.
I only do a show every month or two; it’s just with where my life is now, but I still put myself out there and have always enjoyed drag.
How did Madison find her name?
For a long time when I was first doing drag, I didn’t have a name. Every time I’d go out, I would invent a new name and tell people ‘this is my name tonight,’ but then I settled on the name Spooky Delight, which was fun. Then, as I learned that I wanted to do drag, I realized that names gave people an idea of what kind of queen I was, and that name just didn’t feel right to me. So, I was exploring names, and I settled on Madison, because I like that name; I think it’s a powerful name. Absaroka is the name of a mountain range in Yellowstone, so it kind of touches on my heritage of going to school there and having a love for hiking in the Yellowstone area of this country. When I first heard the name, I said, ‘That’s a gorgeous name,’ so that just became that.
What gets you the most excited when you are getting prepared?
For me, it’s the music, the song choice. I always like to find songs that are really upbeat and have a positive message. My queen, my muse for my drag character is Kylie Minogue so a lot of what I do is very much inspired by her. I do a lot of Kylie, she’s very upbeat, uplifting, glamorous, fun, and silly and that’s the kind of stuff I like to do. I’ll take a sexy song and do something that I can be my true, goofy self with.
That’s what gets me the most excited is knowing what I’m gonna give to the people musically and that energy that I’m going to bring.
And then from there, like, I love wigs. I think wigs are probably my favorite part of the look.
What is your least favorite part of preparing?
Well, my least favorite part is shaving (laughs). I used to shave my whole body, I thought you had to do that. I learned over time that you don’t have to do that, and I was really thankful to learn that because I am a very hairy man! So, I’ve learned that you can cover up with tights or wear longer sleeves if you don’t wear show your body hair, or just be proud of your body hair if you’re if you’re going to show it, which I’ve become more comfortable with doing. I still usually shave my face just because I don’t have a lot of experience with painting a beard and I like serving like a very feminine book.
How does it feel when you have transformed into Madison?
There’s a big sense of pride, it takes several hours for me usually to get into the whole look and do all the makeup and the shaving, everything that goes into it. It’s a lot of work that goes into it and to see a completely different self in the mirror after doing hours of work and doing all the fine details, there’s a lot of pride in my ability to be creative.
What does Madison provide you that is different than you?
When I’m out, I sometimes forget how much different I look as a queen than I look as myself. I feel like I’m not really that different when I’m Madison versus myself because I forget that people perceive me differently, which has its advantages and disadvantages. I feel like I need to be more aware when I’m out that people are digesting the character that I’ve created and that I can really create whatever I want with that. I think that I just forget that’s what I could do, I have the ability to do that, and that people will respond to that in a positive way.
What is Madison most known for?
I have this massive afro I love to wear; it’s big, blonde, and delicious. Nobody that I’ve seen in Denver has a wig quite like it, so if people see that they’ll definitely recognize me. As far as my performances go, I’m a trained singer and I have a degree in musical theatre so I think singing live can distinguish me.
What are you most looking forward to at Aurora Pride?
I think it’s awesome that it’s going to be on a beach; that’s super cool and unique. I think as far as my performance goes, I intend to find a new look, something that I’ve never worn before. I haven’t gone out shopping for new looks at all. I always like when I’m in a show; I love being backstage and seeing how the other queens approach drag and how they organize their closet and the looks that they bring.
What does performing at Pride mean to you?
I definitely struggle from a lot of self-doubt and not believing in my own gifts and talents and feeling like it’s silly and I’m going to get made fun of for expressing myself in that way.
I feel like being able to perform at Pride, what I want to give people is a feeling of believing in yourself, trusting your instincts, not being afraid, and letting go of that voice of doubt.
Why is the art form of drag so important?
At its core, it’s just the art of self-expression. We are creative beings who can express ourselves however we want to, and how we express ourselves has nothing to do with our true essence, who we truly are, which is so much more than the physical appearance that we put out there. It helps remind us that our creativity is powerful, and drag helps us understand that our bodies are just the shell to carry their soul. With self-expression, it’s about having fun and breaking free from the roles that society wants to put on you. Society tells us that there’s a lot of pressure to express yourself or to present yourself in a certain way to people around you. Drag gives you the freedom to be more feminine or more masculine and to be the thing that we’re not allowed to be.
“I want to give people a feeling of believing in yourself, trusting your instincts, not being afraid, and letting go of that voice of doubt.”
Photo courtesy of Madison Absaroka