The art of drag is not simply one which requires an external transformation—it’s a way of finding self-potential and acceptance in those areas that are often quieted and forgotten. For Victoria Paige Matthews, becoming her persona means more than taking to the stage; it’s about making herself a fully self-realized performer.
This queen from Minnesota has seen the scene at its best and its worst, and through it all, she still has the heart and essence of a performer who is eager to learn and grow. As Victoria prepares to co-host the mainstage at Aurora Pride on August 3, she is not only ready to deliver a spectacularly fabulous performance, she also plans on telling a story that embraces what truly matters most.
When did you become interested in drag?
It was in the spring of 2005 in Minnesota; I went to a drag show at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and I never had been to one. It was so much fun and so exciting; I had such a good time. I told my friends, ‘I gotta do that!’ How do I do that?’ The following fall, I was in a show, and, oh God, it was so bad! [laughs] I had no experience; no one talked to me or told me how to do anything, and I just purchased makeup with no idea what I was buying. But, over time, I’ve just gotten to figure out what works better for me.
How long did it take you to get into the scene once you moved to Denver?
It was like hitting the reset button; it was really slow at first, because, like most places, a lot of the bars are about who you know, that type of thing. I kept trying to get connected and people were like, ‘Do you have pictures? Do you have videos? You need to come out in drag.’ I was working in retail with odd schedules, so I couldn’t, but I finally got in after a year of being here.
How is the Denver drag scene different?
Back home, you got a chance, but you could definitely tell people held their noses up in the air. There was this unspoken rivalry between the Duluth queens and the Minneapolis queens. Then I came out here, and it was so diverse. There’s different drag depending on what your take of drag is, and each bar does their own thing. They were more inviting if you were a good queen, if you did a good job. It was more about putting on a good show than rivalry. So, it was a little more inviting, but [you still have to have a] reputation.
Is there something about becoming Victoria that is different than who you are every day?
It provides me with a sense of confidence that I feel I lack. I I feel like there’s things that I do is a Victoria Paige that I never would do as a guy. I’m very shy. I don’t understand why there’s a difference, but there is.
It helped me get through a lot, because when you’re shy and you’re not as outspoken, you need that sense of confidence to help keep going. I would be depressed often just because I had low self esteem, but when I do drag, it’s totally different.
What makes for a signature Victoria Paige performance?
I’m definitely a 90s queen, and I feel like that makes me stand out, good or bad. I often do 90s and 80s stuff, because I still adore music from that era. I’m doing better at broadening the genres; after Aurora Pride last year I got to know Novelli, and she’s amazing. She helped me get into Koven, and I found out I have a pretty decent witchey-type Koven vibe with the numbers I’ve done there.
What do you have planned for Aurora Pride?
This is a big year in the LGBTQ world, and I’m also a member of the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus. We recently did a Stonewall tribute concert. I got so connected with Stonewall and our history; it was just so beautiful. I’ve planned out a special outfit that has to do with the trans community, because they’re going through a lot of crap right now. I may not be in the trans community, but I have a lot of friends who are, so it’s important to me to support them. I’m going to dedicate my first number to Dustin Schlong, because I know that he can’t be having an easy time right now because of ovarian cancer, so I plan on donating all my tips for that number to him.
What makes Aurora Pride different than other Prides you have been to?
I feel like the other Prides are all really wonderful; I think they’re just so grand. For Aurora Pride, it’s a bit more focused and centered on all the aspects of Pride. Aurora is amazingly diverse in itself, so it’s more Aurora Pride and not just Gay Pride. You don’t have to be gay to come to this Pride; straight, gay, bi, whatever, all are welcome. And, this year’s gonna be awesome, because it’s Colorado’s first beachfront Pride!
Photo by Mike Bomberger