The global pandemic has long standing impacts for everyone across various industries, with freelancers, remote workers, hospitality workers, gig performers all feeling the hurt as eviction moratoriums go into effect and people nationwide waiting with baited breath on relief aid updates.
Laganja Estranja of Rupaul’s Drag Race S6 and Trans performer Nicky Monet, who will be appearing in an upcoming episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, as performers who rely heavily on touring and appearing at gigs at nightclubs and events, have found all of their upcoming gigs canceled, in a last ditch national attempt to “flatten the curve” by closing bars & restaurants. Laganja and Nicky, along with tons of others in the entertainment industry have now effectively found themselves unemployed and share their experience with YASS Magazine.
How has your life changed after RuPaul’s Drag Race?
Laganja: My life has changed so much since being on “RuPaul‘s Drag Race,” and I have been able to travel the world spreading my passion for dance! I have met so many other entertainers and connected with people that I would have never met had I stayed a local drag queen.
Do you still live with Gia Gunn?
Laganja: #TeamTooMuch is still very much together even though Gia Gunn and I no longer live together. However, we live 10 minutes away from one another and still see each other every week.
How is your relationship with Gia at the moment?
Laganja: Gia and I are happy to have our own spaces but often miss our times together. And the quarantine has only made that clearer for us! We were missing each other so fierce we decided to use Skype the other day to make a YouTube together since we could not physically be with one another.
You are considered to be one of the most talented dancers apart from drag queens. How does that make you feel?
Laganja: I am truly so blessed to be known as the FIERCEST dancing Queen from “RuPaul‘s Drag Race,” I mean I was on two seasons of “So You Think You Can Dance.” And in case you missed my digital drag show where I flipped out of my car upside down all while fog was pouring out… well let’s just say the proof is in the puddin’!!
How do you personally define?
Nicky: As in gender? I am a trangender woman. A very proud transgender woman.
Would you consider participating in a show like RuPaul’s Drag Race?
Nicky: I auditioned every year for that show and stopped two years ago. they have made it very clear that transgender people who have boobs are not allowed on that show. Don’t believe me? Ru did an interview with the guardian where she literally said she will not have a trans woman on the show who has physically started their transition .
How do you feel that you will be appearing in an upcoming episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians? How did this happen?
Nicky: Keeping up with the Kardashians was such a fun experience. I’m extremely excited for the new season to air in a few days! You guys are going to love what we did on the show.
How was the above experience? How has your opinion regarding The Kardashians changed after you participated in the show?
Nicky: My opinion hasn’t changed about the sisters since filming the show. Our world we live in is cruel and judgmental and I never judged them. I have always looked up and practiced their business tactics my whole life. They are extremely smart and amazing humans that help alot of people.
Can you reveal something about them we don’t know?
Nicky: Yes I can. they are not snobby bitches who only take selfies. The world doesn’t see the real Kardashians because they are quick to judge. The girls are sweethearts and Kim and Khloe changed my life by introducing me to their millions of followers and allowed me an opportunity to show my talent on an international level.
How has the current pandemic situation affected you personally, your career and your life in general?
Laganja: The current pandemic situation has effected my life greatly, not just finically but also spiritually. While I am remaining optimistic and doing online drag shows, the virus has halted all of my plans for my 4/20/2020 cannabis activism and my album release due in July.
Nicky: Well just like majority of the worlds people i am on day seven of being stuck in my house with no human interaction. Affected you ask? I’m lonely , I’m bored, I’m in a prison. My career is what i built it for the past fifteen years and I’m now trying to keep it alive by being very present on social media. Im trying new things like teaching my viewers how to sew clothing with things already in your homes. In any case we go into a depression and can no longer afford to go buy clothes.
When did you start receiving gig cancellations and getting informed that bars and clubs are shutting down?
L: I started receiving cancellations of my gigs as early as March 4th, but was fortunate enough to work up until March 17.
N: March 12, 2019 i got hit all at once by every venue, private party, filming and collaboration gig i was booked for. I was mentally prepared for it. I knew it was coming . I have friends in other countries that it happened to before the U.S. got hit. That was my way of mentally preparing.
What were the first thoughts that ran through your mind?
L: The first thought that ran through my mind when this pandemic became official was to stock up on cannabis and munchies! Mawma needs her medicine OCKURRRR!!
N: My first thought was “Nicky do not fall back into a depression state” I say that because not a year ago I developed really bad depression and anxiety from a breakup and moving across the country from Florida by myself. I came here alone and now feel more alone as ever before.. My fans are what keeps me going. I put out content of empowerment and strength that i learned from choosing them as my new family and the last thing i want is for me to fall back into that negative head space because even though i don’t get paid to post on instagram it is one of my job, my biggest reward in life to inspire my fans and make them feel like they can take on any situation.
What is your financial plan moving forward?
L: My financial plan moving forward is to continue doing online drag shows as well as sponsored brand deals through Instagram. I am so grateful my #BUDS are enjoying my content and tipping accordingly. I don’t know how I would be surviving without their support!!
N: Ok so money lol. I have always been great at saving due to a series of unfortunate events.. As a child I was kicked out of my home and left to fend for myself as a fourteen year old me living my authentic self. i slept on the streets , went to shelters, discovered a gay bar later on that i would lie to about my age just so i can have a roof over my head for a few hours a night. That is where I discovered drag. Living like that as a child with nothing and nobody i promised myself i would be a nightmare turned fairytale. so as the years went by and i was old enough to get jobs and an apartment i always had this fear of going back to sleeping at the shelter. I promised myself to save every penny I earned from there on out. choosing to do drag and not having the ability to to claim unemployment , workmans comp, and retirement we have to be smart and know that there is no government fall back plan for us. I always encourage my drag children to save as much as they can. So to answer your question I’m living off of my saving right now (which wont last me long living in California).
What other money earning opportunities are available for the Queens and performers like you? Have you thought about monetising other skills you have?
L: I have definitely thought about monetizing my other skills like my dancing and choreographic abilities, but so far have not had to move in that direction.
N: Thanks to Kim Kardashian i have a larger following now on instagram so to try and monetize my skills i have been reaching out to advertising companies looking for models or reviewers.
We have seen several drag performers opening OnlyFans accounts to receive some income during these days. What is your opinion regarding this and is that something you would consider doing?
L: I think “Only Fans” is a viable platform for those looking to earn money right now. While the site is known for its nudity and promiscuity, I think they are also working very hard on changing the platforms overall reputation. We are living during a very difficult time, so I think anyone should be able to use any platform they so wish to help support them self.
N: Well funny you ask. One of my really good friends Rebecca Moore (the Cock Destroyers) i call her my “whore mum”. She introduced me to only fans about six months ago, so I have one. I’m not very popular there so it’s not a lucrative situation for me but it’s something so i can’t complain. When I was a homeless child I sold drugs for the local drug dealer so I could eat. I lived a life where I had to do what I had to do so yes I think anyone in entertainment should make only fans. DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO! It helps that I’m extremly sex positive and believe sex work is real work. My mum Rebecca has raised a whole family and put roofs over there heads from being a sex worker and i don’t know anyone else who works as hard as her!
RuPaul’s Dragcon LA, LA Pride, and many other queer events are postponed or cancelled. How does this impacts you and what does the future hold for all drag performers?
L: The cancellation of major queer events such as RuPaul’s Dragcon and Prides across the world not only impact me but also impact our entire community. However, I am working with Gayborhood Productions—who will be putting on the first ever digital pride!! More news to come…
N: Im very new here in California so i don’t know much about drag con but i can assure you if any of us are true entertainers you will be able to tell as soon as we go back to work because we love what we do which only means isolation is forcing us to make new costumes and prepare new acts for our audiences. I don’t want to give much away but i can assure you my future is bright and new.
What can we do to help the lesser earning queens? Should the queer communities in Hollywood support by calling for relief aid for performers?
L: I think it is important we support the art form of drag PERIOD during this time. I am lucky because I have been on television and have a larger platform than some of my local queens. Thus, I believe it is my duty and the duty of others with larger platforms to help the entire community through this time. I hope more performers will continue to help raise awareness and money if possible.
N: There is a petition going around that requires signatures for entertainment workers to be added to the workers list for relief aid. YES SIGN THE PETITION!!!
How do you feel at the moment and what steps are you taking to protect your mental health during this fragile time?
L: I am actually feeling quite positive at this current time and remaining optimistic. Because I have kept myself so busy with Instagram lives everyday at 4:20pm and doing all the digital drag shows, I am actually enjoying the time at home.
N: When I sit and think I get depressed. I have been keeping busy from morning to night time preparing my come back to the stage, tv, and runways!
What is your advice to all the people who might find this situation difficult?
L: My advice to those people out there struggling is to get up every day, make your bed, brush your teeth, go outside and get some fresh air, and find the little things in the shut down life that you can be grateful for.
N: My advice would be to watch their favourite entertainers instagram live feeds. We are all doing our part to make sure we are strong and encouraging our followers by being very active with them. It can be therapy for most.
What are your future plans?
L: My future plans include smoking more weed and playing with my dog, Lil Dabbers. Also lots of masturbation.
N: I’m going to just keep going. I moved across the country with a plan to just climb the biggest hill I can find in my career and I’m still going to focus on that! Never give up!
*all images are courtesy of Laganja Estranja and Nicky Monet