While cities like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago are known as absolute meccas of drag, the smaller cities across America is where drag is truly giving birth to a whole new legion of queens, many of which could very well be household names in the future. The perfect template for “small town and fierce drag” is the diverse beach community of Rehoboth Beach, DE. In this city, the ladies of the Blue Moon hold court over the drag community, with Magnolia Applebottom being one of the queens who is a “must see” to any visitor to Rehoboth Beach. As the season in this much buzzed about beach town winds down, Magnolia managed to find some time to chat with me about her start in the world of drag, what it’s like being one of the leading performers in Rehoboth Beach (and beyond) and what famed funny ladies conspired to help craft the performer she is today.
Michael Cook: So tell me; how did you get started in the world of drag?
Magnolia Applebottom: To be honest I feel like I’ve been doing drag all of my life. I’ve been performing ever since I was little. As a child, I was always wearing costumes, dancing, and singing. However, I really got the drag bug after I did a production of Rent in 2010 where I played Angel. Something about the confidence and fabulousness of the character made me want to explore drag a little bit more.
MC: When did you truly know that drag was something special for you and that you could actually make a career out of it?
MA: I attended school in New York City in 2011 and that’s when Magnolia was really born. I went out in drag to other drag shows and gay bars to network until I got my own bookings. The feedback I received was amazing and I knew I was bringing something different from the other working queens in the city. When I moved back to Maryland and started performing in Rehoboth Beach, the audiences really embraced my character and my aesthetic. I started working a lot as Magnolia and opportunities came and my following exploded. I really busted my ass to stay relevant in this small town and I am very lucky to be performing full time. Now I’m voted 2019 Rehoboth’s Best Drag Queen thanks to the DC Blade!
MC: For those that have never experienced it, what is the Rehoboth Beach, DE drag scene like?
MA: The Rehoboth Beach drag scene is very special. It’s a small group of queens, but we are all very close and work together a lot. It’s great because we all offer something different and have a wide range of styles and aesthetics. The sisterhood is strong in Rehoboth Beach!
MC: You are one of the leading queens at the Blue Moon and perform pretty much each and every week. How do you manage to keep both the show and your incomparable voice fresh?
MA: One must rest! Since we are queens of the night, during the day is our time to rest and regain our strength for the next show. During the day is also when we redo our wigs, fix costumes, and learn new songs. And we do a good job protecting our voices. The Blue Moon is our own little Broadway. I perform five days a week, year round, singing all of my songs live. I am trained vocally so I manage not to damage my voice.
MC: What are some of your favorite experiences performing at the Blue Moon during the crazy Rehoboth summers?
MA: I always get excited during the summer and see the room packed with boys in tank tops holding their Tito’s and soda. It’s flattering to know that they are there to see us and their energy makes us performer even harder. And since I do comedy and summer is when I try out new numbers I’ve written to see if they work. I love doing my game show Games with Magnolia. That show brings out the funniest and the best people in town. I never know what is going to happen on stage during that show. It’s my favorite show to do.
MC: Outside of DE, how much have you spread your drag and performance wings? Any thoughts about taking a crack at RuPaul’s Drag Race?
MA: I do a show four times a year at the Milton Theatre in Milton, Delaware. It’s a great ticketed show right up the road from Rehoboth Beach and I have so much fun with it. The shows normally sell out and it brings our an entirely different audience and following. As far as Drag Race goes, I get that question daily. I’ve auditioned about seven times now; nothing has happened yet. I get told all the time “Magnolia, you should be on there. I’m not sure if it’s for me, however if they call, I am most certainly going.
MC: Speaking of Drag Race; how you think the show has affected what people want to see when they come to a local show? Has it changed perception and if so, how do you steer it back?
MA: Drag Race has really helped with bringing drag and drag shows to light. Drag is more popular than ever thanks to the show; I think that is awesome. The popularity of the show has been great for business. However, it does suck that I work my ass off all week long to create my own show just to be called a queen from Drag Race. A lot of fans want to compare you to queens on the show and don’t understand our originality. I know my drag persona offers something you can’t see on Drag Race which is why I think I’ve been so successful. I hope Drag Race continues to support the local girls who haven’t been on TV, because the ones that are working small town bars are probably a lot more talented.
MC: What do you each see yourselves doing in five years? Any particular dreams you have that you want to chase or have even started to chase?
MA: I hope I’m still performing, but I hope I’m taking Magnolia Applebottom on the road. I want to take my shows on gay cruises and to small theaters around the country. I plan on writing more comedic songs with hopes of doing some recording. I’m only twenty eight; I have a lot to look forward to.
MC: What inspires you as a performer and a person?
As a performer my character of Magnolia Applebottom is inspired by the great women of comedy; Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Betty White, Gilda Radner, and Lily Tomlin. Magnolia is a little bit of each one of them. Those ladies worked so hard in entertainment and left it all on the stage; I try to do that with every performance. Being a full time entertainer is quite the job. I know I got my work ethic from my parents. They have supported me throughout my career and pushed me to work hard to take advantage of every opportunity I get. My parents worked hard for their dreams and they inspire me to work hard for mine.
Art Courtesy of Chris Terone
Check out Magnolia Applebottom here: https://www.facebook.com/MagnoliaApplebottom