THE QUEEN ON THE TRAIN
World renowned French drag artist Ghost Elektra chats to Dreaming while travelling from Berlin to Paris
Where in the world are you right now?
I just moved back to Paris. As I am answering these questions, I am literally on a train from Berlin to Paris. I am moving back to my home country after 4 years in the amazing city that is Berlin. I had been thinking about moving back before the pandemic, because I wasn’t working much in Berlin and my opportunities in Paris, both as a producer and as a performer, were blowing up. But Berlin was a good spot to live in a travel across Europe. Unfortunately, now there isn’t much international travelling, I decided that moving back was the best move for my career.
As an artist, how have you found the last year? Have you kept creative?
Last year was really tough, I’m not going to lie. I make half of my income from performing, and the other half from producing events. And since April 2020, all bars and clubs are completely closed in both Paris and Berlin. So needless to say that I haven’t been working at all. I did a few outdoor things in the summer, and a few paid photoshoots, but really not enough to survive. Thankfully, I had saved some money from the previous year, which I was going to invest in some big events in 2020 that we had to cancel, so I had that money to rely on. But that money’s gone, and I really need to work. If bars don’t reopen this summer in Paris - which it’s looking like they won’t - I’m going to have to go back to a day job. I used to be a freelance translator. So I guess I’ll have to get back into it.
As far a creativity goes, it’s not easy.
When the pandemic first hit and we went into lockdown, I saw it as an opportunity to create some content and finally shoot some looks that had been sitting in my bedroom for months, even years. So I’d wake up at 8 every other day and get into drag, shoot a look and edit it. I posted new content every week for 3 months. But I ended up being completely drained. It’s hard to put so much effort, time, energy and money into looks that are only seen on Instagram, and that don’t make any money back. I invest a lot in my looks, so they need to be seen on stage.
Most of my creativity comes from being around people, travelling, being in contact with the public. So when I’m locked inside an apartment all day, every day, I lose the creativity, and the will to even do drag.
Can you remember a specific piece of art/performer/pop culture moment that inspired you and drew you to drag?
I know this sounds hella gay, but Lady Gaga’s music video for 'Telephone' hit me so hard. She wasn’t afraid to give you lewks (and honey the lewks were IT), to shock, to push the envelope. It made my little gay heart throb, and maybe sparked the flame that would become Ghost Elektra.
Also, for those who know about French music, Mylène Farmer walked to that Gaga could run. She literally invented storyline-driven music videos, and she took her live shows to a next level. She opened one of her tours rolled onto a sack truck in a full latex straight jacket. ICONIC.
One of the most exciting parts about drag for me is that each city is so different when it comes to drag styles, what is drag like in your town and if we were to visit, what could we expect to see?
That is a great question! Drag is SO different depending on where you go. I remember when I first performed in this US, and girls were doing splits and dips and twirling around, going around the room collecting tips and they’d come backstage with buckets full of dollar bills. And I had a whole performance prepared with visuals, props, a choreography that required me to remain on stage, and people were like “what the hell is going on?”.I feel like in Europe - especially in Paris - because there are no such thing as tipping (because we don’t have 1 or 2 euro bills), queens don’t go around the room. Because the action remains on stage and is very much focused on the performance, the performance style relies more on story telling. Of course, there are dancing queens. But I feel like in Paris the performance style relies on telling a story, sharing a message, making laugh - with the use of visuals, props, reveals. It’s more theatrical in my opinion, which might have to do with the history of the city I guess.
As far as the aesthetic goes, Paris has some of the most beautiful and fashion-forward drag performers in my opinion, sometimes to its detriment. So much so that sometimes I feel like the look comes before the performance.
I guess this also had to do with the history of the city, Paris being the capital of couture, the epitome of art and beauty. A lot of big names in fashion and art have started in Paris and have heavily influenced the culture and the lifestyle. So if course it rubbed off on drag.But if you ever come to Paris, you’ll get to see a lot of different types of drag, and a lot of different types of shows. Following the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race, a lot of artists were able to start their own show and give their drag a stage. So even though Paris might not be a staple of inclusivity at times, its getting there. And its drag is very diverse.
You turn looks both in and out of drag, how would you describe your own personal style in contrast to Ghost Elektra?
I think my aesthetic in and out of drag are both inspired by the same things. But what’s funny is that people are always so impressed with the transformation: I go from sideburns, huge nose-ring and mohawk to a glamorous 80s glamazon.
My boy look is heavily inspired by cyberpunk movies, tactical fashion, and of course alternative fashions - goth, punk, etc. Leather boots, tactical pants, bleachers, harnesses, Fred Perry polo shirts, black, black and more black haha!
Some people call it punk, some call it goth, bit I think that’s way too simplistic. I’d call it alternative Berlin queer.
Do you have a drag family and if so can you tell us about them?
I don’t! I’ve always had a hard time connecting with other drag performers or to find artists with similar inspirations. When I left Paris, I had only been doing drag for a little bit over a year, and hadn’t found anyone who I can connect on a personal and creative level. But then I moved to Berlin where I didn’t really find my place in the queer and drag scene and was constantly travelling abroad for work. Now that I’m moving back to Paris, I hope I get to surround myself with like-minded artists.
I’ve been thinking about creating my own drag house, but I always said that if I were to have drag daughters, they’d need to not only one people who I truly love and trust - with whom I share similar values and ideals - but also people that have similar influences that me. Of course, I don’t want pale copies of Ghost Elektra. But I would love it If I found kids that are also part of the goth scene and who love cyberpunk and science-fiction as much as I do. I think having drag children must come in a very organic way, so I don’t want to push it. But some day, the House of Elektra will take over the world!
Keep up with Ghost Elektra via their Instragram