by Patrick Shannon, New Orleans, Louisiana
RuPaul Charles and Arthur Severio have something in common. They are both tall, handsome men. They are also both tall, beautiful women.
As the world knows by now, RuPaul Charles can transform himself into a gorgeous, leggy show-girl and become Ru Paul, female impersonator. As New Orleans knows by now, Arthur Severio can transform himself into a tall beautiful female illusionist and become Reba Douglas. Our town's own new supernova star in the galaxy of New Orleans' dragareenas and queenateenas, Arthur Severio, seems to have exploded into faux femme notoriety overnight.
How did this makeup artist to many other stars become a glittering star himself? And so quickly, you may ask. Was it all talent, kissin' the right butts, or just the usual combination of luck, being in the right place at the right time, and some small degree of lips pursed against the buns of power?
Here is what Arthur Severio, aka faux fem tres belle, Reba Douglas, has to say about his/her new found fame, life, and existence in general, all tongue-in-cheek, of course.
"I'm from a little town called Livingston in Louisiana. I had two brothers. One brother died of AIDS eleven years ago; the other one's straight. And I have a nephew that's a transsexual. Yes, we all have hazel eyes. No, my brother is not a makeup artist. He does all that butch stuff for a living which we don't want to do.
No, I didn't just blossom all of a sudden into a drag star as you put it. I came out when I was sixteen. I'm 30 now. I came out to my family when I was thirteen. I came out to the gay bars when I was sixteen and I was a quite lovely little hideous teen queen as we used to say. Lots of little cotton frocks. We didn't know about fashion back then as we do now. We're very fashionable now. We set the style rather then follow it, don't we?
"Then I got into a relationship with Michael Landry for seven years. He's the one you talked to on the phone when you called for this interview.
During that earlier time I just didn't have the energy to do drag. But as a makeup artist I did do a lot of celebrities like Marsha Delain, Chris Owens, Barbara Bush, Betty Ford, Lisa Beaumann, Dorothy Parker, the Baroness Von Blixen, and Lon Chewlin, King of the Dykes, and especially Social Historian Melba Carondelet. She's one of my least successful. But, my God, when I think of it, that dear Lisa Beaumann alone, with all her hair, fed me for years.
"You ask me what is it that makes a big butchish man like myself [he titters] want to do drag? Well, I think the entertainment aspects, the connection with the audience, and their understanding of drag as an art form, makes it work for me. Yes, I look upon drag as an art form, especially as a professional makeup artist. The illusion is important. It's not just putting on a dress. The music and the concept need a lot of creativity. For me it's not a sexual thing. I don't become a woman when I get into a dress. It's being a different character, and the sheer entertainment value of escaping into a different character, a character who can change from song to song, that makes it so much fun.
"Yes, I lip sync in my act. I used my own voice once and it was ok, but that's a big step. And there's so many great drag singers in our town like Connie Marcell and Phoebe. Incredible entertainers.
"One of my faux femme idols is Lisa Beaumann. She's one of the most talented people in our town. My other idol is Terri Lynn Foxx because when drag was dead for a while she made it great again. She and Miss Beaumann.
"No, I don't have any desire to have a sex change. What? My lover, Michael, told you that I have to hide 11.5 inches when I do drag. Oh, no! It's not that big! It's only 10.5 inches.
"What? How dare Michael!. Wait till I get him alone! He told you that the first time I got into drag the mirror fell off the wall. It did not. It just cracked.
" No, the costumes I wear do not define my role in the bedroom. Drag is not a part of our bedroom. Michael is a very talented artist. We are growing together as artists.
"Yes, my sex life is very good, you nosey old queen. Don't we already have a dog and a cat? A little Shitpoo dog and a gray pussy named Udena. She has a twin cat sister named Eugena. We're from the country. We like to have names that rhyme.
"You want to know what did I do that got me into the limelight so much lately. A good question. I think there are good entertainers and great entertainers. What separates them is their audience. People like Rip and Marsha of Ambush and Penny and Pam from the Rubyfruit Jungle have promoted me into another dimension.
"Yes, I agree that all the promotion in the world won't make up for a lack of talent. But what is talent? What is art?
"No, it's not just being in the right place at the right time and kissin' the right asses! [he laughs loudly]. It all started when I was a young child listening to music and really wanting something. I think that's where the hunger came from. There was something in my life at the beginning that was missing.
"Yes, I used to put on scraps of materials, old skirts, and lace scarves, and twirl around playing at being a little girl.
"My next show? I don't know. Being crowned with my first award since becoming Reba Douglas was a true thrill and honor. Being crowned King Cake Queen by The Krewe of Queenateenas is too grand. The only place to be during Mardi Gras is on the Balcony of the God and Goddesses at Ambush headquarters.
Talent and being able to move the lips at the right time, to the right song, and being able to place them on the right buns, and having a sense of fun about it all, and the right wig and the right makeup and the right light (some people should have none), and wanting to have a good time, that's what it's all about. That's what makes one a starateena.
"No, I can't tell you which drags should work in darkness. Let the audience judge. I'm just a mere King Cake Queen Star who's been on every page of Ambush, not to mention on the Web.
"What, you say I'm an international star if I've been on the Ambush Website? Well, I am impressed!" he said, laughing wildly!
I couldn't help joining in. There's nothing like a good bit of girl talk about buns and talent. And kissin', of course. And now we know what talented lips Reba Douglas has, don't we? I wish I could say the same.