by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Andrew Beck, 32, doesn't have a lot of time. In fact, he is one of the busiest people I know. Rarely alone, he is nearly always surrounded by a group of young men who are fiercely loyal to him. He doesn't look his age, but when he talks about his views on almost any serious topic, you quickly realize that this 'boy' you are talking to is, in fact, a man. Andrew Beck is the man, or Twink, behind local drag sensation Drew Paradisco. And these days, Drew's dance card is full.
Drew Paradisco has agreed to an interview in which we will talk about 'Drewth.' As Drew, who is the mother to a number of drag daughters in the Haus of Paradisco, says, 'The Drewth is the brutal truth. It's not sugarcoated. If one of my drag children or grand-drag children asks me a question, they know to be ready for the Drewth.'
The Drewth. I like that. So do a lot of people, actually. Say what you want about Drew - and the time, in 2011, when the Haus of Paradisco was known chiefly for bad makeup and birthing a new drag child almost daily - but the one thing (and this is a big thing) that everyone can say on her behalf is that the Drewth is real. Drew Paradisco is not someone who lies.
Drew is a short form of her middle name, 'so I guess my mother named that part of me,' she told Seattle Gay News. 'Paradisco is the name of the most stunning flower on my home planet, the only flower capable of growing in the harsh terrain of a drag planet. It consists of 16 more colors then the human eye can see.'
Now, before you ask yourself if Drew has found some good acid, I can say with a great amount of confidence that she does not dabble in the drug culture as a participant. She sees it go on all around her, and sometimes warns against it, but she maintains that she has not been even remotely interested in the stuff. In other words, she is a great example for those kids that she mentors.
A SAFE PLACE TO BE
Drew, who's performed everywhere from R Place to Neighbours (where she produces a weekly party called Pulse), the now-shuttered Social, Julia's on Broadway, and more, came to Seattle via Salt Lake City and went through some things personally and professionally that helped to shape her into the steadfast and honest queen you see before you today. She stands for a lot of causes, but the nearest and dearest to her heart is providing a safe space for the young boys she mentors, and their friends.
'A drag house is a safe place to be,' said Drew. 'It is important because it gives those in it a free place to be who they are and to learn and evolve. I created Haus of Paradisco because I had made a conscious decision to come back to doing drag after a few years and I didn't want to do it alone.'
'Haus of Paradisco is comprised of my good friends and young people I see a lot of potential in or that remind me of myself when I was young,' she said. 'I wanted to create my own little safe place for myself and the young people I believe in. It has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.'
Drew approaches drag, like many a queen before her, as an art form. 'It is a lot of work but I truly love doing drag,' she said. 'It gives me a voice and a way to connect with and make my community better. I started doing drag because I was and sometimes still am extremely shy. I was an awkward gawky teenager and drag made me feel beautiful.'
When Drew put together the Haus of Paradisco, she didn't know that it would become so popular so fast. With popularity comes attention - both good and bad.
'Well, in the beginning we did have Crayola eyes and fresh-out-of-the-box hair,' recalls Drew. 'I remember asking Robbie Turner to show me how to cover my eyebrows and having Jaxen Brown over to show me makeup techniques.
'I had done drag for a long time but it was always the kind of drag a teenage boy can get away with,' she continued. 'You put on lip-gloss, eyeliner, and a wig at 17 and it's not too hard to look like a girl.'
'As you grow into being a man things change and suddenly you find yourself needing to cover your brows and reshape your face to look feminine,' Drew said. 'When I came back there was a fire in my soul to be as good as I could be, and I probably didn't have the right to have drag children, but I promised myself if I came back I wouldn't do it alone and I would go through Hell to help the younger generation not go through the amount of bullying I had experienced.'
So how does Drew deal with gossip? 'I don't respond. People's opinions of me are none of my business. In life you have to take the entire negative and recycle it. I will never say I am perfect, that I know it all or that I have perfected this or that. Learning is the best part of life. To me once the learning ends it will all just be boring.'
MAKING THINGS BETTER
Regardless of the way people have treated Drew (which she says has been way more good than bad), she does not feel any animosity toward the Seattle drag scene. 'I have never met a better drag scene. I am truly blessed to be a part of such a beautiful, strong, and talented group of people. I have also never seen so many different kinds of drag in one city and I love it.'
'Neighbours was the first bar I had ever been to in Seattle,' said Drew. 'I immediately felt welcome there and enjoyed dancing there. It is always beautiful to see them open their doors to so many different people and organizations in the community.'
The Haus of Paradisco has always engaged in a great deal of philanthropy. 'To me it is up to me to leave things better than I found them,' said Drew. 'If I don't work to better the community I live in, then who will? I am just not the kind of person to sit back and expect things to change or be better if I don't work towards it. It may never get better, but it definitely won't if we don't try.'
The young people that Drew surrounds himself with 'mean so much more to me then I could explain with words,' she said.
'I guess it all started because I was an only child until I was 10 and then I was a big brother,' continued Drew. 'My family was poor. I was always told that my little brothers look up to me and I needed to be an example for them. Two of them have come out of the closet and I was the first person they told and texted or called during hard times. I would hang up and cry and think, it doesn't get better for them unless I make it better.'
'I mentor the youth because I don't want any young person to go through the things I went through and most of the time no one else will take on being a drag mother to them,' she said. 'I can't blemish them, it can be a pretty big endeavor. To me it's just worth it. I am incredibly proud of my brothers and my drag children.'
THE BEAUTY OF KINDNESS
Drew said she deploys compassion 'in every way I can find.'
'I have always said that kindness is the ultimate beauty,' said Drew, who also reminds people that life is short, so, 'live, love, and always remember to laugh.'
While Drew is a well-known person on the Hill, there are a few things you might not know about her. For instance, 'I have been in a relationship for nearly 13 years now,' she said. 'I have two Gay brothers. One of them has lived with me since he was 15. He is 19 now.'
'I am obsessed with going to Disneyland,' said Drew. 'I want to live there.'
Also Drew says, 'I wear sunscreen every day, because I am half vampire, half alien.'
You can catch Drew Paradisco every Wednesday at Neighbours from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. for Pulse, Seattle's largest 18-and-over dance party. 'People should come to dance, have a great time, and see some Seattle drag queens,' said Drew. 'It's about having a great time with your friends and meeting some new people.'
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