Philly Drag Queens Take Off the Wigs and Lashes in Beneath the Makeup


beneath the makeup documentary

A handful of film students at Temple University are set to screen a new documentary that takes a look at what it’s like to be a drag queen in Philadelphia.

The boy versions of three of the Gayborhood’s best known queens, Brittany Lynn, Pissi Myles and Ariel Versace, are the subjects of Beneath the Makeup, which will screen this weekend at Tabu. In the work, producer James Stankunas tells me, the performers “educate and expose what really happens when the makeup comes off.”

“The overarching message,” he says, “is that drag queens live normal lives despite the shaved eyebrows and nights on the town in glitz and glamour … It was rather surprising to find out how different Philadelphia is from New York and other cities when it comes to the drag scene. Bryan Neel (Ariel Versace) points out that New York has more ‘fierce fishiness’ while Philadelphia is known for being more arty, comedic and borderline avant garde.”

In the doc, we learn that Ian Morrison created Brittany Lynn because it was the only way he could make money doing comedy in Philadelphia. Joe D’Angio (Pissi Myles) explains drag rather profoundly as “taking the thing that makes you the most you and blowing it up to about 1000 percent so that its offensive and beautiful.”

The film runs for 30 minutes, and it’s an eye-opening experience for those of us who wonder what drives these queens to slap on wigs and layers of makeup on a regular basis just to keep us entertained.

It screens on Saturday night at Tabu at 7 p.m. Check out the trailer below, and get more information on the screening here.