Drag Family Trees had such a blast interviewing the motivated newcomer, Rita Bane Adonis! In the interview, this spitfire with a Florida flair gives us insight into the Haus of Adonis, what inspires her drag, what the drag scene is all about in Orlando, and shares the great advice she has gotten as a new queen!
Name: Rita Bane Adonis/ Gabriel
Age: 20 (started drag in November of 2013, started performing live in July of 2013)
Location: Orlando, FL
Home venue: I wouldn’t say I have a home venue, Orlando is pretty cool because we have a bunch of talent nights and I bounce around those, and I get the occasional booking. The place I’ve performed the most at is Pulse Nightclub
Drag Family Trees: First of all I would like to thank you so much for doing this interview it means a lot that you would share your story.
Rita: Absolutely! I really love sharing my drag story just because it seems like a lot of younger people have the same start with their curiosity. So it’s nice to see someone like me who started off as a laptop queen finally blossom out. I want to encourage more people to really go out there and do live drag.
Drag Family Trees: What was your first encounter with live drag?
Rita: It was my 18th birthday, I went out to Revolution Nightclub here in Orlando and I will never forget it. It was the first time I saw Sasha Colby, who is this big national pageant queen, and when I saw her it completely blew my mind that someone could pull off the transformation that much. I just didn’t really think about drag for a few more years until I started doing it pretty much.
Drag Family Trees: What is the appeal to you about drag?
Rita: Mostly the transformation. I have always been a big fan of playing characters and playing roles and I was a big theater kid and I was a huge nerd. I loved roleplaying games because I got to be someone else for the time that I was on my computer or on my Xbox. Playing a part has always appealed to me.
Drag Family Trees: When did you first start to consider doing drag?
Rita: It was last summer. Summer of 2013. I started going out more and I discovered Drag Race and the Tumblr Drag Race community. It snowballed from there and I experimented and all the sudden I wanted it as my career which was kind of strange.
Drag Family Trees: Describe your first time ever getting in drag, and your first time actually performing in drag.
Rita: My first time being in drag was a little bit of a mess. I had big bushy eyebrows and just blush and garage door eyes. It was not the T. Looking back on it I LIVED for myself and I thought I was IT and now I am like ‘oh my god, what was I thinking?’ it just started on tinychat with me and some other people on tumblr that wanted to do drag and we just all did our first time in drag together and it was a lot of fun. My first performance was at Pulse on a Tuesday night, that’s their weekly talent night. I performed 212 by Azalea Banks and I got second place that night which I was really really proud of because I didn’t think I would even place that night. It was a really good time and everyone made me feel super confident in myself.
Drag Family Trees: How did you acquire the skills with drag to get to where you are now?
Rita: Practice. Practice practice practice practice practice. I don’t think that a lot of people understand that drag isn’t an innate ability. I always say that I have a drag muscle, and the more you work it out the better you get at it. Even my drag mother to this day still discovers things about her makeup and her appearance all the time and that is because the practices so much. That is something she has instilled in me, is that practice makes perfect.
Drag Family Trees: Describe to me the origins of your drag name.
Rita: I’ll start with my first name. I have a lot of inspirations. Most of my life the kind of women that I really looked up to and admired were sort of the “throwback” 50s, 40s, 60s sort of women, and my favorite out of all of them was a burlesque dancer and her name was Zorita. Another one of my favorites was Rita Hayworth. So it was a common theme and I loved it. I wanted a short name that had a cute little ring to it that was feminine enough, and after a few weeks of consideration it was Rita. Bane actually comes from my childhood background. I loved superhero movies and I have always been a huge fan of the villains. I wanted something like Rita that was a short name and had a ring to it. At first I almost chose “Rita Ivy”, but I didn’t really like that. I watched the Batman movies and I remembered how much I loved the villain Bane from the comic books and it just became Rita Bane. Everyone thought it had a good ring to it.
Drag Family Trees: How did you come into contact with your drag family?
Rita: My family… It’s very strange because I actually didn’t even consider the house of Adonis for a little bit as awful as that sounds (If Kai’ja reads this I still love you!). I actually met a few of the queens through my best friend Fawn. She introduced me to her mother and the haus of Gemini, and I was also at the time friends with one of the drag queens here who was also in a haus. So for a long time I was considering all the hauses. The first time I ever won a talent show was actually just my second performance. Afterward I got home and Kai’ja, who is now my drag mother, tagged me in a status and said “That Rita girl has something special… Orlando better watch out!” and ever since then I always remember that. I felt so happy. I felt so accepted and I just couldn’t say no and I love being a part of the Adonis family now.
[Rita and her drag mother Kai’ja]
Drag Family Trees: What does a drag family mean to you?
Rita: It’s everything to me. Kai’ja is one of the people that as soon as I get to the club I run to the dressing room to say hi to. My drag siblings are also the most important thing in the world to me. I would drop everything to go help them with whatever they needed. It’s a support system and personally I don’t have the best biological family so having that substitute in my life has helped me sort of find a cohesive family unit even if it’s not biological.
Drag Family Trees: Describe your drag persona in three words.
Rita: Rita is dark, sexy, and energetic. Especially on stage!
Drag Family Trees: What is the difference between Rita and Gabriel?
Rita: I was just saying on Tuesday when I was out with my family that I finally realized the difference between my two personas. I always find that Gabriel is more shy and reserved, he kind of wants his personal space and wants to chill and relax and talk and hang out. Rita is a bit more ‘in your face’. When I am Rita I am more confident to say and act how I feel, and when I’m Gabriel I really couldn’t get away with that.
Drag Family Trees: What is the most meaningful piece you’ve ever performed?
Rita: Probably the first time I ever won with my Hush Hush number at Pulse, which is a Pussycat Dolls song. I think it was more meaningful to me because in my drag, ever since I was eliminated from Tumblr Drag Race I always doubted myself. So when I finally won something it was really invigorating and a slap in the face for me. I remember after that performance I felt like a drag queen.
Drag Family Trees: Who are your top three drag influences?
Rita: From Drag Race I would definitely have to say that Bianca Del Rio is completely everything that I look for in a queen because those are the kind of comedians that I like. I like the Kathy Griffin’s and the Lisa Lampanelli and pretty much everyone that is an insult comic. So to have that in an even more specific realm of drag is ideal to me. Another person that I really look up to may be someone not a lot of people know about, but her name is Aurora Sexton. She is a national pageant queen and she is stunning. I watch her pageant videos all the time because she is like IT to me. Aesthetically I really click with her. And then of course my drag mother who has taught me so much. She’s already started to rub off on me. She is already pushing me to do things that I wasn’t comfortable with before.
Drag Family Trees: You are one of the few queens that I’ve interviewed (besides my own drag family) that has a really strong family connection. I’ve noticed that the queens that I interview in the south have more of that because of the lack of familial support. Queens up north maybe have less of that.
Rita: Living in the south especially, even though Florida isn’t the Deep South like Georgia or Mississippi or Louisiana, but living in the south period the gay community has to form ranks. We have to have each other’s backs. When you are from a place that is more religious and more conservative there’s not room for a lot of the typical drag cattiness that goes on in other places. I feel like here we have a really really strong sense of community. Even though like any community or family we fight and there is drama, I think that at the end of the day our community joins together when they need to. It’s really nice.
Drag Family Trees: On a lighter note, what is the most hilarious story you can tell about being with your drag family?
Rita: I will never forget this, it’s also my worst performance experience so you are getting a funny story and that. I was performing a week after I had won the talent night and I was feeling really kick-ass and bit off a little bit more than I could chew with my performance. I had this big collar and a skirt that I ripped off and I was feeling myself. Halfway through my number my necklace swung and pulled off my hair onstage. I remember that I finished my number because I hold my head high. Professionalism is my thing and I will never not finish a number, and I will never forget that. I went back to the dressing room and I put on another wig and told everyone that I was going home because I was really embarrassed. The next time I came out everyone was cracking up because my drag family was wearing the wig that I dropped at Pulse and was wearing my drag jewelry. I started cracking up and it was really light hearted and it was so nice! Nobody read me and everyone was super supportive so that was cool.
Drag Family Trees: What would you say the most challenging part of drag is?
Rita: Before it was covering my eyebrows, but I said ‘you know what, screw it! I am going to save myself 45 minutes every time I paint’ and I just shaved them off. Another super difficult part for me is networking. And it’s not because I’m particularly shy in drag, it’s mostly because I am underage. A lot of the bonding here at least is very social. When you go to clubs here most of them aren’t dance clubs, but more like bars with stages. Since I can’t really drink I’m kind of a buzzkill. Gigs at clubs are harder to book for me mostly because a lot of people are drunk, but that’s what clubs or for! Meeting people can be hard, especially when you are new and underage. My biggest advice to new queens is network from the get-go. Meet the club managers, meet the bartenders, and meet everyone because at the end of the day its word of mouth that is going to get you booked onstage.
Drag Family Trees: How frequently do you perform?
Rita: I try to perform at least once a week at the talent shows, and I will maybe do twice or three times a week if I get multiple bookings or if I have a production with my drag family. I try to be in drag at least once a week just so I don’t get rusty.
Drag Family Trees: How does drag impact the community in Orlando?
Rita: Orlando has the hugest drag community! It is really funny because I can do mundane things in drag here in my city and nobody really clocks it. You can’t do that everywhere. I can pump gas in drag, I can run in and buy cigarettes in drag. I’ve gone through drive thrus in drag. Here we have such a large gay community with the theme parks and stuff that people just kind of pay it no mind. The colleges have day drag shows and charity events and nobody seems to mind it.
Drag Family Trees: What would you describe the drag scene as in Orlando in terms of aesthetics?
Rita: The aesthetic here isn’t really a thing. It’s do what you want as long as you do it really well. We have a little bit of everything. We have queens here that do Broadway numbers, we have the funniest camp queens ever here, and we have the fiercest pageant queens and club kids and ball queens. Florida is such a great state for drag, but Orlando specifically has every slice of the pie that the state has to offer.
Drag Family Trees: What do you think drag does to benefit society as an art?
Rita: I think that the beautiful thing about drag is that slowly but surely people aren’t really defining gender so much anymore. There is this huge movement for fluidity and I think that drag sort of pushes that to the forefront. There are queens like April and Carmen and Kenya and Detox that just conquer fashion really. There are queens like Bianca and Kelly who have had comedy specials on Logo and HBO and I think drag really affects all art. All plays since Shakespeare have always had sort of gender bending roles. I feel like now society is ready to see gender bending that isn’t just a man satirically in a dress. I think that it’s really cool that at my age I get to witness slowly but surely that our art form is being pushed into the mainstream.
Drag Family Trees: What are your goals for the next ten years for Rita?
Rita: My goal for the next five years is that I would like to win a national pageant. A huge huge goal that is so crazy is that I want to be casted at Parliament House because it’s such an iconic place. I performed there once and I felt so cool and amazing even though it was just a little Monday night booking, but I would love to be on that cast and I will work really hard to get there because that is such a personal goal for me. And of course I have to say it, in the next ten years I would like to get on Drag Race and I would like to win.
Drag Family Trees: What is the best advice you’ve ever received in terms of drag?
Rita: The most piece of advice I ever heard was from one of my old friends. She always told me “find the smartest bitch in your group and make her your manager, because she will do good things for you”. So I made Fawn my manager, and good things have been done. The most important thing is having a good team and surrounding yourself with a good support system, because at the end of the day drag is something that can backfire on you. As chill as Orlando is there is still the occasional moment of hate our community experiences, so having a good support system was definitely the best advice I was ever given. If anyone who is reading this would like to know more about drag or wants to get started in drag, or is even in Orlando and would like to sit down and talk about possibly performing I am all for that. My inbox is always open to those who want to discuss drag.
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