Salt Lake’s Bad Kids Collective, born from Club-Kid/Gaga fever dreams, Internet embellished lifestyles and queer performance attitudes, has galvanized Utah drag culture in recent years. The Bad Kids, part autonomous happenings of human bodies, part multi-media selfie-installations, are cultivating a culture of gender performance in Salt Lake where diverse expression reigns, where talent refers not to exclusive abilities, but rather the courage to get onstage and perform one’s artistic vision to completion. For them, every day is a drag, every body a context to apply with costume, cosmetics and ontological anarchism.
SLUG talked with “Bio Queen” Chartreuse about her affiliation with the Bad Kids Collective and the inspirations behind her whimsical performances.
Chartreuse, who grew up in Salt Lake City, encountered drag and the Bad Kids in the same night, while helping her friend, Arousalind (Hannah Montgomery), get ready for the Bad Kids’ first annual Pageant in May of 2013. Chartreuse, who participated in theater and dance while attending East High School, was amazed at the budding performance community that the Bad Kids were building. “The first thing that I saw was Klaus,” Chartreuse says. “He had googly eyes glued all over his head and was wearing a prom dress and had green goo dripping out of everywhere. I thought that he was terrifying. Watching all of the other contestants was just so magical and wonderful and wild. It just seemed like so much fun.”
Two weeks later, Chartreuse was performing with the Bad Kids at the Utah Pride Festival, and she’s been doing it ever since. “The more that I did [drag],” she says, “I realized that it combined all of the things that I already liked—theater, clothes, makeup, hair and dancing. It was the perfect combination of what I had interests in.”
Chartreuse took her stage name from the color chartreuse, which came out of her given name. “I really just liked the word,” she says. “My real name is Madeleine and it’s a fancy French word—that no one can spell—and so is Chartreuse,” she says. “At first, I wasn’t crazy about the color—I didn’t like it at all,” she admits. “It’s since grown on me.”
Like many contemporary gender performers, Chartreuse gets much of the raw material for her outfits from thrift stores, craft stores and dollar stores. Her aesthetic can be summarily explained by this description—“I do a lot of things with lights,” she says. “I like to glow in the dark; I sometimes like to be a creepy little kid; I do a lot of burlesque-styled looks also; I also like to be an alien. When all else fails, I throw on a leotard. Leotard is my go-to look.”