Creature Feature: Chartreuse
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 Gods, Goddesses and Monsters 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.”
In the nearly two years that she’s been performing with the Bad Kids, Chartreuse has developed an affinity for solo performances and collaborations. “When you perform by yourself … there’s nothing to hide behind,” she says. “It makes you really vulnerable, which brings a whole new level to your performance.” Performing with one or more other people gives one a different experience, she says. “It gives you a chance to share a creative and special moment with somebody else,” she says. “It’s fun to come up with the whole performance and process with somebody else—it can be a good bonding experience.”
Chartreuse has also performed on nights with internationally recognized performers such as the RuPaul contestant Milk. Nights with touring headliners bring an extra spotlight on the Bad Kids. “It’s probably a little bit more nerve-wracking because the crowd is a little bit bigger on those nights,” she says, “but, at the end of the day, it’s kind of like every other night when we’re up there—we still have our creative vision of what we’re doing and no matter what the crowd is like. We’re still putting our all into it to execute what we want people to see and what we want to accomplish with it.”
Chartreuse, who is a female (AFAB) performer, faced some initial hesitation at performing in the heavily male drag world, traditionally dominated by female-impersonating male Queens. “A lot of people don’t feel like [cis] girls shouldn’t be doing [drag], as females performing as females. I feel I should be able to perform as my own gender if that’s what I want.” The Bad Kids encourage performance that challenges gendered norms both in mainstream and queer cultures, and feature a growing number of these so-called Bio Queens. “People should be able to do whatever they want onstage,” she says. “It’s what I want to do, why shouldn’t I do it?”
The Bad Kids’ variety was on full display during their second Ghouls and Dolls Pageant, held throughout the spring with two preliminary shows and nearly two-dozen performers. Chartreuse, already recognized in the ranks of the Collective, participated in the pageant. “It was fun to perform with so many different people, and so many different kinds of people,” she says. “Everybody’s so different, and there’s so many different kinds of talent that’s between everybody. That’s what’s so interesting about the Bad Kids is that there isn’t one particular style—everybody is so different and talented. It’s so interesting to watch everybody grow and change and find the things they like to do, and then watch how everybody else embraces what everybody else is doing also.”
Chartreuse’s talent and dedication to the Collective won her the title of “Ardent Kid” at the Pageant. With a Bad Kids title comes great responsibility—Chartreuse will be involved wit programming for the Bad Kids during her reign, which will last until next year’s pageant. “We’re trying to put together some fun things to do for the rest of the year,” she says.
Witness the badness at the new Metro Bar location on Thursdays and their newly conceived “Q-Lectric” Saturdays. Practice your gender-bending cosplay this Saturday at METRO BAR : QLectriCON : A pop culture experience! Revisit previous interviews with Bad Kids at SLUG’s Creature Feature.