Bold & Beautiful: Mari Cona
Performance & Theatre
Mari Cona, also known as Jesus Rodriguez, is a spicy, talented boss queen in Salt Lake’s drag scene whose journey in drag began back in 2020. An Idaho transplant, she describes herself as “Salt Lake City’s favorite Mexican snack.” Mari is also a graduate of the Paul Mitchell Cosmetology Program and now runs an Instagram-based wig styling business called Wigs by Mari.
The drag community saved Mari. “I went through some dark moments of my life. I really battled with depression,” she says of navigating family and religion. “Then when I found drag, I realized that this is something I can use to empower me and boost my confidence. This is who I am.” Beginning with this form of expression as an act of rebellion, now Mari has a loving and accepting relationship with her family. “We’ve come a long way together,” she says.
While scrolling through TikTok, Mari discovered a “wigs and brunch” event at WB’s Eatery in Ogden, hosted by Sequoia (@theonlysequoia). “I see this tall, statuesque person,” she says. “I built up the courage to go talk to [Sequoia] and told her that I want to be a drag queen.” Sequoia’s questions followed. “Do you have what it takes? Are you talented? What’s your drag name?”
Immediately, Mari Cona was born. “Maricona” is a derogatory term in Spanish, she explains. “This is what I’ve been called my entire childhood to break me down; why not use it for something that lifts me up and empowers me?” A few months later, Mari was performing dance and lip sync for the first time at WB’s 2021 Pride Wigs and Brunch, hosted by Sequoia.
With a passion for hair, it’s no surprise that Mari now runs her own wig-styling business. However, this was not her initial intention when attending cosmetology school. “My main focus was to work in a salon,” says Mari. “At the time, I started bringing wigs to school. I would style them for myself, for drag. [After seeing the finished product] … people would encourage me and tell me to branch out even more. So I started posting on my Instagram drag profile, and people would reach out for me to style their wigs, too.” Since graduating, her wig business continues to grow. While Mari makes it apparent to her clientele that she takes inspiration from other artists, she remains authentic in her style.
Her love for drag is by no means an overextension. For instance, Mari chooses to minimize the amount of her performances. “I want to give a good performance, a good impression,” she says. “Give a look, give a lip sync, give high quality [as] opposed to [overbooking and getting burnt out].” Mari describes the feeling of being on stage as amazing. “It’s even better when the crowd interacts, and when they’re cheering, that just makes me feel even better,” she says while adding the fact that she does still experience stage fright. Mari mainly performs at WB’s Eatery, now branching out with JRC Events, Quorum of the Queens and Why Kiki in Salt Lake.
A queen in the making, Mari Cona is not yet fully realized—she’s working toward an old-school drag look. “I’m not unhappy [with] where I’m at now,” she says, “but I definitely see myself going bigger: hip pads, bigger makeup, bigger hair. I really just want to take it to that level.” Focused on her wig business, Mari is looking forward to sharing more of her work and new hairstyles coming up.
According to Mari, Salt Lake’s drag community and performance scene is diverse, but there’s still room for improvement. “I’m one of maybe three plus-sized queens here in the city; one of few queens of color. It’s not where I wish we were inclusivity wise,” she says. Mari hopes to inspire those who may feel discouraged at this perception— to be someone others can look up to. “I didn’t see myself in anyone here in the [drag] scene, but deep inside I know I have what it takes,” referring to how she felt when she joined the community.
When it comes to starting drag, Mari encourages baby queens, “[to] just go for it.” Learn your face and how to do your makeup in a way that fits you best. Next, “save your coin.” Hold off the temptation of fast fashion and instead find something custom that fits you and your body. Lastly, invest in a good wig. (Hello! Wigs by Mari). She shares tips on what to look for when it comes to finding the right wig: good lace front and high density, “[something you can] shake around and perform in, then brush it out at the end of the night and still look good.”
Follow Mari Cona on Instagram @queenmaricona for more delicious drag!
Read more profiles on local drag performers and artists:
Bold & Beautiful: Post-Op Malone
Bold & Beautiful: Trey Rayne
Always FREE, thanks to READERS LIKE YOU!
Donate $10 OR MORE to get a SLUG sticker pack!