Shortcake the Clown stares at the camera in front of a wall of stuffed animals.

Bold & Beautiful: Shortcake the Clown

Performance & Theatre

Diagnosed with autism at the age of five, Shortcake the Clown, a drag queen and junior resident at Why KiKi, has turned their challenge into art. Shortcake describes themself as a maladaptive daydreamer—they once had recurring visions of a clown during intrusive daydreams. What first came to them as a vessel of comfort during moments of intense stress has now become a form of self-expression. 

Shortcake, now age 22, explains the difficulty of conveying emotion due to their autism. However, through drag—specifically through their clown persona—they have been able to find that ability to express themself. “When you are a clown, you can paint on literally whatever you want and that is very powerful to me,” says Shortcake “It’s a way for people to [recognize] whatever emotion I’m having.” 

When it comes to performing, Shortcake has discovered that their autism comes with pros and cons. The overstimulation of crowds and people—wanting to talk to and even touch the performers—can be a source of stress. On the positive side, Shortcake finds that they feel much more out-of-the-box because of it. 

Back in 2020, Shortcake’s interest in makeup was sparked while quarantining during the pandemic. They had barely graduated high school and found themself feeling alone and unproductive. Convincing themself they could never do regular makeup, Shortcake chose to experiment with white face paint. “I had always been an artist,” they say. “So when I started seeing these clowns in my daydreams constantly, because I had been so upset and depressed, I realized that I could become the thing that comforts me.” 

After doing clown makeup for the first time, the name “Shortcake the Clown” immediately came to them. “It could have been the pink I used in my eye or the light colors I used but [I knew], ‘This is Shortcake!’” They go on to add that they felt it was the best they had ever looked and had finally found comfort in their own skin. 

Shortcake stares up at the camera, sitting in the splits.
Shortcake felt excluded growing up in Ogden and found acceptance within the LGBTQ+ community in Salt Lake City. Photo: Alanna Lowry.

In November of 2021, Shortcake entered their first lip sync battle at Why KiKi. Failure didn’t stop them from continuously competing until they had their first victory, winning another battle in October of 2023. They are now a junior resident performer at Why KiKi, giving a special shout out to the help they received from their drag mother, Voodoo Horror. 

Growing up in Ogden, Utah, Shortcake shares their personal experience on the opposition around the LGBTQ+ community. “I grew up in a household that was still very accepting,” they say. “I definitely didn’t have it as bad as other people in Utah do, but I still knew early on that [queer] is not something that I should be.” Shortcake continues speaking from the perspective of the community that they grew up in, “I went to a very small, very Mormon charter school. I didn’t look like any of them and I was not LDS, so I was left out of almost everything that you could imagine.” 

Shortcake also mentions the belittling conversations about their lifestyle and sexuality from their friends’ parents. “They said that I was going to lead a really hard life and that [my friends] shouldn’t be around me.” 

Shortcake the Clown holds balloons and leans against a striped wall.
Shortcake worked their way up through numerous lip sync battles to become a resident performer at Why KiKi. Photo: Alanna Lowry.

Shortly after turning 21, Shortcake moved to Salt Lake City upon finding the LGBTQ+ community there. They describe it as a tight-knit community, uplifting and inclusive. While they expressed the feeling of finding a place that is loving and helpful, they find that they still fear themselves or loved ones being harmed, due to the bigotry that still persists.

Shortcake has made a lot of progress since their first competition. “I got so used to losing that I just stopped caring,” they say. “I started caring more about the consistency of showing up [than winning]. And finally when I stopped caring about winning, that’s when I won.” 

When I ask what advice they would give to someone interested in starting drag, Shortcake responds, “I would probably tell them to start with a core concept of something that they enjoy, even if it’s not particularly their own. Maybe it’s Trixie Mattel makeup or a certain ridiculous garment that they could wear out,” they continue. “Starting small and getting yourself used to it until you [have an idea] of what you want to do is so crucial. Even if it’s not something that all the popular queens are doing, but you want to do it. You should just try it for the sake of it because that’ll make it so much easier down the line.” 

Shortcake dreams of going on tour one day to perform and share their art across the globe. Although faced with past challenges, it seems as though Shortcake will continue to prevail. Find them on Instagram at @shortcaketheclown.

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