Creature Feature: Sammee St. James
Sammee St. James is a magnificent bisexual, non-binary member of the Salt Lake City drag community. They have been involved with performance arts for many years and have established a name for themselves as a theatre queen who finds joy in providing humor and laughter to others. As an activist for body positivity and equality, Sammee emulates other powerful femme artists by finding strength in their work and visibility. As a biracial person in a predominantly white state, it was a great opportunity to get to know and amplify the gem that is Samme St. James.
SLUG: How did you first get involved in drag?
St. James: I moved to SLC in 2015 and lived with two of the most talented and amazing drag performers in the city. After a while, they started dressing me up when we went to shows or asking me to collaborate with them for performances. I love the many possibilities drag gave to me that I felt I didn’t have in other artistic fields such as theatre. I was able to be anything I wanted to be and I really needed freedom to really grow into myself as an artist and person.
SLUG: How long have you been involved with the SLC drag scene?
St. James: Since Winter of 2015/2016. I started just attending shows and then moved to performing and stage managing different shows and places.
SLUG: What has been your experience with SLC drag?
St. James: Overall, I am grateful to be a part of the drag community and thank every single beautiful soul that has helped become a better person. I think there are places to improve as there always is with large groups of people. There is some deep seeded toxicity that seeps in from other parts of our lives and I feel comes from fear of not being enough, of not being accepted for who you truly are and that’s a personal [challenge] that everyone must face. The community won’t change till we recognize that we make mistakes but can grow and learn from them. Our country is learning that the hard way right now and it’s important to normalize learning and accepting new information and fighting past the embarrassment of being wrong. We are human and we have flaws but we work together and love each other, it’s a beautiful thing.
SLUG: Growing up in Southeast Idaho seems like it might have been possibly isolating or difficult? What was that like for you? What is your relationship like with your hometown now?
St. James: Growing up in Southeast Idaho was a very bittersweet experience. I knew I was different at a very young age and as they say “grew up too fast”. Being a biracial kid of a non-Mormon, single parent family didn’t give me much when it came to fitting in. I’m grateful for my family and the community that loved me there because I was still able to shine like the light I promised myself I would be. I learned at an early age that I could either let the world destroy me with their hate or I could prove them wrong with a huge ass smile on my face. Still to this day, I have that huge ass smile. My hometown taught me how to love nature and the simple things in life. I love visiting and seeing the mountains I called home for many years and the local food that I could talk about for days. I will always treasure that place but would never go back. I didn’t fit then and definitely don’t fit [in] now.
SLUG: Tell us about the style of drag/art you like to portray?
St. James: My background is theatre with an emphasis on clowning, masks and puppets so that really reflects in my drag and art. I love making people laugh and have found solace in comedy many, many times. Lately I have been driven to do more body positive performances and focusing on movement. I have had a love-hate relationship with dance as I was told so many times that I was too fat. I still love dancing and have owned my size. Like my idol Lizzo says, “Thick thighs save lives!”
SLUG: Where do you pull your strength from to continue moving forward with your art?
St. James: My art is me and the strength I pull from is never letting the world bring down this smile or make me feel less than me. The world is in pain and I won’t deny that my art has definitely shifted more to embrace the change. But, I still strive to allow others to smile through all this and truly love themselves as well. It’s been a long and continuous journey to love myself and I just want to share that.
SLUG: Where do you hope to see the future of drag heading?
St. James: I hope love is in future. There is no right way to drag and I hope the next generation of drag really owns that freedom. Drag IS a protest, a statement and passion and the world is your burrito.
SLUG: Are there things that you’re excited about for the future of drag?
St. James: I’m excited to see some drag performers taking on different roles in our society. We are more than just a lip sync battle and people are seeing that. One example is the amazing Marti G Cummings running for City Council in NYC as the first drag performer and non-binary person. They are kicking ass and I’m so proud of them, to own their strengths and go above and beyond what drag is perceived to be.
SLUG: Do you have any mantras that get you through the shit days?
St. James: Another Lizzo quote “I’m 100% that bitch even when I’m crying crazy.”
SLUG: What was your last performance?
SLUG: Do you have any upcoming performances?
St. James: I don’t have any upcoming performances but I am working on opening an Etsy shop with some merch and art I am creating. I also have some video content in the works as well.
SLUG: Any advice on how to stay safe or sane during these wild times??
St. James: Take breaks from your phone and social media. Call a friend who you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Find something that makes you happy no matter how small. Lastly, this fight is a marathon, you must take care of yourself to be able to take care of others.
SLUG: What are your social media tags or websites you’d like us to shoutout?
St. James: Follow me on Instagram at @SammeeStJames and I will post an update there about my Etsy shop and any future events!
SLUG: Anything else you wanna add I mighta missed asking about?
I am a proud biracial, bisexual, non-binary goddess that wants you to know: you are enough and you are loved.