Blackberri, the Houston based bear drag performer and finalist of the Boulet Brothers: Dragula season five joins us for a discussion about her drag inspirations, her relationship to horror and her experiences on the show and within the bear community.
Everyone here at Bear World Magazine was absolutely thrilled to see Blackberri, a self-identifying bear as part of the latest season of Dragula and even more thrilled to see that she went all the way to the finale. Her looks, her polish, and her performance took our breath away. And though Mama Swan didn’t give her the crown in the end, she more than proved herself and did herself, Houston and the bear community proud.
Check out our candid discussion with the drag star below and be on the lookout for her and her fellow finalists as they hit the road for the Dragula Tour later this year.
John: Thank you for joining me Blackberri! Congratulations on an amazing season! When I saw you, I was so excited to see a bear, a big girl and someone with such a refined and glamorous style of drag make it so far on the competition. You did the bear community proud.
Blackberri: I mean that’s where I get the name Blackberri from – being a black bear.
Blackberri: That plus also being called fruity and gay..
John: Amazing! I wouldn’t have put that together. I think the bears will be excited to hear that. (Laughs) Can you tell us a bit about your journey in drag and what brought you to Dragula?
Blackberri: Sure. Before I started drag in 2016, I was in school for fashion design. I had a friend back then that did drag. She would ask me all the time to help her with things like broken zippers, then that turned into making little basic costumes for her to wear at different gigs. I would go to drag shows all the time while I was in school, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. I just loved drag.
One day I was sitting at a show and these two new girls were hosting and they were really, really bad. In that moment I was like, if they could do this and have their own show, I know I could do it too. Soon after that I signed up for a local contest in my city. I knew that I could sew. I knew that I was good on the stage, but I had no experience with makeup or wigs, or anything like that. So, I just bought a whole bunch of stuff, put it on my face and threw myself out there. It’s just kept snowballing since then.
John: Wow! Sincerely, to think someone as polished as you started by literally throwing makeup on their face both inspires me and blows my mind! Now I’m a horror-loving bear myself and we know the Boulets infuse tons of horror into the Dragula competition. I was wondering what your relationship is with horror? What were your horror influences?
Blackberri: I love classic horror, like Creature From the Black Lagoon and Bride of Frankenstein. I think vintage horror is where I’d place myself. Dressing like horror icons brings in my cosplay background. My thought process going into the show was that there’s not really anyone that glorifies this type of horror. It’s usually just the blood and guts. I wanted to bring the beauty of horror.
John: Well, you definitely did. That Bride of Frankenstein look from the finale was exquisite. Classic horror marries perfectly to your aesthetic, but I have to tell you, your filth category was, in my opinion, the filthiest. I gagged, and not in that cool way the kids do nowadays (Laughs)
Blackberri: It was a real raw fish. That fish was completely frozen solid. I just wanted to go full hog at the end. I knew they were not gonna expect it. The goal was to completely shock them. I’m glad they cut a lot out because I was shoving the head in my mouth and scraping it with my teeth. I had to brush my teeth a good six or seven times after that. (Laughs)
John: Blehh!! I don’t know how you did it. (Laughs)
John: You were a bearded queen even before the show. I was wondering why you chose to go that route with your drag?
Blackberri: In my city, when I started, there were no bearded girls except for people doing charity shows. No one was taking it as a serious art form. I really admired other bearded drag queens from different scenes like Lucy Stool in Chicago. I was a fan of Ursula Major, who was on season one before the show (Dragula) even existed. I thought they were glamorous and beautiful, and they just stood out from everyone else like the girls from the classic sideshows. Back in the day, bearded women were the stars of the sideshows and that’s how I wanted to be. I just wanted to be the beautiful woman with a beard. Since day one I’ve had a beard, and I also get to hide my double chin, so that’s a plus! I can’t take it off. It’s kind of pushed me into a different lane than everyone else. Also, I had a goal to be so beautiful and so stunning that when I put everything on, you don’t even notice that I have a beard.
John: You know I was going to mention that because the beard truly is barely noticeable. That’s how good the makeup is, the beard becomes part of the whole illusion. It’s really well done.
Blackberri: I love being in full drag with a beard and a mustache and then having people come up and be like, wow, you’re so feminine and you’re so beautiful. I’m like, “yes, I know, that’s the point!”
John: Yes!!! And another thing that I know a lot of our readers appreciated was that you self-identified as a bear on the show. I was wondering when and how you found the bear community?
Blackberri: Digitally on the apps, but I don’t talk about that. (Laughs) I’ve always been a bigger guy and I feel there’s more community among the bears. Making my way into the Houston scene, these are just the people that I gravitated towards. We have a few bear bars and I just felt more comfortable in those spaces with people that look like myself and enjoy the same things that I enjoy. I think that’s where I found myself magically. I just stumbled in like Alice in Wonderland to a world in which I fit in. That’s why I really enjoy the bear community.
John: And what has your experience been in the bear community as a drag performer and a person of color? We routinely have discussions here about the need for more inclusivity and less toxic masculinity in bear spaces, so I am curious about your experience.
Blackberri: I think there are a lot of people out there that are just wanting the full masc experience. Just being a light and being a positive person like myself, I think that’s what draws people towards you. I know I’m a full-time drag queen. I may be feminine, I may be a person of color and in a space where it’s only white people, but I know that I’m something different. I’m something that no one else can be. I think that’s what draws people more towards me, that I know that I’m a little different experience. And that’s a positive, not a negative.
John: I love that. Now, I have to ask who are your style inspirations? And how did you marry those inspirations to make the looks for the challenges on the show?
Blackberri: When I was getting ready for the show, I thought it was most important to read what the prompt was and make sure that everything was clear as day. The challenge was for me to make sure that when they saw my look, that they knew exactly what it was meant to read as. I took a lot of inspiration from cosplay, from old school comics. I really love Bruce Timm, he’s a pretty popular comic artist and illustrator. I’m really inspired by the silhouettes that he does for things like Batman: The Animated Series. I like those classic silhouettes from comics that read really well in drag. And then I had a lot of anime inspirations, I love late 80s, early 90s anime characters. It’s very color blocked. I think that was something that I tried to do in my looks as well.
John: You won the Pleasure Planet challenge. How did you develop that look specifically?
Blackberri: For Pleasure Planet, the first thing that popped in my head was alien sex robot because the challenge was to be a sex worker in space. My first thought process involved this Japanese illustrator, Hajime Sorayama, who I’m super obsessed with. He makes these super sensual robot women in lingerie, and I was like, OK, that’s a good base. That’s the beginning of what I wanted to do, but I also did not want to make it super feminine. The look had no hair. I wanted it to be super robot.
John: What materials were used in it?
Blackberri: We actually used children’s toys from the side of the road. We broke apart pieces from a dollhouse. We have dryer wires, all kinds of random, unconventional materials, but used in a way to where you can’t even tell that they’re literally trash off the side of the road.
John: You’d never know. That’s so cool. And with regard to the show, who did you draw closest to on the cast? And why do you think?
Blackberri: I actually worked with Cynthia Doll before the show and I don’t think the Boulets knew that. I had met Fantasia before the show too. I think those are the two that I gravitated to the most just because I knew them before, and we are like minded in drag. I think a lot of our drag is similar and it’s a tight little family.
John: You and Fantasia had that nice moment during The Last Supper episode where you two were really supporting each other and that was really lovely to see.
Blackberri: That was my favorite moment of the season because we also had other talks off camera about feeling excluded in alternative spaces. I feel Black people, and even plus size people, we’re made to feel like we are not supposed to be here. I think Fantasia and I had an unspoken agreement between the both of us that we both were there to open the door for other people like ourselves.
John: What do you think you’ve learned from your experience on the show?
Blackberri: I think going through this experience I realized that I can do more than I thought possible. I want to continue to push myself to do any and all things, and I think that’s where my strength lies. I’m naturally curious. I always want to do more, and I don’t want to shove myself in a box, per se. I think the show highlighted for me that you can do it all, just make sure that you cross your t’s, dot your i’s, and keep on pushing yourself.
Be sure to stay up to date with the latest on Blackberri by following her on Instagram.