By: Robert Stinson
When you think of cross dressers, what images come to mind? How about over the top lip-synching numbers performed by drag queens in outrageously gaudy attire and make up in every shade of the rainbow? Female impersonators have received a majority of the attention from the media while their counterparts, drag kings, have received much less exposure. The phenomenon of male impersonation was born out of the womenâ€™s liberation movement of the 1960s when women burned their bras, marched through the streets of Manhattan like their predecessors, the suffragettes, and rejected the images of femininity that dominated women throughout the ages. In recent years, drag kings have become an essential part of the LGBT community, performing in chapters throughout the country and abroad.Â NUG had the pleasure of meeting with Tu Bebe, Chikillo, and Jesse Boi of Rompe Corazones (Heart Breakers), a troupe of ultra talented local performers, as they gave us an exclusive look behind the Snoop glasses, mustaches, cornrows and rough dispositions before they gear up for Pride 2011.
How long have you been performing as a group? What spurred you to take this direction in your professional life?
Tu Bebe: Rompe Corazones has been around for a year and a half. It started as a duet with my drag brother Johnny Dangerously at Bacchus House for a contest they were having. We ended up winning and, after a month, she ended up moving to England. So that is why I decided to bring a few more members into the group, which is how Nena, Jesse Boi and Chikillo got involved.
You guys really know how to work a crowd. What do you guys like best about performing as Rompe Corazones?
Chikillo: I think the best part is transforming into the characters or artists we are performing as. We really try to look exactly like the people we are emulating. This includes wearing wigs, makeup, wardrobes and really getting into the essence of the character, so when the audience looks at us, they say wow.
Why do you think drag kings are not as represented in our community? How do you plan on bringing more visibility to this art form?
Tu Bebe: The Latino community is well-known for having a lot of drag kings, but we hear very little about them. So thatâ€™s why Rompe Corazones is taking the art form to a whole new level by getting as much exposure as possible and just putting ourselves out there. We are down for anything that will promote our message. Weâ€™ve performed at clubs, quinceaÃ±eras, parties and a bunch of other events. We do this out of love. Itâ€™s funny to say, but sometimes we are appreciated more in the straight community than in the LGBT community. Weâ€™ve done straight events where weâ€™ve received stand up applauses.
Can you tell us about your appearances on Out of the Closet with Isaac Siqueiros and Thatâ€™s So Gay Live?
Chikillo: We love Isaac Siqueiros. Heâ€™s given us a great opportunity, and so has Sally Hall from Thatâ€™s So Gay Live. Itâ€™s just amazing how weâ€™ve all come together to support each other. We really thank them a lot for supporting us and getting our name out there.
I love the artistic renderings of the group on your Facebook page. Who does your illustrations?
Tu Bebe: Our friend Claire Berry from England does all of our fliers, logos and illustrations. You can see her artwork at www.ohmyapplepie.co.uk
Growing up in San Diego and coming out at an early age, I always felt there was a lack of minority representation in the media, especially in the gay community. So I can really appreciate you guys for stepping up to the plate and being positive role models for the next generation of gay Latinos.
Chikillo: You know itâ€™s great because we have the opportunity to perform both Spanish and English-speaking songs. We want to show the world what Latinos can do. We rarely repeat a number; Bebe is constantly on the computer looking up new ideas and people are always wondering what weâ€™re going to do next.
Tu Bebe: We donâ€™t necessarily want to be tagged as just Latin drag kings because we donâ€™t exclusively perform Latin numbers. We like to switch it up with all different kinds of music. We want to bring fresh ideas to the stage because people get tired of seeing the same thing over and over again.Â You have to switch it up and keep things interesting for the audiences.
How long does it take you guys to get ready for a performance?
Chikillo: There have been times when weâ€™ve had to change things at the last minute. Itâ€™s not like we just get an outfit from the store and go on stage. All of our outfits are originals designed and sewn by Nena, and Ruby does our makeup. We come very close to looking like the artists we are performing as.
Tu Bebe: I just wanted to say that if Jesse Boi choreographed our dance steps, we would be here all year because that dude canâ€™t dance.
Considering that we are a cannabis publication, how do you guys feel about the controversy surrounding the whole medical marijuana issue in San Diego? Do you believe it should be legalized?
Tu Bebe: My adopted mother Rhonda had cancer and the chemo she was taking made her whole digestive system shut down. So after her cancer went into remission, she started smoking and I really think it helped her. I say if it works for you, go for it.Â I actually have a funny story. I was at a friendâ€™s house and I got really hungry, so I went to the fridge and grabbed some milk and brownies â€“ not knowing they were loaded. My brother had painted the solar system on the ceiling of the room I was staying in, so I remember waking up in the middle of the night, calling my best friend and saying, â€˜Hey, the sky is falling.â€™ He told me, â€˜Whatâ€™s wrong with you? Did you watch Chicken Little or something?â€™
Jesse Boi: I donâ€™t think itâ€™s bad because itâ€™s herbal and from a plant that is not made out of chemicals you use to clean up the restroom of a house.
I know you guys are big supporters of the NOH8 (No Hate) campaign. How long do you think it will take before discrimination against gays becomes a thing of the past?
Tu Bebe: Whoever you are, no matter if youâ€™re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, you have to love and accept yourself first before you can expect others to do the same. So I think we need to lead by example and show people out there that weâ€™re like everybody else. I donâ€™t think change is going to come easy, but I know we will get there someday.
I bet you guys are really stoked about being asked to perform at San Diego Gay Pride this year!
Tu Bebe: We will have Issac Siqueiros as an MC with Sally Hall from Thatâ€™s So Gay Live. Weâ€™ll also have Catastrophic on stage performing a great closing number. Thereâ€™s smoke coming out of my ears because I have so many ideas for pride and weâ€™re really, really excited and honored that they asked us to perform.
Make sure to check out Rompe Corazones on Facebook for up-to-date performance schedules and live video footage.