as seen on Vogue.com
San Francisco Drag Legend Carla Gay of El/La para TransLatinas
Carla Gay began her career at the age of 15 in Acapulco and moved to San Francisco in 1986. She performed at Esta Noche, the first Latinx joint in the city, for 25 years until its closure in 2014. She says that nowhere in the world compares to SF in terms of the drag scene, but also in terms of the health care services and other resources that trans women have worked for and established in the city. In 2006, Carla founded El/La Para TransLatinas, an organization that has spent the last decade “building a world where translatinas feel they deserve to protect, love and develop themselves.
San Francisco Drag Legend, Mutha Chucka
Mutha Chucka moved to the Mission in the early 1990s, and was lucky enough to secure a rent-controlled apartment, where she’s been ever since. “All the baby queens and club kids have been through here” she informed us. “Half the kids you see performing are wearing something I gave them!” Chucka’s brand of drag is exuberant and accessible, but she is also unapologetically political. “I would get naked on stage just to encourage other fat people to do it,” she shrugged. “And I was decapitating Trump and pissing on him as soon as all that happened.” Over the years, her performance style has become more refined: “I used to use all these props, but then I realized no one cares, so now I focus on a few key elements.”
San Francisco Drag Legend, Phatima Rude
“It was a very ‘You shall not pass!’ moment, a truly liberating experience, telling the cops that this was our space and they couldn’t come in,” recounted Phatima Rude, sitting on a black leather couch holding her dog, Mary Kate. We met her at Station 40, the long-term anarchist space on 16th Street in the Mission District. Phatima lived there in 2010, and had infamously fended off the police while hosting one of the Queer Autonomous Zone parties, a tribute to chaos magician William S. Burroughs. That night Phatima stood down the cops for three hours while partygoers barricaded the door to the main performance space. SFPD ultimately acquiesced and the night continued. She is the subject of the short documentary, Ladies and Gentlemen: Phatima Rude, by Paul King and Joel Landfield.
San Francisco Drag Legend, Renita Valdez
As a San Francisco native, Renita was very matter of fact about the trajectory of San Francisco’s drag scene and her place within it. She recalled how in her teens she used to take the Number 14 bus from Daly City to 6th & Mission Street, where she would pay off a Chevron attendant to let her get into drag in the gas station bathroom. “Back in the 80s we were Tenderloin girls, you know, drag queens, working girls. We had to be strong and we had to be tough, especially when walking the streets.” In 2018, she sued her landlords in the Castro when they tried to evict her under the Ellis Act; the case has since settled.