Rome – Caput Mundi, The Capital of the World. The city where, legend has it, two wolf-suckling brothers built with their hands. For thousands of years, the city provided Europe and the known world with kings, artists, patricians, oligarchs, emperors, dictators, designers, and popes. Despite the pillaging of Rome in 476 A.D. - followed by several other sackings over the course of history – the image and legacy of the ancient capital continues to enchant many. Like the twin brothers (sans, the wolf-suckling) I seek to build.
The drag artist’s tool box includes a cornucopia of brushes, blushes and palettes, wigs, clothing, shoes, and accessories await her to transform from mortal to divine (no pun intended). It’s not simply adapting a new gender but adopting a new identity. It is a wonder to see a meek boy become a vivacious Amazon, the quiet femme become one hell of an entertainer. Whether taking cues from family members or friends, to drawing themselves in the likeness of celebrities, their inspirations comes from far and wide. Not always an easy feat.
Ortensia has been a constant struggle between maintaining one's identity while creating a new. I was originally inspired by two women – Sarah Vaughan and Sophia Loren. Not only in my aesthetic, but even my personality and performance. Over time I became inspired by other figures: Old Hollywood dames like Grace Kelly; old-school socialites like Countess Greffuhle; Maya Rudolph's impression of Oprah Winfrey. The result? Let's just say there were (many, many, many) times this amorphous creature did not have the clearest and fantastic look and/or performance. But over weeks and months - learning and observing, seeking help from others – I did see an evolution. Behind the makeup, I stood a little taller, a little less shy, and a lot more confident. Beyond the makeup, I noticed the transformation reflected the building of an identity.
A political cartoon of Louis XIV best summarizes the metamorphosis. (I remember seeing this in a book I used for my thesis way back when.) The image shows three ‘stages’ of the king: the robes and wigs on a form, his mortal body and, lastly, the popular image of the French king. It is not Louis the Man that makes Louis the Monarch or vice versa. Both aspects or 'bodies' have a role in creating The Sun Glory in all his glory.
Louis XIV spent 77 years to fashion his royal image. It took thousands of years for The Eternal City to come into its own. There is still hope to form Ortensia to her best potential.
Rome was not built in a day...and neither was drag queen.