The southern-fried smackdown is taking drag culture back to its subversive roots.
With the improbable rise of drag over the past decade from gay bars to mainstream America’s favorite spectator sport, it is easy to forget sometimes that behind the faux-drama and soft-focus lenses of Drag Race, there are multi-dimensional performers engaged in a complex form of performance art. This is the magic of ChokeHole, a New Orleans-based event thrown by queer nightlife producers Hugo Gyrl and High Profile. ChokeHole strives to make drag dangerous again, masterfully combining the art of drag performance, telenovela, and professional wrestling into a sport they call “XXXTREME DRAG PRO WRESTLING.” Here, the question is not, “Can you lip-synch for your life?” but instead, “Can you lip-synch for your life while throttling another queen dressed as a giant bug with a 360-degree double-front somersault into a shooting-star knee-drop?”
Just like the WWE, ChokeHole weaves in plots and narratives spanning topics from the hyper-local to the intergalactic, imagining new and entertaining ways to subvert normativity. Just in time for World Pride and the 50th anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn, ChokeHole brought the southern-fried smackdown to New York for one night, taking over the Super Chief gallery in Ridgewood, Queens. Storylines were familiar to New Yorkers and New Orleanians alike: gentrification, gender positivity, the perils of capitalism, and the long-standing rivalry between both cities as LGBTQ capitals. “ChokeHole exists as a parallel to parody all of our cultural demons, things that the late-stage, mainstream drag culture has evolved into embracing,” said Visqueen, one of the show’s performers and producers. “In an age where drag queens are our modern-day pop stars, our universe is a space for drag to get back to it’s subversive roots, in our own way—-kicking each other’s padded asses in a ring. Long Live ChokeHole!”
Rhodes Murphy is an LGBTQ lifestyle writer based in New Orleans and New York City. He currently writes for Slate.