In my experience with drag artistry, I have made significant discoveries about myself. I know that my personality is so closely linked to my drag persona that what I present and who I am in the form of Tajma is a direct extension of my inspired intellect and my whole spirit.
As a kid I started playing clarinet at 9 years old, I was singing (loudly) in church, I was listening to all kinds of music (Mariah, Madonna, Mozart, and Motley Crue). This is when I fell in love with music. Not only was I in love with music, the sound, the feeling, the experience, but I was in love with musicians. The artists behind the music-making were UNTOUCHABLE gods among humans because I had no mental connection as to how they made the music happen. How did they make those sounds? How do the sounds make me feel so heightened? What is the artistic process by which they transform nothing into brain power, through instrument and voice, to make such brilliance? It must be what they call ART!
Once I became engrossed in making my own music, I understood a bit more. I came to understand how making sounds made me feel and how it made an audience feel. Even though it was not always good, I was beginning to sense what it was like to produce art and I was becoming an artist with an artistic process. My process became the way I could keep or tell secrets about my life, and it has been that way ever since.
I followed my music instincts through school and ended up with an education in music that showed me countless artists that expanded the definition of artist. In depth, I studied performers, composers, their works, theory, music history, and played with young artists that were just like me in aspiration. We learned our crafts through diligent practice and performance but also learned what it is to cultivate a standard for ourselves as artists. We wanted to make art out of what we were as people and what we were experiencing.
Later, I came to know drag artists and I, like so many before, began exploring that vast and FABULOUS world. I found that my connection to it was beyond the love of sequins and spotlights--it was the artistic experience. It was expressing my life through the art of drag. It wasn't until later that I realized the attachment I had to my drag was because it was, like my music, a spiritual outgrowth of my personality. I had engrossed myself so much in my expression and presence as a drag artist, that it became my life. In that time, I recalled being a 9-year-old feeling joy and purpose each time I played my clarinet. And because of it, my clarinet artistry has been elevated to more than I could have imagined.
I'm telling you this because there is no exacting way to become an artist or make art. There are countless ways, and they depend on YOUR love of YOUR art. I may not be the only principal-seated, nationally-titled, clarinet-playing drag performer on their way to Miss Gay America that you know, but I love my art and that makes me an artist.
In your search for what you want to make your art, consider some words that I have found to be a guide for me: “An artist is NEVER REQUIRED to consider their audience, only their own heart.” It can be a goal to make an impression and/or reaction with your art but nothing about artistry demands the presence of an audience or its response. I encourage you to own your artistic standards. They will elevate your power as an artist, mold your intellect with your inspiration, and legitimize your art in the heart of your most important audience--yourself.
Living an artful life,
MISS GAY MISSOURI AMERICA 2022
This is the official blog of Tajma Stetson, MGMA 2022