Best Renaissance Man in Drag
On her business card, Zora Phoenix presents herself as a sort of jill-of-all-trades: a singer, emcee, graphic designer and burlesque producer. Nowhere does she use the phrase “drag queen”—even though, when she gets off her day job as a red-haired, bespectacled advertising executive named Chris Stewart, she changes out of her black slacks and gray shirt and into fake eyelashes, a dark bob wig and shimmering red dress. Instead, she prefers the term “gender illusionist.”
“I’m not really trying to be what most people think of as a drag queen,” says Stewart, 31. “I’m not transgender, I’m not a transvestite. But if you take drag queen, transvestite and transgender and put them in a triangle, I’m in the center.”
Zora singing Hot Child from Zora Phoenix on Vimeo.
Stewart began entertaining at age 8, as a square-dance caller in his hometown of Louisville, Ky. When he moved to Southern California in 2004, he picked up a gig hosting a bingo night at a piano bar in Long Beach, where he began to develop an act combining music and comedy around his Zora Phoenix persona. He describes Zora as “a seemingly promiscuous, dumb girl who’s really acerbic and witty and quick to catch you off-guard,” but insists that under the makeup, “it’s really just me.”
Since moving to Portland in 2007, Stewart’s job description has expanded. In addition to putting on burlesque events all around town—including Burlesque S’il Vous Plaît at Crush and Phoenix Variety Revue at Kelly’s Olympian—he runs the burlesquepdx.com website, uses his marketing background to teach performers how to better brand themselves: to, in his words, “use your T&A to help your S&L”). MATTHEW SINGER.
Original article here: http://wweek.com/portland/article-17782-best-of-portland-2011-best-people.html