BEAMING WITH FASHION
NAOMI SMALLS—tall, leggy and gorgeous. This superstar is more than all looks and fashion. What drives this queen to be their best? We sat down to chat about Pride, personal boundaries and what they've learned from growing up in a blended household.
How has the landscape of drag changed? Has it become more inclusive?
Drag to me has always been a way to express my imagination. I love seeing drag more mainstream and inclusive because really, there is nothing more fulfilling than dreaming up something and making it come to life. Everybody dreams of another reality no matter your gender, race, background.
Who were your style icons growing up?
My style icons growing up were the dolls I would make or play with—the supermodels in the magazines and my friends. My best friend CHRISTINA MONTOYA (@longhairnobra) and I have been close since second grade, and I remember seeing her for the first time—She is such a beauty and has impeccable taste, so us growing up together with a love for fashion and costuming was really nice. We'd go to Barnes and Noble and read the fashion magazines for hours on end.
What aspects of your own identity do you get to explore in your work? Do you separate your identity in and out of drag?
The truth is I'm a very dorky, silly, living in-the-moment kind of person. I do feel a sense of responsibility when I'm in drag, to be a little more in control. I've learned to be somewhat on guard, a lot of people are quick to judge and I don't believe people are entitled to know everything about me. Relationships are something I have a hard time putting out there into the world, even though I think of myself as pretty romantic. It is a fine line, people of course want to relate with you, but I want people to be interested in the art I produce rather than my background or who I'm dating
As an LGBTQ+ individual, what has PRIDE historically represented for you and how is that shifting in the face of the pandemic?
I wrapped up filming my first season of "RuPaul's Drag Race" in 2015, and my first travel gigs year were in 2016. Traveling around the world freshly after the Orlando Pulse shootings was an eye opening experience. Even with security on high alert, and an overall uneasy feeling—the sense of Pride in the air was so strong. Not letting anyone tell you how to live your life, love who you love, or be who you are, regardless how others think of you is my definition of Pride. Unfortunately, this year we do not have the festivals or the parades, but then again Pride is so much more than that.
What does the Anjelica candle and its nickname ‘Dame Nature’ mean to you? Does drag allow you to express your true inner nature?
The Anjelica candle makes me feel ethereal. Nature is organic and meant to be. Drag is what I was put on this earth to do.
Recognizing the civil injustices impacting communities of color, particularly those in the LGBTQ community, how do you choose to use your voice for positive change?
Growing up in a very blended family showed me early on that you never judge a person by the color of their skin. Everybody is different, and that’s what makes the world so great. Appreciating people for who they are and not where they come from is the first step to a positive change.
Follow NAOMI on Instagram via @naomismalls.