Beatrice Smartt chats with Tequila Mockingbird
– by Beatrice Smartt
Not only sassy and creative, but also super smart, with an academic background in geology, it’s not entirely surprising that spokesmodel for BC Arthritis Society Tequila Mockingbird loves rock music. The drag artist known as “The King Of Queens” dishes on some of her passions and hardships in this interview.
Beatrice Smartt: Given your love of hard rock geology, it makes sense that you like a bit of metal music. Would you mind naming some of your fave bands/music to unwind and perform to?
Tequila Mockingbird: Some of my fav metal/rock bands are Metallica, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Van Halen, Motley Crue, KISS, Aerosmith, and Iron Maiden. For doing drag I like to perform to Bif Naked, Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Eurythmics, and Cher.
BS: Speaking of Joan Jett, when you performed “Bad Reputation” at New West Pride, you used a guitar you made! Were you air guitar-ing, or did it actually play?
TM: The guitar I made is just a prop I made out of pine shelving.
BS: Holy crafty, Batgirl! And you’re also a drummer.
TM: Yes I have a lovely red drum set. I need to find people to jam with and a cheap space to practice!
BS: As far as props, you build a lot of your own costumes – even a pair of shoes recently. Was there a specific age you knew you wanted to delve into drag? Talk a bit about your theatrical and ballet background and how they moulded your drag life.
TM: I have always known that I wanted to wear girl’s clothes. I can remember in kindergarten looking at the girls in their tights and dresses and being envious. I got dragged to my sisters’ ballet classes. I so wanted to wear the pretty tights, leotards and tutus and dance, however I knew if I told my dad I wanted to take ballet, he would smack that idea out of my head. So I did the usual guy things like hockey, and lacrosse.
As a young man in geology I was very repressed. I had buried who I was deep for preservation. When I left geology to go into theatre, a new world opened up and so did my creative brain. I loved the arts and blossomed. I felt I was in a safe and supportive environment, so I started “coming out” to people, mainly family and close friends. However, now dating got tough because this new me didn’t know what he wanted to do with the dressing. I was awkward and all over the map. Plus, as it turns out, not tons of women want to be with a guy who wears dresses. lol. Who knew? I bought my first drum set at this time and boy did I love it!
Then I met my future wife. She knew that I liked dressing and that I took ballet. When we decided to get married and buy a house, she told me that I had to give up drag and ballet if I wanted to be with her. I took a long time to mull this over. Do I stay true to myself and potentially alone (as so far my track record with women who knew I dressed was terrible), or do I give up a huge part of who I am and experience love for the first time?
Eventually I agreed to give it up. We bought a house, got married and then less than a year later I became ill with my rheumatoid arthritis. This changed everything. My wife left me out of the blue. It was horrible and I lost everything, including my house and dog. I had to start over on all levels. I had no transferable skills as all my jobs and careers had been physical ones (Anyone who thinks that working in theatre, film and special events as a technician and builder isn’t physical, well I challenge you to try it!). So I went back to school. I took writing, editing and PR. Eventually I got back on my feet (literally, lol!) and have the job that I have today doing communications for a well known organization in Vancouver. Over the last year, Tequila has really blossomed. She had to. She was on her own and couldn’t stay home as it was too depressing.
BS: How difficult has your diagnosis been in terms of being able to build your costumes and props? What are some of the biggest challenges you face with respects to your condition?
TM: One of the big challenges with my rheumatoid arthritis is the unpredictability of the disease. I never know when it’s going to flare up. Stress is a huge trigger. My hands are really affected by my RA. When you can’t do what you love because of your condition, that’s when I really hate my RA.
People who have chronic pain are also susceptible to conditions like depression. If you are in pain all the time, I can see how it would wear you down. The unpredictability of the disease is also scary. I don’t know what the future will hold for me. One doctor who has done a couple of surgeries on my feet believes that one day my joints will completely fail and I will end up in a wheel chair.
I know life could always be worse, so I try not to complain and I try to do as much as I can while I can. Which is why I wear heels as much as I can. lol! One day I may have to give it up. That will be a sad day, if it happens.
BS: You have nonetheless managed to carve out a unique career path for yourself, including your work with The Arthritis Society. How rewarding has your work with the society been?
TM: My work with The Arthritis Society (BC and Yukon chapter) has been quite rewarding. It’s awesome how they embraced my idea and ran with it. I have always wanted to help people, so being able to tell my story, raise awareness and inspire other people has been amazing!
“Coming out” over the last few years has apparently also inspired other men to come forward and face who they are. That has also been very rewarding to me. Who knew that by just being yourself, you can help and inspire others?
BS: You really have had quite the trek (in wicked heels, no less!) thus far, and I’m sure many people – not just within the drag community – find you to be a source of inspiration. Where can people see you perform next?
TM: Coming up on November 15 (Sunday) out in New Westminster, I will be at The Arthritis Society Jingle Bell Walk/Run fundraiser.
BS: And this is where your fans can totally chime in with, “I’ll be there with bells on”! Thank you for your tough-as-rock and metal (with lots of glitter) attitude, Tequila!