Bushwig, the world’s largest queer drag and music festival, is returning to the border of Queens/Brooklyn, New York from September 8-9 with a lineup of over 160 performers. The festival, known for celebrating the diversity of drag—ranging from golden glamazons to goth queerdos—will feature performances from Drag Race alumni including Sasha Velour and Alaska, along with some of New York's hottest acts particularly the most unconventional acts that make the New York drag queen scene so unique.
OUT caught up with one of the co-founders of Bushwig, Babes Trust, to discuss how Bushwig has evolved since its inception and to get a little taste of what we can expect to see this year.
OUT: What inspired you to create Bushwig seven years ago?
Babes Trust: The inspiration to create Bushwig was to create a new wave of queer experimentation in Brooklyn. When we began seven years ago, Bushwick was one of the only affordable neighborhoods close to the city, so all the drag performers moved there. I had recently moved to NYC from London. I met Horrorchata [Bushwig’s other co-founder] through the Swedish writer Eli Leven, who I met at Copenhagen Queer Festival. We started hanging out along with Merrie Cherry.
I had come up through the anarchist queer scene of London, Berlin, and Barcelona in the 2000s. I attended loads of DIY queer festivals most notably, Queeruption. So for me, the ideals of gender anarchy, LGBT activism, and hedonism that I learned during this time is something that really helped build Bushwig. You create what you love!”
Did you have any missions or goals when you first created Bushwig?
There wasn’t a huge mission. We just wanted to create a fab space for the queers to hangout, be free, and have a stage to celebrate each other’s weirdness. Now, it's incredible to see how that simple notion has become even bigger than ourselves. It's become a global movement and the true drag festival of this generation.
How has Bushwig changed since the start?
Now we are moving into the seventh year and we’ve all grown up with it. For me, it feels like the festival has taken on its own meaning to the people that perform. Running Bushwig is like raising a child who's developing their own personality and thoughts.
This year is the first year we've had to turn people down to perform; 400 people applied! Some people have said to us we should curate the lineup more and focus more on Drag Race stars, but that just isn’t why we started Bushwig! It was to give any queer person a platform to do something. Anything! And not just drag, but music too. I like the anarchy of that. We have incredible artists who've been on Drag Race, some of whom actually performed at Bushwig before going on the show. We love and celebrate them just as much as we love and celebrate every performer that takes the Bushwig stage.
I think people feel super connected to Bushwig because it's not a controlled over-produced space. No one is telling anyone what to do. Just come, be yourself, hang out, and feel free. We recognize that accessible safer queer spaces are super important during this dark time of Trump. We’ve moved venues three times in over seven years. At the original venue, Secret Project Robot, we could be a little riskier. People were fucking in the back yard - not saying that doesn’t happen now - but just more discreetly.
Can you discuss the importance of diversity in drag?
Obviously now there is a perceived hierarchy of drag in the world, which is so strange to me. When I was a teenage sex worker it was always hookers and drag queens that were in the same social class. Now it’s flipped. Being a drag queen is and was diverse enough! You're a drag queen. Drag is still punk.
The Drag Race girls – I always tell people trying out – it looks way better than the reality! Imagine being contracted to do non-stop tours, spending six hours a day in each city, then sleeping, traveling, then doing the same day over and over. Then there's all the dealing with fans, people just out to make some bucks, back stabbing friends… All I can say is this: If you’re going to do it, make sure that you love it. Because doing that shit just for the money will make you very sad.
What can we expect to see this year?
A lot of drag, music, and love! I’m excited to see all the newish baby Brooklyn queens perform. The children of Bushwig! Also Wolfgang Tilmans, Carry Nations Djs sets, and of course, I’m excited to play with my band, Bottoms!