Well after the rush that comes with Pride month, Atlanta locals and visitors are back in the mood for another queer celebration. With the largest Pride celebration in the southeast, the city becomes an LGBTQ mecca for the weekend.
We kicked off the Pride festivities at W Hotel in midtown, the Atlanta gayborhood. Celebrating their Turn It Up for Change campaign in partnership with HRC, the boutique hotel hosted a lavish celebration featuring the artwork of Baron Von Fancy. With a performance by Atlanta locals, Girls in the Yard, the evening was hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race season seven winner and Atlanta local, Violet Chachki.
We caught up with the beautiful Ms. Chachki before the festivities in the W Living Room. She gave us an insiders perspective on the southern queer community and some local tips for Pride weekend in Atlanta.
Out Traveler: What was it like growing up as a queer kid in Atlanta?
Violet Chachki: It was really different for me. I’m actually from the suburbs, 20 minutes north in Gwinnett County. I went to school in North Atlanta at a Catholic school. So it was a really weird convergence of these different cultures. I’m like this queer artsy faggot child going to Catholic school in a major city in the south. So there’s all these layers going on. It’s a weird city because if you drive like an hour in any direction, it’s dangerous. I mean, especially as a queer person, it can get really dangerous. It gets pretty southern and country.
How has the queer community here evolved over the years?
I feel like Atlanta is really a mecca for the south as far as progressive thoughts are concerned. There’s a pretty decent queer community here. There’s a great gay scene. It’s been a thriving gay city since the ‘70s, long before I was born. There’s still remnants of that. But there’s this new queer community coming in that’s kind of integrated with the straight world. It’s super interesting. I’m really proud to be southern and queer at the same time.
What was your first Atlanta gay bar experience?
I think it was this bar called Mary’s, not Hamburger Mary’s. There’s no association there. (LAUGHS) It’s basically the queer bar, I guess you could say. It’s in East Atlanta. I’ve been going out since I was like 14 or 15, leaving my Catholic school and going out with my older friends. We would go to Mary’s, and I would get kicked out because I was underage still. So that was kind of my first gay bar experience. Then I started doing drag and performing in gay bars, underage still and getting kicked out still, getting fake IDs and finding my way. I was really young when I started to experience nightlife and experience queer culture and gay culture.
So this is where Violet was born, where you discovered drag?
Absolutely. My first performance was actually at this bar called Le Buzz which is in Marietta, like 30 minutes west of here. That bar closed down but it was the only place you could go for like new, up and coming drag performers. Then I kind of built a niche for myself in the queer community and kind of the east side of town, and then midtown. This is kind of the gayborhood where we are right now in midtown. There’s a whole queer community on the east side of town, where I live. And this is like where you’d work as a drag queen.
What was it like coming back here after winning RuPaul’s Drag Race?
Refreshing. After winning a show like that, everyone kind of has a perception of who you are and what you do, whatever they saw on television, that really highly edited version of three weeks of your life. And coming back here, people actually know me and respect me. They humor me and respect where I’m coming from, or they know my story and have been there through my ups and downs. So it’s really refreshing to come back and see friends and family who understand me and understand my perspective and know where I’m coming from and are proud of me. It’s a really great feeling, and it will always be home.
After winning Drag Race, I assume you could pretty much move where ever you want. What is it about Atlanta that makes you want to stay here?
I actually own property here, so that’s kind of the main reason. The real estate market is really booming in the east side. So I got in really good when the market was really low a couple years ago. I’m actually moving to New York in November but I’m keeping my place here and living between the two cities. I’m never really home anyways. There are a couple months out of the year that are kind of off season for drag performers and performers in general around the holidays. So I’m moving in November to New York just for more opportunities.
What do you recommend for someone visiting for Pride?
The number one thing for the official Pride festivities is Starlight Cabaret, which is like a legendary drag show and it happens Sunday night in the park. I do Pride festivals all around the world, and they always have us performing during daytime, in full drag in like 100-degree weather. What I love about Atlanta Pride is that it’s in October and they do the drag show at night, and it’s magical. It’s so special. And I think drag in Atlanta is really different. It’s competitive and it’s cutthroat. It’s really female illusion based. That’s kind of the history behind Atlanta drag is the female illusion. It’s very strict and competitive. There’s all these criteria when they audition for the show, and it’s an honor to be a part of it. It’s the biggest drag show of the southeast. I’m not going to be a part of it this year but I headlined it last year after winning Drag Race. The parade’s amazing too. It’s huge. I think it’s comparable to New York’s parade.
Any local establishments you recommend?
Oh yea, I’m gonna be hopping around to a ton of parties. My friend, Vicki Powell is a pretty big DJ here, and she usually does a Pride takeover. After this, we’re going to Mary’s to watch Drag Race. Tomorrow, there’s another party at Mary’s called Hot Fruit, and all my friends are performing and DJing. It’s this big queer celebration. Sunday is Henry’s on the parade route. Then there’s this bar called Church, which is kind of a famous bar for Atlanta. All the celebrities go there when they come. It’s all religious themed but it’s almost mocking religion in a way. There’s just church related tchotchkes everywhere. This guy Henry is an artist and he kind of defaces all these iconic images of Jesus. It’s really crazy.
There are parties all weekend. The actual festival is amazing as well. The first time I ever went out in drag was at Pride, in the park, in fetish pumps. I went as a widow, like I had killed my husband. I was in like full on widow, Halloween regalia.
Check out Atlanta Pride for more info on the weekend’s activities.