In Diva Watch, we'll profile the passionate, diverse and fascinating performers who light up Denver's drag community. We're expanding on our Diva Dozen list from earlier this year by asking a series of questions to get a peek underneath the make-up.
Performer: Janessa Befierce
Also known as: Josh Lucero
Occupation: Educational personal shopper at Sephora Cherry Creek
Years on the stage: Four
The challenge of choosing the city's Best Drag Queen for the Best of Denver 2015 was not taken lightly. The art form has never been more exciting or popular; this city is teeming with dozens of drag performers — fresh faces, seasoned pros and incredible legends — all honing their craft and fighting for stage space. But the best of the best is Janessa Befierce, a driven performer with only four years of experience under her glittered belt, but whose persona fits like an elegant glove. When Janessa isn't stomping every stage in town, she's mentoring up- and-coming performers and showing them how to put the pro in professional. Not content to rest on her laurels, she's always striving to improve — crown firmly pinned to her best wig.
Westword: Congratulations on being named Best Drag Queen in Denver in the Best of Denver 2015. How does it feel to have that honor?
Janessa Befierce: What a great honor and surprise to have been titled with such a strong role. I mean, I was voted someone to represent the amazing talent not only from myself but of DENVER!!! Denver is becoming such a big social scene these days and drag is booming, with me being able to speak to the talents of Denver, where I work with some amazing artists. But that's what I love, that I got recognized for being truly versed in each type of scene supporting the gay/drag culture here in Denver. I am so blessed and honored to represent this award!
What does “the best” mean to you?
The best to me is a loaded question, but in my art I would like to think that the best would include a desirable type or quality — only because without quality you gain no desire, no want, no uniqueness, no juju, if you will. Believe me, I do not truly believe I am the best drag queen of Denver, Colorado, but I would like to say I fit well alongside the legends and amazingly talented men in dresses! I created my own mini-empire; it may be small to the world, but it's so big and great to me. I invested a good amount of time into something I would never have done five years ago! Hard work really does pay off, it is true, and desirable type or quality will shine as is. Thank you to anyone and everyone who supports my art form — that to me is the best and the most inspiring.
Tell us about the first time that you ever performed in drag.
OMYLANTA, Barbie…The first time this lil’ ol' thing got up on that stage it was scary! I truly was so overwhelmed I couldn't even pretend to be having fun until that song was over! I naturally thought I was a super man with zero practice dancing in heels — please believe I fell right over but I worked it out, honey, did a little hair flip and got on up on my merry little way! What a rush, though. It's a nice moment to think back to that first time; it's truly amazing to see where I was to representing this award today!
What is the origin of your drag name?
It just happened. I looked in the mirror and BAM I thought my name should be Janessa. Pretty boring story. huh? Well, the last name story is not so boring. I was last-nameless for a good six months. I started performing more and I had a close friend back in California, I've known him and his drag for years, so I was talking to him about my struggles to decide on a name and I jokingly said, “Let me just be the only Befierce in Denver!” Then it clicked, made sense and Janessa Befierce was born! I swore to my drag sister Melissa Befierce, "Sis, I know I don't live out there and I'm ugly now, but I will be fierce and the day you feel I’m not cutting it to be your drag sister you can take my last name away!" I also was Felony Misdemeanors' mini daughter/sister/homie (that’s a mouthful) and it was a short-lived experience; my name was long as heck and I had already created a small fan base with Janessa Befierce, so it just stuck.
Explain what it feels like to get into all of your drag and hit a stage.
I would say that while I’m going through the process of getting into drag, I feel different things for each different part. Doing my makeup is so calming and I feel relaxed and collected doing that. Then doing my body, ugh, is when I actually hate it, it’s so time-consuming, it’s hot, it’s uncomfortable. But when it’s all said and done and I’m fully dressed, you definitely feel like a different person, you feel the vibe. Some nights it doesn’t happen, sometimes you just don’t feel it, just like any job. But when you do feel the “fantasy” per se, once you hit the stage there’s really, truly no feeling like it. You have to be in that state of mind to get it but once you’re there — I don’t know if there are words to explain it right — but you get every ounce of adrenaline running through your whole body and you’re just ready to go. There have been times when I’ve performed that I’ve blacked out, like I don’t remember what I did on stage. All I remember is Janessa went out there and I was just waiting back here for her to come back. It can definitely be an out-of-body experience. It has a lot to do with how you build your character. I can compare from where I started to where I am now: The feeling is so different, my mindset is so different — how I handle it, my day-to-day take. She’s a part of my life on a weekly basis, and it’s a stronger connection now. Gaining confidence and knowing what you can do, going from taking four hours to do your makeup in thirty minutes, that’s a big change. It‘s about knowing your limits and how to push them.
Who/what inspires you to keep pulling out the makeup brushes everyday?
I simply love makeup; that's really my thing. I love what it can do to a person. I see day in and day out that makeup can change people’s lives. I bet a female somewhere reading this is wearing some sort of makeup — whether it is a slight lip color or even rouge on the cheeks. Makeup is my calm place; I love to just create and paint with those brushes!!
Favorite brand/item of makeup?
I could never have one favorite brand of makeup but I would say lipstick, mascara and brows! Give me those; I can do some magic.
Name three very important items in your purse/drag bag you can’t leave home without.
Mints! I am up in everyone's face — I can't have stank breath! Lipstick! Sipping on one's cocktail or soda removes lipstick from time to time and that lip sync!!!! It’s just best to reapply! Finally, well, you guessed it: duct tape or safety pins. Things happen, honey, don't be left it the dark with no supplies!
When you’re out in drag, what one thing does everyone want to talk to you about? What do you which they would actually talk to you about?
First and foremost I'm socially awkward when I meet new people. (Haha.) I struggle with what do I talk to them about? The weather? Let's be honest: if you have the courage to come talk to a man in a dress sipping on a cocktail, anything you say — respectfully, of course — will be a hoot! I guess wishing what they would talk to me about? Well, anything! I love to meet new people. Say hello and make conversation!
If your drag persona had a theme song, what would it be?
I love Nicki Minaj, so I would say “Win Again” by Nicki would be my theme song for Janessa! It just gets my juice goin' right before a show! It's explicit, though, so be careful, I'm pretty gangster. Haha, just kidding.
They’re casting the movie about your life: What actor and actress would be perfect to play both sides of your coin?
Shoot, I would probably say someone like Freddie Prinze Jr. He has a similar look and is pretty reserved. He’s a good actor, he’d deliver it but be reserved and laidback, like my day life, but he could build to a pretty good character. And heck, yeah, he’d have to do the drag, too! I’m the actress and the actor, so he’d have to be, too. He’s got enough manly features to be soft and feminine, but once you put some pumps on him I bet he’d turn it out REAL good!
Which is harder, given your drag profession: tucking (the legendary act of hiding a man's "candy" while performing) or having a relationship?
First of all, tucking is NOT. FUN. First and foremost, that’s a hellhole all its own! I would have to say a relationship, though. Finding the balance between the two worlds; I work two full-time jobs. When you break down the time, I’m doing full-time Janessa and full-time at my day job. Trying to have a fulfilling relationship and having someone understand doing drag, it’s such a new thing to a lot of people, it truly is a job. It’s not just something I do because I’m bored and just want to get out of the house in a dress. I make money and, if I had to, I could legitimately quit my day job and live off of Janessa. Not all queens can say that, but in my mind I feel confident that I could fall back on drag — and that helps me feel confident in my ability to keep this full-time for the last two years. But it’s tough, especially when you’re trying to throw a relationship in the mix. You get pulled from both ends and then you’re trying to give your heart to someone else and it’s a bad rubberband. That band’s gonna break! I was in a strong relationship for two years of my drag career — granted, he didn’t understand it and what was going on, but that was the toughest. You have that connection with a person but you can’t make things that solid if they don’t understand why you’re going out in a dress every night. Balance and communication is key, but it’s tough dating, PERIOD. Being a man in a dress doesn’t make it any easier.
When we check back on you in three years, what do you think you will be up to in your drag career?
Just like anything, friends: One day you’re "in," the next you’re "out.: Here's to still being "in"!
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You can catch Janessa Befierce performing at Tracks Denver, Charlie’s, Hamburger Mary’s and Broadways as part of the regular casts of Drag Nation, Dreamgirls, Vanity Dollz Burlesque, Denver’s Divas and Felony’s Cellblock.