In Diva Watch, we'll profile the passionate, diverse and fascinating performers who light up Denver's drag community, expanding on our Diva Dozen list from 2015 and our new Freshest Faces list for 2016 by asking different queens — from established to ingénue — questions that take a peek beneath the wigs, heels and makeup.
For safety reasons, every performance by 24-year-old drag dynamo Mia StaxXx (aka Brandon Castañeda) should come with a warning that viewers may not be ready for what they are about to see onstage. Pregnant women, children and those with heart conditions might need to sit down when the Mama of the StaxXx Navy — which houses sisters Gia, Andrea, Yazmeen, Arial and Alysia — leaves it all on the dance floor. Dancing, flipping, slamming dropkick splits and death drops that register a 5.1 on the Richter Scale, Mia makes the audience feel her numbers as well as see them.
After kicking off her career fighting for the title at Tracks’ famed Ultimate Queen Competition a few years ago, Mia just landed the plum gig as co-host -= alongside pal Amya Kunt — of the weekly event (which started a new run on February 29), where her mouth, moves and moxie will whip audiences into a frenzy and show new queens what charisma, nerve and talent really look like. Keep reading for our Q&A with Mia StaxXx.
Westword: Tell us about the first time that you ever performed in drag.
Mia StaxXx: I performed for the first time at the old El Potrero. I was only twenty years old when I wanted to make my performing debut, and it was a little difficult to find a spot that would allow me to. My boyfriend and drag sister, Gia StaxXx, had previously performed and been a part of the Mexican/Latin drag scene of Denver when Safaris was the place to be (waaayyy before my time), and had made good connections with queens like Mariah Spanic and Alexia Gaytan. He reached out to Alexia to see if there was a spot for me to debut in her next show.
I spent a couple of weeks choreographing my every last move and looking for — what I thought was — the perfect wig and outfit. The song I chose might surprise some people. If you know me, you know I can't stand Madonna — but I heard her song "Girl Gone Wild" and loved it. It took me a few weeks of hearing it before I even knew it was her. So I came out that Friday night as the new girl of the night in some heels that were one size too big, stepped off the first few stairs and my heel slipped out. I performed the entire number with half of my foot out of my heel. But you know, she's a performer so she still TURNT it. I got a good response, better than some were expecting. After that night I started performing twice a week at El Potrero, on Wednesdays with Mariah, and Fridays with Alexia.
How long have you been honing your craft in the world of drag?
Three years and nine months; my drag birthday is May 4, 2012.
When you’re not working it out on stage every week, what’s your occupation?
I’m a supervisor/server/bartender at a popular Denver restaurant.
What is the origin of your drag name?
Mia is the nickname of my closest sibling, my only sister, Mariah. And StaxXx was something Gia and I came up with together. We've always been padded queens with HUGE behinds. We had stacks of pads that we wore, and we've always been about the stacks of money! There are three Xs because we love to be raunchy and sexy, triple X-rated. Don't worry: We also know when it's time to class it up and be real ladylike!
What cultural icon do you admire the most and why?
The biggest inspiration to my drag career is undeniably Nicki Minaj. She is the artist I impersonate regularly, and I love to perform her songs as well. I love her music, her attitude, her mannerisms, EVERYTHING! She's a strong, successful woman who loves to inspire her fans to follow their dreams, no matter what they are. She inspires me to do that every day.
Explain what it feels like to get into all of your drag and hit a stage.
There are so many feelings right before I hit my first step from behind the stage curtain. I get so overwhelmed with excitement and adrenaline that sometimes I don’t even remember certain things that happen during a performance. The audience vibe and reaction definitely determines how hard I go in. I really do live for the applause!
Who/what inspires you to keep pulling out the makeup brushes everyday?
It's most definitely my drag family. There are six ladies of the StaxXx Navy and I'd like to think we all inspire each other to always look our best and deliver every time we book a show. There is at least one StaxXx girl performing at any given bar on any given week, so we always try to inspire and cheer each other on to continue to slay the kids all over Colorado!
Favorite brand/item of makeup?
My new found favorites are Jeffree Star Velour Liquid Lipsticks. You can apply one dip of the wand and that's all you need. The detailed applicator allows you to choose whether you want to apply lip liner or not. And the consistency is perfect to use as eyeliner as well! I think we are two or three colors away from having every color!
Name three very important items in your purse/drag bag you can’t leave home without.
1) A mini makeup bag. If you perform as hard as we do, you know after each number it's vital to touch up with loose powder, reapply contour and blush, and make sure your lips are poppin!
2) Perfume, or as the StaxXx like to call it, PUSSY JUICE! nobody got time for a stank hoe.
3) Gum. Breath gotta stay on fleek, and everyone looks cuter chewing gum!
When you’re out in drag, what one thing does everyone want to talk to you about? What do you wish they would actually talk to you about?
(Sings sassily) "Everybody wants to be a StaxXx..." There is always somebody out asking us to paint them or how they can be a part of the family. Don't get me wrong, we LOVE helping new queens and sharing our skills. Sometimes people don't understand we don't just pick up bishes off the street and make them queens. There's so much more to this than some think.
I guess I wish more people would have performance suggestions for me, as far as music or styles or performance. Not 100 percent sure I'll take your suggestions, but I'd love to hear some.
If your drag persona had a theme song, what would it be ?
“Boss Ass Bitch” by Nicki Minaj. I live for that attitude of being in charge and being bossy. I feel like I've paid a lot of dues in the Denver drag scene, so a little self-validation can't hurt!
They’re casting the movie about your life: What actor and actress would be perfect to play both sides of your coin?
I would choose Johnny Depp because he's so versatile and I could definitely see him slaying a gay role. And for the queen version of me, I'd choose Tatiana (from RuPaul's Drag Race Season 2) or (model) Erica Mena because I've had people tell me I resemble both of them when I'm in drag.
Which is harder, given your drag profession: tucking (the fine art of hiding a man’s candy) or having a relationship?
Having a great healthy relationship is always a challenge, and I've been tucking for years so this pussy stays snatched! But I am very grateful to have found my soulmate and, even better, he's also a drag queen! That can be a blessing and a curse when it comes to sharing our drag closet. But it's awesome that Gia and I have found something that we both equally love to do and it's a huge part of our relationship. We are the Haus Mothers, so there's a lot of love there.
What does the word “family” mean to you?
Family is any person who loves and cares for you unconditionally. In the words of Rupaul, "As gay people, we get to choose our family." I think I've chosen pretty well!
Drag allows you to change or alter physical parts of yourself. Do you use that power to always change any one thing in particular?
Drag and padding and cinching allows me to alter my body type, and I actually get to look thin with a snatched waist. That's the best part. If I didn't pad I would have too many back rolls to wear what I like to wear. I also change my nose to be skinnier and pointier.
There’s a bank error in your favor, giving you $15,000. What’s the first thing that you buy?
I ask my parents what they could benefit from. Considering all the help I've received throughout my life from them, I would hook them up before I bought anything for myself.
When we check back on you in three years (2019), what do you think you will be up to in your drag career?
I hope to tryout for RuPaul’s Drag Race. I've always wanted to be a performer and I've always wanted to pursue music. Drag Race would be the most awesome stepping stone to do that. Traveling around the world with my drag would be awesome.
You can see Mia slaying stages all over Denver: She hosts a show every other Wednesday night at El Potrero Night Club, performs at M Uptown with Dreamgirls at least one Friday a month, and is part of the Drag Nation cast there the last Friday of every month. She is also the new co-host of the Tracks Ultimate Queen Competition every Monday at Tracks from now until the end of May.