A VIZIN QUEST: THE TRANSFORMATION OF TWO SPIRITED DRAG ARTIST VIZIN, FROM NORTH DAKOTA TO L.A.
By Sam Goodman
Editor in Chief
“Being mighty real is just about being who you are whether it is a man or a woman or both. You have to be true to yourself. Every day is a constant discovery of who we are, every day is a new day and we are constantly changing so being true to yourself, remaining true to the idea of who you think you are and who you want to be and who you want others to see you as, that is the true meaning of being ‘real’.”
We are defined by our name, our age, our sex, race, class. It's robotic, formulaic? Name, age, sex, race, class. But, for any drag performer, gender nonconformist, androgynous beauty, it is never that easy, that simple, robotic, formulaic. And For VIZIN, a Native American drag artist who has undergone a drastic weight loss and move to L.A, the idea of identity is ever changing. Through his drag, he is in a state of constant evolution.
As a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes on the Fort Berthold Reservation in Central North Dakota, VIZIN’s Native American culture began manifesting itself in his art at a young age.
“I was not an outsider or an outcast in North Dakota. A big thing in our culture is inclusivity...Everybody knew I was just a little bit different...There are a lot of straight artists in North Dakota who are seen as being different but they also put on a bit of a masculine front. As far as the spectrum of creativity, [being creative] is accepted, but it is not [fostered]. North Dakota is about sports and a hard day’s work,” VIZIN said.
Unique to Native American culture is the idea of the Two Spirit, a term used to describe someone’s sexual, gender, or spiritual identity. It is the belief that a person embodies both the male and female spirit.
“Two Spirit [affects the] respect level [Native American] people have toward gay people. I’ve been doing a lot of research on Two Spirit and the different sexes, transgender, and gender fluidity and [the Two Spirit] steams from those same sort of ideals. Gay people are viewed as spiritual beings,” VIZIN said.
Through the idea of the Two Spirit, VIZIN is able to undergo a constant transformation.
“[My gender identity] is something that I have been dealing with a lot myself. I don’t identify as a woman. I don’t prescribe to the ideas of masculinity either. I do go in between. I feel like there is a fluidity in nature. I don’t find myself going in one direction,” VIZIN said.
The idea of reinvention rings true to VIZIN as his drag name centers around the thought of a constant evolution— a process that VIZIN has gone through throughout his entire life.
“In Native American culture we talk about a vision quest all the time and this journey was my vision quest and finding out exactly who I am. When I first started I was named Billie Simone and that was after Billie Holiday and Nina Simone...But, after I had lost the weight I had been through this journey and I wanted to convey that into my name to connect to the audience more...When you see a name on the marque it should be exactly who you’re there for,” VIZIN said.
VIZIN made her drag debut during 2007 pride in a, let’s just say, ‘rocky’ way (just the average, run-of-the-mill breastplate malfunction).
“I have always been doing drag. I’ve always been playing with barbies and makeup. I never really had a father figure in my life so there were a lot of women in my life and the makeup and clothing was always easily accessible. When I first started drag it was just a fun thing that one of my cousins suggested. She knew the producer of the drag show in North Dakota, ‘The Dakota Divas Drag Show’, and I performed in 2007 in the summer during my first pride fest,”
However, before the VIZIN you see above existed, there was a 700 pound drag performer with big hair and clown makeup, inspired by Jackie Beat.
“I grew up overweight and I graduated high school at about 500 pounds. It wasn't until 2009 when my mother made this appointment for me and I was tipping the scales at the high 600 pounds and I go to the appointment and I think it’s a basic checkup and it turns out I was getting a screening for gastric bypass. I had the procedure about two months later,” VIZIN said.
Through this nine year process, VIZIN has lost about 500 pounds, sparking a major shift in her drag aesthetic. In 2015, after the loss of her mother two years earlier, VIZIN made the move from North Dakota to Los Angeles.
“I like to take a lot from the idea of being Two Spirit and having two different genders and playing with the androgyny of being a man, looking like a woman, feeling like a woman. Right now I am trying to re-imagine my aesthetic. I feel androgyny is the new turn on drag... all I can do is be myself. I will always be an artist at heart. The only thing I can do is keep doing what I do and people will connect with it eventually, hopefully,” VIZIN said.
As the art of drag has become increasingly more mainstream, VIZIN finds there to be an oversimplification in the world of drag. Through his journey from North Dakota to L.A., and the several phases of his drag, VIZIN has begun moving away from so called ‘glamazon’ drag and more towards androgyny, all while jump starting her career in the music world. Not growing up in a musical home, VIZIN began her music journey by himself at a young age. Inspired by Mariah Carey, following along with her riffs and whistle tones, VIZIN fell in love with all genres, from opera to pop.
“Music has always been in my life. [I’ve always been] trying to find my voice and what that means to the world. After [my mother] passed, I didn't have anything holding me back anymore. I had a new idea of what I wanted my drag to be at that time and so when I got out here things started falling into place,” VIZIN said.
In 2017, VIZIN released “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” a remix of Sylvester’s disco hit from 1978. (Check it out below!)
“Sylvester is a major inspiration [for me] and our voices are basically the same, not to brag. I really wanted to connect the past with the present and [re-educate] and foster the children,”
Along this journey, from ND to LA, through a 500 pound weight loss, VIZIN has not allowed for the transformation of one thing— her love for drag and place in this world as an artist.
“I think self expression for newer, younger artists is important because things get lost and everything becoming mixed up where drag is viewed in one way. ‘You’re not doing drag unless you’re wearing ombre eyebrows. You’re not doing drag if you’re not wearing nails’. Things can get simplified. If you don’t express who you are then you are never going to stand out...I identify as bizarre. There is nothing better than being just little bit different and a little bit weird,” VIZIN said.