How drag queen Lil Miss Hot Mess is empowering kids to find their inner sparkle in a safe queer space
In a Q interview, Lil Miss Hot Mess discussed her new kids’ book and her involvement in Drag Queen Story Hour
Click the play button above to listen to Lil Miss Hot Mess's full conversation with Tom Power.
When Lil Miss Hot Mess reflects on her childhood, she thinks about how empowering it would have been for her to "explore and experiment" in a safe space as a young queer person.
"Swishing your hips, shimmying your shoulders, shouting 'Yes queen!' — you know, those are just some of the things obviously that drag queens are known for," she said in an interview with Q's Tom Power. "But they were also some of the things that, you know, I was discouraged from doing myself [as a child]."
Now, the drag queen and storyteller has released her second kids' book, If You're A Drag Queen and You Know It, which invites children to expand their horizons and find their inner sparkle.
Illustrated by Olga de Dios, the picture book assembles a cast of fabulous drag queens who embrace their boldness in a fun sing-along tale. It's the follow-up to her first book, The Hips on the Drag Queen go Swish, Swish, Swish, both of which bring a quirky twist to classic nursery rhymes.
"Rather than writing a book that says this is what a drag queen is, … I wanted to kind of create a book that showed rather than told and that, you know, gave kids a chance to kind of experience some of these draggy behaviors … to make it their own," she said.
The inspiration for the book came from Drag Queen Story Hour events, where drag queens read for kids in libraries, bookstores and other community spaces. It's a non-profit that started in 2015 in San Francisco as a way to provide a queer space for kids to tap into their creative potential.
As a board member for Drag Queen Story Hour, Lil Miss Hot Mess said her goal was to transform these magical moments into books to provide access to those who can't get out to a public reading.
"I wanted, you know, to create a book so that kids could take the magic home with them or so that it could reach kids and families that don't necessarily have chapters local to them," she said.
Lil Miss Hot Mess thinks drag can be educational for children because it can help them become more open-minded.
"It doesn't matter if we read a story about gender, it doesn't matter if we read a story about LGBT identity," she told Power. "There's something in encountering that kind of stimulating, unusual, out of the place, kind of creature, kind of person, that instantly invites these questions about, you know, what is normal?"
While Drag Queen Story Hours are generally regarded positively, the events have invited backlash and protests from conservatives, which Lil Miss Hot Mess thinks is "rooted in the same old homophobia and transphobia" that's persisted for years.
"If you don't want to join the party, just get out of our way," she said. "We are in libraries, we are in schools, we are in houses of worship … and I think kids have not only an opportunity, but a right to learn about this diversity and a right to learn about the lives of different people in their communities because that is what makes up the world around them."
Lil Miss Hot Mess said she respects those who decide Drag Queen Story Hour isn't for them, but she still encourages families to give it a shot.
"It doesn't have to be for every kid," she said. "But I think, you know, feeling what it feels like to not walk in someone else's shoes, but to literally stomp around in your own pair of high heels and your own pair of rainbow sneakers … helps you kind of think differently about how you might walk through the world."
Written by Nathan Mackey. Interview produced by Jennifer Warren.