Tom Catt looks different during the day, but at night, when he slips on his size 13 women’s heels, corset and a dress, he becomes royalty.
He becomes a drag queen.
If you see him during the day as regular ol’ Tom, he’s an above average size, fit male. He has dark hair, sometimes with a beard and sometimes with chest hair sticking out. Butat night, he transforms. His face is a canvas that he begins to transform with foundation, blush, eye shadows, lipstick and mascara, which he can paint on with ease. But don’t ask him to glue on his false lashes in a split second because that’s his least favorite part of the mask.
“I haven’t mastered the application, and they do make me look better. But until I master the technique, they’re the biggest pain in the ass,” he laughed.
But what women go through every day–sometimes within 20 minutes and sometimes for hours, Catt has been practicing for years. He too takes his time while perfecting his look before he attends a gig, which can be anything from a wedding, some corporate events, birthday parties or a pageant.
The process of getting ready varies based on what is happening around me,” he said. “On average, my makeup takes about 30-45 minutes… this includes foundation, contouring, highlighting, eyebrows, eyes, lips, blush and finally translucent powder and setting spray depending on how long I’ll be in makeup for.”
After he puts the colors on his face, he begins to get dressed. “I have three staples when it comes to getting into drag: Boobs, waist, hips.”
“My boobs are silicone, and I found them on eBay,” he said slyly. “I’m voluptuously a 42DD, ya know, for the boys.”
To get a feminine figure, he sucks in his stomach in order to get baby-bearing curves.
“For my waist, I wear a steel boned corset or a cinching back brace. They give the finest curve, and who doesn’t love an hourglass figure?” he asked. Then to complete his shape, he wears a girdle or gaff and pulls padded underwear over it all to get fuller hips.
“That, my darlings, is armor and war paint.”
For a couple of years, Catt (his stage name that stuck since he was in middle school), has been attending different events in full drag. He started putting makeup on for performances of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and then ventured into womanly costume.
“Why I started [to dress in drag] was in spite of all the masculine and hetero-normativity I was seeing at conventions; there needed to be more diversity,” he said.
“But even before I started at conventions, I’ve had a strong connection to female characters, and that connection has continued to grow as I’ve gotten older,” he added.
It all began with Catwoman. Little boys always wanted to play Batman, but not him.
“I wanted to be Michelle Pfeiffer with a bullwhip,” he said. “That was when I put on my first pair of boots. They were my mother’s, and I used to carry a jump rope and quote her.”
He said that from the beginning he was flabbergasted with the idea of dressing as a character from the opposite gender, along with gender bending some different characters occasionally.
“As I got older these women and characters and icons all seemed to have a similar motivation in one form or the other,” he said. “They all commanded your attention. You’re transfixed on them, and all they do is just be. That’s why I initially wanted to do it.”
Catt struggled with coming out to his family, like many of the queens and players he noted, so he said that drag became his outlet for self-expression.
“It makes me feel good, loved, important, revered, happy, fulfilled,” he said. “You put on the dress, the paint, the attitude, it’s all you. You’re this person in a costume and makeup and the theatricality of it all is exhilarating.”
The satisfaction he gets when he dresses up makes him shine like the diamonds in the necklaces he wears.
“You dive into this performance and suddenly all your problems melt away… people are looking at you, applauding you, admiring you, are inspired by you and you drink of this devotion and adoration and you give it right back to them with sass and class.”
It wasn’t always easy for him when he started out in the drag business. He was put down and ridiculed for his way of creativity.
“I was told dressing in drag gives gays a bad name,” he said. “ I was told that I would be beaten and screamed at if I were my sibling’s child… Those words form a bitter resentment, but the important thing to remember, kittens, is that there’s a bright world out there waiting for you.”
He wants other queens to feel their beauty in the same way he finally started to feel his own now. .
“Life is worth living,” he advised. “Life is so important and should be cherished. No matter how hard things are right now, know that you’re stronger than your demons are telling you.”
Catt struggled with his own monsters, and he said that no matter how loud they yell and scream at him, he knows that he’s the one in control.
“As a drag queen I’ve been told I’m beautiful, radiant, glamorous and these words build my confidence and stroke my ego,” he said. “To be a drag queen, it takes a lot of balls.”
But between the two hours of applying makeup and putting on the dress along with the extra two hours of shaving his body, face and getting the wig on, Catt says that becoming his favorite Disney Villains and television vixens is always worth it.
Known primarily for his cosplay versions of Cruella DeVill or Ursela from The Little Mermaid, Catt uses his favorite Disney bad gals to give a shout out to the women who made him the man he is today.
Silver screen starlets like Ethel Merman, Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall and Judy Garland are just a few of Catt’s inspirations when it comes to being a performer, but he gives note to comic book heroines, Disney divas and leading ladies of Broadway who also made him emotionally grow.
“All these performers, characters and concepts all have something that I admire and try to infuse into my own look and my own presence and sense of self,” he said. “I’ve watched these performers, read the stories, watched the movies and have taken cues from all of them.”
Out of everyone, his grandmother, Ursula, Bea Arthur, Mae West, Divine and Catwoman are the women who inspired him the most.
“They all show courage, they all show a type of glamour, they all show things that shaped me into who I am today,” he said. “As a person and as a performer, I find that some drag queens today don’t really pay much attention to their roots, and I feel it’s important to understand why we do what we do.”
Some queens dress up to break away from the norm, and some dress up as a creative outlet or just as a hobby. From the early 1920s until now, players have paved the way for this royalty to become who they are in culture and society.
The different types of royalty out there are hefty: fishy queens, those who look like women; campy queens, the ones who have a stylized look or bearded queens, who are queens with full body hair. Catt says they are all remarkable beings.
“You are and always shall reign supreme,” he said.