In most cases, drag queens get to check one box. You’re either a comedy queen, a fierce performer, or your makeup skills has everyone searching the internet for tutorials. But in our never-ending journey through the universe to find the best hidden gems, we stumbled across one New Jersey queen who has it all. We sat down with Astala Vista for a one-on-one kiki and asked this camp-loving, “crazy cat lady” 11 questions about drag life, real life, and everything in between.
Drag Star Diva: Let’s start with the basics. Tell us about the early days of Astala Vista? How did you come up with the name, and what was your catalyst for creating the character?
Astala Vista: My first time out in Drag was actually at one of my bestie’s birthday party! It was a 1920’s themed party at her house and I went as a flapper girl named “Genevecia Dior.” Once I started taking drag more seriously, I realized I wanted something a little less Jersey Shore and little more campy. I loved how Astala Vista was not only a play on words of the famous Terminator line “Hasta La Vista, baby,” but also still sounded glamorous, and it stuck ever since!
When I started going to drag shows, it was campy drag that I fell in love with and I knew I wanted to take my drag that route. I’ve learned to incorporate more dancing and a few tricks in my performances throughout the years, but I always make sure the overall tone of my performances is fun and lighthearted! The silhouette of Astala is based on a little cartoon character I used to draw as a child. She had gigantic hair, a snatched waist, and hips that would make Barbie jealous, so I wanted to bring that to life in my drag!
Lastly, I have six cats at home and wanted to incorporate my real life “crazy cat lady” self into my drag, so my wardrobe is filled with cat themed costumes, kitty print patterns and more fur (faux of course!) than Cruela De Vil!
DSD: Our readers are always interested to know what products the queens use. What are your most essential go-to makeup items? What’s in your box?
AV: Once I find something, I like I stick to it, and through years of trial and tribulation I’ve put together quite the makeup case of must-haves! My most essential product is my foundation. It’s called “Spackle” and it’s made by a company called Atomic Cosmetics. The owner is incredible, the product is completely natural and not bad for your skin, and the coverage is INCREDIBLE! I’m also a sucker for bold colors and Urban Decay’s Electric Palette is an eye makeup staple! Unfortunately, they discontinued it a few years back and I’m down to my final palette so if anyone has any recommendations for something bold and new, let a Queen know!
DSD: Many queens now go to a trusted source to create their wigs, rather than trying to make them. Is there anyone in particular that you need to give a shout out to?
AV: I’ve ordered wigs from quite a few different wig stylists over the years and most of them have been fabulous, but I’ve always taken pride in my drag and wanted to be able to create the complete package myself. As a licensed hair stylist, it was quite frustrating for me to have to outsource wigs until one company released tutorials explaining their techniques in full.
I have to give the biggest shout out to In2Gr8ion because ever since I purchased their tutorials, I’ve been styling all of my own hair! I highly recommend the tutorials to any Queen looking to step up their hair game. They were very reasonably priced and super detailed! [Check out our story on Chad, the founder of In2Gr8ion Original Wigs.]
DSD: As some would say, you are more than a pretty face. You have a lot going on, to say the least. Performer, singer, business owner and so on. How would you describe yourself?
AV: I’d describe myself as someone that’s always ready for the challenge! I learned early on that the only limitations that exist are the ones we put on ourselves. I wasn’t considered a “singer” until I released a song, I wasn’t considered a “performer” until I began performing on stage, and I wasn’t a “business owner” until I treated my passion professionally as a business. I’m constantly trying to peak my own creativity, entertain an audience, and evolve my drag so I never know what’s going to be next, I just know I’ll be up for the challenge regardless of what it is!
DSD: You are a co-founder of Drag Queen Entertainment (kudos to that). Tell us a little more about the biz, how it came to be, and who your darling partner is.
AV: Thank you so much! Drag Queen Entertainment started completely out of necessity! Originally, I started performing in Philadelphia back in 2014 but after about a year of pursuing my passion in the city, things just weren’t adding up. I knew I wanted to entertain for a living, but it was starting to come at a cost I literally just could not afford. With the standard booking fee being $50 for a show, minus the expense of traveling to the city and drag itself, it was seeming like this could be nothing more than an expensive hobby. Until my partner Jimmy and I had an idea…
Growing up in South Jersey, I noticed there really weren’t too many LGBTQ+ friendly events in the area, so Jimmy and I had the crazy idea to produce our 1st drag show at a primarily “straight” venue! Jimmy put his tech savvy skills to use, began to create an online presence, and ended up selling out the show! We eventually began pursuing bigger venues and focused on showcasing fabulously costumed queens and putting together quality shows & performances to keep the seats filled! We also realized there are so many talented and hardworking Queens in our area that all deserved as many opportunities as possible, so we began offering our event planning services to companies and organizations outside of nightlife.
My partner Jimmy is really the backbone of this company. We’ve been together for almost eight years and he was supportive of my drag career ever since the beginning. He’s learned everything from video editing, to online marketing, to projection systems, DJ equipment, and everything in between to make my dreams become a reality! The professional perfectionist in him and the creative perfectionist in me have really complemented each other throughout the years and have helped turned our hobby into our career!
DSD: Most queens find inspiration in other queens. Who do you most admire and why?
AV: I really look up to queens like Lady Bunny, Coco Peru, RuPaul and all the other legendary queens who have created these incredible long-lasting careers for themselves and paved the path to help drag become what it is today! Also, queens like Bianca Del Rio, Alyssa Edwards, Alaska, Ginger Minj, and all the other divas who have used their time on TV to truly catapult their careers and have truly created success for themselves!
Unfortunately, I’ve noticed there’s a lot of up-and-coming queens who forget our job is to entertain an audience. Whenever I see a newer queen interested in learning how to entertain, sew, and wanting to provide more to a show than just looking pretty, that inspires me in itself!
DSD: Any plans to put your foot in the ring on RuPaul’s Drag Race? Why or why not?
AV: You know, I’ve auditioned in the past, but over the last 2-3 years my sentiments towards the show have really changed and I stopped putting in an audition tape. Unfortunately, the show is not what it used to be anymore, and it seems to be over saturating itself at a level that makes it so many of the queens are completely forgotten about within less than a year.
With drag being so mainstream, drag queens are being casted for all sorts of new shows and roles so those are the opportunities I plan to continue pursuing! I actually just had the opportunity to work on the AMC Show Dispatches from Elsewhere starring Jason Segal & Sally Field last summer and the entire experience was a blast! You can catch my cameo as well as a few other queens in Episode 1!
DSD: We noticed that you recently had the opportunity to put your dad in drag! Tell us what that experience was like. Has he always been a big supporter?
AV: It was a BLAST! I don’t think my dad has ever worn a stitch of makeup – he doesn’t even really dress up for Halloween – so having him undergo a full transformation was an experience I’ll never forget! I don’t think he realized what went into it so I could tell he was totally shocked at how much work goes into the process. He also put his 1st pair of heels on and has a WHOLE new appreciation for that alone!
I’m so lucky to be able to say my dad has supported my drag journey since day 1, went to my first-ever drag show, and continues to go to at least one of my monthly shows! I’m truly am so lucky to have such a supportive father willing to try drag himself, and knowing in 20 years I’ll still look pretty damn good in drag definitely isn’t bad news either!
DSD: Drag has become much more mainstream in the past decade, leading a lot of folks to believe they know everything about drag. In other words, “everyone thinks that they are an expert,” and can be super critical of other queens. Have we evolved and are more accepting or are we still keen on labels (beauty queen, pageant queen, comedy queen)?
AV: To me, drag is like the word sport, and all of the different labels are the different sports. We’re all playing a sport, but each of us bases our drag off of different rules & standards, or sometimes no rules at all! With more and more audiences going to see drag shows, I think it’s important for event planners to specify what to expect at each show. It attracts an audience that wants to see that style of show and is an overall better experience for the performers.
Somebody who loves the gore and darkness of Dragula may not enjoy themselves at a Diva Impersonation show and vice-versa. I label most of my shows as variety shows and try to showcase a mix of comedy, beauty & body, dancing, live singing, and spooky when it fits the theme. It allows the audience to get a taste of all styles of drag and keeps the show fun whether it’s your first drag dhow or you’re a drag connoisseur!
DSD: What advice would you give for a young queen trying to break into the scene?
AV: Be ready and willing to learn! If you plan on doing this professionally, treat this like a job, invest in yourself, and dabble in all aspects of drag. Don’t limit yourself or box yourself in because your only true limits are the ones you create for yourself. An attitude on stage may be fun for an audience, but an attitude backstage isn’t fun for anyone so stay humble, work hard, and enjoy the ride!
DSD: And finally, what’s next for Astala Vista?
AV: Obviously due to current events with Covid-19, live performances have been halted for a little bit but I’ve still been able to find some positives with everything going on! Quarantine’s given me the chance to catch up on some shows, work on some costumes, put together some new web content, and most importantly, it’s given me the chance to begin working on my very own One Woman Show! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but life hasn’t allowed me much time to really give it the love that I’d like to until now, so be on the lookout!
Got a story idea, or know a queen who needs a spotlight? Get in touch.
Photos by Jimmy Boone.