Proud and Polished

“There’s a new drag queen every day,” Tia Mirage Hall says, and aren’t we all so glad? Hall is a veteran showgirl based in Indianapolis. She frequents downtown’s best venues for drag shows, and knows what it takes to make it as an entertainer. The industry is changing, constraints are being broken, and the audience is changing. Entertaining as a career can be intimidating, so we asked Hall to share her two decades worth of wisdom.

Photography by Polina Osherov

Design by Carrie Kelb

Cory Cathcart: Tell me a little bit about what you do, where you live, and what you do in the city?

Tia Mirage Hall: I live in Greenwood, Indiana, but I’m an Indianapolis person. I’m a showgirl, and I’ve been performing for twenty-three years. I’m a community activist too, for trans and Black people.

CC: Where do you usually perform?

TMH: I’ve been blessed to be booked all through the Midwest. Bars I frequent are Greg’s and Zonie’s

CC: Do you prefer performing in Indianapolis or in other cities? 

TMH: I don’t have a preference. I love to perform in my city of course, but I do like to travel to meet new people and be able to create new relationships with people all over. That’s how I guess I keep myself relevant into this this community, in this scene, as an entertainer.

CC: Do you think this city is somewhere that someone can make a living doing this? 

TMH: I think it is hard to make a living here because there are places for people to perform and do drag, but if you want to live comfortably here it’s hard to be just a show girl if you’re doing it right. Because you have to reinvest the money that you make. You’re only as good as your last show. I live by that. If you keep bringing the same to the show you won’t evolve, and they won’t keep wanting to come see you. Because they’re like “Oh, well I’ve seen her do that already so I don’t want to go see her do it again.” You have to evolve, get new costumes, get a new look, and come up with different concepts.

CC: What is your vibe?

TMH: Glam and beauty have always been my vibe. I want to always have that mixture of theater with me, like Glam beauty pageants.

CC: How can performing become a sole career?

TMH: If you want to be an entertainer, solely, you have to travel. I have this joke with my friends: there’s a new drag queen that starts every day. Every day there’s a new showgirl, a new drag queen, a new drag entertainer, male, female, whatever in between; and you have to travel, so you’d be able to get into that rotation. Sometimes with drag it is a popularity contest and it’s a clique thing. You have to be in a certain clique to be in a show. Sometimes they don’t book you at the show, because they booked their friends. That just happens, and I’m not saying it’s wrong or anything. You’re allowed to book whoever you want to book as an entertainer. If you’re trying to have a lucrative career with this and make money off doing drag alone, you have to travel all over, so you can have something to do every night to work like any other job. You have to put in so many hours at a regular job to make money. It’s the same with drag. You have to put in so many shows so you can make money.

CC: What is the difference between being a performer, showgirl, and drag? 

TMH: There’s so many different titles nowadays of what the art form is. Some people don’t want to be called drag queens. Some people want to be called entertainers. Some people do different types of entertainment. I just always say entertainer. Being a trans woman who is an entertainer, I call what I do drag. I like the gaudiness of the big drag, big hair, big jewels, gaudy costumes, and things like that. That is my aesthetic, but that’s not everyone’s aesthetic. Some people’s aesthetic is female illusionist. Their aesthetic is to do art on the stage, actual art. There’s this wide variety of calling everybody something different, so I just say entertainment.

CC: You said you’ve been performing for twenty-three years, what are your proudest moments?

TMH: My most proud accomplishments in the community were some of the show casts that I got on, and the people rallying around me for that. Another proud moment is getting on the Indy Pride board. Doing something with my activism, and helping the board put together pride. That’s been a proud moment of my life. Being a part of Zonie’s Closet as a part of the team when it was opening back in the day, and being a show director at a lot of bars. I worked hard. These are the things I accomplish by working hard.

CC: Are you still on the Indy Pride board? What is that experience like?

TMH: Yes, this was actually my first year. Oh, it was amazing. It was amazing putting it together, watching how Pride is put together, and being a part of that history. Especially since this was the first Pride since the shut down. I felt amazing that I was able to put this together. Plus a big accomplishment of mine is that I got to do Crystal Waters makeup this year. She was one of the performers for Pride. She’s a legendary icon in dance music. She has a song “100% Pure Love,” that is amazing.

CC: That’s exciting! Do you do makeup for other people often?

TMH: Yeah, I’m a freelance makeup artist too. I am a renaissance entrepreneur. I have so many things that I do in my life. I’m a social worker, I work part time at Sally’s, I’m a showgirl, I am a freelance makeup artist. I do so many different things, because I like working. I tell myself I like to work and I like money and how you make money is by working your ass off. [Laughs]

CC: Who are some queens or performers that we should know about and where are the best places to see a show?

TMH: Some of the best places to see performances are Zonie’s Closet–which is closing soon in the beginning of August–and Greg’s. Those are two of the top places that you can go. They do shows constantly. I also love Almost Famous, it’s a beautiful venue. I’ve worked there a lot. I’ve been blessed to work at all three venues. Some people that you should go see: my sister Pat Yo Weave is killing it right now, having so many brunches and shows. My sister Chablis Onassis Dupree, who is an amazing entertainer who has been doing it longer than me. We came in this game together, but she started a couple years before I did. My brother Denim Blake Omni, who is amazing. He gives you that aspect of that male view that you need to see when he’s on the stage. Another one is Ana Crusis. I think she’s an amazing entertainer, so polished. 

CC: How have things changed in this industry over time?

TMH: Drag has changed a lot, because it used to be the gays coming out and watching us–which the gays still come out–but now it’s the more cisgender, heterosexual community coming out to watch the shows. They are the people who have become our biggest audience members. There’s a lot of leeway where it’s changing because in drag there were more rules to it. Now there’s less rules, and you could do whatever you want to in drag which is good for some people. I’m a more structured, polished, pageant girl slash theater girl. I have those values in me, but everybody doesn’t have the same values. The values of drag, I think, changed.

CC: Do you have any upcoming shows?

TMH: Yeah! I have plenty of shows. I’m hosting Latinx Pride on Friday. I’m at Hotel Indy and Greg’s once a month. I’m at Zonie’s for the last show coming up on July 27; it’s my finale to my Tia’s Talent Night. I have seven wonderful entertainers who’ve won each week to be a part of it. And I’ve chosen colors for them for the presentation to be the rainbow. 

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