VIZIN makes us feel By DREW ROWSOME 24 February 2018.
There are a thousand queens who can lip-synch the hell out of a disco anthem but it takes nerve, skill and style to sing one live. VIZIN not only glamorized herself by going from 703 pounds to Barbie and being a fashion contributor to Us Weekly, but can also send notes soaring into the stratosphere without any pitchiness or shrieking. Add in her First Nations heritage and over-the-top sense of style, and VIZIN is a pop music package ready to explode.
She is also, sadly, skilled in the art of being circumspect and diplomatic. She ignored or dodged questions that would have allowed her to indulge in the time-honoured art of drag queen bitchiness or smutty sex jokes. Her story is a remarkable one and VIZIN appears to have more class than her idol.
Drew Rowsome: Your single "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" spent eight weeks on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, peaked at #24 and charted over Taylor Swift. How does that feel?
VIZIN: I've been lucky to work with an incredible team including Chris Rosa (RuPaul) who produced the song and DJ Hector Fonseca who remixed the song. Hector has had over 20 number one hits on the Billboard charts for artists including Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Sia. The whole experience is a reminder that dreams really do come true. It feels Mighty Real!
The press release states that you had a five-octave range "like Mariah Carey" until puberty "Darn it." What is your range now? And when you have such a beautiful tone, why would you want to shriek like Mariah?
VIZIN: I still have about three octaves. Mariah was actually my first influence in singing. I used to annoy my mother by singing along to all of Mariah's songs and especially my favorite, "Emotions," where she showcases her insane range.
What sort of regimen do you follow to preserve your voice and keep it flexible?
VIZIN: I still do warm-ups that I learned in high school. I sound crazy doing them, but they help. I also do a lot of singing in the shower because the heat helps the muscles while the steam clears out the gunk. Also, lots of water and honey.
Five hundred pounds is a significant weight loss to go through. How did you take the weight off and how long did it take?
VIZIN: I had gastric-bypass surgery in 2009 which lead to me losing around 200 pounds. Since then, I've lost the rest through diet and exercise. I'm still losing weight and I'm working with a plastic surgeon and trainer to take my body to the next level.
Have you considered writing a weight loss self-help book filled with glamorous photos?
VIZIN: A self-help book would be a fun project, for sure. I love to cook in my down time and I would love to work on a cookbook.
How has your self-image changed since the weight loss? Are you more confident when on stage or do you resent conforming to a body image?
VIZIN: My self-image hasn't changed much. However, I'm happy with the improvement that the weight loss has done for me and my relationship with heels.
Why pick a Sylvester cover?
VIZIN: It started with my first cover of "I Was Born This Way" by The Reverend Carl Bean. It was a disco song from the '70s that my producer Chris Rosa as well as my manager Leo Madrid and I decided to record as a way to connect the past with the present. We then went on with the Sylvester song, "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" which was really fun because he was the ultimate disco diva.
When will we get to hear the music you are writing? What styles and thematic material are you exploring? Will you do an album or a series of singles?
VIZIN: Right now, it's a singles market, but it's fun to write and record new music. I'm discovering my sound and having a good time doing it.
Do you think that being a drag queen is an advantage in the music business? How has that changed in the years since Sylvester and Jobriath? Or even since RuPaul first crossed over?
VIZIN: Even though the times are changing, I don't think that being a drag queen is really an advantage. Otherwise, everyone would be doing it. However, it's definitely more accepted to be a drag queen these days.
Bianca Del Rio has been quite scathing about drag queens recording music (but then that is her shtick). Is there a danger of oversaturation, of becoming a novelty or niche act, instead of being judged musically by the same standards as the mainstream?
VIZIN: There's always that danger of oversaturation, but I think that's where it will be easy to step away from drag. I don't see myself doing drag forever, but I can't see myself not doing it. It's an interesting dichotomy.
Canada's experience with our indigenous population is considerably different than that of the United States. It is a painful process that we are all still struggling with. How did/does your heritage support you besides the gift of your name? Do you identify with the tradition of two-spirited? Will it become a musical influence?
VIZIN: Coming from the Arikara tribe on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, I've always drawn strength from my indigenous heritage. In my culture, the two-spirit is held in high regard and viewed as a third gender. I've never experienced much discrimination in my tribe.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
VIZIN: I want to collaborate with anyone who wants to make good music and have a good time. My ultimate collaboration would be with Mariah Carey, of course. She is my idol and I would die if it ever happened.
You notoriously turned down an opportunity to compete on RuPaul's Drag Race, a launching pad for drag careers and even music careers like Adore Delano's. Is Drag Race a boon to the community or a curse to drag queens?
VIZIN: It's certainly changed the perception of drag queens and opened the eyes of the world.
What music do you listen to when you are alone? What is your guilty pleasure (musically, unless you'd like to go there)?
VIZIN: I love listening to jazz and old-school rhythm and blues. My favorites are Nina Simone, Etta James and Billie Holiday. I also love listening to opera and recordings of Maria Callas.