Couples that play together tend to stay together, and if you want some vibrant, voracious proof of that, feast your eyes on Dan Donigan (a.k.a. Milk) and James Whiteside (Ühu), the most popular members of the famed Dairy Queens, who also happen to be an item.
Currently, Dan’s touring gig is loading up his schedule, while James, a star on the rise, opens a two-week season at Lincoln Center with the American Ballet Theatre on October 21; will release a new single and music video as his alter ego, JBDubs; and continues to expand his artist initiative, RINO, which uses young graphic artists to design merchandise aimed at his fans.
Amid all that, the Dairy Queen sweethearts blocked out some time to get wild on a rooftop with photographer Dusty St. Amand, whose resulting portfolio depicts love, glamour, sloppy lips, and drag decay. They chatted with us, too.
Out: Describe the way you feel, body and mind, when you slip into a dress. What turns you on about the process?
James Whiteside (Ühu): Nothing turns me on about being in drag. Drag, for me, is almost an escape from sexuality, where I can be a funny, ugly, pretty, mess—Exactly the opposite of playing the Prince in Swan Lake.
Dan Donigan (Milk): Actually, it isn't until I put on my heels that I feel complete. When I have a gig I sometimes put on my heels when I am still in my underwear, way before I put on my complete look. There is something about being pushed up onto your toes that really puts you in that cunt-femme zone. I wouldn't say it's boner-inducing though.
What's more fun—perfectly applied lipstick, or lipstick smeared across your face? Explain your choice.
JW: I like to paint huge, monster lips. Sometimes dripping with OCC lip tar, sometimes with perfectly applied lip liner. It depends on my mood and it also depends on whether or not I have a beard at the time. Butch queen!
DD: It all depends on the way I am feeling in that exact moment when applying! Perfectly applied lipstick is begging to be messed up.
If you had to make out with each other in lipstick, which color would you want to be wearing and why?
JW: We don't make out in drags. It's not our steaz.
DD: Yeah, I'm not wasting any of my makeup on that clown [laughs]
In one of these photos, Dan is holding a dog on a leash. If one of you were to put the other on a leash, who would it be and why?
JW: It would be a dog. I want a dog. In our relationship, neither of us are on a leash. We're trusting and trustworthy.
DD: That's silly. Only kids should be on leashes. #FreeTheDogs.
You're two beautiful men who also look beautiful in drag. It's two kinds of self-image and empowerment. What's the biggest difference in how you feel about yourself?
JW: Being a socially acceptable male can be very boring. Most folks don't want their "hotties" to be funny or do things that are "too gay". My way of saying "bugger off" is doing gnarly drags, meshing my masculine form with queeny madness and humor.
DD: Well, at Drag Race meet and greets most girls get the, "OMG, you are so beautiful!" I get the, "OMG...you're so tall!" [laughs] So thanks for calling me beautiful, I guess. It is the art of transformation that makes me love drag so much. To love who you are as a man and equally love what you become in drag.
Have you ever made love in drag? If so, what was it like?
JW: Nope, not our steaz. No hate to those who do, get ya life!
DD: No, never. I find it fascinating for queens that do but there is something about my penis being pushed down into the seventh level of hell in my several pairs of panties that doesn't put me in the "let's have sex" mood.
In some of these photos, there's the juxtaposition of two gorgeous dolled-up men against the gritty, graffiti-covered walls of a New York rooftop. Name a recent example of juxtaposition that's inspired you.
JW: I just recently filmed a music video in upstate New York. The song, "Wallflower", is an aggressive banger that discourages sitting at a dance party. We shot outside on a white stage, in the middle of the woods. It was absolutely beautiful, which is counter intuitive to the mood of the song, yet somehow it works!
DD: Recently I saw a famous drag queen. She looked gorgeous. Smelled like shit though.
When you hold each other in drag, does it feel any different than when you hold each other out of drag? Whether it does or not, please elaborate.
JW: We don't really "hold each other" in drag. It's more like "hold my purse while I pee."
DD: We don't hold each other in drag unless it's to pose for the flashing bulbs. Oh, we do hold each others' drinks though!
There's an element of decay, or degradation to this series of photos, as you go from bewigged and made-up to largely stripped of glamour. You both do drag as part of your careers and personas, but describe the catharsis of stripping everything OFF.
JW: We were reluctant to do the whole "smudged drag" look, but as the progression was explained to us, we became more into it and couldn't be happier with the shoot. As far as stripping everything off, there is little as satisfying as peeling off one's stacked lashes.
DD: We really got into the concept of this shoot once we were in the moment and saw the photos. I would say a percentage of my persona in drag is put on, not fakely so, but when I am at a party or hosting an event the extrovert in me comes out. Yes, there is the stripping off of drag costumes and makeup but it's more satisfying for me to be quiet in silence after a debaucherous night out.
When you're missing each other, and you're lovesick, and it hurts, what do you do?
JW: Our schedules are erratic and we're traveling separately a lot, but we text and Skype and it's just part of our lives. It doesn't really affect me that much. If I miss Dan, I just tell him, simple as that.
DD: When we are on the road, we text most of the time. When we really miss each other, we skype. I thank Al Gore for creating the internet.
What's the grittiest, grungiest thing you've ever done that you're willing to share with the world?
JW: A girl's gotta keep her secrets. Otherwise, I'll need to hire Olivia Pope.
DD: I never...clean my makeup brushes. AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
Name one reason why sex as a taboo in our culture is stupid.
JW: I'm not sure I can answer this intelligently, but I'll try. Sex is everywhere, all the time. It's always staring me in the face, everywhere I go. Repressing our humanity is unwise.
DD: Sex is instinctual in animals. Humans are animals. I think some people don't want that association. They can go about living as a self-hating animal all they want. I'm going to go glitter my nipples!
If you had to die together, how would you like to go down?
DD: Eating ice cream in bed. Simple
JW: I think it would be a blast to drown together, or maybe burn slowly in a crowded Starbucks! But I'd like to ignore death for the moment.