Photography by Ryan Pfluger in New York on September 3, 2015.
RuPaul’s Drag Race may have given Miss Fame global exposure, but the season 7 contestant was never meant to be bound to the confines of a reality show. Born Kurtis Dam-Mikkelsen, Fame’s moniker doubles as a self-fulfilling prophecy: a brand name built on the assurance that her artistry and notoriety would crack the mainstream. The self-proclaimed “Rolls Royce of Drag,” Fame is seeing her dreams come true, becoming the first drag model to appear in Elle magazine, serving as a makeup consultant on major news networks, and boasting a peerless ability to paint and transform herself (even other queens want the “Fame face”). Yet despite her striking success story she still has humility in her blood, inspiring others as both a queer celebrity and an openly recovered addict. Among her own heroes is another “Miss”: Miss Jane Nelson, her high school art teacher. “She had my back and was a positive influence who pushed me to be creative,” Fame says. “I learned from her and want to contribute to others’ lives in my own way.”