| Tiffany Salter
You might not think so at first, but Valentine’s Day is Glamazon Mr. Pottymouth’s favorite holiday. “I love the kitschiness of it. It’s all about sex and chocolate.” For a lot of people, Valentine’s Day is all about performance – wooing a new cutie or doing something special for the steady – but for this performer, the holiday is all about keeping it simple. For Valentine’s, she says, “I want a cute boy who’ll take me on a date to McDonald’s. I’m a cheap date. We’ll get some beer afterwards. Have sex.” Sounds good to us.
Michael Gray, the performer behind Mr. Pottymouth, vacillates between keeping things simple and creating high-drama, high-camp genderfuck drag art with his stage persona. Super sweet and personable with charisma to spare, Michael is invested in collapsing male/female, butch/femme binaries in his personal life and on stage.
Michael has always found the in-between to be particularly beautiful. He tells of seeing Annie Lennox in The Eurhythmics video for Sweet Dreams at age six one morning after church: “I didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl, but I [said] ‘She is beautiful’, and I wanted to be her.” Since that young age, he has sought to keep things ambiguous, especially on stage. `
Michael spends a lot of time working on costumes for Mr. Pottymouth, often collaborating with costume designer Larry Conroy. And when Michael is conceptualizing outfits for stage shows or photo shoots, he says, “I always struggle. ‘How can I look in-between?’ If I start to look too masculine, what can I do to start looking more femme?” Sometimes people even take Mr. Pottymouth for a drag king, which she loves. It bolsters the work she is doing: “There are a lot of drag queens out there who do things much more beautifully than I would ever do or would ever want to do. But that’s not what interests me. [It’s] the in-between… that I find to be so attractive and so interesting.” She leaves “pretty” for others in the troupe.
Photos | Ray LaVoie
Mr. Pottymouth joined The Glamazons drag troupe last year when she won the troupe’s Project GLAMAZON 2014 competition. Every year, The Glamazons add one more to their troupe after drag performers compete on stage. Before competing and winning last year, Michael had not really considered becoming a performer. “I never thought I was going to be a drag queen or do any kind of performing on stage.” But Jody Krevens, a long-time friend who had been a judge for Project GLAMAZON the year before, encouraged him to compete. (Michael considers Jody his drag mother even though she is a cis-woman.) So Michael looked into The Glamazons, drew on his background, and went for it. The night that Mr. Pottymouth won was the fourth time that she had ever performed on stage, but the persona was a long time in development.
Michael comes from a visual arts background and moved to Columbus about 7 years ago to attend Columbus College of Art & Design. The name Mr. Pottymouth initially belonged to a character Michael created in art school—a rabbit in a sailor outfit who had a pottymouth, was a vile and unhappy person, and went through a lot of the same situations Michael was going through in his own life. Since Michael identified so much with the character of Mr. Pottymouth, he started taking self-portraits under that name, and before long, friends and exes were referring to him as Pottymouth.
One look at Mr. Pottymouth’s photos on Facebook reveals that in addition to blurring gender lines, she is interested in pushing against other conventions of drag. A lot of her work pushes into the macabre. One picture features Mr. P. in a green wig, mustache and bra as well as a pic of Mr. Pottymouth’s version of a zombie warrior princess. There’s even a nightmarish and funny black-and-white clown persona, complete with black pearls, ruffled collar and butcher’s knife. In fact, you can find a lot of gender-bending clowns on Pottymouth’s Facebook page – Halloween is Mr. Pottymouth’s other favorite holiday.
Michael takes inspiration from everywhere and says, “I daydream a lot.” He also finds inspiration in music – Siouxsie and the Banshees, Goldfrapp, Eurhythmics, Coco Rosie and Swedish electronica and audiovisual artist Iamamiwhoami – all artists who are as much visual as they are sonic.
It all leads to an aesthetic that is equal parts campy, trashy and avant-garde. Since he had such a long time to let the persona develop naturally, Michael knows precisely who he wants Mr. Pottymouth to be.
In fact, when Mr. Pottymouth won Project GLAMAZON, the Glamazons said to Michael, “You really knew who your character was.” And Michael says that he tries to do something “a little more thought-provoking with some sort of message.” Mr. Pottymouth sees the Glamazons as a great place to grow and is looking forward to this year’s Genderfuck Glamor-themed Project GLAMAZON 2015 in March. She says “I have heard on the wind some of the girls who might be competing this year, and I’m like ‘Whew! Glad I competed last year!’”
For now, Michael is looking forward to Valentine’s Day. He just wants to find a nice boy who will make him laugh: “I love people who make me laugh … I love boys who have a great sense of humor. They have to because look at the fucking shit I do. Haha. Weird as shit. I know that I’m weird.” And if Mr. Pottymouth handed out Valentines to classmates, she says they “probably wouldn’t even be Valentines. They’d probably just be mini sex toys. Here’s cock rings for everyone! … Or awesome mixed-media Valentines with porn. A girl with multiple eyes and four dicks. And she’d be like ‘Respect me for my mind on Valentine’s Day.’”
Well, we respect you for your mind, Mr. Pottymouth — your beautiful, weirdo mind.