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Thursday, June 11, 2015

I AM YOUR QUEEN: Cholula Caliente

Posted By on Thu, Jun 11, 2015 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge GABRIEL GARCIA
  • Gabriel Garcia

Welcome to I AM YOUR QUEEN, a Pride Month series on the Exhibitionist that pulls back the curtains on some of San Francisco's most curious creatures of the evening-tide, including some scary-ass cholas who might come get you.

Cholula Caliente is a punk rock badass who self-identifies as "art-damaged," and who covers Selena songs from way back when the world was dewy with virginal innocence and every girl had bangs. Her lipliner may or may not have been tattooed on at an auto body shop in the Inland Empire while her Camaro was getting a bitchin' paint job. One time, Courtney Love ran away from her in terror only to find herself ineluctably drawn back. Cholula graciously spoke to SF Weekly about postcolonialism, how Dungeons & Dragons prepared her for drag, and her defining love of hot sauce. 

What name(s) do you perform under?

Cholula Caliente / DJ Jimmy Swear

Where do you perform?

Up until its finale, I was a regular at Cocktailgate in Soma. These days I perform at Club Some Thing, and the occasional RIOTGRRRL or Lilith Bear. At the recent Reno Mothership I was crowned one of the best newcomers and got to perform in the main show!

How long have you done drag?

Just over two years, but I’ve been in the community awhile.

click to enlarge GABRIEL GARCIA
  • Gabriel Garcia

Does Cholula Caliente have a back story?

Cholula is the bassist/singer for the drag-punk band MUÑECAS, where she blasts out postcolonial riotgrrrl with her sisters Tamale Ringwald and Horchata LaShyGirl. As a queen, Cholula was born (like so many drag babies in this town) in the kitchen of Truck, at Cocktailgate. I was drunk after DJing and my drag mother, Suppositori Spelling, was encouraging me to perform in the second show. I was so nervous, so she said I should have a drink to calm my nerves. The line was too long at the bar, so I chugged a bottle of Cholula hot sauce and, well, that was that.

Do you have a theater/performance background?

I did some theater as a young person, and played a lot of RPGs; you’d be surprised how much pretending to be a Dark Elf in Dungeons & Dragons can prepare you for drag. I’ve been a musician since I was a teen, playing mostly bass or drums in a host of local punk rock bands like The Pitts, The Near Dark, Pinky Swear, Beard Summit, and Half Blast. I grew up in a Mexican household, so watching the drama unfold in telenovelas, and seeing Walter Mercado read horoscopes infused my worldview. These different kinds of performances have really shaped my style of drag.

Is realness important to you? Genderfuck? Something else?

One person’s realness is another person’s genderfuck. At the end of the day it’s whether or not the performer can sell it. Its sort of like pizza, you can put whatever toppings you want on it but if the crust is shitty, it's no good.

When you were starting out, what was the biggest hurdle?

Getting booked for drag can be intimidating at first. I think it’s really important to go to shows in order to get shows. The same is true for playing in bands; you have to support an artist community if you want it to support you.

click to enlarge Cholula (left) playing in MUÑECAS - FRANK LADRA PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Frank Ladra Photography
  • Cholula (left) playing in MUÑECAS

What do you love most about drag?

There’s camaraderie among most stage performers in SF, where they really come out and support what the others are doing be it drag, burlesque, installations, music, etc. I love that – it reminds me a lot of the punk scenes of days gone by. The drag community is strong here, and folks appreciate each other’s creativity. It’s also a community that embraces difference and variety. I’m never going to be bored as an audience member in this town because drag has so many faces. I’ve rarely seen the same thing twice.

Have you had any trouble with Facebook's "real" names policy?

Facebook wouldn’t let me be Cholula Caliente so I started a fan page. Of course the problem with a fan page is that the culture of how folks interact with it isn’t on par with an individual account. Drag queens are three-dimensional, and asking someone to “like” this product just doesn’t work well with how I’m doing drag. Ultimately I think it exposed a huge problem with how the service allows its users to self-identify, which goes beyond drag into realms of safety, and dealing with issues of racism.

What's your day job?

I work for UCSF. My job is to make sure all the cool innovations in science are accessible to other local institutions and organizations. I get to work side-by-side with the Department of Public Health, the Mayor’s Office, and a bunch of other hospitals in the bay area. Its super fulfilling, and I have an inspiring close-knit group of colleagues I get to see everyday.

Does your mother know?

Totally. Back in the day my Mom was a pretty famous singer in Mexico, so throughout my life she’s encouraged me to express myself through art, music, and performance. I actually just did one of her songs this past Friday at Club Some Thing’s “Mira Some Thing” night in salute to Latinas! Unfortunately she couldn’t make it, but I made sure to tape it for her in case she has any pointers. Her hair and makeup styles are still bien firme

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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.

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