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A conversation with San Francisco drag laureate D'Arcy Drollinger


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

John Yang: This year's Pride Month is D'Arcy Drollinger's first as San Francisco's official drag laureate, in her new position, believed to be the first of its kind. The artist and club owner is an ambassador for the city's LGBTQ plus arts, nightlife and entertainment communities.

The post was created by the mayor and Drollinger assumes that in a year that seen a record number of anti-LGBTQ plus legislation introduced around America, Ali Rogin is back with a conversation with Drollinger about her new role.

Ali Rogin: D'Arcy Drollinger, thank you so much for joining us. First of all, I have to ask you, how did this opportunity come about? How did you learn that mere breed was establishing this position?

D'Arcy Drollinger: Well, the city put out a press release that the position was open, and they were accepting applicants and I applied. Now, some of my staff at work begged me not to that I was too busy. But it felt like, you know, it made a lot of sense, a lot of the things that were looking for were things that I was already doing. So I went ahead and applied. And the rest is history.

Ali Rogin: And what did you learn about the reasons why you were selected?

D'Arcy Drollinger: I am an entrepreneur. I have a local business in San Francisco, I run a nightclub in Cabaret. And I've also started a nonprofit. I have, you know, a place in the community. So that made sense.

But I think, you know, just talking to the mayor and having the panel review who I am and what I do made a lot of sense. But I think the bottom line the mayor said was that I was willing to throw my support behind anybody. And I think that sort of openness and willing to support the community was a linchpin in choosing me.

Ali Rogin: And talking about your support to the community. You mentioned, you're an entrepreneur, you have a business. And, I mean, entertainment in and of itself is I personally think a public service. But you really stepped that up to the next level during the pandemic. And I want to hear about what you did you had a program called Meals on Heels. Tell me about that.

D'Arcy Drollinger: Yeah, well, you know, I really took stock and who I was in the community and who the people around me are, and we're entertainers and when going gets tough our job is to entertain. And so we very quickly pivoted, and we created a program called Meals on Heels where we partnered with local restaurants and did a food delivery service by drag performers, which would get your food delivered and you get a curbside performance.

And this was at a very dark time where people felt very isolated. And it was -- I was able to help the small businesses in my neighborhood, I was able to employ drag performers who suddenly were out of work and also, you know, create a little sparkle in people's lives who were struggling at the time.

Ali Rogin: Absolutely. Obviously, the LGBTQ plus community anywhere is not a monolith. But I want to ask, what does it mean for you? What does it mean for other members of this community to have recognition in this way?

D'Arcy Drollinger: It's huge, really. I mean, and I applaud San Francisco because this is a program that they've actually been rolling out for a couple years. And finally, we made it. You know, drag performers in San Francisco are really given a place in this community and we you know, we not only entertain but we do a lot of civic. We have a lot of civic contributions, and we do a lot of fundraising and, and I feel like San Francisco is leading the way, you know, while it is a drag laureate position, it really is recognizing the community, the LGBTQ plus community.

Ali Rogin: And let's talk about what are some of your responsibilities as the drag laureate of San Francisco.

D'Arcy Drollinger: Oh my God. There are so many. I mean, there are the more symbolic ones, like I, you know, helped raise the Pride flag with the mayor on the beginning of June, and I threw the first pitch the Giants game, which pretty epic thing to do.

But it also the responsibilities are really about creating bridges through the different city organizations and the LGBTQ plus community. Also, elevating and celebrating the art of drag, I think is really important. And it's an art form that doesn't always get the attention that it deserves, like a poet laureate, but taking dragon in that way.

Ali Rogin: Yeah, I want to ask you about some serious stuff, which is there are a number of states that have already passed anti-drag bans, there's more legislatures working on putting such bans in place. So what does it mean to have this position, elevating drag performance in this way?

D'Arcy Drollinger: I think it's very important because it does have -- San Francisco has made a stand and that we actually value drag performers, trans people, LGBTQ plus community members. I mean, really, it's been tough, because it has been so much -- there's been so much propaganda that is not true categorically. Not true. But it creates this level of hostility towards drag performers.

I mean, wherever you have to up our security, I spent a lot more money on security now than I used to, which is so sad and such a shame. And really, when it boils down to it, I mean, it isn't really anti-drag, it's anti LGBTQ plus, right. That is what it is.

We're just trying to live our lives and entertain people. You know, I've been asked this question a number of times, like why is drag important and why is anything important? Why is dance important? Why is theater important? Why is fine art important? You know, it's another art form.

And drag has been going on for over 400 years. I'm sure longer than that. So it's nothing new it is part of our lives all around the world. And it's interesting to me that is become such a hot topic now. And really, it's -- it shouldn't be an issue and in all these people that's about personal freedom, right, and their First Amendment, Second Amendment rights. Well, like give me my rights, right. So I feel like drag is something beautiful and sparkly and fun. It doesn't make any sense to me.

Ali Rogin: D'Arcy Drollinger, drag laureate of San Francisco, thank you so much for joining us.

D'Arcy Drollinger: Thanks for having me.

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