This week, iconic Atlanta drag performer Brigitte Bidet joins Gina for a conversation about all things drag in the South. Brigitte is a classically trained dancer, a favorite host for southern queer publication WUSSY Mag, and a founding member of Legendary Children ATL. You may even have seen her as Dolly Parton #5 in the Netflix original film Dumplin’, starring Jennifer Anniston.
Brigitte is originally from the South and went to school for dance in Chicago. When she finished school, Brigitte felt like a small fish in a big pond. After stint working under Guillermo Gómez-Peña, the first Chicano artist to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, Brigitte made her way back to Atlanta feeling inspired. “I saw that people [in Atlanta] were able to do stuff here on their own, and I thought I was going to do that,” she says. “I thought I was going to be some sort of radical queer performance artist, and then that led to being a drag queen.”
Brigitte considers herself southern-adjacent. Her parents are from the North, and she didn’t do the stereotypically “southern things” her classmates did, like hunt or fish. “I never felt I like was representing the South. I just know that I live here and as a result, [I’m] infused with southern ideas,” she says. While older women she grew up around have influenced her performance identity, so have Broadway divas and pop stars, including Britney Spears, who’s from the South, as Gina points out.
“Yeah, but she’s not like a blue-haired lady,” Brigitte says.
“She will be. Just give it time,” Gina laughs.
Brigitte’s had a great career and her fame has spread intercontinentally, but the drag scene she helped revive in Atlanta is once again under threat. The go-to bars for drag have shuttered one after another, queer-friendly neighborhoods are becoming too expensive for the people who made them desirable, and the city’s remaining gay bars aren’t exactly happy to share their space — or their profits — with drag performers.
Brigitte is a different kind of performer than many of the older, pre-Ru Paul’s Drag Race queens. In the so-called glory days, queens coveted the divine feminine silhouette: large breasts, tiny waists, and wide hips. Brigitte, on the other hand, is flat-chested, lean, and muscular. Her shows include splits, tricks, headstands, and other clear calls back to her formal dance training. Nonetheless, it’s drag and it’s entertaining. “I do want to offer my knowledge and my abilities to drag. If that means not wearing breasts, whatever,” Brigitte says. “There are women out there who’ve had double mastectomies. Are they not women anymore?”
There’s no room for such antiquated ideals if we’re pushing for equality in the drag world, she offers. Brigitte bucks tradition in other ways, too. She hosts drag bingo in front of very straight, very masculine men and always brings up social issues during hosting gigs, whether or not the audience is receptive. Last year, the owners of a local gay bar where Brigitte regularly performed were exposed as racist. Brigitte and her friends turned their backs immediately, even though it was one of the few remaining places for drag in Atlanta. And so, in many ways Brigitte demonstrates a radical drag – one deeply aware of inclusivity and not divorced from politics – one that understands that this work in the South is radical politics, even when it’s a damn good show.