It’s impossible not to love the maximalist, “more is more” 80s aesthetic of Seattle-based artist Mona Real. Occupying several spots on the artistic spectrum — she’s a drag queen, performance and visual artist — Mona’s style celebrates camp through a lens of pop art and unabashed flamboyance. It’s all about big hair, big hearts and all the colors of the rainbow with this one; and that’s why she’s customised a pair of Doc’s for Pride month. Read on to learn where she got the name Mona Real, why she wants to meet Molly Ringwald and what her extraordinarily unique superpower would be if she could have one. (Hint: it has to do with ketchup.)
Mona Real looking pretty in pink in fully thrifted Fiorucci. (Photo by Kingmon Creative at Arson Nikki’s Rapture)
Ciao, I’m Mona Real. I’m your local Muse & Maker of Fine Arts & Fantasies. Providing razzle dazzle, warm, cool, hard, and soft-serve fuzzy feelings through the vessels of performance, illustration, poetry, vintage and nostalgic stylings.
How would you describe your artwork?
It’s gaudy: every colour in the crayon box is given a tambourine or a flute. It’s boastful of its cheapness, more than three quarters of my closet is vintage, thrifted or found, and the same applies for a majority of my material. Ultimately, I see all my art-making as a process of collage: it requires curation, meticulous detail work and a heavy emphasis on the arrangement of colour, texture and shape to create something zany, yet emotionally resonate.
A sneak peek at Mona’s Deck of Drag, currently in progress.
Do you have a project or piece you’re most proud of?
In high school I felt rather alienated from my senior class, due in part to my own idiosyncrasies, abstinence from sports rallies and general abstinence. But with a little help from friends I assembled a group to create The Facefolio Project, drawing over 150 faces of my senior class before graduation. It was part passion-project, part resume builder, part attempt to cling to a community I only belonged to by default.
Talk us through your customized Dr. Martens. What were the challenges of working on the Jadon boots?
I am accustomed to working on flatter surfaces, so doodlin’ on the Doc’s threw me some curve. Nonetheless, I love the thick chunky look of a Doc’s boot (this one’s a Jadon
); it’s like a clown shoe for punks. I found my style of illustrations drawn to bold stand alone prints and images: leopard print, cherries, lips; anything juicy and bulbous to mimic the simple yet stand-out shape of every kiddo’s favourite boot.
When, how, and why did you start doing drag shows? What do you want people to take away from your shows?
As a first year in college in Walla Walla, I auditioned for a production of Tennessee William’s ‘Camino Real’, which is where I take my name. The director was able to recognize a scorching flamboyance in me that I was completely aloof to, and cast me in drag as a busty red-headed soothsayer. I was taught the basic tricks of feminine theatricality, and from then on drag became an obsession.
But as a 19 year old crossdresser stranded in a tiny town surrounded by wine and wheat fields … what was a girl to do? By the time I turned 21, I discovered I was perhaps a little bit gay, and that watering holes for gays existed somewhere. 50 miles away, there was a gay bar called Out & About, with weekly drag performances every Wednesday. That night was Wednesday — I showed up impromptu, slap-dashily dressed, without a mix, a CD or anything. The elder drag queen told me to come back next week with music and I did.
From there it was a weekly gig performing every Wednesday and sometimes a Saturday for $10 a number. This June marks the two years I moved to Seattle, and I’ve been dragging ever since. In regards to what an audience takes away when they see me, I don’t have a certain stake in delivering a thesis, or crafting a statement before I craft the art. I think drag speaks for itself in that way. I think simply by claiming a space or a stage and saying ‘Here I am’, that’s the thesis, and that’s a statement.
These Jadons serve up strong Peggy Bundy vibes with an acid yellow-green leopard print.
If you could have any super-power for a day, what would it be?
I always find this question to be rather daunting, so I am just going to be petty and say the ability to conjure condiments and dipping sauces. These would dispense from highly stylized magical acrylics and each finger would have a flavor from barbeque to nacho cheese to garlic aioli. In times of great adversity, I could shoot, for example, wasabi Spidey-style into the eyes of enemies and oglers.
If you could collaborate with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
It would be an unattainable dream of mine to meet Molly Ringwald, or rather Molly Ringwald as ‘Andie’ in Pretty in Pink, and help her put together her prom dress. Why? I would then get to serve as stand in for the dejected ‘Ducky’, and we would both get the dreamy high school prom night neither of us ever got. I would then warn him of his tragic choice in acting career by going on to play Charlie Sheen’s brother in Two & A Half Men.
Tell us your favourite thing about living in Seattle:
Going out here is like a time-hop, I appreciation all of Seattle’s retro fascinations found in the interior design of local bars and establishments. Perhaps the Space Needle has set that precedent, with it’s 60’s Jetson-age design, but I feel here it extends beyond the hackneyed happyville home-maker aesthetic. I think of Twin Peak’s brothel in the Canadian wilderness when I step inside bars like Twilight Exit or Lost Lake Diner.
Dive bars like Montana and Pony with their wheat-pasted walls, punk posters and props give me all the 80s hair band vibes. Screw minimalism. Minimalism is for airports and public restrooms. I want to walk into a place and feel like Thumbelina in a junk drawer, and Seattle gives me that.
Tell us about your first pair of Dr. Martens:
My first Doc’s were as a Christmas gift last year, but because I am no Cinderella, we had to return them. I am excited to pick out a chunky hot pink or rubber duck yellow boot to rock, though!