FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS: “RuPaul’s Drag Race” viewers will recognize season seven winner Violet Chachki in the new “Never the Girl Next Door” campaign for Bettie Page Lingerie, a line by London-based brand Playful Promises.
Shot in New York by Anna Swiczeniuk, Chachki, who identifies as gender-fluid, spoke about new ventures. “One of the biggest things that has changed is that I always had visions, but now I also have budgets. I can finally afford to finance my art, which is a big deal for a lot of artists and for my job,” Chachki said. “My life has totally changed. I don’t have much of a private life. Dating is totally different and complicated.”
Highlights have included performing on six continents, headlining drag shows and burlesque shows, Chachki said. Working on magazine shoots with big names such as Steven Klein for Vogue Italia and Interview magazines and makeup artist Pat McGrath also qualified. “I like that she kind of invented drag makeup. A lot of her techniques that she was working on with [John] Galliano in the early 2000s influenced drag makeup today,” Chachki said. “I’m pretty sure I had Steven’s work on my wall growing up. I got to tour with Dita von Teese. These are people I have just looked up to and respected for a long time.”
Born Paul “Jason” Darder in Atlanta, the lingerie model chose “Violet” as a name after seeing Jennifer Tilly’s character by the same name in the 1996 film “Bound” opposite Gina Gershon. And Chackhi is a reference to the Yiddish word “tchotchke,” meaning decorative objects like the vintage poodle statues, perfume bottles and clown figurines that Chachi collects. “I consider myself to be an artist, but I’m a drag superstar, burlesque performer, a creative director, a makeup artist, a designer, a stylist. I like to think that drag is one of the most creative things that you can do because you’re creating another person. You have to art-direct all of it down to the shoes, the hair, the choreography, the name. Everything is taken into account,” Chachki said.
Jeremy Scott is a friend, as are designers at Miu Miu. But Chachki relies on tailors in Atlanta and New York, and a friend in Los Angeles to help customize everything for the drag persona. Noting that “Betty Page is a really big inspiration for me,” Chachki said the campaign’s backdrop was meant to be very Irving Klaw, channeling the star’s bad-girl-versus-good-girl mystique. Klaw, a fetish-themed photographer, was the self-proclaimed “Pin-up King” fetish-themed photographer.
As a gender-fluid model in a lingerie campaign, Chachki is undeterred by stereotyping. “It’s human nature to want to label things and put them in categories. I think it becomes easier to understand. I think it has to do with language. Once there is a language to talk about things it becomes easier to understand,” Chachki said. “I don’t think people will never not be categorized. That’s maybe the way towards more acceptance and tolerance and understanding where people come from, why they are categorized that way, or what makes them that way.”