this drag artist is confounding perceptions of beauty with her own gender dysphoria

From her supernatural slit eyes to her smudged clown-like lips, Salvia’s beauty is out of this world.

by Tish Weinstock
31 May 2017, 3:40pm

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This article was originally published by i-D UK. 

Growing up in a tiny village in North Wales, Salvia was constantly surrounded by nature. Despite rolling hills and dense forests providing the element of romance and fantasy that Salvia needed in order to escape her reality, it was only when she stumbled upon season four of RuPaul's Drag Race that she was able to make sense of her feelings of loneliness and unease when it came to gender. For otherworldly and utterly beautiful Salvia, drag is a means of being anything you want to be. Even within the heightened world of drag, Salvia's looks distort our perception of beauty and gender. So celestial are some of her looks, she often resembles a mystical being. And we love her for it.

Read: How women's naked selfies have become commercialized and commodified.

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What was it like where you grew up?
I grew up in a tiny village in North Wales. I think growing up surrounded by nature was good for me — although it can be extremely lonely — leaving me to make my own entertainment on most days. But I think I like it that way and I probably deliberately isolate myself most of the time.

Who were your role models as a kid?
Tim Burton. I was obsessed with him. I often tried to imitate his art style.

What did you want to be when you were younger?
When I was a child I told people I wanted to be a hitman, but I think what I really wanted to do was make films. I spent hours making shitty animations.

How has your understanding of gender and identity changed over the years?
It's changed dramatically. Obviously the education system failed me when it came to teaching me about gender, among many other things. I decided at a young age that gender roles were useless and boring, but I didn't question them any further.

How did you discover drag?
This makes me sound very young, but I discovered drag on YouTube. When I came across Willam's Beatdown, I thought he was trans. Then, through that, I found Drag Race and Sharon Needles, who I instantly fell in love with because I could relate to her so much, more than other queens.

What does drag mean to you?
Infinite possibilities of who you want to be. When you do drag you can be anyone and do anything you want. I don't think anyone is ever fully in or out of drag; I think it's very fluid — or at least it is for me.

Can you tell us a bit about Sad Salvia, who the character is and how they came about?
I named myself Salvia after the magical plant. I'm obsessed with flowers and a common theme in my artwork is giving birth to yourself. I think that flowers represent that. Mazatec shamans see it as an incarnation of the Virgin Mary and I find that very mystical and romantic. I am Salvia. She isn't completely a made up character.

You've spoken about your experience of being trans pushing you to distort your appearance. Could you elaborate on this?
I have problems with gender dysphoria and this has pushed me to distorting my appearance because it's more comfortable for me to confuse people about my gender than have people see me as male.

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What do you stand for?
I stand for everyone having complete freedom to be themselves and I stand for anyone who has not been given a chance to live their life without fear.

Why is creativity more important than ever?
I think creativity is more important than ever because the way we are living right now is not sustainable, or fair, and we need to think of new ways to live before we kill ourselves or let the nasty orange man kill us.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
I think I will always want to dress up, but I also want to be able to feel confident and comfortable looking normal. 

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Text Tish Weinstock

Gender dysphoria
beauty week
beauty week 2017