BenDeLaCreme talks celebrating Christmas while queer, San Francisco holiday performance

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BenDeLaCreme has been active in the professional drag scene for more than a decade, and last weekend she took her years of camp and talent to the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco. Performing a headlining holiday tour with Jinkx Monsoon, titled “All I Want For Christmas is Attention,” this Seattle queen was ready to make San Francisco sparkle.

“This really is what we want,” BenDeLaCreme said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “Part of what’s so amazing about being a queer person in the world is that, while there’s a lot of things that we feel excluded from, the positive flip side is we really get to create the lives we want. … There is no one defining this time of year for us, so we really have created what we want.”

Describing her onstage persona as “terminally delightful,” BenDeLaCreme built her character around the notion of “blind optimism perpetually trying to look for the silver lining.” 

“She always has to kind of balance her semidisposition with some hard truths or reality,” BenDeLaCreme said, “so I really think of her as a filter to use something really sunny and fun to talk about things that maybe aren’t.”

Drag is always pushing boundaries, especially in cities like San Francisco. “There’s always been a (question of) ‘How crazy can we go? How gender-neutral can we go? How campy can we go? How glamorous can we go?’ ” BenDeLaCreme said. “Drag has always been that and I believe it always will be, whether the mainstream popularity sustains or not.”

But BenDeLaCreme isn’t just looking to wow the crowd this season — as the show’s newest producer, she’s working to make herself just as happy each night. 

“I feel so proud,” she said. “I’m in the thick of working on this show right now, and sometimes I step back and I’m like, ‘Wait a second, you 10 years ago were just assembling your friends into a rehearsal studio trying to figure out how to make a show … and now you’re producing an international tour.’ ” 

BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon, both Seattle-based queens, began their holiday shows after hosting “RuPaul’s Drag Race” viewing parties for several seasons in their hometown. Sitting in front of audiences and drinking martinis, the artists wanted to take their writing to a bigger stage for double the fun. 

And with a laugh, BenDeLaCreme said, “We have a lot of fun.” After working together for so long, they’re now able to understand each other’s humor and writing styles as well as rhythm and pacing onstage. Their characters work as conflicting forces in the show, adding a heavy dash of comedy to the Christmas cheer.   

“I want (the show) to be spectacular and fun and to make everybody happy and joyous,” BenDeLaCreme said. “(Jinkx) is just poking holes in it the entire way. She thinks it’s bulls— and she thinks it’s ridiculous that I’m on this whole wavelength.”

Initially, the two planned for the show to follow a “two queens, two stools, two mics and a couple tracks” outline, as BenDeLaCreme said. “Once I took over as producer, I wound up bringing in multiple costumes and these big production number ideas,” she continued. “It really turned into something much bigger, but kind of halfway in between — it still has that coziness of just two queens chatting with all the big spectacle.” 

Yet, naturally, no production comes without some struggle. Even though the shows are structured performances, the challenge comes with finding what’s fresh and entertaining for the different crowds each night. “We both always say that you don’t really know what the show is until you add the audience,” BenDeLaCreme said. 

“Jinkx said I talk a lot about the way that queer kids are sort of gender-policed through gifts,” BenDeLaCreme said. “She wanted dolls; I always wanted My Little Ponies — it was like nobody would give us those things … it’s just that, ‘Oh man, none of you really see me, do you?’ But I think that happens to a lot of young queer kids and gender-variant kids.” 

The show “All I Want For Christmas Is Attention” stays close to the controversial when tackling touchy subjects surrounding the holiday season, such as religion, tradition, how to define Christmas and what the holidays mean to people with no real connection to them. 

“I never enjoyed Christmas as a kid,” BenDeLaCreme said. “I really kind of dreaded it because I felt so out of place with my family. … I started doing holiday shows a little over a decade ago, mostly as a way to kind of reclaim the holidays and figure out how to make it something that I wanted it to be.”

Building stories as narrative cabarets, always shifting and changing, can be tough. But BenDeLaCreme has infinite visions for what she wants to see next, whether with Jinkx or through her own solo shows. 

“You don’t necessarily need to have somebody, like a big business person, taking the lead on that stuff,” BenDeLaCreme said. “I think it’s important and cool for queer people to know that we can do it too.” 

Skylar De Paul is the deputy arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.