a woman with wild curly hair and skimpy clothing performs on stage
Miss Shugana competing in Mother Star Search in 2016 (Photo/Gooch-Courtesy Jodi Goldstein)

Q&A: This reigning faux drag queen likes to do good

Name: Miss Shugana (aka Jodi Goldstein)
Age: 44
City: San Francisco
Position: Faux queen; biotech marketing

You’re a female drag queen. Aren’t drag queens typically gay men?

There are a bunch of different terms for us — drag queens, faux queens, bio queens [biologically female] — I’m really comfortable with them all. There are quite a few faux queens in San Francisco. My favorite definition is that I’m a woman who was born with a drag queen inside of me.

Jodi Goldstein
Jodi Goldstein is Miss Shugana’s real-life alter ego

Drag encompasses so many types of illusionists and performers — bearded queens, showgirls, drag kings, faux kings, faux queens …

You are the 2017 reigning faux queen of San Francisco and the 2016 runner-up in the Oasis Club’s Mother Star Search, which finds new talent. How did you get started?

I’ve been clean and sober since November 2007. There’s a sober club called the Castro Country Club that is and has been like my second home, and something I’m really grateful for. They’d do drag shows to raise money for the club, and I thought, well, the boys get to have all the fun! Then my friend Frida K-Hole was performing at the club’s monthly fundraising show Mascara and she said, “I think you’d be really good at it.” I’ve performed now almost five years pretty regularly.

Drag is a type of gender performance and illusion, with over-the-top costumes, makeup and hair. But there’s a lot more to it — you create a number around a song and act it out with props. Was there a big learning curve?

Makeup is really hard to learn. At first I couldn’t see the path where I was going, and there’s a really ugly part of drag when you’re putting your makeup on. It took a lot of time, watching a lot of tutorials, trying to learn different techniques, colors, angles and ways to paint. My makeup has come a long way. Now also when it comes to putting together productions and numbers, I have the opportunity to perform on bigger stages with amazing lighting, video and that kind of thing. I’ve learned to edit music, cast a number, script a number and create video.

When I’m in drag and someone compliments me or asks me if something about me is real or not — eyes, boobs, etc. — I tell them, “It is all an illusion!” To me drag is a fantastical expression of ourselves … of gender … of society … of ideas. In drag, I literally feel like I can be anybody I want to be. 

Has it been difficult for faux queens to find acceptance in the drag community?

It has been. Men who are drag queens have a rich and important history. But when it comes to us, there’s still a lot of misogyny, even in the drag queen scene, and it’s surprising.

I’ve felt and still feel, especially in front of an audience that doesn’t know who Miss Shugana is, that I’ve had to win them over because I’m not a man in a dress. Because inherently they’re like, well this isn’t special. They don’t know what I go through to transform myself and create numbers and express myself.

she is wearing a tight blue dress with blue and white christmas lights draped ober her. the dress has a large silver star of david on the hip.
Miss Shugana at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco, December 2016

And you lip sync when you perform?

Yes, I lip sync; you don’t want me to sing. (laughs) Most of us lip sync. 

Drag names are often a clever play on words. How did you come up with Miss Shugana?

It kind of came to me right before I went on the first time. I was asked how I wanted to be introduced. It was beshert, meant to be. The name completely encompasses who I am, I’m crazy, a super Jew. Super fitting.

What was your Jewish upbringing?

My dad was in the Army so we moved around every three or four years. When we were stationed in Alabama, my mom went to every class in our elementary school and explained about Hanukkah and brought little sugar cookies. In the Deep South. There just aren’t a lot of Jews, and not a lot of career Jewish people in the Army. There were a lot of times that we were “special.” Also I’m adopted. My brother is Mexican Italian so he has brown skin, I’m taller and blonder than my family. So Judaism has been our foundation and our connection to family and to the world. Tikkun olam is a big deal for us.

Is that something that continues to be important?

Yes, I use my drag primarily for raising funds for the community, different nonprofit organizations. A lot of us in San Francisco use our drag to help other parts of the community. I’m involved in a really great organization, the Ducal Court, whose whole purpose is to raise money for nonprofits in our area. We serve San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties. My drag has grown a lot through that, and it’s really rewarding. We’ve raised about $40,000 each year and given out checks at our gala to different organizations. I’ll be in the Pride Parade [on June 25] as a member of the Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco.

“Talking With” focuses on local Jews who are doing things we find interesting. Send suggestions to [email protected].

Sue Barnett

Sue Barnett is interim editor of J. She can be reached at [email protected].