Kurtis Dam-Mikkelsen's arrival in New York is the quintessential "small-town boy in the big city" story — only this particular traveler packed more glitter and high heels than the average guy. Kurtis, who is now better (and widely) known as the drag queen Miss Fame, went from life on a small farm in Templeton, California — "my best friends were my animals" — to working at a MAC Cosmetics counter. "I also did hair, and I was doing male modeling. But, in a twist of fate, I ended up getting booked to show up at events as Miss Fame because people saw a photo of me in drag." Before Kurtis had time to establish himself, Miss Fame was fully taking over — book signings, charity events, music videos shot by Steven Klein, magazine editorials, and more. Now, Miss Fame is making her run on the world stage, starring in season 7 of RuPaul's Drag Race on Logo. "[Being on the show] is one of the most challenging things I've ever done in my professional life — it really pushed me. But, it's the fact of doing something where you're in it every day...it's so much content and information and absorption, and the stress level, and having to stay 'on' even though they want you to break so they can see it on camera. You have to be strong to do something like this." Miss Fame, luckily, has not yet had to lip-synch for her life. In fact, she's emerged as one of the show's frontrunners, beloved for a supermodel-meets-Hollywood approach to drag that is clearly an audience favorite. "My inspiration is from Kevyn Aucoin and Old Hollywood glamour," she says. This often means flawlessly done lips and severely contoured cheeks — all while exuding pure, old-school opulence.
This is an aesthetic that has come into vogue recently, thanks in no small part to the sisters Jenner and Kardashian. In fact, when Miss Fame launched a YouTube makeup channel in 2013, she was a little bit surprised at her fan base, which is now at about 84,000 followers. "A lot of them are women," she says. "They're real women following a drag queen because they want to learn how to contour." But, lest you be confused, this is no laughing matter: In fact, doesn't it make perfect sense? "If I'm a man and can recreate my face to this beautiful, feminine form, there are girls watching who are saying, 'If it's possible for him, it can also be for me.'"
Not to mention, there's beauty to be found in the performance. "There's the awestruck factor of seeing someone transform," she adds. "My first video is still my most successful — I change my face completely, which really set the direction of what I can do as a makeup artist. People still bring up that video, 'SuperNatural Blonde.' And, they recreate it because it's not just drag." Unlike other queens, Miss Fame keeps her real-life eyebrows perfectly intact, as opposed to shaving them or blocking out the ends for a more feminine look. "Instead, I show how to sculpt a new face using your natural features. That could be applied to anyone [who] likes makeup, so that bridges the gap from drag art to women who are obsessed with contouring or detailed lips." There's clearly an appeal: The video has racked up almost 560,000 views. Her strong YouTube following also made way for an equally rabid Instagram audience, where Miss Fame has long passed the coveted 100K mark. She's grateful for what social media has done for her visibility as a performer: "YouTube was helpful. This ability is helpful," she says. "People want to see what else I can bring. I read all of the comments! Having a social presence gave me a lot more confidence and visibility going into Drag Race. I'm here to prove to myself that I can do everything that's been taught to me." Summing up the magic of it all perfectly — the transformation, the gender performance, and, of course, that makeup, she finishes: "I'm a drag queen! Why can't I do anything I set my mind to?"
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