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The Boulet Brothers on Their History of Spooky Drag

The Boulet Brothers

The Boulet Brothers' Dragula has always been ahead of the game in terms of artistry and inclusion.

While certain drag competition shows that shall remain nameless may have taken their time (and a bit of public pressure) to include folks of varying gender and sexual identities, The Boulet Brothers' Dragula has always embraced artists of all kinds in this regard. Since 2016, the reality series has explored the darker and more alternative side of the art form. The competition rates its contestants on criteria like "drag, filth, horror, and glamour" without much attention paid to gender.

Throughout its four seasons, The Boulet Brothers' Dragula has featured trans and nonbinary folks, cisgender women, straight men, and drag kings -- like Landon Cider, the show's season 3 winner. For the Boulet Brothers, known individually as Swanthula and Dracmorda, it's all about art and creativity. Just make it creepy.

"I think it goes back full circle to our nightlife days," Swanthula explains of the show's innate inclusivity. "We created events that were intended to inspire people to come out of the closet and to be who they wanted to be and to live out their secret fantasies. It was a no-judgment, 'don't dream it, be it' sort of environment.... If you wanted to be a burlesque queen with a mustache, great. If you wanted to be a super masculine-presenting lesbian in vinyl armor and high-heel boots, fantastic. We helped people be who they were, and they loved us for that."

"When we started the show, it was important for us to convey that same energy to our viewers," Dracmorda adds. "We wanted it to be an extension of the freedom we provided people at our parties, but now we could spread it and amplify it across the world through the magic of TV. Life is short, society is oppressive, and we feel it's important to empower people to be whoever they want. Labels are meaningless."

The humans behind the Boulet Brothers' personas remain largely a mystery, as they've rarely been seen or photographed "out of drag." What we do know is that the "brothers" are longtime life and business partners known for creating over-the-top, fantastical nightlife events over the past couple of decades or so -- including the famous Los Angeles Halloween Ball.

Despite the success of the series and balancing book and movie ventures, the demonic duo are dedicated to their nightlife roots.

"We do one of the largest and most infamous annual Halloween galas in the world, and we're always thinking of new ways to evolve and expand that," Swanthula says. "We also do a big annual New Year's event and usually something in the summer as well."

Regarding simpler times of putting on parties before television fame was a thing, Dracmorda says, "Things have a place in time where they are potent and enjoyable, and then they evolve, and I think you have to embrace that change and realize that no point in life can stay the same. You have to enjoy it for what it was, when it was, and move on."

The Boulet Brothers' lifelong passion for fantasy and horror is ultimately what keeps them excited about expanding their creepy empire.

"Horror has been a part of my DNA from as far back as I can remember," says Dracmorda. "I have always felt at home and comfortable in quiet, dark places and around macabre things.... I stayed up at night and would watch old Universal monster movies even before I was old enough to go to school, and I started collecting occult books and objects at a really young age. I never related to children my age and always felt like an adult trapped in a child's body. The worlds you would see in horror movies and comics just seemed like a comfortable place for me."

"The drag part was just an evolution of the performances we did at our nightlife events," Swanthula adds. "We would put on these elaborate stage shows during parties that were sort of one part performance art piece and one part fetish show, and sometimes we were male-presenting characters in the show and sometimes female or sometimes a monster or an alien or something. Our drag was born out of doing those shows. I think ultimately drag was a conscious decision to present on the outside what we were on the inside."

The Boulet' Brothers Dragula has been renewed for a fifth season (premiere date yet to be announced), and previous seasons are available on horror streaming service Shudder.

This story is part of The Advocate's 2022 Advocacy and Politics issue, which is out on newsstands July 18, 2022. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe -- or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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