By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly
Even if you don’t know Melody Awesomazing, you probably recognize her. Whether she’s working the stage as a drag performer or stand-up comedian, working ringside as a character in Portland Wrestling Uncut, crafting a compelling online persona through social media, or simply going to the grocery store in full drag makeup, Awesomazing consistently emanates the sort of charismatic star quality that commands attention and awe. Here, PQ presents Awesomazing in her own words — revealing her past as a small-town girl ostracized for her sexuality and style, the surprising ways she ascended to the stage, and the ethos that has led her to try every interest that has captured her attention.
Melody the Queer Outsider
“I grew up in Salinas, Calif., and in the beginning of high school moved to Yuma, Ariz. I know this just sounds so shocking, but I really did not like going to high school in Yuma — it was pretty hideous. I just got through it by reminding myself every day that when I was 18, I could get out. Something happened with me in high school in which I just gave up trying to fit in, because I knew it just wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t have the money or resources to do so, so I just started doing my own thing and purposefully doing what was weird and exciting to me.
When I was young, I had lots of interactions with girls that seemed kind of crush-like, which led to a lot of fooling around. When I was 16, I had a girlfriend, but she and I were both on the down-low for three years until we were outed. When that happened, we were left with no community — I lost all of my friends, because they were just conservative Mormons who couldn’t deal with it. We left town and went to Phoenix, where we found some community and some rough times for a while.
Since then, I’ve kept in contact with a small handful of people, and I’ve had a few people from Yuma come out of the woodwork to tell me that I was really inspiring to them. Back then, though, when things crumbled, I just had this feeling that nobody supported me.”
Melody the Makeup Queen
“All art and creativity flows from having a channel open. It may not make sense to everyone, but for as long as I remember I’ve been creative in many different ways. In my teens, I did a lot of visual art, but I eventually stopped because I felt like I wasn’t reaching people. Once I started doing makeup, though, people started validating it — it was like, ‘Wow, why didn’t I just put art on my face in the first place?’
I really got into makeup when I started performing, because it was just such a different way of approaching things than day-to-day makeup. But, here’s the thing: I just like wearing more makeup than everyone else for a ‘casual look.’ I’ll think, ‘I’ll just do something really simple!’ And then suddenly I realize I’m in full drag makeup to go to the store. It’s like any other skill — I’ve been at it long enough that I can do a full face in 15 minutes. If I have 15 minutes to kill, I’m going to look great afterward.”
Melody the Accidental Performer
“I initially started out as a backup dancer for Light Asylum at the Time-Based Art Festival. The third time I was on stage, I was a dancing vagina at Miss Thing — so, yeah, that escalated quickly. Then, I branched out and did things with other performers like ChiChi and Chonga, the Tampon Troupe, and all the queens in Miss Thing. Miss Thing blew my mind and made me want to perform, because everyone was just so different and creative. I was lucky to come into the scene through that, because it was really performance art more than traditional drag, in which a lot of it was parody or comedy.”
Melody the Wrestling Foil
“Recently, I got a gig working for Portland Wrestling Uncut [a reboot of a long-defunct professional wrestling show on TV station Fox 12]. I got the gig through another comedian, Belinda Carroll — they liked my look, and were looking for a ‘dyke character.’ This is how I became Shirley Van Dyke. Rowdy Roddy Piper [a veteran WWF Hall of Fame and director of PNU] signed me; I met with him and a few other folks who’d be working on it, and in this brainstorming session I just made everyone laugh so much that they had to sign me.
Professional wrestling is kind of like acting, but with no script — the producers just tell you, ‘This guy’s going to fall down, then you get up and slap this guy.’ It’s theatre. I’m not a huge wrestling fan, honestly, but I’m very into the crazy antics, so I was psyched to do such a fun gig — I mean, who do I get to slap!? Who do I get to punch in the balls!?
However, the day I was supposed to start filming, the ring was broken — so, I still haven’t had my television wrestling debut. As I see it, I was paid $50 to go down to the studio, wear makeup, take photos with Rowdy Roddy Piper, and keep hope that I’ll be brought back on again when the new season starts in September.”
Melody the Stand-Up Comedian
“One of my jokes is that I knew I’d be a good stand-up comedian because I’ve been writing notes as long as I’ve been getting stoned. I’ve been really lucky to get so much support, because stand-up comedy is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and it’s completely terrifying. It’s totally audience-based in that people laugh or they don’t. It’s not like performance art, when you can just say, ‘Oh, you just didn’t get it, but it’s art! Whatever.’ This is not — either you hit it, or you don’t. I think I’m only ready to do comedy at this point because I feel like I’m strong enough that I can be humiliated, because that’s what it feels like. You’re just encouraging people to laugh at you! You have to be at a certain level of self-confidence in order to do that.
The comedy scene is in many ways difficult, and I do feel like I’m kind of on the edges of the scene. A lot of the times I go to the clubs, and it’s mostly dudes who are dressed fairly normally; I’m the only flaming, flamboyant person in the room who gets up on stage in a crazy outfit. Some people start out really humble, saying that nothing they have is good enough yet; however, I come from a DIY art scene that makes me say, ‘Whatever! Just poop it out, and move on to the next bit. It wasn’t perfect? Oh well.’”
Melody the Popular Kid
“I’ve never been called a socialite, but recently someone brought to my attention that I was ‘one of the popular kids.’ This is really weird in that I’ve never felt that way until now, never felt like I’ve fit in, and still don’t feel like I fit in. I think that I’ve built up my persona in the queer community long enough that people get who I am, and it’s really odd, actually. It feel like it’s a responsibility, and it’s sometimes overwhelming — I feel like people are watching what I’m saying or doing. The most anxiety that I have about performance is that I’ll do something inappropriate and get called out. I feel bad when people say ‘you’re one of the cool gays,’ because in a way I just don’t get it — I don’t feel that way. I mean, I spend most of my time at home on the internet, and don’t go out to many fancy places. It’s just weird to be a kid who was bullied, lost all their friends, moved around a lot, and always got made fun of for doing weird things to realize that, well, now my big butt’s in.”
Melody Who Tries and Tries Again
“The best advice I’ve ever been given was from Sister Britt — ‘Just get up there and try it.’ People come to me and say, ‘I wish I could be a standup comedian, I wish I could do makeup, I wish I could wear that, I wish I could do what I want to do.’ You really can! You just have to get up there and try it. If you fail, get up and do it again. People need to stop worrying about failing and what other people think, and just get up there to present themselves. I never thought I could be this person and be celebrated, but here I am — the weirdest person, doing whatever I want, having success doing all these different things. Whatever it is you want to do, get out there and try it. Keep it cute, and keep trying.”
Melody Awesomazing and her extensive calendar of performances, makeup design engagements, Portland Wrestling Uncut appearances, and other events can be found online at facebook.com/melodyawesomazing.