One of the best things about doing these 8Q interviews is that I get to learn about a truly wide range of people. I am always on the lookout for someone unique to include. The other day I decided to reach out to my friend Dani Barnes who had already been featured, and asked her to share a few interesting names.
Her friend Jess Hawkins quickly caught my eye.

Both areas of Hawkins life involve art. She is a professional make-up artist pursuing a career in the film industry. During an IMATS competition, she created a make-up look inspired by the work of first nation artists . The performance artist comes out when she steps into her alter ego – Drag King Adam Zapple. What is a Drag King? A female who dresses as a man, and impersonates male characteristics for public entertainment.

I had heard mention of Drag Kings a long time ago, but had no idea Vancouver had a thriving community of performers. There are regular shows featuring a wide range of personal styles, and even an annual competition where Drag Kings vie to bring home the top title. Jess Hawkins – as Adam Zapple – earned an impressive second place at the most recent competition. Congrats!

If you have never attended a Drag King show, it is time. Check out Man Up at The Cobalt – a monthly gender performance cabaret. In the meantime, I offer you this great Q and A with make-up artist/Drag King Jess Hawkins.

8Q Spotlight Jess Hawkins AKA Adam Zapple

What is your current career(s) – paid and unpaid?

I am currently pursuing my dream of becoming a professional makeup artist in the film industry. At the moment I work as a Drag King (Adam Zapple), a freelance makeup artist, and I work in a boutique clothing store.

Can you share an interesting thing (or two) about your journey to reach this moment?

It feels as if I have been on so many journeys leading up to this point in my life. I am the type of person who will meet a challenge head on, and persevere. I grew up in Ghana, and had the privilege of traveling a lot when I was younger. I was exposed to multiple cultures as a child, and it really developed my social nature, and my desire to view, and experience other cultures. I like to pay homage to different cultures with my performances, especially because of my past. However, I feel like we have lost the idea of cultural appreciation amongst the ideals of cultural appropriation.

I spent some of my years at boarding school in the UK, which was definitely an experience. I have always liked being a busy person, and was able to try a variety of things that my schools had to offer. Co-existing with a lot of girls in a confined space could definitely be trying at times, and was certainly character building.

What 3 things would you like people to know about you to give them a sense of who you really are?

  1. I am competitive, and I like a challenge; Adam Zapple was born out of this. I have always been a performer, and went to University for Theatre, and I have been cross cast as a man in a lot of shows. I had never considered drag as a career, but it combines my skills as a performer, and makeup artist, and constantly challenges me as an artist, and a woman.
  2. I am creative, and crafty. I love imagery, and really enjoy a good aesthetic, which means I like to fabricate pieces for my looks, and also to go with my makeup creations. I have competed in a lot of drag, and makeup competitions and I love to tie my images together with unique creations made by me. I am a control freak with my work, and it can sometimes get the best of me.
  3. I am very outgoing, and social. I love being around people, and hearing people’s stories. Just sitting, and listening to a person’s story can be very therapeutic either for yourself, or them, or the both of you. Most of all you can learn something if you allow yourself to. We are always learning, and can benefit from using other’s experiences to allow growth in our own lives. I get to know so many characters as Adam, and it can be very entertaining.

Highest moment so far?

This is a difficult question for me because I have had so many huge moments up to this point. I will talk about the most recent because I believe it is the most relevant. Competing in Vancouver’s Next Drag Superstar was an incredible experience, which tested every part of me. Many sleepless nights were spent thinking about every aspect of the competition, and my confidence in my own ability. It is a tough thing to put yourself out there in such a big way, especially trying to reach your own standards, let alone someone else’s. There was nothing more gratifying than the support from so many who appreciate my art form. The roaring applause to my performances create an addictive feeling, an adrenaline, and a desire to persevere.

Performing to me is a natural high, and having that instant gratification makes it so worth while. I felt on top of the world hearing the feedback, and being able to reach out, and inspire so many people. I placed second to someone I admire, and could not be happier. I have made my mark, and created a place I can showcase my art, not to mention the support of a community that inspires me.

What are you working on right now? In the next 6 months?

Right now I am working on furthering my makeup career. I really want to be on set as a makeup artist. As far as drag is concerned I want to continue developing my brand, and my style. This includes learning how to sew, and being able to create my own designs in a more refined manner. There are some beautiful designs out there that spur my creativity. I am very interested in improving my fabrication skills, and creating big statement stage pieces. I really want to match the drag Queen glamour, and glitz to a masculine drag King equivalent.

Who and/or what inspires you?

I draw so much inspiration from my surroundings depending on the project I am working on. Each part of my life to date has had a multitude of influences ranging from family, and friends, to art I saw in passing, and sometimes even my obscure dreams. Those who overcome adversity can really motivate me, and prevent me from being idle, which is easy to do. My late mother is a real inspiration to me because of her pure drive, motivation, and ability to sustain so many projects, and of course handle us. She could do it all. That’s what I aspire to do.

As for inspiration in my drag life, I really draw from the community, and also my background as a theatre artist. I love seeing my friends create something that spurs me to push myself, and encourages me to experiment, and take risks. The performing arts is an endless world of experimenting. During my time in boarding school in the UK, I was introduced to the work of Sarah Kane. Her writing, and and rhythmic devices in her pieces really spoke to me, and in a way developed my style of performing. She creates imagery, and leaves so much room for interpretation that allows each individual artist to connect with her pieces on their own level.

How do you personally define success?

I have been having this discussion a lot recently, and success is so personal, something I don’t think I realized before. Everyone’s values, and goals are vastly different. My own personal take on success is to live a life that inspires people, or create something that makes an impact. I am still young, and taking challenges as they come, but I believe that so far I have done things in my life that have positively influenced people. My drag career up to this point is a signifier of this. Nothing makes me feel prouder than when someone says that I inspire them.

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to embrace this career?

I understand everyone works differently, but this is the advice I wish to give to people that has helped me grow as a person. Do not limit yourself. I cannot stress this enough. Drag was something that life threw at me that has become such an integral part of me. It gave me a support system, a community, and a voice. Think beyond the boundaries. Create something that means a lot to you, and challenges you to grow. Try something new.

I have lived my life trying new things, nothing brings me greater joy than exploring my potential. If worst comes to worst, and you hate it, you never have to do it again. Best case scenario, you love it, and it fuels a passion in your life that lends to your personal journey.

My last snippet of advice is never forget that you are always learning. You can always learn new things, I am still young, and by no means am I an expert at anything, but I am always taking in my surroundings, and learning from them. To be a leader you must learn the history of those who you wish to lead.

Links –