Portland Drag Queen Poison Waters on How to Look Fabulous All the Time

Hint: sequins.

By Kevin Cook March 27, 2018 Published in the April 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Jack Dylan

They say, “clothes make the man.” But what if the man wants evening gowns? As Poison Waters—event emcee and longtime cohost at popular drag club Darcelle XV—I can’t just waltz into Target and grab a pair of chinos and call them work clothes. Have you ever considered where one would find a sequin gown that would fit a 225-pound, six-foot-two man (in platform heels)? Probably not. It’s a task that challenges me on the daily. A challenge I rise to meet—all for the people!

We live in Portland, where, much to my chagrin, kitty-print PJ pants roam the grocery store, where opening night of the ballet finds the tuxedoed in line alongside the shorted and the flip-flopped. Where does that leave me? Most nights, I’m center stage at venues like Portland Art Museum’s Grand Ballroom. I cannot appear comfy. I cannot appear casual. I cannot appear in the same jewel-toned, hand-sequined, halter-style evening gown twice.

So, I search online (see: “sequin plus-sized jumpsuit” or “press on nails for large fingers”). I have my tailor transform cloth from Fabrics For Less and Mill End Store into custom pieces. (I have them sew industrial sleeping bag zippers into all my clothes, too.) I scour high-end vintage shops for anything that sparkles, shines, and that’s too tight and itchy as hell. Beauty is pain? No, beauty is natural. Glamour is pain, and—in my case—an experiment in physics. All of this (gesturing to my everyday physique) should not result in all of that (gesturing to my done-up self) ... but it does because I will it to be so. When it comes right down to it, the act of dressing up is empowering; it makes you feel bold and confident in a way that a Columbia fleece vest or Lululemon active wear never will. Glitz and glam are secret weapons to success, in my opinion.

Ladies comment that they just “don’t know how I do it.” To them I say, “HOW? Just. Put. It. On!” If socks and sandals can roam town without judgment (shudder), they can damn well share the sidewalk with sequins, rhinestones, and feathers. See you in the spotlight!

Kevin Cook, a.k.a. Poison Waters, performs at Darcelle XV most Friday and Saturdays. Many more events at
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