When you’re good to mama, mama’s good to you. A bevy of baby queens has those words on its lips when anyone utters the name Ella Saurus Rex. Lovingly coined the ‘Mother of East Atlanta’, Ella has not only birthed the thriving drag scene of the East Atlanta Village, but has also fostered many an up-and-comer to show them what it takes to be a success. Creating a space for alternative drag in a city that notoriously praises its own idea of perfection is no easy task. Yet, Ella saw a hole in a market that needed to be filled and decided to fill it. A show under Ella’s watch is full of heart, artistic expression, and an over abundance of the love of drag and performance. Break the rules. Break the norms. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do. Have a clear purpose. Be yourself. Explore yourself. Entertain. Engage. After one Ella performance, you’ll have seen a master at work. Style South, I’d love for you to meet a very dear friend and sister, Ella Saurus Rex.
I would say my style vacillates between a few aesthetics. Sometimes I like to be a showgirl. Sometimes I like to be the “cool mom.” Sometimes I like to just be comfortable. Sometimes I like to be very afrocentric. Sometimes I like to be very avant-garde. The most important thing is that it comes from a very specific point of view that is dictated by the performance/song.
I love fashion. Fashion is drag. Depending on my mood, I can play different characters. In high school I was actually voted best dressed. My main influences in drag are strong black women. I pull a lot from Claire Huxtable, Ella Fitzgerald, Donyale Luna, Iman, Naomi Campbell, Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diana Ross, Leontyne Price, Nina Simone, Grace Jones, Diahann Carroll and many more.
My background in performance comes mostly from dance and theater. I have a bachelor’s and master’s in dance. I love live theater and going to see art in real time.
I started drag because I wanted a sense of community. I know it is sort of a lame answer, but I love how being a drag performer makes you a part of something bigger than yourself. I had big aspirations of having my own dance company and performing with them all over the world (which is happening with my infusion of drag and dance). I initially found it hard to work with large groups, so I found drag my main outlet to perform as often as I wanted while only having to hold myself accountable. It is my way that I reach a larger group of people and help educate folks on subjects I find need a spotlight: race, gender and politics.
Politics play a big role in art in general. Every time a person steps on a stage, they have a platform. It is up to that person (artist) to say something. It does not always have to be a dissertation, but it should at least have a strong point of view. Being a queer southern black performer, I am advocating for all of my people every time I am on stage. I want to uplift our marginalized voices and help spread love, joy and have some component of education.
2020 has made me reevaluate everything I know about live performance. In some ways it has made me appreciate it more. It is an artform that only exists for a very finite period of time. In this way, it is very precious. On another hand, it cannot be too precious because it can be too rehearsed or polished. With the newly found digital drag, I have found joy in the fact that I can create things that will live on forever. On the other hand, it has been taxing learning so many things at once with producing digital content in a very short period of time. I am grateful to have learned so much through trial and error, but I do miss and cherish live performance.
When it comes to southern drag, I can really only comment on Atlanta drag. To put it mildly, WE ARE FIERCE. We have such a diverse scene of great performers. I believe that the performance aspect of drag is what sets us apart from other regions. We have our dancing divas, art school drag, goth performers, pageant queens and so much more. Whatever style you are looking for, you can find it in this city. Everyone is so passionate about what they do and it shines bright in this city.
If you are coming to an Ella show, you can expect a damn good time. It will be thought provoking without hitting you over the head with the message. I do pull stunts and I am very sassy on the mic. Ultimately, I want people to feel safe, welcomed and seen. It is important as an ambassador to the queer community that I am here for everyone and let them know that there is value in their lives and their legacy.