RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13 sensation Utica Queen dishes on moving to Chicago, her upcoming museum exhibit back home in Minnesota and the surreal experience of newfound fame.
Utica Queen made a major fashion statement on RuPaul’s Drag Race with this chic sleeping bag look.
With her kooky personality and boundlessly creative fashions, Utica Queen (@queenutica)— aka Utica, Minn., native Ethan Mundt—was one of the breakout stars of season 13 of reality show smash RuPaul’s Drag Race. Now this internationally known performer is a Chicagoan, and she’s loving life in the Windy City. Fresh off a U.K. tour and readying for the Dec. 4 opening of Homecoming Queen, a groundbreaking exhibition of 20 of her garment creations at Minnesota’s Rochester Art Center, the 26-year-old sat down with CS to catch us up on life as a Chicago creative living her dream.
Welcome to Chicago! What inspired the move?
Oh, my goodness. I love this city, I really do. And after the show, I came to visit Denali and Kahmora from the show—and I don’t know, I just got this sense of belonging here that I wasn’t really getting in Minneapolis, so I decided to make the switch and I love it. It’s close to home; it’s a bigger hub; and I’m finding that I have a lot more resources here than before. And the people and the food and the beach… I literally feel like I’m on vacation.
With Chicago Harbor as a backdrop, Utica Queen serves a look with fellow Drag Race alum Kahmora Hall.
What are your thoughts on the scene here in terms of the creative energy?
It feels as though here in Chicago, people vibrate at 100% themselves. People aren’t afraid to go out and show who they are and let their freak flag fly, and I just love that. I think that’s something that I was missing for a long time: people who are just sharing themselves with the world at 100%. By coming here, it makes me feel like I can definitely do the same.
Has it influenced your work or your creativity?
Absolutely. It feels like I’m plugged into the universe’s creative energy somehow, and I’m finally creating some of the work that’s been in my head for the longest time.
What have become some of your favorite places in the city?
I love going to fabric stores. Textile Discount Outlet is one of my favorites. New Rainbow Fabrics I love to go to. Sometimes in my free time I’ll just go meander in the fabric stores and just touch all the fabric. I love going there. Of course the beach—I’m so flabbergasted that we have a beach in Chicago. I love going up to Andersonville and Edgewater; a lot of my friends live over there. I just love the neighborhoods; they’re so quintessentially queer—people are out holding hands with their partners and just being themselves out in nature, and that’s amazing.
A Marie Antoinette-inspired ensemble created by Utica
The past year has been such a wild ride for you—what has it been like to adjust to this newfound fame?
I think Lady Gaga said it once: ‘I’ve always known I was famous, but now the world sees it.’ It gives me that kind of vibe after the show. It’s weird, I went from a ‘hodunk’ farm town to being recognized on the street, and that to me is so bizarre. It just feels like I’m doing work that makes me happy, and somehow I got the connection to the rest of the world to see the work that makes me happy, and now it’s making them happy. It makes me feel like as an artist, I’m finally doing what I was meant to do. I feel very grateful; it’s been a dream. And then being able to have opportunities like doing this exhibition... being able to showcase my work that was on national television and the new works that I’ve been working on in a space that praises drag as an art form and costume as an art form, it’s just amazing to me.
I wanted to ask you about the exhibition. Homecoming Queen opens in December in Rochester, not far from where you grew up. How does it feel to have your creative work recognized as museum worthy?
Oh, my goodness. Bonkers, bananas. Having my work held to that regard where it can be put in a museum is just unreal. I remember going to museums growing up and being like, wow, what would it take to put work where others can come through and see it and have conversations about it? And then finally getting to the point where that’s a reality is just amazing to me. It makes me very, very grateful. I put in a lot of hard work and I followed my heart with a lot of these pieces, and now my little babies are getting taken away and they’re going be put into this new home where others can enjoy them too. So I kind of feel like a proud mom. Dec. 5-April 3, rochesterartcenter.org
Photography by: Trevor Beaty, Trevor Beaty, Eric Magnussen