Marti Cummings (@martigcummings) is an NYC-based drag queen and political activist who sees drag as “the greatest of all art forms” for its ability to challenge gender norms, stand up for representation, and fight the patriarchy.
Growing up on a farm in Maryland, Marti became interested in musical theater, which has had a tremendous influence on their drag performances. Marti was so inspired by musical theater that at age 17, they moved to New York City to pursue “the big dream of wanting to be on Broadway.”
Marti was cast in an Off-Broadway production where the role required them to play with the gender binary and dip into drag, which ultimately inspired their own drag journey. But despite Marti’s talent and enthusiasm for drag performance, finding their personal style took some time. “My drag persona has evolved a lot,” Marti tells In The Know. “When I started, I didn’t wear wigs. My makeup was s#!%. There [were] no makeup tutorials. There [were] no makeup influencers. So you just kind of had to wing it and figure it out on your own, and I winged it very un-blendedly.”
While Marti has always believed that drag performance is inherently political for going against patriarchal norms, they wanted to push their drag performances further to influence positive change. “I had this moment of realization where I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! You have a microphone in your hand literally every single day. What are you doing with that platform?’” Marti tells In The Know. “And so I really sort of educated myself on local politics and how that works and how to use my drag as a way to learn about issues and then help educate other people.”
Marti has even taken their drag persona on the campaign trail running as the first drag artist and non-binary candidate for the New York City Council. While running for city council was a fulfilling experience, helping produce their hometown’s first pride event is what Marti is most proud of. “Being able to go back and have queer people in that community see themselves represented for the first time was the most overwhelmingly joyful experience I’ve ever had in drag,” Marti tells In The Know.
The responsibility that comes with having a platform informs Marti’s drag performances to show young, queer people and aspiring drag performers that there is a welcoming and supportive community for them. “Positive representation of queer people in media and politics is so important because our lives are under attack,” Marti tells In The Know. “Young people have to know that they’re not alone and that their life does have value, worth, and meaning.’
When it comes to their own performances, Marti loves the escapism drag offers. “The world is such a chaotic place, and so to have that hour on stage where everything kind of pauses and you can just tell a joke, or do a number, or make people laugh, that’s what I love about performing in drag,” Marti tells In The Know.
For Marti, learning from your mistakes, showing up for yourself, being of service to others, and disrupting the patriarchy are the core values that follow them on and off the stage.
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