Meet the Virgin
This is a first for WINGS, an interview with an actual living religious figure. The reincarnated holy mother of Gawd herself, the celebrated and sensuous, Virgin X.
We sat down with Virgin’s human vessel, London-based performance artist Drew Caiden (them/they), to talk about their first music video ‘Shame’, the long-lasting effect growing up Catholic had on them, and why you should definitely stick that apple in your mouth!
Drew, for those of us who haven’t had an audience with her yet: who is Virgin X?
“Virgin X is an incarnation of the Virgin Mary, who got bored by living in heaven for all of eternity. She decided to come back to earth as a drag queen to do all the fabulous things that she was never permitted to do when she was here 2000 years ago. Back then her only purpose was to have the Christ child; after that, her career pretty much ended and she ascended to heaven. In literature, the Virgin Mary is a very complicated character. It’s someone who doesn’t really have a gender or a sexuality, so I wanted her to be a non-binary deity. That’s why she has a mustache, and that’s why she’s actually very masculine.”
Where does the inspiration for Virgin X come from?
“I was born in Los Angeles. When I was 5 my parents decided to move to Oregon – away from Disneyland – which was a really big deal for me, and then I lived in the woods for 15 years. I didn’t have any neighbors, I didn’t have any friends or anything like that, but I developed a very strong imagination. And then there was Catholic school, which became the basis of my work. I was aware of my queerness from a very young age on – I loved dressing up in costumes and I’ve always thought dresses are far more fabulous than trousers. Growing up in the Catholic church is a weird experience for any queer person. Most doctrines say it’s wrong to be queer and as a kid, I felt all of that. It instilled a great deal of shame in me. Even though I’ve come to terms with my sexuality and my gender identity, there’s still this voice in the back of my head that says ‘what you are feeling is wrong, what you are is an abomination. I think that voice will always be there, but I’ve learned to put it into something constructive and beautiful and that’s what Virgin X is. She’s a product of all those years of discomfort and pain, turned into something glorious and powerful.”
Do you still hold on to your Catholic beliefs in some way?
“Uhm… no (they say in a resolute tone). I don’t know if I ever fully identified as Catholic. A lot of people call me blasphemous. I understand why they say that, but I don’t think I am. If you really listen to the essence of what Virgin says during her on-stage performances, even if she’s explicitly sexual or using foul language, she’s ultimately just advocating for equality and freedom. She believes in ‘doing unto others, as you would have them do unto you’. The problem is the church doesn’t adhere to that and that’s hypocritical. I think I could easily sit down with Jesus and we would get along just fine. He advocated for those who were marginalized; the poor, leppers, prostitutes. Jesus was liberal as fuck.”
2020 was a difficult year for a lot of people, including yourself, but you still managed to create your debut music video ‘Shame’. What did you go through last year and how were you still able to make that video?
“ ’Shame’ is a testament to the creative spirit. I was living in a warehouse at the time with virtually every single artist that I collaborated with on the track. We were all out of work, all our careers were in jeopardy, and we just wanted to create something for the sake of it. It was me, the directors’ Tom Solt and Steven Santa Cruz – who unfortunately passed away with COVID in January – and my producer Zä. Steven always wanted to make music videos and asked me if I was up for it. My act is that I’m a parody artist. I take pop songs and rewrite the lyrics to tell the narrative of the Virgin Mary. So Zä and I wrote ‘Shame’, my first original song, and we shot the video. ‘Shame’ turned out to be Steven’s last project. It’s really sad that he never got to see the final result; his death was devastating.”
In my humble opinion, the end result looks beautiful and the lyrics are everything. An interviewer on YouTube called you a ‘scandalous lyricist’ once. And with lyrics like ‘fuck your faith, I’ll fuck your face and ‘I’ll nail you like you nailed my son’ I can’t blame him.
“(laughs) A ‘scandalous lyricist’ I love that! It’s a great representation of what I do. Art should always be disruptive and confronting. I was so shamed for my sexuality and gender identity by the church, that I now feel I have the right to take religious symbolism and make it overtly sexual. That’s me reclaiming the power that the church attempted to take away from me when I was younger.”
There’s this one line you keep repeating at the end of the song, almost like a mantra: ‘Stick that apple in your mouth, stick that apple in your mouth’. That’s your way of saying ‘live your life, be who you are, right?
“Even now I get emotional when I think of the story of Genesis. It’s so sad. You have these two people in a garden and one of them wants to eat from the Tree of Wisdom. Who the fuck wouldn’t want to do that? And why is that such a bad thing? Why is it that religion from the get-go doesn’t want you to think for yourself? I think that’s fucked up and damaging. As a queer person, I have to say I am going to take that apple. I’m not just going to diminish myself and reject certain aspects of myself in order to please the god that I’ve been taught to believe in. No! I’m going to stick that fucking apple in my mouth and live my life!”
When watching ‘Shame’ (and your Instagram feed) it’s clear that Virgin X likes fetish A LOT: you’re dressed in leather and latex, wear a thorny black crown, flogger in one hand, and a bearded boy on a leash in the other.
“Catholic imagery lends itself very well to BDSM (self-chastising anyone?) and that avenue into the fetish world for Virgin happened very organically. I’ve always loved latex gimps. Virgin is always dressed from head to toe; there’s no skin showing. Latex bodysuits, huge heels, and big gloves with nails just make sense for her character. And also if the Virgin Mary decides to come back from heaven she would want to be as different as possible and get rid of the big white robes and the layers and layers of fabric that she is used to wearing. She would looooove all that black, skintight rubber.”
Do you as Drew have a connection with rubber as well? Does it tickle your fancy?
“It does… (short silence) it does and yeah (they laugh slightly nervous) it does. I have a penchant for latex and gimp masks (giggling).”
You perform in a lot of different clubs, but the fetish scene, in particular, is special to you. Why is that?
“I started doing fetish parties as Virgin X and I fell in love with the community. As a person, I’m very private and before I started performing as Virgin I never went to nightclubs, because socially I’m a bit awkward. But when I perform I have a purpose; I’m there to host and entertain. It gives me more confidence. The kink community is the place where I feel most safe as a queer person. No one ever smacks my ass when I’m on my way from the back of the club to the stage. There’s a level of respect that you won’t find anywhere else. They are not going to touch me because they are dressed up as well and acknowledge the time and money it costs to serve a look.”
Any parting words?
“Keep an eye out on my YouTube channel for more original music. My next single is going to be even naughtier than ‘Shame’, it’s more political and it features the devil!”
Want to see and hear more of Virgin X?
Follow the Holy Mother @virgin_x on Instagram
Subscribe to her channel on YouTube. That’s all!
All photos by James Rupapara (@jamesrupapara on Instagram). Many thanks to designers: Monika Bereza, Ada Zanditon, IncogniD’or, Hysteria Machine, and Insatiable Lust.