I haven't thoroughly addressed the pandemic on here yet-- up until now, none of my interviews really required me to and forcing that angle just felt like stating an obvious and traumatic truth. I am lucky--- the pandemic has not impacted me to the degree that it has others. But I feel a profound sadness for what the world has lost during the past year, and that sadness often paralyzes me creatively, to the point that I feel unequipped to do anything except stare into space, wondering how we got here.
At the same time, I have also been deeply touched by the genuine human kindness these unfortunate circumstances have inspired. And I am all the more impressed by people who have found the motivation to be creative and help others at the same time. Among these people is 16 year old Zoe Tobocman, who co-founded, along with 17 year old Lydia Gallegos, Queens in Need, a fundraiser to help drag artists who lost their income because of the pandemic. Through weekly digital drag shows and social media, Zoe raised over 2k during the first few months after starting Queens in Need. Now, Queens in Need is a 501(c)(3) verified charity. But it’s evolved to be more than just that; Zoe also conducts interviews with artists and public figures who are relevant to her audience-- from Allie X to Brittany Broski.
I find Zoe's creativity and generosity to be continually inspiring throughout these long months, not to mention her skill as an interviewer. I know that, when writing about the accomplishments of young people (especially young girls), it's customary to prattle on about how they are SO young, how miraculous it is that young girls can do BIG things, how they are a shining example of how the next generation is more than just iPhone obsessed narcissists. But I think falling into any of those tropes would do a disservice to the fantastic work that Zoe is doing, work that would be impressive at any age. And truth be told, I never held any of those notions anyway. If there's anything Sailor Moon taught me, it's that it would always come down to teenage girls to save the world, and Zoe is really a shining example of that.
Why did you start Queens in Need?
I've been a fan of drag for years and I started watching RuPaul's Drag Race at a really young age (about 12.) I looked up to queens like Trixie Mattel, Katya Zamolodchikova, and Adore Delano throughout my childhood. My interests as a 12 year old were definitely... different from the average kid haha. After I went to Dragcon in 2018, a big drag convention that takes place in LA & New York every year, I started getting into the drag scene in my area and I started going to drag shows multiple times a month with my mom. At the beginning of the pandemic when everyone started losing their jobs, my heart went out to the local queens in my area. I started Queens In Need to give back to a community that has made me feel at home, brought me so much joy, and taught me that it's important to prioritize your passions and make sacrifices for your dreams.
What’s been the best moment since starting the organization? I've had so many amazing experiences throughout the pandemic while working on Queens In Need. It's kept me sane and inspired during a time when the world feels unfamiliar. I would say that the best moments have been making deep connections and friendships with different artists who I've looked up to for years. It's been truly surreal to have those moments with so many of my heroes. What advice would you give to other young people looking to start a project like this? That's a good question. I think that it's really important to be dedicated to, and to believe in, whatever you choose to do creatively. This project has given me an incredible outlet to express myself, which I don't take for granted. I put my all into everything that I do, even if that means staying up on the phone with a drag queen until 2 am figuring out software, which yes has happened multiple times. If you don't believe in your project, idea, whatever it may be, it's not worth your time. You have to see and truly believe in the potential of what you want to do for anyone else to jump on board with you. How do you hope Queens in Need will change in the future? In the future, I hope that we're able to continue expanding as a charity. I want Queens In Need to become a stable backbone of support that the drag community can turn to when they need financial assistance. There's multiple charities to support musicians, actors, etc, but I believe that Queens In Need is particularly important because of the ways in which drag queens have paved the way for, and inspired so much in the entertainment world. How do the interviews you post relate to the project’s mission, and how do you decide who to interview? We've been interviewing different artists for the Queens In Need website to shed a light on creatives of all kinds during the pandemic. Whether that's musicians, Youtubers, directors, etc, we think that it's important to keep art alive during this time. We also utilize the interviews as a space where celebrities can show their support to the drag community and expose their fanbase to the art of drag! What’s been the most transformative experience of your life? One experience that really stands out for me was when I first went to Dragcon and I actually was able to meet the queens that I had looked up to for so long in person. It was my 14th birthday weekend and after going through a really hard year, being at Dragcon was like heaven haha. My mom and I always say it's the happiest place on earth because everyone is so positive and sweet and excited to be there. I think that's when I first realized that this was my forever community. Who are your inspirations and what lessons have they taught you? Drag queens really are my inspirations. They've taught me the importance of self dependence, as drag artists almost always do everything themselves, from hair and makeup to finance to designing and creating their own costumes to booking their own shows. I can't praise them enough!