Our Titillating Interview With Mama Tits

Photo+courtesy+of+Leanna+Karg

Photo courtesy of Leanna Karg

Mama Tits is a towering Seattle icon and drag queen extraordinaire who needs no introduction. Last year she made headlines at our city’s Pride Parade when she shut down anti-gay protesters and protected her community from bigotry. But that’s not all Mama’s known for—she’s also a fiercely fabulous performer, event hostess, comedian, and (unlicensed) life coach.

You can see her in all her glitzy, glamorous glory as she hosts Seattle University’s ninth annual Drag Show this Friday, April 10. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $3 at the CAC—get ’em before they’re gone!

Photo courtesy of Leanna Karg
Photo courtesy of Leanna Karg

Mama Tits


Joe Brand: What message do you hope to send through your work as Mama Tits?
Mama Tits: One of the main things I always tell everybody is: you have a voice—use it for good. If you can’t use your voice for good, what good is having a voice? Always try to make an impact or make a difference in the world. If you can do some good or help somebody out, do so. And remember that we may all be coming from different cultures and different backgrounds, but we’re all the same human race trying to get through this together.

JB: Why do you think it’s important to celebrate the LGBTQ community?
MT: I think everybody should be celebrated, I don’t think it’s just an LGBTQ community saying. Unfortunately, our community has been oppressed for a very long time. And so of course we need to continue to embrace pride, but I also think that while we do so we should be embracing other people and allowing other people to be proud of who they are as well.

But the main point that a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that Pride is not just a celebration, Pride is fundamentally a protest. It’s to get in the peoples’ faces and let them know, as we used to say back in the day, “We’re here, we’re queer and get used to it.” We’re not really trying to change the world; we’re just trying to make our place in it.

JB: Do you know any straight people who do drag?
MT: I’ve seen heterosexual individuals who have put on drag. I mean, as RuPaul says, “You’re born naked and everything else is drag.” I call it work drag, day drag, night drag, whatever.

It’s not as prevalent in the drag culture to have heterosexual people, but ultimately it’s a performance piece—it’s performance art. It’s getting out there and expressing yourself. And it’s been predominantly gay men but it’s not exclusive to that. I mean, Shakespeare invented the term drag, it was a footnote on the side of the script and it was “DRESSED AS GIRL” because back in the day women weren’t allowed to be onstage.

JB: When did you first form this alter ego of Mama Tits?
MT: Mama Tits was formed four or five years ago while I was performing on Capitol Hill. I was doing a show and I was known as Busty McGee at the time and I did a tagline, “Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Busty McGee but you can call me ‘Tits.’” And one of my fellow performers, Robert Turner, actually came to me one night and was like “You know, you’re more like mom to everybody—you should go by Mama Tits instead.” And I tried it and it stuck and ta-da, there it is.

JB: What made you begin, and what makes you continue?
MT: Drag’s been a big part of my life for a lot of my life, and it’s a great way to express all the fun and fabulousness that’s inside. And the great thing is through that vessel it’s a lot more well-received. If someone is running around glittered up and wearing all these fancy clothes, a lot of times if it’s Mama it’s acceptable—but if it were Brian running around in some of this stuff, it would be one hell of a spectacle.

And I had a theater background. I love the character development idea and I like the freedoms that you get with it—and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. With the name Busty McGee I wanted to throwback to the old Mae West style: the big-tittied, curvy, broad-y, woman, just kind of in charge but also a little sexy, and just this almost enigma-type creature that people are drawn to but they don’t quite understand. I think I’ve done a good job in creating that.

JB: How do you feel different when you’re dressed as Mama Tits compared to Brian Peters?
MT: When I’m dressed as Mama there’s this persona, this personality, this life force from deep within that pretty much takes over. As Brian, I’m still pretty mouthy, pretty in-your-face, still over-the-top and pretty eccentric, but I’m a lot more reserved in many aspects of my life. I am not as strong as I would say she projects to be. I am human and I do have my weaknesses, and she is an outlet; she gives me strength.

Sometimes I don’t feel it until I put her on completely, and then all of a sudden this inner strength comes that I didn’t even know I had. It’s the energy that feeds off of all the people, and the interaction and seeing the reaction to her—that’s a hell of a high. Having the energy interaction with people and how they perceive Mama is a trip, especially being on the inside.

JB: What are you most looking forward to with hosting this year’s show?
MT: I truly do enjoy hosting the show, and I love seeing all the student drag. The reception that I get is always really wonderful, and it’s just so fun to be in front of the next generation—that’s kind of the way I look at it, it’s a part of the legacy.

I inject a classic drag kind of fierceness into what I do and hopefully it’s something that they are going to maybe be intrigued or inspired by. And the students are giving all the new songs that the kids know and love, and they’re all getting up there—some of them for their first time—and it’s really exciting to see how much energy everyone puts into it, how much passion and joy and support is there.

It’s such a raucous party and it’s always an honor to be there and to be asked back every year. It’s truly one of the highlights of my year.

JB: With the student performers can you ever sense a separation between ego and alter ego?
MT: Some of them, yes. Some of them you can see they’re doing it for fun, others you can see there is a glimmer of “Hmm, this is going to be something a little bit more than just a daytime let’s-try-this-once.”

But I try not to judge newer entertainers—or any entertainer for that matter—because I’d much rather just absorb what they’re doing, and if they ask for my opinion or my advice I will gladly give my honest, open opinion. But I do think that if your opinion is not asked for then it’s best to just sit back and enjoy rather than be hypercritical or tell somebody what or where or which direction they should go in, because it’s their journey, not yours.

JB: Why is it significant that Seattle U hosts an event like this each year?
MT: It’s great because it builds on inclusion; it shows that everybody is welcome. It’s crazy how much of a beacon drag to me is; it can be something that brings groups together because it’s all in good fun and it opens up the conversation and it allows people to have a good time and relax a little bit, which is important.

We’re the jesters of the community and we’re here to make you laugh and here to make you forget about the bullshit, but we’re also here to make you think, and hopefully make the world a little bit brighter and better place.

JB: One last question: Do you have a favorite grilled cheese recipe?
MT: I have a fabulous open-face grilled cheese sandwich. It’s actually more of a melt. I make my special secret recipe of tuna salad, and then I take a giant round loaf, center-cut pieces. You butter them on one side and put them under the broiler until the butter gets nice and crispy. Then you flip them over and you put your tuna on that side, then you put on your cheeses and some onions and more cheeses. Then you throw that under the broiler again until the cheese is nice and bubbly, golden brown, and you get this sort of hot grilled cheese open-faced tuna melt. It’s so good, and it’s inexpensive—especially for college students.