Honey LaBronx—a.k.a. The Vegan Drag Queen—is back in Reykjavík with an environmental extravaganza that will leave you gagging. Along with local queens Aurora Borealis, Lola Von Heart, and Ouija Bordel, she will present her fundraiser extraordinaire at 20:30 tonight at Gaukurinn.
We sat down with animal-loving icon to chat.
Let’s start with the show. What can we expect?
Tonight you will see a man in a wig stomping around onstage bringing shame to his family and offending as much of the audience as possible.
Put another way, you will be seeing my 43rd consecutive vegan drag show fundraiser. I’ll be doing some of my favourite drag numbers, joking around with the audience, even singing live. But most importantly, I will be snatching money out of the hands of audience members and using it to bring an end to a system that exploits and tortures and kills animals needlessly, every day, for our pleasure.
I’ll be joined on stage by THREE local drag queens—Aurora Borealis, Lola Von Heart, and Ouija Bordel—which is really noteworthy because I never have guest performers in my show UNLESS there is another vegan drag performer in the city where I’m touring. Here in Iceland there are easily about 4 or 5 vegan drag performers that I know of! So you are in for quite a show!
You’re raising money for a charity called Anonymous for the Voiceless. Why is that an important organisation for you?
Usually I pick two organisations to raise money for. I always pick at least one animal-rights organisation, and often a second organisation for another cause close to my heart. (If you’re reading this and you know of a worthwhile LGBTQ+ cause, reach out to me about doing a fundraiser show for your organisation!!)
But tonight’s fundraiser will be exclusively for Anonymous for the Voiceless, mostly because—to my knowledge—they are the only organisation in Iceland currently fighting on behalf of ALL animals exploited by humans.
It’s really easy for me to get behind the work of Anonymous for the Voiceless (a.k.a. “AV”) because they are extremely effective in their activism. All they do is show video footage, exposing what actually happens to animals that is normally hidden from our view. Once people stop and see this, they have the opportunity to talk to someone about what they just saw and what they can do about it.
One thing I love is that they keep statistics on everything they do (ask me about the various spreadsheets I use to track various data in my life!) And so I can say that, since April 2016, AV has held over 4,010 demonstrations in 729 cities worldwide, and as a result they’ve convinced at least 216,102 bystanders to take veganism seriously.
When you consider that vegans spare the lives of an estimated 95 animals per year, if even HALF of those bystanders go vegan as a result of AV’s efforts, that means that over TEN MILLION ANIMALS PER YEAR are now NOT being killed, all because of a bunch of activists around the world who regularly gather with masks on to show undercover footage to bystanders. HOW GREAT IS THAT?
Moreover, because there are so many chapters of AV around the world, it makes it really easy for me to plan my tours because I can go to their website, see a list of the cities where they’re located, and I can figure out which cities already have an active animal rights community.
You recently did a talk on pro-intersectional veganism? How would you describe that?
In short, the one sentence version of my speech is to say this: If you would NEVER say “I don’t care about trans people, people of colour, or the handicapped” then you have to realize that’s EXACTLY what you are saying when you say “I only care about animals!”
The speech starts with an in-depth exploration of various social justice issues, and how our varying identities give us differing ways of experiencing the world. In short, being a black woman is its own experience and can’t simply be understood in terms of “being black + being a woman” but that black women experience oppression in a way that is distinct from the combined experiences of white women + black men.
Why is this relevant to a discussion about animal rights? Because animal rights is a social justice issue and if we are going to advocate for social justice, we have to understand that we are part of a larger movement.
Why do we need to know that? Because if we want to reach people who aren’t yet vegan (which is really our only option as vegans can only “go vegan” once!) then we have to be able to speak to what others are dealing with, or at the very least understand their struggle enough so that we don’t contribute to it.
How has drag affected your veganism?
I don’t really know how to answer that. I became vegan only one month after becoming a drag queen and so I’ve never really had a chance to consider these identities separately.
But being a drag queen has given me a platform to speak out about veganism and animal rights. That is a huge responsibility, and I’ve always recognised and respected that responsibility. Also being “the Vegan Drag Queen” makes me different enough that I’ve been able to carve out a career for myself doing what I love—in service of the difference I want to make in the world.
You’ve been coming to Reykjavík for a while. How does the drag and vegan culture here compare to other places you perform at?
You know what’s so exciting to me about Iceland? It truly is a land of contradictions. The land of fire and ice.
Icelandic is one of the oldest languages, and yet the language is very young and always reinventing itself. I started studying Icelandic in 2002, and already, linguistic rules I was taught over a decade ago are no longer the rule. I’ve never seen a language change in real-time at the rate Icelandic has been changing. I also find Icelanders to be so set in their ways and they hold so much to tradition and “well that’s the way we do it, because that’s the way it’s always been done”. At the same time though, Icelanders are the first to adopt new technologies and methods and let go of old ones that don’t work anymore.
I say all of this with great respect of course, and to show how exciting this place is to me because Iceland is BOTH very old AND very young. I don’t know if people can understand that until they’ve spent a lot of time here.
But with that said, I remember coming here in 2012 to take part in the Draggkeppni Íslands. (I lost.) Well back then, there really was no “drag scene” where people could just say “Hey, let’s go to a drag show tonight.” It was also my first time here as a vegan, and while I had no problem finding vegan milk wherever I went, there really weren’t a lot of vegan options for me unless I cooked my own meals at home. But when I came back in 2016 there was a Vegan Festival, veggie burgers, and a growing vegan community.
Likewise I found Drag-súgur, the local drag troupe. We had a meeting to talk about the drag scene here in Iceland and how they are trying to create more opportunities for drag performers. I asked them if there were any professional drag queens here in Iceland. They didn’t seem to understand what I meant. I asked “Are there any queens here who make their entire living JUST as a drag queen without needing a day job?” They seemed surprised by the question. In 2016 that didn’t exists.
Imagine making that happen for yourself, even though it has never happened in history before! So there’s this thing about Iceland where I just feel like ANYTHING is possible here. And I should say, there’s an expression in Icelandic that says “Glöggt er gests augað” meaning “Sharp is the eye of the guest”. As much as people hang on to their traditions and customs here, they are often open to hearing my perception on what could be better or different here.
In 2016 when I asked a bunch of local drag queens here if they get tips from the audience, one queen told me “Oh, you will never get people to tip here in Iceland. Not gonna happen.” But I’ve already done a few shows here and it was so satisfying to be able to pay my guest performers from the tips we received during the show. Artists deserve to earn a living, and that’s as true here in Iceland as it is in New York City.
Anytime I am in a conversation with someone who wants to tell me “Well that’s just the way things are…” I laugh a little bit on the inside and think “I am in a conversation with someone who lives in an alternate reality!” I am unwilling to tolerate conversations about what isn’t possible. When you tell a drag queen something is impossible, you have basically paved the way for her.
Will there be any surprises at the show? Can you give us any hints?
Maybe. Maybe not. If I give you a hint, it won’t be a surprise!
But I will take this opportunity to grossly remind people that even if they can’t make it to tonight’s show, they can still contribute online to our fundraising efforts by donating here. Their deadline for donations is 11:00pm (kl. 23:00) tonight!
Takk fyrir spjallið!