“Drag has everything and nothing to do with gender,” says nightlife performer Jeff Maras, who’s famous in New York’s Underground for his Brooklyn-bred drag persona Charmin Ultra. “Everyone has a masculine side and a feminine side.”
In a new intimate short film, directed by Mark E. Trent, we’re invited inside Maras’ story, given insight into the root of his passion for queer performance, as well as some of the emotional insecurities that come with this line of work. His powerful presence in drag is undeniable, but like with any marginalized art form, questioning yourself is inevitable.
The seven-minute film follows Maras as he magically transforms into Charmin before a mirror, lip-synchs on stage at a local bar and, when he’s feeling lazy, serves up a more disheveled persona, Cecilia—something Maras says was born out of sometimes simply not wanting to get into drag. “She is almost anti-drag,” he explains.
“I met Jeff long before Charmin, when I first moved to New York,” Trent said. “When he told me he did drag I immediately flipped backwards and asked if I could go watch him perform and shoot some photos. The whole [film] sort of progressed from there. My goal was to show those not around the queer scene a vignette into the world of performing in drag. I grew up in a place where scenes like this didn’t exist, so I learned a lot from Jeff and his friends.”
Fellow Brooklyn-based performer Lady Simon, who makes a cameo in Trent’s film, echoed the director’s admiration of Maras’ work, suggesting his authentic, subversive approach has become a rarity in today’s queer scene.
“His drag isn’t about being pretty and cool, Simon said. “His drag is about telling a story and making you think. I met him the first weekend I moved to Brooklyn. He was the first ‘drag’ I saw here and it was like nothing I’d ever seen and have seen since. Everything was planned and choreographed with a story; everything was super loud and crazy. That’s the standard I hold for drag that unfortunately you don’t see much of anymore.”
Enjoy Mark E. Trent’s stunning short, ‘Charmin Ultra,’ below: