Dragula Star Louisianna Purchase Finds Fantasy in the Nightmare
Competing on the reality series turned this Austin drag queen into a queen of the night
"Delayed Reaction would be the name of my autobiography," jests Louisianna Purchase.
"Being a little bit older," she continues, now earnest, "I feel like I'm able to enjoy every moment and realize this won't be around forever, so enjoy it, live in the moment, because this is my moment."
It's a bold proclamation, but given the local drag queen's momentous 2019, this lady doth not protest too much. This fall, she appeared on season 3 of the Boulet Brothers' "drag supermonster" reality-competition show Dragula, the horror-obsessed little sister to RuPaul's Drag Race. While Louisianna was ultimately "exterminated" (that's Dragula-speak for eliminated), less than a month later the top-four finisher won her fourth "Best of Austin" Readers Poll award for "Best Drag Performer." And, the decorated scream queen is only 6 years old – in drag years, that is.
Growing up in small-town, rural Louisiana, Louisianna arrived at drag almost by chance. In 2013, now living in Austin, Louisianna attended the alternative drag show Poo Poo Platter to meet a boy after the two had connected on a dating app. That boy was also Bulimianne Rhapsody, the local queen who founded Poo Poo Platter. Louisianna recalls, "I had never been to a drag show in my life." Wigstock, she says, was what she knew of drag.
Watching Poo Poo Platter, she thought, "'This is drag?! I love this.' In my brain, it felt like this was obtainable. You see pageantry drag in all of its glory and think, 'I don't know how to do that,' but Poo Poo Platter made me feel like this is something I can do. It just felt fun."
Louisianna and Bulimianne soon started dating. When October rolled around, Bulimianne's dutiful "drag husband" wanted to perform in the Halloween show. Louisianna's inaugural performance – "a seven-minute electronic noise track where I burnt a Bible and snapped a nun's neck and vomited blood on her face" – was a disaster. "I remember getting offstage thinking, 'I hate this. This is not fun at all.'" But two months later, Summer Clearance convinced her to perform a Christmas show duet and suddenly, she was a soul possessed. In the years since, she has joined Poo Poo Platter and started two drag showcases, the horror variety show Die Felicia and Sad Girls Only; she frequently performs with local burlesque troupes and also hosts an uncountable number of drag bingo events.
The Red River queen – her face, quite literally, adorned flags along the historic cultural district during South by Southwest – has a certain je ne sais quoi onstage that goes far beyond lip synching. Louisianna describes it as predatory, fueled by the smell and encouragement of the crowd, but confesses she never rehearses her numbers. Her drag kids (of which there are 26, including Dragula's Priscilla Chambers) have asked her to teach them to possess the stage as she does, but she shrugs, "I'm just me." Instead, she credits growing up in the Deep South with no friends for fueling her creativity. "I think queers – our interior worlds are really vibrant. ... [As a kid] I had to develop that interior world to survive." Even in her 20s, Louisianna lived a largely isolated life, which she believes kept that space alive and thriving. "That's where Louisianna lives."
One might say Louisianna was destined for fame, what with her childhood wish of being a star and her fear of being forgotten. That fame came knocking in February when the Boulets chose her for Dragula. "You have a night to decide to change your life or not. It was hard," she explains. At 42, she was the show's oldest cast member, which was part of her decision to say yes. "I told [Bulimianne], if I'm going to do this, it's now." A month later, Louisianna was in L.A. serving her best take of Drag, Filth, Horror, Glamour – the four tenets Dragula lives and exterminates by.
Louisianna, who quit her day job several years ago to pursue drag full time, says her work on Dragula has been her only break from performing. Ironic, considering she spent the better part of those six weeks in head-to-toe drag. "It was an intense film schedule," she explains, referring to the 12- to 18-hour days on set. "A lot of times I would not eat lunch because I was corseted up or I didn't want to mess up my makeup, so I would just drink water."
Though she didn't leave with the crown, Louisianna has been dubbed by fans and the Boulets the heart of season 3. Recalling her extermination episode, which aired in mid-October, Louisianna had to turn her phone off "because the notifications were insane – I was getting videos of kids sobbing." In the age of reality-competition television, it's increasingly rare to see a character become a cheerleader for her challengers, but that's exactly what Louisianna did. The first episode ends with her consoling a queen up for elimination, which she continued to do throughout the season. Comforting her colleagues came naturally, she says. "I wanted to boost everyone up because I wanted to compete with everyone at their best."
Still, compared with her monster-inspired castmates, Louisianna stood out. While her look is certainly horror-inspired, her style is an "edited down" macabre with vintage and noir-like pieces. "For me, drag has always felt like looking in the mirror and thinking I look very beautiful and very powerful." But for a brief moment on Dragula, she asked herself: "'What am I doing here?' ... That first day of filming, I'm in this vintage-cut swimsuit with a little bat headpiece, and I'm looking at everyone else like, 'Wow, they really look like monsters!'"
She confesses that at first, it was "emotionally rocky." So she focused on her reason for saying yes – to spotlight Austin's drag scene on an international platform – to propel her. Then the competitor in her took hold. The exhaustion of it all didn't hit until her extermination. Six hours later, she was back on set for the reunion episode, where she tearfully shared on camera that she failed for being so close to the top three and not making it. Coming home, she apologized to her drag family for not winning. But top-four status has, indeed, changed everything.
Today, she couldn't be happier "to be where I'm at right now." Since season 3 ended, Louisianna has traveled near and far to perform her trademark horror ghoul drag-meets-burlesque – a look Dragula only helped her refine. In January 2020, the cast crosses the pond for a European tour, and bands are talking to her about touring together (this year she's opened local shows for King Princess and Orville Peck). Here in Austin, she's working on projects with Austin Film Society and Alamo Drafthouse. "I feel like everything I've done in my life has led up to this," she concludes, genuinely awestruck. "Life is fucking magic. It's hard as hell, but it's also magic."
And, for Louisianna Purchase and Bulimianne Rhapsody's top tips to ring in 2020 like the scream queen that you are check out: "Louisianna and Bulimianne's Tips for a (Ghoulishly) Great NYE."