Street: What inspired you to create Annie DeBeers? (Ed. note: Annie DeBeers is Josef's Drag Queen Persona)
JH: I recently came out as gender queer. I always thought it was a weird quirk about myself that I liked presenting as female sometimes but then I met a few friends who were gender queer and realized there are a lot of people whose gender identity isn’t strictly male or female. Even though I’m comfortable with my body and am comfortable presenting as male, I’m just as comfortable presenting female. It was cool to finally get a word to it.
Street: How did you come up with the name of Annie DeBeers?
JH: I wanted it to be a pun because I’m a huge fan of dad jokes, so Annie DeBeers kind of sounds like "I Need The Beers." She’s kind of one of those girls who goes to tailgate parties and drinks PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon, the official drink of the country music profession).
Street: How is Annie DeBeers similar to Josef? How is she different?
JH: She’s definitely similar in that we both really enjoy going out to a club, or getting together with friends for a bonfire or barbecue, and just getting trashed and pretending the outside world doesn’t exist. We’re very different in that she loves flaunting herself. Even though I’m an extrovert, she’s totally an exaggerated form of that. She is all about going out, meeting everyone, seeing and being seen.
Street: What was your first experience like dressed in drag?
JH: The first time I got in drag, I went out to Harvest with some friends. I noticed some guys looking at me and I thought they were just laughing at the guy dressed up like a woman. Then all of a sudden, one of them winked at me, and I realized “Oh shit! They think I’m a girl!” So I went to walk over and their eyes got wide as saucers like “Oh god.” It was the funniest experience ever.
Street: What was it like performing drag for the first time?
JH: I had been going to Bob and Barbara’s for a while, and one day I went dressed as a boy but had some cheap makeup on. In the middle of her performance, Lisa Thompson, the person who hosts the LisaLisa drag show, stopped lip syncing and whispered in my ear, “Meet me after.” I talked to her after and she told me “I want you in my show.” I was freaking out because I had been going there for so long wanting to do it, but I was too afraid to jump over the hurdle. I came back another time, and in the middle of her show Lisa said, “Didn’t I tell you you need to do my show?” to me in the microphone. She then pulled me up onstage, made me dance to a song and told me if I don’t join her show within the next month I’m not allowed to come to the bar anymore. For my first show, I went out onstage and thought it was going to be very chill. I perform all the time, I do theater. But I got up, and my legs were literally knocking. But the second I started doing it, I got so into it. It was so empowering and so much fun, and I made a lot more money than I thought I was going to in tips!
Street: How does performing drag differ from performing in a musical with Stimulus Children’s Theatre?
JH: In theater, usually we’re here performing and the audience is observing us and gets a peek into the character’s lives. With drag, there is no fourth wall–– you’re sharing your life with everyone around you. It’s all about giving the audience an experience, giving them something to shout or scream about. For example, I performed to Ke$ha’s "Gold Tran’s Am," and I had this PBR can that I chugged and threw down. Ke$ha has this one part where she shouts out “Freedom Rides" in the song. My friend, Jara, had given me a bra that has fake silicone boobs in them, so I pulled open my shirt and showed them off at that part. It’s all about creating those moments where the audience can be like, “Remember when that drag queen did that?”
Street: What is the coolest event you’ve sang at with the Glee Club?
JH: We were on tour in Tanzania, Africa on Mount Kilimanjaro, and we went skinny dipping in this African waterfall. We sang Penn’s alma mater and it was such an incredible experience. It was so surreal to think “I get to do this”.
Street: You’re in the Stimulus' show “Junie B. Jones.” What was your favorite story character from childhood?
JH: Peanuts, absolutely. My dad and I always read Peanuts comics together. It was something we shared. My dad unfortunately passed away a little over ten years ago. I wanted to be Charlie Brown for Halloween one year, so he drew Charlie Brown on this kite he made for me. It's the last thing he made for me before he passed. I still have it up on my wall now.
Street: What advice would you give to your freshman-year self?
JH: I'm gonna get real here for a second and say I would have encouraged him to go to CAPS as soon as things started getting bad. I also would tell him that it's going to be okay, and that no matter how hard it gets, there will be those moments that make everything worth it. Now, I see a psychiatrist and a psychologist for depression and anxiety, and I take medication to help that. I take every opportunity to talk about it with people because there’s such a stigma around mental health. You can get sick in any other way, and sometimes you need to take steps to make sure you’re being healthy. I hope me talking about those things will make other people more comfortable themselves to seek help if they need it.
Street: You’re a mechanical engineer, so if you could 3D print something right now what would it be?
JH: Probably a flask.
Street: What’s one question we forgot to ask you?
JH: Who is your favorite person in the world? And the answer would be my mom. She’s been a single mother for the past ten years raising three sons, working and going to school full-time. She only had her GED, and from her late 40s to her early 50s she got her associates, bachelors, then her masters and is now teaching English at a high school. She's also the most supportive person I know. I just came out to her as gender queer this week and her first response was, “I love you no matter what, obviously that will never change. Quick question though, have your pronouns changed?” The fact that she instantly jumped to that and how much she loves me makes her my favorite person in the world.