Haunted houses, horror and hairspray converge in “Night of the Living Drag,” a spooky extravaganza that tours the country before reaching Philadelphia on Halloween. The performance pulls out all the stops as audience members experience the gruesome deaths of several famous drag queens, rendered with the kind of over-the-top theatricality that only these performers can conjure. Whether you’re a fan of “Rosemary’s Baby” or “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” there is sure to be something for you.
The show has been touring for 10 years, and this season’s iteration features a host of “Drag Race” regulars, including Gotmik, Alyssa Edwards, Kandy Muse and Kim Chi. For Kim Chi, a runner-up from the show’s eighth season, the Halloween theme is a full-circle moment.
“I’m an accidental drag queen,” Kim Chi told PGN. “For Halloween back in 2012, my best friend at the time was like, ‘I’m going to do drag for fun on Halloween. Do you want to do it with me?’ And I was like, yeah, sounds great, let’s try it for fun. We practiced our makeup once and went out for Halloween, and we ended up getting booked for a show that night. After that, we went to another party in drag about a month later, and that party asked me to be the host.”
Within a short time period, Kim Chi’s Halloween lark turned into a full-time gig, as she became one of Chicago’s most in-demand drag queens. When she joined “Drag Race,” she was billed as the first Korean American drag queen featured on national television.
In Kim Chi’s mind, Halloween intersects perfectly with drag. “Halloween gives everybody the chance to dress up and become whoever they want to be, whatever their fantasy is,” she said. “For drag queens, Halloween is our money maker!”
Kim Chi describes her style as inspired by haute couture mixed with anime culture. “When I was first coming out, I was very inspired by high-fashion runways, especially the extravagant work of Galliano or Dior, and the makeup that Pat McGrath has done for them,” she said. “I wanted to replicate the high-fashion makeup on myself. Eventually, I discovered my style where I started to look like an anime character, which led to the persona of Kim Chi — she’s an anime character who works as a high-fashion model.”
That intersection has led to one of the most distinctive drag personalities currently on the scene today, and a longtime favorite among the “Drag Race” faithful. When it comes to performing with other veterans of the series, Kim Chi is excited to hit the road and have fun.
“We all die,” she said with a laugh. “Everybody in the cast dies during their number and becomes a zombie. You’re watching, like, a theater performance to find out how everyone became the zombies they became. And every time we do one of these tours together, it’s always a fun backstage party. All the girls get ready together, everybody’s getting drunk and everybody’s having fun. We all went through the same experience [with “Drag Race”], and there’s a mutual respect because of that.”
After the disruption of the pandemic, Kim Chi is also happy to be back performing before a live audience, under more traditional circumstances. Although drag queens are pretty adaptable, she describes doing “car shows” during the pandemic — where audience members would watch from their cars in a parking lot as drag queens performed — as less than ideal.
“Now we’re finally able to go back to the theater, and just from what I’ve read online from the fan reactions, I think everyone is really excited,” she said. “Nature is healing. Drag queens are going back into the spaces where they’re supposed to be and not performing in parking lots.”
Kim Chi keeps busy when she’s not performing, too. In 2019, she launched her own makeup line, KimChi Chic Beauty, which was born out of her own desire for access to high-quality cosmetics that are also affordable.
“The makeup isn’t just for drag queens,” she said. “I wanted to offer high-pigmented, good quality makeup to the general public at a great price point. Everything I wear on my face now are all my own products, which I love.”
Part entertainer, part entrepreneur, Kim Chi is dominating the drag world from every corner. This October, she’s more than ready to bring you some holiday fun.
“Night of the Living Drag” is at the Met Philadelphia on Oct. 31. For tickets and information, visit vossevents.com.