Q&A with Joe Hoselton/Jenna Skyy: Living the Double Life
Meadows staff member by day; award-winning female impersonator by night
By Ally Van Deuren (B.F.A. Theatre, B.A. Journalism, ’15)
By day, Joe Hoselton recruits graduate students to Meadows School of the Arts. By night, he transforms into Jenna Skyy, award-winning female impersonator. This past year, Skyy won three crowns in the same season: Miss Dallas, Miss Texas and Miss Gay U.S. of A. Being a “triple-crown-queen” and having each of these crowns in the same season is something no drag entertainer has done before.
Ally Van Deuren: First off, congratulations on your titles! Talk to me a little bit about the process - how did you prepare and rehearse for these competitions?
Joe Hoselton/Jenna Skyy: I really studied the system, paid attention to who would be competing and listened to the people who had won the national titles. I actually took my own performance routine material and cleaned it up, and I won with what I already had. I had these lofty ambitions and it’s kinda still hitting me in the face - I’m still not settled that it actually happened!
AVD: How did you get started in drag?
JH/JS: I wanted something interesting I could work on outside of my 8 a.m.-5 p.m. job. I was a drum major in college – I missed performance and that level of commitment. When I began helping someone else prepare for a pageant, I was hooked. Everything sort of led to this. It’s funny because I used to do drag because I missed marching; now I’m realizing that marching band helped prepare me for the pageants, because it helped me understand staging, time management and how to manage a large group of people. People talk about dreams coming true; I would literally sit around and daydream about the perfect case scenario. And it happened - this season was honestly the perfect season for me.
AVD: How do you manage to lead both lives?
JH/JS: I would always tell myself that if this hobby became too much to sustain, I’d pull back. I have yet to do that. In college, I was used to 20-hour days; I was one of those people who is always going. I’m just kind of shocked that this happened – that I’m the one, you know? I was just going to do drag for fun. I was doing it because the students here inspired me. I would watch our students do so many great things and wanted to create and invent and dream.
AVD: What do you love about working at Meadows?
JH/JS: At Meadows, we aren’t just trying to prepare you to do ONE thing. Dean Bowen came in and helped create resources to foster big dreams and big ideas. Watching that philosophy turn into something tangible showed it’s not just a dream we talk about; it’s an actuality. We are trying to make college a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will better prepare you for the opportunities and experiences that you may have in the future. I’m trying to be that in the female impersonation world – remind people that it is worth the effort to push yourself toward your craft – hopefully that’s what I’ll be able to achieve.
AVD: So, what is next for you?
JH/JS: These titles are jobs, which is why I’ll be going to all of the prelims that lead to each of the titles. At these prelims, I talk to all the judges and all the contestants, I make sure that we have a lineup that works and that things are moving effectively and efficiently. I’m also entertaining and I’m watching the tabulation of scores. I eventually want to go back to the Miss Gay America competition, in which I competed several years ago – I’m trying not to have too many fantasies because they just get more and more expensive.
AVD: And how do you offset the costs for these expensive pageants?
JH/JS: I separate Jenna – she has her own account and I treat her like a business. All my expenses are write-offs. I work in the Rose Room regularly and that money goes into her account. Occasionally I’ll reward myself – she bought me a car but it was a write-off. That is my reward/return on investment. She buys me a real fierce Christmas present every year, but other than that, her bills are paid with her account. My goal every year for income tax purposes is to spend everything she makes – and pageants make that easy. I don’t use my own money for drag anymore, but I did for a long time. I’m one of the few that makes money in drag and maintains a job from nine-to-five.
AVD: You’ve talked in other interviews about using the stage to break down barriers. How would you say you use performance as a platform to bring about change in the community?
JH/JS: Without insulting anybody, I need the challenge of my daytime profession to keep me in balance with the opposite challenges of my nighttime profession. I’ve worked hard to set my standard, and it’s difficult to do because drag performers tend to get pigeonholed. I’ve spent a good amount of time trying to defeat that. I want to influence the perception of the U.S. of A. system of this art form, I want to remind entertainers and fans of this generation that Ru Paul’s Drag Race is not the standard – it is another standard, and I want to use the momentum of that to bring what I’m doing into the mainstream. Drag was meant to create a standard of excellence so that upcoming entertainers would have an expectation and something to aspire to – if you can meet the standard, it is like a degree.