E Lyons’ drag persona, Mx. Ology, has a simple origin story.
“She crawled out of a hole in the ground,” Lyons said. “A dirty hole in the ground, in a way like the Birth of Venus.”
Decidedly not born from any human body, Mx. Ology, with radioactive orange hair, lopsided lips decorated, a teasing mustache and a penchant for turning trash into photoshoot looks, is as much a performance persona as she is a fully fleshed-out fictional character.
Though her storyline sets her in a horror-like landscape of beautified grossness, Mx. Ology has her real life origins in fourth-grade drawings of “scary ladies with big hair, giant boobs and really intricate outfits,” along with classic drag queens, including Divine.
Lyons, now a junior theatre major, recalls their lifelong interest in the world of glamor and exaggerated physicality that they first found in those elementary school drawings and drag stars that propelled them into the artistry of drag, costume design and performance.
Even without the words to articulate it, gender had always been a topic of interest for Lyons. From illustrations of half-man, half-woman superheroes whose powers including the ability to use both bathrooms, to the “perpetual dress up game” that their childhood evolved into in their young adult years, gender presentation and dress has been a lifelong project of intentional and unintentional play.
“If I were to do a revisionist childhood, I’d want to be like a prince or a mischievous fairy,” Lyons said. “But I really think there was a sort of archetypal significance, playing witches [for example], and that is very gender f—ing because it’s a type of power in a traditionally non-male community… I insisted on having a pair of pink cowgirl boots and the little hat and a pop gun — that’s the draggiest thing imaginable.”
After coming out as non-binary during their freshman year, and with the love for dress up still instilled in them, Lyons found themself inventing a drag persona, Mx. Ology.
When scrolling on social media, Lyons came across the gender neutral honorific of “Mx,” a title that would translate into their own life as well as that of Mx. Ology.
“I am Mx. Lyons,” Lyons said “That’s real.”
Dissatisfied with the drag names using “Mx.” that they found online, Lyons created their own name — Mx. Ology.
“I was like, ‘that’s fun.’” Lyons said. “That communicates that a person is equally intelligent and unhinged.”
And from her name, Mx. Ology was born.
Taking inspiration from the likes of Robert Munsch’s “The Paper Bag Princess” and Madame Medusa from “The Rescuers,” Mx. Ology became a paper-receipt wearing, “jarring,” and most importantly, “intelligent” character central to Lyons’ art and aspirations.
Her use of garbage as garb reflects Lyons’ own commentary on late-stage capitalism and fast fashion, as well as catering to a “glamorization of nastiness.”
Mx. Ology is not just one idea — she is a conglomeration of hyperfemininity, masculinity, beauty and the grotesque.
“There’s so many visual contradictions happening [within Mx. Ology] that it encapsulates the way that we are socialized to challenge physical contradictions of binary gender that we see,” Lyons said.
Mx. Ology is more than just a character: she is a brand in and of herself.
As with any other drag artist, Lyons’ goal for Mx. Ology is a career in performance, especially in their future beyond school, where their full-time studies will no longer take up the time they would rather dedicate to their craft.
They know which songs they’d like to lip-sync to, that they may be a mover or a dancer and, of course, how Mx. Ology presents herself to the world.
Still, though Lyon’s ultimate goal may be performance, it isn’t their only goal — or at least traditional performance isn’t.
“Where are the places that we can take drag that isn’t the TV show, the brunch, the club?” Lyons asked.
They have already brought drag to the world of written fiction. In their short-story “A Weirdo Emerges,” Mx. Ology takes to the page with supporting characters including “the himbo” and Susanna Tabbatha.
Other ambitions for the character of Mx. Ology include originating a role for her in a theatrical setting or bringing her into a film or simply delivering a “weird” solo monologue.
In these endeavors, Lyons hopes to comfort other queer youths through Mx. Ology, just as they were comforted by other drag artists themselves.
“I have the poster to the Divine movie ‘Female Trouble’ on the wall in my room,” Lyons said. “I wake up and everyday I see it, and it’s a sense of peace, of reassurance, of feeling seen in someone else’s work.”
With many of their life and career goals centering around Mx. Ology, it would be easy to see her as another extension of Lyons. But Lyons insists that Mx. Ology is a person of fiction, like a “cartoon or comic book character.”
“There was a moment this semester where I had done a video shoot in drag for someone’s student film, and then immediately had to go to math class the next morning,” Lyons said. “And I was like, ‘This must be what Clark Kent feels like. This is fantastic!’”
But that’s not to say that the character of Mx. Ology hasn’t influenced Lyons.
They say Mx. Ology and engaging in drag has allowed them to reclaim their perception of their body and articulate their feelings towards their body in the face of dysphoria.
“I make this joke a lot, but it really is true,” Lyons said. “Throughout high school when I was wearing little skirts and socks and a tight little top or whatever like that, that was the drag that I used to navigate high school as someone who didn’t know that they weren’t a woman.”
Lyons admits that they had started with “doing a lot of really bad drag.” They say their makeup was especially bad, a holdover from their days of watching beauty gurus and taking trips to Sephora.
But with every donning of the Mx. Ology character, Lyons refines their skills, allowing themself to play around with their signature look.
Now, Lyons focuses much of their attention on their eye makeup, giving Mx. Ology realistic eyes with a lip gloss sheen and draw-in in veins for a bloodshot look, details they added to their mug over time.
This is the core of drag for Lyons: evolution.
“I just love that every time you think you’ve squelched out everything that you can do to make this look or this detail of a costume or performance the best it can be, you surprise yourself,” Lyons said. “When a bar you’re setting is always yourself, that’s what keeps the process so rewarding and exciting.”
Kara Anderson is the senior arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kara Anderson is a senior arts editor at The Spectrum. She is an English and Spanish double major and is pursuing a certificate in creative writing. She enjoys baking chocolate chip cookies, procrastinating with solitaire and binging reality TV on the weekends.