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Drag Goes Emo with Belial

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Belial (photo by Jay Clark)

Sad songs say so much. Maybe that’s why H-town performer Belial revels in them. The gloomy queen is a member of a troupe known as Smoke Break, a group of queer creatives and artists that just so happen to also do drag. She’s an artsy performer with a flair for the emotional, and this month she gives readers a chance to get to know her oft-sullen character.

Pronouns?
She/They

Hometown?
Houston

Story behind your drag name?
Belial is the name of a Hebrew demon, but more commonly it is used in religious texts to mean “worthless” or even “independent,” which was very appealing to me. A character [perceived as] inconsequential, yet somehow still the driving force in the defiance of God.

Drag birthday?
That’s always a hard question for me. I’ve always liked to put on a look when I go out with friends, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I started “drag.” I’ve been performing on and off since 2016, but as for my current incarnation with the name Belial, since December 2018.

How did you learn makeup?
I attribute my makeup skills partially to visual art and partially to theater. Theatrical and special-effects makeup were my first real exposure to makeup, but visual art helped me understand the color and balance aspects. 

Describe your drag persona.
I’m pretty much the same both in and out of drag. I think of Belial more as a vessel of creation, a way to display my artistic interests in a single entity. That being said, I’m definitely witchy and kind of a sad girl. 

Inspirations for performances?
First and foremost, music that moves me—mostly sad songs. Other than that, I’m very drawn to folk art and the overlap of ritual and performance, which is why my own human blood has become a big part of my performances. It’s also important to me to try and create space, as opposed to just occupying it, so the storytelling and visual world-building of horror games and sci-fi have become big inspirations in that aspect as well.

What has drag taught you about your everyday self?
I used to be quite a private person, specifically with the things I create. Drag is gradually giving me the confidence to share my art in a more public, unapologetic manner.

Drag icons?
Ghostface, Vander Von Odd, Vampira.

Inspiration for your creative looks?
Mostly horror and fantasy. I’m drawn to this trend of 3-D digital art that combines the imagery of elves, angels, vampires, and nature. It’s often horrifying and ethereal.

What inspired you to do drag?
Some big interests of mine have always been sewing, fashion, makeup, performance art, and music. Drag just seemed like an attainable and organic way to combine them all.

Ultimate drag dream?
I’ve always wanted to branch out from strictly bar performances, dipping back into my artistic roots with Belial as the channel. One project I’ve had in mind for a while is to produce experimental and surrealist theater with my friends. Lately, I’ve also found myself wanting to seriously make and play music again. Music was a big part of my life, but it’s taken a back seat over the past couple of years. I’m ready to dive back in.

Artists whose music you love to perform?
Arca, Fka Twigs, Mitski, Chelsea Wolfe, Drab Majesty, Alice Glass.

Most important thing to keep in your bag?
Super glue. It’s a quick way to fix costumes, accessories, makeup, hair, props—anything, really.

What do we not know about you?
Even though most of my performances are generally more subtle and serious, I’m actually pretty good at standup.

When not performing in drag, what do you do for a career?
Outside of drag I do some art gigs, mostly graphic-design commissions.

Where were people catching your
performances before the shutdown?
First and third Thursdays of the month at Guava Lamp (570 Waugh), and second Sundays of the month at Lil’ Danny Speedo’s Go Fly a Kite Lounge (823 Dumble).

Follow Belial on Instagram @belial.htx

This article appears in the May 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Sam Byrd

Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to Outsmart who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture. Speaking of Houston, he's never heard a Whitney Houston song he didn't like.

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