Leah was a very close friend of one of my kids back in high school. She got a full ride to Davidson, not an easy feat, but it speaks to her brilliance. As a birthday present she once gave the gift of a word. She invented a word. It’s a damn good word that deserves to be in the dictionary and she created it wholesale by doing what good poets do: she combined earlier root words to form an entirely new and discrete meaning.
The word is “nascesterlumal.” It means “born of light” or literally created by stars. The definition is closer to “scintillating”. A metaphorical sparkle or glow or luminosity. But it speaks to a kind of mystical nature.
I hadn’t seen Leah in years. She had studied abroad in Russia. She continued to write poetry (soon to be published). She is applying to some of the ivys to get an MFA. And she created an alternative persona named “Tallulah” and was performing in drag.
To be clear about the depths of my ignorance of the drag world, let me just say that I didn’t know women did drag. I thought drag queens were all men. Shows what I know. I guess seeing The Birdcage or a couple of episodes of “Pose” didn’t really school me.
So when Leah/Tallulah met me on a rainy Sunday afternoon for a conversation for my @ManListening #Podcast I was hoping she would be patient and offer an introduction to this fascinating culture. She did not disappoint.
My favorite part of our conversation has to be when she talks about going to see drag queens in a club in Russia. Any public expression of Queer life in the former Soviet Union is not merely frowned on, it’s illegal. Pooty Poot and the boys are in complete denial about many things and way up there on the list is any sexuality that is not straight hetero – no chaser. He’d fit right in at the legislature in Raleigh. We gotta change that.
Russia does not merely deny Queer life and those who embrace and even celebrate their queerness as central to their identity. It seeks to snuff out Gay lives – sometimes quite literally.
Leah/Tallulah got her pointers on how to stay out of jail from her professor at Davidson – himself an out and proud gay man and a Russian. She clearly adores him.
I’m proud to know Leah and call her a family friend. I’m thrilled about the publication of her first poem and the fact that she is actually paid to perform in drag! I want to hear more about the MFA search and her ongoing academic career. Her star is clearly on the rise! Thanks for talking to me Leah!
STUART’S CONVERSATION WITH LEAH/TALLULAH DROPS THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2021 ON THE @MANLISTENING PODCAST WHEREVER BETTER PODCASTS ARE FOUND.