"If you ever really want to be humbled, just live in the same shitty apartment you've lived in for a decade, no matter what," she says, laughing. "You might glow up a million followers on Instagram, but it surely has not changed a whole lot else in my actual life."
That's mostly because of the pandemic. Fresh off her win in 2019, Oddly was touring internationally with Werq the World. New York magazine named her one of the most powerful drag queens in America. She had her own series on WOW Presents Plus, where she showed viewers how to transform thrift-store finds into wearable art. And she was starring in RuPaul's Drag Race LIVE! in Las Vegas.
But when COVID-19 shut down the Vegas show indefinitely, she returned home to Denver and threw herself into creative pursuits. Since then, she's managed to record and release her debut hip-hop album, Drag Trap, as well as produce several music videos, including her latest, for "Sick Bitch," with Denver drag queen Willow Pill.
Launching a music career was not something Oddly had seriously considered for most of her life.
"I've always loved the idea of it, and I remember some friends started a little a cappella singing group in elementary school, and that's where I was like, 'Oh, sweet — this would be really cool, like, to make music!'" she recalls. "But when our little band did not blow up, I kind of just left that behind and told myself it wasn't something that I could do. I never honestly really thought about myself as being a musician."
However, in the final challenge of her Drag Race season, she had to write, record and perform a rap verse — and discovered she had a knack for it.
"I realized it was something I had kind of been doing all along," she says. "I had always written down these little notes, and there were times I would keep journals full of rhymes, but that was really the moment where it clicked that, wow, I could actually do this! I heard my voice, over a beat, in a studio, that I recorded, and I was like, 'Oh, shit, there's totally a possibility.'"
Hip-hop has not always been welcoming to queer people, much less drag queens. But Oddly never shies away from a challenge.
"I've always been forced to think about it, because hip-hop, which is and comes from Black American culture, is constantly at war with people who identify anywhere under the queer umbrella," she says. "It's really difficult for me, because these are parts of my identity that I've always had to compartmentalize, which I'm not very good at. So I just wanted to break down one more wall. I'm far from the first queer to rap, and I know I'm not the biggest, I won't be the last — but I think the more kids who can feel like there's a space for them to be their authentic selves, the better."
As she toured the world after her Drag Race victory, Oddly continued to keep journals, with a new focus on writing songs. Those diary entries evolved into the lyrics for Drag Trap, a ten-track rap album released on October 23, 2020.
Fellow Drag Race cast mate Honey Davenport gave Oddly the necessary push to actually make an album, asking her to record a verse for her track "Digital Rainbow," with Widow Von Du, Cazwell and Jayse Vegas.
"She was making a song, and she was like, 'Yo, I really want you to be on it, sis, but if you do this, you have to buy your own microphone and set it up in your closet.' And I was like, 'Okay, I guess!' And that's what pushed me into finishing this album and recording it all from home. What didn't we learn to do from home this year?"
While recording in Denver during lockdown, Oddly also took the opportunity to showcase other Denver drag artists, like Pill and Neurotika Killz, who were both on Drag Trap, as well as Felony Misdemeanor, who makes an appearance in the music video for Oddly's song "Watermelon Bubblegum." From performers to directors, photographers and producers, she made it a point to work with creatives in her hometown on this project.
"I think a part of acknowledging the growth and change that have happened in my life is acknowledging exactly where I came from, the people who have surrounded me. And ultimately my goal is to give back and to highlight the other artists, my friends, who supported me. They've been my queer family all my adult life," Oddly says. It helps, she adds, that they're also incredibly talented: "I hang out with a lot of really dope artists, and I'm not going to not photograph them or not record them. If I get to work with these amazing people, why wouldn't I want to showcase them?"
When Oddly and Pill got together for "Sick Bitch," they quickly decided to write about a topic rarely discussed in music: chronic illness. Oddly first opened up about her own chronic illness, a connective-tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, while on Drag Race, and received an outpouring of support from fans.
"People writing me about the fact that I opened up about my chronic illness on Drag Race kind of showed me that there were so many more people out there who don't feel seen, don't feel heard, don't feel represented, and I feel like they are the invisible minority," she says. "It was strange, because it's a part of my life that I honestly try not to put too much energy into. I don't think about it until my body is taking me out of the loop in the most severe pain. But hearing so many other people who were affected by it really opened my eyes, and I wanted to make something for them."
It was Pill's suggestion that, as two drag queens both living with severe chronic illnesses, their collaboration should be an anthem for others in similar situations. In "Sick Bitch," Pill and Oddly dissect what it means to be sick, literally and figuratively.
"There were so many different ideas and points to be made, about how people may glamorize parts of it, glamorize the struggle, how even terminology is so funny — like how the word 'sick' is both extremely bad and extremely good all in one — so it was just a really fun project to explore," Oddly says.
The surreal video for "Sick Bitch," which was filmed at Denver's X Bar, was the result of some psychedelic inspiration.
"Willow and I had been doing a lot of ’shrooms together over the pandemic, so we were like, it should start out with a trip," explains Oddly. "We wanted it to be somewhat in fantasy, somewhat in reality, and just nail home all of the concepts we were playing with in the song, like infantilizing sick people — people's obsession with taking care of things and babying things. There were so many ideas that went into it, and it all stems from the beauty of hallucinogenics."
Looking at the wacky glam fashion Oddly and Pill sport in the psychedelic video (is that a maxi skirt made entirely of thongs?), you may feel like you've eaten a few ’shrooms yourself.
Those who watched Oddly win the crown on Drag Race will recognize one very special cameo in the music video: her ridiculously handsome father, lovingly nicknamed "Zaddy Oddly" by fans after he was shown at the Drag Race season eleven finale.
"It was something that I've been dreaming about ever since I got such a crazy-ass reaction from the fans to my dad at the finale. I was like, 'I'm gonna keep my dad in my back pocket,'" Oddly says of including him in the "Sick Bitch" video.
Zaddy is seen in the video bottle-feeding an overgrown baby Oddly, grooving to the music, and even spanking Pill.
"I was nervous to ask him, of course, because I wanted it to be radical. I wanted to make people uncomfortable," Oddly explains. "But I also wanted to show how dope it has been for me to have supportive figures in my life, even if they don't fully understand all of the weird shit that's going on with me at any given moment. As many challenges as lockdown has presented, it has also presented me with opportunities like being able to actually see and talk to my father, be in the same city as him, and ask him if he would like to do something crazy."
Filming music videos during a pandemic is certainly a challenge, but because of the surge of digital performances in the last year, Oddly had already developed many of the necessary skills to create visuals for Drag Trap.
"At first digital drag was really invigorating for me," she says. "It was fun to get to experiment with this new art
form. But if I'm going to put in all this time learning to set up lights and build sets and edit videos, I really wanted it to be my own artistic experience. It's been a learning process."
Her "Watermelon Bubblegum" video was filmed entirely in her living room, using three different sets she built herself that have now just become part of her decor. But when it came to "Sick Bitch," in particular, wanted to channel the nightclub atmosphere that had practically gone extinct during lockdown.
"I've worked with so many different bars around the city, and with us all having so many restrictions, I know my community has been suffering," she says. "I know people are itching to get back out and be in vibrant nightclubs again, so that's definitely been a theme throughout my videos. And when X Bar told me they'd let me use their super-trippy upstairs space, I was like, 'This video is going to be next-level.'"
The "Sick Bitch" video is streaming on YouTube now. Drag Trap is available on all music platforms.
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