Half-Drag Portraits Show the Before & After Transformations of NYC Drag Queens

Miss Fame © Leland Bobbé

New York-based photographer Leland Bobbé has put together a fascinating series of portraits that examine the idea of gender fluidity by showing New York City drag queens in half-drag. The series is called “Half-Drag … A Different Kind of Beauty” and has earned Bobbé several awards and exhibitions, along with some well-deserved press attention.

Bobbé was kind enough to answer some questions for us when we got in touch with him to get permission to share the project. So rather than give you our take, here’s what he had to say:

PetaPixel: What was your inspiration for creating the Half Drag series? And why did you specifically want to do them in only half-drag?

Leland Bobbé: I met a drag queen at an industry party and thought it would be interesting to do a photo of him as half male and half female.

Crystal Demure

Epiphany © Leland Bobbé

Fifi Dubois © Leland Bobbé

Heidi Glum © Leland Bobbé

Honey Davenport © Leland Bobbé

PP: Did you have any difficulty finding willing subjects? It seems like the Drag Queen community might prefer their privacy (of course, I’m just assuming)… did you run into any specific challenges in that regard?

LB: Once I shot my first image and it was posted to Facebook I started to reach out to other queens using Facebook. I looked at lots of tagged photos and sent out friend requests and messages. Almost all of the queens I contacted ended up shooting.

PP: Taking this project on without using digital manipulation must have made it somewhat more difficult and time-consuming, why did you decide to do the photos entirely in-camera?

LB: Actually not using digital manipulation made it a lot easier. I would have spent much time combing two images and making sure the expressions matched. I found what I did to be a more organic approach.

Honey LaBronx © Leland Bobbé

Jessica Payge Daye © Leland Bobbé

Jordan Fox

Kittin Withawhip © Leland Bobbé

PP: How long did it take per person/shoot? The makeup must have taken quite a while…

LB: The makeup took longer than the shoots. It took on average about 1 1/2 to 2 hours for each queen to prepare and than about 45 minutes to actually shoot.

PP: Did you glean any interesting insights or tidbits from the queens while shooting the series?

LB: One thing i found interesting was that most queens think of their drag persona as another person with a different name. Often they would refer to “her” as another character.

Kizha Carr

Maddelyne Hatter © Leland Bobbé

Magnolia Applebottom © Leland Bobbé

Azraea © Leland Bobbé


PP: If you had to state the purpose of the project in just a couple of sentences, what would it be?

LB: With these images my intention is to capture both the male and the alter ego female side of these subjects in one image in order to explore the cross over between males and females and to break down the physical barriers that separate them.

This in turn questions the normative ideas about gender and gender fluidity. Through the power of hair and makeup these men are able to completely transform themselves and find their female side while showing their male side simultaneously. These are composed in camera and are not two separate images digitally composed.

Pusse Couture © Leland Bobbé

Roxy Brooks © Leland Bobbé

Sabel Scities © Leland Bobbé

Sherry Vine © Leland Bobbé

Stormy Weatherz

PP: What gear did you use to capture the queens?

LB: I shot these with a Nikon D700 and a 70-300 zoom lens usually set at about 250mm. I use Profoto lighting equipment. These were lit with a beauty dish with a grid.

PP: And finally, what would you do differently (if anything) if you had a chance to try this again? And do you have any plans to revisit this particular subject matter?

LB: I wouldn’t do anything differently and at least for now i have no plans to shoot anymore Half-Drag photos.

Tara Miso Rice

Titania Steele

Vikki Villianese

Vivienne Pinay


If you’d like to see more of Bobbé’s work — be it these drag queen photos or a new project he’s working on called Wall Art that will be going on display at the Pop International Galleries in NYC this spring — or find out more about the photographer himself, head over to his website by clicking here.

(via Beautiful/Decay)

Image credits: Photographs by Leland Bobbé and used with permission.

  • Timuçin HIZAL


  • IreneSmithi

    LOVE THIS! Both before and after sides. Beautiful.

  • Sarah BK

    I find it amusing how if the male-looking half is attractive in my eyes, the female counterpart of the face is also good looking!

  • Sarah älskar Sverige

    I swear you already posted this a few months ago…otherwise I saw it somewhere else.

  • Steve Whichard

    Stunning images and idea!!!!

  • Linda Mountain


  • DS

    It’s kind of interesting that makeup, nails, etc., are what’s associated with showing femininity.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    Something about heavy makeup creeps me out. Am I the only one getting Marilyn Manson vibes here?

  • Carole

    Beautiful pictures, but it’s idiotic to suggest that these guys are getting in touch with their feminine side by doing this. Nothing about these alter egos reflect what I understand as feminine – they are reflecting one, fantasy construct of Hollywood femininity that bears no resemblance to women. If anything, this is much more about reflecting a masculine misinterpretation of femininity back. It is a very separate identity.

  • Greg Parkinson

    I love these, for several reasons. I’m a huge fan of beauty dish lighting and these show why. I love seeing creative transformations of facial perception and expression.

    Carole’s comment starts an interesting investigation into how sexuality, stereotypes, and performance fit into this. These guys are all gay and are drag performers – they have characters, stage personas, constructed out of archetypes and stereotypes of powerful, dramatic women *and* gay male culture and drag culture hundreds of years old. “Feminine” is in there, but it’s part of the mix, not the main thing.

    Straight cross-dressers aren’t drag queens, aren’t generally performers, and tend to dress more conservatively (try an image search on “heterosexual crossdresser”) or ultra-feminine where “feminine” is closest to what a little girl who thinks she’s a princess would wear (search for “poufbunny”) or the 60’s cocktail waitress she might grow up to be. When they are dressed they are feeing very feminine in ways women are more likely to relate to (compared what women see when watching drag queens.)

    In my experience and from my reading (I am fascinated by this stuff) this “finding of self” is the same process that everyone goes through. It’s only when the outward expressions don’t fit into the mainstream that the results stand out.

    Normal, but not regular, is the best way to describe it. It’s also fascinating (and disturbing) to see how much anger it can invoke in some people. As though it was going to cause the collapse of society. But those people have something profoundly wrong, are profoundly fearful of something in themselves, I think.

  • Greg Parkinson

    Coulrophobia. It’s a common reaction.

  • linogermayne

    мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт…­ ­http://cort&#46­as/5m3N

    But those people have something profoundly wrong, are profoundly fearful of something in themselves,

  • Timuçin HIZAL

    Fear? it’s your fear. Fear is different ideas and marginality becoming liberty. Your can not reach the liberty. Real fear and hate begins here.

  • Tyrone Terese Torres

    I once had sex with a drag. She dragged my name through the mud.

  • Nita

    Ardh-Narieshwar – god who is half man, half woman

  • JoyfullJuneBug

    Some of these dudes are HOT as men & women unfair (╥ ﹏ ╥)

  • Ale Gomez

    “before and after”….
    Which is which?

  • IreneSmithi

    Well, you wake up with no make up… then you apply. So in that order.

  • Percy

    See…women can’t do what men can do.

  • Leah

    This is absolutely phenomenal!!! Such stunning pictures.

  • anonymous

    they look like people from the Capitol.