"I'm a Man in a Dress, and I'm Not Afraid to Show That"

"Beautiful by Night" captures the transformations of San Francisco's veteran drag queens.

Olivia (a.k.a. Frank) says that drag is both a screen and a way of shedding her skin.

On a Saturday afternoon, Olivia Hart gets dressed in her pay-by-the-week hotel room before heading out to Aunt Charlie's Lounge, one of the last gay bars in San Francisco's tough Tenderloin neighborhood. Fifty-four-year-old Olivia is one of several veteran drag performers profiled in Beautiful by Night, a documentary and photo series by filmmaker and photographer James Hosking. Olivia (a.k.a. Frank) says that drag is both a screen and a way of shedding her skin. "Olivia and I are pretty much one and the same," she says. But, she adds, "my thing is not being a female illusionist where I look dead-on like a woman. I'm a man in a dress, and I'm not afraid to show that."

Beautiful By Night by James Hosking

 

Gustavo holds a photo of himself as Donna Personna. James Hosking
 
Gustavo puts on breast pads. James Hosking
 
Gustavo transforms into Donna. James Hosking
 
Donna in her apartment. James Hosking
 
Collette LeGrande. James Hosking
 
Collette in her apartment. James Hosking
 
Frank becomes Olivia Hart in his hotel room. James Hosking
 
Frank applies fake eyelashes. James Hosking
 
Frank, mid-transformation, pauses for a cigarette. James Hosking
 
Olivia, on her way to Aunt Charlie's. James Hosking
 
Olivia nears Aunt Charlie's Lounge. James Hosking
 
Donna makes her way down Turk Street prior to the show. James Hosking
 
Olivia fixes her jewelry backstage. James Hosking
 
Donna gets ready for the show. James Hosking
 
Donna prior to her number. James Hosking
 
Collette makes a final check before her performance. James Hosking
 
Collette performs "Sunny" by Boney M.