“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.James Hosking

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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.

 

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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