The Only Honey You’ll Ever Need: An Interview With Honey LaBronx, Vegan Drag Queen
Honey Labronx is the first vegan drag queen we’ve ever heard of, and probably the only drag queen who brings animal rights to the forefront of her performances. Honey is currently crowdfunding to expand her vegan cooking show, which already has six episodes on Youtube. Read on to learn more about what she has to say- okay, a LOT about what she has to say! (Many thanks to Steven Fontas, Rick Odell, and The NYPD for their fabulous photos.)
E: As a queer person and as a vegan, do those two identities support and get along with each other very well? What’s your experience been as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and as a vegan?
HL: Hmm. First thing off the top of my head (or from my alleged gut, rather) is that I’m largely DIS-appointed, and yet hopeful. I guess where there is disappointment, hope always has an opportunity to stand out right? What I mean is this: Growing up a closeted gay boy in the Midwest, being picked on and bullied for it, fearing vulnerability in the locker room… It was easy for me to get that I was guilty of doing unto the animals as has been done unto me. When I meet others in the LGBTQ community, especially those who are vocal in their own fight for equality, it always feels like a punch in the gut when my friends refuse to look at the impact their choices have on the animals — or to look but then refuse to care. It happens a lot, and yet every time it does, I get discouraged as though the wind were knocked out of my sails.
But! This gives me infinite chances to get back up, brush myself off, refine and reconsider my approach, and to practice taking action anyway even when there is no agreement around what I have to say. This is how I learn to be a powerful stand for the animals. If it were easy, where would I develop the muscle to make any kind of a difference with people? I’m sure we all know the old adage about the kid who tries to help the caterpillar out of it’s cocoon and it dies because it was robbed of the very struggle it needed to build up its strength to be able to fly.
Additionally, there is an entire subculture within the community around leather pride. For God’s sake, “Leather Pride” has its own flag! I once performed a gay historical play about the Stonewall uprising and we performed the show in an actual leather bar in New York City. I remarked to a friend backstage that I think it’s a shame that we celebrate the killing and dismembering of animals so that we can flaunt their skins in a sexualized manner. He immediately shushed me and urged me to keep those comments to myself and respect the house I was in. I can get that. I’m an actor in a play that agreed to take place in a bar surrounded by preserved animal skin. I can either stay or go home. I’m not going to not be an actor over something like that — that would be like saying no to a job performing on a cruise ship because they aren’t 100% plant based from now to stern. But to essentially be told to pipe down — oh my god this is hitting me just now as I’m writing it – to be told to keep quiet when speaking out about justice — WHILE BACKSTAGE AT A PLAY ABOUT THE BEGINNING OF THE STONEWALL UPRISING – it’s like I’m on the Twilight Zone or something.
We can’t pretend there is a pecking order and first it’s the gays’ turn, then the Trans community’s turn, then women’s turn, then black people’s turn… It will never happen at the same time as we hold the belief that “It’s us first, then the next group, then the next group.”
This journey we’re on is an exercise in expansion, not constraction. Only when we can open our hearts and minds and borders and beliefs, only when we’re all playing the game called EVERYONE WINS will we ever get anywhere. And this isn’t a “one day” phenomenon. It’s already here waiting for us to claim it, it is after all up to us. The world doesn’t have a fixed way of being. We create the world with our own speaking and listening, and that’s all there is.
All in all, though? I would say that there is a delicious and supple intersection between animal rights and LGBTQ rights where you’ve got this army of lovers who know how to fight and who know how to question the status quo. For each of us, it only took hearing the right thing the right way, right? And the next thing you know — we joined in this fight for animal liberation. And with the LGBTQ community, we have so many people coming to veganism because they get that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.
But seriously, if you’re L, G, B, T, or Q… (or a BLT with Guac) and you’re reading this.. And you’re not a vegan. FOR REAL, GURL! Hurry it up already! The animals just DO NOT need your excuses (as my friend Michael Harren says.)
E: Drag queens are serious about their costuming and make-up. How tough is it making sure you’re serving up cruelty free looks? Or is it easy?
HL: There’s one thing I was certain wouldn’t be vegan, and to my surprise it actually happens to be vegan, ELMER’S GLUE STICKS! Ladies, you don’t have to go through this ritual (thank God!) but for most drag queens (who respect themselves, anyway) we start by glueing down our eyebrows with several thick layers of glue — usually the Disappearing Purple glue stick by Elmer’s. And then we cover them with foundation and draw-on our eyebrows much higher, the way God intended. I remember thinking “Oh, man! GLUE!! I must be using horse hooves to glue down my eyebrows! Gross!” I went to Elmer’s website thinking I’d have to really scour the site for information. But nope. Practically the first thing that popped up was this big message proudly stating their products are totally vegan, so that cartoon cow on their logo does not represent a single ingredient. PHEW!
There are lots of makeup products I use which are vegan, but then it becomes a little dicey now that some of those companies have parent companies that use non-vegan ingredients, or support animal testing in other countries, etc… Much like understanding politics, it’s something that always changing and that I really have to stay on top of. One thing that helps — especially recently with hair spray — is the Cruelty Cutter app. You just scan a barcode and they will tell you instantly whether a product is cruelty free or not. It’s not perfect. To my knowledge it doesn’t confirm whether all the ingredients are vegan or not, I think it’s more a measure of animal testing, and yes I’ve emailed my suggestions to the company. But for the time being, it’s been a great way to get started scanning some of my go-to products like shaving cream, hairspray, deodorant… and it’s started guiding me towards products that at least I know are “cruelty free” by whatever definition they’re using. And again — if anyone knows of a better app — please let me know!
One last thing (and I know this answer is running long but…) Fur. I can’t tell you how many drag queens I respect and admire — wear fur. It is so jarring for me. I won’t name names here, but there are some queens who I REALLY honestly do look up to, and then I see them the next day and they’re wearing a full fur coat. Or fur trim. Or one of those idiotic little raccoon tails they clip on to an outfit that DOES! NOT! NEED! IT! And everyone knows I’m vegan, and they also know I’m not just vegan but I’m “THAT kind of vegan” (I prefer to say I am an “In-It-To-Win-It-Vegan,” not a “Convenience Vegan”. I don’t need to define these terms — you know which one you are.) And so they’ll sort of half apologize to me when I see them wearing fur and I know the apology isn’t for me, or for the animals. It’s for them. It’s just their way of buffering their discomfort so they can feel better and sort of ROB un-earned approval from me.There is only so much I can say in these situations, but whatever I can say, I do say. And when there are no words? Here’s what I like to do. I keep Earthlings on my iPhone, always cued up to the Fur and Leather chapters, and now and then I’ll just stand next to a fur-wearing drag queen while staring MESMERIZED at my iPhone, totally engrossed in a video. I make sure that my facial expressions match the horror of what I’m watching (picture an actress from the silent movie era watching Earthlings — yeah! Like that!) Soon enough they’ll be like “Oh my God! What are you watching!!!” and when they come over to peek, it’s usually cued up to the scene where a fur trapper is standing on the coyote’s face, or the poor indistinguishable animal is being skinned alive. “Oh this? This is your coat! Was that your question?” And I’m SUCH a lady about it, too!
E: Tell us about your all-vegan cooking show, and how much work goes into making an episode.
HL: Well, I started my show back in the Summer of 2011, a long time ago. Originally I did this just as a way of experimenting so I could find a format for my episodes. What I intended was to film a few mock-episodes so I’d have a product I could point to for the purposes of a fundraiser. Well I got a little carried away, and had so much fun making episodes that I made about 6 of them. I’ve had a few special guests on my show including Mariann Sullivan and Jasmin Singer from Our Hen House, Kristin LaJeunesse from Will Travel For Vegan Food, and a few other guests who made appearances in episodes I still haven’t released yet.
A lot of work goes into producing each episode. For starters, it started costing a lot to buy groceries for each episode. I’m also pretty much a one (wo)man production team for most things I do, so for the cooking show I need to get a friend to work the camera (THEIR camera by the way since I don’t have one of my own) and then an assistant to help with everything else, and all of the episodes were filmed in the kitchen of my dear friend Donny Moss who was so generous to make his home available to me so I could make my show.
Here’s another little known fact about me — I’m not exactly a great cook! But I like to learn how to do things just right, and then once I’ve got it down, I can’t wait to show others how to do it. So a lot of research goes into each episode, discovering just the right way to make something the way I like it, and there’s lots of trial and error.
Anyway, like I said, all of this was part of a giant effort to put together a Kickstarter or crowdfunding campaign one day so I could raise the money to buy the equipment I need to be able to produce episodes independently. And when you combine my ADHD with being a Pisces — I just never got around to it, which is probably a blessing…
Because I’ve just now moved into a wonderful new apartment with the perfect kitchen for a cooking show! So I’m finally in a place (and a space!) where I can do my own episodes right here at home, and crank out more regular content. I am currently holding a fundraiser to bring back my Vegan Drag Queen Cooking Show! The deadline has been extended til February 14th, which I realize isn’t a lot of time for readers, but we’re coming very close to our goal! I’m confident we’ll meet my goal, but I’m secretly hoping we far exceed it. I really set a lower goal so that I could get the bare minimum things I would need (a video camera, lighting, a fast computer) but that will cover maybe half of the things I’m really going to need to turn my apartment into a multimedia studio fit for cooking demonstrations.
And keep in mind, this isn’t just a giant effort to bring the cooking show back. There are many other things I already do like writing parody songs about veganism, social justice, and other issues, funny videos for animal rights activists, live performances… Once I am a one (wo)man multimedia powerhouse, I’ll really have the means to fully express my creativity and if you could see what’s in my head, trust me, you’d want me to get it out of my head and onto your video screens as fast as possible!
E: Any bigger plans coming up, perhaps a spot on Drag Race one day?!
HL: My, what a perfect segue! Why, yes! I actually have long wanted to do my own late night talk show here in my apartment. It’s really the stupidest idea you’ve ever heard of, and I promise it will be the most awkward and uncomfortable interview style talk show you’ve ever seen. I also have a really hilarious yet hard-hitting anti-fur video series I want to make — picture “Billy On The Street” but with a drag queen in Times Square interviewing fur wearers about the fur they’re wearing. There are also music videos I want to create, photography projects I’d like to get started on, new parody songs I’d like to record. So I really do mean it when I say THANK YOU for each and every donation, no matter how small! Every penny of this goes to equip me with everything I will need to create tons of really original content.
Now as for Drag Race — here’s the thing. I’ve been a drag queen for about 6 years now. But I’ve never considered myself to be all that great at makeup, styling wigs, and I’m the first to say I have ZERO sense of style. The movie of my life would definitely be called “The Devil Wears Jansport”. But I’ve started thinking: If the Animal Rights community has their very own drag queen, they deserve to have the BEST damn drag queen they can! And since I am THE Vegan Drag Queen, I feel it’s my responsibility to really step my game up and aim as high as I can. So as far as Drag Race, I really never thought I was what RuPaul (or her audience) would be looking for. But one day my drag mother, Bob The Drag Queen, said to another queen (pardon me if I can’t remember her exact words but it went something like this…) “You know who I always thought would be great on Drag Race? Believe it or not… Honey LaBronx! She is so different and I think she would make for excellent television.” Now I don’t know if that was a compliment or not (of course it was — Bob is the most genuine person I know) but it really forced me to take a step back and look at myself and to admit honestly that “Hey! If that’s what I really WANTED, I could really do it!”
I think activism is a REALLY overlooked VENUE for drag queens today. It really started to look to me like a drag queen HAS to get a weekly show in a bar — or she’s not really taken seriously as a drag queen. But when I look back at my career highlights, what stands out most is blocking traffic and getting arrested (in full drag) for marriage equality back in 2011. Leafletting to get the word out about a New York City politician who would have been bad news for animal rights had they been elected — and being able to get people to take those leaflets ONLY because I happened to be a drag queen while doing it. Doing vegan cooking demonstrations around the country. Speaking at VegFests and even at non-vegan events and grabbing the attention of people who might not otherwise be drawn in by a conversation about animal rights.
I’m pretty sure that in eight seasons and after going through 101 queens, RuPaul has yet to feature a queen like me on her show who uses drag mostly as a platform to affect social change. And I’ve always made this excuse — Until Bob The Drag Queen gets on Drag Race, I’m not going to audition. Well I can finally say this since the announcement came earlier this week. BOB THE DRAG QUEEN IS GOING TO BE ON SEASON 8 OF RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE! She is my best friend and my drag mother and I am so proud of her. So now that Bob is on the show, I do think it’s time for me to throw my wig in the ring and start auditioning. Wish me luck!
E: How can we learn more about your projects? Clearly, you’re busy!
HL: You can check out my fundraiser at www.HoneyLaBronx.com. Right now that link will take you right to my fundraiser page, but in the future it will take you to my re-designed website which is currently getting a facelift.
You can check out my cooking show on YouTube or by visiting www.VeganDragQueen.com. But really, just subscribe to my YouTube channel cuz I’ve got such an eclectic mix of random funny stuff. I’d subscribe to MYSELF if I could! I’m also the co-host of Big Fat Vegan Radio with my best gal pal Laura Yaz, so if you don’t already listen to us, hurry up and subscribe already! You’ve got 82 episodes to catch up on!
And what else can I cram into one final run-on sentence? Well every year you can catch me at the World of Whirlpool where I give a vegan cooking demo in the KitchenAid test kitchen for Chicago LGBTQ Pride. My favorite food is ketchup. I am not joking. I speak Icelandic and am hoping to compete again this summer in the Icelandic Drag Competition. Oh another thing that has nothing to do with this article, and hey if you’re still reading I feel it’s my responsibility to make you aware: Truvada is a once-daily pill that can actually PREVENT HIV infection, and it’s been available for about four years already but nobody knows about it because nobody’s TALKING about it, so HEY! Let’s talk about it!
This is all very ironic as I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin born to a famous dairy celebrity — so when people tell me “I could NEVER go vegan” I tell them “LIES!!! If I can do it… ANYONE can do it!” Lastly, just know that I love you. Even if you’re NOT vegan. I mean no one’s perfect.