Here’s Jonny! And His Alter Ego Shimmer
August 13, 2016
If you’ve ever been to an MM.LaFleur company event, you know that the party doesn’t really start until Shimmer arrives. Our resident drag queen has incomparable style, envy-inspiring hair, and dance moves that defy gravity.
But who is the man behind the woman? His name is Jonny Hendrickson, and by day, he works in our Brooklyn warehouse as an Inventory Control & Quality Assurance Analyst (and no, he does not come to work in drag). “I really like puzzles and figuring out how systems work,” says Jonny. “But there’s a part of me that also loves to perform.” Here’s his story in his own words.
I’VE ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED in drag. I grew up in Boxford, Massachusetts, which is a thrilling town with nothing in it. As a little kid, I had to take out the recyclables every week and my sister had to do the trash. We had a really long driveway, and I would put on my mom’s red thigh-high boots and a bunch of furs and umbrellas, and we would sing all the way to the curb. I outgrew those boots in third grade—I think I broke them— and I cried.
I MAJORED IN DRAMA at Tufts, and I focused a lot on physical theater—a lot of mime and circus and clowning. One Halloween, I dressed up as Catwoman. After that night, I was like, “Well I own these heels,” so I just kept wearing them to parties. Eventually, people were like, “You need a name, because it’s January and you’re still in heels.” So I came up with Shimmer. I wanted a name that was a verb.
I WANTED TO BE AN ACTOR, so after college, I moved to New York to audition and work on my resumé. But after a while, I slowed down auditioning and started spending more creative energy on drag. For me, drag is a performative creative outlet, rather than part of my “identity.” It’s about creating something that’s my own vision. It’s not really about sexuality. I’m interested in taking these gender performance norms that we have, and then just screwing with them to call attention to their arbitrary nature. I am design-minded, and drag is my way of doodling.
I LOVE THE REACTIONS I GET out of people. I really like riding the subway alone in drag, when I feel safe, just to see how people respond. Some people just love me and want to take pics with me. And then some people don’t know whether to be scared or excited. They just don’t know what to do.
I THINK OF DRAG QUEENS as the gay community’s cheering squad. The political history of the queer community involves a lot of drag queens as central figures. So there’s a kind of loyalty to your drag queens in this community, even for people who don’t dress in drag.
I LEARNED HOW TO DO DRAG by watching a lot of YouTube tutorials by other drag queens. It’s a totally different process than how women put on makeup. If I did my makeup onto a female face, it would look horrible because you’re basically painting a new face onto your face. You have to do all these tricks to restructure your face. I use an Elmer’s glue stick to move my eyebrows.
IT TAKES ME TWO AND HALF HOURS to turn into Shimmer: 90 minutes for makeup and an hour to get dressed. I start with my eyes and move outward from there. I reset my face and then do my “Lion King” makeup, where I re-contour everything, and then I put my makeup on top of that—powder, highlighter, and shadow. It’s almost like giving yourself fake plastic surgery. I use glitter to do my lips and my nipples, because they have to match. And I put on my glitter beard using glue. I usually end up wearing about four pairs of tights because I like to layer colors and different fishnet patterns so I look crazy. And I usually glue my wig on, because I do a lot of cartwheels and jumping around. Being in drag is not comfortable, but it’s sort of glamorously uncomfortable. My feet are used to heels now, but I have some outfits I can’t really sit down in.
IT’S NOT MY GOAL TO LOOK LIKE A WOMAN. I’m more interested in playing with gender performance than in actually pretending to be a woman. I try to contrast exaggerated female norms with sparks of masculinity. I always like to have something really jarring in my look—like the stark contrast of wearing a corset, but then also having a hairy chest. The good thing about corseting is that you can wear whatever dress you want and eat a lot of pizza and it doesn’t matter.
I WILL NOT GO BELOW SIX INCHES when I wear heels—that includes the platform. My highest pair is eight inches. When I go out, I can last for a long time in heels as long as I drink strategically. I once walked the entire pride parade—which is mostly on cobblestones—in seven-inch heels. I was still breaking them in, so by the end, I was struggling.
I REALLY DIG THE MM CUSTOMER. She embodies the same “fuck the rules, I’m going to do what I want” type of attitude that comes out in my drag. The type of women we celebrate are those who are breaking rules and smashing things and then doing them better. That’s true of MM.LaFleur itself, and I really appreciate that about our company culture. At the tutoring company I used to work for, let’s just say I didn’t bring my heels when I went on the annual retreat. But MM proactively celebrates the people that work here. My supervisor Emily’s only rule is that, after I’ve been in drag, I have to shower three times before I come to the warehouse so I don’t get glitter on the Etsukos.
Photos by Frances F. Denny