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@isshehungry

ISSHEHUNGRY: The distorted drag queen touring and collaborating with Björk


TextKristen Bateman

When she’s not transforming the Icelandic singer/songwriter, the young creative spends time honing her animalistic style of make-up

To celebrate Björk hitting the cover of Dazed, the Icelandic genius has taken over Dazed Digital and Dazed Beauty, inviting you into the world of Cornucopia, the experimental theatre show that Björk has brought to London this November.

Leather cut-outs, chicken bones, silicone pieces and wildly eclectic face painting are just a few of the techniques the self-titled “distorted drag queen” Hungry lives by. And with nearly half a million Instagram followers and counting, you’ve likely encountered her surreal, boundary-breaking imagery at least once. 

She often designs her look from the toes up, incorporating some of the same colours, patterns, and textures on the clothing she’s wearing, on her face. And unlike conventional drag make-up, she pushes the limits of what’s expected by reshaped her eyes, cheekbones, and mouth into new, organic forms inspired by animals and nature. 

In September during Paris Fashion Week, Hungry transformed into a white, pink, and purple creature that matched the dress she wore as a model in Manish Arora’s runway show. Her latest piece of work, however, is touring with Björk, metamorphosing the Icelandic singer/songwriter into a character equally as weird and enchanting as Hungry’s own persona. The pair previously worked together on the make-up for the singer’s Utopia album in 2017. “There’s a lot of freedom, a lot of trust in our team pretty much,” says Hungry of the ongoing collaboration with Björk. “There was a lot of talking about how the character would feel, how the character has to read towards the audience, and then translating that into a silhouette.” 

Here, Hungry shares her creative process, the origin of her name, how she got her signature animalistic look, and more.

When did you first become interested in make-up?

Hungry: I did theatre classes back in school, in 11th grade, but that was mostly just stage make-up and I wasn’t necessarily interested in it. I didn’t really see anything creative in it yet. The first time I did drag, I didn’t do it myself either. A friend of mine did it on me and it was a very, a very light face but it’ still changed my face so much. That was like the first time I actually realised how much I could do with my face because I never saw my face as a canvas in that sense. I was probably around 21. Then I started trying things out myself. I just got make-up from friends, discarded make-up. I started playing around and started doing drag. But it was very much a hobby. It wasn’t really anything I took seriously at that point.

“I have this very old illusion I did that basically makes me look more animalistic. It used to be very clown and fashion, but now I think it really is more of an insect, animal vibe” – Hungry 

At what point did you realise it was something that you really wanted to pursue and make your own persona out of it?

Hungry: I suppose a year in, I really enjoyed the make-up but then it was still drag, so it was still very much like the classical way of painting. Covering brows, doing all that. After that, I moved to London and then I started being involved in the scene there and started working in character and doing jobs at The Box in Soho. It became bigger parties and bigger events. That’s when I just saw how vibrant the scene there was and how it wasn’t really about being a drag queen as I understood it, but more of a character, more of a persona that just changed into whatever I wanted into it. I basically realised then that this was a very easy and immediate way of just channelling my creativity.

Once you had that realisation, how did you develop your signature look and like persona?

Hungry: It was different things coming together. At school, I had done some research on digital tracking and eye cameras, basically tracking faces and I did some research on how to avoid that. So what you would do, is you would just start your eyes, you would hide your nose bridge, you would like actually cover a lot of the face. And that I always found quite interesting. That was always in the back of my mind. But sometimes I wasn’t aware that I was actually doing that. 

When I started, I just wanted to find really good things to just glue onto my face. It was a lot of found objects. It was a lot of things that worked within the shapes of my face. I started mapping out my face in different ways and whenever I found a way that I really liked I kept that in my catalogue. I was doing weekly shows in London that always asked for me to be very creative and very different and just very alien. It was never about drag in that sense. It was more about being a character and being an interesting character. So I explored whatever I could find within me. 

And what are some of the different characters that you’ve created throughout your persona?

Hungry: I have this very old illusion I did that basically makes me look more animalistic. It’s more of like a cow’s eyes. And just like heavy lashes and a bit of the googly eye that more spooky but also cute. I like to do research on a lot of insects and all these things. It’s now more of an animal vibe for sure. It used to be very clown and fashion, but now I think it really is more of an insect, animal vibe.

Where does the name Hungry come from?

Hungry: That was just a very spontaneous decision back when I was starting out with drag and I still didn’t really think of it as something I would be doing for a long time. It’s a trait of mine. I’m just pretty bad at managing food. It’s work to me and I do enjoy eating, but everything around it and just always having to, it’s just work. Especially back when I started doing drag, I was in school doing a lot of projects and I would spend the whole day doing the project and then not eat. But I didn’t realise, it wouldn’t be on my mind. But then once I finished for the day or the project, I would then realise, ‘Oh, I’m actually quite dizzy, really hungry.’ So being hungry always was something in my life, and I just took it on as the name.

What are some of your favourite reactions that you’ve experienced from people viewing your work?

Hungry: It depends. The most immediate reaction I get is when people come to my performances. And that is probably very different to the regular interaction on social media because most of them are framed around my experiences or my anxieties. I try to not be as upbeat and fun. 

I don’t necessarily want to make people sad, but I do kind of want to make people sad and that sense of just opening up the framework of a lip sync or of a performance. The nicest reactions I have gotten have been from people coming up to me after the show, telling me that the performance really touched them. But then, with genuine reactions it’s just this confusion but in a very good way. 

Where else would you say that you’re taking inspiration from right now?

Hungry: It’s definitely always organic things. In school, I did a thesis on bones. The structure of bones just that kind of stuck with me. These organic shapes and dynamic structures and that symmetry that comes along with it, which isn’t always perfect, but it appears to be perfect because it is so well balanced. That’s always pretty much the core of my inspiration. Depending on the characters and on the outfits and on the performances I do, I take different inspiration and sometimes from religion and because I grew up very Catholic, but then my dad is from Thailand, so I also do have that tradition. 

“I’ve used a vertebrae I took out of a soup and I had some prawn spikes that I took home from dinner in LA and then brought them to Germany and cleaned them and made them into a full nose piece” – Hungry 

When you’re creating a new character, what is your creative process like?

Hungry: I mostly starts with the colour scheme. So I just find a colour scheme or find a fabric with a nice print that has a really interesting colour scheme and then I build on that. I still have my fashion design background, I still have that as a focal point and the make-up then to me is a detail on top of it. I start creating the whole outfit or start working on the whole outfit with other people because I have a small creative team now. Once that’s finished, I figure out what the character would be and what the face would look like. 

What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever put on your face for a character?

Hungry: Probably chicken bones. I’ve also used a vertebrae I took out of a soup and I had some prawn spikes that I took home from dinner in LA and then brought them to Germany and cleaned them and made them into a full nose piece. It’s a lot of animal leftovers and then some flowers. Also, different things from my grandparents. They live in the countryside, and they had some broken skulls and things like that. So I took those and also turned those into make-up, or pieces. I have a deer skull and I sawed at a part and filed it down so I could only have the structure of it and not really the actual skull. I did use a lot of moss at one point. 

What do you think the future of beauty is? 

Hungry: It’s definitely more daring because we’re past the point of standardised Western beauty. It has more of a personal aspect to it. I mean, not to this tortured character extent that I am doing probably – because I still consider that more of a performative theatre thing – but just to a point where people are allowed to play in an everyday setting and people don’t need to stick to natural make-up or they can just go without any make-up. It’s not being stigmatised or anything. It’s about having the freedom of just going about life as you want to. And I think we’re still pretty far away from that.

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