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Munroe Burgdorf Desmond Is Amazing

Munroe Bergdorf in conversation with drag kid Desmond is Amazing

The world’s most glamorous 11-year-old and his doting mother talk to Munroe about dealing with hate and celebrating love

At a time when trans rights are more under threat than ever, the spring 2019 issue of Dazed takes a stand for the global creativity of the LGBTQIA+ communities and infinite forms of identity. This article is a digital companion to the issue. You can pre-order a copy of our latest issue here, and see the whole Infinite Identities campaign here.

Desmond is Amazing is a game changer, a force of nature and, I would argue, the future. Unapologetically himself, ten-year-old Desmond’s success as a drag star serves as a reminder that kids are never too young to be who they want to be, and it’s never too early for us to listen to them. But this success has not come without its hurdles – namely in the form of closed-minded internet trolls and misleading clickbait headlines.

As he prepares to walk in NYFW, and to launch his Haus of Amazing website (where LGBTQIA+ kids and their parents will have a space to connect), I caught up with tiny trailblazer Desmond and his mum, Wendy. We spoke about drag inspo, staying positive in the face of prejudice, and how we can all support LGBTQ or gender-nonconforming kids on their own amazing journeys.

Munroe Bergdorf: What is the best thing about being a drag kid?

Desmond is Amazing: The best thing about being a drag kid is that drag is an art, and I can be an artist. I can do me and express myself however I want. I don’t have to be what others tell me to be and I can create something different every time I do drag. It’s fun being a drag kid, because I don't have to do adult drag. All the kids doing drag now are doing something completely new, like a new type of drag. Maybe some people don't understand it yet. That’s why I made up the term “drag kid”. I made it up because I felt that “drag queen” referred to adult drag.

Munroe Bergdorf: What is the best thing about raising a drag kid?

Wendy Napoles: I love that Desmond has found his passion so early in life. He’s happy, so that makes me happy. I know some people don’t find themselves until they are adults, so it’s remarkable that he has such a sense of who he is already. I believe it gives him the self-confidence that a lot of people are inspired by.

“The best thing about being a drag kid is that drag is an art, and I can be an artist. I can do me and express myself however I want” – Desmond is Amazing

Munroe Bergdorf: Tell us about your favourite career highlight so far…

Desmond is Amazing: My career highlight so far was speaking at the Teen Vogue Summit last year. I normally do LGBTQ+ advocacy and speak to LGBTQ+ youth, but at the Teen Vogue Summit I reached a lot of teen girls. It almost made me cry at the end of my speech when I had the girls chanting “I am Amazing! You are Amazing! We are all Amazing!”. Also, at DragCon NYC 2017, I got to cut the opening ceremony ribbon with RuPaul. I almost died.

Munroe Bergdorf: What advice would you give for any parents with a gender non-conforming child?

Wendy Napoles: We went to a therapist with Desmond when he was around six years old to understand his behavior in wanting to wear dresses and skirts all the time. We wanted to make sure that we were parenting correctly for someone like Desmond. The therapist told us not to encourage it, not to discourage it, but to let it happen naturally. I think that is very good advice. Let your child explore their gender for themselves and figure out their feelings. I think if you force your own identity onto a child, like make a mini-me of yourself, you are only confusing the child and can possibly create resentment against you from your child.

Munroe Bergdorf: Desmond, what do you like to do for fun when you’re not in drag?

Desmond is Amazing: When I am not in drag I like to play Roblox on the iPad, play with trains, and play with my Ever After High and Monster High dolls. They kind of look like fierce drag queens. I also love dancing to disco and voguing.

Munroe Bergdorf: Who inspires your looks?

Desmond is Amazing: My make-up looks are inspired by the Blitz Kids of the 1980s, like Boy George and Steve Strange. I also love the make-up and fashion of the Club Kids of 1990s New York City. Some of my favourite designers are Alexander McQueen, Betsey Johnson, Heatherette, Anna Sui, The Blonds, and Thierry Mugler. I am also inspired by art. My favorite artists are Keith Haring, Basquiat, and Warhol. I am inspired by all the art and murals around New York City. Of course, I am inspired by a lot of drag queens as well, especially RuPaul. I love the Dragula drag queens too.

Munroe Bergdorf: Desmond has unfortunately experienced a lot of hate online; what would you like to say to these people?

Wendy Napoles: First of all, I want to tell the haters that they are wasting their time. I don’t even read what you write, because you don’t matter to me. I simply report, block and delete. As for the death threats you send, we file reports with the NYPD, who take the threats seriously.  

Next, I would like to address all of the reports of “child abuse” and “child exploitation” that were called into ACS after Desmond’s last performance. This is so wrong. Allowing your son to dress up as a character and perform in a venue that was completely legal for him to perform in is not child abuse. It was not child exploitation, because we did not force him to perform; performing is what he enjoys doing, much like a kid that dances or does theatre. Any money he makes goes into his trust account, which we cannot access. Only Desmond can access that money when he turns 18. You should not use CPS/ACS as a weapon against someone else because you do not agree with their religion, beliefs, identity, political affiliation, sexual orientation, race, etc. That is not what it is for. It disturbs me greatly that these people (who called the ACS) equate Desmond with sex.

The real tragedy is that using ACS like a weapon siphons off resources that could go to kids and families that actually need help. Many times, people encourage others to call as a way to “teach us a lesson”. That compounds the problem. Letting your son wear a wig and dress, perform in public, or express and identify themselves as they wish is not child abuse. ACS is getting frustrated and annoyed by the amount of cases that come in. They have to treat each case separately and investigate for 60 days, even though it has been determined that the cases are unfounded. They just repeat the process over and over, and it is such a waste of their time and resources. It makes me feel very badly for people who need that help. We are now proactively sending any threats people have made that they will be contacting or have contacted ACS to our social worker. ACS will be coordinating with the DA’s office to investigate false claims. Filing a false claim is a misdemeanor. Ironically, the haters don’t realize they’ve actually helped us to a degree. We’ve been receiving a lot of services and community support that we were unaware of previously.

Munroe Bergdorf: What would you like to see change with how we raise and talk about LGBTQ+ children?

Wendy Napoles: For parents of LGBTQ children, I would love to see them take the time to learn about the LGBTQ community as a first step. Try to understand what their child is going through. I would also like to see more parents accepting of their children. It breaks my heart when you hear stories of kids that were rejected and thrown out into the streets. I don’t understand that thinking, I mean, that’s your flesh and blood.

Watch a life-affirming short film about Desmond is Amazing: