Behind every successful queen is a good queen, and nowhere is this truer than in the best friendship of RuPaul's Drag Race star Mrs. Kasha Davis (aka Ed Popil) and her real-life best friend Alicia O'Donnell. As Davis sashays her way towards the finish line in a flurry of personality and '80s Liz Taylor realness, it's important to remember that she's still a real person, despite her newfound fame and celebrity! That's why we wanted to explore the nuances of Kasha and Alicia's friendship, which blossomed in Rochester, New York, more than 15 years ago. Back then, Kasha was new to the city, newly out and looking for a friend to show her the ropes; Alicia was a holdover goth who needed a little advice about how to dress for a "professional" environment. They met at work; the rest is history.
Jezebel conference-called Kasha/Ed and Alicia at 9:45 on a weekday morning; the duo shared a faux-weary sarcasm and a quick wit, with a strong, familial love beneath. It warmed the heart almost as much as the 20 cups of coffee we needed to have a coherent discourse this early.
Jezebel: Hello, Mrs. Kasha Davis. How are you?
Mrs. Kasha Davis: I'm a delight!
Yes you are. But I wanna know what drag queen gets up at 9:45 AM, though?!
MKD: Here's a correction: I'm in Austin, so it's 8, and I had an earlier interview. We performed last night, so I'm in bed late and up early. Texas men are hot! It's odd to see a gay man with a beard and a flannel shirt!
Yes indeed! Hello, Alicia. So, when did you two become best friends?
Alicia: We worked together for many years, and that was initially how we met. He came to speak to me one day, and he has these beautiful green eyes that get very intense when he's in focus mode, so I thought I was in huge trouble when he came to speak with me. But he was actually coming to offer me a job.
I'm a child of the '90s, so I was a little bit too grungy and alternative and goth for a professional work environment, and he helped me very gently to be more professional… you know, like ditch the combat boots and the black-and-white striped tights. He's always had an eye for fashion.
Alicia, I can relate to the goth in the workplace thing. It happened to me. Was it like, "Hayyy… can you tone it down a little bit?"
A: It was like, "Does the nail polish have to be that black?"
He'd just moved to Rochester at that time and didn't know very many people, so I had a chance to introduce him to the gay clubs and community there, and we became fast friends pretty quickly. We're very comfortable with each other. That was 15 years ago, I think.
MKD: What was great about it was, I had just come out when I moved to Rochester. So I was a lonely, nervous wreck gay man and I didn't know anything about the gay world. But I also didn't have a family, because at that point my family was so confused and frustrated that they kind of took a step back from it and didn't know what to think of it. Because I was married to a woman for years. And I came out. So Alicia became a coworker, then a best friend, and then all of a sudden a sister. We became a family that we put together.
So if you had just come out when you moved to Rochester 15 years ago, how was it that you got into drag?
MKD: I went to school for theater, and the job that we're talking about is the director of a call center called Dial America. And I'm working at this job that has ridiculous hours, and my passion is theater, but I wasn't able to participate in theater. I'm from Scranton, Pennsylvania—when you're from Scranton, you're told you can't. At least I was. At any rate, I stumbled upon drag [in Rochester] because I would frequent the drag club there called Mother's and see the queens. What I was so impressed with was not only the fact that each of them were so different, but that it was on their own time, it was afterhours, you didn't have to go to rehearsals. I tried being in a play but I had to quit because I missed too many rehearsals. So that really fed my passion.
A: I think it was also really appealing to you that you could do whatever you wanted, you weren't following someone else's script.
Kasha's early days, performing as Liza
So Alicia, how were you involved with the creation of Mrs. Kasha Davis, from a BFF perspective?
A: I didn't have anything to do with the character…
MKD: But you helped me find my first bra!
A: Well! I guess where I was able to help with it was just like, here's how you fit and buy a bra. I'm not a tiny little size four, so one of the things I helped him with in the beginning was proportion. Like, you are a man in a dress, so we need to get some big boobs going and some big hair to balance the rest of you out so you look more feminine. And just even how to dress your shape, what works, what to hide, what to show. I wouldn't take any credit for the character because that's completely Ed, but I helped with just how to be a lady.
MKD: Totally! And we would call it "mill around"—that's shopping with no money. We were broke, so we just went and looked! A lot of my original drag from when I first started would come from the Goodwill. I bought a maternity outfit the first time, I didn't know what I was doing!
A: Do you still have that? I should borrow it actually! [laughs]
MKD: We would go shopping together and she's like no. Put that back.
A: Well, just cause they're the right size doesn't mean they're gonna look really good on you!
Do you remember the first time you bought a bra?
MKD: Oh my god, I was sweating my ass off, I just hated it. I think we just went to Wal-Mart or something. And she was like, just chill out, you could be a husband buying a bra for your wife! And I was like, yeah, right.
A: And of course the bras that would be proportionally correct were obviously not for me. Sometimes we'd sort of play that off in the beginning. Now, though, he walks through the store and is like, yeah, this is for me. In the beginning, it was a little awkward. And the whole boobs made of birdseed was a revelation for me, so I got a kick out of that, I thought it was hilarious.
MKD: I'm a bit of a dancer and I like to move and shake when I'm onstage. Well, I found out quickly that it's not like mixed nuts when you sweat on the birdseed. It sprouts!
So how did your sort of, alcoholic homemaker persona come about?
MKD: First of all, I've always wanted to be Mrs. Kasha Davis, a married lady. And one of the main reasons is that I looked up to the drag queens that I saw is that what's happening now is that I wanted to provide a good example for kids. When I grew up in the '70s and '80s, there were no people who were good examples for who I wanted to be, there were no male couples with children or step-children. And realistically, she's exactly me: I work at the call center, I take care of the house, and then I go out at night and try to be a star. And I definitely tip the box wine. [laughs]
Alicia and Ed on her wedding day
You sent me this really beautiful photo of you, Ed, at Alicia's wedding. Did you ever consider attending in drag?
MKD: No! I was very honored to be a part of it, I joke that I was the matron of honor, and it was really important to me that we were a family and I was flattered that Alicia had asked me.
A: For me, it was absolutely no question. Ed says he jokes about it but really, he was my man of honor. He was the number one guy. He was there with the champagne for me in the morning and the whole day. It was very important that he was a big part of our wedding, not just for me but my husband also. We've known each other for so long and we're so close. For us in our friendship, Kasha's a character. When I'm out and about with Kasha, I have to remember to say "Kasha" and not Ed, because he's such a performer. I think even for Ed, being in character would have taken away from being himself.
He probably did have a little mascara on that day, though, knowing him.
MKD: My toenails were painted a bashful, blushing pink!
So you're family now. What do you aspire to in your continued friendship as BFFs?
MKD: Alicia's pregnant with her third angel, I call them, in May.
A: I have a long eight weeks ahead of me. I have two boys already so Ed is really hoping for a girl this time.
MKD: We've been through a lot. We talk about the days when we didn't have enough money, we would sell CDs at the local CD shop to gather enough money to go out and have a cosmopolitan Chinese dinner. So we've run the gamut of single and frenzied in the party scene to now both being married and having kids. Next up, I guess we're gonna go to Boca Raton and retire!
A: Yeah, put on big sunglasses and headwraps and smoke cigarettes! But you know, I'm an only child, so my kids don't have aunts and uncles, and Ed is everything I hoped that my kids would have in an uncle. They're crazy about him, they call him "Uncle Ed," and he's crazy about them. It makes me feel so good to see that. And they like Kasha, they think she's hilarious.
MKD: They'll just be like, "Uncle Ed, you're so sparkly!"
Mrs. Kasha Davis, Alicia (right), and friend.
RuPaul's Drag Race airs Mondays at 9/8 CST on LOGO.
Images via Ed Popil and Alicia O'Donnell.
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