BY BROOKLYN PINHEIRO
For her first professional performance Willow Pill stood on stage wearing a pink ’90s housewife tracksuit, complete with glasses and a pearl necklace, while she delivered a stand-up comedy routine.
“Are you ever worried you’re going to get cum down the wrong tube?” Was her opening joke. Comedy was never supposed to be in the cards for her drag show, and she hasn’t done it since.
“I made a script the night before and just did it,” Will recalls laughing. “It was not good… I kind of bombed.” But despite the off-character start, Willow Pill has been making her way up in Colorado’s drag queen scene, something she’s always been destined to do.
When Will Patterson was four he would dress up in a bra made from a sequined headband with a t-shirt thrown over his head as a wig. He would spend many evenings dancing and lip-syncing to a Selena Perez disco mix.
“Star glasses, glitter – I loved it all,” recalled Will. “I look at pictures of myself and it was just so obvious that I was so queer.”
Then as he got older and people started to view this behaviour as wrong instead of cute, he suppressed this side of himself. Growing up in a Christian school and neighborhood in America meant that Will was mainly exposed to negative portrayals of the queer community.
“I kind of shut down and became very quiet and constantly policed myself about how I should act and what I should wear. It got to a point of really massive depression and anxiety surrounding it,” said Will.
It wasn’t until eighth grade when he started watching season one of RuPaul’s Drag Race that he decided he wanted to do drag. And it wasn’t until last April at the age of 21 that he finally had his chance.
Every semester, Colorado State University holds a drag show, which is where Willow Pill made her first amateur debut; she danced to a Missy Elliot and Gwen Stefani mix.
“I got so into the high that I had during my first performance that I haven’t stopped,” said Will.
But breaking into the professional world hasn’t been easy. After the first performance Will had the impression that he had made it, but it took months for him to find a queen who would let him perform in their show with so little experience.
Going at it alone Will has had to learn the industry mainly by himself, figuring out make-up and outfits, finding his own shows and learning what it takes to put on a good performance.
“Now I plan it more like it’s a piece of art,” said Will. “I want people to feel really hyped up while I’m performing.”
Willow Pill is now doing shows two to three days a week with many plans to continue on, including competing in the Ultimate Queen Competition in Colorado where she hopes to be crowned the best new queen.
“It honestly makes me feel like the happiest person,” said Will. “Every performance I have I think about my [younger] self and think about how terrified I was all the time, constantly everyday, and how that is over now.”