In the center of a confetti-strewn stage at a club with upbeat music blaring in the background, Drag Queen Anya B. Hynz dances energetically while the cheering crowd laughs. Behind the makeup and flamboyant persona is Darian Carpenter, a junior Film Production Major at Emerson College.
“I just like the idea of performing and having a shock value,” Carpenter said. “A lot of the time, Anya B. is very gender fluid. One moment she is doing something very vintage. Then, in two seconds, she’s doing hashtag selfie. She has no boundaries.”
Growing up in Southern Massachusetts, Carpenter was consistently interested in dressing up as someone different, which inspired him to become involved with drag culture as a hobby. Before Anya B. Hynz, he embodied a character named The Fame Monstre, who was inspired by “The Fame Monster” of Lady Gaga, his favorite pop star. However, he wanted to stick with a more original name that encompassed his character better as a whole.
“After a long time of thinking of names, I came up with Anya B. Hynz,” Carpenter said. “It’s European sounding but it also has a pun inside of it. She’s a little sexy, a little crazy and very unique. She’s also very bizarre.”
To get ready before a performance, Carpenter spends the entire week listening to dubstep and rock music. Essentially, he gets in touch with Anya’s pop star side by drinking an excessive amount of coffee and coconut water. He also preps by working out as much as he can. With her exuberant confidence, Anya B. is known to act on the wild side. At one recent performance, Anya B. became so involved with the music that she ripped off her shirt, threw off her wig and shattered a lollipop on the stage.
“The best part is exciting people and getting the feedback that I get after the show and during the show,” Carpenter said. “It’s so nice especially when there are people in the audience who know you as Darian and not as Anya B. They get to see Anya for the first time and they are beside themselves laughing and screaming and having a good time.”
With this hobby, Carpenter captures her vibrant behavior due to the idea that he can perform actions he probably could not get away with in real life. Anya B. is free to do as she pleases without restraints and lives without any regrets. In doing so, Carpenter is able to balance his life and personality with her high-spirited energy.
“Can there be blood, paint or glitter? How much of all three? Where is the inappropriate line? Anya wants to go all out. That’s when I’m having the most fun,” Carpenter said. “When I do something on stage and the adrenaline rush is so high and so fast that I’m almost zoned out, that’s when I know I must be giving a good performance.”
Even with the glitz and the glam, Carpenter’s experiences with the drag industry were not always flawless. As a performer, he had to consider molding himself to fit the demands of the managers at the clubs and venues in which he has performed. Though Carpenter enjoys presenting an unforgettable performance, he believes drag should be as entertaining to himself as to his audience. With the realities of drag culture comes the edge of competition. To other drag queens, Carpenter can be viewed as a threat. He did not want the pressure from these factors to dictate or change Anya B.’s motivation.
“Drag culture is a little cattier than I would like,” Carpenter said. “It’s very show business, and it can be a little exhausting. It means a lot to the other queens and it means a lot to me but I’m not there to step on anyone’s toes or lose opportunities for other people. It was a lot to walk into. It’s easy to get wrapped up in emotion and business and it doesn’t become fun.”
Carpenter is clear when he says drag isn’t who he is; it’s just something he does.
“I knew I didn’t want to start getting too wrapped up into it because I know if I did, it would dictate my life more than I wanted to.”
Being at Emerson College provides Carpenter with an environment to express his individual style in drag. However, not everyone is open to his ulterior character. In response, Carpenter does not take their opinions to heart.
“People are quick to judge and have so many questions,” Carpenter said. “At that point, you have to forgive people for that ignorance and walk away from that when you can.”
Through his work, Carpenter wishes to break apart the confinements of social norms of gender and creative expression. He acknowledges that people may be afraid of the ideas behind drag culture; therefore, his shows bring to light a commentary on society.
“People need to realize that they don’t always need to be walking on eggshells,” Carpenter said. “Humanity is so complex that sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. We shouldn’t complicate things as much as we do.”
As for now, Anya B. Hynz is leaving the stage for a short break. Carpenter aspires to focus on his career goals as a documentary or music video producer. Carpenter is also a Resident Assistant, a Social Media and Video Assistant for ArtsEmerson and a brother of Phi Alpha Tau fraternity. He also wants to concentrate on his own mental and physical health before reviving her again.
“There are so many things that are different about me than a typical drag queen,” Carpenter said. “I go in and out of it so much. I realize that people see me as just that and that’s not entirely who I am. It’s just something I do.”
Carpenter has innovative ideas and high expectations for Anya’s reappearance, as he wants to bring her back more polished and enhanced, or possibly a bit more spontaneous.
“Anya will never be fully gone,” Carpenter said. “I’m sure she’ll be back before anyone knows it.”
For people who are interested in becoming involved with drag, Carpenter has a solid suggestion.
“Take your time with it and don’t let anyone put you down,” Carpenter said. “The biggest thing is always show variation but stay true to yourself. Don’t let people try to make you into the queen that you’re not.”