“I’m popular. I think part of it is my age… My age informs who I am. There’s very little that I give a shit about. I mean, I don’t care. I’d like to say this: Everything is desperately important to me – but nothing matters.” —Drag performer Donna Personna
The tech boom has transformed San Francisco from counterculture epicenter to gentrified blahtown. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Tenderloin, where queer subculture once reigned; only one gay bar, Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, remains.
Recently, photographer and filmmaker James Hosking documented the lives and performances of elder drag performers who work at Aunt Charlie’s. Along with a photo series, his film “Beautiful By Night” presents an intimate portrait of three older “ladies” at peace with their sag and wrinkles.
Though their lives are hard – the nightly beauty ritual alone is an accomplishment, and audiences can be brutal – these performers keep going, transforming themselves nightly in the face of reality.
“Representations of aging in pop culture often lack credibility or subtlety,” Hosking told the Huffington Post. “My intention was to show the authentic experiences of these older performers. They’re not caricatures but complex, three-dimensional people who are still working through insecurities from their youth, as most of us are. But Olivia, Donna and Collette all share the gift of ignoring the judgements of others to just be who they want to be. That’s empowering.”
See photos from Hosking’s series on his website.