Found Family Spotlight:Chiquitita

NEWSByKelly Tesoriero

FRI JUN 21Found Family Spotlight:
We’re proud to be from Brooklyn, a borough teeming with the vibrant and diverse energies of its people. This patchwork of identities is what makes our neighborhood special, but the journey to authentic self-expression isn’t the same for everyone. For some folks in the queer community, embracing their individuality means finding a sense of belonging and acceptance outside of the family they were born into.

To mark this year’s Pride Month, we’re celebrating connections that run deeper than DNA: the found families LGBTQ+ folks form within their communities that offer unconditional love and support. We’re taking a closer look at how the bonds forged in these chosen networks have empowered our neighbors in New York to thrive, inspire, and amplify queer joy.

We were excited to sit down with the magnificent Chiquitita, a drag performer, actor, event producer, and visual artist. She recounted her humble beginnings growing up in New York City, and how the strong connections she made in Brooklyn’s drag scene shaped her into the creative powerhouse she is today. With her quick wit and flair for the dramatic, it’s easy to see how she’s captivated audiences in venues around the city for a decade. Today she has transcended the stage, starring in Netflix’s Glamorous and gracing the pages of Allure, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Vogue.

Chiqui attributes much of her ongoing success to her drag motherCharlene Incarnate and drag daughter Serena Tea. Their constant encouragement has fueled her bold sense of ambition – one that drives her to push artistic boundaries across every medium she explores. She also draws inspiration from her best friend, multi-disciplinary artist Laurel Charleston, who’s acclaimed for avant-garde makeup looks that redefine the limits of the human body as a canvas.

Though Chiqui’s kinships with Charlene and Serena developed organically over time, she reflects gratefully on the intergenerational structure her found family has ultimately taken. She emphasizes that the guidance she received from her mentors and ‘transcestors’ has been a cornerstone in her mental health journey. Beyond nurturing her own drag family, Chiqui pays forward her gratitude by using her passions for a purpose, and doing her part to elevate marginalized folks in the transgender community.

For Chiquitita, the stability that found family offers is vital to her purpose, and the LGBTQIA+ community’s at large. It’s these grounding forces that provide queer folks the foundation to keep creating art, and telling stories that need to be told.

Brooklyn Brewery: Can you tell us about yourself?

Chiquitita: Chiquitita is a multifaceted drag artist based in Brooklyn, New York. I am a New York native. Through drag I have discovered much about myself, such as my transness, and my sabor. I have a better sense of the woman that I am now, because of the 10 years of drag that I have under my belt, since I was in high school. You can learn a lot in 10 years. Kids – if people tell you not to drop out of school because you won’t be successful, just show them this video.

BB: How would you describe yourself?

C: Chiquitita is witty. Chiquitita has ADHD, severely. She is the funniest girl I’ve ever met. Chiquitita is sexy. She’s charismatic, she’s elegant, she’s opulent, she’s very poised. She can’t afford good drag, so she makes do.

BB: What does found family mean to you?

C: Found family is the batch of people that you find throughout your life that show you unconditional love. Many people in the queer community rely on their found families, because a lot of us have been ostracized from our birth families. I’m hungry for love. I know we’re all hungry for love. To be someone in the community that puts together events at queer venues for people to congregate at is an honor and a privilege. I think we should be allowed to play too. We never had an adolescence; this is our time to rebel.

BB: How did you find your found family and what role do they play in your life?

C: My drag family here in Brooklyn consists of other icons such as Charlene Incarnate and Serena Tea. I met my drag daughter Serena at Oops!, a show I threw in Brooklyn a couple of years ago. She would come and do open stage. My drag mother Charlene is someone that I learned drag from by watching her perform over the years in Brooklyn.

Serena came to my show and I was like, “Wait, I recognized this little boy from the Bronx,” because we had met in the Bronx years ago. Everything came full circle. I ended up teaching her how to sew and how to do makeup.

I hadn’t asked Serena to be my drag daughter for years. It must be a familial trauma thing – it took us a long time to reach a place where we’re comfortable to tell our loved ones that we love them and we want them to stay in our lives. I said to Serena maybe about two years ago, “You know, you are my drag daughter.” She’s like, “I know.” It just happened through time, and it’s beautiful.

Charlene I met out and about at Metropolitan years ago. She didn’t feature me or consider me a drag daughter until last year – I had to pull it out of her. Last year while we were driving to go see Macy Rodman at C’mon Everybody, she finally asked me to perform with her. There wasn’t a lot of hoopla to it. She was crying to me in her car and I said, “Fine, I’ll do it. Let me go, let me out of your car.”

Laurel was my first roommate ever, and seeing her grow to be the makeup artist she is today makes me so happy.

BB: How has your found family supported you in your journey of self-discovery of your identity?

C: Well, I don’t identify differently. I’ve always just been like, “Here I am.” Charlene is the one that basically pulled my transness out of me and was like, “Go to Callen-Lorde.” When it comes to Serena, I have a fondness for her. Even though she’s a year older than me, I treat her like she’s my child, because I want her to always feel safe.

BB: Can you recall a particular experience with your found family that deeply impacted you or strengthened your bond with them?

C: Performing alongside Charlene Incarnate at Bushwig in 2019 was a really big moment for our relationship, because it was her way of letting the community know that they can trust me in guiding them. Anytime I get to work side by side with Serena is really sweet for me, because we’re just hanging out backstage, causing a ruckus.

I feel really lucky to have people that I can call my family, even if we’re not blood related, because having people that you can call up whenever you’re having a really tough time is crucial for your mental health.

BB: What advice would you give to someone who is seeking to build their own found family within the LGBTQIA+ community?

C: Don’t only look in your age bracket, look to the higher ups, learn from your elders and your trancestors because they’ve already been through all of this. You’re just catching up. You actually get a shortcut if you pay attention to them. Having intergenerational relationships is going to save your life. You’re going to learn a lot of things from a lot of different queer people, from a lot of different places, and that is how we keep history going.

BB: How do you envision the future of your found family evolving or growing over time?

C: I hope that the people that I love just keep doing what they love, and their art continues to grow. That’s how I hope that we keep evolving: just creating more and doing more with the time that we have while we’re here.

BB: Where do you see your career going next?

I’ve put almost 10 years into drag, and now I’m looking for a new job. I’m seeing where my spirit will take me. Right now it’s telling me, “I think you need to make some media. Because if you don’t do it, who is?” And I’m pretty smart and funny. I don’t want to get stuck in a loop, so I am going to be taking over the world next.

I’m taking a step away from drag to focus on different creative outlets that I have been wanting to invest my time and energy into. I have some films and television shows I want to do, as well as a comedy show that I’ve been working on for two years. I have some projects on the horizon, and if they don’t align with drag per se, that side of me will always be correlated with everything that I put out into the world because it’s me – it’s always been me. Now, I’m just going to take everything I’ve learned and push it into all of these different lanes that I want to drive in.

I haven’t told the world yet that I have all of these ideas and plans. But they are an extension of my found family, and they’re going to support me in whatever I do next. You can do anything when you have people by your side that love and support you.

Want to know more about Chiquitita’s found family? Read on and be sure to follow them on socials to stay up to date with the incredible work they’re doing every day. Check back in here next week for another installment of our Found Family spotlights.

Charlene Incarnate is a drag and theater performer who has appeared on stages across the city for over a decade and was crowned Miss Bushwig in 2017. She starred in HBO’s Wig, Netflix’s Glamorous alongside Chiqui, and has been profiled by Paper Magazine and Refinery29.

Serena Tea is a drag artist, performer and model. A dynamic dancer, voguer, and performer, her stage work and performances focus on gender fluidity, community activism, and celebrating Black excellence. Serena has appeared in print and digital campaigns for Nike, Calvin Klein, Sephora and Vogue.

Laurel Charleston is a multidisciplinary artist, whose work spans cosmetic, digital and high fashion. Her creations have been featured on countless international magazine covers and global campaigns, and regularly adorn the faces of artists and celebrities worldwide.

C’mon Everybody is a queer owned & operated bar and live performance venue in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. Its mission is to create a safe space for QTPOC and LGBTQAI+ performers to showcase their talents and celebrate the many art forms founded by the queer community.


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