Stretching, Piercing, and Stapling with Hollow Eve

Interview by Reid Cammack // Photos by Eric Magnussen & Alejandro Carvajal

Halloween may be over, but Hollow Eve isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Originally hailing from San Francisco, this boundary-pushing drag artist just made their mark on “Dragula” season 3 as one of the most shocking contestants in the show’s history. Now America’s favorite post-binary drag socialist is here to talk to us about their time on the show and everything they’ve done since.

Known for their face stretching, cheek piercing, and skin stapling, Hollow isn’t one to shy away from an extreme live performance. American television laws eventually found Hollow to be a little too extreme though. In episode five of the series, Hollow wasn’t allowed to present their menstruation outfit as originally intended. The outfit, made entirely of disposable menstruation products, was supposed to be presented with blood. Unfortunately, because of American TV laws, the menstruation products couldn’t legally be shown with blood or even the color red on them.

It wasn’t just boundary-pushing performances and looks that made Hollow a talking point of “Dragula.” Hollow quickly became known for speaking their mind and sticking up for their beliefs. The drag artist kicked off their run on the show by denouncing the word “fish” and ended their run with an impassioned speech defending their art. Hollow even stepped up to apologize after excluding trans and non-binary AFAB people when talking about menstruation in episode five of the show. And now the performance artist is using their voice and elevated platform to stand up for important causes and oppressed communities.

I got the chance to chat with Hollow over the phone right before Halloween. We talked about their history in the San Francisco drag scene, if they would do an “All Stars” version of “Dragula,” and why they’re making their live shows free to members of the trans community.

Cammack: In the first episode after you left, there was the conversation where Landon stepped up and defended you. How did you feel watching that at home?

Hollow Eve: I feel grateful that Landon stepped up and defended me. There’s different kinds of people in this world. I’m someone who just stands up and does it, regardless of what people are going to think of me. I’m someone who is loud and outspoken. The thing about it, the reason why I’m fearless to be loud and outspoken is because I’m also very capable of realizing when I’m wrong, apologizing when I need to, and self-reflecting a lot. So that’s why I just throw it all on the line. 

Landon stepping forward was amazing. Landon and I were friends. We knew each other before the show. I was very grateful to Landon for speaking up. I messaged Landon and I thanked him. It takes a certain kind of person to step out and just say stuff. And that’s not everybody and everybody’s not comfortable with that person. I think, like I said on the show, there’s a lot of people who perceive every time I talk as me sounding like their mother, so they just stop listening. 

Like you said about stepping up and apologizing, after episode 5 you came forward with an apology that you posted across your social channels. You said that it wasn’t something that was preempted because of fan backlash, but it was something that you issued once you saw what you were saying on the TV.

I cried through the whole episode. Reality TV is a really intense experience. It’s physically taxing, mentally taxing, and emotionally exhausting. You can cast a diverse cast, but a lot of the language in the season just kept pointing me back into, “You’re a woman! You’re a woman! You’re a woman! You’re a woman!” I think by the end, after all the rules I was experiencing and literally a direct round of litany of misogyny that was coming my way from television rules to cast members, I came out with this very narrow view. I wasn’t included in my own message and that broke my heart. I let myself fall back into this binary gender place that quite literally we are all raised in. 

No one is perfect. We’re all trying and the experience for filming reality television really did a number on me personally. I felt like I wasn’t included in my own message and that broke my heart. I took a day to properly craft an apology. I wanted to show it to a couple friends and get their reaction to make sure that all the words were spot on, but the second I watched that show I was so cognizant of what it was I had done, because I had done it to myself too. I’m not, not apart of that. I am absolutely a non-binary human being. As the show diversifies, it doesn’t mean that they understand or know how to perfectly create a world where everybody is treated with proper pronouns and the strain and stress of all these rules coming at me about what could or could not be on television. 

With the menstruation look that you did, I’ve heard you say a couple times you couldn’t do the full look because you could only use blue liquid on it. Was there anything else that you tried to do throughout the show that ended up being censored?

No, just that one. I could have done my look with all the blood; it just would have been cut out of the show. It would not have been able to be featured in any capacity on television. I could have chosen that and I don’t know what would have been a better or bigger statement. I tried my hardest to get them on TV following their rules, while simultaneously trying to stay true to my art. And when I say “their rules,” I am not implying Boulet Brothers at all. They would totally be down for menstrual blood to be on that stage. They have no problem with that. It is legitimately American television laws. 

I’m sure if it was one of the Boulet’s live events that would be a whole different story. 

Absolutely. I’m sure that I would be happily welcomed to eat my own tampon on any Boulet Brothers stage. 

I’ve heard you say before on your socials that you wouldn’t do a “Dragula: All Stars.” Do you still have that opinion?

Yeah. It was hard to get me on reality TV to begin with and that’s any form of reality TV. I’m not trying to target anybody with that statement. It’s not my jam. I don’t even really watch television. So, I did it. I went on there. I did it. That’s it for me.

I’m a performance artist. I’m working on building this new called The Quilt. I’m working on projects that connect community. I’m working on a lot of community service work. I’m working on performing and creating art and getting into more museums and galleries… I want to focus on my actual work versus how an art has to be constructed and perceived through the lens of reality television. Cause when was the last time I ever made art where what I did was I walk a runway? The answer is: I don’t do that. I’m not the youngest person on the show. I just want to spend my life doing things that I absolutely love; and what I love more than anything is live performance. I would like my life to be focused around creating that. 

With your live performances, I’ve heard you mention some things on Instagram about leaving time to heal after stapling, piercing, and pulling. Do your performances have a huge effect on your body? How often can you do really intense performances like that before you need to rest?

I think it just depends on how much blood I’m losing. I do take iron supplements and I take them with vitamin D, so the iron is more easily absorbed. I also like to make chicken liver sausage, because that has really high iron content. I do what I can to replenish my body. I am not anemic – which sometimes shocks me. Sometimes, yeah, I literally will wake up and look at myself in the mirror and go, “Oh, wow. I’ve got bruises on every part of my face. My whole chest is bruised.” There doesn’t have to be huge breaks, but I’m not trying to staple and needle myself seven nights a week.

Do you remember the first performance where you used staples or needles and what attracted you to doing that?

I was at a party that used to be thrown by Suppositori Spelling. It was called Cocktailgate at a bar called Truck; that no longer exists. There was a performer who was really fantastic. It was an SF performer named Thee Pristine Condition and Pristine staples herself on stage pretty regularly. I think this was about… I want to say 6 years ago. Pristine stapled my chest for me as an audience member. I was like, “Oh wow, this feels great.” Before that, as a kid I had pierced myself a lot and I had given myself my own piercings. I pierced my own ears. I pierced my own nipples. I already knew that needles were not a big issue to me and that it was enjoyable. I think my first performance where I really, really just really went to town on the staples… I think was four years ago. 

You obviously have a really long history with the SF drag community, but you’re in LA now?

I am in LA now. My history with the SF drag community – I was on staff at a deviant queer art space that had a lot of drag performances. I was in college in SF in the early 2000s and I stepped on the Trannyshack stage a few times. I did drag through this deviant queer performance art space that I worked for. We had residencies at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Really about 6 years ago is when Hollow Eve was born specifically. 

Do you have a drag family or a close-knit group here in SF?

Yes! That has changed over the course of time as well… About three and a half years ago my family became predominantly that of my drag mother being Phatima Rude. My drag sister, Cochina Rude. My drag sister, Strobe. God’s Little Princess – who we always say I’m her “daddy-mommy-sister-brother.” We’ve made some crazy art together and we’re very, very, very bonded. I have a drag child in SF named Holange; who also makes music, is a witch, and is a vogue dancer. Queen. I don’t know if you know the drag queen, Queen. Jillian Gnarling: one of the most badass filth performers and performance artists that the drag scene in SF has ever seen. 

I think of a lot of the people who inspire me the most as people that are close to me, just because I feel like what they’ve done has impacted me so much that I think about it all the time. So I think about Raya Light. I have another drag mom named U-Phoria Glitter. Both of my drag moms were longtime, iconic San Francisco performers who now both live in Portland. Just because changing times are the changing times. U-Phoria was the Grand Duke of the Ducal Court maybe three or four years ago. 

I was in San Francisco for eighteen years. When I look at pictures of myself, you would never know it was me. People are like, “I don’t remember seeing you out!” Because I was skinny and I had short, curly hair, and I looked really different.

…All my wigs are by Laundra. You know what? We grew up together – Laundra, Scarlett and I in the drag scene. They’re my family very much so too… They’re so important to me. Literally some of the most important people in the world. I absolutely love everything about them. 

Since Dragula, you’ve been traveling a lot. Have you come across other drag communities that you’ve connected with or any cities that you’ve really vibed with?

I have totally vibed with everywhere I’ve gone so far. I’m having the best time… My friend Novelí, who had lived in San Francisco for six or seven years and is a DJ and a goth icon and a drag performer, has since moved to Denver. They were one of the first people to book me. I just went to Denver and had the most amazing, amazing time at what was essentially a totally emotional, impactful, spiritual space for trans performers who are witches. It was complete with ceremonies. It was so much intentional, beautiful art. It was quite overwhelming. I felt very grateful to have been apart of that community.

I felt the same way about Boston. Boston with my sister from “Dragula” season three, Violencia Exclamation Point. Boston has been an incredible community and it’s been amazing to go out with them. I love going to their parties. I love watching their drag. I love the diversity in their scene. I like the way things are being included. I like how much fun I have when I’m there. I also like how Boston is a city where you can go get really fucking messy on a stage, because not every city lets you get really fucking messy on a stage. 

You were just back in SF and you performed at Beaux. With that you were advertising and you made it so trans and non-binary people could get into the show for free. You were talking on your story about how you wanted that to be in your contracts as you’re touring. What prompted you to do that and have you been doing that in more cities?

Yes, I have actually. Right getting off of the show, it’s not like I was a performer who was working with contracts before. I was trying to figure out what my contract should be. The Boulets said, “Don’t put anything like a green M&M in your rider. It’s just so tacky.” And I was like, “But what if it wasn’t tacky?” Right away when they said that to us, I think that was the very last day we were all together at the end of filming, I was like, “What if we could make it something that means something more.” 

I’m really into the band Bikini Kill. I was in high school in the 90s and riot girl music was right up my alley. Kathleen Hanna would run concerts and do a total media blackout, so the media couldn’t distort her image. She would always say “women to the front,” because there was so much rape happening in the rock scene – and I’m sure it continues to happen today. She wanted to create spaces where people could be reported and women could be safe. 

I was thinking about how trans people are still attacked in our own community, in our own bars that fly rainbow flags, and how as a community if we’re going to work on getting equal rights for trans people and trans people of color, that the way we need to do that is by putting trans people first. So if we make it always accessible for trans people to come to all the clubs, we will create more spaces that are trans-friendly and trans-welcoming. We will do better to protect them. 

Some of the places I’m going are really incredible. I’m in Calgary in Canada tomorrow night and not only did they give me an epic size of a guest list that I can fill up to get trans people and trans non-binary people in for free, but they also are donating part of the proceeds to trans non-profit. To me, this is not just about one thing. This is about the bigger picture. This is always about the community. 

I make mistakes. I’m not always right. I need to listen all the time. I am white. I need to listen a lot more often actually. I just think one of the ways we can all do this is by seeing, sharing, and creating spaces. We need to work as a community to make the rainbow flag mean everyone, because it doesn’t. Seeing the way that I think that the community really gaslights itself during times like Pride, because they don’t want to have hard conversations about the really hard things that are really happening. They just want to focus on the positive things, but actually there should be a balance of both. If you’re silencing a trans woman, who is literally calling out the names of the trans women of color who have died this year, at Stonewall bar and your reaction is to call the police? We have not moved forward the way that we thought we have and that’s something that happened this year at New York Pride, in Stonewall bar. 

As a community, I just think it’s important that we do our best to actively create those safe spaces and to actively fight for a part of our community that is legitimately experiencing more oppression. I think it can be really hard on the LGBT community, because I can talk about someone legitimately experiencing more oppression; it doesn’t erase any oppression I have though. I can talk about trans women of color being more at-risk, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t faced hardship. I don’t have a need to compare my story to their story and I don’t think their story cancels my story. I think that what we have to do is fight for the most at-risk people. 

Sometimes it’s really hard because in the LGBT community it can start to feel like the oppression Olympics. We end up hurtling over a bunch of red herrings; where people are trying to cancel someone else’s oppression, because they’re trying to push theirs to the front. This is not a situation where we can push anything to the front, right? It all just exists simultaneously. We’re all human beings and we’re all hurting. We all have privileges and we all have oppressions. Sometimes you can be an oppressed person whose privilege is oppressing someone else, but that doesn’t mean you’re not oppressed. It doesn’t mean you don’t face hardship. It just means you have to stop comparing yourself to other people and allow their story to resonate through. That happens when we allow our communities to connect and when we’re actively fighting for the rights of people who have less rights. They have less rights in the workplace. They have less rights for health care. They have less rights for safety. They are at-risk. We have got to work harder as a community to listen and provide safe spaces.