IN CONVERSATION WITH MISS FAME
Interview by Jana Letonja
World-renowned drag artist, model, beauty influencer, reality TV personality, and makeup artist Kurtis Dam-Mikkelsen, best known by their stage name ‘Miss Fame’ was the first drag artist to work as a high fashion model featured in Vogue and the first drag artist ever to walk the red carpet of Cannes Film Festival as a spokesmodel for L’Oréal Paris. As someone who identifies as gender fluid, Miss Fame champions diversity and inclusivity. Through her inspiring authenticity and powerful work, she has helped expand the consciousness of what it means to be beautiful.
Miss Fame, tell us more about your journey as an artist, from the beginning til now.
My artistic journey began in my youth, as early as age 5. I was always drawing as a form of escape from the tension in my household. It allowed me to quiet my mind and express beauty through my capabilities. I continue to use fine art as a form of expression, as it evolved into beauty around the age of 18. I started to work as a hairdresser and this allowed me to spend quality time with my clients and assist them in the process of finding beauty within themselves. To me, it’s always much deeper than the superficial vail of just looking good, but tapping into the interior of oneself in feeling good.
Around the same time I was going out, into nightlife and Makeup was always a part of my journey. This was before YouTube and Instagram, before we were seeing makeup influencers. I would brave the cosmetic counters at the local department stores and request shades within my range, all while hiding my anxiety over judgment from others that were not familiar with people like myself, utilizing cosmetics in a very conservative rural town. I continued to pursue beauty and femininity throughout many years of my life, I never lost touch with this aspect of myself once I allowed myself to discover it. Today I’m celebrated for my presentation of beauty and my expertise and application, as well as the ability to talk from within about the meaning of feeling beautiful. It feels a full-circle moment for me and I’m so grateful for this.
You identify yourself as non-binary. How would you describe your journey of finding yourself and claiming your truth?
I am a person. Someone who has allowed themself to lean toward and into their femininity. I find feminine to be divine and strength-giving. The women in my life have taught me so much about strength, I have so many fond memories of my aunts spending time together, putting on makeup, and doing their hair when I was a child. They confided in one another and to me this was sacred. I cherish these moments, when I was able to observe these women unified and the bond of their own truth. I also looked at women within the fashion industry, through glimpses of Vogue at the salon my grandmother got her hair done at. I Saw Linda, Christie, and Naomi. These women molded my image of an aspired glamour. I imagined myself being surrounded by a level of beauty that seemed completely unobtainable, never realizing I’d be able to develop this strength within myself. So I would say that my journey over my identity has been steady and continuous, as an evolution of self to this point, but I am still evolving and I look forward to see where else I can go as an individual.
Your inspiring authenticity is something that has helped expand the consciousness of what it means to be beautiful. Why is authenticity so important?
To be authentic is to be true in my opinion. To stand for what you believe in and in who you are. This was an aspiration that I could only have dreamed of as a child. Due to fear of judgment and attack against me, I held aspects of my truth deep within for a very long time. I know I am not alone in this as I receive many messages on social media from people in other countries that are not as open-minded. People that are afraid and rightfully so, due to the extreme nature of limitations around gender diversity and acceptance in queer community. This is why I take such pride in expressing myself to my fullest capability and pushing myself to go further for those that are not free to do so. I believe it’s extremely important for us to have examples in the public eye, as a reference for those that seek liberation and safety in their identity. I feel my purpose is to stand as an advocate and to be of service to my community and beyond.
What is your view of beauty in all its forms, both through femininity and masculinity?
Beauty is genderless. For me personally, I prefer the expression of femininity or what is deemed feminine. Makeup, heels, good hair and details embellishing the body. If I happen to explore ‘masculinity’, I portray it through the lens of the feminine. An example would be Marlene Dietrich in a suit, walking in the streets of. When I attend Dior, I often play in this frequency, hair and heels with a tailored suit. There’s an ownership of my body and claiming space, presented publicly to the stature of Miss Fame energy. This is powerful to me. Fashion is a playground for expression with our identity.
You are both a makeup artist and a beauty influencer, who has their own gender-boundary-breaking beauty line. What is your beauty brand based on and what is the inspiration behind its products?
‘Miss Fame Beauty’ is defined by inclusion. Makeup is genderless, it is a texture, pigmentation and an experience to explore. When I launched my first collection, I wanted the products to be approachable for somebody like my aunts or my mother. I also added a few tricks that could take it to stage, never to lose sight of my showgirl roots in New York.
The intention is always to celebrate individuals through every aspect of my creative self and the protects I associate with. I love sharing my vision in projects like my beauty line or in collaboration with designers for image affiliated concepts. This chapter of my image and branding is to be continued.
You were the first drag artist to work as a high fashion model featured in Vogue and the first drag artist ever to walk the red carpet of Cannes Film Festival as a spokesmodel for L’Oréal Paris. What drew you into the world of drag?
When I was 18 I went to my first gay pride. I saw a Drag Queen and I was allured and a bit terrified. There was something about the ability to transform that really captivated me, I wanted to know who they were behind their look. Once they met me, some of these same queens had mentioned if I do drag, I would be good. I didn’t really understand what they were saying, because I couldn’t really see what they saw in me. Once I allowed myself to play out this particular experience at our local gay bar, I ended up winning a very small contest. I didn’t even have heels on, I was wearing Converse of all shoes. I had on a black bob wig, torn white tank top with a visible black bra, a black garter belt with red lipstick and kitten liner.
This was a turning point for me as I appreciated the validation I received from my community. I never stopped from that moment on. As a result, I’ve found my image identity and connected it into an industry that I only dreamed about as a child from afar. Now I am the person I dreamt about when I was small. The representation of beauty that seemed completely unobtainable, has now become a reality I live daily. That to me is profound and shows that it is possible when you align yourself with the vision you seek within your future.
What are the best feelings you feel as a drag artist?
I admire the creative that continues to inspire and that comes from Drag. To see a master in their lane completely nail image and performance with a live audience is incredible. We are competing at a level that is extremely high, we are competing with industry in this day in age. For me, I am working alongside my icons in fashion and that is beyond words to me. For others in film and in comedy, they are on stage with those we only used to watch through the screens of our televisions. There is a huge shift culturally, where we are starting to really see representation in all forms of media. This progress is necessary and we still have much work to do regarding the marginalized communities within our communities. I have said this before, in order to create a real impact in supporting diversity, the visibility is step one. And the compensation through an extended contract that continues to represent diversity beyond pride month is where we can see marginalized communities represented in fashion and in all industries, as we utilize this opportunity to build our lives, which creates real change. Compensation is respect.
You became such a muse for fashion designers and makeup artists. Why do you believe you are such an inspiration for them?
I have conviction with every aspect of my creative. I’m dedicated to quality details across the board. I pride myself in professionalism. I’m very passionate about image and I absolutely adore references to the past, but reimagined in a current way. Also, I don’t rely on filters to hide inadequacy within the work. It has to be as good in person, if not better, to translate for me to feel right about it. I’m obsessed with details and I always aim for the highest standard, every time, no exceptions. What I’m doing now is exactly what I was meant to do. I feel it’s my calling.
With your involvement in fashion, you became a huge representation of fashion houses around the fashion capitals of the world. What makes Couture so special in your eyes?
Haute Couture is the highest form of detail and presentation, regarding these extraordinary garments that have been imagined from the profound talents of each house and designer. To experience a Haute Couture collection in Paris, while wearing Haute Couture garments that have been fitted by the designers themselves on my body, is something so extraordinary it can only be expressed through being in that given moment, as a post on Instagram could never do this memory justice. With my stylist Laurent Dombrowicz, who is also my mentor in fashion, we are in complete elation from the image we share from that experience. It is truly art and to wear art is to be art, if complimented appropriately through your own contributing details. But you need to know the reference to understand how to edit to curate a total look.
You are an advocate of always being able to tell your own story, through everything you do. Why is being able to do that so important, especially nowadays when people easily get lost in others’ stories?
Storytelling is how I survive. The truth sets us free and unifies all who are willing to listen. I learned from a mentor in my life, when I was much younger, that I should close my eyes and hear someone’s story and find myself through what they say. As soon as you stop looking for the division based on what you see and you start to hear something that you can understand, you become unified and a part of the conversation around you.
I have currently released my short film ‘Pinned Into a Dress’ at la Biennale in Venice for the film festival. My documentary, co-directed by Guillaume Thomas and Gianluca Matarrese, is about my truth, my humanity, my darkest moments and also my aspiration to live a beautiful authentic life. This is what matters above all else for me. I hope my message can be helpful to others too.
Where do you see the evolution take Miss Fame next?
I am remaining open to the possibility of expansion. I will keep this general, as I believe we need to allow a bit of magic from the universe to happen organically while we hold the intention of what we wish to achieve within. A combination of knowing what we’d like to experience, as well as trusting the process, creates a beautiful momentum which will surprise. That to me is how I desire to move forward within the next phase of my life.
Talent and Make-up MISS FAME
Photographer JAVIER CASTÁN
Fashion editor LAURENT DOMBROWICZ
Hair DAMIEN LACOUSSADE
Photography assistant BERTRAND DUSSART
Fashion assistant JULIAN DESOUVIGNY
Post-production RODRIGO QUIRANTE
Retouch THE BLACK ROOM STUDIO
Casting director TIMI LETONJA