MONEY spoke to Brita Filter, a New York City drag queen and star of Shade: Queens of NYC on Fusion TV, on how she manages her money.
Let's start simple: How did you get into drag?
I was doing a production of Cinderella, and I got cast as a stepsister. I thought it was the most amazing thing. I had always wanted to be a drag queen, so I learned, and then I came to New York City.
I love performing. I get to bring people together. That's my job. People come [to my shows] to escape, and I take them on an adventure for two hours and help them forget about their problems. I mean, it's not that serious—I'm a man in a dress. But I'm entertaining as hell!
Is it tough to earn a living as a drag queen?
I would say [I make] around $250 a night between my booking fee and tips. The most money I've made in one night was $600. There were some big ballers up in the club that night, which is great because I just go and buy more drag!
How much does a look cost, from head to toe?
A specific look costs between $700 and $1,000. Today I would say my outfit costs $800 or $900.
There's two wigs, because I need height so that [my hair] is in proportion to my body. These two wigs were $50 each, and then it was $50 to get it styled, so that's $150. The earrings are $4.50. Each pair of lashes cost $25, so that's $50. I'm wearing two of them because it's all about being extravagant.
The dress was $400, and that's not including the stones that are on it, because those were all extra. My shoes were $75. The boot covers came with the dress. I'm wearing six pairs of tights; those each cost $16. I'm wearing a cushion on my hips so that it gives me more of a feminine figure—I bought a mattress online for $100 and cut it up. My bra was $50.
And then the makeup: It costs me $35 every single time I do my face. That includes moisturizers and skin care products and makeup and eye shadow. I can't use cheap makeup, because CoverGirl doesn't cover boy.
What has been the biggest struggle in your career so far?
Not sleeping enough! It takes so much time and energy and money to make all of this happen. Sometimes my biggest struggle is not having enough money. There are all these amazing ideas in my head that I can't really do, because it costs so much.
On a recent episode of your TV show Shade: Queens of NYC, you met with drag queen Paige Turner to talk finances. Are you handling your money differently now?
Oh, totally! I would get all my money and stick it in a pile over there, and when I needed it, I would spend it. But after I had that meeting with Paige I have gotten so much better at it. I am truly keeping track and trying to make sure not to spend more than what comes in.