Dakota Conduct: Stop Complaining and Find Solutions
Supply Chain Analyst by day, drag queen by night, Dakota Conduct defies many of the social mores of working for Fortune 500 companies by living in the duality of corporate daytime professional and gender-bending drag queen in nightlife, embracing being a geek and loving to code, statistics, and analytics. Ms. Conduct holds an MBA in Business Strategy & Analytics from Purdue University, and a BSBA from The Ohio State University in Logistics Management and City & Regional Planning, and has worked for corporate retailers such as Sears Holdings Corporation, Crate & Barrel, and Ulta Beauty. You can learn more about her podcast show, Thots and Shares, on thotsandshares.com.
"I won't ever complain about something without offering a solution. If you're going to sit there, and point out all these problems, that is the easiest thing in the world to do. I can tell you right now all the problems in the country. Solving them is the hard thing to do."
Dakota Conduct - Transcript
Dakota Conduct: I am just a very pragmatic person doesn't mean it's the right solution but I just can't complain. So, I was like I want to do something to resist this administration, and for some reason I'd always wanted to do drag I had like been following RuPaul's Drag Race since the very first episode Nina West in Columbus Ohio was one of the first drag queens I ever saw, and I've always enjoyed it. And, so this is my version of resisting and so I wasn't good at first, I'm still learning now I won't ever complain about something without offering a solution. If you're going to sit there and point out all these problems, like that is the easiest thing in the world to do I can tell you right now all the problems in the country. Solving them is the hard thing and that's not maybe drag isn't solving it but it's at least you know with this administration I was just like to the government that wants to suppress people like me, this is what I'm going to do.
Simone Salis: I am Simone Salis and this is The Hoomanist with today's guest Dakota Conduct. Supply Chain Analytics by day, drag queen by night Dakota Conduct defines many of the social mores of working for fortune 500 companies by living individuality of corporate daytime professional and gender bandy drag queen in nightlife. Embracing being a geek and loving to code statistics and analytics, she holds an MBA in Business Strategy and Analytics from Purdue University and a B. S., B. A from The Ohio State University in Logistics Management and has worked for corporate retailers such as Sears Holding Corporation Crate & Barrel and Ultra Beauty. You can learn more about her podcast show, Thoughts, and Shares on thoughtsandshares.com. Dakota, I use ‘she’ but is there any other pronoun that I should use they just assumed you're pronounced?
Dakota Conduct: you know it's funny I couldn't care less about pronounce and I know that they matter and they're people that really care about it but me personally he, she, that, this, whatever I'll respond to a lot of things.
Simone Salis: That's kind of how I feel about it, like I always wish that there will be a day that pronounced don’t matter, and I guess that's the point of having gender-neutral pronounce or to say for bathrooms, right.
Dakota Conduct: Exactly.
Simone Salis: What does it matter.
Dakota Conduct: Exactly, so to me I’ll respond to anything.
Simone Salis: Glad to that, combining a big data analytics and we'll talk about what that is and drag by night, how is that going from energy?
Dakota Conduct: I'm really exhausted and tired all the time both mentally and physically entirely drained. But I love it; it's how I would have it, so yeah my day job is in data analytics and strategy. So, I do a little bit of everything where it comes to actually diving in, writing code when it comes to you know analyzing and come up with a strategy for how you're going to build a warehouse or you know a database. So, that's my day gig, and then my night gig is throwing on wigs and walking out in heels and doing that.
Simone Salis: Are those like synergistic?
Dakota Conduct: The funny thing, yeah, they're very right-brain, left-brain but together it's a yin and yang, so to me it’s funny, and I have asked people like, oh do you find yourself creative? And I'm like yeah I work in analytics and like I say that I think it's creative but you know it really isn't but it is. Okay, so here me out here, why I would say analytics is creative is that its problem solving, and its problem solving to a world that people don't understand at all. So, you know one out of a hundred people might actually be able to understand what you're trying to get out and how to do it. And, so that's why I’m considered creative but you know the funny thing is that when it comes to drag that's what people think it is creative. They think of the big colors, and the in-your-face and like the fashion and that all, that absolutely is but it's funny how something as dry as seemingly dry as analytics actually has a side of creativity as well.
Simone Salis: What is, you know that's interesting because I see coding as creative to AC analysis as creative too because there is problem-solving, and that's a very good point. What is the overlap in creativity part for you in both drag and analytics?
Dakota Conduct: It's the system's thinking when you're… let's say you're doing your makeup there's a process and has to go in a certain order. You can't …I mean you really can develop whatever order you want for yourself but like for example, most people end with doing their lips and so they draw their lip liner and then put lipstick on. But that is something that people end with generally, so with the whole routine you're starting off with shaving first then you're putting on something called a primer which is to kind of block pores from sweating.
Simone Salis: Yeah
Dakota Conduct: Then you're building on foundation, and then you're putting on, so you're doing all these different layers and there's a process to it. There's also a time that each one takes, so like you might say like, oh I think I need two hours for makeup but you know like each segment what it's going to take. And so whether Queens realize they do this or not but there's a whole operation you know model going on in their head. At least that's how I look at it, and so it's not just like okay let's put on foundation I'm like okay we're entering this phase and this takes you know 10 minutes and now we're entering this phase, this is 20 minutes.
Simone Salis: So, you’re not sure what's happening if you are turning drag into data analytics and work or you're turning analytics into doing drag shows.
Dakota Conduct: I do both and I bring that type of thinking to the drag show itself, so immediately it's never like okay we're going to have six girls they're going to do two numbers and each one's four minutes, I'm thinking like okay well what about the time in between the numbers, how long is that going to be? How long should it be? What's the right amount of time for an audience? So, it's just I'm very numbers focused.
Simone Salis: All right, we'll call it the algorithmic drag queen.
Dakota Conduct: Yes, exactly
Simone Salis: What would be your algorithmic name?
Dakota Conduct: The funny thing is for a day, my drag name for one day was Tera Byte; l was like it would be so cute to do this drag thing.
Simone Salis: You are a gig
Dakota Conduct: You know it just kind of feel right, and I came up with Dakota Conduct basically because it was society's code of conduct and I was breaking it. And by doing this duality like I mean I wear a suit to work I have a very 9-to-5 job like I said we know working in strategy sometimes our projects working I have 2, 3 or 20, 30 million dollar implications. So, coming from like that high pressure environment to like throwing on a dress you're like this is, you know…
Simone Salis: One dollar bills handy. Dakota Conduct: Exactly yeah most people will be like. Why? And to me it grounds me and keeps me sane and it's what keeps me focused in those you know big meetings where we have that twenty million dollar implication. To me it's like this other side of me is laughing and having fun and not taking life seriously and that's what happens or that's what helps me in those moments to be grounded and make the right decision.
Simone Salis: How did this decision to start to do drag while having this like nine-to-five…?
Dakota Conduct: It started because of all this Trump shit, so, Trump got elected and I am just a very pragmatic person doesn't mean it's the right solution. But I just can't complain so I was like I want to do something to resist this administration and for some reason, I'd always wanted to do drag I've been following RuPaul's Drag Race. It's the very first episode Nina West in Columbus Ohio was one of the first drag queens I ever saw, and I've always enjoyed it and with this administration, I was just like this is what I'm going to do. And so this is my version of resisting, and so I wasn't good at first I’m still learning now but it's been you know about a year and a half it was basically the day he was inaugurated I was like I'm starting drag.
Simone Salis: You inaugurated your drag.
Dakota Conduct: Correct, basically Trump's my drag, Mom.
Simone Salis: Well the wig works great.
Dakota Conduct: I was about to say that, he's kind of a drag queen he's got orange, he's got a wig.
Simone Salis: So, independently you know from this administration or not I like taking action in a constructive way like you're doing instead of complain because I think that is the danger sometimes of social media that you end up complaining, and it becomes more whining.
Dakota Conduct: I won't ever complain about something without offering a solution.
Simone Salis: Yeah
Dakota Conduct: You know especially if you're going to sit there and point out all these problems like that is the easiest thing in the world to do. I can tell you right now all the problems in the country, solving them is the hard thing, and maybe drag isn't solving it. But it's at least you know giving it a middle finger to the government that wants to suppress people like me, there's a quote from Theo Roosevelt, and we can even look it up if we need to. But it says something like, “it doesn't matter what the audience thinks if you're in the boxing ring and you're the one throwing the punches, and you're the one taking the hits it doesn't matter what the critic says, it doesn't matter what the people outside thinking there think. It's the person who's actually throwing the punches where that is where the grueling, the pain is and everything”. And so like just being a bystander saying like, oh this is wrong or whatever it's just not productive.
Simone Salis: Releasing this kind of creative tension that you had did you have any previous channels to release it before you got into drag?
Dakota Conduct: So, I'm a musician I play piano I like saying I play guitar a few other instruments, so that was always kind of my creative outlet. But I didn't really have something that took this much time or energy I mean it was one of those I kind of flippantly decided to do drag. It was very much a fuck Trump, this is what I'm going to do and it was you know when I began to do it I realize this is not easy, and actually, I think that's why I kept at it. I think if it was one of those you just throw some makeup on, throw a wig on and you're out the door. And you look just as stunning as some of the best out there then I think I would have lost interest but it was the fact that I so bad at first and that it was a big challenge for me.
But prior to it I didn't have something like that where I could spend literally two, three hours a night just to be okay at, like anything else I mean whether it was piano or you know or whatever, even piano I don't think I ever practiced for more than 30 minutes or an hour a day. It was over you know 20 years that I was able to become what I am now but it was never something that was pretty much my life from the moment I ‘m up and the moment I'm in bed. And that's what drag is because it's almost like you can be consumed by it because you're trying to learn the actual techniques you know of makeup, of hair, of styling. Everything it takes to actually transform, it’s you know wearing padding, wearing the right clothes for your fit, and the right type of garments, then there's the branding that goes along with it.
So, you're thinking about are you sending a consistent message, you know? One day you can't be dressed up as a cowgirl, then the next day as like a leather whore, the next day as a gospel singer, I mean you can if you connect those and make them work from a branding perspective. Otherwise, you're just going to confuse your audience, and I've seen people do that where they think they're comedy queen, then they think they're a glamour Queen and they just don't have a consistency between their looks. So, there's the branding aspect, there's the social media aspect too, and it's what do you present? How you present it? What you say? What you choose to say? I mean so it's like this constant you're really truly a second person and it takes a lot of effort and a lot of time, and I don't think I fully realized that but now that I'm in it; I’m in it, so.
Simone Salis: 11: 35: You starting experimented with something new and I believe that practice is necessary to become better following your evolution, it seems you have been learning pretty fast and you have a pretty clear idea about both your message and who you want to reach. But how did that evolve from day one to now?
Dakota Conduct: First, how I've evolved is a level of confidence that I never thought would come from drag, never thought I'd ever had, and it's just one of those very natural things. And I make a point about that because I'm so intentional about everything else, what I'm choosing to wear, how I'm choosing to wear it, where I'm choosing to go, all have a purpose. But this level of confidence was not something I expected, and it's confidence in my body, it’s confidence in my character, not just the character of Dakota but actually who I am as a person. And how I bring that to my day job, my career, my marriage, everything, so I would say that was something that was really unexpected.
I mean I think I was really into the political side at first because I was that was like the motivation to start, and I think I quickly realized that like if my goal is to actually change legislation or something that's not the way to go about it. But if my goal is to keep us laughing during these really bad times I can accomplish that, and that I can accomplish though drag. So, I think that's kind of evolved because now I'm almost never political on the mike, on my podcast if we talk about Trump or laughing at him. But I think that's my contribution is that like I realize that all of us are in a really bad spot you know I even have conservative friends who are very concerned about what's going on in this country. But still, if this can be my contribution to make people smile, to make people laugh, to make them forget, then that is worth everything I put into it.
Simone Salis: Since this is part of you I want to jump straight to the big data part, let's this big data, just what is the big part of it?
Dakota Conduct: Yeah.
Simone Salis: We are used to…
Dakota Conduct: Yes, so, big data is just an unimaginable amount of data collected for no seeming purpose…
Simone Salis: So, Facebook first…
Dakota Conduct: Absolutely, everything you've ever swiped, everything you've ever bought, every time you've used a transit card, every time you have used a lift instead of uber, every time you have done anything that is traceable. It has been traced, and not in a big brother' way they're not like trying to calculate and follow where you are. But to a certain degree they are collecting all of this data, so let's start with credit card data. Everything you've ever swiped has been tracked and they follow where you go to the restaurants they follow how much you spend, how often, frequency, when and they're trying to understand buyers. And the thing is, the reason I'd personally not bothered by this at all, is one have a good understanding of it. But two it's done it's such an aggregate level, so we just talked about your purchasing but think of hundreds of millions and billions of people.
And their purchasing habits when they buy things, how often, how much they spend, what's their min/max, you know, what credit card balances they carry. When you take all of these data points and like I said seemingly there's no connection where analytics comes in, is begins to analyze that and find the connection and so you aren’t going to take this massive amount of data. So, you know a typical report might have, let's say one to two thousand rows of data, this type of data is going to have you know 600 billion rows just such a number that you can't even possibly imagine. And it's organized in a way that really you can't get much out of it but once you bring in analytics processing into it that's when you're able to look at it and say or begin to create profiles. So you look at a type of person and you say okay well this 15 % of all the credit card buyers out there, these are the ones who carry a balance.
15: 31: They pay out every month, they spend a lot but they get charged a lot of interest. So, we're going to target them for more credit cards, for more things because we know we actually make money off of them. This 10% of the population, however, they pay their balance in full they get all these reward points that we then have to pay for them to go you need a free flight or whatever…
Simone Salis: That’s kind of my strategy.
Dakota Conduct: Exactly, that's most people's strategy they, we've never made a penny on interest on them we're losing money on them, so we if they don't use their card for three months we might deactivate them, if they you know never you know carry a balance or whatever we're not going to retarget them with ads to get this new credit card because we're just going to open ourselves to more liability, lose money. So, it's that's just one example everyone is trading this data, so American Express, Visa they sell your data to companies like Facebook into other companies who want to try to target you and they might be for various reasons they might sell to a restaurant crew, so they can better understand how to find their target demographic.
Simone Salis: 16: 52: I just started a new mailing list, it's the Humanists Weekly Digest, a text-only curated collection of interesting links and articles that you wish a good friend would have shared with you. It's delivered every weekend to your inbox as simple plain text and you can subscribe now for free on human.ist / subscribe. I am SimonE Salis, and this is the Humanist Podcast with today's guest Dakota Conduct, Drag Queen, and Data Analyst.
Technologies agnostic, so this kind of work with unstructured raw data that you capture might actually be used for good purposes as much as like behavioral study then actually try to trick the behavior of human beings. And so, like you said you're not scared by it because you understand it will, and it doesn't bother you but you know the use can be in between the few, the dark side.
Dakota Conduct: Yeah, I mean Trump is the dark side of data analytics like he won, it is so ironic. I remember at the Republican National Convention Trump Jr. was on stage, and he said something like Trump doesn't need big data analytics to understand his people but the irony is he won specific…
Simone Salis: [18: 09 inaudible]
Dakota Conduct: Exactly, that's the only reason and it's just a frustrating space that the political analytics world is in, is that group tends to believe things that they read a headline. They immediately believe it, and they share it, and Liberals on, you know the other side are more skeptical and they don't share those types of things. And so what has happened is all this misinformation is spreading, and that's why you know there was things about Hillary Clinton running a sex ring with you know in a pizza shop. Like it's almost like they come up, they literally do and they've interviewed people who've made these fake headlines. They try to come up with the most absurd thing possible because they'll believe it, and what makes that you know difficult is on that side of analytics that targets demographic will share it, will believe it and it just makes it that much harder for liberals to actually get to truth out because the truth doesn't sell.
Simone Salis: What is a good example of positive use of big data analytics in society?
Dakota Conduct: I don't know if they're actually doing this but I would be really surprised if they weren't, so what comes to mind is Fitbit, so Fitbit you wear it on your wrist and it tracks your steps. It tracks your heart rate, your sleeping patterns and if you combine that data with profile stuff, so what's my age, where do I work, what's my income. You can take that data to try to piece together information on our health, and you could take that data and try to understand to a certain degree how to improve people's health. And so I don't know really what they're doing specifically but that's immediately that's something comes to mind is like an opportunity because if we can improve health, we can increase you know how long people live. And that's just has a huge impact certain information together but I think you could take that data and really make a lot of positive change in the world.
And that's, what's interesting is I talked about the creativity of analytics, and that's what you're doing, you're giving this because seemingly useless just a sea of information and you need to tell a story with it. And that's so interesting and fun for me with analytics is that I'm always trying to find what that story is, and sometimes the story is customers aren't coming into your store, and you're like, oh why? And it's that question of why that really makes someone good at analytics…
Simone Salis: It becomes almost scientific storytelling like through algorithm.
Dakota Conduct: Absolutely, yeah that’s data science.
Simone Salis: So, let's see you know just to understand better you're looking at a warehouse, and the warehouse there are cameras that get the feed constantly of the amount of a specific product that is on a shelf. And so analyzing that stream together with other factors you can understand when that product needs to be restocked.
Dakota Conduct: Yeah
Simone Salis: The warehouse and when it will be shipped, and how and when connected the customer behavior and needs or the season of the year. And all those factors in and everything gets fine-tuned, optimized and automated so that there is minimal need for human interaction in managing this kind of chain. And there is optimization of resources and timing for the customer.
Dakota Conduct: Yeah, that's exactly. There's a level of detail which we in the biz call LOD but it's going all the way from the highest view, and you're not looking at a single item that's in stock or out of stock. But you're looking at your entire network, so the highest level and you're looking at okay, do we have product to sell? Then that next layer is okay, do the stores have products? Yes, the next layers does the distribution product, yes. And then you keep drilling down, and down, and down, and then you get to that individual unit or that individual item. So, it's like most retailers carry it twenty to thirty thousand different what's called a skew which is basically just an item, so a pair of jeans and a pair of shirt that you know that's two different SKUs. So, in that example like you're trying to manage that individual unit and that individual SKU and making sure that it's in stock in stores but you don't have too much otherwise you spend all this money on product that isn't selling. You don't have too little because then you miss sales, so where analytics comes in, is that balance and where it becomes complex is where I talk about the level of detail it's that that you're doing that across the board.
Simone Salis: There is a novel I don't know if you know it probably you do by Philip K Dick which talks about the artifact. An artifact is this totally automated self-managed factory that produces goods for human space on analytics and their needs and society collapses and artifact keeps managing the world and shipping things. So, you see this boxes flying around and humans are literally not having food [23: 43 inaudible] its produced by Amazon and I feel like that will be on Amazon, it's just the erotic way in video to Amazon like yeah that's where we're going.
Dakota Conduct: Yes, it's very funny.
Simone Salis: You said you're married right?
Dakota Conduct: Yes
Simone Salis: Okay, how long have you been married?
Dakota Conduct: 4 years; 4 years is just like a week ago.
Simone Salis: Okay, congratulations.
Dakota Conduct: Thank you.
Simone Salis: Where did you guys meet?
Dakota Conduct: So, we met when I was at Ohio State, and he went to a school called Capital University which was right out in Columbus as well. And we met at a gay pride party in 2009 and I remember thinking that he was the most handsome thing I'd ever seen. And he had a boyfriend at the time who also had the same muggle name that I have which is my non Dakota name, and it was funny because I came over and I used to Bartend, and so I showed up a little late to the party but being a Bartender I like you know I bought a bunch of stuff and I was making raspberry and strawberry mojitos. And I liked the party was kind of dull and when I showed up, I like turned the music up, I got like the drinks going on, suddenly it was a party but like the host who was the boyfriend at the time, he hated me for that. But I just came in…
Simone Salis: You took charge.
Dakota Conduct: Yeah I was like this needs to be fun and Kasey liked that about me, and so you know nothing happened until they broke up because it was inevitable it's going to happen. And then once it did I was like I swooped right in on that Facebook messenger I was like, hey what's up?
Simone Salis: 4 years, so you married before in the United States?
Dakota Conduct: We were married before, it was legal.
Simone Salis: It was federally like…
Dakota Conduct: Yeah, we got married in Houston, New York, New Jersey and so we got married in Atlantic City. It was kind of our version of eloping, and our family was there, friends were there, we had a small wedding with about 30 people or so but it was a lot of fun and it was legal in both New York and New Jersey at the time. But we still have a technically in New York state license and then it got legalized everywhere.
Simone Salis: Growing up did you grow up in a religious family?
Dakota Conduct: Extremely religious.
Simone Salis: Extremely religious.
Dakota Conduct: Yeah.
Simone Salis: What is the extreme version of that? What does it look like?
Dakota Conduct: Homeschooled
Simone Salis: Okay.
Dakota Conduct: Homeschooled.
Simone Salis: [24: 49 cross talking]
Dakota Conduct: So, I was in I'd be in a Catholic School then I'd be Homeschooled then I'd be back in a Catholic School. My parents were very you know follow the Lord, and listen to the Lord, and the Lord might call me to be homeschooled for two years and back into Catholic School then back to homeschooling. It was I wouldn't now raise a family that way but that's just how they did, and so we weren't allowed to listen to anything but Christian music. We weren't allowed to watch most TV shows like The Simpsons and Friends were absolutely off limits, randomly we were allowed to watch ER you remember show?
Simone Salis: Oh, yeah, you know my mom used to watch ER and I was just passively watching it when I was a kid and little I knew that was supposed to be in Chicago but not shot in Chicago.
Dakota Conduct: See I don't even remember that.
Simone Salis: Yeah; yeah.
Dakota Conduct: So, we were allowed to watch that but that was one of the only TV shows we could watch, we can only read the Bible couldn't do the Harry Potter or Pokémon or Magic the Gathering, all that. Dungeons and Dragons was like the devil's work. I mean like at least with Harry Potter they kind of saw there was a kids book but Dungeons & Dragons that was Satan word.
Simone Salis: Do you have any siblings?
Dakota Conduct: Yes, I've one Sister.
Simone Salis: Okay you have one Sister, and she's older?
Dakota Conduct: She's older by two years, yep.
Simone Salis: Okay, which denomination of the Church of that, like what was the religion?
Dakota Conduct: We change religion so many times, there is always Jesus.
Dakota Conduct: Always Jesus.
Simone Salis: Jesus was there.
Dakota Conduct: Well sometimes it was Catholic, then we were Methodist, then we were nondomination, then we were Messianic Jews that was my favorite the Jews for Jesus.
Simone Salis: Wait, let me Messianic Jews okay let me learn more about that, please?
Dakota Conduct:: Yes, we would be like literally… one week would be in mass at you know doing the kneeling, having the wafer, doing the communion thing, and we'd leave the Catholic Church a week later we're now in a Jews. And seriously we're reading from the Torah my Mom's saying, Shalom, all the time I mean there's like a mint, there's an undiagnosed mental disorder there without a doubt.
Simone Salis: What kind of influence did it have on you as a person growing up?
Dakota Conduct: Okay, good stuff that came out of it is, I tend to be very kind, tend to be understanding and empathetic. I tend to really understand where people are going they're coming from, you know even when someone says something just like really hateful I really do you know still look at them as a human as like someone that I can try to understand. Because I've realized that a lot of people didn't have that super religious upbringing, they tend to be like well that person and they just write them off. I tend not to be like that, I tend to see the good in everyone. I think that my upbringing was just so all over the place that had a negative impact on me like I said I don't think I was ever in a single school for more than two years straight. And so it was always new friends, always changing, new jobs, new places were living, new mission trips that we were going to go on. Because when we you are homeschooled we would then suddenly go on a mission trip to Jamaica, Ireland, Scotland, and we go and like you know try to save people.
Simone Salis: What does your parents?
Dakota Conduct: My Mom was a Teacher, and my Step Father was Mechanic for US Airways, so part of it is because we could fly free because of his US Airways benefits, so that was one of the reasons we'd go on these mission trips. But it was just there was no routine, it was really chaotic, growing up I fully believed in all of the religious stuff I mean I fully believe that if you were gay you're going to go to hell and hell was an actual place where you burned for eternity. And as a child that was terrifying because I truly believed you would live 50, 000 years burning and then you still have 50, 000 years and 80, 000 like it would never end and you just be burning in hell. Like that was the very physical thing that was drilled into me because my parents would tell me these things. When I finally came out which wasn't planned at all I mean, I was driving around with my best friend we were literally it was 2: 00 a.m. this is back when gas was really cheap and you could just go on drives and so we were driving around and like she was like what's the worst thing you've ever done?
And you know by the way we weren't drinking at all but I just for some reason couldn't really hold it in it took like 30 minutes to get it out but I was like ever since I was boy you know blah; blah; blah; I’ve known that I was gay. And once I said that though one stuff is she was the first person ever said anything to, it was like you know boom I'm completely a different person. This is now out, I'm now out, and literally we put Share on, we listen Its Raining Men and I was out, so once that happened which was July 11th, 2003. Once that happened I did try for a while to like merge the religious beliefs and I very much relied on the quote of Thomas Jefferson and I might mess it up but it was.
Simone Salis: In paraphrase?
Dakota Conduct: Yeah, is if there was a god he would be more apt to prove of reason than a blindfolded fear, and so the idea was that like I have this feeling I've done it since I was five years old. This is who I am, and instead of me living a life of lies I'd rather be true to myself, and if there's a God he who in his infinite wisdom would have the power to understand and see that more than like just a lowly human like me. And so I try to bring him together and ultimately I've now since been an Atheist for well over 10 years, and for me that works. I'm also not like the you know militant atheists like, if someone out there is religious okay good for you, where I then draw that line though is when it's enforcing on others…
Simone Salis: Yes
Dakota Conduct: And so it's when you're going to hell because you don't agree with me, and it's like well that's not a tolerance, like if you're religious and you're like Jesus saved me and my life is better for it have more power good for you. Personally, I think that you're delusional and I think that you're telling me that a guy lives in the sky and he's watching what you do. I don't believe that but how about that.
Simone Salis: But yeah, you do follow the golden rule like a little bit like can’t…
Dakota Conduct: Exactly.
Simone Salis: Do to others that you wouldn’t want.
Dakota Conduct: Exactly but I've found the most opposition, the most hate, the most trouble in my entire life has always been from Christians, and that's frustrating. Because I don't want to sit here with the prejudiced, I don't want to be like, oh this is how it's going to be but I mean in eight or nine times out of ten if someone is a Christian I'm going to get you know condescending words. I'm going to get condescending looks, I'm going you know get questions about my life, and it's just I hope that changes I wish that we were in a bit in the space that it wasn't like that. But I mean when I came out I mean I was going to be a Christian singer I was prior to coming out, I was on my way to a Christian College I was going to be.. and I play piano and saying like that was my world. And I knew the right people, I knew there was a group called Avalon who was like this Christian singing group, I knew all of them there was another guy named Chris Rice, Darlene Zschech I knew all of them, and these are Christian singers I'm sure your followers know them.
Simone Salis: Yeah, of Course.
Dakota Conduct: But I say all that because once I came out it was like night and day difference like suddenly all of that fell out and no one wanted to talk to me and I was completely ostracized. And so, it's harder than walk away from that knowing that you had hundreds and hundreds of you know Christian friends and contacts like now they won't even speak to you.
Simone Salis: But your family was at your wedding, right?
Dakota Conduct: They were, they were my Mom and my Stepfather was, the man who raised me, they were at the wedding and it was… I wasn't sure if they wanted to go ultimately they did. If I had gotten married in 2004, you know like a year after they wouldn’t have come but I think after that point it had been 11 years at that point I think you've got to just kind of accept it.
Simone Salis: 32: 31: I am SimonE Salas, and this is the Humanists you can listen to every episode of the show on Human.ist and on your favorite Podcast App. I created the Humanists as an independent media project for technologically aware contemporary humanists you will find articles, a curated mailing list and all the podcast interviews on human.ist. This is a challenge in solo project that takes hundreds of hours each month with coding, writing, recording, editing, graphics, and publishing, and if you would like to keep enjoying new content regularly please become a patron now on human.ist/support. Today's guest is Dakota Conduct host of the podcast Thoughts and Shares.
How do you think you know I was talking with Jonathan Mayo, which is an Artist and has a project called Cleaning Closets [33: 27 inaudible] coming out is not ever a lonely process. Is not just about a person coming out but it's also a process for the people surrounding them, especially the ones who loved them. And so he realized that his mom changed through the years and she also had a coming-out process of learning to accept her son and understanding what was wrong in her beliefs and become a different person.
And I can recognize myself in that because my father and I are very different people but it is I am infinitely grateful for how much he changed since I was a kid. And since I came out because that shows to me that even if you have radical beliefs about those things, if they don't touch you personally and it's about a person that you love. I'm just grateful to see that he's changed as a person as much as I did in a different way. so how do you think that the coming-out process influenced your family?
Dakota Conduct: Yeah I mean, I've also always kind of held that opinion like it took you years to come to you know grips with this. It's going to take them time as well I think where it crossed a little bit over for them is that like there was a lot of abusive behavior. I mean I was thrown out of the house, we didn't speak for six months and even before I’ve been throw out the house at one point I was kidnapped. And they like performed an exorcism over me you know, so there was a lot of things like I don't think that's okay. Like I was… I would never have expected of any parent from the moment you say, “hey I'm gay” they'd just be like, “oh okay, cool, do want to do pizza tonight or what do you think like”. I do never expect that kind of reaction where it's just like a no biggie but I would I think that there's a line drawn when like abusive behavior comes out like that.
Simone Salis: Yeah, of course, what is your next project next goal with Dakota? What is the Dakota’s next project you are working on?
Dakota Conduct: Yeah, so I've done so two monthly shows, one is called Spectrum and it's at the Closet on Broadway, and our next one is August 17th I think, and with that one, it's all about showcasing the whole spectrum of drag. So, we've got Drag Kings, we've got Gory Monster Drag, we've got aliens we've got high glamour drag, you know the pageant queen. So, we try to show every type, yeah The Hyper Queens everything, and then my other show is called A Drag Battle Royale, and that one is like WWF meets drag queens. It’s insane, I mean we've got it's very theatrical, very produced and so we literally have like round 1, round 2 and like whenever I'll say into the mike, “let’s get ready to rumble” and you'll hear ding; ding and then someone walk out with a big sign saying round one. Like literally like that you have, and then there's drag queens competing and it's so fun and that one. Well, Spectrum is geared a little bit more towards the newer to drag, like everyone is very polished an established but they get a little bit more on the newer side. And Drag Bell Rail is geared to the more like seasoned Queens, and so I like that in my repertoire, I've got kind of a show for anybody so someone comes to me like, “oh I'm thinking about I just started six months ago I'm like spectrums a show for you”, or if they're like, “oh I've won a bunch of the competitions in the city I'm like drag battle rails for you”.
Simone Salis: And you got your own glow version for drag, you’ve got the gorgeous drags of wrestling.
Dakota Conduct: Yes, exactly and like all the others, and so on top of that in my weekly podcast Talk and shares, so between those three I feel like I've got a good system going on. So, drag is a really complex world you would not think that too, you would just think it's like you know having fun throwing makeup and wigs on, and walking out, it's complex for a variety of reason. One, there's just multiple styles of drag, and so you got Drag Kings, Drag Queens, you have what is called an A Fab Queen assigned female birth, a Mob, assigned male to birth. And that’s kind of more to be inclusive of trans-performers, so there's the pageant world where you can go down that route.
And pageants are extremely expensive it's not uncommon for someone to spend $20, 000 on their package for the pageant and that is $20, 000.
Simone Salis: What is included in that?
Dakota Conduct: Yeah, it's a gown, the looks, the flights that it takes to get to the pageant, the hotel rooms, you'll have backup dancers. They’ll need meals; they'll need hotel rooms, flights, etcetera. They'll need performance fees, there will be rehearsals, so the pageant world is one that is like just very, it's expensive, it's not as underground as like the bar nightlife drag world one. And there's even a whole drag day world out there I know multiple performers who are full-time like Birthday Drag Queens, and then do corporate gigs only and they don't do nightlife at all. I can literally think of three performers off the top of my head who do that, so because there's so many venues that you can do it's absolutely viable as a career.
It's difficult at times and it really depends on what city you're in being in Chicago; Chicago has a very open and welcoming community you know on social media at times the community may look a little petty but that's because you're only getting you know social media. You only get a certain angle of the true story, the reality is here you can come and you can do the pageant world, one of the best crown jewel pageants of the drag pageant scene is spaced here it's called Continental. If you win that you were going to be set and you can be a professional Drag Queen, once you, yeah if you've won that it is a huge achievement or if you want to be like Lucy Stool who started on the west side was not known as like the most polished Queen at first as now like 5, 6 years later has turned herself into someone that is running the scene.
I mean sometimes she has 3, 4 gigs in a night, and each paying her 250, you know so she's walking out with a grand in a single day. Like she's doing quite well, and how she did that for herself is she made herself visible, made herself available, elevated her craft, and she just hustled. She's one of the hardest-working Queens in the city. so you can do that as a venue as well or you can you know just decide to kind of do the social media route, another performer named Soju. Soju Love, she started a YouTube series and you know and did very good high-quality work and like consistently delivered a product every single week and now the every one of her videos gets 20 to 50, 000 views on YouTube. And so she's full-time doing that, so I think that in a place like Chicago where it's very welcoming, there's a very strong community you can find your own way. But you're going to have to work at it and you have to be intentional. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is that they throw in a wig, and then they just expect everything to come to them and it's like, no you're going to have to work.
Simone Salis: Like Britney Spears.
Dakota Conduct: Yes exactly like she said you better work bitch. You better work bitch like that's just not the right mentality to have that suddenly just because you did this daring, edgy thing suddenly works going to come to you.
Simone Salis: Would you do that?
Dakota Conduct: Will I do that?
Simone Salis: Full-time
Dakota Conduct: No, yeah I truly love data analytics, I love supply chain, I love corporate business life, one there's like the comfort of it, like drag, is a hobby to me that I can fully express and not be stressed over. I get stressed over at times, and that's my own thing that I need not to worry about.
Simone Salis: About your rent.
Dakota Conduct: Exactly.
Simone Salis: Or your paycheck doesn't depend on it so you have a little bit more of personal conditional flexibility.
Dakota Conduct: I pretty much break even on drag, and I think that's another thing as a lot of people expect to make money off of drag, and I mean you can there's nothing wrong with that. Personally, I have found that by focusing on just breaking even I'm able to put out better looks, to put out things I'm more happy with and proud of. And I think that’s one of those that maybe over the long term will better suit me versus if I'm trying to pay all my bills to drag and then whatever leftover I reinvest in the drag, you're going to take years before you're going to get to a really strong like drags, so.
Simone Salis: I remember watching a video of yours I've seen you live a few times but I remember watching a video of yours which was, it was you singing a song but just saying Jigglypuff, if I can remember.
Dakota Conduct: Oh yes.
Simone Salis: So, what was the song? It was so real…
Dakota Conduct: We did a Pokémon, we did a Pokémon thing at Dix Milwaukee DIX, it's a great bar, very supportive Drag Queens. I've been there 5 times, love it, and we did Pokémon Night it was called Pokémon Ho, and so from my performance, it was Jigglypuff goes to American Idol. And so, she's like it's hard to hear in the video but like she walks up, and she's like the Jigglypuff and Simon Cowell is, like what's your name? Jigglypuff. And like you just hear that over and over, and then he's like all right do your thing and then there's an actual song of like a boy band…
Simone Salis: What was it?
Dakota Conduct: I can find it for you on Spotify, the Jigglypuff song and it's literally like a boy band mixed in with Jigglypuff singing. And so I did that, and the crowd goes wild, and then like after it cuts out Simon's like absolutely terrible you are the worst singer I ever heard in my life. I can't believe what made you try out for this competition you have the most bizarre voice like and she's going on and then it breaks into Hello you know that like that depressive hello.
Simone Salis: Yeah; yeah.
Dakota Conduct: Is it me you're looking for like that and then from there she evolved onstage she like Jigglypuff beep.
Simone Salis: Jigglypuff.
Dakota Conduct: Yes, exactly and she becomes a glamour version of herself, so she goes back and this time on America's Got Talent, and when she breaks it out she's a pure opera singer and this time around.
Simone Salis: Look at the evolution of Judy…
Dakota Conduct: And then she wins and it's great, like yeah so I love doing mixes like that to tell a story, at times they're almost too complex and they required too much attention.
Simone Salis: It was insane I loved it because it was insane, and you know Jigglypuff the point of the Pokémon is that makes people asleep and luckily that didn't happen with the crowd. I remember I'm like cracking up, I'm just laughing a lot. Do you have any inspiration as a performer, and do you have any anybody that you look at and you go like I admired them because?
Dakota Conduct: Yes, yeah my girl for that would be Meatball in LA I am obsessed with Meatball. She is a Queen that was on Dracula, and from the second I heard her name I was like that's her, I mean because it was like you know Melissa Befierce and Vandervon Odd and Meatballs. It is such an absurd name and like I always talk about how I do drag to not take life seriously, and a name like that is just like the first step in that direction, and they are just insane, they're absolutely insane by a huge fan.
Simone Salis: What do you think after over 10 seasons is the function of RuPaul's? RuPaul’s is a person that I admire a lot, I don't follow the show but throughout the years so many interviews and points made by RuPaul I just read them, and I think that it's an exceptionally human being on a mission to better the human race. And what do you think that after over 10 seasons he is the current goal you see as their goal or function in culture for drag race?
Dakota Conduct: So, I tend to disagree with a lot of our, the drag community because the drag community does not necessary have the best image of RuPaul. They view RuPaul very much as a capitalist who's just trying to you know make money off of Drag Queens, while that may be true like you can't deny that this is better evolved for all of us. The perception of Drag Queens, we all have so many more gig opportunities because of RuPaul's Drag Race, and the fact is that you get the opportunity to get on the show and forever change your life too. So, I think that… I tend to really dislike about social media how it is black or white you know either you're canceled or you're a social justice warrior. Like there's no way for you to like admire someone but also realize they have faults so I certainly do fault RuPaul and not supportive of the fact that like he at this current time is saying that like a trans performer couldn't be on the show…
Simone Salis: Right
Dakota Conduct: And I think that is just silly I think that it would make great TV just for the fact that it would be, you know controversial and be something you could talk about and have you know conversations around. But beyond that so I disagree with him there but at the same time, I think that he's you know was in the 90s being a black man dressing up as a woman when 70% of the country was just against the idea of even two men being together. Much less being able to dress up as the other gender, and so I think that he was…and much less to be a person of color doing it, I think that you know he's a complete trailblazer and really changed the world. And so I think that it's myopic to just say, oh because of his one opinion on this one issue everything he's ever done is canceled.
I don't think where drag is going, is that it is beginning to move beyond drag race, you've seen shows like Dragula come up which gets hundreds of thousands of views per episode, which I mean drag race does as well but like Dragon Race I think is a couple time broken like a million views. So, for Dragula to be on YouTube and to get that much I think that's really says a lot, and then there's also this new show called Camp Want to Keiki. And that one's based here in the Chicago area, and it's about more campy Queens and so you see these new shows popping up and you see drag queens being featured in music videos. You should see them featured in TV shows, I think next that's going to be on the cover of magazines and that they will be in an actual you know theater run movies.
Not just ones that are straight to Amazon Prime or whatever so I think that there's a huge future for us and I think that RuPaul absolutely set that into motion but I think it's beginning to grow beyond him.
Simone Salis: So, basically we are all resting under the protective umbrella that RuPaul created at first? And now thanks to that there is more diversification and finally an evolution of that and there's a chance to evolve and get into different branches and analyze different access of the drag world.
Dakota Conduct: Exactly, I can’t say he alone did it because obviously it's bigger than that but he alone started a show called RuPaul's Drag Race that brought drag more into the mainstream. It's still not in the mainstream, you know for the vast majority of people you hear dressing up as a girl, dressing up as a different gender which by the way that is my petition right now here I petition to change the acronym. It's dressed as a girl that's what people think of when they think of drag I say it should be dramatically reenacting a gender.
Simone Salis: Yeah, well heightening the characteristic of, yeah that is kind of how it started and that's kind of the point you can go in either way.
Dakota Conduct: Either way, like I can dress up as a Drag King and I have a drag character, Mr. Noah Zark, and he has a long giant beard and does a lot of religious stuff. And it's me, and that's funny, and so I think drag is more than just you know, oh I'm a man I'm going to dress up as a girl, it's to me it's taking gender and like really doing it on a hyper scale.
Simone Salis: Alright, Dakota Conduct on the Hoomanist, thank you for being here today.
Dakota Conduct: Thank you for having me.
Simone Salis: Dakota Conduct is a Supply Chain Analyst by the day and Drag Queen by night living individuality of corporate day time professional. And gender bending Drag Queen in nightlife, showing how knowledge can only further enhance her drag aesthetic which features colorful makeup, big wigs and an overall campy feel to laugh at all the seriousness in life. Don't forget to subscribe and listen to more interviews from the humanist on your favorite podcast app, the humanist is a solo project created and produced by just one person, me. To keep enjoying new episodes and content regularly please show your support now at human.ist /support or try the free weekly digest on hooman.ist/subscribe.