Santee Street downtown might be best known for knockoff handbags, throw-away Lycra fashion and cheap sunglasses, but a new space in the heart of this discount mecca aims to redefine it as a destination for innovation and self-expression through drag and alternative beauty.
Queen of Angels L.A., the bodacious boutique and makeup studio recently opened by Los Angeles drag performer Rudeness (aka Rudy Garcia-Campos) with his husband, James Garcia-Campos (along with partner Bryan Mendez), hosts fashion shows, photo shoots and parties that reflect the area’s multicultural essence with a fresh and heavy dose of sass and polysexual appeal.
“It's been a dream of ours to open up a space for some time, [but] we just had to figure out how that would look,” Rudeness told L.A. Weekly this past weekend at Queen of Angels' event called La Reina, co-hosted by Chuy Michels of Yeah Grrl events. “It's really a marriage of all my passions: music, art, fashion, beauty and drag.”
Rude (as he’s called for short) curated his own beauty and fashion pop-up a few years ago called Full Set, featuring manicures, styling and socializing, at various venues throughout L.A., among them Plaid Studio in Hollywood, Salon on Main Street and the Lash nightclub during Downtown ArtWalk. But owning his own store is something altogether bigger, and he has high hopes for its growth.
“I would love to turn it into a powerful brand with its own cosmetics and fashion line,” he says of Queen of Angels. “The sky truly is the limit.”
The store carries designs from local creatives and designers, most with the L.A. drag queen in mind. There is also a decidedly Latin and native vibe (the owners all represent) and proud nods inherent in the merchandise, including the store's logo wear. Queen of Angels L.A. has high-quality wigs, heels (in large sizes), makeup, glitzy accessories, street apparel for more casual party looks, flamboyant festival gear, colorful cosplay accessories and more.
“We carry hand-picked capsule collections by local designers that are nonbinary or unisex,” adds Campos, who sees Queen of Angels as helping Angelenos explore new sides of themselves in a supportive and inspiring environment, from old pros to “first time in drag” types. “They can come get their face beat by the Queen of Angels herself, Rudeness,” he says. “Choose a wig, heels, outfit and have a photo professionally taken, all in a one-stop shop.”
Campos adds, “The store is really a natural evolution. With my background in business, high fashion and luxury retail, we always knew that our talents would meet. We have designed our own accessories and curated our own pop-up shops and nightlife events throughout L.A. for years.”
This past weekend’s events were timed to L.A. Fashion Week. Michels’ Saturday soiree included a tattoo bar, DJs and, of course, shopping, while on Sunday, the store hosted a runway spectacle with 20 local drag performers donating their art to benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles’ L.A. AIDS Walk. The shop's opening month included an outlandish fashion show by designer and club personality Ernie Omega, “Full Metal Angel.”
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As a 20-plus-year veteran of the L.A. nightlife scene and a pioneer of drag culture in downtown Los Angeles, Rudeness has quite a network of friends, fans and influencers to pull from. “I studied everything drag-related, assisting to fashion houses Ashton Michael [and] Marco Marco, learning wig-styling tips from Emmy-winning RuPaul's Drag Race hair pro Hector Pocasangre and as a makeup artist with MAC Cosmetics,” he says. “Drag and performance art and giving back to the community are extremely important. It can be so hard for up-and-coming artists let alone drag queens to find a platform. We offer this all in one drag shop and performance space where everyone is welcome, no matter how you identify. This is very much needed, especially in today's political climate.”
Queen of Angels L.A. currently is planning another drag DIY event driven by custom orders and unique looks. They plan to stock the store with even more hot young designers who push the envelope of glitz, street, androgyny and statement dressing. (Local designers can inquire about consignment options.)
“I really feel at the heart of this place, it’s a drag shop, but it's so much more too,” Campos says. “Have you ever been turned away from trying something on at a non-queer friendly retail store? We have, and it’s not a good feeling. At Queen of Angels, you can come as you are and feel comfortable to be yourself. It’s all about occupying space and saying we are here!”