The drag superstar has unveiled a special calendar that ushers in the new year with fabulosity. Each month features a photo of Chachki in her signature drag style: vintage, pinup-inspired looks. “In the ’50s, you would have these risqué pinup calendars that were sort of taboo-it was almost like softcore porn,” Chachki tells Vogue of the project, adding that one of her biggest inspirations from the decade were stars such as Bettie Page. “[Bettie] was one of those cheesecake models that would pose for these sexy pictures,” she says. “If you look at [the pictures] now, though, they're so innocent and playful.”
The 2021 calendar isn’t Chachki’s first go at retro calendar modeling. This is actually Chachki’s fourth calendar project, having done one in 2016, 2018, and 2019 (the latter was shot by legendary celebrity photographer Ellen von Unwerth). “Every year is its own monster,” Chachki says. “This year, it’s more of a punk approach: the whole thing has this acid trip, ’70s and ’80s vibe.”
These calendar shoots began innocently enough for Chachki-she needed a visual medium to display all of the amazing ensembles in her archive that she hasn’t gotten to wear yet. “I’m a fashion hoarder,” she says. “I have a ton of stuff, and I like to cycle it out to have room for more stuff. The calendar is a way for me to archive and catalogue all of the pieces that have been through my hands.” This year, with the pandemic and quarantine, she had an even bigger abundance of pieces that were begging to be worn-so she channelled her creativity into a 2021 calendar shoot, which was shot at a secret hotel in Palm Springs this summer. “It’s this ’70s motel, and they have all these crazy themed rooms,” says Chachki. “The rooms and spaces dictated each month.”
Each calendar month saw Chachki embrace its feeling or mood. She got spooky for Halloween, or romantic and flirty for February’s Valentine’s Day theme. (December, however, proved to be not very Christmas-like, instead, it’s more ballerina-inspired. “To be honest, I’m kind of a Grinch,” she says.) For Chachki’s birth month in June, she also went for a Barbarella-inspired look, a favorite film of hers. “It’s super surreal and campy,” she says. “I love that retro-futuristic look, because it feels modern in a way. I had this reflective mylar corset and panty made by my corset maker in Atlanta, who I call my own personal Mr Pearl.”
In addition to one-off custom pieces, Chachki also wears vintage ensembles in the photographs that hark back to the days of Old Hollywood. To do so, she pulled special garments from The Last Follies Closet, a costume rental store in Los Angeles. “My friend Alexandria runs it,” says Chachki. “She just bought a Bob Mackie warehouse at auction. She has these incredible costumes from the ’70s.” For accessories, she chose Christian Louboutin shoes (a Chachki signature) as well as archival pieces from Prada, Miu Miu, Jean Paul Gaultier, and more. Even more impressive than styling all of the fashion, however? Chachki self-photographed and creative-directed the whole calendar herself, with the help of assistants, of course. “I like being in control and having total creative freedom,” Chachki says. “Because of the pandemic, I really had to learn how to be self-sufficient. I’m like Marlene Dietrich in that way-whenever I'm on set, I'm like, ‘that light needs to go up, that light needs to go down.’”
Like the rest of us, Chachki says she’s now officially ready to kiss 2020 goodbye-and she surprisingly has high hopes for next year, calendar aside. “I am, by nature, not optimistic: my fellow drag queens would probably describe me as a pessimist,” she laughs. “But I am so optimistic right now, it’s unbelievable! I feel like the stars are going to align and everything is going to open up. We’re going to get a vaccine. We have a new president. I’m picturing residencies and tours and fashion weeks and lovers and dinners and parties and dancing.”
We learn something every day, and lots of times it’s that what we learned the day before was wrong.