I recently met up with LA’s latest contribution to the drag scene, Erika Simone (aka Erik Korval). Erik (please note that whilst the drag driver persona is ‘Erika’, he prefers to go by ‘Erik’ and also prefers male pronouns) has been operating a taxi service called Driving is a Drag in LA for the last eight months. This is a service with a difference in that he is in drag, wearing a female taxi driver, speed racer or limo driver outfit and his taxi (a 2010 Toyota Prius, which he says is the perfect vehicle for him right now) is pimped out with feather boas and pink fluff.
Erik works for both Uber and Lyft and says that both companies are happy to have a driver in drag. He notes that Lyft is something of a trailblazer in corporate America in that it promotes diversity and encourages ‘weirdness’ in its employees. All his clients so far have been happy to be driven around by someone in drag, although some have expressed mild surprise upon first meeting him. Whilst incorporating drag into your business may make sense for small businesses with the right sort of client base (for example Aunt Barbara’s highly successful Tupperware parties in drag), Erik thinks that it will take some time yet before the majority of mainstream companies employ transgendered people as senior managers. Having spent some fifteen years as s music industry marketing executive he probably has a good insight into corporate America.
The recent debate regarding the use of public toilets has affected Erik. As he works ‘on the road’ he needs to make use of public toilets on a regular basis. He prefers to use women’s toilets when in drag as he is presenting as a female. This makes perfect sense. If you are dressed as a female and identify as female why should you use the male toilet? A security guard recently refused to allow him access to the women’s toilet, saying he wasn’t being fooled by Erik’s presentation as Erika. It caused Erik some distress and I am sure put him at some risk of assault as well as whilst the LA community is generally accepting of trans* people there are still some assaults and even murders of trans* people in LA.
Erik loves the people he meets and has driven a few famous people around LA. The most famous person was Tim Commerford of Rage Against the Machine. He has also had a number of ‘characters’ in his taxi, including a transgender prostitute and two women returning from a party who proceeded to perform oral sex on each other in the back seat. So far his favourite passenger was an eighty year old grandmother. The biggest problem with picking up drunk passengers (cunnilingus aside) is that Erik is always worried that he will be cleaning their vomit out of the back seat later. So it seems being a taxi driver in drag attracts a varied clientele to say the least.
Erik is eager to help the LA trans* community and has been in talks with a number of LGBTIQ organisations in the city. He would like to make sure that trans* people are able to move round the city in safety and without shame. Clearly there is a role for him in this regard. Some younger people have said that they have been inspired by Erik and have ‘come out’ as trans* or have started dressing because of him. This inspires Erik. He thinks it is very cool to be able to positively influence others in this way.
Erik has always been an entrepreneur and is constantly looking for innovative ways of growing his business. He is now looking at expanding the taxi service into the entertainment field. Some of the work he is doing includes taking a band for a ride in the car whilst interviewing them and getting them to play some of their music. The video is placed on YouTube. It is hoped that there may be opportunities to take this concept into reality television. Given that Erik is keen to get into television and that there is an opening on Top Gear for a presenter or two, Erik is considering pitching a new “Cash Cab meets Taxicab Confessions meets Borat” in drag to the BBC. Erik is passionate about being his own boss and not having to toe the corporate line. He is out and proud and is not willing to hide his true self. This is truly admirable.
Erik has a rigorous regime that keeps him looking fit and feminine. Erik has been blessed with a narrow feminine face, but still found make-up something of a challenge. He went to Jodie Lynn for help and she taught him some techniques and skills. They have been well applied and Erik looks amazing as Erika. Erik takes approximately forty five minutes to get ready for a day’s work. The daily routine is shower, shave, beard cover, foundation, bronzer, eye shadow, eyeliner, brow pencil, eyelashes, mascara, and lipstick, fortunately contouring is not a necessity and this cuts down on the time. Erik says that much of his look is achieved through a mindset and a way of being. By thinking a way of being you act in that way and become that, so think feminine, act feminine, be feminine. By avoiding fast food, eating healthily and staying active Erik stays fit and keeps the weight off.
Erik has his eyes on a mid-sized party bus called ‘The Most Fab Ride’, pimped out with a stripper pole, pink leather couches, a flat screen TV playing “Boogie Nights,” 4 GoPro cameras, a Sonos surround sound system, a photo booth, , a dance floor that lights up with wireless “silent disco” headphones, disco balls and lava lamps. I have already booked the spot as the first passenger.
Watch out for Erik in the new documentary, ‘Dragged’ which is being filmed in LA and New York later this year.
You can check out Erik’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/drivingisadrag?pnref=about.overview