Following the enraged online cries of “Fuck You Facebook” that Heklina (now Heklina Grygelko) posted on her Facebook account yesterday, other queens are now speaking out. Heklina’s rage was due to Facebook’s random enforcement of a “Real Names Only” policy to “keep our community safe.”
Dragaholic caught up with another victim of the Facebook “Ain’t No Game, Change Your Name” policy. Known for years as “Lady Bear,” she is now going by the moniker “Senora Oso.” Lady Bear recently appeared alongside Alaska Thunderfuck in the San Francisco production of “Sex and the City.”
Dragaholic: How and when did you become aware that Facebook had put you in this situation – of forcing you to change your Facebook name?
Lady Bear: I went to log on Wednesday night, and was blocked. I got a dialog box saying the account was suspended until I changed the name. I decided to take a day off from FB to think about it. The day off made me more aware of how much time I spent on it. I think the amount of time will be going down now.
D: How long had you had the Lady Bear account under the name “Lady Bear”? And how many Facebook friends did you have at the time?
LB: Probably since 2009, right when I started doing drag. She’s had an online presence from the beginning. I have been maxed out at the 5,000 mark for quite a while, with another 1800 followers. Plus a large number of unanswered friend requests. I just never switched over to a “Like” (Facebook fan) page because they aren’t very interactive and it seems like a hassle to actually communicate with people versus just marketing to them. I see myself as a person, not a brand. “Thank you for being a ‘LIKE’” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Having said that, I have now created a fan page for Lady Bear. The fan page will help me to stay in touch, but I’m also going to start shifting towards Twitter and Instagram both at @iamladybear.
D: What other queens do you know of who this has happened to? It seems many are from San Francisco. Is this true? Or are you simply the ones who are speaking out and getting all the press?
LB: Well the very first I knew of was Lady Bunny, who got busted a long time ago and now uses Facebook as “Jon Marc Ingle.” It was largely quiet for a long time, then Sister Roma was the first queen recently to experience this. She got bounced about a day before I did. Then Heklina and many others. It did seem to focus on San Francisco first but now it’s spreading to Seattle, L.A. and beyond.
The most vocal queens protesting do seem to be in San Francisco, like the fabulous Sister Roma. She is leading the charge. But that’s just our way here. We’re rabble-rousers and shit-stirrers by nature. It seems like, in other cities, queens are more apt to simply shrug it off quietly and carry on. Personal choice, I guess. I’m not going to take it lying down, I prefer to stand.
D: We have noticed that the queens who are dealing with this situation are ones who are well-known, with a large following, but who are not the super-popular (and powerful) girls who have been on RuPaul‘s Drag Race. Not to throw anyone under the bus but it looks like most, if not all, of them still have their accounts under their drag names.
LB: I recall there being a minor issue with the RU girls – until a special provision for “verified” accounts were made for them. My guess is that Facebook saw they were too high profile to mess around with and it wasn’t worth the bad PR to convert their accounts. Perhaps they think the “less famous” queens are more likely to fall in line and less likely to cause a backlash. If I’m right then it’s savvy on their part. The drag market is largely youth oriented – a very valuable demographic to which Facebook has been losing market share to Instagram, Tumblr, and others. Ru girls are clearly influencers and high profile in this demographic. Facebook would be smart not to come off looking like dicks to the new generation of users they need to keep onboard to keep growing long term. I imagine the rest of us less famous girls just look like cash cows to them – pun intended
D: How has this hurt your status and your career? It is very confusing for us, as drag journalists, to suddenly have “Senora Oso” instead of Lady Bear in our feed.
LB: Well, it hass been two days. I don’t think it’s that big a deal yet and I’m having fun with my Spanish alias “Senora Osa” for the moment. I think I’m going to have to work up an act around it – maybe some Selena numbers ? It’s a fun new direction to go in – but I’m hoping to return to Lady Bear.
D: We heard there might be a meeting coming in San Francisco between local queens, city council staff and Facebook personnel. What can you tell me about that?
LB: Yes, I have heard it on the grapevine that Facebook HQ is aware of the backlash and is trying to manage the issue and do damage control by reaching out to the local drag community. Which I really hope they do. I, for one, would enjoy talking to the people at FB. I think, aside from the clear profit motive, this move is partially based on a level of cluelessness about what we do and our culture. I will take them to the library, honey, and explain the difference between branding and identity-based artistic expression and drag. They may be intermingled but our drag is WHO we are, not just something we are selling. It may just be a cultural divide and they may just need some help thinking outside the box (or their cubicle.)
D: Finallly, “Senora Oso” is a very distinctive and lovely name. Any comments?
LB: ¡GRACIAS! It’s a little embarrassing that it had to be butchered grammatically – it should be “Señora Osa.” But – LO SIENTO ‘BOUT IT!!! I will always be Lady Bear – but I’m going to have some fun with it while it lasts.
Visit change.org to sign a petition seeking to allow performers to use their stage names on their Facebook accounts.
Here is an unofficial list we have compiled so far of Drag Performers who have been required by Facebook to change their names or who have lost access to their accounts. Please tweet us @DragaholicNews #FBNameChange if you know of any others to add to the list.
James Majesty St. James
Cherry Sur Bete
Olivia La Garce
Supernova Majesty Michaels