You simply have to meet this friend of mine!
There are people you meet in life who have a certain gravity to them. A way they shift the air, like sugars and spices in a bakery.
I first met Imagene Azengraber at Dru’s Place when we were both performing in one of Beverly Hills’ shows, and Azengraber lit the room up at the end of the night. She handed out napkins and played homage to the churchy camp queens who came before us. That was 2016.
Now, Imagene, her bingo calls, and her pies are becoming famous the world over. She is a true tastemaker in southern drag and an unforgettable personality.
Through programming and humor, Imagene manages to open new doors while still keeping a classic charm to the method of her art as a drag performer.
The following is a marvelous interview Imagene did with me while she was locked down in quarantine in Puerto Vallarta.
Mothie: Imagene! You and I have known each other a long time. I have a billion things to say about you. But in your own words who is Imagene and why is it important for you to bring her into existence?
Imagene: Imagene is someone who is entertaining and is a fun-loving gal. She’s not concerned with being beautiful or ladylike. For Imagene, it’s all about the takeaways from the audience and their feedback. I loosely based this character on a relative I have, named the same but spelled differently. If you shorten the name it’s Ima Azengraber –like a dirty German lady that likes to grab someone’s butt. She’s a comedian at heart and is all about comedy and fun.
You have been dubbed all over town as Imagene the Bingo Queen! What makes creating and running drag bingo programs rewarding for you? (Other than the cleavage full of tips.)
I have the most fun when I call bingo because it is all about the interaction between you and the audience. I started years ago doing bingo for charity events and as you might have guessed am the first one someone calls. Bingo is fun, you get your energy from the crowd and the crowd heightens that energy.
When did you realize that drag was an art form you had to be a part of?
The first time I did drag was Halloween and it happened to be on my own birthday. Vivi Vuiton did my makeup and I could not believe the transformation. It gave me a newfound freedom I had never known before. People loved my character, Honey Boo Boo and asked me if I would do drag again. The opportunity presented itself for Kiera Mason’s birthday. I was a hit and I loved it and I got hooked.
What have some of Imagene’s most special moments been?
Every year I have an event called Imagene and Friends on the first Sunday of December. It always benefits a designated charity of my choosing and has been one of my most favorite things. Also the first pageant I won was Miss Gay Facebook and that really got me going. My crown number was ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All.” After I won that, someone reported my Facebook account so I created a fan page and I began being known as Imagene. The entire reason for the spelling was so that I could be called Ima Azengraber. But Imagene stuck.
Also doing a private show for two autistic girls who’s favorite drag queen is Imagene. Their faces lit up and they knew my entire name. It brought joy to my heart and soul. They were so delighted to get Imagene schwag.
Not only are you a whiz with the bingo set, you are one hell of a baker. Imagene is also the Buttermilk Pie Queen. Ima, tell us in your own words about how you started making pies and integrating them with your drag work.
I made a recipe up for a chocolate buttermilk pie and began making pies for charity events. I’d make 5 pies and they would make lots for their charity. For the first eight years the pies were only available at charity events. People kept asking for them so I developed the concept for the logo and worked with graphic designer Chris Fiveash to create a retro look for Ima’s Famous Buttermilk Pies (also found on Facebook). I take orders year round but keep the pies still very involved in charity. The pies started raising money for others in need and continue doing so to this day. Just now anyone can order one when they want. They also call me the Pie Queen.
What are the elements that create a signature Imagene outfit? You are one of the most recognizable drag characters I have ever seen. Instantly identifiable.
I got my name in New Orleans from a queen named Regina at the Golden Lantern. She gave me my name when she saw my Halloween picture. She said “You look like a German hausfrau, Ima Azengraber.” The hair mostly 301 in color, like Dolly says “The higher the hair, the closer to God.” I almost always wear a retro hairdo. I’m a plus-size gal so a lot of my dresses are food-based. A signature Imagene element is the fascinator that matches the outfit. Or one that makes no sense at all. Kitsch is where it is at. I love a retro look and my drag hero is Divine. I think my eyelashes are pretty signature too. For the first year people did my makeup, then one day I decided to try and I am getting better and better. I call myself Memphis’ favorite Booger Queen, since I’m not a glamorous gal, but the Pie Queen sounds much better. Also it’s about being nice. You be nice to people, they’ll be nice to you. Comedy, country, and kitsch are my go to things.
Like myself, you are an insane cat person. Please delight us with some details about the wondrous and beloved felines in your life!
I have three, two are rescues. NiNi, the oldest, will be 19 in April. She came with the house when I bought it. She was feral and took about a month to warm up to me. I then trapped and fixed her, she was a calico female. The vet said I had to keep her inside for 10 days, and she has stayed ever since. She looks like she is about 4. Trés, the tuxedo cat, is 11 years old. An old high school friend of mine’s daughter found a cat and rescued her. They found out she was pregnant. I laughed at her and said “Oh boy.” She said one of these babies is yours. When I saw the pic of him at three weeks I fell in love and drove from Memphis to Clarksville, TN to get him. He is the only cat whose birthdate I know. Trés is my baby.
Cashew is six years old and the bully of the bunch. Her rescue story is a very different and sad one. A friend of mine died by suicide and I volunteered to foster her. She had never had her nails cut and was like a Tasmanian devil at me for months. She has abandonment issues and is very attached. Now she follows me everywhere I go and is attached to my hip. The other two hate her but, hey… she’s a bully.
Imagene Azengraber is a drag queen, artist, and professor at University of Memphis.
You can find her hosting shows and bingos at Dru’s Place, Hernando’s Hide-Away, The Liquor Store, and all sorts of other places too!
She holds the titles of Miss Tupelo Pride 2019-present, Miss Dru’s Place ’19, Winner of Dru’s The Host Competition ’18, Lil Ms. PuzzlePiece ’17, Queen Pegasus XII 2012, and Miss Gay Facebook ’14.