Standing Up (And Out)
Anthony Hudson is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, performer, and filmmaker. Anthony is known as Portland, Oregon’s premier drag clown Carla Rossi, an immortal trickster whose attempts at realness almost always result in fantastic failure. Together they have been featured at the Portland and Seattle Art Museums, the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, the 2019 Portland Biennial, the Risk/Reward Festival, PICA's TBA Festival, Melbourne’s Yirramboi Festival, and more. Anthony also regularly hosts and programs Queer Horror – the only LGBTQ+ horror film screening series in the United States – at the historic Hollywood Theatre.
“I’ve always been an activist,” says Two-Spirit Anthony Hudson (Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde), who uses they/them pronouns. “And I see my [creative] work as activist work.” Hudson is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, filmmaker, and performer. Notably, Hudson performs as the hilarious drag queen Carla Rossi in Portland, Oregon.
“I’m an angry, tired person,” jokes Hudson. “And a lot of my work comes from responding to things I see in the world, like confronting white supremacy.”
Hudson says their drag persona Carla Rossi lampoons colonization. During the height of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, Hudson released a video in which Carla mocks former Fox News anchor and Trump supporter Kimberly Guifolyle, who garnered attention on the internet for her over-the-top speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
Hudson explains their activism is always humor-centered. “I want [my work] to be funny, and I want it to be relatable, and I want to make something that people can empathize and connect with and laugh with and laugh over.”
“I want [my work] to be funny, and I want it to be relatable, and I want to make something that people can empathize and connect with and laugh with and laugh over.”
“Otherwise people won't listen,” warns Hudson.
Yet confronting white supremacy and other prejudices hasn’t been easy.
“I started the first gay-straight alliance in my school district when I was in high school,” says Hudson, who grew up in a small town in rural Oregon. “And we got death threats and parents would threaten to picket.” But funneling these hardships to produce art — and drag persona Carla Rossi — motivates Hudson. “I try to do the things that young Anthony would have wanted to see in that small town.”
In addition to drag performances, Hudson co-hosts Gaylords of Darkness, a weekly queer feminist horror podcast, and they curate and host Queer Horror, a bi-monthly screening series at Portland’s historic Hollywood Theatre. As a multidisciplinary artist, Hudson also acts, produces, writes, and lectures, which is arduous work, especially while managing a touring schedule to make ends meet.
STANDING UP (AND OUT)
Then COVID-19 hit.
Like many artists who rely on in-person performances for income, Hudson had to rethink their career when a global pandemic unfolded in 2020. “I realized that I had broken myself by overworking for several years,” admits Hudson, which is why they applied to the Artist in Business Leadership Fellowship with First Peoples Fund.
“[The fellowship] is about refocusing and recentering,” says Hudson. One of Hudson’s fellowship projects is to figure out how to do less income-driven touring and expand more of their time to generate new art, particularly digital media. And Hudson doesn’t have to strategize alone. The camaraderie and support from other First Peoples Fund fellows has been significant, Hudson says.
“[First Peoples Fund] is about bettering ourselves and our communities together.”
As pandemic restrictions lift, Hudson wonders how they (and Carla Rossi) will return to in-person performances. “The world is racing to go back to normal. I don’t want to be a part of that,” says Hudson. In particular, Hudson is critical toward venues that were reluctant to help artists during lockdowns but who are now rapidly booking artists as restrictions loosen or lift, despite COVID-19 related deaths still occurring.
The inconsistent venue support during lockdown, on the other hand, inspired new work for Hudson. Carla Does Drag is a new show in which Carla Rossi is held captive and is forced to perform for an audience. “Carla hasn’t performed since before the pandemic,” jokes Hudson. “So the entire show is about Carla failing to do drag correctly!” Carla Does Drag will premiere at Stanford University in November 2021. Hudson also plans to film and distribute Carla Does Drag as part of their fellowship project.
At the root of Hudson’s work (and drag persona Carla Rossi) is radical honesty. “This is about confrontation,” advocates Hudson. “This is about discomfort. This is inspired by my ancestors. I want to be unabashedly Native, unabashedly queer, unabashedly me.”