I had the pleasure of interviewing Trannika Rex a few months ago for the “Drag Landscapes” project out in my gallery in Wicker Park. All I knew of Trannika was that he was running a lot of successful drag shows out in Chicago, and rightfully so. At his shows he was hilarious, quick witted, celebratory, and yet at the same time he could control hundreds of people with a single word. Because of this power that he had, I have to admit, I was a little intimidated in meeting him, but over the months I slowly got to know Trannika more and more… , and I finally got the opportunity to interview him. In our meeting, I was completely blown away by his story, and this was probably the most pivotal point in my project, as I realized that the stage can often act as a wall, barring people from knowing our stories.. … and just.. knowing us.
Trannika was raised in Fort Pierce, a small town on the mid southeastern side of Florida. While his father was mostly out of the picture in his life (and passed away when Trannika was 16), he was heavily supported by his mother and grandfather.
“My mother’s side of the family, who are from Chattanooga, Tennessee, were heavily involved in the arts. My grandfather was an art dealer and dealt with a lot of great artists, and I even remember him selling Rembrandt’s sketch book to Johnny Cash at one point. He was a huge influence for me as a kid when it came to the arts.”
Trannika continues, “He pushed me to do a lot of things. When I was little, everyday when I would come home after school, I would illustrate and write in these art books… and he had this file folder of all of my work, and would push me to create everyday. He was always helping me, and when I decided I wanted to do theatre… he put me in every theatre camp for eleven years. My mom has also been very supportive, even when I started doing drag. She’s been nothing but encouraging and has even come to my shows. She’s so on board with it.”