QuaranTimes #1

By Ellie Pike & Eric Dorsa

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Check out our Mental Note podcast miniseries QuaranTimes. Our first episode brings us to the digital stage of our favorite drag queen, Eric Dorsa aka Fonda Koxx. We discover the importance of expression even when the audience is invisible.

Welcome to QuaranTimes, a special series by Mental Note Podcast about the big worlds we inhabit in our suddenly smaller daily lives. Each episode will give a new perspective on mental health, social distancing and coping with isolation.

Our first episode brings us to the digital stage of our favorite drag queen, Eric Dorsa aka Fonda Koxx. We discover the importance of expression even when the audience is invisible.


Ellie Pike:
Welcome to QuaranTimes, a special series by Mental Note Podcast about the big worlds we inhabit and our suddenly smaller daily lives. I'm your host Ellie Pike. I'm sitting here at my dining room table, drinking tea and listening to the soft rain outside. Spring is coming and flowers are blossoming. Some of the time, I think life is just the same old normal, but then I realize the past several months have upended the lives of nearly everyone on the planet. As of this recording on Wednesday, March 25th, the Center for Disease Control says that the United States has confirmed over 44,000 cases of COVID-19. Globally, that number reaches to 400,000. Virtually everyone is either encouraged or required to isolate.

So with schools, offices, restaurants, museums, bars, and basically any gathering place shut down, where does that leave you and I? Isolation or home quarantine with family or flatmates pumps out some big ripples in our mental health landscapes. Over the upcoming weeks, we'll be bringing you bite size episodes that cover a variety of quarantine related topics. They'll range from helpful to entertaining, but all will ask the same question. How do we find a bit of solid ground during quaran times? Drag is not merely a pastime for Eric Dorsa, it's a way of life. For years, he's performed on stage, racking up numerous awards, fans and friends along the way. In fact, we featured his whole story on one of our first podcasts back in 2017, but the drag show does not go on when stage lights are cut and seats are empty, or does it?

Eric Dorsa:
Can you hear me?

Ellie Pike:
Yeah, I can hear you now. Can you hear me?

Eric Dorsa:
Yeah, it's weird. So when you're on-

Ellie Pike:
Eric is here to bring us into a new space he's created during social distancing.

Eric Dorsa:
Hi. Yeah, so everyone, my name is Eric Dorsa also known as Fonda Koxx with a K and two Xs. And I am in Chicago, currently quarantined.

Ellie Pike:
You're quarantined. You're in school. You are no longer in school really, right? Because now you're quarantined. You're not out at your waiting tables job anymore. You are stuck in house, but before we jump into that, what was your daily life like before COVID-19?

Eric Dorsa:
I was really busy. So I am a full-time student. I was in my senior semester for comedy writing and performance, which was at The Second City school here in Chicago, which is an amazing school. And I waited tables full time. I'm also in recovery for substance abuse and eating disorders. And so my life was really full. And then on the weekends, I had my own drag show that was such a gift and such a joy. And all of a sudden on Monday of last week, every single one of those things was canceled.

So right now, because of the coronavirus, I'm having to face very real fears. I'm a restaurant employee. I don't have a job. There's over 8,000 restaurants in Chicago alone that have been shut down. And there's bills that are going to be due with no income and the government, as of yet, hasn't really done anything to help people like me, or people like the restaurant owners, or the small business owners who rely on the traffic. And these are very real scary problems in addition to the virus and everything else. And there is a strong desire to numb.

And I have addiction and an eating disorder that I've been in long term recovery for. And there's a really strong pull sometimes to go into this fear vacuum where it feels like there's no way out. And all of these fears are real. And thank God I have my recovery because my recovery teaches me to stay present and to play the tape all the way through. And realize that if I give into my addiction, if I give into my eating disorder, if I give into these fears, then not only do I have the real mess that life is presenting to me when the bills are due and it's time to find a job because maybe who knows. There's so many things up in the air. And I could so easily go down that road, or I can just stay focused on what's right in front of me.

And so I was talking to a friend via FaceTime and I thought, we were having this great conversation about recovery and like how our recovery was helping us get through all this uncertainty and I thought, well, wouldn't it be fun if it was with a drag queen and it was like a talk show? And immediately I was having tea and I was like, oh my God, Quaran Tea. I can use the curtains in my room and I can hang the Christmas lights and make like a backdrop. And I can get in my best drag and just FaceTime the people that I love and admire for multiple different reasons and just talk to them about life. Okay. So I decided in the spirit of drag, I'm going to do a little lip sync with my lights. This quarantine is turning me into a DIY white girl, even though I am Latina. Okay. So without further ado, let's get this show... Keep in mind, I'm in heels on like really shitty carpet. So I'm going to do my best. Okay.

Ellie Pike:
So what does it look like for you now? You've created a backdrop. You are able to be yourself, you're connecting with your friends and your family. Have you noticed anything surprising happening and coming out of this?

Eric Dorsa:
Yeah, I mean the biggest one is people's desire to uplift each other and support each other. I have so many friends who are drag queens, who don't have a job, and that's their only way of making a living. And so just seeing how technology and social media can merge with art in a whole new way. There's these digital drag festivals where thousands of people from all over the world are getting to see my really amazing friends in Chicago, whereas before they were performing for an audience of a couple hundred, now thousands of people are tuning in to them from the safety of their home. It's so amazing. And for me, Quaran Tea is kind of a fun, creative way to continue to put my recovery first. And I'm really grateful that people want to participate.

Ellie Pike:
Yeah. How can people participate and how can I join in?

Eric Dorsa:
So you can just, I'm posting on my Instagram little flyers as to who, and when I'm going to be having these conversations through my Instagram. Some people it might be through Facebook. So if that happens, I put all that information on there, but my Instagram is @fkdrag.

Ellie Pike:
So at F as in Fonda @fkdrag. They can check you out, follow you and even see you in drag and be part of the conversation. I feel like you have done a fantastic job of taking this crisis our country is in and this personal, what could be a personal crisis and turning it upside down and saying, this is an opportunity for me to learn something and to really be creative and be a solution maker. So thank you for creating community and just being yourself. I think what the world needs is more people who are alive and willing to create.

Thank you for listening to this special QuaranTimes episode of Mental Note. Our show is brought to you by Eating Recovery Center and Insight Behavioral Health Centers. They are available during this unique time. You can reach a trained therapist to see if virtual treatment or in-person treatment is right for you by calling (877) 411-9578. We'll be back with more episodes of QuaranTimes, as well as our normal programming. You can learn more about people we interview at mentalnotepodcast.com. We'd also love it if you left us a review on iTunes. It helps others find our podcast. Mental Note is produced and hosted by me, Ellie Pike, directed and edited by Sam Pike. Til next time.

Eric Dorsa:
Okay, everybody. Now, I feel like a real cam girl. You all just saved me having to sell pictures of my dirty feet to creepy old men online.

Presented by

Ellie Pike, MA, LPC

Ellie Pike is the Sr. Manager of Alumni/Family/Community Outreach at ERC & Pathlight Behavioral Health Centers. Over the years, she creatively combined her passions for clinical work with…
Written by

Eric Dorsa

Eric Dorsa is an LGBTQ advocate, actor, comedian, and drag queen currently living in Chicago, Illinois. As an advocate for the LGBTQ community, Eric travels around the country sharing their…
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