Standing In Your TRUTH

Lauran Winnett on making it in Hollywood, the thick clouds of nepotism and blurring the lines between rigid gender categorizations

BY MARK ARIEL  |  PHOTO BY DUSTI CUNNINGHAM

Lauran Winnett (aka PuzziNiggrr) stumbled onto the Los Angeles Drag Scene in the Spring of 2014.

She’s an actress, vocalist, songwriter and storyteller who has been fortunate to perform in various venues in Downtown LA, Silverlake, West Hollywood, Hollywood and her original stomping ground of the San Fernando Valley.

In an interview with THE FIGHT Winnett explains  her controversial choice in moniker.

“Well… the Puzzi, pronounced poot-zee, is actually an Italian slang term for something stinky or foul smelling, and the double ‘GG’ and ‘RR’ at the end is pronounced with a trill as a nod to my immersion in ‘Riot Grrrl’ music and culture at around 19 years old… The name is a bold allusion to the way the average person from the U.S. will greet me with their presumptions based on my Black Femalehood. It’s also a play on terms that cisgender heterosexual Black Men have used to insult each other’s ‘manhood.’”

“My first exposure to the world’s LGBTQ citizens was through my mother’s gay male friends and colleagues,” reveals Winnett.

“Black women are barred from receiving the full benefit of their influence on every aspect of the Entertainment Industry because these industries don’t endorse placing enough Black women in powerful positions who are able to see themselves as more than accessories to commercialized White American narratives.”

“In school, it seemed as if certain kids could sense my mother’s acceptance and be themselves with me in ways they weren’t yet able to be with their own parents—so I’ve always had friends that I knew were queer even if they didn’t know or say the words just yet!”

After realizing at at a young age that she wanted to be performer Winnett says it was clear to her that Hollywood would not know what to do with her.

“Simply put: I don’t look the part and I’m not willing to commit to altering my appearance enough to suit the palates of the Weinstein—enabler types who still run the joint,” states Winnett.

“I don’t come from the kind of privilege you get from connections to people with great amounts of money and power to influence anyone to cast me based on who my parents are or who I’m sleeping with.

If I would put more stock in optimizing my physical appearance toward meeting the average white cisgender male heterosexual objectification standards; if I worked out daily, took various classes for networking’s sake, got some dental work and a good hair-weave, a decent manager and a well-connected agent… MAYBE I’d cut through the thick clouds of nepotism long enough to luck up on a good ‘Mother-of-the-Best-Friend-of-the-Lead’ role until my skin begins to show enough years for me to be cast as the ‘Judge-in-that-one-Court-Scene’ which might even lead to a recurring ‘Insert-Black-Lady-Wisdom-Quip’ role on some crime/drama/comedy series in between random, ‘Black -Mother-Opening-Door-to-Receive-Bad-News-About-Her-Baby/Sister/Husband’ parts here and there…

Black women are barred from receiving the full benefit of their influence on every aspect of the Entertainment Industry because these industries don’t endorse placing enough Black women in powerful positions who are able to see themselves as more than accessories to commercialized White American narratives.

This doesn’t make me doubt or give up on my own talent, but it did discourage me from committing to the pursuit of ‘professional’ acting or music as serious career paths.”

Winnett reveals that she gets mixed reactions when people realize she is not a man in drag.

“I’ve received positive comments from some AFAB performers who have been inspired by the way I started popping up in various venues like it was the normal thing to do; in spite of many arguments at the time that suggested that AFAB performers didn’t have a place in Drag.

I’ve also been treated with odd micro-aggressive dismissal from queens who have elevated themselves by capitalizing on the amount of mass-media exposure they’ve had through the popularity of shows like Drag Race and Dragula.

I’m always amused when people approach me after a performance to inquire about my gender (or genitalia actually) because it makes me feel like I did Drag ‘right’ by blurring the lines between those rigid gender categorizations that are often used as reasons to justify mistreating people.” 


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