With a mixture of vivid outfits, outlandish makeup, and a nod to American pop culture, Glamhag recreates gender archetypes and other icons of our culture as if viewed through a funhouse mirror that has seen some real shit. Glamhag is well known across the DIY Chicago scene as a performer that blurs the lines between art, drag, and performance styles. With an explosive visual presence, Glamhag creates a powerful impression even before they open their mouth.

Molly Hewitt, the creative mind behind Glamhag, was born in England, lived in Los Angeles, and made their move to Chicago at the age of 18 to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Feeling pressure in school by an idea of what they should be making rather than what they wanted to be, Molly found themselves drawn to the Chicago DIY performance scene. With reassurance and guidance from other DIY performers, they realized they could be and create whatever they want in this world. This takes form in choreographed dance routines, video, and elaborate drag performances. Now working on their first feature-length film, Holy Trinity, Glamhag does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

At La Catrina cafe in Pilsen, Molly Hewitt shared their journey through the Chicago DIY performance and nightlife scenes. Whether it be singing and performing on stage doused in glitter and paint, or producing surreal video content, Glamhag takes the DIY sensibility to exaggerated extremes to produce a physical representation of themselves and the culture they see around them.

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You seem to have roots in so many different forms of art such as sculpture, performance, make-up, and videography. What are some of your biggest influences for your artistic endeavours?

In the same way that I have such an interdisciplinary practice, I am influenced by a lot of different art forms, too. I feel like I have a blurry line between my everyday life and my performance and art practice, everything really bleeds together. I think my biggest influences are pop music, music videos, movies, TV shows, comedy and food. In a broad sense, it’s a mixture of a lot of different media that I’m interested in.

How did you get your start in the Chicago DIY performance and nightlife scene?

I’ve been performing on the Chicago DIY scene pretty much from the moment I moved here. When I was 18 I moved to Chicago from Los Angeles to go to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I went to this show called Garbage World that was at this space named Mortville in the Pilsen neighbourhood of Chicago. It was this big DIY warehouse put on by this performer named Gertie Garbage [Eileen Lillian Doyle] showcasing a big collection of performance artists. I had just started going to SAIC for a couple of months, if that even, and I was getting very overwhelmed and caught up trying to make what I felt I was ‘supposed to make.’ I saw all of these people that were doing this weird, messy stuff like wearing crazy costumes and makeup and smashing food all over themselves.

Still from Maggie's Problem by Glamhag

I saw this group called Pure Magical Love which was started by a local artist named Heather Lynn. She got dancers to perform backup for her while she performed and I went up to her after the show and was like, “That was so amazing!” I practically fan girl stalked this person and was obsessed with her and her work because she was doing these choreographed dances to pop music and just throwing glitter everywhere, and that’s what I really wanted to be doing.

That’s what made sense to me, I could feel it and understand it and it excited me, it wasn’t elitist or esoteric or exclusive like a lot of the work I was seeing in art school. That was the moment I realized I could really do whatever I wanted. I imagined it was very out of my reach until I realized it was just her friends dancing for her.

I was a lot younger than all these people, but eventually an opportunity came up where I got to be one of her backup dancers, too. From that point on I was backup-dancing with Pure Magical Love at a bunch of house shows. I feel like back then, around 2011, Chicago was much more of a boy’s club. We were going to these houses with these random noise bands where we would infiltrate and become this swarm of girls wearing next to nothing in glittery bikinis doing choreographed dances and it was a really liberating experience for me.

From there I started doing work with DIY sensibilities alongside wearing costumes out to parties. People started to ask me to perform before I even considered myself a performer and I thought, I guess I might as well start doing it then!

How would you describe your own brand or genre? You have even described your style as lumpy in the past.

Yeah! I guess I do end up using the word lumpy. I’ve always thought about my work as kind of like looking into a funhouse mirror. I used to be hesitant to talk about my word as a “brand,” it seemed very indulgent in capitalism. But I have changed my mind, I like the uniformity a brand. There is a reason why a successful brand works. I want my work to be critical of the space it exists in so in my most recent work Holy Trinity I have created a kind of meta-brand called Glambrand… I don’t want to give too much away so you’ll just have to wait to see the movie...

Preview still from Glamhag's movie Holy Trinity

How do you express aspects of queerness, sexuality, and gender in your artistic endeavours? I’ve seen that you have some characters that are all over the place. How do you blur those lines and what does that look like for you?

I don’t really like to use the word characters. I prefer to think about them as still me but trying on different personalities or alter egos. I have always been thinking about my own gender and my own presentation. I identify as gender fluid and I feel all around the spectrum just depending on what day it is. Most of the time I feel pretty neutral, but I’m just trying on a bunch of different clothes. A lot of the time that’s really what it is, just clothes that people are assigning a whole lot of other meaning to.

I’m really interested in the idea of performing femininity and different feminine signifiers and kind of exploring what all those things mean. Being someone that presents femme a lot of the time and how I’m treated by the world every day versus how I use those things to regain my power by being able to present hyper-feminine in my performance work is very important to me. I do a lot of thinking about being able to enjoy beautiful and powerful things about being feminine, but being in control of the situation at the same time.

How do you utilize aspects of pop culture in your pieces?

Pop culture is kind of how we access everything. It’s a sort of reflection of people’s ideas about the world, but at the same time, it really shapes our perception of things. It’s everything from images, language, music and so on. I’ve always been really fascinated by it. Maybe this comes from being a queer person, but I’ve always felt sort of outside of it. But at the same time, I feel included by the fact that I can seem like a feminine woman. I guess it makes me see myself in some ways and others not. I have always felt the urge to imitate these aspects of pop culture, and in that way, I process and reconstruct these aspects and try to understand them in a way that I might not have before.

Still from the photo shoot with Danin Jaquay with sister Dora Hewitt

What brings you the most joy?

In a really broad sense I would have to say people, my friends, and my chosen family.

What can you tell me about the new movie Holy Trinity you’re working on?

Holy Trinity is a feature film that I wrote and I’m directing. It’s about a queer professional dominatrix who huffs the contents of a magic aerosol can and develops the ability to speak to the dead. She has a non-binary partner named Baby who’s submissive to her and on a leash wherever they go. Once she starts to develop this ability, she starts going to a mixture of people she already knows and starts meeting people who teach her their individual spirit practices and try to help her figure out what’s going on with her ability.

Through that, she kind of pieces together her own beliefs and tries to figure out whether or not she even wants this ability or if she wants to control it or stop it altogether. It’s going to be really wild! I’m really excited to make it. I came up with the idea and I’ve been working on it for almost three years. I’m finally starting to get to see it realized which is really very exciting for me.