This article is published in issue 46 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until November 16, 2021
The birth of Priscilla is thanks to a doll, a “pezzotta” Barbie. Mariano Gallo calls it with a term that in Neapolitan means counterfeit. He was five years old and grandmother Enza (known as Rossa for her “fiery” hair) bought it for her in an illegal tobacconist’s, where smuggled cigarettes disguised as basic necessities were sold. And when the parents, very angry, asked for an explanation, the lady replied simply: “The child wanted her.” End of the story.
Or maybe I start: «It was my silent coming out», explains the Neapolitan performer in a river call lasting almost two hours, on the eve of a historic date for his career. On November 19, in fact, he made his debut as a judge – alongside Chiara Francini and Tommaso Zorzi – of the first edition of the reality show Drag Race Italia, produced by Ballandi and streaming on Discovery +. A dream come true for that little boy who peeked at his dance lessons outside a garage used as a gym, in the garden of his building.
Who was Mariano as a child?
“I would wrap myself in sheets to transform them into improbable clothes and perform in front of the mirror, with jumps and pirouettes. I felt like Rudolf Nureyev and I was really happy ».
He danced behind closed doors and no one at home knew it.
“I didn’t even know what it was. In high school I was engaged for four years with Bano’s partner, but the English teacher had understood something and gave me The portrait of Dorian Gray. It was his way of telling me: “Don’t dress up, don’t sell yourself for what you are not”. I realized it at 19, when I came out and went to live with my first partner. “
At 45, she has spent more than half her life in drag as Priscilla. Who is she for?
«My feminine and extravagant part, the one without a mask that makes me sure of myself. Mariano, on the other hand, is shy, introverted and does not like confusion. We complete each other, but she has deprived me of social life, which is why I am still a spinster: she is so present that I cannot leave her on stage ».
In what sense?
“When I know someone I say I’m a stage actor, it’s okay until they find out I’m a drag queen, then the trouble starts. Either he considers me a bit of a slut and is jealous or he thinks I’m less of a man. Once I also ended up in couples therapy: he said that in bed he always had Priscilla in front of his eyes and not me ».
Have you ever dated another drag?
«Never: two prima donnas under the same roof would end up at loggerheads, even if they would understand the artistic situation. Unfortunately, there is still discrimination against drag on one part of the gay community, the one framed in the image of toxic masculinity ”.
Who would you like next?
“A strong man and proud of my being drag. As soon as I find him I get married, we move into a big house full of animals and maybe with a couple of children. I would like to adopt them from an orphanage, but since it is not possible in Italy, the only possible alternative would be gestation for others ».