Art Identified: Lady Dumpster

Photography by Jake Moran

Not many forms of art are walking, breathing entities that you can speak and interact with. The art of drag incorporates a litany of creative techniques, blending them all together to create a unique experience each time a performer steps on the stage. Indianapolis has grown quite the Drag community and it would be hard to talk about said community without mentioning Myke Dobbins, better known as Lady Dumpster.

Lady Dumpster has been doing drag for close to five years and has become a fierce force in the community. From working with Indianapolis’s nationally known queer dance party Lowpone to hosting drag brunches at the new Indy venue Almost Famous striving to be a queer cabaret, Lady is one busy queen. Luckily, she found some time to talk with me about the process of finding your inner drag queen, how art translates to drag and her dream city to perform in. Without further ado, please welcome Myke Dobbins aka Lady Dumpster to ‘Art Identified’.

Jacob Moran: Thanks for being here! I’m a very big fan and interested in drag as an art form so I’m excited to get to know you and more about your art. Let’s hear a little about your origins in drag.
Lady Dumpster:
I moved to Indy about five years ago from Florida. I came to Indy not really knowing anyone or anything about the city. My second day living here I met Zac who also does drag. That sort of kick-started me going to drag shows to support them and help them get dressed. It was a wild crowd so I sort of fit right into it. Then one random night Zac asked me if I wanted to get into drag. I wasn’t really feeling the idea but it was something to do so we did it. It looked horrible. But it woke something up in me and that was when Lady Dumpster was born.

JM: I have heard a lot of interesting drag names before, and I know most of them have a story behind them. So I have to ask, how in the world did you come up with the name Lady Dumpster?
LD:
Well my first stage name was absolutely horrible. For the life of me I can’t remember it. But I had a friend on Instagram named Lilly Dumpster and I just thought it was so captivating. So that is where the “dumpster” part came from. The “lady” part is actually from the cartoon The Animaniacs. There is this character on the show that would always call his mother “lady” and I thought that was the funniest thing. So Lady Dumpster sounded perfect for me!

JM: Do you remember the very first time you performed in drag?
LD:
Oh God yes. It was my birthday and Zac had a show that weekend. They said since it was their birthday that I could perform for the first time. I was scared as hell. I had performed in front of crowds before, but the aspect of being in full drag, lights on, all eyes on you absolutely petrified me. But I did it and it was the best time of my life. I danced like shit, I was off beat the entire time and didn’t know half of the lyrics but it was just such a release that I didn’t know I needed.

JM: I loved what you said about drag being a release for you and I think that is something a lot of artists can relate to when it comes to their artistic expression. Can you explain what that feels like?
LD:
I think it’s different for everybody. For me, any anxieties, insecurities or issues I’m dealing with disappear the second I step on the stage. That feeling of adrenaline that you experience while performing just propels you to such joy and happiness that you don’t get to feel all the time. Time stops, and everyone’s eyes are on you. You genuinely feel like a star. It is a very special feeling. It’s a release of everything that sucks even if it’s only three and a half minutes.

JM: A lot of times the first art form you try leads you to a new art form. Was drag your first venture into an artistic expression of self?
LD:
I actually have an art background. I went to art school for Graphic Design before I started doing drag but I would say drag is my true expression of self. My prior knowledge of shadows and lighting definitely helped me hone my makeup skills once I realized that’s all it really was and that is what made me fall in love with drag more than anything. Performing is amazing and I love it, but painting a really cool face and knowing that I taught myself to do that was such an accomplishment for me and really is my favorite part of drag.

JM: Do you have a specific genre of music you like to perform to or is it just based upon your mood? It seems to me a lot of drag artists are known to perform to a specific vibe of songs that lean into their drag style.
LD:
My songs change fairly frequently. It used to be a pretty typical vibe, like female led rock bands or pop stars like Charlie XCX. Now I do all types of songs and try to really make them my own. Last year I did a number for Black Velvet where I wore this pink velvet dress and then progressively spray painted the dress black while I was performing. If people tipped me a dollar I would let them spray me. I just like to have fun. I used to primarily want to perform creepy or promiscuous songs. Now I just like to throw all types of songs into the dumpster that is me and have as much fun as I can.

JM: The ‘identity of the artist’ has always interested me. When you first experience an art form it can take quite a while to really form your identity as an artist. When you first started doing drag did your identity come quickly or was it something you had to work on to fine tune?
LD:
Definitely not a quick thing to find. It took me about two years to really develop Lady, but a lot of it was really situational learning. I would be in drag and would be confronted with something and instead of reacting like Myke would, Lady would come out. I honestly view Lady as a complete other being. I even separate the two of us in my mind. We learn from each other. Me as Myke, I have learned a lot from my persona as Lady. She is unapologetic, confident, doesn’t give two shits about your opinion of her and has a grandiose personality. She is everything that Myke wants to be.

JM: Through your journey as Lady, what exactly have you learned about yourself?
LD:
To be completely honest, being Lady has taught me self love. I never had confidence in myself while growing up. I was chubby as a kid and was picked on. So my self worth and confidence was pretty low. When I created Lady I just felt this energy of being this fierce, confident, beautiful person. I loved myself. I felt hot. I KNEW I was hot. I eventually was able to channel that feeling even when I wasn’t in drag.

JM: Facing challenges as an artist is inevitable especially in a city like Indianapolis that doesn’t exactly promote the arts like it should. I assume those challenges have been amplified for you as a queer artist in a Midwest city. Are you willing to talk about some of the struggles you’ve faced and how you’ve overcome them?
LD:
The queer community here has lost alot of our venues and spaces that are strictly queer, places that feel safe where we can perform our artistry in all forms. Queer voices are always going to be harder to hear, especially in Midwest cities. But since I have been living here I have actually seen an uprise of queer events, queer inclusion and support. Even businesses have started to be trans friendly and aware of people’s pronouns. I didn’t really expect that when I first moved here to see that support. While there is some work to be done I do think Indianapolis as a city is really special and welcoming of the queer and trans community.

JM: I know you have some close ties with Lowpone. For the people who don’t know, what is Lowpone?
LD:
A queer dance party! Lowpone taught me what queerness is. So many things can be queer. Even if you are straight you can be a queer individual because queer is ‘askew’ or ‘off’. We are taking back that term and making it our own and for others. So it started as an inclusive dance party where you could come see a drag show, listen to music and dancing. For me and a lot of people in the city, we value it because that one time of the month was something we always have to look forward to. The atmosphere and energy of Lowpone really started to grow into this monster that Lowpone was before the pandemic. There was really only one rule; don’t be a dick.

JM: You’ve recently become the resident Queen at the new venue Almost Famous. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what goes on there?
LD:
Of course! Almost Famous is a venue that is focusing on being a queer cabaret and safe place for queer events in the city. Being the resident queen there I have the privilege of putting together some really cool events. Once things open back up there are going to be some really fun things going on there. I want to have side shows, get suspenders in there to do some fun aero drag stuff, maybe a stripper pole. Right now we have brunch and a drag show every other Sunday. On Fridays we have showings of Ru-Paul’s Drag race. We have caterers and restaurants like Misfit Indy that do pop ups for us and their food is amazing! It is just a really cool space for queer art and I am so thankful to be a part of it.

JM: I like to end these conversations on a fun note, so I’ve got a little softball question for you. Lady Dumpster is headlining a drag show. What city and what song do you perform?
LD:
Oooh, I have to think about that. For location let’s go with New York. A ton of great queens come from there. Not to mention there would be so much money in the crowd! For the song I would do my Ash Niko mix. She is a trash Tik-Tok rapper and I love her.