“You can use 'he' for Chris and 'they' for Enigma. I know Enigma looks super feminine but I like to think they’re just some weird, alien creature.”
I’m in Chris Price’s Armadale bedroom, late afternoon. The onset of winter has already left us in darkness, apart from one ultra-high-beam light behind a mirror on his desk. We’re talking pronouns.
Tonight, Chris will become Enigma, a drag queen on the rise. They’ll be performing at Sircuit Bar, and Chris has just gotten wind that Adore Delano, drag royalty, may be attending.
“Does that make you nervous?” I ask, lying on his bed.
“Excited.” A makeup artist by day, Chris sits down at his desk, immaculately lined with brushes, blushes, palettes and liners. The routine begins.
“When was Enigma born?” I ask.
“It’s hard to pinpoint a specific date,” he says. “There’s a part of me that sees Enigma as an extension of my creativity and myself so, in a way, they were born the same time I was.”
Chris is one of five boys and is originally from Newcastle, an area with only one gay club and a small group of drag queens. He felt different when he was growing up because other boys weren’t like him; while most boys signed up for soccer and other sports, he liked dancing, gymnastics and dolls.
Despite this, his family have always remained a constant stream of support. Chris’ parents separated when he was five, but Chris felt as though they protected him from societal attitudes until he was mature enough to understand for himself. “They love what I do, they’ve seen shows, and they ask me questions to better understand. They are the most supportive people I’ve ever met.”
“My eldest brother came to one of my drag shows once, while visiting for work,” he recalls, “and he told me ‘all these things you’ve been doing since you were a kid have all come together and I get it now. You’re a star.’ That’s something I’ll never forget.”
Chris moved to Melbourne in 2015 in search of its cultural richness and creative hub, and credits Melbourne for having influenced his growth as an artist. “If it weren’t for Melbourne and its creativity,” he considers, “I wouldn’t be myself and I wouldn’t be doing what I do. There are so many opportunities that come with being creative in Melbourne.”
On a day-to-day basis, Chris notes, he tends to stand out from the stereotypical male because he wears makeup and different clothes. When Chris is Enigma, though, they’re just everything he already is, but at its most extreme. Their makeup, clothing and style are more dramatic; they are Chris, amplified.
When Enigma is finished, they’re glowing.
They continue: “In terms of aesthetic, I don’t want to stick to a specific style or niche. I try to be as versatile as I can; to be different each time I transform. Ultimately, I always aim to be better than my last performance. But, if I were to put my aesthetic into words, some that come to mind are monochromatic, fashion, sexy, punk, alien, freak and legs.”
I wonder if drag has enabled Chris and Enigma to express their sexuality, or vice versa.
“Nowadays, I’ve never felt more myself,” they say. “I’m the most confident I’ve ever been; I can speak my mind freely, I wear what I feel like because Enigma and Chris share a wardrobe, I wear makeup and I get my nails done because it feels right.”
Enigma explains that they have always been inside of Chris and, now that they have the chance to show them to everyone, they’ve taught Chris so much about himself. “I once knew someone who saw drag as a mockery of women, and I respect their opinion, but to me it’s a celebration of women; we dress up to be like women, to feel beautiful and to feel empowered.”
“I’m taking aspects of women and the female gender and adopting them to become something else; something more confident and something more in general. When I transform myself, I feel incredible.”
When asked what they would say to their 15-year-old self, they pause.
“Chris. Your life may seem boring now, but don’t worry because, when you’re 20, you’re going to move to Melbourne and start over. You’ll find happiness, you’ll find love, and you’ll find exactly what you’ve been waiting for. So just be strong until then because everything will get so much better for you. Then, you can forget everything you went through for those first 20 years. Just keep going.”
After the performance, I see Enigma by the stage and walk up to congratulate them. They tell me that Adore Delano’s manager has approached them. Adore is performing at a sold-out crowd tomorrow night, and the manager has asked Enigma to open the show.
We hug, and it’s hard to not to feel touched; from his Armadale apartment to their on-stage presence, Chris and Enigma have radiated beauty the entire way through.
Leaving the show, I realise that Chris and Enigma are one entity, interweaving between performance art, honest-self expression and gendered ambiguity. Enigma is crossing boundaries and, in doing so, epitomises the importance of self-love.
If there is one thing that does remain certain, though, it’s the fact that Chris and Enigma are making an influential mark on Melbourne’s drag scene, weird, alien creature and all.
Words and imagery by Louis Hanson. Hanson has also written for the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Archer, Thought Catalog, Acclaim magazine and the Australia Times, is a student at the University of Melbourne, and an LGBTQI, mental health advocate. Website: louishanson.com & Instagram: @louishanson . Enigma’s Instagram: @chris.enigma.price.