Though Anteus Mathieu was born in Orlando, Florida, his drag persona, C’etait Bontemps, was born in an all ages drag bar in Tampa, Florida called “Hamburger Mary’s”.
Influenced by his creative childhood, having attended various art schools and programs, and his love of the reality competition show, “Rupaul’s Drag Race”, Mathieu yearned to delve deeper into the drag community; so, when he was of age, Mathieu was “off to the races”!
For Mathieu, “drag was always extremely fascinating”, however, it meant more to him than an artistic endeavor: “[Drag] gave me the original jolt to explore my trans identity which I fully attribute to seeing gender being played with so openly on TV at such a young age.”
"My drag is political by choice and by virtue. I’m a trans, queer, person of color making noise as I exist. It’s all political." - C'etait Bontemps on whether or not his drag is a form of political activism
What inspires you and your creative process?
My biggest inspiration usually comes from the music I listen to and the performers around me! I’m a huge fan of a lot of indie artists and find that I connect with that kind of music most of the time. I love the artist, Boyfriend, I’m also very into Mitski and Eliza Rickman. They are all amazing femme indie artists!
My original inspirations include Tori Amos, Florence + The Machine, and Cher. It’s an odd mix, I know, but I just really love a strong femme voices.
Other performers really push me as well, being in a circle of really talented people has been amazing and fulfilling. I work a lot with wonderful people like God Complex, Chevy Lace, and Theydy Bedbug. Having a great core group of artists around me has given me great motivation to elevate myself as well!
What is the connection between your drag and social justice? Why?
Drag creates a tangible vision of a character, and a character can be whatever you want it to be. I find that for me and a lot of performers I work with choose to use that platform to talk about things we face as queer individuals and in many case trans or nonbinary individuals. Drag in and of itself is transgressive. Generally, queer individuals are the people participating in this art form and anything a person of an oppressed group does to put themselves in the public eye is could be considered political.
For me, my drag identity is synonymous with speaking on trans rights, the rights of poc people, the rights of all the intersections of that. It’s not to say that social justice is an automatic subtext, but for me it’s consistent with my performance.
What inspired you to pursue drag? What were the challenges you overcame in this?
As I said, I’ve performed in drag since I was 17, or before if you truly consider my trans identity. After seeing it fully realized on “Rupaul’s Drag Race”, I couldn’t tear myself away from the idea of performing gender, so I ran with it and the desire developed as I got older.
The challenges are definitely many and ongoing. Being an AFAB performer becomes its own hurdle. Many don’t really accept that drag is truly an art form and is inherently inclusive versus exclusionary of different identities. I’m lucky to have pushed and pulled and prodded myself to where I am in the community and all in all I’m celebrated in the same breath as many AMAB queens, but it continues to be a challenge. Though, a challenge I’m willing to face in order to continue making a space for trans masc or nonbinary drag performers.
What’s been the most rewarding part of being a drag queen for you? Do you have any advice for future drag artists?
Oh, the rewards are innumerable! Drag is truly my passion so I find a lot of joy in it despite the challenges. The true love for me is making a performance that people truly connect to, which I’ve been fortunate enough to experience often! I really love bringing songs to life and informing it with my own experience.
My advice would be to keep doing it! Keep performing. Perform anywhere but don’t sacrifice your worth. There’s a limit to dues, and do not let yourself be underestimated. Stay humble but do not be taken advantage of.
How does today's political climate affect your performances, drag, or both?
It infuses everything with défiance. In spite of oppression we work and thrive in our community. Being joyful, celebratory, sad, controversial, angry, all of it is an act of continual resistance. It makes our spaces more special, more beautiful, and treasured.
How has society's mainstream incorporation of drag affect your art, if at all?
It has its pros and cons. It's wonderful to be seen and appreciated but it amplifies our problems in some ways too. It magnifies the issue of one person being the be all, end all on what’s appreciated. Rupaul has a wider influence than any other gay queen we might come across and it affects the lens which people see drag performers through. I find I work harder to be accepted in cis gay/lesbian or cis het spaces than in queer, more mixed spaces.
What is the story behind your drag name and persona?
“C’était Bontemps” comes after a long list of former names! But mostly I settled here after really wondering what my performance did for people. I figured out that C’était BonTemps (“it was a good time” in French) was ultimately perfect for my cathartic, and oftentimes emotional, performance because it was a good time… after you think about it for a bit. But you definitely have to think on it. Ha!
Is your drag a form of political activism? Why or why not?
All drag is political, ultimately, but mine specifically does cross the line because I do communicate specific messages with my platform. It just takes a lot of decision making skills and discernment of your own fortitude to decide if that’s something you’d like to take on. My drag is political by choice and by virtue. I’m a trans, queer, person of color making noise as I exist. It’s all political.
Thank you for your continuous support and love,
Lots of love,