Something wicked this way comes. We are blessed to be joined at the Pupdate by a handler who is equal parts horror and heart: Vander Von Odd. Drag artist and film-maker, Vander rose to notoriety by winning the first season of “The Boulet Brother’s Dragula” and the world’s first Drag SuperMonster. Since then she has achieved an even greater title: The Queen of Pups.
For the finale of Dragula, one of your final looks had you walking a sexy, leashed puppy accessory down the runway. How did this come about and did the rules allow for this?
I knew I wanted to rep pup play on the show but every challenge required me to adapt my drag into its theme and I wanted to showcase my kink more organically. I made it to the end of the show and the finale runways were really about showcasing the best of me, true and unfiltered and so I took the opportunity to portray pup play on the stage as I wanted to. Dragula is about celebrating the uncelebrated and they welcomed the idea of me walking with a pup.
You currently have ownership of a cute hell hound named Scritch. How did you meet and how is your relationship?
Scritch and I actually met many times over the last three years before he was even a pup. Scritch and his boyfriend Ben (aka Indica Trust) are avid fans of drag and so I saw them at many shows but we only ever said hi/bye in passing. A little under a year ago we started talking and seeing each other, and somewhere along the way Pup Buumi (Mr Puppy Europe 2019) and I introduced him to pup play. Our master/pup dynamic is actually really sweet and protective and less structured than some more traditional pup/handler dynamics. Scritch identifies with the werewolf archetype and so there’s little training that happens between us (I mean, how the fuck do you train a werewolf?). This puts more emphasis on the reciprocative, loving, protective side of how we interact. I’m also very queer in my outward expression and Scritch generally wears his collar in public so being able to express kink through small gestures in our daily, public lives definitely cements that. In my life I’m very concise, detailed, and streamlined. Scritch is very adaptable, well-rounded, and a little goofy. We learn a lot from each other and I think we balance each other out as well. In a world where Vander is a powerful witch, Scritch would be her werewolf familiar.
What do you as a handler get out of Pup Play?
As a handler I’m able to express a dominant role that can be as strict or as free form as the situation requires and I find that really exciting as I’m not as interested in extremely structured, standardized kink dynamics that are more common in other dominant/submissive role play scenarios. I also find the instinctual/primitive headspace really sexy, it’s quite literally dehumanizing.
You can sometimes be found at Eagle 562’s “Barking Billiards” in Long Beach, California. What are the benefits to coming out to pup events like this, for pups, for handlers and even for people who are curious about either?
Pup Kappa is the mastermind behind Barking Billiards and Bark Nite in Long Beach, CA. He’s done something really special in that he’s curated an open, all inclusive space for pet play and over time also mixed in drag performance and pet play fantasy performance, essentially bridging many different communities together. There’s power in community and nights like Kappa’s are few and far between. To have so many strides of different people together has allowed everyone to feel welcomed and like they can be their truest selves there and newcomers definitely feel that energy and they reciprocate it. It’s given our LA community a newfound strength and I’d encourage other nights to fuel that same inclusivity and other kinksters to embrace it.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to adopt a human-puppy from the pound?
To both handler and pup I would say don’t rush into it. It’s so easy to let excitement take hold of that experience and I’ve seen many pups/handlers immediately dive into custom collars, buying all kinds of expensive gear, and even flash building packs. Allow yourself to really enjoy and build that bond with your pup/handler over time and it will make it all the stronger. My bond with Scritch is unlike any I’ve ever had because it grew organically, without forced expectations, and the physical markers of our relationship were sought out in due time. First it was a hood I gifted him, then some time later a collar, then a tag, and then he started to seek out gear for himself and when I look at these items I see the benchmarks of our journey.
I often use Drag as a way of explaining Pup Play. It isn’t acting as a character per se but using masks, gear, make-up and costumes as armor to possess the confidence to do stuff you couldn’t without it. Would you agree?
Absolutely! I mean, Pup Play utilizes drag. For me, generally, Drag is the artform and performance of gender. But Drag is also the exploration of self and of endless possibilities through the adorning of the body. It is a powerful medium through which we allow ourselves to be our own best creations. Through Drag I found so much of myself and the confidence to live as myself in or out of drag. It started as armor but now it’s just a complement to my being. I think that stands true for a lot of pups. The gear starts out as a safety net but gear is in no way intrinsically necessary to be a pup.
You’ve returned to work on the 3rd season of Dragula and will be crowning The World’s Next Drag Super Monster.
What’s it like to put them through the same hellish ordeals?
You know, you’d think I would relish in seeing those bitches suffer but working on the show is nearly as stressful and exhausting as competing on it. Those of us in the core crew are so incredibly passionate about Dragula and elevating the drag it celebrates. While the show has had substantial budget upgrades, we by no means have VH1 money and we really do work ourselves down to the bone to make it look as polished and expensive as it does. I do production design so I aesthetically keep things cohesive, design and build all the sets, and dress the locations throughout. We had many sleepless, stressful nights to put together this show.