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Utica Queen giving everyone a full-on hug

10 (or so) Questions with ... Ethan Mundt, a.k.a. Utica Queen, the St. Charles High School grad, RuPaul’s “Drag Race” contestant, and featured artist at the Rochester Art Center.

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Ethan Mundt, a.k.a. Utica Queen, the St. Charles High School grad, RuPaul’s “Drag Race” contestant and featured artist at the Rochester Art Center sat down and answered questions about his life.

I’ve heard you do a killer impersonation of a Canada goose.

(Doing goose impression) Ooeugh! How do you know that?

I can’t give up my sources. So you’re living in Chicago now, but Rochester seems like a fitting place for your first art show.

Definitely. I grew up in Utica, Minnesota, which is where I got my stage name from, and I spent most of my time there in Utica, St. Charles, along Highway 14. Also, I was in an acting troupe in the Rochester Civic Theatre, Otherwise Actors. It’s where I grew up. It’s a place where it all started. So I feel like this show, “Homecoming Queen” (a display of the elaborate dresses Ethan handcrafts), is a compilation of all the work that I’ve created beyond my little confines of my small town.

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You grew up in a farming community of 200-some people. And you’ve clearly tried to hold onto those roots.

I wanted to pay homage to the beautiful little town that raised me. I got some of my best morals for living from this little place. I grew up in a very Christian household where it was all about finding the spirit and giving thanks. And I never let go of that because it gave me something to hope for and look forward to and never really feel alone.

So can you make a living as a higher-tier drag queen performer?

Yeah, I can. I get paid pretty well as a visual artist and as a performer. I now have the honor of being able to travel all around the country, and now it’s been extending to the world. I just got back from the UK, which was phenomenal. I can’t even believe that my work has gotten to the level where people want it, even over the sea. It’s amazing. I would love to use this exhibition as a gateway to have this show travel and to just keep on making wearable art. I feel like it’s my calling and I finally found it, and I want to keep on going with it.

You’re known for your hugs?

Yes. I’m a very warm person.

I’ve been told I’m terrible.

You know how some people give you a side hug? It’s like giving half of yourself. Give a whole hug, both arms. I give people what I would want in a hug.

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OK. I’ll try that.

Giving a hug is a little snippet of your personality. If you give them half, you’re only going to get half. I like to give as much as I can in just that little moment.

That’s indicative of your life philosophy, I’m guessing.

Yeah, I feel like giving people all of you is really important. And I try to do that with everything, even with just that little moment of affection.

Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.

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Ethan Mundt, a.k.a. Utica Queen, photo by Liam Doyle

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