Local drag performer Chicki Parm focuses on the funny, hosting a monthly comedy show in Richmond between tours across the country.
Chase Keech has turned his love of drag and comedy into a full-time career performing as Richmond’s drag star Chicki Parm.
“I would have never guessed I’d get to be a full-time drag queen. My wildest dreams have already been shattered with drag,” Keech said. “I used to do drag goals for every drag birthday. I used to write out fifteen to twenty quantifiable goals, but I don’t even do that anymore. I would break them beyond my wildest dreams.”
Keech was introduced to the world of drag in 2014 after meeting a drag queen at a house party. A natural-born performer, he was immediately drawn to drag.
“It was so new to me. From there, I binged RuPaul’s Drag Race and I saw that there was a real lack in the Richmond scene of the kind of drag queen that I was always drawn to — which is a comedian, a comedy queen,” Keech said, “I saw a path for myself, started drag, and became the comedy queen of Richmond.”
Keech had been working in IT at the DMV at the time, and he balanced his two worlds for over three years while he worked all day and performed all night. As Keech’s popularity rose and the bookings became more frequent, however, doing both was no longer an option. In November of 2018, Keech made the decision to quit his day job and to fully pursue his dreams of performing, turning his passion into a thriving career.
“With drag, it’s only as much of a business as you make it. If you’re just doing gigs and not thinking about the bigger picture of what you’re doing, you’re not really trying to profit, then you don’t see much of a profit. Very early on into starting drag, I knew that’s what I wanted to do: do it for work,” Keech said. “I just have to be very business savvy with it all. You have to be very strategic; you can’t say yes to everything all the time. I have to be picky about what I do on the weekends because those are my big money-making days. And then I have merch — I’m able to sell a patron something besides my performance. You really have to go about it with a business mindset.”
That ambition is what’s taking Keech all over the country as he travels state-to-state hosting and performing, as well as hosting multiple shows all over Richmond. He hosts Quenched Wednesdays every week at Thirsty’s RVA, as well as his own monthly show at Fallout, Extra Cheese, which features both drag performers and stand-up comedians.
Keech pitched the idea for Extra Cheese when he was in the cast at Fallout’s Wicked Wednesdays shows as a drag stand-up comedian. This August 12th will be the third anniversary of the show, which falls on Keech’s 25th birthday.
“It’s really nice to be able to have a show dedicated to the art forms I love, and dedicated to me being silly on the mic. My single favorite thing about drag is being on the mic and just killing a joke. That is better than performing or anything to me,” Keech said. “I always tell myself that my job is to be a comedian, and drag is the avenue through which I do my job. Drag is how I do my comedy.”
Keech’s comedic chops are a huge part of the Chicki Parm persona, as well as his defined aesthetic.
“I have tried very hard to create a brand, a color palette,” Keech said. “I want you to be able to look at me and say, oh, that’s a very ‘Chicki’ look.”
When creating a look, Keech often draws on themes of futurism mixed with classic drag elements, like outrageous curves and head-to-toe rhinestones, all inside the strict color scheme Keech has set for himself.
“I only wear three colors of hair: baby pink, platinum blonde, and silver. I only wear orange, blue, pink, black, and red,” Keech said. “I try to be consistent.”
Among his influences are Bob The Drag Queen, the season 8 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Nicki Minaj — whom Keech cites as his “problematic fave.”
His love of Nicki Minaj is what landed him with the drag name Chicki Parm, a name that has received lots of attention recently after Trixie Mattel of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame shouted out the fun and campy name.
“Chicki came from my boy name, Chase, plus Nicki Minaj. So I sat on Chicki for a while and then one day I was watching Parks & Rec and there’s a bit where Aziz Ansari calls Chicken Parmesan ‘Chicki Chicki Parm Parm.’ I just thought, ‘ohmygod that’s me,’” Keech said, “And there’s so much I can do with it; Extra Cheese, and my merch with the spaghetti demons. I can do Italian-inspired numbers. I love my schtick. And so does Trixie, I guess.”
The name Chicki Parm completes the strong branding that Keech has always aimed for in his drag career.
“I think I’m unique in that I knew what I wanted to be, coming in to drag. I have a lot of people tell me, ‘I saw what you were doing early on and it’s been cool to see you polish it up.’ Even my colors, I knew early on,” Keech said. “It’s been such a cool journey, being able to develop that and grow with that. I really think it’s important, if you want to make it, to have a brand. People are weirded out by that word, or don’t understand, but it’s really so important to know who you are.”
Keech’s performance style as Chicki is engaging, hilarious, and intentionally individual. He keeps an audience on their toes and playing along, even promising to scream in your face if you tip higher than a one-dollar bill — much to the delight of everyone watching. The Chicki Parm persona is defined and marketed, but never disingenuous, and always a great time.
Chicki Parm is quickly becoming one of the biggest names in the Richmond drag scene, and Keech shows no signs of stopping.
All Photos courtesy Chicki Parm