Above photo: Dollar bills are thrown on stage as Mocha concludes her performance at Underground SF club in the Lower Haight on Sept. 10, 2016 (Photo by Gabriela Reni/The Guardsman)
By Bethaney Lee
Approximately 200 people, almost all half-naked and elaborately decorated dancing men, gathered Sept. 10 to watch an evening of naughty drag performance. Shoulder-to-shoulder and cheek-to-cheek they swayed, zipping whistles and feisty howls above the blaring speakers inside trendy bar Underground SF.
City College alum Derick Macabente, whose stage name is Mocha Fapalatte, was the fourth drag queen to take the stage and did so like a sultry witch luring victims along through the enchantment of song. Wild body movements erupted from the sticky crowd as Lady Gaga’s “Perfect Illusion” helped her cast a spell.
Bewitching in all ways, the 27-year-old attributes her success in the art of drag performance to inspiring teachers, bold class curriculum and the eclectic characters in City College’s fashion department.
“CCSF really sparked my career by giving me a way to be a drag queen and also be involved in the fashion, art and dance communities independent of drag,” Mocha said, batting her heavy lashes against creamy blue eyeshadow.
Graduating in 2012, Mocha’s love for drag manifested in an associate degree in fashion merchandising, two certificates in styling and merchandising and a nearly completed dance certificate.
“I pretty much have a degree in drag now,” Mocha said through giggles. “A major in fashion and a minor in dance. I feel like I’m living my dream now. I really am.”
She has performed all over the Bay Area for seven years and hosted in the renowned White Horse Bar, the longest-running gay bar in the country.
“Being able to express a part of myself that I’m not allowed to express in my everyday life—I love. Being able to wear things that are over the top, having all eyes on me and being the center of attention—I also love,” Mocha said. “But getting paid to do it—that, I really love. This is a viable job.”
Mocha knew she would study fashion and dance once she fell in love with drag at the age of 16. Upon enrollment at City College, the predestined queen met dance instructor Kirsten Williams and described her as “the most amazing teacher I ever had.”
“She really inspired me to let go and perform on stage. She runs CCSF’s amazing hip-hop crew ‘Strong Pulse,’ who I was with for a couple years,” Mocha recalled. “I am so grateful to her for giving me the opportunity to dance and express myself.”
During City College classes, she was able to model in drag for her classmates and learn to work a pair of high heels.
“Derick has always performed with a fierce and uninhibited quality in dance class,” Mocha’s first City College dance instructor Paula Plessas said. “As he took more dance classes, Mocha began to evolve. The instructors at City College hopefully gave him the space and tools to help create the identity of Mocha Fapalatte.”
Mocha has since taken her acquired knowledge and enhanced her pursuit, setting stages ablaze in San Francisco hotspots like Underground SF on her own terms.
“Not a lot of queens I know in the area have the opportunity to be dirty on stage. It’s a lot of pretty and polished,” Mocha said with a scoff. “My costumes represent who I am as a performer, and it’s really become all about bringing my aesthetic back to the forefront.”
Mocha stood wearing an ensemble comprised of nothing but leather straps, describing her style as a blend of Harajuku street fashion and grunge.
“Think goth fashion from the ’90s. People always joke and say that I’m the abandoned crack baby of famous queens Manila Luzon and Adore Delano,” she said.
Stage experience allowed Mocha to see queens with every appearance imaginable, including bearded ones, pageant contestants, performers dolled up to the nines and performers that bare everything.
“Drag is so hard to define because it’s so fluid,” Mocha concluded. “To each her own drag.”
Mocha now hosts her own drag show called “Ethereal Dollhouse.” She has come a long way from being a teenager influenced by Japanese rock music with a fiery desire to be on stage.
Unapologetic, Mocha explained how she found self-acceptance through her art form: “For me, drag has allowed me to be myself through being someone else. Mocha is not a different person, but she is like the other side of my own coin.”