"Are you going to wear your orange dress or the raspberry Marilyn one with the fringe?" asks Alisa.
"I'm not sure," says Zoya Krik, dragging a long fingernail across the table top.
Alisa produces a dustbin liner full of makeup and smoothes foundation onto Zoya's face with quick delicate strokes. Zoya looks nervous.
"Are you sure it doesn't show?"
"Don't worry," says Alisa. "If I apply the concealer thick enough, no one will ever see your stubble."
Alisa and Zoya Krik, both stage names, have been dressing up as women since they won first prize in a transvestite competition earlier this year. Now they spend most nights in their favorite frocks at gay night spots across the capital.
"I love the feel of women's clothes," says Zoya, who pads his bra with old socks. "I do it for fun, and because it makes people smile."
The two drag queens don't perform at night clubs. They leave that to the professionals. Zoya prefers moseying around the dance floor in his shiny black stilettoes and socializing with the other clubbers. But he admits it is tempting.
"You can make anything from $500 to $800 a night," he says. "All you need is a great body and to know the words of every Madonna song ever written."
Zoya doesn't call himself a transvestite -- he is a transmodel. His parents live outside Moscow, but they know what their son gets up to when he isn't studying at theater school.
"They are very supportive and understanding," says Zoya, "and so is my grandmother. She used to be an actress, so she knows all about dressing up."
Not everyone is as sympathetic. Last week Zoya's friend Yurik was beaten up on his way home from the Three Monkeys night club. "I just went out to get some food and two guys jumped on me," he said. But Zoya swears that attitudes toward gays and transvestites are changing. He and Alisa have even been asked to appear in drag at straight night clubs.
Had Zoya ever considered becoming a woman?
"A couple of my friends have had the operation," he says. Breasts cost $7,000 a pair, the big chop is $15,000 and for an extra $5,000 you can get your voice box altered, your waist taken down a size and your jaw line re-shaped."I couldn't afford it," says Zoya, recrossing his legs. "And anyway I wouldn't want to go the whole way. My boyfriend wouldn't approve."
© The Moscow Times
July 25, 1997