“It gives me chills,” Pakio Galore says as the theme music of RuPaul’s Drag Race begins to play. It’s the premier of Season 8, and he’s not kidding about the chills. Pakio has two compelling, life-long obsessions: reality TV shows, and all aspects of drag–and not even a little bit in that order. Drag Race is Pakio’s Super Bowl, his Oscars, and his Gay Olympics all rolled into one big sassy drag obsession, slapped into a wig that he probably styled himself.
Drag wigs are in fact crucial to Pakio’s draggy raison d’etre: with big-name clients like Cherdonna Shinatra, BenDeLaCreme, and Kitten and Lou (among others), it is fair to say that Pakio is at this juncture the premier wig stylist of Seattle’s burlesque and drag elite. Among other things.
You might think you’ve never experienced the magic of Pakio Galore for yourself, but you’re totally mistaken. If you’ve ever enjoyed Julia’s popular Evening at Le Faux on Broadway, or if you’ve ever watched Seasons 5 and/or 6 of RPDR, or caught any show recently put on by DeLaRu Productions (Homo for the Holiday, for instance), or experienced the singular throbbing hardcore power of the all grrrl riot band Thunderpussy (especially the lead singer Molly Side’s signature looks), you’ve already exposed your brain to the glitter-bomb of talent that is Pakio Galore.
“I learned how to sew costumes from my mom,” Pakio tells us. “I must’ve started sewing when I was 10 years old. She used to get me help her cut patterns out, then eventually press them, and then I learned how to sew them,” he explains. “But as soon as my friends found out…” Pakio grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho, not exactly the most tolerant place for boys who like to make dresses with mama.
At the tender age of 16, Pakio fled the frock-phobic shores of Twin Falls. “I moved in with a friend that was a DJ at a small club in Boise called the Crazy Horse. I dressed all of the GoGo dancers– stuff like parachute pants, Michael Jackson gloves, and MC Hammer pants, which I still make from time to time for Julia’s!”, he says, laughing.
Pakio moved to Seattle in 1998 after a stint in Florida, and for a while owned his namesake retail boutique on Broadway, “Galore,” that specialized in fancy underwear for The Gays. It was located in the block where the new Capitol Hill light rail station is today. (Pakio has something of a fancy underwear fetish. Please don’t tell his mom.)
“When I had my own store on Broadway across the street from Dick’s, I had a great time. But the city kept sending me notices about tearing down the block to build the light rail. I got regular requests for interviews from newspapers and local TV about it. I felt terrible–it was a store I just opened. So I eventually sold it.” It’s clear that he is still a little sad about the situation.
These days, Pakio applies his skills deep within the mysterious bowels of Julia’s top-secret drag lab, located in the famous Rainier building in Georgetown (shhh). It’s a magical world of sequins, fabrics, and mile-high hair–a buzzing hub of gender-bending ingenuity. He’s a seasoned veteran of the small creative crew responsible for the fabulous parade of faggotry that is Julia’s, including the delightful Le Faux and Queen of the Brunch shows— the most successful drag shows in Seattle (if you don’t ask Mama Tits).
“I’ve worked with Julia’s doing the costumes since around 2006,” Pakio explains. Working at Julia’s gave Pakio to opportunity to create couture for superstars like Jinkx Monsoon and Ben DeLaCreme, to name but a fraction–although some of the accomplishments he’s most proud of seem to have gone rather unrecognized and practically unsung….
“In 2010 Jinkx joined our cast,” Mr. Galore tells us. “I got to work with Jinkx for probably well over a year-and-a-half before she made it on Drag Race,” he recalls. “Jinkx was very talented, singing live, great comedy, and an amazing host…
“Julia’s host does about 6 to 8 costume changes during the show. Julia’s team constructed all of Jinkx’s onstage costumes. When Jinkx discovered that she was heading out for Drag Race Season 5, Eladio (Julia’s co-owner and creative director) and I quickly gathered the costumes we had already made for her, plus another half-dozen dresses and some pieces designed specifically for the show for her to take with her.
“It was exciting to see the stuff I had helped create on TV–to know that my hands had actually made that–and now the world was watching!
“But things became a little tricky and confusing when Jinkx had garments put together by another local designer,” Pakio says. “The public didn’t know there were two designers and she never corrected them… so unfortunately the garments constructed by Team Julia’s were never really acknowledged.”
Pakio didn’t create or style anything that shall appear on the current Season of RPDR, but he obviously still lives for its yearly return. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s rather extensively acquainted with Seattle’s own RPDR Season 8 hometown offering, Robbie Turner.
Robbie played hostess at Julia’s for a respectable chunk of time, where she and Pakio first met. But Pakio also worked with Robbie on director Wes Hurley’s Capitol Hill Series: Pakio served as make-up artist (he’s equally as much makeup artist as he is costumer and wig technician) for the show, and Robbie is prominently featured as “Dottie Pearl”, a snarky antagonist who is conveniently possessed by the Devil—characteristics that have leant themselves quite effortlessly to Robbie’s shady attitude on the Season 8 premier—ha, ha. Ahem.
“Capitol Hill Series was an amazing opportunity to work with some great talent,” Pakio says. “It was also a great opportunity to work in a different format. I hadn’t really worked on film before.”
Mr. Galore is also very proud to be responsible for the flashy and sex-tastic on-stage wardrobe of Molly Sides, the lead singer of Thunderpussy, which Seattle Weekly rightly christened, “The Best Show of 2015” (beating out Modest Mouse, Muse, and Sleater-Kinney, by the way).
“Molly is my muse,” Pakio gushes. “I get to make dresses for boys and turn them into beautiful women all day long. But working with Molly, I’m working with such an amazingly talented individual that is actually female, and I get to celebrate the female form. She and I share the same kind of aesthetic for the stage, so when I make a garment and she tries it on she instantly falls in love. But more importantly when she wears it on stage she wears it right. She adds movement to the garment and makes it alive.”
But his wig-stylings might turn out to be his greatest success yet, if things continue as they are. Pakio is wig-master of Cherdonna Shinatra’s famous, gravity-defying coiffure (it resembles a cotton candy tsunami, frozen in time upon her head), and he was even approached recently to freshen up BenDeLaCreme’s ‘do. In fact, the wig business is so good, he’s looking to move his operation out of the spare bedroom of his First Hill apartment and move into his very own studio. He’s gathering new clients by the week.
“To be honest, I don’t really know where I’m going with this,” Pakio admits. “I just know it’s something that I really love and it’s a way for me to work with and give back to my community–the opportunity to work with the all sorts of creative people in Seattle.
“I would love to have a brick-and-mortar at some point to showcase my stuff, but to be honest I’m not really looking at this as a business venture. It’s just what I do.”