OUT Magazine featured my boyfriend of 7 years, Dan Donigan aka MILK the drag superstar, and I in their annual LOVE Issue.
BY OUT.COM EDITORS
Ballet dancer James Whiteside (a.k.a. JbDubs) and performer Dan Donigan (a.k.a. Milk) make room for their alter egos — and two pints of ice cream.
Photography By Benedict Evans
James Whiteside, Dancer
It was seven years ago — I was 23 when we met, and Dan was still in college. He was 20, and that age difference seemed like a lot at the time. It was strange, dating someone who couldn’t drink legally. I was dancing for Boston Ballet, and I was performing as JbDubs, and my friends and I used to go out every once in a while in very rudimentary drag. He thought it was so weird at the time. After a while, we persuaded him to come out with us for an annual drag party, a twisted spin on the Nutcracker characters. He came out as the Spanish woman and looked horrible — like Fräulein Maria meets Frida Kahlo meets Patrick Swayze. But it was fun and he got obsessed.
I still help him when I can. He’ll say, “Hey, buy me these brown panty hose at CVS.” I think the biggest issue living together is he has so much drag. In Boston we had a bigger place. Now we have this two-bedroom in New York, and we have an entire bedroom filled with drag. I’m like, “Put your fucking wigs away!” Our bedroom is very simple, though — very serene and dumbed down because New York is so crazy. It was his idea: Let’s put nothing in here and paint the walls stark white. When I was away one weekend doing a show, I came home and it was pristine.
I really enjoy love and relationships and sex, but I’m not really that romantic. I guess I’m very pragmatic. I think sometimes it’s not in a man’s nature to be romantic. And that’s just how it is. I feel like I’m one of those men. The two of us have these sort of ridiculous lives. We’re very busy and working all the time, so the time when we can sit around is precious and rare. It’s good to create some special moments. We just have to figure out how to feed the cat.
Dan Donigan, Drag Performer
After we met for coffee, we started texting back and forth, and I’d meet up with him in the middle of the day, and we’d do silly, stupid things, like buy a vacuum. It wasn’t formal at all, and that was amazing for me. I was young at the time. If I was going on a date and going to fancy restaurants, I would be like, I’m 20, I need these informalities.
We are far from simple people, but we have simple pleasures. Whether it’s watching anime and silly sitcoms, or sitting on the couch with our Ben and Jerry’s. We each have our own pint. We don’t share. Mine is Chubby Hubby. He’s more Phish Food. It’s good because if we ended up getting the same, I’d finish my pint and then he’d just skim his, and the next day I’d eat the rest of his. Maybe that’s our biggest issue — when I eat his ice cream!
I didn’t really know how to be in a relationship at first because I hadn’t had one before. I thought you had to give up everything to be with one person. I lost a lot of friends because I made my whole life about James for a while. Then eventually James said, “Dan, you have no life. I’m happy to be a big part of your life, but you need more.” That was two years into the relationship. I didn’t know what to do. He said, “You need to have some passion, be inspired, do something.” I got a job with Marc Jacobs and things started developing. I had a lot more fun with fashion, merchandising, and visuals. From there, drag came into my life — because of James. I almost think he’s why I got on RuPaul’s Drag Race. He helped me with both of my audition videos. All that took me in another direction. He’s always been successful, but our relationship is also about being supportive. It’s about making each other more popular.
But I’ve also become more independent. That’s when a relationship really works — at least that’s what works for us. You can get so stifled by too much attention.