With ride-share and private taxi services like Uber and Lyft rising in popularity it’s quickly becoming a competitive market for their drivers, some of whom are going the extra mile to stand out and create an enjoyable and memorable experience for their passengers.
One such person is Erika Simone, the drag personality of an L.A. driver who’s making something of a name for herself with her flashy and fun service.
Answering the call for her service Erika arrives on the scene in her Prius, complete with sign declaring ‘Driving is a Drag’, with Erika decked out in her bright-yellow taxi uniform and fishnet stockings, calling out ‘Hey babe, I heard you needed a Lyft!’.
When asked what made her chose to start ‘Driving is a Drag’ is quite open and honest that it coincided with her starting cross-dressing with the need to stand out as a business. ‘I was really into cross dressing summer 2014 when I really needed to take a job as a Lyft driver to pay some bills.’ She explained. ‘I was recently out of a 3 month rehab program and needed a low stress job. After reading on a news site that there were other Lyft drivers that had dress up themes to their cars, like Batman, Big Lebowski and Harry Potter, I thought to myself…what am I going to do?’
‘Then I thought, what if my drag alter ego Erika Simone went to pick people up? I had an epiphany, and it was a big neon pink sign that said ‘Driving is a Drag’, and off I went.’
Despite the obvious worries that some people could react negatively Erika went ahead with the idea, and so far has been met with nothing but positive reactions from those she has met. ‘I was really worried at first that people would say nasty things, beat me up or kill me, so I went with a friend for the first few rides but quickly found that everyone loved it and told me it was the best Uber and Lyft ride they had ever taken. I’ve done 1,600 trips and have only been turned down once, and the man was nice about it.’
Part of the reason why Erika has been so accepted and embraced by her fares also comes down to the fact that she creates a full experience for those that she picks up, with the car being decked out in beads, teddy bears and even comes with fun props for people to play with, such as novelty headbands complete with springy penises.
‘I’ve had people drop their groceries because they’re laughing so hard. So many people are shocked because they’ve never seen a themed Lyft driver before, but then they’re like, ‘Fuck yeah, let’s get in!’
Using her 15 years experience in the music industry to put together a three episodes of ‘The Drag Car Sessions’, which features bands performing in the back seat of her car. ‘I have met with six different reality TV studios since March but finally found one that completely understood my vision. This is not a TV show, but a web series for YouTube and is going to be out any minute now. The goal is to take the web series as a package to major TV networks next year to try and sell it as a new show concept.’
Erika is hoping to use the exposure and attention from press, social media and television to franchise a party bus and limo service fronted by drag queens. She is also aiming to create a much needed ‘safe ride’ solution for the transgender, cross dressing and drag community.
‘I’ve seen many stories of Taxi and Uber drivers that still discriminate against us, leave us stranded on the corner because of how we look or actually throw us out of the back of their cab. It’s 2015 and people should feel safe from getting from A to B. Many trans people are scared to go out and be in public and take public transportation. This would allow them to be 100% themselves.’
Erika goes on to explain how the ever increasing presence of the transgender community has gone on to change the way she uses ‘Driving is a Drag’. ‘Ever since Caitlyn Jenner’s story became massive global news my ride has gone from 100% entertainment to 50% entertainment and 50% education. People ask me what’s the difference between transgender, cross dressing and drag. Many people don’t know. I’m happy to give them trans 101, if you know what I mean.’
‘I’ve had so many trans youth contact me on Facebook and tell me that I’ve inspired them to come out to their families and friends and to be themselves. Even though I identify as a man, I guess some people see me being fearless out their driving in drag and look up to me. It’s a really cool thing, it’s very empowering to me.’