My phone interview with Ronny took place on a Saturday afternoon. I knew that Ronny is Nona and Nona is Ronny but who was I interviewing? Right off the bat I asked “How should I address you”? “Like a man” the sweet voice replied “Nona is just a character”.
A thing of beauty and visual enticement, Nona Chalant is the fashionably daring, avant-garde wearing, feminine expression of Ronnny Chokron. What began as a journey of self expression, organically developed into something greater. Where most drag queens are devoted to self promotion, Nona finds fulfillment in the marriage of self promotion with the promotion of others, Israeli designers and artists to be exact. To better understand what inspired and motivated him to help and promote others, Ronny recommends I watch the documentary “Paris is Burning “. The documentary follows the backstage life of several drag queen performers in NYC in the late 80’s at an event known as “The Ball” (A reoccurring event comprised of competitions in all categories and shades of fabulous). In this community of mostly black and Latino gay men, one would belong to a “House”. In the social structure of a “House” there were “Children” (younger, aspiring ) who were taken under the wing of a “Mother” who was a more experienced drag queen and the head of a “House”. Similarly, Ronny created the House of Nona as a platform where designers and visual artists can collaborate with Nona and one another. Nona wears these designers creations on red carpets, fashion shows, and exhibitions, helping them become more well known. Goods deeds aside, is Nona just another drag queen?
Nona is not just another drag queen, nor another contestant On RuPauls Dragrace. To describe Nona better, I loosely use the term Geisha. ( No, no, Nona is not a call girl, get your mind out of the gutter). But the most literal translation of geisha into English would be “artist,” “performing artist,” or “artisan.” Or as Ronny put it “I made my own formula for drag, its not exactly drag its a visual art”. Part of his own formula to drag is that Nona is clearly androgynous.
In the film “To Wong Foo”, Wesley Snipes as drag queen Noxima Jackson educates John Leguizamo as “Boy in a dress” Chi-Chi Rodriguez that “When a gay man has way too much fashion sense for one gender he is a drag queen”. Ronny no doubt falls into this category but in contrast to most drag queens Nona is not exactly a woman, “Having breast didn’t speak to me”,Ronny points out “Gender blender was more interesting”. Naturally, this blurring of the lines is expressed through fashion.
When Ronny says “I love the glam, but I want to break it, I want to wear what others don’t” I say lets talk Lady Gaga, did she influence you? “I’m a huge fan, gaga helped me to not fear so much, to not give a shit”. Although Nona has experienced a fair share of homophobia Ronny says the good out weighs the bad. As the Poster boy for the Gay film festival in Tel Aviv this year, its clear that Nona is loved and welcomed. But when gliding around in out-of-this-world conceptual outfits, it becomes evident that not every one knows how to react. Ronny recalls an incident ” I was hosting an exhibition as Nona. When I stepped out for fresh air, a very young girl passed by, stared at me and and after a brief moment of confusion began to laugh, then I laughed and we just stood there laughing. It was such a human moment”. It turns out, that for a man with an alter ego, Ronny is anything but egocentric.
By Josef Brock