“Hats are better than wigs that itch, itch, itch,” says Desmond Napoles, the 10-year-old drag star who prefers newsboy caps and fascinators to realistic lace fronts. Known to his Instagram followers as Desmond Is Amazing, the pint-size prodigy is in his natural element at Interview’s photo shoot, vogueing like an old pro to the synth-pop of Richie Rich and Stacey Q.
Since making a splash at the 2015 Pride parade in his native New York, the model, muse, and LGBTQ activist has become a sensation, appearing at DragCon and founding Haus of Amazing, a drag community for kids. Napoles’s popularity reached new heights when he bounded down the runway for the unisex label Gypsy Sport at New York Fashion Week in February and subsequently popped up on countless fashion websites. Next on his to-do list is creating a cosmetics brand he calls Be Amaze, a fashion line called Amazement, and a social network for drag kids—“no haters allowed.”
To create the looks that he designs for himself, Napoles draws heavily from the ’90s, a decade he reveres for its “platform shoes and vlogs—I mean, clogs!” It’s a slip of the tongue that betrays his age; despite his precociousness, Napoles is younger than YouTube, which he uses to watch footage from the heyday of club-kid culture. Having successfully killed his photo shoot, Napoles drapes himself in his Keith Haring–print coat and, looking into a mirror on his way out, says to himself: “Werk!”