Wig Artist Eldar Gorak Talks Designing Wigs Fit for a Drag Queen


If you’ve ever wondered how drag queens get their wigs to look so fabulous both on and off the stage, you have talented wig artists like Eldar Gorak to thank. Armed with a flair for dramatic hair, Gorak is the creative mastermind behind so many of the stellar wig creations that are frequently worn by notable names in the Nashville drag community and beyond. 

From ultra-snatched ponytails to bombshell-worthy waves and curls, the Nashville-based artist has a gift for transforming wigs into eye-catching dream units for his clients. It’s no surprise that his extraordinary wig work has even made its way onto RuPaul’s Drag Race.

The Tease had the pleasure of connecting with Gorak to discuss how he started his career working with drag queens, what really goes into making all of his dazzling wigs, the misconceptions people have about drag queens and their hair, and how Tennessee’s recent anti-drag laws have impacted his business. 

The Tease: How did you first become interested in wigs and where did your wig-making journey really begin?

Eldar Gorak: I wasn’t initially interested in hair. Ironically, I did freelance bridal makeup while I was working retail at TJMaxx in my hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky. That’s where I had a coworker that wore wigs and one day we joked around about me taking a chance to style some of them. It was a new skill to learn, but I was up for the challenge. It grew from my coworker to my friends that did drag. The constant learning of new techniques and styles was an intense and constant struggle, but the desire to learn and grow never let me stop because it was something I loved to do. I loved being in my studio creating and trying, countlessly curling the same piece of hair to see how the different curls would form. 

You’ve worked with some notable drag queens in the Nashville scene. How did you get into creating their wigs?

Gorak: The first few drag queens were just friends that allowed me to style some of their wigs while I was still learning the tricks of the trade. I was in college in Kentucky and a bartender/server in Nashville and doing hair for my girls was an escape of the structured, always on a deadline, busy, and hectic lifestyle, because I was creating art that made my girls feel their absolute best. Seeing their reactions and how they felt so beautiful and full of life when they tried on a wig that was styled by me—it was the feeling that I did something to make someone else smile that made it worth it. Everyday styling and drag hair are two very different skill sets and the fact that I had no formal training did not help my future in the career. Never giving up allowed my talents to shine through. My attention to detail is the key reason why I stand out in my industry. 

Image Courtesy of Eldar Gorak

When a drag queen commissions you to make a wig, where do you typically start? Walk me through what your design process looks like. 

Gorak: So, it is kind of tricky because I work under all the umbrellas of the wig industry. It is all about the end result for the client. We typically have a consultation on what those needs are and from there I can familiarize myself with the best approach for them. Timelines are never the same because some styles can take two to three days and other custom-made wigs from scratch could take over a week to create and secure all the details, depending on the complexity of the style. I’m excited to say that I am no one-trick pony. If you have an idea, I will definitely make an effort to execute it to the best of my ability and will go above and beyond to make sure it is to the highest quality of construction. I’m all about growing and trying new things, so when I’m not familiar, I will take the necessary time to educate myself in any way on how to execute. The most important factor when styling is attention to detail. When others say that this small curl won’t matter or be seen, I will still take the time to make sure it’s as close to perfect as possible to fit the creative brief. 

Where do you get inspiration for your wig ideas?

Gorak: Inspiration always comes from my clients challenging me in new techniques. They give me an idea and I run with it, so to say. I formulate and evolve everything to a higher standard for my end result.

Image Courtesy of Eldar Gorak

How do you ensure that a wig style will stay in place for a performance?

Gorak: It’s just simple styling tricks. You have to know the end result to know how to approach the style. Some wigs are just simply teased up and set into place with hairspray. But when that simple style has a complex band, for example, you have to know that a pin or a good lockstitch with some thread and needle will have to go in to give it security and the client a good hold, if they are performing in the wig.

From your experience, what really makes a good wig?

Gorak: A good wig is one that is styled and constructed with the end goal in mind. I work with so many different types of needs—from editorial, TV and film, to performance-based artists—and it’s all about the desired result. Creative styles are always fun, but they aren’t always required for the creative brief. I personally don’t think I make crazy out-of-the-box hair all the time, but people love my work because they trust and know that I will always give a quality result to a simple or complex wig. A good wig is not defined by complexity, but by the stylist’s ability to be intune with their craft/client.

How do you generally advise drag queens to care for and maintain their wigs?

Gorak: Once again, it’s dependent on style. Sometimes you can’t brush through every style or some pieces are locked in place forever. Because of how diverse my styling portfolio can be, it’s very difficult to give a set list of guidelines. The number one rule I always say before sending a wig off is to be gentle. Understand that anything can be fixed if you are gentle with it. 

Image Courtesy of Eldar Gorak

Can you tell us about your most favorite or the most difficult drag queen wig that you’ve worked on?

Gorak: I honestly love my work so much that it changes every time I do a new wig. I fall in love with all of them and if I don’t, that means I need to fix some things before the client receives it. At this point, every new project is difficult and no more than the other. My most difficult project was my first time doing a full package for RuPaul’s Drag Race. Not because of the hair, but because of the challenge to do 40 various custom wigs in such a short time frame alone. It’s the thrill of the challenge, but after the first one, the next years to come were easier to get a grip and execute the creative briefs. Because I don’t see them as difficult, I see them as challenges to add to my portfolio. It’s a skillset to acquire, so I’m happy to be unhappy while I learn more and more each day.

When styling drag queens, would you say that the wig dictates wardrobe and overall look or the wardrobe dictates the wig?

Gorak: It’s both, because sometimes my retainer girls are happy for me to create new styles and they get garments made to fit and vice versa. Sometimes we create hair depending on garments and how they will react to the materials of the garment. Because, let me be the first to say that a garment made of sequins and long hair will kill the back of the hair faster than anything. That’s why we choose satin liners on the back of garments or choose shorter hair. In my head, it’s like a really long math equation with a bunch of substituting variables. Sometimes you add or take away a factor and you get a new result. But, at the end of day, you have to be familiar with the core guidelines to solve the problem. Examples like that are always the reason why knowing the end result is the only correct way to approach designing when you have the opportunity with your client.

In your opinion, what do you find are the biggest misconceptions people have about drag queens and their wigs/hair?

Gorak: That they can touch them. Consent is mandatory. People have this desire when they see the glitz and glamour of a drag queen that it’s so easy, so quick, and painless. From just being around my queens for so many years now, it’s harder than working a construction job. The cuts, bruises, and hair loss. It takes a major toll emotionally and physically, all so others can get enjoyment. It’s a demanding and selfless job to have and I’m so happy to be a huge supporter of drag.

Image Courtesy of Eldar Gorak

As the majority of your clientele are drag queens, how are you feeling about Tennessee’s recent anti-drag laws? Have they had any sort of impact on your business? If so, in what ways?

Gorak: The social toll it has taken on all venues, queens, promoters, and the LGBTQIA+ community has been deafening. We were all so scared and continue to fear. But, watching the support and love from the ones that do care has been louder than anything else. The community organizing in so many ways to come together and stand up for our rights is beautiful to watch and it just makes me want to be more and more involved.

It impacts everyone—financially as well as fearing for their safety to just walk down the street because we are being targeted and you never know if someone will try to hurt you for simply standing on the other side of the opinion. Other than just financially, things are slower because my girls’ events are being canceled due to companies not wanting to make waves, like with Target and Starbucks pulling their Pride Month merchandise, for example. 

Lastly, what advice would you give to someone who is interested in wig making and styling?

Gorak: The best advice I have for someone that truly has a passion for wig making/creative styling? Don’t give up because 99% of the time it won’t go as planned if it’s a new technique. Learn from the mistakes because they will take you the furthest in your journey to becoming the best wig maker you can be. Always have your end goal in mind and don’t cut the corners to make it easier. If it doesn’t feel right or look the way you want and need, don’t be afraid to start over. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

To see more of Gorak’s brilliant wig work, be sure to follow @gorak_eldar on Instagram.

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Camille Nzengung

Camille Nzengung is a Features Editor at The Tease, where she covers all things hair. You can find her writing about the best hair products, the coolest hair trends, and all the exciting new hair launches. Send her a pitch: cnzengung@thetease.com.

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