Clueless, the 1995 comedy starring Alicia Silverstone, set the tone for the childhood of Benjamin Bradshaw Baumker.
"When I was 8, my dad banned my Cher Horowitz impression at the dinner table," Baumker said of the character played by Silverstone. "She was my original drag inspiration: offensive, self-absorbed, woeful white girl with a heart of gold."
Flash-forward to 2010, and Baumker started dressing up for hipster parties on the west side at Pluto, "where I was the only drag queen and I looked pretty rough," he said.
A few months later, Baumker was hired at Scarlet as a host on Friday nights, "where I would basically work the room and make sure the vibe was good," he said.
Baumker joined the House of Santana drag show at Berlin about eight months in, and it was the first time he worked with others and when, he admitted, he truly started to improve technically and build his drag character.
"The more I host, the more offensive I become," he said with a bit of sass. "Trannika's a self-absorbed, alcoholic bigot, but she's full of love. I studied improv at Second City and did theater for 11 years, so a big part of the show is spontaneous audience interaction through games and live tweeting. It's organized chaos. You might gasp first, but you're always going to end up laughing."
Baumker's alter ego hosted the 4,000-person dance pavilion at Milwaukee Pride in 2013.
"I got to work with some rad DJs, was allowed free reign on the microphone, and the boss made sure I was stocked up on Fireball Whisky backstage. So Milwaukee, if you're reading this, I'm available this year, too."
Baumker said his favorite song to perform is Jennifer Hudson's "Night of Your Life."
"When I joined the House of Santana drag show at Berlin, they let me host the show [and] it just clicked," he said. "I started the monthly Trannika's Most Wanted at Scarlet in October 2012, and started running the Berlin show in June 2013. Both bars took big chances on an infant drag queen with a problematic sense of humor, but with their help we've had record turnouts and continue to break sales records."
"Trannika's Most Wanted" at Scarlet is the third Monday of every month with cast members Kim Chi, Shea Coulee, and Ivory. "Drag Matinee" is at Berlin the first and third Saturday of every month as well as additional special editions, featuring performers from across the country.
"My goal [from a fashion sense] is to look like I'm in the elimination ceremony on Rock of Love: too much hair, too much leg, too many accessories, obvious daddy issues," he said, laughing.
So, how different or similar is Benjamin from your drag persona?
"My sense of humor is dark and character-based, but there's a big difference between on stage and off stage," he said. "This is business and professionalism is very important to me. Anyone who works my shows knows my rules: timeliness, kindness, and a good sense of humor. On stage we tear each other apart mercilessly and we wouldn't be so successful if that level of respect wasn't there backstage."
Relationship status: "The most important man in my life is the Sarpino's delivery man."
Job: Show runner/host of Trannika's Most Wanted at Scarlet and Drag Matinee at Berlin
Stage name: Trannika Rex, American Gurl
Orientation: "Gay as a goose."
Hobbies: "Cat-petting and Beyonce-worshipping."
Favorite TV show: Scandal
Best part of your job: "Getting drunk on stage with my best friends."
Worst part of your job: "Having to wake up the next day."
Little-known fact: "I've never smoked a cigarette."