To be a drag queen takes guts, a flamboyant attitude, and curves that can kill.
Founded in 2010 by Speech and Business Communications professor at Kingsborough, Vincent Cuccia, Planet Pepper provides hip and butt pads for drag queens and crossdressers in New York City who desire feminine curves.
The original design for Planet Pepper was to create dresses and costumes for drag queens instead of the hip and butt pads currently sold. Co-founder of Planet Pepper Alex Bartlett, teamed up with Cuccia to make and sell these dresses but the plan would come to a stop after the business wasn’t making a profit.
The idea for Planet Pepper was launched when Cuccia was dating Bartlett, who, at the time, made dresses and costumes for his friends. Cuccia proposed to use Bartlett’s talent of dressmaking for the drag queen community and transform it into a business. The New York State Commission for the Blind offered Cuccia $15,000 for coming up with a successful business idea that was unique and unheard of in New York City.
“New York State Government loved it. They went ballistic over this idea. Like all the other ideas they could care less about,” Cuccia said. “Everything conservative, everything boring, everything common they rejected, but they went crazy when I walked in there and said we’re going to make dresses for drag queens and make a business out it.”
Planet Pepper may be catered more towards men, but they’re some women who were born without hips or curves that choose to purchase these pads. Women who don’t have extreme curves get the opportunity to achieve their ideal body shape. These curves can be managed with a quick stop to Planet Pepper to allow some women to feel confident in their skin.
As a professor at Kingsborough Community College, Cuccia balances his responsibilities as an entrepreneur and an educator. Cuccia teaches classes in speech and business communications. These classes instruct students the elements of public speaking for future presentations or job interviews.
“He enforced the fact that we have higher responsibilities as college students and that having a voice does matter,” student Otis Burgos said.
“He taught me how to be less nervous about speaking in class,” Cuccia’s speech student, Cesar Olsen stated.
Throughout the success of Planet Pepper, Cuccia has dealt with peers opposed to the idea of a company targeted towards drag queens. Most of the negative reactions came from other gay people who were against Planet Pepper’s goal to provide accessories to the drag queen community, instead of the whole public.
“I’ve met fashion designers who think what we are doing is pretty bad,” Cuccia stated. “And I’ve met gay people who think why are you catering to drag queens?”
Planet Pepper won the “Entrepreneur Award” from New York State Regional Employment Alliance in 2011, and the Business Outreach Center (BOC) Award for Entrepreneurial Achievement. The company has received exposure from Business Insider, Huffington Post, and DNA. Planet Pepper has grown as a platform for the drag community gaining celebrity clients including Lady Bunny, a popular drag queen and Lisa Lampanelli, a famous comedienne.
As a New Yorker, Cuccia welcomes the diverse shapes of men and women not to cause a battle of the sexes, but to stress the importance that a man can choose to look feminine. A man’s body shape is built differently than women. Planet Pepper embraces this notion by providing methods where a feminine shape can be imitated in the drag queen community.
“Drag for me is about being a clown and making fun of stereotypes and making fun of the restrictions people choose,” Cuccia said. “So, I love that people find what I do very funny and interesting.”