Ashlee Stone is the center of attention wherever she goes. Towering well over 6 feet in her high heels and designer dress, her bodacious curves, her giant fake eyelashes and her layers upon layers of makeup demand attention from anyone within a one-mile radius.
So do her broad shoulders, Adam’s apple and distinctly masculine facial features.
“I’m not trying to fool people that I’m a girl,” says John Gustave Ritter IV, the 21-year-old man who created and embodies Ashlee Stone. “That mask goes on, and a different person goes on.”
Ritter explains what he does as Ashlee Stone. He goes back and forth talking about his character in first and third person.
“She’s a sex symbol,” he says. “She’s definitely a sex symbol.”
As Ashlee Stone, Ritter promotes and hosts various nightlife events.
“Basically I’m the MC,” he explains. “I perform once or twice. Then I put the other performers in line, show them where they’re supposed to be. It’s a job, that’s what I do.”
Ritter speaks very matter-of-factly about the Ashlee Stone franchise, how his personal life differs from that of his life as a drag queen, and of his own sexuality.
While Ritter—or “Goose,” as his friends call him—considers Ashlee Stone a local sex symbol, he reiterates that embodying Ashlee Stone is not a sexual experience for him.
“I’ve never done anything sexual in drag, that’s for sure,” Ritter says. “I do it for show and entertainment.”
But Ritter insists it’s not all fun and games being a drag queen celebrity.
“Anywhere from four to six hours it takes me to get ready,” he says. Next to his small but plush downtown condo is a second condo, used solely to store everything required to transform into Ashlee Stone: dresses, wigs, shoes, tons of makeup.
“Ashlee Stone definitely has her own condo,” Ritter says. “She needs one.”
Ritter, who created Ashlee Stone when he was 17—only a few months after coming out of the closet—has invested a lot into being a drag queen.
“Out of all four years, I’d say over a hundred grand,” he says, “probably closer to two hundred grand.” After a quick glance around the second condo, which looks like a well-stocked Hollywood dressing room, two hundred grand sounds about right.
It’s paying off. Ashlee Stone is hosting parties at least twice a month now, has built a considerable fan base, and is getting some national attention. Among other offers, Ashlee was invited to the Jerry Springer show, but declined.
“You definitely can’t just do everything you get offered,” says Ritter. “You have to wait around … and see what offers are gonna be best for your career.”
As Ashlee Stone, Ritter is now shopping networks and creating a television pilot for a reality series and is doing modeling work in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Locally, Ashlee Stone will be hosting monthly “Vanity Parties” at various clubs.
“I don’t see myself like working on a stage in a bar,” says Ritter. “I see myself doing something wild, crazy, over the top.”