End your weekend in style with these girls!
Dragging yourself out of bed on Sundays after the night before just got a little bit easier…
According to Buzzfeed, a phenomenon called “drag brunches” has become popular at gay bars across the country. Taking place on Sunday afternoons, the events offer an entertaining way for patrons to get their boozy brunches with a show, too—the drag queens perform for diners throughout the afternoon, revamping the standard Sunday brunch into something whimsical and new.
Places like Houston’s Bayou City Bar and Grill’s “Drag Me…To Brunch” offer a comfortable atmosphere where people can come and enjoy a good mid-morning meal, a drink, and be entertained all before the work week begins. With the aim of keeping the idea of the “neighborhood gay bar” alive in a time when establishments such as New York City’s famous Rawhide Bar are closing, these occasions offer a fun outlet not only for those coming to brunch but also for those performing, as well.
With events like NYC Pride Week coming up this summer, everyone could use a little bit more queen in their brunch.
Westchester Drag Queens Bring Queer Culture to Life Around the County
While Pride Month may feel very different this year, those who give the event its soul aren’t going anywhere. From Peekskill to Mount Vernon, these creative, talented, and deeply community-conscious entertainers continue to enrich Westchester — each resplendent in the regalia of drag.
Photo by Gina Palumbo/Keep It Captured Photography
Amber Guesa (Liam Bohan)
New Rochelle’s Amber Guesa is a queen on the rise. At just 21 years old, Liam Bohan’s drag persona has already garnered an impressive roster of fans, boasting nearly 5,000 Instagram followers, as well as respect from the local drag community.
Four years ago, while studying at the Culinary Institute of America, Guesa created her signature look. “I never had anyone do my makeup, and I didn’t really watch YouTube that much,” she says. “I just tried different products, copied pictures, and then it became muscle memory.”
After college, Guesa picked up an unlikely ally. “I moved in with my grandmother, who is an Irish Roman Catholic,” recalls Guesa. “I was doing drag, and I would throw everything in the closet before she came home from work. [Eventually,] I was like, ‘Look, this is what I do,’ and now she loves it. She tells me if I look stupid, if I should change my shoes, or if I should iron my dress.”
With her own show (pior to the pandemic) at The Alamo Sports Bar & Restaurant in Mount Vernon and brunch at Liberty’s in NYC, Guesa advocates for drag kings and queens from across the Hudson Valley. “It’s really cool to see that we are here in Mount Vernon,” she says. “It’s funny that some people out there can be so hateful, [yet] almost everyone who sees drag loves it. It’s so great to see that I can change people’s minds.”
Photo courtesy of Jorge Flores
Gigi Cutina (Jorge Flores)
White Plains-based Gigi Cutina, who often has performed at NYC’s Pieces bar and at the iconic Stonewall Inn, or alongside Dotty Spartans at Birdsall House in Peekskill, became interested in the art form after noticing that a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race shared her given name.
The persona of 27-year-old Jorge Flores was born on the entertainer’s 20th birthday. “I went to B Lounge [in Valhalla], which is now closed,” shares Cutina. “There was one drag queen there named Rhoda Rollins Stone. I told her I was just getting into this and asked if I could perform.” Stone agreed, and Cutina found an outlet for her passion.
Today, Cutina is a popular drag persona with thousands of social media followers and an aptitude for designing dresses. “I self-taught how to sew,” she recalls. “Everything I have worn for the past two years, I have made.”
Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus is not slowing Cutina down. “I am doing an Instagram live show every Sunday, to still be out there and entertain,” she says. “I think drag is for everybody — to give people some entertainment, forget about a few things, have a few laughs, and look at something sparkly,” she says. “When I first started, I would sometimes get an odd look, but now I can walk to the train station in full face, and people just compliment me.”
Dotty Spartans (Philip Degaltini)
Dotty Spartans, the drag persona of 30-year-old Philip Degaltini, boasts a horror-tinged look that has received rave reviews at Birdsall House in Peekskill. An eloquent advocate for her art form, Spartans speaks more like a professor than a performer.
“For me, Pride is really important because it’s not just being proud of who you are but also of the community and of the people who are creating art and supporting one another,” explains Spartans. “It is about providing a safe place for the next generation to know that they are loved, are accepted, and have support.”
Spartans began her drag career eight years ago, when the art form was far less popular than it is today. “I love horror movies and murder mysteries, and aesthetically I am very drawn to the macabre,” she says of her look.
Since then, Spartans has not only evolved into one of the county’s most celebrated queens, she’s also changed a few hearts in the process. “In Peekskill, the support has been overwhelming,” she shares. “We get kids we get straight couples we get older people. We are showing people that drag isn’t this scary, sexualized thing. It is comedy it is glamour it is performance — and it is really, really cool.”
Photo courtesy of Daniel Silvestre
Tess Tickles (Daniel Silvestre)
Tess Tickles, a queen with a glamorous, glittering look, is a fixture of the regional drag scene and a gifted entertainer. The persona of 24-year-old Daniel Silvestre, Tickles launched her drag career relatively early .
“I have always liked the thought of dressing up in girls’ clothes. My parents would catch me in my grandmothers’ clothes, and my grandma herself would let me wear her heels around the house,” says Tickles with laugh. “I first got into the drag scene when I was 18, and I would sneak into this bar called B Lounge, in Valhalla, to see Dotty [Spartans], Gigi [Cutina], and Roro [Rhoda Rollins Stone].”
Tickles soon became friends with this local sisterhood and began hitting the stage herself. “I started dressing up and performing, but I didn’t take it seriously until two years ago, when I started putting money into it, performing, and creating my own shows,” she says.
Tickles is known for helming her own drag brunch at The Liberty in New York City, along with frequent appearances at The Ritz Bar & Lounge and The Alamo Sports Bar & Restaurant in Mount Vernon. According to the queen, the current pandemic won’t stop her — or drag.
“I feel like drag is going to change a lot now, with everyone performing online and kids being able to watch shows who couldn’t go to bars,” says Tickles. “This is a huge thing for us, and I know once everything is back to normal that drag will still be there.”
Drag brunch at Lansdowne Pub.
Bell in Hand
Who would have thought that the self-described oldest tavern in America would be throwing drag brunches? Held on one Sunday each month, Bell in Hand’s Brunch of Queens features four rotating queens singing and performing alongside a DJ.
Tickets, which are sold through Eventbrite, cost $25 (plus fees) and include the show plus a breakfast buffet, featuring a typical lineup of croissants, eggs, sausage, fruit, and more. While one drink is currently included in the price, a representative for Bell in Hand said that might be changing soon.
2. Friday Night Divas — Anchorage, Alaska
Curiously enough, Anchorage, Alaska, has one of the most beloved drag shows in the United States. For a short time, the Friday Night Divas show at the popular gay bar Mad Myrna’s has served as a meeting place for the local LGBTQ community and its allies. The show, featuring a plethora of impersonators from Selena to Christina Aguilera, is set to the tune of a true dive bar — wall-to-wall carpeting, wood paneling, and a Prince impersonator collecting tips in a basket. Overall, the Friday Night Divas show is anchored on a unique form of nostalgia that proves to be a crowd-pleasing hit.
Where: Mad Myrna’s, 530 East 5th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501
‘A Seat at the Table’
The Drag Queen of the Year pageant takes such diversity as its mandate.
“We’ve worked with trans men and trans women and drag kings and all these different kinds of performers our whole lives,” said Alaska 5000, 35, the “RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars” winner who founded the competition with a fellow drag queen, Lola LaCroix, in 2019.
Why, they wondered one sleepless night flying home from a gig, shouldn’t such performers all compete against and celebrate each other? “Everyone has something to prove, and everyone brings so much,” Alaska 5000 said. “What they do isn’t just valid, it’s fierce.”
To that end, Tenderoni will go up against seven other disparate drag artists — some bearded, burly and burlesque some Jessica Rabbit curvaceous some known for their lingerie-clad muscles — for the Drag Queen of the Year crown in a show to be seen on the Sessions Live platform.
Whether he wins or not, it doesn’t really matter. “This gives us a seat at the table,” said Tenderoni, who started performing in drag less than five years ago. “Drag is a buffet. I don’t need to be the main course — I just want to be included.”
By appearing that night, he will earn a spot in a brotherhood of drag kings that, under various names, has been around for centuries.
Male mimics Vesta Tilley and Hetty King were widely celebrated on British music hall stages of the 19th century. Stormé DeLarverie, a Stonewall activist who preferred the term “male impersonator” to “drag king,” passed for a man while touring America with the Jewel Box Revue in the ’50s and ’60s.
In the ’80s, the comedian and actress Lily Tomlin played Tommy Velour, a Las Vegas lounge lizard with more chest hair than talent. He lives on, in all his hirsute glory, on YouTube.
In a June 2000 episode of “Sex and the City” titled “Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl…,” prim Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) is photographed in a mustache and a man’s suit, and her portrait is featured in a gallery show. The show used real drag kings, but only as background players.
More recently, “Vida,” a Starz show about two Mexican-American sisters, featured the drag king Vico Suave, the creation of Vico Ortiz, a nonbinary actor. Tanya Saracho, the show’s creator, said she wanted to include drag kings in the cast because they’re an “underrepresented initiative” in queer entertainment. “The artistry is there,” she said, asking, “Why are they not part of the mainstream wave that’s happening right now with drag?”
Twenty-five years ago, fans had to venture far beyond their living rooms to underground clubs late at night to see drag kings perform. In New York back then, that meant a watering hole like Flamingo East on Second Avenue, in an East Village much rougher than it is today.
“Those early days in the clubs were electric, uncharted and riveting,” said Murray Hill, 49, a New York comedian known as the “hardest-working middle-aged man in show business” since his emergence as a young drag king in 1995. His earliest drag performance was as a “fat sweaty Elvis,” to use his words, at 2 a.m. on a Sunday at a party called Club Casanova at a venue called Cake on Avenue C. “It felt very underground,” he said.
Mo B. Dick, 55, the drag king who ran Club Casanova before decamping for the West Coast in 2004, said that in that era, “it was more about drag king realness. You were passing as a male.” Kings were spirit-gumming their own hair clippings to their chins and chests in the name of entertainment. The illusion worked well enough, but such makeovers would be considered underwhelming today.
Thanks to the special-effects-grade prosthetics and precision paint jobs seen on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” drag performers of every stripe have had to up their game. “Now when folks go to their local drag bar, they expect to see what they saw on television,” said Mr. Kampe, the Minneapolis producer, which encourages artists “to continually invest in new looks.”
Mr. Dick thinks standards have gone up. “These kids today, I’m pleased at how extraordinary they are,” he said. “Now, there’s more artistry and more makeup. Being a king is more ‘draggy.’ The showmanship is phenomenal.” At a good brunch, he noted, “Performers now go through three or four costume changes during a one-hour show.”
A 2018 all-drag-kings tribute to the boy bands Backstreet Boys and ’NSync, held at a venue in Minneapolis called the Union Rooftop, was so popular that Mr. Kampe said he had to do six shows to meet the demand.
Mr. Dick recently created a website, dragkinghistory.com, to help new audiences learn about the art form’s past. On Feb. 21, he celebrated veteran drag kings with an international online event called “Drag King Legends.” The pay-what-you-can show featured stalwart performers like Fudgie Frottage of San Francisco, Flarington King of Toronto and Ken Vegas of Washington, D.C. All have been drag kings for 25 years or more.
Mr. Hill, who is perhaps the RuPaul of drag kings, headlined the night. In the coming months, he will appear in roles on three high-profile TV series: Amy Schumer’s “Love, Beth” on Hulu, Bridget Everett’s “Somebody Somewhere” on HBO, and the American reboot of the British sitcom “This Country,” on which he will play a magician. “A regular character on TV is something I’ve wanted since I started over 25 years ago,” he said.
Paul Feig, the producer-director of “Bridesmaids,” “Freaks and Geeks” and “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” wrote in an email that “I’ve been a huge fan of Murray’s for a while. When Jenny Bicks and I sold ‘This Country’ to Fox, one of my first goals was to get him on it. I love talented people who have their own unique take on the world and will do whatever I can to get them opportunities to shine.”
Most drag kings, though, are still fighting an uphill battle. “Kings are rising in popularity in many large American cities, but they aren’t provided with the same opportunities as queens,” Mr. Kampe said.
Live shows often are booked by male promoters who may not appreciate drag king artistry. “Often, a show will feature a dozen queens and only one king,” Mr. Kampe said. “Drag kings face as much discrimination in the workplace as women, and they often earn less.”
Another obstacle, as Mr. Dick noted, is that audiences “don’t necessarily see the comedy in a woman putting on a suit. Female masculinity is still scary to some people.” There’s less inherent theatricality and, up until now, less glitz to performing in male drag, too plus, people are a lot more accustomed in everyday American life to seeing women in pants than men in skirts. “Doing a male character is so much harder than doing a female character,” Alaska 5000 said. “Men are just not as exciting to look at.”
Learning to Be a Man in the World of Drag Kings
I’m standing backstage of Tate Grand Hall at the University of Georgia’s student center, which, like everything else in Athens, is eclipsed by the football stadium next door. Tonight, though, the 100,000-seat venue is hauntingly quiet as the Bulldogs are in Kentucky. Instead, a much different spectacle has come to town: The Lambda Alliance ‘Slay Bells Ring!’ Holiday Drag Show . In it, queer undergrads share the runway with veteran drag professionals — men, women or otherwise — who demonstrate how to question, subvert and mock the gender binary, thereby exploding it into a million glittery pieces.
In one corner, a pair of plus-size, blinged-out professional queens, Yasmine Alexander and Kellie Divine , tutor a princess on how to construct fake tits from a rolled-up wig. “Girl,” one instructs, “If it starts to peek out, just pretend you have a glandular disorder.” Meanwhile, on the other side of the dressing room, a gang of drag kings — i.e, female and trans performance artists who dress in masculine drag — are learning how to walk like a man. “It’s a swagger , not a sashay,” instructs Diego Wolf, a 37-year-old goateed trans man with a booming voice and Burt Reynolds-level chest hair . He repeatedly tells a rookie king who has begun to transition to relax. “Listen man,” he offers encouragingly, “there’s no way you can do this if you’re freaking out.”
Diego Wolf backstage at University of Georgia’s ‘Slay Bells Ring!’ Holiday Drag Show
As a “drag king consigliere,” Wolf counsels drag princes on everything from binding their breasts (“Duct tape is problematic because it has absolutely no give. So it’s dangerous when you’re performing because your lungs are trying to expand but there’s no room”) to packing their groins (“I’ve tried every packer on the market, including a custom-molded $1,500 medical prosthetic from Australia”) to hormone shots (“You’ll likely have acne issues when starting testosterone it can be worse than being a pre-teen”).
Speaking of hormones, Wolff explains that they can transform new kings into aggressive prepubescents in an adult’s body. Unfamiliar with how to perform masculinity, they’ll often model the alpha males they see on TV, something their song selections quickly give away. “Most drag kings I see in early transition either choose primal, angry punk rock songs like ‘ Bodies Hit The Floor ’ or songs about male prowess and conquest like ‘ Blurred Lines ,’” says Wolf. “I’ve literally seen someone do ‘ My Dick’ by Mickey Avalon .”
That’s why Wolf applauds a pair of lesbians dressed as 1920s gangsters who are set to make their drag king debut with Jidenna ’s “ Classic Man .” It’s an outstanding song choice, Wolf assures them, since it’s about being a vintage, dapper man rather than a stereotypical modern golden boy.
Wolf with student drag kings Les Luther & Lush B. Anne
Sure, the facial hair screams newbie, Wolf tells me out of their ear shot, but that’s typical. “A lot of new kings will grab a tube of spirit gum and look like they fell asleep on a pile of hair clippings. I try to teach them about the way hair grows on the face. I even have a post I share periodically about the proper way to shave .”
As Les Luther & Lush B. Anne take the stage, Wolff reminds them once more to swagger, not sashay, and to never lose eye contact with the audience. Moments later, they do just that and Luther falls off the side of the stage. “The important thing is he got up,” Wolf says to me in the wings. “Like a real man.”
Wolf is familiar with getting knocked down. Some, like RuPaul, arguably the most influential drag performer in the world , consider Wolff’s presence on the drag scene to be inherently less-than. That’s because, as RuPaul explained to The Guardian in March , “[Drag] changes once you start changing your body. It takes on a different meaning and changes the whole concept of what we’re doing.”
“The main criticism is they’re cheating in some way,” explains Baker Rogers , an assistant professor of sociology at Georgia Southern University who has recently conducted two studies on the subject . The gripe, Rogers tells me, is that some believe drag is no longer performative after a transition. “Which is interesting,” she notes, “since gender in-and-of-itself is always a performance.”
While drag queens date back to the 19th century, it wasn’t until the 1990s that drag kinging became popular in the U.S.. Previously, masculinity was so normalized that people didn’t consider it to be something that needed to be performed. “Masculinity wasn’t an act, it just was ,” Rogers explains. “Femininity was a performance because it was something different .”
As for the specifics of where and when drag kinging began, Rogers says the comprehensive history is largely unknown. One of the kings in her study first took the stage in South Carolina in 1969, and she assumes others performed informally in queer pockets throughout the country. The current iteration, however, was born in lesbian bars, which didn’t emerge until the 1990s, at which point, drag-king shows began popping up in San Francisco, New York and L.A., before spreading nationwide.
Rogers says drag in the South serves as a stepping stone for many people considering gender transition because it’s a way to “learn” socially constructed masculinity. That’s why one of the subjects in her study considers drag kings to be “the gender equivalent of middle schoolers.” (As opposed to drag queens, which Athens vintage burlesque star Miss Effie considers to be more like “the gender equivalent of going through menopause.”) Since most kings didn’t learn masculinity norms as boys, they view drag as a crash course in dude-ness before attempting to perform it in their everyday lives.
That’s how it went for Wolf, too, who obviously wasn’t always a drag king mentor. In fact, he wasn’t always Diego Wolf — he used to be Lacy. Back in November 2003, Lacy excitedly wrapped layer upon layer of a wide ACE bandage around her chest. Most rookie drag kings bind their breasts using household items like duct tape and saran wrap. But Lacy knew better given her background in stage makeup and prosthetics. So instead, she pushed her breasts up and out toward her armpits, thereby creating a flattened space across her clavicle to look more like pec tissue (or “pit titties,” as drag kings affectionately call it). Most kings also start out using a sock to create their bulge, but Lacy found a recipe for slime online and then filled a latex condom with it.
Back then, Lacy was working toward her master’s in mass communications and journalism at the University of Georgia. Two trans men performed spoken word as the “ Athens Boys Choir ” when they guest lectured at her gender and music video class. When Lacy struck up a conversation with them afterward, they mentioned a friend was starting a local drag-king troupe at Boneshakers , the only gay bar in Athens at the time, and invited her to perform that night. Having grown up in rural Arkansas — in a town with a road adopted by the KKK — Lacy had never been to a gay bar, let alone performed in one. (Which is also why he asked that I use a pseudonym.) Without hesitation, though, she said yes.
Again, having taken a special-effects makeup course as an undergrad, she knew exactly how to apply makeup and facial hair to masculinize her look. First, she shaved her face to eliminate what minor peach fuzz she already had. Then she used a dark brown eye pencil to draw out the shape of the facial hair she wanted and darkened her brows and sideburns accordingly. Contour and highlight powder sharpened her jawline, while fine-cut hair clippings from her own head that she bound together with silicone adhesive created a five o’clock shadow.
On the drive over to Boneshakers, Lacy considered what kind of man she wanted to be: “I’d always favored the ‘smokey-eyed man of mystery,’ so that’s who I became, adopting all of the natural male traits and presence I wished I’d been born with.” Since Lacy says she always had a masculine body shape — i.e., tall, broad shoulders, longer trunk, etc. — the desired illusion was more about altering her soft face. To do so, she darkened her eyes using thick mascara, which served a couple of purposes: “First, I thought it would intimidate hecklers, since if a guy is brave enough to wear eye makeup in downtown Athens, he’s probably brave enough to hit you. I also think the way I use my eyes is one of my most masculine characteristics — while I won’t bat my eyelashes, I will look at you with an intensity you can feel in your core. I wanted that to be on display.”
At long last, Lacy would be able to redefine her life in a place where no one knew her. She, however, needed a name to round out the persona. “I want to be someone sexy ,” Lacy sighed aspirationally, “like a Latin lover named Diego!” She also wanted a moniker that meaningfully connected to her own story, so she blurted out “Wolf” because as a teen, she’d been diagnosed with lupus , the chronic autoimmune disorder whose name is derived from the Latin word for “wolf.”
Shortly thereafter “Diego Wolf” was introduced to a screaming crowd for the first time. “It was life-changing,” he tells me, “because for the first time people saw the person I always felt like on the inside.”
Of all the kings I meet while I’m in Athens, Billy Jean has been performing the longest, wrapping himself in sequins and feather boas since 1995. That year, he won a drag competition at the annual Boybutante Aids Foundation Ball , employing feminine features and masterful dance chops to effortlessly morph into the likes of Prince, Marilyn Manson, Steven Tyler, and the love of his life, Michael Jackson. “I have his initials tattooed right here on my arm,” he shows me over brunch. “I could relate to him on so many levels: His dad beat the shit out of him, my dad beat the shit out of me he was the youngest, I was the youngest he was androgynous, I was… complicated.”
Billy Jean was, in fact, born intersex , meaning there was a discrepancy with his anatomy. The doctor told his parents they could leave him in tact, which might lead to a lifetime of social issues in the locker room and the bedroom. Or: “My dad agreed with the doctor to make me female,” he explains. “Back in 1975 in western Kansas, you didn’t get second opinions — you took a doctor’s advice as the gospel truth.” So Billy Jean’s penis and testicles were removed, which, along with a series of kidney and bladder issues, began what would amount to more than a million dollars of medical treatments and plastic surgery to make him look like a woman. The birth certificate was amended, too, and after three months, the baby briefly known as “Chad Matthew Townley” was suddenly “Denise Danielle Townley.”
The doctor told Denise’s parents never to tell her, but once puberty hit, she began finding women attractive. Plus, the doctor had advised her mom that once Denise got to a certain age, if she ever wanted to have “normal” sex with a man, it would require one final surgery: vaginal construction. (Mind you, Denise had absolutely no clue about any of this her parents explained her absence of a period on “birth defects,” but offered no further explanation.) “And so, when I turned 16, they cut open my abdomen and created a vaginal canal using a piece of my colon and a piece of my intestine,” Billy Jean tells me over breakfast. “The next three years were a very embarrassing, cruel experience in my life.”
Denise Danielle’s high school senior portrait
To make things more complicated, when Denise was 19, she came out to her mom as a lesbian, since she’d always been attracted to women. It was only then that her devout Christian mother came clean. “Well, actually,” she said after taking a deep breath. “You’re not really a lesbian…” Next, she told her the whole story, concluding with, “So it’s natural for you to like women since you’re actually a man, but you cannot call yourself both a lesbian and a Christian.” (That would mean being a “bad testimony.”)
At age 19 then, doctors cut Billy Jean open once again to remove his vagina. “I went fucking crazy,” Billy Jean says matter-of-factly, before adding, “I don’t blame my mom at all for any of this, it’s just the way it went…”
Billy Jean’s favorite photo of himself
Like Wolf, though, he found refuge in drag kinging, helping start the Classic City Kings (CCK), along with his fellow co-founders “Mccain” and “Blaze,” the first drag king troupe in Athens — and one of the first in the nation. They began performing regularly at Boneshakers and toured Atlanta and beyond.
Most memorably to Wolf, who joined CCK at Billy’s request, was a 2005 appearance at True Colors in Hartford, Connecticut, a conference meant to ensure that the needs of sexual and gender minority youth were being met. In 2005, that meant CCK offering a tutorial to trans teens on best practices for binding, makeup, facial hair and packing. Mccain told the gender-bending teens the sam e thing that his “Drag Daddy” told him when he was starting out: “Packing is what will enable you to feel masculinity because it’s a totally different kind of presence. It’s commanding and changes your demeanor, which is partially physical, but also psychosomatic. Suddenly, you’re magically on the same level playing field as men.”
Mccain, flexing his CCK tattoo, along with Billy Jean and Diego Wolf
But as magical as it may be, packing is just one element of presenting as a man. As Harry Dixon, a drag king who lives her life as a straight woman named Amanda Knisley and who also appeared at True Colors, explained to the junior kings: “The most important element of performing masculinity is the way you stand when you’re not talking or doing anything else. Are your hands on your hips or in your pockets? How do you cock your hips when you’re standing? Are you smiling? Things like that can really give away feminine versus masculine.”
The utilitarian aspect of drag kinging in the South sets it apart from kings in metropolitan queer hubs in other parts of the country. Rogers notes, for example, that Southern drag kings don’t share the same intentions with drag kings in larger cities, as they’re more often in it for self-realization rather than challenging the gender status quo. Or as Wolf puts it, in the South, it’s more common for drag kings to view dragging as a “life-stage progression,” not an artistic or political statement.
In contrast, for the L.A.-based drag kings in Nicole Miyahara ’s forthcoming documentary The Making of a King , there’s a lot of underlying tension between the internationally renowned drag-queen culture immortalized in RuPaul’s Drag Race and new kings on the block who are lucky if they’re able to perform at one of two monthly drag king shows in Santa Ana and Long Beach, both dozens of miles outside of L.A. proper.
“Drag kings in L.A. are sort of in the shadows,” Miyahara tells me. “Both in terms of exposure and being seen as equal in the drag community by their peers. They’ve been forced to prove that they should be equal to the queens. RuPaul’s Drag Race has made that difficult, because it’s the only drag show on mainstream TV that’s gotten notoriety and fame, but they continue to only have drag queens compete — to the exclusion of other drag performers.”
“There’s not a lot of queens who respect us,” agrees Phantom, whose whimsical, artistic portrayal of Edward Scissorhands and Mad Hatter verges on feminine. “There’s a lot of trash talk [from drag queens], like, ‘You’re just a boy in a T-shirt.’”
That’s a shame, Miyahara says, given that L.A. drag kings, unlike those in the South, present myriad masculinities at the highest caliber of artistry that she says warrant more respect. None more so than Kristine BellaLuna (aka Landon Cider), whose unrelenting drive and transcendent artistry has earned her a regular slot on the highly competitive drag queen circuit in L.A . At the Halloween show I attended at Hamburger Mary’s in West Hollywood, Cider stole the show as Beetlejuice as well as a spellbinding androgynous witch in a bodysuit airbrushed to look like ripped pecs and abs.
“Here’s the thing though: She’s the only king in those shows most of the time because the queens are like, ‘Okay, we’ll let Landon in because he’s incredible, but we won’t allow any more kings than that,” Miyahara notes.
As BellaLuna insists to me, echoing a scathing 2016 op-ed she wrote in the Advocate , “ Kings can reign just as fierce as queens.” And yet, after three years of sending 20-minute submission videos into RuPaul’s Drag Race , she assumed she wasn’t getting called back because she wasn’t ready for prime time or they couldn’t figure out how to fit her into the cast.
Lacy wanted to settle some unresolved matters between her legs, so she had both a hysterectomy and gender reassignment surgery in 2009, after which “Diego Wolf” was legally born. When I meet Wolf and Billy Jean for brunch, both refer to the other as a brother. That’s partially because both men’s biological brothers died tragically within a month of each other in 2005 — Diego’s from a car accident, Billy Jean’s from suicide — but mostly, Wolf says, it’s because they have opposite perspectives on an identical journey. “We had completely different origins,” he explains, “but ultimately, it’s the exact same path to achieving the exact same goal: to have our bodies align with our truth.”
For his part, Billy Jean proudly notes how supportive his biological family is now. His older sister is quick to correct anyone who uses the wrong pronoun, and his mom wants nothing more than for him to meet a sweet woman and fall in love. “Sure, the initial shock when I found out from her was a bombshell,” he admits, “but I have no doubt of the pain she endured watching me grow up.”
On my last night in Athens, I’m invited to attend a body positive Vaudeville-inspired Burlesque show hosted by “Miss Effie ,” the alter ego of Amanda Nicely’s drag king character Harry Dixon. She tells me Harry couldn’t be there tonight because “the #MeToo movement spooked him.”
“I was having a difficult conversation with a close friend about everything that’s going on with Kavanaugh and the political climate,” Nicely explains. “She said, ‘I don’t want to hear from white men for a little while.’ It made me realize it probably wasn’t a good time to give someone with Harry’s kind of masculinity a microphone.”
Diego Wolf’s form of masculinity, however, may be exactly what’s needed these days. Per usual, he’s the only man in the lineup, and dressed as a dapper wolf, he performs his take on “Little Red Riding Hood,” doting over a feminized mop to Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect.”
Perhaps it’s because he spent most of his life in a female body, he tells me after the show, but inappropriate treatment of women — by men, by trans men, by lesbians — makes him “see red” and he finds abuse of any kind to be abhorrent.
And so, he wanted to show a softer side of masculinity in his closing number. “Guess what ladies?” he explains. “There are actually men out there who get as giddy about you texting them as you do. Which is why, even as a super masculine trans performer who drives a Ford F-150 pickup with a crew cab, it’s refreshing for me to play a devoted man who dances for a woman like a ballerina while reminding her how beautiful she looks.”
After all, he adds, “Not all hairy guys are scary guys.”
C. Brian Smith
C. Brian Smith writes hard-hitting gonzo features for MEL, whether it be training with a masturbation coach, receiving psycho corporal treatment from a spank therapist, or embarking on a week-long pleasure cruise with 75 Santa Clauses following their busy season.
Brunch With Bite
Brunch With Bite is back baby, featuring the same riotous personalities and shows that have become a Sunday staple for Brisbane’s most fabulous. With just with a few little tweaks to the format so we keep each other safe during this crazy time!
Tired of vanilla Sundays? Spice things up at Cloudland’s Brunch with Bite. It’s a weekly brunch series that promises to be deliciously naughty, and at the same time, delightfully nice. So, slip into something more comfortable, wrap your arms around your guy and gal pals, and get on down. Then sink your teeth into something off-the-wall different, and something with a little bit of bite.
Arrive ready to be entertained by the riotous and risqué as you indulge in a banquet brunch and drinks package, that is as decadent as it is divine! Each week your hosts BeBe Gunn and LuLu Lemans will guide you through shows, games with fabulous prizes, plus some very special VIP guests weekly!
Join us every Sunday from 11:00 – 2:00pm – choose your date. Numbers are strictly limited.
Tickets: $75 + Eventbrite booking fee – includes a welcome drink, all entertainment, a two hour Italian-inspired brunch and drinks package including jugs of spritz, mimosa, bloody mary, premium beer, sangria, softdrinks, juice and mocktails (drinks package from 11:15am – 1:15pm).
Are you COVID-19 compliant?
Yes, we take the health and safety of our guests and staff extremely seriously. We will be complying with our Industry COVID-Safe Plan including (but not limited to) socially distancing and providing sanitising facilities/stations, and contactless/cashless payment throughout. We will also be capping the numbers for each section according to the square metre restrictions and capacities of the venue. Dancing is now allowed.
Can my group buy individual tickets and still sit together? Yes, come up with a catchy table name between yourselves, then include this table name in the field provided at check-out.
Can you cater to my food allergies and dietary requirements? We always do our best to cater to your food allergies as long as you include them in the field provided at checkout. We may not, however, be able to cater towards all food preferences e.g. keto, low-carb, low sugar. We have provided this field at check-out for people with food allergies only.
Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event? This event will be restricted to over 18s only. There will also be a range of non-alcoholic drinks available throughout the event.
What’s the refund policy? We understand that COVID has given us some unpredictable times. If the venue is forced to close due to COVID restrictions imposed by the Government and the event is cancelled as a result, tickets will be refunded. We do not offer refunds for any other reason.
Drag Race and internet culture
Through Drag Race, the language of drag is not just gaining recognition by a wider public—it is being turned into a new art form through memes, GIFs, and content that floods millions of people’s social media feeds.
Drag Race is manna from heaven for content creators and for niche fandoms—groups of die-hard fans that veer away from traditional, mainstream entertainment. In 2018, the show did a crossover episode with America’s Next Top Model. RuPaul’s appearance on Jeopardy, and season nine winner Sasha Velour’s obsession with Riverdale, have left fans begging for new crossovers. Fan blogs have called for Drag Race/American Horror Story or Disney/Drag Race mash-ups.
One of the most famous Drag Race crossovers, however, is Fire WERK With Me, a Facebook group with more than 10,000 members and write-ups in PAPER Magazine. The group blends Drag Race and Twin Peaks by juxtaposing both shows’ characters and quotes through memes, gifs, and videos made and posted exclusively by fans, who need to be added and accepted onto the group by moderators.
These tend to contain language and humour that only members of that subculture would be able to understand. The group has been acknowledged by RuPaul in interviews and, recently, by a variety of social media posts.
WandaVision TikTok Shows Drag Queens Dressed As Marvel Show Characters
A WandaVision TikTok reveals a drag brunch tribute to the Marvel Cinematic Universe show featuring characters like Wanda, Agatha, and Darcy.
A WandaVision TikTok shows drag queens dressed as many of the series' characters. WandaVision was the first of several Disney+ shows set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Premiering in January 2021, it set the tone for Phase 4 by exploring the characters of Wanda and Vision on a deeper level, queuing up the former's upcoming appearance in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. WandaVision also pushed the limits of what many thought the MCU was capable of, offering detailed sitcom homages that allowed audiences to see the leading heroes in a new way.
The show also made viewers fall in love with new versions of well-known MCU characters other than Wanda and Vision. For example, Thor favorite Darcy Lewis reemerged as a doctor of astrophysics, while Jimmy Woo appeared as a more confident version of the agent seen in Ant-Man and the Wasp. Adult Monica Rambeau also made her MCU debut in WandaVision after appearing as a kid in the '90s-set Captain Marvel. As far as new characters, Kathryn Hahn's Agatha Harkness garnered the most attention, at least partially due to her catchy "Agatha All Along" theme song. All told, WandaVision was a major part of the pop culture conversation in early 2021.
A recent TikTok video by Nathan Bakken shows interest in WandaVision isn't going away any time soon. It offers a look at a WandaVision-themed drag brunch that took place in Minneapolis. In it, drag queens appear as many of the show's characters, including Wanda, Agatha, and Darcy. The video features one of WandaVision's theme songs, a snippet of dialogue, and of course, "Agatha All Along." Check out the TikTok via Twitter user wxndaharley below.
A WHOLE ASS WANDAVISION DRAG BRUNCH. WANDAVISION’S INFLUENCE IS TRULY UNMATCHED pic.twitter.com/HRNi2SGboB&mdash ashlyn (@wxndaharley) May 3, 2021
Since its premiere, WandaVision has brought out the creative side of viewers, inspiring everything from beautiful fan art to clever song remixes. It makes sense to take it a step further with a fully themed drag brunch. It's clear those behind the event are committed to the concept, with impressive recreations of many of WandaVision's costumes, including decade-focused looks for different versions of Wanda.
Though The Falcon and the Winter Soldier didn't become quite as talked about as WandaVision, viewers are still incredibly excited to see what's next for the MCU Phase 4. It stands to reason Marvel's next Disney+ series, Loki, which comes out in June, could be another major hit. However, the drag celebration of WandaVisioncertainly sets the bar high for future projects.
Crystal’s guide to drag in London
Bar Wotever is a n incredible weekly showcase of queer drag and cabaret talent. Political, inclusive and extraordinary, it&rsquos a breeding ground of fresh talent and a vital community hub. The Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Tube: Vauxhall. Tue Oct 29, then weekly. From £4.
Shit Show is anarchic showcase of London&rsquos most exciting queer alternative drag talent. Hosted by professional drag monster Baby Lame (of official &lsquoDrag Race UK&rsquo podcast fame), and always host to (literal) gag-inducing performers. The Glory. Haggerston Overground. Nov 16. £10. Check The Glory website for additional dates.
Mariah & Friendz: Extra Spooky. London&rsquos notorious club night returns for a special Halloween edition. The best and raunchiest of London&rsquos drag, circus and burlesque scene collide on stage to create on HELL of a party. And for one night only, Mimi&rsquos Dirty Disco Dungeon will be open with go-go ghouls, dirty disco and more pop-up shows. Bethnal Green Working Men&rsquos Club. Tube: Bethnal Green. Nov 2. £10.
BoiBox is one of the best drag king shows in town, and have a night at The Glory on the last Thursday of every month. It&rsquos having one of its biggest blow-outs yet this Halloween weekend for Spooktacular with performers Adam All and Apple Derrieres. These d ragulas are to die for. The Glory. Haggerston Overground. Thu Oct 31. £10.
The Glory is w here the best and brightest east London kings and queens take to the stage and sharpen their claws. Something absolutely ridiculous happens here practically every night of the week. 281 Kingsland Rd, E2 8AS. Haggerston Overground. Open daily.
Imagine a proper working men&rsquos club that&rsquos been taken over by messy, messy drag creatures and you&rsquove got Bethnal Green Working Men&rsquos Club. Scene legends and newcomers host the most varied nights you can find in London. 42-44 Pollard Row, E2 6NB. Tube: Bethnal Green. Open daily.
The iconic staple of Kingsland Road, Dalston Superstore hosts drag brunches every Saturday and Sunday. Eggs benedict and hungover drag queens stealing your Bloody Marys. Perfect. 117 Kingsland High St, E8 2PB. Open Sat-Sun. Prices vary.
Every Thursday, I&rsquom hosting live screenings of the new episodes of &lsquoRuPaul&rsquos Drag Race UK&rsquo. Not that I&rsquom biased, but it&rsquos basically the best night out in London right now. Every Thursday at Bethnal Green Working Men&rsquos Club. We&rsquoll be screening the grand finale at the Rio Cinema on November 21.
For a bigger, splashier night out, come see all the queens at &lsquoRuPaul&rsquos Drag Race UK&rsquo Season 1 tour. You&rsquoll find us at The Troxy in London on November 29. The Troxy . Shadwell Overground. Nov 29. From £38.50.
&lsquoBurgerz&rsquo by Travis Alabanza. This show explores how trans bodies survive and how, when they reclaim an act of violence, we can address our own complicity. Carving out a place for themselves as one of the UK&rsquos prominent trans voices, Alabanza presents a performance that is timely, unsettling and powerful. Southbank Centre Purcell Room. Tube: Waterloo. Nov 29-Dec 1. £15.
Kingsland Road Shopping Centre is a m ecca for drag on a dime &ndash giant jewels and every colour hair extension you can imagine. If you look closely, you can usually spot at least 83 different east London scene queens desperately pulling together a last-minute weekend lewk. Kingsland High St. Dalston Kingsland Overground. Open daily.
For those super profesh shimmer tights and suck-in fishnets, try Capezio on Endell Street. Good enough for Beyoncé, good enough for a drag queen. 33 Endell St. Tube: Covent Garden. Open daily.
Make like a true drag queen and get involved in protest action. Join Extinction Rebellion! March for a People&rsquos Vote! Nothing is more at the heart of drag than political action and fighting for change. Go be that change, baby.