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Meet the Queens and Kings of Austin’s International Drag Festival

From reality TV superstars to Canada’s drag ambassadors, we take a look at the colourful characters who made Austin’s SXSW of drag a heel of a good time.

Karen from Finance

Karen from Finance
Melbourne

“Drag has helped me learn how to be proud. I think one of the reasons I resisted being a part of the queer community was because deep down I wasn’t proud of being gay. I found comfort in acting straight. By doing drag and being brought into the community that way, my eyes were opened to what the community actually is. It’s beautiful, and I love it so much.”


Althea Trix

Althea Trix
Austin

“You wouldn’t know it, but I have crippling social anxiety. Sometimes I can’t go out or talk to people, but as Althea, people come up to me and say hello, so there’s no fear of having to approach someone. The ice is broken, and I feel welcome.”

Veranda L'Ni

Veranda L'Ni
Cleveland

“The drag scene in Cleveland is fantastic. Like in most other cities, it has grown beyond LGBTQ establishments. Now that it’s more mainstream, these venues have come to respect our art form. To present a drag performance is a big deal; everyone wants to meet a drag queen!”


Deb Leigh Nightshade

Deb Leigh Nightshade
Seattle

“I’ve been acting, singing and dancing since I was four. I also have a degree in fashion design and cosmetology, and I’ve been a professional makeup artist for over 20 years. Basically, I realized that if I put everything I’ve been doing my whole life together, it equals drag.”


Helvetica Font

Helvetica Font
Portland, Oregon

“I travel with a large suitcase, a small suitcase and a backpack. The backpack is for me, but Helvetica gets the rest of the luggage! I got stopped at TSA once with my breast plate. They asked if I had a bowling ball in my bag, and I said, ‘No, these are silicone breasts.’ He said all right, opened the suitcase and then closed it. And I went on my way.”


Maximum Capacity

Maximum Capacity
Toronto

“If you’re not a hustler, you’re not doing it right. When I travel, I don’t just approach other drag kings for gigs. I contact everybody: bar owners, drag queens, burlesque dancers. You have to be versatile if you want to do this for a living.”


Laila McQueen

Laila McQueen
Chicago

“Since appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race, I’ve been to 32 states, all over the United Kingdom and to Australia. I definitely exhaust myself, but I still go out after the show when I visit cities like Grand Junction, Colorado or Missoula, Montana. I try to enjoy every place I go. Who knows how long these gigs will last?”


Cheddar Gorgeous

Cheddar Gorgeous
Manchester, U.K.

“It can be exhausting, and sometimes I ask myself why I do it, but I know I’m lucky. Life is very short, and beyond just making the most of one life, I try to make the most of many lives. Huge events like this festival change the nature of being in the city. This drag weekend in Austin is a powerful thing to help make our community visible.”


Symone N. O’Bishop

Symone N. O’Bishop
Beaufort, South Carolina

“It’s not a cliché: Drag saved my life. It helped me tame all the insecurity and self-doubt in my head. I was brought up with the idea that what goes on in your house, stays in your house, and I think drag is a way to see past that mask that everyone hides behind. I may put on this mask of makeup and padding, but it actually helps me show my heightened self.”


Kristi Davidson

Kristi Davidson
Halifax

Ten years ago, I moved back to Halifax after getting a degree in dance management from Oklahoma City University. I didn’t know what to do and wasn’t performing as much as I wanted. There was this event happening called the Swine, where men who had never done drag before were paired with an experienced drag queen for a performance. You work with the queen for a few weeks and then arrive at the club where you are put into makeup and perform for the crowd. I was 23 years old at the time. I wasn’t the prettiest, but I won and got the bug!”


Cynthia Lee Fontaine

Cynthia Lee Fontaine
Austin

RuPaul’s Drag Race has had a huge impact, especially in small conservative towns where there is still stigma and discrimination. They have some of my favourite venues because you get to interact more closely with people, and that’s immensely satisfying for me.”


Alexis Nicole Whitney

Alexis Nicole Whitney
Houston

“I’m blind, so many people are impressed with my dancing ability. But my strongest numbers are ballads because of the emotion and passion I put into my songs. I have to be able to trust the people around me, but once they put me in the middle of the floor, I’m going full speed. My favourite thing about doing drag is getting to meet people and showing them that no matter what obstacles are thrown your way, you can overcome them if you put your mind to it.”


Vivian Vanderpuss and Persi Flage

Vivian Vanderpuss and Persi Flage
Victoria

“I would have started doing drag earlier if I knew it existed. I grew up in a super small town in Southern Ontario where drag wasn’t a thing. Today young people are able to find their own community online, even if they’re in their parents’ basement. So you’re never really alone. That’s hopeful when you’re a kid and you feel like you’re the only one in the world that feels a certain way.”
- Vivian Vanderpuss

“I was Mr. Gay Vancouver Island in 2016, and part of our mandate was to put on accessible events. We created the Staches and Lashes Collective, which produces all-ages variety shows for queer kids and their allies. We want to remove barriers, so all of our community can hear each other’s stories.”
- Persi Flage


Avant Garbage

Avant Garbage
New York City

“It’s interesting to see how much drag has changed. When I went to the L.A. DragCon in 2017, this little four-year-old girl came up and hugged me. It was so cool. When I was younger, I was made to feel like an outcast for being different. And now, our segment of society is being heralded as innovative and a positive influence on kids.”


Maxi Glamour

Maxi Glamour
St. Louis, Missouri

“The first time I performed in drag, I was a mess. I was 18 and competing at a local amateur drag show. This was the time before makeup tutorials on YouTube, so my makeup was... well, there was plenty of room for improvement. I wore a 1980s-inspired look with metal chains as a necklace and performed “Genie 2.0” by Christina Aguilera. I concluded the performance with a cartwheel and landed on an audience member. I lost the competition but made my mark – mostly on the audience member I fell on.”


Loris

Loris
Los Angeles

Dragula has given me a platform where I can pay all my bills doing what I love. I’m super grateful for that. But for me, travel is the ultimate payoff. It means I get to meet more of the people who made my success possible. I don’t even like to call them fans; they’re my friends, the people who support me, the people who believe in my art and my vision. The more of them I get to see and entertain in person, the more I feel like I’m doing my job.”


Tucker Noir

Tucker Noir
Las Vegas

“I’m a single mother of five, with two in college and three at home. They’ve all been to my shows. I also work with youth, and there are a lot of young people who are dying, physically or emotionally, because they are told who to be and how to fit into society. When we tell kids that they can open up and radiate who they are, it changes their brain chemistry and how they see themselves, which changes the decisions they make and the way they operate in society. It’s magic.”


Chrissta and Xander

Chrissta and Xander
Austin

“When I was getting ready for Xander’s fourth birthday party, I asked him what kind of party he wanted to have. He said he wanted to have a Wicked party. I asked him what that meant, and he said, ‘I sing the songs from Wicked and everyone watches me.’ So he dressed up like a lion and performed, and we knew it was going to be his future.”
- Chrissta

“I’m 14 and I’ve been doing drag for a year and a half. I do my own makeup. I learned from my sister and from watching tutorials and practising a lot. I feel like my drag is just expressing what I feel on the inside. I’d love to one day be on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I want to move to Brooklyn, and I want to perform.”
- Xander


Goldie Peacock

Goldie Peacock
Brooklyn

RuPaul’s Drag Race has raised the bar for all drag performers and given everyone a whole new set of standards. There is more of a mass perception of what drag is – and what it isn’t – which is bad for drag kings because we’re not on the show, so a lot of people don’t know we exist. But what you have to do as an accomplished drag king is know your worth in the same way that queens who live in countries where Drag Race doesn’t air know what they’re worth.”


Erika Klash

Erika Klash
San Francisco

“My training is in playwriting, so I look at drag as an opportunity to be a one-person theatre company. I joke that I’m a travelling circus because when you see me at the airport, I may have more suitcases than the average person, but a whole fantasy comes to life out of that suitcase. And it’s all me!”


Jodie Fosterchild

Jodie Fosterchild
Austin

“The first time I ever saw a drag queen was the one and only Divine. I was maybe 10 or 11 and saw Pink Flamingos. At a young age, it was quite the experience. But revisiting the character of Divine repeatedly as I grow up, I become more and more enamoured with her absolute freedom.”


Marc and Fausto

Marc and Fausto
Chicago

“At its core, drag is about embracing chaos and failure. It’s an imperfect art form: It’s ridiculous, it’s silly, it’s sloppy and that’s great! We don’t fit into the mainstream. We’re the misfits! We make art based on our experiences and celebrate it. So instead of wishing we were someone better, we transform ourselves into beautiful creatures of our own imagination and redefine what beauty is.”
- Fausto


https://austindragfest.org/

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