“This is an exercise class for your face,” Crimson Kitty explains, moving around the hotel conference room in a billowing white gown, seeing what she has to work with. This is Lip‑sync 101 and the dozen of us present are attempting to mouth the words to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” which plays loudly on a portable stereo. “If you don’t know it, don’t worry,” she says, circling. “Just move your mouth and say ‘Watermelon, apple, orange.’”
I’m in Austin for the International Drag Festival, now in its fourth year. Think of it like SXSW, but with wig checks in addition to sound checks. There are more than 20 classes offered over the four‑day extravaganza and this one is a lot harder than it sounds. For our second number, we’re asked to add movement to our performance of “Material Girl” by Madonna: “Walk like you’re dripping in diamonds,” says Crimson. I find it difficult to add this layer of storytelling and end up stepping aimlessly around the room, clumsily moving my arms and hands as if directing traffic. But I do better with her third request. Crimson tells us to access our emotions and think of someone who has wronged us. I must be doing something right, a scowl on my bearded face as I lip‑sync into the void to Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own,” because I’m greeted with a flurry of snaps and shouts of “Yas queen!” halfway through.