A Glue Gun And A Dream
Never in my wildest dreams at the age of 18 when I first attended my first drag performance I would find myself building a career in a life that at one time seemed so far away. Throughout the past five years I’ve learned lessons that will not only help guide me through this crazy beautiful experience of the glamorous drag world, but also carry in my everyday life.
The life of a Drag Queen or Female Impersonator is an exciting experience. I get to entertain and inspire people through music and fabulous costumes. As an entertainer I try to use my platform to be an example of life unapologetically. Being a Drag artist allows me the freedom to be whoever I want without judgement. However, there is a lot behind the scenes that most do not know about performers. Some people may think that it is as simple as putting on make up and throwing on a wig. But there’s so much more to it than that.
To be a queen you must be committed and put in countless hours and sacrifice. Even though we may come out on the stage, or wherever you see us and make it so effortless. Many of us spend lots of time practicing songs, dance moves, and costuming (not to mention hair). This process takes many hours even days to get everything right… and for just one song! Even though time consuming and exhausting at times working on these things, like anything in life your passion will drive you. I remember several nights staying up with just a glue gun and a dream, working on things I wanted for a show. I did this because I know my hard work would not go in vain.
Balancing a full time job and doing drag is tough! I work forty+ hours at my day job (at Harris Teeter). On top of doing this I also have to make time to learn music and come up with costuming. This task can be a little challenging, especially when I have to work some days at 7 am. Learning time management was essential to manage my job and doing shows. I had learn to set time aside to do what I love and pay the bills at the same time. Sometimes I take my drag with me to work so I can finish up when I have down time (my coworkers love it). I also find myself at work running on little to no sleep. I don’t mind this too much because I love what I do. So if you ever see a queen and she seems super hyped it’s probably because she’s coming from another job and dead tired.
Another thing that most do not realize is the amount of money it takes to be a queen. Drag is super expensive. If you want good quality drag then you must be willing to spend the money. Costumes, wigs, other various accessory costs can add up. Things as simple as a single pair of pantyhose can cost $15 to $25. There are so many supplies that we have to buy to make us the beautiful women that you see twirling and sparkling. The most expensive things in drag are costuming and wigs. That is why queens do not like it when people pull and tug on their costumes and hair. Some costumes can run from the low hundreds to thousands for custom work. In the words of Dolly Parton “Its takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” One thing I learned early on is that you will never make the amount of money that you put in. My drag is my investment in my craft. If I had to put an estimate on what I put in my drag, it’s probably as much as a used car, lol!
There are many good things about Drag that can be fun and exciting. But, there are also things about Drag that can be not so fun. For example I wish that people would stop comparing queens to what they see on TV. When coming to drag shows, people should come with an open mind and an appreciation for what the person is doing. It’s not fair to fit all queens in a box. If all queens were the same then it wouldn’t be any fun. Drag is art. It’s an individual’s form of expression and being conformed can be frustrating.
Sadly another thing that many do not know that queens are faced with is being unable to date. This is struggle for queens in a masculine society. Because men (some not all), in the community view dressing up as a feminine quality and we queens are frowned on. It’s a struggle because once drag is brought into the picture it’s a “no go.” This isn’t the case all the time but it is definitely an issue. On the reverse side there are people who are chasers. Those are people who only want to have sex with queens and fulfill fantasies. Underneath the makeup and hair we are just ordinary people with wants and desires.
I am faced with this problem constantly and it’s frustrating. Disrespect is a struggle that queens are faced with in the community. I am saddened by the lack of love and appreciation for queens. It takes a lot of courage for me, and my fellow queens to go out and do what we do. Having people call you the wrong gender when you’re dressed up, people on their phone on the front row, and walking across the stage while queens are performing… these are just a few examples of a few things that may seem small, but are actually major forms of disrespect to a queen.
We queens love to be praised and appreciated, that is why I am humbled and grateful when people show us love through cash tips. This is a job that we are more than happy to do and giving us dollars is an incentive. Tipping is the way you show queens that you appreciate what they are doing. This is also something polite and very respectful. It also helps a queen support their craft and continue to build and grow. To some queens this is their one and only job and this is how they support themselves. Always support queens everywhere because you never know how much your dollars will impact that queen.
Just as in any profession you have your ups and downs, your good days and bad. Working with a small community of people in limited venue space, you often find yourself sharing tight corridors. At times with some individuals, if not for the job you normally wouldn’t choose to interact with them. Oftentimes when there is a sense of competition, there soon follows unnecessary drama. I try to stay focused on my primary goal and rise above it.
In closing to this day after years of performing as a Drag Queen, I am always looking to better entertain the audience, even if it means staying up 11 hours stoning a gown to make it sparkle just right. I try my best to bring a little piece of me to each performance to somehow make it my own. I always reflect back to my certain curiosity and pull towards the life of a Drag Queen. So glamorous I thought. But it wasn’t until I took the plunge into the unknown and felt the pull stronger than ever. Had I found my calling? Yes, I love what I do. It’s not always glitter and rhinestones and it gets tough. Through it all I wouldn’t change a thing because it lead me down a wonderful path. A good friend once told me “happiness is a journey and not a destination.” Well, I love my journey and I’m going to keep perusing my dream.
Words by Kymmya Starr