The Bardo Arts Center at Western Carolina University hosted an intimate look into the lives of local drag queens. The event was moderated by Dean Paulk, Assistant Director of Intercultural Affairs. Refreshments were provided to the crowd of over 50 people.
Paulk started off the session with a quick introduction of the drag queens and asking when and why they started doing drag.
Alexis Black, originally from Washington D.C., has been active in the drag community for five years but admits she didn’t think she’d be doing drag as an adult.
Miss Warlocke, originally from Asheville but resides in Cullowhee, said she started doing drag this past September. She spoke about her love for lip syncing Madonna songs as a teen. Warlocke also touched base on how RuPaul’s Drag Race was a source of inspiration for getting into drag.
Beulah Land, 22, is a student at Western Carolina that’s been doing drag for over two years. Land said her first performance in drag was in 2017 at the Western Carolina drag queen show.
Katerina Synclaire, the veteran queen, has been doing drag for six years. She spoke candidly about her early roots in drag saying, “I was at a point in life where I was at rock bottom.”
Coming from a Southern Baptist family, Synclaire was unaware of anything related to the LGBT+ community. She told the audience that drag changed her life, “I started this journey for confidence, but I discovered I was a trans woman . . . I’m transitioning and I’m proud.”
According to Synclaire, drag used to be for gay men but that over the years, that has changed.
The panel opened to receive questions from the audience. The first question was directed to Black, who was the only queen of color present, regarding race in the drag community and the amount of discrimination that’s faced.
Black mainly performs in Asheville and says, “there’s more Caucasian drag queens so it’s harder for us [drag queens of color] to get bookings because the bookers are white.” Black added that she must work harder to prove herself time and time again.
When it comes to money Black says, “sometimes I see the white performers getting tipped more than me.” She says she works harder because she has too and ends up making fewer tips.
Another member of the audience asked the queens about their religious backgrounds.
Land opened up about her struggles in a conservative Baptist home. First coming out as a gay man and then as a trans woman. “I’m a survivor of conversion therapy,” she said to the audience, but that she still identifies as Christian. Her stage name, Beulah Land, is a nod to a Christian hymm.
Land continues, “as queer people we are forced out” of religion and spirituality but says that incorporating more of it into your life, “the better off you’ll be.”
Advice Land would give to the LGBT+ community on campus would be “take care of yourself, I think that’s the biggest piece of advice.” Land spoke about a period in her education career in which depression affected many aspects of life and it wasn’t until finding a supportive group of people that things started changing.
Land also spoke about the community at WCU and how she didn’t feel like it was difficult to come out as transgender or as a drag queen. “I found a lot friends and a lot of really supportive professors and faculty here that really helped me on my journey. Western is a great school, I really love it here,” Land concluded.
After the Q&A, a group of friends from Waynesville spoke on the event. Elizabeth Mason said, “I thought it was refreshing and honest.” Chad King and Jim Zinsler both agreed it was insightful.
Denise Homewood, director of Bardo Arts Center, spoke about the importance of hosting events like these. “I feel like it’s our responsibility to host these kinds of events, to be an arts center for a university it means to broaden horizons,” Homewood said.
A showing of Kinky Boots the Musical played in the theater at 3 p.m. after the Q&A. The musical tells the story of a shoemaker’s son, Charlie, that inherits a collapsing business and how an unlikely friendship with a drag queen, Lola, forms. Charlie and Lola team up to design a pair of red boots and which they plan to show off in a Milan fashion show. Both Charlie and Lola face personal issues throughout the musical but come together for a grand finale.