Drag Culture

image1-2By: Alannah Turner & Andrew Moser

 

I had never been to a gay club—or any club for that matter. Being a person of substandard social
skills, the idea of going to a loud place surrounded by strangers never survived longer than a split
second in my mind before I impulsively sent it on its way.
But if there was ever a time to give it the ole’ college try, it was my 21 st birthday. Flanked by a
few of my closest friends (and a necessary layer of liquid courage), I tentatively shuffled toward
the door of Club Metro in Riverside, hoping for the best but expecting the worst.
After a bit of relaxing and wandering around the club for a while, we decided to go watch the
drag show happening in the next room. I was thankful for the opportunity to sit down, knowing
(or at least assuming) there would be no pressure to make any attempt at dancing.
The already-dim lights dimmed some more, and the first drag queen emerged from behind the
curtain in the highest of heels, her face glowing with witty charm and impeccable highlighter
utilization.
The queen instantly captivated her audience with her presence and clever off-the- cuff humor.
She cast an energized confidence over the small, crowded room which came in handy when she
announced there would be an audience member dance contest.
The reaction was triggered: look down and away, avoid eye contact, seem disinterested and be
invisible. It was useless. She sensed my anxiety. I was the chosen one, and although a dance
competition was typically my worst nightmare, something about her friendliness was enough to
encourage me to get out of my shell.
Before I knew it, myself and three other unlucky souls were putting on what had to be the worst
dancing display in all of Jacksonville. My limbs were noodles swinging around with no sense of
direction. I still feel like I owe the audience a handwritten apology. Nevertheless, I earned the
respectable second place and a blissful cheer from our hostess.
Thrilled at the obstacle I had just overcome; I again took my seat feeling like a new person and
waited for the show to start. One by one, queens took the stage to dance and lip sync their hearts
out to the upbeat tunes of Selena Gomez, Sia and more. Their commitment to their characters
and performances invigorated the crowd and everybody danced and cheered with their newfound
confidence.
My insecurities were nowhere to be found. My attention solely focused on the performance in
front of me and the pure happiness I experienced.
“To me, the purpose of my art is to distract you from what’s going on in the world, what’s going
on at home. Because for a split second, I want you to watch me perform and enjoy it,” said Louis
Vallejos, also known has his drag persona, Hecate.
Slowly, the night slipped into a euphoric dream where life outside the tiny ballroom ceased to
exist. The incredible queens who performed tapped into a confidence and spontaneity inside me I
did not believe existed. I was unashamed of how poorly I danced or how loudly I sang along, and

at least for the night, I was proud of it. I embraced a part of me I was unfamiliar with, thanks in
large part to the environment created by extraordinary performers. That night, in the spirit of
love and pride, drag culture gifted me one of the best times of my life.