North Texas Daily

Denton drag queen Cherise C. Maraschino aims to show drag is for anyone

Denton drag queen Cherise C. Maraschino aims to show drag is for anyone

Denton drag queen Cherise C. Maraschino aims to show drag is for anyone
April 23
12:00 2022

Donned in a gold leotard covered in sparkles and puffy sleeves, Cherise C. Maraschino was crowned the winner the annual UNT Drag Show hosted by the University Program Council and Pride Alliance. Brielle Montgomery, also known as Cherise C. Maraschino is a studio art junior who has been doing drag since 2019.

Montgomery is a self-described “AFAB performer,” meaning she was assigned female at birth. Being a female drag 

performer is generally unrepresented, Montgomery said. Media such as “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar” and “Kinky Boots” mostly depict drag as done by cisgender men, but Montgomery wants to show anyone can participate in drag.

“I want to represent the beauty of Black women,” Montgomery said. “I try to carry myself in a more confident manner when I’m in drag.”

Montgomery discovered drag at the age of 15 when she first started doing her makeup. As someone who always loved self-expression and performance, the opulence of the acts she saw through social media resonated with her. Montgomery said when she finally started doing drag herself, it felt like it was bound to happen – it was only         .a matter of bringing it to life.

In the beginning, Montgomery found while there was joy in learning how to do drag makeup, it could be hard and discouraging trying to get a polished look, she said. After a day of being disheartened in the beginning of COVID-19, Montgomery said she wanted to quit drag and expressed this to her mom. 

Following that conversation, Montgomery was surprised to learn from her mom that her uncle was a drag queen named Coco.

“I just want to do my best and continue to make them proud,” Montgomery said. “I feel like they started a family legacy that deserves to be carried on.”

This encouragement kept her going and after a few years, she started performing live. When the university’s drag show was announced, she knew she had to join.

Montgomery said having different components to her act would make it more enjoyable, so she decided to have a team of backup dancers. She enlisted her friend Trey Weeden, a member of the Filipino Student Association’s modern dance team ChoreoBlock, to help find volunteer performers.

Her group consisted of Weeden, Keelan Rossum, Gabrielle Hunt and Diaira McKinley. Once she had her team, Montgomery had two weeks to come up with a dance and cleanly memorize it with the group.

“I was honored for the opportunity [to work with Montgomery],” theatre freshman Rossum said. “We would practice for a few days out of the week for a few hours. It was nonstop learning and creating, so we could put it together to complete her vision of the show she wanted.”

At the event, Montgomery found a deep sense of solidarity and admiration among the performers, despite them being each other’s competition, she said.

“Working together with everyone was such an incredible experience, and from the moment we came in for the first rehearsal, I felt extremely welcomed and accepted,” said Harley “Mx. Match” Hudson, one of the UNT Drag Show performers and psychology freshman. “Along the course of our rehearsals, we all became really close and almost like a family. The cast and crew were the most inviting and warm group of people I’ve ever met.”

When Montgomery was announced as the drag show’s winner, her competitors ran to her and hugged her. To Montgomery, this exemplified a sense of community in the world of drag.

Montgomery will be performing next as Cherise C. Maraschino at The Golden Cabaret on April 22 at the Gold Room in Denton.

Courtesy Cherise C. Maraschino

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Susan Moore

Susan Moore

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