North Texas Daily

The drag that is COVID-19

The drag that is COVID-19

The drag that is COVID-19
May 02
11:30 2020

Submitted by Gabriel Belmonte

Pulsing neon lights cut through the dark air leading up to the stairs of the famous Rose Room inside Station 4, the Dallas club giant. Behind two cloudy glass doors lies a high-energy room. People are sitting, standing and hollering as a stunning drag queen twirls and catches dollar bills thrown at her. When a performer graces the stage, it is always something to witness as they sparkle and shine with wigs bigger than Texas. The walls are lined with twinkling stars and crowded people brushing up close to one another.

That was how it was every Thursday at the Rose Room, until there were no more people around to enjoy the show.

“This is actually happening and it’s scary,” said Kendrix Kyle, a UNT senior and DFW drag queen.

After the massive outbreak of COVID-19, the world has drastically shifted. By March 16, bars, clubs and venues around Texas were shut down for the foreseeable future. With bars and clubs in Dallas and Denton being closed for the time being, drag performers such as Kyle, Shasta Montana and She-Raw LeCain have lost spaces to express their art.

Expressing art was not the only thing these performers have lost, but also a lack of income. As artists, Montana said, performers have an unstable income. But there was one performance arena that wasn’t planning on leaving or shutting down, and that was on the internet.

“I started in the beginning of social distancing just posting different looks, but then I decided to record performances to post on my social media profiles,” said LeCain, a junior at UNT. “I’ve also been using TikTok as another outlet for creating videos when I put on a look.”

But she was not the only one who got on the digital drag train. In the early stages of the U.S. response to COVID-19, Montana, along with Blue Valentine, Kathy O’Connor and Claire Voyant, performed an online drag show on Instagram live on March 18.

“It was actually a fun time and I made $30 or $35, and some of my friends made $40,” Montana said.

Instagram live and TikTok have not been the only platforms in which drag has taken a new form.

In a thick black wig with pink and green highlights, Kyle sits and dances in her computer screen’s photo booth to “Dial Tone” as strangers on Omegle pass by. In full homage to the Myspace era, Kyle lip syncs to the song as her video alternates between scenes of photo booth and her time on Omegle. Her CashApp and Venmo are displayed at the bottom of her video on the digital drag show, Queer Off, on Twitch.

Typically used for video game live streaming, Twitch has become a host of many digital drag shows, including Dallas’ own Queer Off, created by Kylee O’Hara Fatale, in which Kyle took part in last Wednesday. The show operates by showcasing pre-filmed videos of the queens as the host introduces each video.

“I have a little more creative freedom — I’m at home and I can create a set and use props to create a video performance,” Kyle said.

Kyle, the current reigning winner of Queer Off AllStars, has been able to explore different styles of drag digitally, as her drag has started to pay homage to the early Myspace era of the internet.

Digital drag, of course, does not replace the experience of performing and attending shows. The live audience and close friends cheering and screaming for your art are still gone — it is just left in the comments section nowadays.

“[I miss] the people, without a doubt,” LeCain said. “When you are constantly at the bars and clubs, you find your chosen family. Not being able to be around them or see them perform in person is just hard.”

As each week at home goes by, digital drag has become increasingly more prevalent. Local DFW drag performers to performers on the TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” have begun to take advantage of the digital drag space on Twitch.

With many restaurants and bars still closed as the state of Texas begins to enter phase one of reopening, Montana said drag is hoping to come back bigger and better than ever.

Under quarantine and lacking a strict schedule, Kyle, Montana and LeCain have been working on outfits, ideas and makeup looks when time has allotted for them to do so freely. All this hard work behind cameras to create as Kendrix referred to, a “Digital Drag Renaissance.”

“I’m super excited to see what other people are going to bring to the table with their drag persona and creative abilities after all this,” Montana said.

You can keep up with your local drag entertainers on social media to find out more about upcoming digital performances at @Kendrixsuxx, @Thesherawlecain and @Shastamontana.

Featured Image: Courtesy Gabriel Belmonte

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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