by Nikeala Frederick
The themes of love, acceptance and “Yes, Queen!” reigned supreme in Rabbit Box’s April show Life in Drag. The glamorous and witty emcee Jacqueline Daniels (aka Rob Hagwood), who had a fantastic wardrobe change mid-show as a true diva should, gave the audience the treat of getting to know her as well as they got to know the storytellers. Long gone are the early days when she had to make her own costumes and squeeze her feet into shoes several sizes too small. She made sure that the audience left psyched about fun upcoming events in the cherished Boybutante AIDS Foundation’s 30th anniversary year of providing funds for agencies that support HIV/AIDs advocacy, education, outreach and/or direct client services in Northeast Georgia.
Lori Divine, a legend in the drag world and LGBTQ community, shared her origin story. When she started out as a drag baby in 1984, people could be arrested or killed for doing drag. She credits a drag queen named Lily White who took her in as a drag daughter for teaching her everything she knows. Lori educated the audience on important drag terminology and timelines to help them fully understand where she was coming from. Her ultimate goal through drag is to be a mother, aunt, brother, sister, friend, or whatever people may need at the moment to know that they are not alone and that they are loved.
James was disowned by his family and church and homeless by 19 after coming out as gay. Once he got back on his feet and was introduced to drag by a coworker, Semaj Onyx Coxring eventually emerged. Semaj shared the unique challenges of being an African-American, plus-size queen. Every number she performs is personal and therapeutic, helping her to deal with the harsh realities of the world.
Diego Wolf, who never goes anywhere without “guyliner” or mascara, described how he went from living one illusion in his youth when he could not be true to himself to living another illusion he chooses as an adult. Originally from Arkansas, he was introduced to drag upon moving to Athens and won his first competition in 2006 as a drag king, finding his home on the stage. He felt more like himself in that moment than he ever did in his life. He was especially grateful for his brother’s loving acceptance of him.
Jamey Watson/Skylar grew up in a conservative environment in which he felt like he couldn’t be himself. It wasn’t until the birth of his daughter 18 years ago that he found the strength to be true to himself. When he first came out he didn’t know a soul in the gay community but is grateful for the amazing people he has met through drag since 2003 who accept him unconditionally.
Crackerjack storyteller Erin Finch has been attending drag shows for the last 10 years as a cisgender, straight woman. She shared a funny story about how she broke the cardinal drag rule at a show one night when she may have had one too many drinks.
Local transgender musician and actor T.C. Rabbit/Kydd LeRoi, usually the youngest of the performers, found his true self and true confidence in drag. After a childhood of feeling like he had to hide himself, being forced to be feminine and joining the military after high school, it wasn’t until a trip home after basic training that he discovered drag and his life was never the same. Through the kid persona, he is now in a way reliving the childhood he never got to have while serving as a “quiet activist” to help other trans, gender queer, and non-binary individuals find their way.
Karmella Macchiato/Kenny Laney, founding cast member and show director/emcee for The Kourtesans, grew up as a 90s kid inspired by the likes of RuPaul and the movie “Boys Don’t Cry.” Unlike several of the stories of the night, she grew up in an environment where she felt accepted and encouraged to be herself, whatever she wanted that to be. She shared that at the end of the day, drag is not about the makeup or the clothes you wear for the stage but the support system you find through it.
Michael Musgrove/Sophia LoRent, original host of drag bingo and one of the longest-running Boybutante participants, started out as the macho counterpart to all things drag. Even though he comes from a conservative family who took his coming out hard, his grandparents were ahead of their time. His grandfather was a crossdresser in the 1930s, entertaining neighbors at rural house parties, and his grandmother went by the mantra “I’m my own SOB.” After attending the first two years of Boybutante as an apathetic, macho spectator, he finally got involved in its third year, eventually developing his own style as Sophia LoRent and becoming his own SOB, never looking back.
By the end of the show, the clear common thread was that life in drag is ultimately about loving yourself and everyone else.