Luke North describes the first time he appeared on stage in drag.
Three summers ago I discovered I was a drag queen. I don’t recall exactly how or why I decided to put on my sister’s clothes and makeup one evening while she was at work and I was alone in her apartment, but I did. I guess you could say I’m somewhat of a late bloomer. I didn’t realize I was gay until seventh grade, which seemed strange to my gay friends in college, who, for the most part, knew much earlier (One of my best friends claims he knew when he was three years old). When I was a kid, I used to draw pictures of beautiful female bodies draped in the most fantastic fabrics and costumes my imagination could create. Headdresses, jewelry, wings, and inventive hairstyles were my specialty. Like most drag queens, I was flexing my drag muscles at an early age.
Last month, I performed in drag in public for the first time. It was a long time coming, no doubt. I’ve been told the first time you perform in drag, no matter how hard you try, you will inevitably look like you could use some serious work (or, in harsher, gayer terms, “busted”). A boy in a dress is not a drag queen, but we’ve all gotta start somewhere, right? You’ve gotta use what you’ve got. In my case, that meant a queen-sized sheet of glossy white fabric I had from an old toga party and a miniature bottle of stage blood. Yes, I was going the theatrical route. After getting off work in my university’s cafeteria around eight o’clock, I hitched a ride home from my coworker Mona and proceeded with my plan to dazzle the world as Infinity. No last name. Just Infinity. I had heard from my friend Antoine who works at the club I was going to be performing at that the sign-up sheet for Amateur Night would be taken up at 10:30, so I basically had an hour to get ready and an hour to walk to the club. Oh, did I mention? I don’t own a vehicle.
If you’ve never thought to inquire, the process of transforming from male into the illusion of a female is more difficult than one might think. First and foremost, body hair is a no no. Shave, wax, whatever… It’s got to go. I have been shaving my body since seventh grade, so this was nothing new to me. I broke out the Nair and went to town. Head to toe, it took a mere twenty minutes or so. Shower, rinsed, and ready for makeup. After that, I threw on my wig and an outfit to walk to the club in. I got there in the nick of time, or so it seemed.
I didn’t know what to expect, but two things stood out to me in particular. First was the size of the backstage area the performers were expected to occupy before going out. I use the term “backstage” loosely because the room was basically the size of a janitor’s closet and was in fact not located behind but rather beside the stage area itself. Second, I noticed I was the youngest of all the girls there. We totaled about twelve or thirteen. I could not for the life of me remember everyone’s names. They called themselves things like Tinaya LaRaye, Alizay St. Paige, Keosha Simone, and Diamond Lexis. There was Deja Blu, a Latin lady with a fixed facial expression that resembled something like the face one makes after trying an alcoholic beverage that’s too strong. There was Peaches, a friendly face with rosy cheeks and a cheesy smile. Then there was Shaneeda Drink, the girl I sat next to the majority of the time and the girl who talked to me the most. She told me she had only been doing drag for four years, and she looked and sounded every bit of forty. Voluptuous, focused, and painted, she exuded confidence.
Then there was me. Skinny, quiet, barefoot me, looking like I just fell off the turnip truck on its way through Dragville. I was clearly the youngest of the group, and everyone knew it. Fortunately, I didn’t feel any judgment from the other girls, only concealed support and a sense of understanding that said to me, “We’ve all been there, girl.” At any rate, my time to perform came. I lip-synced to Björk’s “Virus,” processing about the stage much like a virgin processes to the altar for sacrifice. I knew every word and found myself lost in the rapture of the moment. The lights seemed to liberate me. No matter how bad I may have looked, I knew the reason I was onstage, and that was all that mattered to me. I was no longer a boy dreaming away his life with pencil and paper, and I was no longer a scared little girl backstage afraid of looking like a fool in front of an audience. I was taking the first step toward becoming the person I was born to be. I was Infinity.