Queens of the stage


Kima LaRue performs as a drag queen at a bar in Sacramento called Sidetrax. LaRue co-hosts the event drag queen showcase event. (Photo by Joseph Daniels)

Joseph Daniels and Itzin Alpizar

An earlier version of this attributed the quote, “It’s all the weird stuff that nobody really wants to get into, which kind of becomes a kind of a strength for most of us who got into it, because it is like it is one of the things that we know about,” to Jordo Medina, but in fact was said by drag performer Apple Adams. 

By Joseph Daniels and Itzin Alpizar

After transforming into Roselia Valentine for the first time, he walked on stage to a Lana Del Rey song, wearing what he later described to be a disgusting wig and shoes that were too big for him.

“(Drag is) great for people who love attention,” said Jordo Medina, an American River College student. “Because even if you look bad, you absolutely know everyone’s eyes on you.”

Medina said he performs at a gay bar in midtown Sacramento called Sidetrax.

The drag queen showcase at Sidetrax is hosted by two performers that go by the stage names of Chantal and Kima Shay LaRue.

“I’m perfectly happy being a boy,” Medina said. “I never thought, I want to be a woman, I just love to impersonate or to have an image of being like one of those powerful women that inspired me for my entire life.”

Medina listed both Frida Kahlo and his mother as his life inspirations. He has a tattoo of Kahlo on his left foot.

“As morbid as it sounds, my right foot is going to be reserved for (my mom) when my mom’s time comes,” Medina said. “I know that sounds like really dark, like ‘yeah, when you die, I’m going to get a tattoo right there.”

According to Medina, there is a fascination about seeing a man dressed up as a feminine character.

“It’s really baffling when it’s done well, because you’re just completely into it,” Medina said. “I realized, like, ‘OK, I obviously have these people’s attention now. Let me give them something (to) really make them go crazy and make them bust out those dollar bills.’”

Chantal holds the money he collected during his drag queen performance at Sidetrax. He is one of the co-hosts of the drag queen showcase. (Photo by Joseph Daniels)

Medina took the first name from a character from the Japanese anime franchise Pokémon, and the last name from Mai Valentine, a character from Yu-Gi-Oh.

Most of the drag queens performed lip synch to a collection of songs that they had selected. Audience members showed their appreciation of each performance by giving a performer dollar bills.

Chris Brown performs under the name Harmony Envy, and is a host for a drag queen showcase across the street at another gay club called Faces. Initially, he said that the two venues had a rivalry.

Now, both shows would not only feature the same drag performers, but the host for both shows would be booked at both events.

“It’s more of a sisterhood now,” Brown said.  “I usually wait until after to start my show, and then she usually starts her show toward the end.”

Brown said that hosts of Sidetrax will come to Faces to show their support after the end of their act.

“Why put each other down?” Brown said. “We get enough of that already, just pretty much walking outside, ‘look that’s a dude,’ or ‘what the heck, that outfit is cheap.’”

Medina is not an anomaly when it comes to mixing nerd culture with drag.

A regular performer at Sidetrax, who goes by the stage name Adam Apples, said that many of his audience members don’t get the joke behind his stage name.

“‘It’s like autumn? Like Emily Autumn?’” Apples said, describing what people would usually would ask him about his name. “Not really, it’s because I have an adam’s apple.

He said he usually plays along with whoever it is that does not understand. Adams said that he enjoys bringing cosplay on the stage.

A performer who goes under the stage name of Presea Envy at times dresses up as the character Mileena from the Mortal Kombat series.

One of Medina’s goals is to perform as the Marvel character Storm. The one obstacle that he said that he is facing when performing as her is that he does not know what song to choose for his act.

Apples said the reason why it’s so common for drag queens to fall back into nerd culture is because those who tend to pick up drag as a hobby tend to be video gamers.

“It’s all the weird stuff that nobody really wants to get into, which kind of becomes a kind of a strength for most of us who got into it, because it is like it is one of the things that we know about,” Apples said. “A lot of people are into it or really into it.”

Initially, Medina said he thought drag only involved people who wanted to dress or become someone of the opposite gender, but as he began to learn more about the culture, he realized that it was another form of theater.

Medina, who is a theater student at ARC, said that one of the influencing factors for doing drag came from his drama background and time performing in “Music Man.”

American River College student Jordo Medina prepares his makeup for his drag performance at Sidetrax on Dec. 27, 2015. (Photo by Itzin Alpizar)

“It was nothing but rehearsal, learning discipline about what you’re going to perform and making sure it looks good,” Medina said. “Making sure you know how to connect with the audience and that you’re doing these rehearsed steps.”

Medina said that he has no plans of telling his father that he performs as a drag queen.

“He just has not been supportive in other aspects of my life,” Medina said. “Like pursuing theater or being gay in general, that I don’t see any redeeming quality in me telling him ‘hey, I dress up like a woman.’”

Medina is able to keep the fact that he is a drag queen secret because he doesn’t live in the same household as his father.

Medina said his mother is mesmerized by her son’s makeup skills and his ability to become feminine, and even said that she appears to be indifferent to the fact he performs in drag.

Medina said that his mother is supportive of him, though she has not said so directly.

“I know she’s not like disappointed, it’s not that at all, she’s like, ‘okay, be safe,’” Medina said. “Because I’m obviously going to be drawing attention.”

Maria Medina said, in an interview that has been translated from Spanish, that she is concerned that her son may take it the wrong way that she has not been vocal about his decision to perform in drag.

“I think in that respect, I think he can say I have not been too strict with him or hit him or destroy his things, or close the door or insult him, which has never come,” said Maria. “And I think that as the time passes, he is going to look that as a support, because maybe I didn’t tell him many things but I don’t have other attitudes.”

Maria said that she plans on seeing her son perform in drag.

“I think that the most important thing is when you give them the support and who better than myself that I’m his mother to clap and congratulate him.”