words by KATIE VAGNINO photos by ANDREA PAULSETH design by ERIC CHRISTENSON
Over the past decade, the drag scene in the Chippewa Valley has blossomed from a subculture limited to a handful of venues to something much more visible and vibrant. A spotlight has been cast on the time, money, and artistry that goes into drag, thanks in part to the mainstream success of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which just wrapped up its 10th season. As veteran queen Miss Dee-Lovely explains, “We are perhaps the purest products of pop culture. We take the traits and styles of those we admire and piece them together to create our own puzzle.” In this tight-knit community, diva isn’t a four-letter word – it’s a prerequisite.
Age: Best if Used by 01/01/3018
Years doing drag: A little longer than “Just Dance” has been out
Current gig: Competing for the title of Queen of Camp on Camp Wannakiki, a YouTube reality show
“Longevity is gained through having a clear purpose.”
My first show: UW-Stout’s Dragapalooza. I don’t remember all the details, but I know I wore a red sheer nightie that my mom helped me make. It was a lot of fun, but rough. It definitely motivated me to work harder on myself as an entertainer.
How I got my name: My first name is just the femme version of my legal name. My last name is a mixture of my two original Drag Mothers: Miss Dee-Lovely and Victoria Grant.
Style influences: Everything pink! I’ve also always been a fan of Victorian/Edwardian fashion but you can pretty much catch me in everything from a floor-length ballgown to a skimpy harness depending on my mood.
Favorite song/artist to perform: I perform to a lot of mixes so that is hard to answer ... you’ll just have to attend a show to decide for yourself!
What’s special about doing drag here? Since RuPaul’s Drag Race, the community has exploded; there are lots of new performers experimenting with performance styles and personas. We’re generally very close – like a family, with little to no drama. And if anyone ever needs anything (costumes, styled wigs, jewelry, music) we’ve got someone who knows how to do it locally!
Advice for aspiring queens: Think about it first! Drag can be very expensive depending on what your goals are. Do you want to be a nightlife personality? A pageant girl? A comedy queen? Longevity is gained through having a clear purpose.
Age: 33 years young
Years doing drag: 14
Current gig: Hosting Drag Queen Bingo every second and fourth Tuesday night at Scooter’s
“We all have an inner diva; Let yours out and see what happens.”
My first show: I remember it like it was yesterday. I was wearing a pinstripe fedora, black pants, a sheer sequined tank top over a black bra, and a black suit jacket on top. I was supposed to perform “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera, but to my horror the wrong track began to play. I tried to get the DJ’s attention but the song played on and the crowd began to boo. At that moment I stormed the stage and performed my heart out to a song I barely knew.
How I got my name: The first night I went out in drag, my best friend gave me the Jem and the Holograms box set because it was my favorite childhood cartoon, and it just seemed to fit to call me Jem. I chose Stone because I love Patsy Stone from Absolutely Fabulous. It didn’t dawn on me at first that Jem Stone was like “gemstone.”
Style influences: My grandmother. She was the original star who made me want to shine. Blonde wigs, sequins, and a love of the stage started with her. Style-wise, my biggest icon is Posh Spice herself, Victoria Beckham. I love me a little black dress and stilettos. I also like to keep it simple. I’m the least accessorized queen ever!
Favorite song/artist to perform: An original song I wrote and recorded, “Fully Loaded.” I also love “Burning Up” by Jessie J.
What’s special about doing drag here? The drag community in the Chippewa Valley is like no other. We are one big family and we love each other through it all. Our community has grown so much in the last few years; there is now a monthly amateur contest to accommodate all the new talent. We accept all who wish to be a part of our great sisterhood.
Advice for aspiring queens: Get a cheap Halloween wig and some makeup and try it at home. See how it makes you feel. Then get some heels and start strutting around. You will never know unless you walk in those heels and whip that hair, honey. We all have an inner diva; let yours out and see what happens.
Years doing drag: 17
Current gig: Performing in “Off-Broadway on Grand: A Musical Revue”
“Know your history, know how to be humble, know how to be strong.”
My first show: It was at CJ’s Great Escape (now Stone’s Throw). I made my first dress; it was pink with a sparkly silver cape and turban. I performed Bette Midler’s “I’m Beautiful.”
How I got my name: I have always loved theater so I picked the name Ophelia (from Hamlet); Junque just seemed kind of funny to me.
Style influences: The look is always transformative. I love all the great costumers, from Edith Head to Bob Mackie. Christian LaCroix has always had a place in my heart as far as designers go.
Favorite song/artist to perform: My numbers have changed so much over the years; I really love taking a mashup of several artists and using their songs to tell a story.
What’s special about doing drag here? The creativity and determination of the girls who put themselves out there. We are a family, and as with all families, we have our dysfunction and our differences. In the end, though, we are there for each other and love each other.
Advice for aspiring queens: Anybody thinking of doing drag should know that it is not RuPaul’s Drag Race; know your history, know how to be humble, know how to be strong. Drag queens are a visible section of our community, and what we say and do matter. You are not a Queen because you decide to be – you are a Queen when the people whose lives you touch decide you are.
Years doing drag: 23
Current gig: Appearing on WisWomen, a biweekly TV show airing on Valley Media Works
“You’re still the same person at the end of the night.”
My first show: The Wolfe’s Den (now Stella’s Red Room); the stage was a pool table with a piece of plywood and some tinsel streamers. I wore women’s flip-flops as finding decent women’s shoes in size 14 in the days before online shopping proved challenging.
How I got my name: As a teen, I was heavily inspired by the club kids that appeared on talk shows. I took my name from a lyric in the Deee-Lite song “Groove is in the Heart”: “He’s not vicious/or malicious/ just de-lovely/and delicious.”
Style influences: Lady Miss Kier of Deee-Lite, Madonna, RuPaul, Candis Cayne
Favorite song/artist to perform: Deee-Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart”
What’s special about doing drag here? We’ve always been a tight-knit group of diverse performers who strongly support each other and have focused heavily on fundraising for the community. We’ve raised money for the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, Toys For Tots, the Bolton Refuge House, and we hosted events for the Red Cross during the 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina crises. We started a scholarship in one of our performer’s names following her untimely death. While the community might not always know it, we’ve always been “fairy godmothers.” It’s also important to note that the Chippewa Valley was home to King’s Corner, a very successful drag king collective in the mid-2000s, and there’s a healthy number of kings rising in the ranks here.
Advice for aspiring queens: Remember that no matter how beautiful you look or how people react to you, you’re still the same person at the end of the night that you were before you put the wig on. The attention drag brings you can be a powerful aphrodisiac and the temptation to act the part of the prom queen can be strong, but being rude or bitchy is never funny nor attractive.
Years doing drag: 9, but feels like 100
Current gig: Hosting an Amateur Drag Competition at Scooter’s the first Friday of every month
“We have a very diverse scene and we all want to see each other succeed.”
My first show: I showed up in a long skirt, a nice top, and a cardigan. One of the other performers came up to me and said “Oh no, girl, this isn’t going to work out.” She took off my cardigan and top and pulled the skirt up to make it a VERY short dress. I performed Lindsay Lohan’s “Rumors.” Don’t laugh; it’s a very underrated song! It was the scariest thing in the world, but my family and friends showed up to support me and I was hooked.
How I got my name: When I first started doing drag, people told me I looked like Khloe Kardashian. And I have always been inspired by the strong women in my life, most importantly my grandma, whose last name was Wold.
Style influences: I always like to push my drag; I take inspiration from other queens and what’s happening in fashion. When I first started, I was very insecure and covered myself up. Now I love to wear things that are tight and show off my body. Everyone deserves to feel sexy, no matter their size.
Favorite song/artist to perform: Beyoncé, but I love anything that is upbeat and fun. I love to dance, and I love people’s reactions when they see a bigger girl giving it her all.
What’s special about doing drag here? The community in Eau Claire is amazing; we have a very diverse scene and we all want to see each other succeed. Now that drag has become more mainstream, people appreciate what we do a lot more. Gender is really starting to become a blurred line and people can express themselves however they want.
Advice for aspiring queens: Don’t do it! Just kidding. Try it and see what it does for you. And save up lots of money because it’s not cheap!