My First Drag Pageant

This past weekend I had the pleasure of competing in Basement Arts’ first-ever drag pageant (in recent years), Lady Walgreen 2022. As someone who considers themselves a “look queen” and a bedroom queen (ie, someone who focuses on my makeup and looks and generally creates my drag in my bedroom without showing it to many other people or going out in it), this was actually my first time going out and performing in drag. And it was the best experience I could’ve ever asked for. Quite literally, I’ve never seen an audience as packed or as excited as I did in the Newman Studio last Saturday night.

The pageant had three parts: fashion, interview, and talent. For fashion, we got scored by a panel of judges (aka other students who are drag aficionados or style icons). As a look queen known for outlandish makeup, this was the category I was focused the most on. My look was a demon-like creature who had all my skin removed from my face and sections of my body, a ribcage peeking out on my chest, and muscles exposed all across my face and body. This has been some of the most extravagant and ambitious makeup I have ever done, and I couldn’t be prouder of what I ended up creating. 


The makeup was all done by me, mainly using eyeliners, face paint, and a ton of powder and patience. The ribcage is made out of cardboard I stole from a housemate and covered in duct tape, and the hair is similarly held up by a cardboard frame for the horns. The skirt is a long, ugly thrifted skirt I found, cut up, and stained with fake blood just hours before. Who said you can’t create stunning drag on a budget?

A lot of my drag is freaky, alien, and just a tad bit insane, and this look was no different. And the audience loved it, from the cheering I got the moment I stepped out. Not to brag, but I was the only queen to get a perfect score of tens across the board for my look, which honestly was the biggest win in my book. Listen, I’m a look queen through and through and to be validated on my effort in my looks is the most amazing thing for me.

Next came the interview, which might have been the most chaotic part of the night. I’d like to first apologize to the couch, which has incurred a large red mark from when I decided to man-spread across it during my interview. Rip to that couch (and the one section of my body I didn’t set with powder well enough).

The final part was the talent portion, which included performances of incredible dance numbers, live singing, a spoken-word version of “I’m Sexy And I Know It”, and for me, a pair of rollerblades and licking blood off the floor of the Newman. I may not be the best dancer, but I did create a memorable performance of falling flat on my face, spilling blood all across the floor, and then getting up to lick all the blood off my fingers and garner the most wonderfully disgusting responses from the audience as Kim Petras played. Honestly, what more could I ask for of my first live performance?

While I didn’t make top two (congrats to ElleXL, our Lady Walgreen winner, and Tampa, the runner-up), I don’t think I’ve ever cheered louder during a lip-sync than I did for those two going CRAZY to “I Will Survive”. Seriously, you’ve never seen a performance like theirs. Plus, who cares about winning? I not only got to show off my art to a huge audience of my friends and classmates, I also made some of the most wonderful friends. There’s truly something so joyful about a room of queer folks all half in drag, taking shots and helping each other out. When I couldn’t find my eyelash glue, Tampa offered me hers. I did Mrs. Worldwide’s makeup since it was her first time in drag, and Olympia offered me hairspray to keep my wig down. There could not have been a more different group of performers up there on that stage, but each and every one was incredible and it was such an incredible honor to see them all perform. Shout out to the UMich drag scene and shout out to everyone who came out to the Newman last weekend! And to Basement Arts for hosting!

Clowns Have a Union (and I Think That’s Neat)

I saw a post recently about how clowns have a union (which is true) and how strange that is, and how drag queens don’t have a union. I’m no expert on unions and economics, so I’m not going to try and sound smart talking about that here. But the connections between clowns and drag queens certainly interest me. I mean, what really is the difference between them? We both wear a ton of makeup, often try to look a bit ridiculous, and we’re both entertainers– just for slightly different age groups. 

According to, the profession of clown is as follows: “Clowns dress in outlandish costumes, paint their faces, and use a variety of performance skills to entertain audiences. They work in circuses, amusement parks, schools, malls, rodeos, and hospitals, as well as on stage, in films, and even on the street. Clowns are actors and comedians whose job is to make people laugh.”

According to Wikipedia, drag queens are people who “use[] drag clothing and makeup to imitate and often exaggerate female gender signifiers and gender roles for entertainment purposes… People partake in the activity of doing drag for reasons ranging from self-expression to mainstream performance. Drag shows… occur at events like pride parades, carnivals, drag pageants, and in venues such as cabarets and nightclubs.”

Clearly, there are distinct differences here. But when it boils down to the details, there are a lot of similarities too. Drag queens and clowns work in a wide variety of different locations and events and utilize a variety of performance skills to entertain audiences. I’ve seen a drag queen fix a computer as part of her act before, so there’s really no performance skill that hasn’t been utilized as a part of a drag show. They both wear outlandish costumes and paint their faces, and as drag moves further and further away from regular gendered norms, outlandish and bizarre makeup is a more normalized part of what we expect with drag. Some queens even actively choose to paint more like clowns, myself included many times.

So then what really separates drag artists from clowns? Is it just because we don’t have to go to school for it? If I start making balloon animals, will I suddenly switch from being a drag artist to a clown?

I think what defines drag artists from clowns, or makeup artists or gogo dancers or burlesque performers or any of those other performer types is truly the artists themselves and what they make of their drag art. Drag is what you make it, it’s a performance of self-expression. There’s no real rules to drag, certain way things have to be done. It’s all up to the artist themself. Also, we don’t need degrees to do drag. Sorry clowns.

So it doesn’t matter if I’m dressing in a clown-themed drag look if I’m making balloon animals or riding a unicycle or pulling handkerchiefs out of my sleeve. I’m still a drag artist, I’m still doing my drag in my own expressionist way. But we still don’t have a union as drag artists. Maybe that is something that could happen in the future. Who knows!

The Melanin Dynasty

It’s impossible to talk about modern mainstream drag and Rupaul’s Drag Race without looking at the iconic Melanin Dynasty, the name for the slate of Drag Race winners since season 11 that are all queens of color. Let’s do a quick Drag Race history lesson! (no, I won’t say “herstory” lesson. I think that’s stupid.)

Season 11 saw the crowning of winner Yvie Oddly, a surprise underdog with one challenge win (though she deserved more) to frontrunner Brooke Lynn Hytes’ four wins. Yvie and Brooke Lynn’s finale lip-sync to Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” was iconic, and showed exactly how deserving of the win Yvie was. Seriously, her reveal of the stoned head on the back of her own head gave me chills! Yvie has since released a rap album during her reign and it highkey slaps.

Following Yvie’s win was All Stars 4, which technically saw a tie of winners. But we chose to actively ignore Trinity “The Tuck” Taylor’s win, cause she’s been in hot water since then (a story for another day). Instead, we look at the other incredibly deserving winner, Monet X Change, a former contestant from season 10. Monet was a powerhouse on her season and All Stars, and has since remained a huge name in the Drag Race-sphere, hosting the popular podcast “Sibling Rivalry” with season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen, as well as hosting the official recap show for Drag Race for the current season.

Season 12 saw the crowning of Jaida Essence Hall, a beautiful pageant queen who showed she was one of the funniest members of the cast that season. Jaida’s reign was one of the shortest and took place during a pandemic, which is pretty awful for her, but she’s made the most of it with modeling, hosting the Halloween show for Drag Race, and looking stunning overall. Season 12 also saw the first-ever Black winner AND Miss Congeniality duo, with Jaida and Heidi N Closet.

Following Jaida’s crowning was All Stars 5, which many consider just a season for Shea Coulee to finally get her crown. Shea was a frontrunner and fan-favorite back on season 9, losing out in the final lip sync battle to eventual winner Sasha Velour in one of the most iconic Drag Race moments ever, (which included a wig pouring rose petals out of it). Shea was the clear winner of All Stars 5, from the moment she walked in and announced “I’m blaaaack!” She absolutely dominated, 

Season 13 crowned Symone, who was the obvious frontrunner and winner the entire season and is currently our reigning queen. Symone brought everything to her season, she was an obvious winner from the moment she walked through the werkroom doors. She brought fashion like no one had seen before on the show, bringing Black culture and iconic references with every look that made her always stand out. Season 13 also saw another winner and Miss Congeniality duo with Symone being paired alongside Lala Ri.

Armed With Style and a Message, Symone Earned Her 'Drag Race' Win | Vogue

So why go through this history of the past five~ish years of Drag Race? Drag Race and drag in general often is full of racist practices, especially in booking and producing shows. Even though drag culture and ballroom culture, which a lot of drag comes from, were created by Black people, especially Black trans women. And while the show is imperfect, we can appreciate the incredibly talented winners of the past few seasons, and the current ruling Melanin Dynasty.

Shout Out to the Kings

Now, in most settings, you might say “a queen doesn’t need a man! Fuck having a king!” And normally I’d agree with you. However, many drag queens are cis gay men (by now in this article we should all have learned that you do NOT have to be a cis gay man to be a drag queen and we stan all the trans and AFAB drag queens!!!) and many drag kings are trans men, cis women, or nonbinary icons. Drag kings are certainly a less popular sect of drag, but definitely not any less incredible in terms of performers and artistry. Just because RuPaul’s Drag Race would feature any drag kings doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paying the MOST attention to these icons. So, I’m gonna go through a few of my favorites!


Tenderoni (@tenderoni88)

Tenderoni is THEE Chicago drag king and the current 2021 winner of the Drag Queen of the Year Pageant


Landon Cider (@landoncider)

The winner of season 3 of the Boulet Brothers’ Dragula who has been on tours with Drag Race queens and an icon in his own accord.


Luc Ami (@luc.ami)

Another Chicago icon, this alien drag deity creates some of the most stunning artistry and hosts Queeriod, a drag show for new drag talents!


Inah Demons (@inahdemons)

Considered the “Tumblr Sexyman of Drag”, Inah is a Filipino drag artist who creates incredibly unique and colorful looks online that are truly one of a kind.


Shay They (@shaythey)

A New York drag quing clown who’s stunning in a clown white face and iconic mustache. If you’re in New York and they’re performing, you have to go see them!


Luv Ami (@luvamiking)

Luc Ami’s drag son, a young Chicago king who brings the PERFORMANCE and the looks. 


Vigor Mortis (@heyvigormortis)

A Brooklyn king who does burlesque and drag, known for some chaos and silliness and who I’ve had the great honor to see him perform with googly eyes all over his body.


K. James (@k.james_switchnplay)

Another Brooklyn king who’s a member of the Switch n Play collective and is the coolest cat in Brooklyn drag, and everyone is also in love with.


Andro Gin (@androginking)

The definition of makeup artistry, Andro has some of the most iconic looks and the most beautiful creations put together on their face.


ShowPonii (@showponii)

Another Brooklyn king, ShowPonii is an icon with his clown-white face and unique sense of artistry.


PB (@vainglorious_pb)

Another fresh face of Chicago drag, with a stamped face and some incredible performances. They may be new to the scene, but definitely give them a look!


Dungeons and Drag(ons)

I have the utmost respect for cosplayers and cosplay queens, but I myself am not one. Cosplayers, for the uninitiated, are people who dress as a character from a movie, book, or video game. These artists use painstaking detail in their recreations of outfits and wigs, and I’ve witnessed some that included tentacles, working wings that would pop out, satyr goat legs, a fully working back half of a centaur, and tons more. Cosplayers are some of the most incredibly talented artists around.

As a drag artist who can lean into the more bizarre or inhuman side of drag, some people might mistake me for a cosplayer. After all, most mainstream drag doesn’t include people with bright red or blue skin tones or wearing elf ears or such. However, as I am not trying to make accurate recreations of any character that already exists, this would be an incorrect label for me. Furthermore, drag is performance art. While plenty of drag artists focus on their looks or online presence or don’t perform live much, they are still not cosplayers. A drag queen is not required to perform, although the majority do. 

So in accordance to all that I’ve laid out above, we can come to the conclusion that I am, in fact, not a cosplayer (although I wish I had so many of their incredible construction skills). However, this doesn’t bar me, as a drag artist (or any drag artist) from creating cosplays or cosplay-esque looks. For me, my more fantasy character looks lean toward cosplay, and I’ve even created looks inspired by characters who exist in the Critical Role world of Exandria.


See, aside from drag, I adore playing Dungeons&Dragons, also known as D&D. I also love live-play D&D shows, particularly Critical Role, a Twitch-streamed D&D series of eight (now nine!) voice actors playing large campaigns of D&D over several years. They’ve grown from a single home game to three full-length campaigns, hundreds of thousands of hours of content, millions of fans around the world, several canonical books detailing the world Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer created, and now an animated series on Amazon Prime. They’re kind of a big deal. And I’m kind of obsessed with them and with D&D as a whole!

So this week’s look was inspired by Opal, the Twice-Crowned from their Exandria Unlimited series, created and played by Aimee Carrero. While it’s not a totally accurate recreation of how Opal appeared in the campaign, it’s my version of her character. And one of my most popular looks, surprisingly enough! 

What “Makes Up” A Drag Queen

Makeup and I have a very strange relationship. I’ve gone through phases of wearing a full face, wearing no makeup, nothing but red eyeshadow, winged eyeliner, funky colorful eyeliner… you get the gist. I started experimenting with drag makeup two years ago, and back then everything on my face mainly came from drug stores. And to be totally fair, most of what I use two years into my drag career still comes from CVS and Target, since a lot of it is cheap and totally works! So I’m gonna break down the makeup I use on the regular for my drag, and my favorite brands to buy from!

The look I’m using utilizes most of the makeup I use and pretty much all of my favorite brands! As seen above, it’s a green medley artistry look with funky eyeliner shapes, glitter and sparkles, and my distinct black lip and lack of brows.

Like most drag queens, I use Elmer’s disappearing glue sticks to glue down my eyebrows. Surprisngly, those kindergarten glue sticks are still the best for glueing brows! I use elf Hydrating Face Primer and cover my brows with The Crayon Case concealer in the lightest shade, as well as my foundation in Wet n Wild photofocus Stick Foundation and Krylon Paint Stick in “TV White”, a staple of many drag queens. My eyeliner is NYX’s Epic Wear eyeliner, and I use Kim Chi Chic Beauty’s The Most Conealer in shade “White” to create my eye crease. And then the fun stuff:

The greens and yellows here are part of the Mango Tango and Virgin Mojito palettes from Kim Chi Chic Beauty. The glitter on my lips and nose is from Midas Cosmetics in shades “Soul” and “Mermaid”. All the eyeliner detailing is either NYX or Glisten Cosmetics, and the black facepaint on my neck is from the Amythest Painting Palette. My go-to black lip is a mixture of NYX Epic Ink eyeliner and Sephora black liquid lipstick.

Besides my drug store basics, I try to mostly shop from queer-owned, black-owned, or other small businesses for most of my makeup. The Crayon Case is an amazing black-owned beauty brand themed around school supplies, Midas Cosmetics is a afro-latina-owned indie brand that offers cruelty-free and vegan glitters and eyeshadows, and Beauty Bakerie (which I didn’t use for this look) is a black-owned makeup brand themed around, you guessed it, a bakery! My current go-to brand is Kim Chi Chic Cosmetics, created and owned by Kim Chi, an Asian drag queen who’s makeup artistry is To Die For! Her brand has adorable themeing with teddy bear palettes, drink-themed eyeshadow palettes, adorable heart-shaped blushes and highlights… literally the cutest brand. So if you’ve learned anything from this article, it’s that Pinball is Obsessed with KCC Beauty and that cheap makeup doesn’t have to be bad makeup!!