Drag queen Vex made her debut by performing the song “Circus” by Britney Spears in March at the Back Door in Bloomington.
However, IU junior Alex Crump said he considered the idea of lip-syncing and dancing in drag long before he was able to conquer the stage as his current persona Vex Beaverhausen.
Crump said the first time he thought about doing drag was in eighth grade.
“Once I saw 'RuPaul’s Drag Race,' and I saw that drag queens were a thing, like that people actually did this as entertainment, ever since then, that’s been on my mind," Crump said. "So like eight years.”
While Crump said he has wanted to perform since high school, he was unable to attend or perform in any drag shows until he was 21. Once he was old enough, Crump went out to watch a show at the Back Door.
The Back Door is a LGBTQ+ bar, and it is the only venue in Bloomington that offers a gender-based performance open mic every Wednesday. The weekly show, directed by drag queen Luxe Monroe St. Moore, opens the Back Door’s stage to anyone wanting to try drag, burlesque, boylesque or any other form of performance art.
After a couple of months of attending drag shows, Crump said he finally mustered up the courage to perform as a drag queen. He said he has never looked back.
“I was so excited and so happy to finally get to this moment,” Crump said. “Because it had literally been years in my mind to finally do this, and then once I did it and once I finally got on stage, I was so happy, but also elated because I finally pushed through those barriers, especially in my mind, and went out there and did it.”
Now, Vex Beaverhausen has an official Facebook page and Instagram account to not only share moments from her performances, but also to be a resource to others wanting to try drag.
While Vex Beaverhausen’s appearance in the spotlight had been a long time coming, for Ryan Sandy, an IU senior studying theater who is known on the Back Door stage as Ruth N. Nasia, performing in drag wasn’t a thought until last spring.
Ruth N. Nasia began performing at the Back Door in June 2017. The creation of this character started with a stage makeup class Sandy's took in spring 2017. The course did a gender-reversal unit, and Sandy said that was when he got an excuse to practice painting his face for drag. From there, he said it snowballed into performing.
As a theater major, Sandy is no stranger to the stage. However, when Ruth N. Nasia performed at the Back Door for the first time, singing "Cabaret" to a crowd extending its hands out with tips for her performance, Sandy said drag is a different feeling.
“I love the freedom because I get to do what ever I want,” Sandy said. “Wednesdays anyone can show up, it doesn’t even have to be drag, but it usually is. Anyone can show up and perform anything they want, usually three numbers. I just love that I get to take any song I want, and no one gets to tell me what to do with it. I’m my own director in a sense, if we’re connecting it to theater.”
When Sandy first spoke with his friends and family about performing drag, he said everyone was supportive. However, a question Sandy said his mother had about drag early on when he began posting about Ruth N. Nasia on social media was, “Isn’t it kind of disrespectful toward women?"
Sandy said he felt it couldn’t be further from it.
“I said, 'Actually I think it’s kind of the opposite, like I do drag because I love women so much,'” Sandy said. “I feel like I have such a respect for the role models I see. Like I love to do pop divas' music like Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga and those kind of people, and what they do and how they take a stage. And I don’t know, there’s something so admirable about the femininity.”
Luxe Monroe St. Moore, a drag queen of almost six years, said she takes pride in being able to offer newcomers like Sandy and others the opportunity to perform at open stage on Wednesdays.
“I think it’s great,” Luxe Monroe St. Moore said. “I absolutely love the fact that people want to get out there and showcase a different side of themselves. If I can give one person an opportunity to escape anything that’s going on in their life, or point them in the direction of an outlet where they can have that, then I’m doing what I’m suppose to be doing as an entertainer.”
While Vex Beaverhausen and Ruth N. Nasia have only performed at the Back Door, Barrett Kyle, an IU first-year graduate student pursuing a master’s of science in environmental science and a master’s in public affairs, began performing drag two years ago when he still lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
At the time, Kyle said he found himself challenged in school intellectually but not creatively. This led to the creation of the drag persona Beeka Darwin.
Kyle’s passion for science can be seen in Beeka Darwin’s performances. She performed in a lab coat with flasks balancing on either shoulder. The flasks were filled with dry ice and hot water, making smoke emerge like a brewing science experiment.
“You can make drag whatever you want,” Kyle said. “You don’t have to be stuck in any little hole that people want to put you in.”
Although Vex Beaverhausen, Ruth N. Nasia and Beeka Darwin made their way to a stage at different times, all of these drag queens said they don’t intend to leave the spotlight anytime soon.
“If I didn’t have Beeka, I would probably go crazy,” Kyle said. “I wouldn’t be able to satisfy the creativity that I want to have that I want to continue to show.”
“Ruth is definitely something I don’t see going away,” Sandy said.
“Vex, wherever I go, she’ll go with me,” Crump said.
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