confidence, cheekiness and charisma
Confidence, cheekiness and charisma fused with character, charm and cockiness create the ultimate beginnings of a diva to the max: a drag queen. It isn’t suffice to possess one or two of these traits; a superstar drag queen must live large and embrace all equally with enthusiasm and project this persona upon the audience each and every time she performs.
“There’s different elements of drag,” explains drag queen sensation, Katana. “For me drag is epitome of a woman times 100. Take the normal things that a woman does and multiply it by 100. Draw the high brows up higher; cinch the waist more and add more padding so your boobs are bigger. Your shoes are higher (and) your clothes are a little more glamorous or flashy or sluttier…you take extremes and you still use it in a performance aspect.”
Katana has been a drag performer for 13 years and has claimed several top titles including Miss Embassy, Empress 6 Niagara, Miss Hamilton World and Canada’s Top Drag Queen.
Drag is about “creating this new person” and becoming “somebody completely different” says Katana. Ordinarily shy, quiet people can “put on the hair and the shoes and the dress and become overly elaborate crazy people; it’s kind of like a mask you get to hide behind.”
Renowned drag artist, Dusty Balfour, is one of those “usually shy and reserved” people when not in face.
“She’s the more exuberant side of me,” Dusty explains. “She’ll walk up to just about anybody (and) engage people in conversation. Dusty’s personality is just fun and outrageous; (She) is not a reserved kind of gal.”Dusty also has numerous drag queen titles such as H.I.M. Empress XXIV of Toronto,the Wicked Emerald Empress, Miss Trillium Pageant, and was the first Miss Pride Niagara. She has been performing for 8 years and says she “loves” it..
“I love hosting. I love interacting and talking with people,“ Dusty says. “I like to make people laugh. Even if I’m doing a serious song ,I’ll always, through facial expression, have fun with it. I like to engage people.”
Interaction with the audience is what drag is all about, says Katana.
“It’s all about the audience contact,” she says. “I’ve only got 30 seconds to impress the crowd.”
Katana says as much as drag performances are an art, they are also about branding. Seasoned artists dedicate years to developing their drag characters and strive to deliver only quality performances.
“The minute you put on those heels and you're on stage, everybody is looking at every move you do,” Katana says. “(Drag is) not a normal aspect of every day life. It would be like having Miss America walk in; the minute she walks in the door all eyes are going to be on her. Being a drag queen is kind of the same thing. When you first come out or walk into the bar or enter a room everybody's eyes go to you.”
And when the eyes are on a drag queen, Dusty says the reactions can vary from amusement, misunderstanding and, every once in a while, shock.
“It’s interesting because I actually used to do a lot of work in the straightest venues; I don’t really care where I go,” Dusty laughs. “And I think it’s funny to watch people’s reactions. Every now and then you kind of get a negative reaction. I paint my face in such a way that from about 30 feet away I look like an actual woman…you can kind of see the shock and horror once they figure out I’m a man. ”
Which can lead to some confusion about why men perform in drag.
“(There’s a) misconception of why we do it,” Dusty says. “A lot of people, unfortunately, in the straight community kind of figure if you’re a gay man dressing up as a woman, there’s no other reason than because you want to be a girl. That’s the only thing you’ve kind of got to fight every now and then,; but honestly I’ve never had a bad experience as far as some of the horror stories I’ve heard from other drag queens.”
Katana and Dusty both stress they do drag for the love of entertaining people and that when they return home the heels come off.“I really and truly enjoy going home and being a boy. I do this for entertainment purposes. It does nothing for me. I don’t do it in my spare time,” says Dusty.
Both Katana and Dusty will be participating in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for Largest Drag Show during the Pride in the Park Festival in Montebello Park on June 9.
The event, being organized by Niagara drag king, Shannon Unrau, will consist of one completely choreographed number which will be between 30-45 minutes, but in order to beat the record there must be 36 or more drag queens or drag kings performing on stage at the same time for a minimum of 5 ½ minutes.
“I think it’s a great idea,” says Katana. “Especially to put St. Catharines on the map (and) with the gay community as a whole worldwide. For something like that to go off it’s going to create such a huge buzz, not just in St. Catharines…it’s going to go viral very quickly and everybody’s name that’s on it is going to be blown up; it’s the best free publicity that a drag queen could do.”
Dusty agrees the idea is “fantastic” and says it’s more than just “getting a world record.”
“It’s bringing together drag communities,” he says. “Shannon’s reaching out to London, St. Catharine’s, Toronto, Buffalo...kind of all the surrounding areas. And it’s also drag kings which I think is an important aspect.”
Dusty says the event will shine the spotlight on the Niagara region.
“It will hopefully bring a lot of visibility to Pride, first of all in the Niagara Region, because I think Toronto does hog most of that. And I think it’s great because this area kind of needs that focus. I think for younger kids, whether or not their questioning or unsure and just need to reach out to someone, at least they know it’s there and they have that option if they can’t get to Toronto or Hamilton or wherever else it might be.”
The world record attempt begins at 2pm during the Pride in the Park Festival in Montebello Park. For more information visit www.prideniagara.com.
Katana and Dusty can be seen regularly performing during the last Sunday of each month at Envy Lounge at 127 Queenston Street, St. Catharines. Please search “Katana” or “Dusty Balfour” on facebook for more information.
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