What’s It Like to Be a Drag Queen? We Spent Time With Some to Find Out

Drag queens at Hamburger Mary's perform as a group.

From left, Jason Doolin (referred to as Jocelyn), Kenneth Lawson (identified at Juno), Gary Cohen (referred to as Jade) and Delores Van-Cartier carry out as a bunch at Hamburger Mary’s in Clearwater, Fla.

Delores Van-Cartier sinks into her sofa one night after work with a glass of excellent wine and a few cheese. She watches reruns of the Cosby Present and performs together with her canine. This night her nails are massive, pointy and pink, a sign that she enjoys pampering herself. Through the day, she boasts an off-the-cuff look: denims and a T-shirt. On weekends and a few weeknights, she transforms into bigger than life characters, together with Patti LaBelle and Tina Turner. She’s a daily performer at Hamburger Mary’s in Clearwater, Florida. Hamburger Mary’s is an LGBTQIA chain restaurant that hosts drag exhibits, drag bingo and drag brunch whereas encouraging folks to be their genuine self.

A woman plays with her dog at her home.
Van-Cartier performs together with her canine as she unwinds from a busy day at work in Vacation, Fla. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

I went to Hamburger Mary’s with my digicam to seize the motion of what a typical night time seems to be like for Van-Cartier and her fellow drag performers. I additionally interviewed Van-Cartier and Kenneth Lawson, whose stage title is Juno, to see how a lot it prices to be a drag queen.

Drag queens get ready in a dressing room at Hamburger Mary's.
Cohen and Lawson prepare within the dressing room of Hamburger Mary’s in Clearwater. Cohen is a full-time performer and common drag queen at Hamburger Mary’s and sometimes performs hits by Britney Spears. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

How did you get your begin within the drag neighborhood?

Juno performs at Hamburger Mary's in Clearwater, Fla.
Lawson, referred to as Juno, performs at Hamburger Mary’s. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Van-Cartier: I went over to Europe, and I mainly began there.

Lawson: I began out about 9 years in the past. After I moved to Florida two years in the past, I needed to begin over. It was exhausting at first. There’s sure folks it’s important to be seen by in the neighborhood. You must be humble. You must be good to everyone.

Are you a full-time performer or a part-time performer?

A poster of Van-Cartier hangs in her drag room surrounded by her costumes, jewelry and shoes.
A poster of Van-Cartier hangs in her drag room surrounded by her costumes, jewellery and sneakers. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Van-Cartier: It’s a job. I don’t reside off drag. I do have a daytime job. Drag is my livelihood. It’s what retains me sane.

Lawson: I’m undoubtedly full-time currently. I’ve been full-time for a few yr. I adore it. It’s enjoyable. I get to do what I need to do… I’ve this grasp class I do — strategies, performing and emotion. It helps me put cash apart… I educate dance. I’m a busy boy. It’s sufficient to maintain my life and drag profession.

About how a lot do you spend in your outfits, wigs, sneakers and make-up?

Lawson applies makeup before putting on a costume in the dressing room at Hamburger Mary’s. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Lawson applies make-up earlier than placing on a fancy dress within the dressing room at Hamburger Mary’s. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Van-Cartier: I might say $1,000 a month.

Lawson: Per thirty days, I might most likely say $200 to $300 relying on what I’m getting. Typically I can go a full month with out getting make-up. Outfit sensible I attempt to hold it recent. I hold my closet rotating. I promote it or burn it after just a few years. 

Is there something you make your self or repurpose to economize?

A woman puts earrings on in the dressing room of Hamburger Mary's.
Van-Cartier places on earrings she made herself within the dressing room of Hamburger Mary’s. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Delores: I used to make my very own costumes. I do my very own jewellery simply to economize. If a set prices $500, it would value half or much less to make it.

Lawson:  Typically I make my very own stuff. I am going to tug swaps and purchase outfits there.

What’s your greatest work expense?

A person holds an eyeshadow palette.
Lawson holds an eyeshadow palette whereas on the brink of carry out at Hamburger Mary’s. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Van-Cartier: Make-up since you’re continuously utilizing it.

Lawson: My greatest work expense is make-up. Make-up is dear. You must discover the precise shade of make-up. Cowl Lady doesn’t cowl Cowl Boy.

Are you liable for paying for every little thing that you must carry out or do you get a stipend from the membership?

A drag queen performs at Hamburger Mary's' in Clearwater.
Cohen, referred to as Jade, performs a Britney Spears tune at Hamburger Mary’s. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Van-Cartier: You’re liable for every little thing. The higher you might be, the higher you receives a commission.

Lawson: It depends upon the place I’m at. I do get a stipend the place I work at Weiners Nightclub and Metropolis Aspect in Tampa on Tuesdays.

How a lot cash do you sometimes make at a gig, and the way a lot cash do you make off suggestions?

Van-Cartier decides what shoes to wear before a performance at Hamburger Mary’s.
Van-Cartier decides what sneakers to put on earlier than a efficiency at Hamburger Mary’s. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Van-Cartier: It relies upon. Ideas are by no means assured. My reserving price is $100 to $150. If I journey, my particular person price is $750 out of state plus suggestions, airfare and transportation. night time for suggestions is $200 to $300. If I make $100 a day when it’s the sluggish season then I’m fantastic. I’m glad. Lower than $100 can be actually dangerous. Drag pays for itself or it ought to.

What do you take pleasure in probably the most about being a drag queen?

Van-Cartier: It’s a getaway. A getaway from actuality.

Lawson:  I’m a theater geek. I’ve a level in theater. I’ve at all times beloved the escape of it. You’re a very totally different particular person. I like to carry out, and it’s a great way to do it.

Do you may have any money-saving tricks to share with readers who need to become involved in drag?

A performer at Hamburger Mary's takes selfies with restaurant patrons.
Van-Cartier takes images with Hamburger Mary’s patrons as she performs.

Van-Cartier: Spend money on your self and keep humble. You must set cash apart. Take out $10 for those who make $20 or $30. Don’t spend it (the cash you make) all of sudden. There’s at all times going to be a wet day for panty hose. Individuals don’t know the way to economize or have cash. You by no means know what tomorrow will convey so you’ll be able to’t spend every little thing without delay. Don’t deal with your self each day or each week.

Lawson: What I do, drag, the cash I make from drag, I exploit for drag. I’ll put my suggestions apart for my drag stuff. I might say, simply do it. You gained’t discover out if you wish to do it or for those who’re good at it till you do it.

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