As clubs, bars and nightlife venues have closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic, drag queens around the world are dealing with lost wages and uncertainty in their careers by taking their shows online.
From livestream shows to virtual storytelling for children on apps such as Facebook, Instagram Live, Twitch and Stage It, some of the biggest names in drag have been finding creating ways of staying in touch with their millions of followers.
Virtual Drag Shows are the New Pink
The international drag community has proven very agile so far, with Queens participating in endless virtual drag shows on international and local levels. “Since the coronavirus outbreak, my world has been turned upside down”, Drag Queen Mona Moore told Internation, after losing both of her jobs as a flight attendant and a drag performer. “Live drag shows and theatre are my passion, it’s what I live for, so it’s definitely been a struggle. But I’ve switched everything to live and I’m taking a digital change.”
One of the most popular online drag festivals is Digital Drag Fest, that is bringing together artists from Canada, the UK and the US on the online venue Stageit. On the festival’s website, Evan Lowenstein, founder and CEO of Stegeit, said: “I think our users are in for a treat and I hope many of them will consider attending a Digital Drag Fest show. We have no interest in replacing physical live events, but hopefully our service can help turn people on to a completely new experience”.
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An advantage of going virtual is that audiences with no prior drag experiences have been able to watch shows from their homes, as opposed to going to clubs. Joanna Piercey, 83, from Swansea said: “I have been watching quite a few drag shows online and I absolutely love them! They’re a real laugh and I’ve been recommending them to my friends. I had never watched any drag before, but it is a great way to feel less alone during this time of isolation.”
However, this accessibility has also brought its own set of challenges. Queen Stivy, a Quebec based performer, explained that they now have to be a lot more careful about what they say online because anyone, including children, can watch them.
Montreal: a Virtual Drag Hub
Virtual drag shows are multiplying around the world, but artists in Montreal, known as Canada’s most vibrant drag scene, have particularly embraced the change.
Uma Gahd has been performing in Montreal for the past 6 years and was voted Queen of Canada by bird.com. She has been hosting virtual drag shows that bring together Montreal’s diverse drag community, as well as weekly story time sessions for children, interactive drag races and bingo nights. “Basically you can’t get rid of me. So just accept Gawd into your life, and let her entertain you”, she said.
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Purrjaa, who is also a Montreal based artist said: “Coronavirus has had a huge impact on our community. Instead of just putting out our financial information, we are continuing to perform and do what we love. Coronavirus news has been really daunting, and it’s such an important issue. But we hope to put a smile on people’s faces and to show them that good things are still going on.
The Impact of Coronavirus on LGTBQ+ Communities
The coronavirus pandemic has taken a huge toll on the LGBTQ+ communities, that are no longer able to freely express themselves in bars and clubs.
“There are probably lots of teenagers who are stuck at home right now with unsupportive families or people who don’t feel like they can express themselves properly in their current environments”, said drag queen Kitty Tray. “We have fought so hard to have clubs and spaces where we can be heard and seen, yet these have been taken away from us”.
However, resilience plays an important role in the LGBTQ+ community’s history, and the amount of online content online shows that drags queen and audiences won’t let coronavirus get in the way of their fun.
“People really need these shows and want them. It’s a relief and a way of connecting people during this time of extreme disconnection”, said Mona Moore. “We’re all in this together, so we just got to get through it together and stay positive.”
With no definite ending of the pandemic on the horizon, uncertainty among drag queens and audiences is likely to continue over the next few months. Yet one thing is certain: drag queens aren’t going anywhere.