“You don’t have to check your queer card at the door,” Steven Edwards says about coming to drag shows. A third year cognitive science student from Duluth, Georgia, Edwards has participated in five drag shows in his collegiate years. The Lambda Alliance puts on two drag shows each semester and as the executive director, he has been helping run the Lambda drag show for the past two years.

Although male performers, called drag queens, are stereotypically thought of as being the main component of drag shows, there are also females who dress as drag kings. “The thing about drag is, its whole purpose is to blur the lines,” he says. “It’s a performance of gender.”

Edwards’ personal experience with drag is not extensive, but he knows how to dress, where to shop and what to do during drag performances.

Although he doesn’t consider himself a masculine person, Edwards’ expertise lies in masculine drag where one of his performance specialties is having tear-away pants.

“My thing is having tear-away pants so it’s really great to just rip them off and everyone goes nuts!” he says. He notes that having Velcro tear-away pants makes a lot of noise, whereas snaps are better for performances.

When asked how he typically gets dressed, Edwards jokes, “Well first I put one pant leg on, and then the other. No, but I mean I don’t even know if there’s a specific way for getting dressed.” He also adds that getting dressed before putting makeup on is a must when dressing in drag so that makeup doesn’t get everywhere. Edwards says, “It’s really open to whatever your interpretation is and whatever you wanna be.”

Photo by Kaitlin M. Kent

While Edwards’ style lends itself slightly more to the sparkly side, he notes that there’s not a uniform way to dress in drag, such as platform shoes or lots of eye makeup. “That varies a lot depending on who the person is, how experienced they are with makeup cause everyone goes into drag at different levels,” he says. “You don’t have to be a complete makeup expert to do drag.”

If makeup was an option one wanted to explore, Edwards recommends taking, at the very least, an hour to allow for any mishaps. Facial hair makeup and contouring–or creating shadows and highlights to accentuate certain facial features– can be extensive and require a great deal more preparation than getting ready for masculine drag.

Edwards does offer a bit of makeup advice for masculine drag. “Don’t underestimate the eyebrows,” he says. “When you do masculine drag, you’d be surprised how much they make a masculine face. You can really thicken them up, make them look like caterpillars if you need to.”

Once makeup has been mastered, fashion comes into play. Buying clothing for drag shows can be expensive, but Edwards says that he has never really shopped at a brand name department store. If you don’t know where to begin buying clothes he says the best thing to do is thrift! “If you would feel awkward buying clothes for drag or for your gender expression in a store with clerks that are really all over you then Goodwill, Americas Thrift, Wal-Mart those are the places where if you’re kind of uncomfortable or don’t really know where to start, that’s where you wanna start and its also cheaper.”

Photo by Kaitlin M. Kent

There are also some safety concerns when dressing in drag as well as while performing. Edwards emphasizes buying a proper binder for drag kings is a must. Binding is a technique kings use to make their chests flat. He says that binding with an ace bandage or duct tape can have harmful long-term health effects. Movement causes the bandage or tape to get tighter and can end up doing permanent lung damage.

Another safety issue lies in proper footwear. Many experienced drag kings wear tall pumps but Edwards stresses that beginners should be careful. “Shoes. They can look great but you need to make sure you can do your stuff in them!”

Once the curtains come up and the lights go down, it’s time to enjoy the show. Edwards has a few tips for making a drag show more enjoyable. One of the most important tips is to know where to sit. Sit on the aisles or in front if you want to participate, but if you wish to be left alone, sit where they can’t get to you in pumps.

Tip number two is all about the singles. “Bring your singles!” he says, “Single bills, single friends...you know you wanna tip!” On that note, he also says that it is important to not mess with the costumes, especially when tipping because no one wants a wardrobe malfunction. Performing in drag may not be for everyone but Edwards offers one final tip for coming to shows. “Be yourself,” he says. “Anyone can come to a drag show and anyone can enjoy drag.”

Photo by Kaitlin M. Kent

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