Arts & Life, Features

I did drag for the first time, here’s what I learned

I perked up my bust, moved the long blond hair out of my eyes and wiped the sweat away from my fake lashes. The spotlight blinded me as the music came on. It was time for me to perform.  

But first let’s start with how I got here.  

At a meeting I had pitched to the Daily 49er staff that I wanted to write a story on drag but with twist. Instead of the traditional event coverage, I would dress in drag, enter a drag event and document the entire experience. Before, I was so naive. I thought all it required was to put on some heels, a wig and move my white hips. What could go wrong?

Well, this is my tale of procrastination, hesitation, embarrassment and transition.  

One week until Draglicious

I met with Brandon Ha or Yakisoba of the Delta Lambda Phi chapter at Long Beach State, who coached me through the whole process. During our consultation, he expressed the amount of work and discomfort that goes into drag. From sore feet to a face covered in sticky makeup and everything in between (literally in between) — I discovered that beauty is pain. I hesitantly asked him about the requirement of tucking, or when drag queens tape their penis back. He said it was painful but, luckily for me, not necessary.

“Yikes,” was my first thought. There was so much to know. I became overwhelmed with anxiety. I feared that I would make a fool of myself and offend the drag community. I could either back out now or commit myself. But I decided to stick it out.

Ha’s whimsical demeanor brought my heart rate down as he tossed around names for my “dragsona.” He explained to me that drag names often stretch from reality and can be fun and provocative.

He graciously allowed me to join his drag house that is known for having food-related names. The name “Pettychini Alfredo” quickly left his mouth and I broke out in laughter. I loved it. I asked him why that name and he said because it’s plain, white and bland. “Perfect,” I thought. “Nothing could represent me better.”  

Our consultation ended with a hug and an agreement  I would learn to walk to heels and dance by the next time we met. I stood in a daze as I prophesied my failure. “How could I do all of this in a week?”

Five days until show time

Yakisoba and her friend Paradise Lahore arranged for me to practice some dance moves at the University Student Union Beach Auditorium where the event would take place. It was big and intimidating. I laced up my knee-high heels and anticipated my likely trip to the emergency room for a broken ankle. Yakisoba glistened in the stage lights as she showed me how to move my hips back and forth while walking across the stage. It was my turn. The heels hurt, but it was a good hurt. It made the whole experience feel real.

drag queens teach man how to walk in heels
[/media-credit] Yakisoba (middle) and Paradisa LaHore (right) teach managing editor Austin Brumblay (left) how to walk in heels.

Much to the surprise of Yakisoba and the Daily 49er crew, I wasn’t as horrible as they had anticipated. It was some much needed confidence. I quickly learned, however, that walking is relatively easy but dancing is not.

“Crazy In Love” by Beyonce played loudly from Yakisoba’s phone as Paradise Lahore attempted to undo my years of straight-white-male wiggle I called dancing. She explained to me that my best bet for success was to dance a little on stage then hop off the stage to interact with the audience during my performance.

My moves were bad, and my choreography was worse. I was in awe of Yakisoba’s and Paradise Lahore’s ability to flow to the music. I stopped mid dance multiple times just to watch their effortless moves.

Once the trainwreck of my dancing concluded, we discussed song choices and it was unanimous between Yakisoba and Paradise Lahore that “Bitch, Better Have My Money” by Rihanna was a good mixture of sexy and easy to dance to. “The easier, the better,” I thought. “I’m going to need all the help I can get.”

Going into the event, I knew that dancing was a requirement for the performance. What I didn’t know was you were also required to lip sync the lyrics. I was terrified at the amount of things I had to learn in the quickly dwindling timeframe.

I walked out of the auditorium, feet sore and defeated. It was all on me now.

Throughout the week

I wish I could say here that I practiced everyday and learned everything that I needed to. I didn’t. I didn’t rehearse my routine or practice my lyrics. I kept telling myself “I’ll do it tomorrow, I’ll do it tomorrow.”

The day of the performance

I met Yakisoba at the LGBTQ center at FO-4 on campus. She was putting on her colorful makeup and greeted me with a welcoming hug. She called herself my drag mother. I was humbled. The room was filled with bags of makeup and colorful clothes overflowing from suitcases.

Yakisoba sat me down, matched some bottles of liquid to the color of my face and began the makeup process. It smelled bad and it burned. I had never worn makeup before and I have a new-found respect for anyone that goes through that daily.  

Yakisoba reached for a glue stick and I asked what it was for. She said to give the illusion of feminine eyebrows as drag queens glue theirs down.

man glues down another man's eyebrows
[/media-credit] Brandon Ha (left) glues down Austin Brumblay’s eyebrows (right) to create a smooth surface to draw on new brows.

It was a long, sticky process, but I could feel the layers of makeup bringing out the queen that was within. Yakisoba refused to let me see myself in a mirror until she was done. And two-hours, she finally was.

I held the mirror up to my face and admired my blue and green eyeshadow as it sparkled in the light. I was Pettychini Alfredo and I loved it.

drag queen looks at herself in mirror
[/media-credit] Pettychini Alfredo looks at herself for the first time in the mirror.

With my makeup done, it was time get dressed. Yakisoba brought out a leotard with money print and green fluffy sleeves. It matched perfectly with the song choice. She also handed me six pairs of pantyhose, which would hide my horrendously hairy legs and help shape my hips.

man helps other man put on pantyhose in LGBTQ Cultural Resource Center
[/media-credit] Brandon Ha (right) helps Austin Brumblay (left) put on one of six layers of pantyhose.

It was a battle but I was finally in costume. I was a drag queen. And I was officially crowned when Yakisoba put the bleach blonde wig on my head.

I ran my fingers through the hair. My voice raised in pitch. I put my hands on my hips and stood with confidence. Pettychini Alfredo had arrived.

One hour until the performance

I walked with poise from upper campus down to the USU. I watched people as they tried not to look at me. I knew though. I finally understood what it felt like to be misunderstood. I hated it, but it made me strut harder.

I was greeted at the auditorium by Yakisoba and other gorgeous performers. I felt like a star. Yakisoba explained to me that I was in the second half of the show and walked me to a seat so I could watch the first half. I crossed my legs as I sat and tried to hide my nervousness.  

I sat in awe as I watched the beautiful talent that lit up the stage. I was intimidated and star struck, but I kept telling myself, “I can do this.”

drag queen performs with cape
[/media-credit] Paradisa LaHore dances to “Where Do We Go” by Lion Babe at the 12th annual Draglicious hosted by Delta Lambda Phi in the University Student Union Beach Auditorium Saturday.

The performance

It was time. Yakisoba tapped my shoulder and told me I was next. To help calm my nerves, she said she would be guest announcing my act and would tell the crowd that I was an amatuer straight male. She got the crowd riled up and I heard my name.

My song came on and I walked down the aisle towards the stage. At the “bitch better have my money” lyric, I grabbed the sweaty fake dollars that had been in my bra for hours and threw them at the crowd. The crowd went wild! I made it to the stage and hopped up. Everything I knew had basically gone out the window. I looked out and saw all the eyes on me. I attempted some amateur splits that the crowd seemed to love. I got up hastily and tried to flick my hair in a seductive manner.

My wig flew off!

drag queen without wig
[/media-credit] Pettychini Alfredo pumps up the audience after her wig flew off mid-performance.

The crowd clapped and cheered in support; Pettychini was grateful. Austin would have been frustrated at the mishap, but Pettychini took it in stride. She was a confident woman and she was in control. I danced around with a mixture of floor moves, ass shaking and throwing sweaty fake money at the audience for another couple minutes. And in the blink of an eye, it was over. I had done it somehow.

I went backstage as the crowd continued to cheer and Yakisoba gave me a warm hug. “I’m so proud of my drag daughter,” she said. I fought back tears.

Video of Pettychini Alfredo’s journey into the world of drag will be on the Daily 49er website next week.

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