For the love of drag

Union Gallery

The art of cross dressing gains exposure in the Kingston community

Mark Lazaro (left), who performs as Sienna Towers, and Andres Caravantes, who performs as Mimi Osa, both realized that drag was their ideal creative outlet.
Mark Lazaro (left), who performs as Sienna Towers, and Andres Caravantes, who performs as Mimi Osa, both realized that drag was their ideal creative outlet.

There aren’t many shows in Kingston where the performer simulates a blowjob on an unsuspecting audience member. 

The art of drag is fun, glamorous and hilarious. Like all good art, it’ll bend your expectations and remove your inhibitions.

Andres Caravantes, ArtSci ’18 — known as Mimi Osa when in drag — started performing in August of 2015. 

“Once I started doing it, I was like really into it. I just love lip-syncing and no one will watch you if you’re not wearing a wig and a pound of makeup,” he said.

For Caravantes, his aptitude for drag began at an early age. 

“I came out really early, so like when I was 12, and my favourite artist is Mariah Carey, so I’ve always been lip-syncing and doing dances around my house.”

Drag allows Caravantes to exhibit a side of himself that he doesn’t often get a chance to embrace. 

“I liked the idea of just like showing the more feminine side of myself that I don’t necessarily get to show in everyday life in an acceptable manner,” he said.

“So, drag seemed like an easy way to kind of get that outlet of, well, I want to act over-the-top and want to do this and not be persecuted for it the same way I would be if I acted that way as a male.” 

Drag is a hobby for Caravantes, not a life plan — as his goal is to go to law school. But for now, drag is an easy way to make money, even if it takes at least three hours to transform into Mimi Osa. 

“I’m still kind of playing with who exactly Mimi Osa is,” Caravantes said. “I’ve always wanted to style my drag after that kind of lady who pushes her husband off the ledge and acts all widowy when she really killed him.”

While it takes Caravantes only an hour to put on the makeup, getting into the chest and hip-padding, tights and corset is a more arduous process. 

Being a drag queen isn’t that difficult to do on a student budget, Caravantes said. You can even make body padding from couch cushions or padded underwear. 

Good drag show etiquette is answering questions, dancing and interacting with the queens, but most drag queens work only on tips — and wigs aren’t cheap.  

“Usually when you see a drag queen and you’re enjoying the performance you might go up and hand them a $5 bill or a $20 bill if you want them to meet you in the back alley later,” Caravantes joked. 

While drag shows happen regularly at the Grad Club and Sir John’s Public House, there aren’t many opportunities for students to engage. Caravantes thinks students would get involved if given the chance, though.

“I’m trying to bring that to campus and integrate the drag scene in Kingston with the Queen’s community,” Caravantes said. 

Mark Lazaro, ArtSci ’18, credits Caravantes with introducing him to the drag scene.

“Andres — Mimi — started around this time last year and I was always like, ‘I could do that, I could totally do that, I would love to do that,’” Lazaro said. 

When in drag, Lazaro goes by the name Sienna Towers.

“Really, Sienna Towers is just a play on the joke that I’m a Toronto queen, that I’m a very metropolitan girl when I’m performing,” he said. For Lazaro, drag queens don’t have to choose between funny or beautiful — they can be both. 

“There’s this huge divide between, you know, whether drag is strictly female impersonation or not, or if it can be a farce in and of itself. It can be fun, which I fully believe it can be, but I also think it could look amazing as well,” Lazaro said. 

Lazaro said he was also drawn in by the history behind drag. His favourite documentary, Paris is Burning, documents the lives of drag queens during the underground movement of ball culture in the 1980s New York City. 

Drag queens congregated regularly in basement bars or big halls and participated in balls — events where they walked the catwalk dressed in a certain category of drag, such as school girl or executive realness. Balls were the only place these queens, who were mostly African-American, could be powerful and in control.

“Executive Realness”, a category of drag, is when queens dress like high-powered business executives.

“Everyone was cheering them on, walking down these hallways, people are cheering them on, rating them, giving them 10 out of 10 on these cards, and that made them feel good because then, there, they could be the executive,” Lazaro said.  

Drag queens are incredibly confident when performing. For Lazaro, summoning this confidence comes from letting everything else go and knowing he can be amazing. 

“There’s this trope that the gay guy is really, really, flamboyant and just very out there and confident, and I love that because it’s great. Being confident and unapologetic is great,” he said. “But I think when I go up there and I try to summon that kind of confidence, I think of when I was a kid and just watching from the sidelines because I couldn’t really participate, that kind of thing. And kind of just showing that I can do this.”

To see them in all their glory, visit T-Show's Facebook page.

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Corrections

Mark's last name is Lazaro, not Laz.

The Journal regrets the error.

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