In a crowded bar, the sound of whispers fill the air, but the only thing I can hear is the clip-clop of my high heels as I step onto the empty stage. The lights come on, and I hear the familiar hiss of the smoke machine. My music cues, and I forget everything about who my regular Mariah-self is.
I am no longer a student, retail worker, or bookworm. I am Kat Marlowe Minorah. With a platinum wig glued over my muted-brown hair, and a mask of makeup hiding my average features, I embody the upbeat music. I land all my jokes, feeding my people-pleasing addiction. I’m home.
I have always described my personality as “gross.” Even as a child, I enjoyed being crude to make people laugh, and I liked to push the boundaries of proper social etiquette.
I was constantly challenged by people who wanted to keep me within the strict standard of what femininity means in society. I was always pressured to be “ladylike” and more dainty, but when it came down to it, I was perfectly fine with my low-brow sense of humour.
I grew up dancing, and one of my most rewarding experiences was joining an all-female group aimed at empowering women. We were a hip-hop group, dancing as a crew called “Bad Bitch Mentality.”
I felt at home while dancing for a group that spreads the message that female empowerment is important. Women in general are important.
After retiring from dance, I felt I still needed an outlet for my constant desire to entertain people. After a few years of trying different things, like starting a YouTube channel and teaching ballet to toddlers, I found myself at Edmonton’s most popular gay bar, Evolution Wonderlounge.
Drag came into my life quickly and in an all-consuming fashion. It started with a friend showing me a makeup tutorial. I was captivated. Watching these videos of men embracing femininity and transforming into their alter egos through art and performance made me feel like I had discovered exactly what I was missing. I had never seen this type of beauty before, and it was electrifying. I needed a way in.
That night, I Googled: “Can a woman be a drag queen?” and came across a YouTube video about bio queens. I learned that “bio queen” stands for “biologically female drag queen.” This was my answer.
I started attending the weekly Sunday Revue at Evolution, where I watched the queens with admiration and envy. They looked so free and full of life. A lot of the queens towered over everyone in their gigantic platform heels, looking like untouchable goddesses. I could feel that this was where I belonged. I decided I wanted to jump in with both feet.
‘For a lot of traditional drag queens, drag is about embracing a feminine version of yourself. It’s about loving who you are. For me, a lot of those values are the same.’
With my heartbeat in my ears, I sent a Facebook message to the bar, asking if they had any days where amateur queens could perform. Since I had no strong ties to the scene, I prepared myself for rejection.
They replied almost immediately.
The bar referred me to Sucreesha Minorah, a bio queen who was hosting a show in the coming weeks. I had no idea there were bio queens in Edmonton, and I was pleasantly surprised that there was one reputable enough to host a show. I clicked on her profile and immediately felt intimidated. She was beautiful. In her profile picture, Sucreesha gazed confidently into the camera. She had red contacts and safety pins artfully glued to her forehead in place of her blocked-out eyebrows.
This woman looked like she had more important things to worry about than letting a wannabe bio queen into her show, but I had to try. She ended up trusting me and gave me a spot in the lineup.
Sucreesha has done so much for me since I started drag. She let me into the scene, guided me within it, and motivated me to do my best on stage. She is my drag mother. She took me under her wing and continues to mentor me, which is something I’ll always be grateful for. #TeamMinorah.
My first show came and went like a blur. I danced and lip-synced to songs from some badass female artists, including “End of Time” by Beyoncé, “Bad Girls” by M.I.A., and “Friend Lover” by Electrik Red. Since then, I have been lucky enough to build up enough of a reputation to get booked for more consistent gigs.
I won a small drag competition, invested in some better wigs and makeup, and learned a lot in the process. There are drag queens and bio queens, and drag kings and bio kings. There are also some drag performers who prefer not to have their gender labelled. People from all walks of life enjoy the art of drag.
Ironically, I found myself while hiding behind a new, obnoxiously glittery mask, and I haven’t been this happy in a long time. I look forward to the days where I get to transform from Mariah into Kat Marlowe Minorah. I happily glue down my eyebrows, overdraw my lips, contour my cheekbones and nose, and glue on six different eyelashes. I then take the stage and make jokes about anal sex and dicks.
Some queens do comedy, like I do, some focus on creating breathtaking makeup looks, and some focus more on themes and acting. Every drag performer is different, but I’ve found that every performer is unconditionally accepting.
While I pull on my bodysuit and glue on my two-inch nails, Goblynn Dixxx might put on her blonde floor-length hair, John-Benét RamsMe might pull on her thigh-high leather boots, and Sciencé Fair might glue rhinestones above her eyes in place of eyebrows. We all build each other up.
The only thing I’m thankful that I can’t participate in is tucking my dick like a traditional male drag queen does to simulate a vagina. No taping a penis towards a butthole for this queen (the perks of having biologically female genitalia).
For a lot of traditional drag queens, drag is about embracing a feminine version of yourself. It’s about loving who you are. For me, a lot of those values are the same. But I just really want to spread the message that your femininity is not limited.
You can be gross if you want. You can be campy and funny if you want. You don’t have to be ashamed of being a sexual
You can catch me around campus in my average “Mariah” disguise, but if you want a lesson on what femininity and drag are capable of, ask for Kat. She’ll tell you.
Cover photo by Matthew Jacula.