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One of the first organizations of its kind, the Academy of Washington, a social group and support network for drag performers, was founded in D.C. in 1961. And the city’s drag scene is as diverse as it is old—partygoers can expect opulent, glamorous renditions of Tina Turner classics at the Howard Theatre one night and a raunchy, dark free-for-all at the Black Cat’s Backstage the next. Here’s a taste of the queens and kings that make up today’s D.C. drag monarchy.
THE DIVA QUEEN
Who: Shi-Queeta Lee
Wear: Pearls, bedazzled dresses
Music: Diana Ross, Mary J. Blige, Tina Turner
Herstory: The first drag performer to host a show at Howard Theatre since the ’60s, Shi-Queeta Lee got into pageantry 18 years ago through a gay softball league. “Everyone on the team had done it before,” Lee says. “I won the contest and said to myself, ‘You can make this much money by putting on pumps and a dress for less than three minutes? Hell yeah, I can do this.’”
THE GOOFY KING
Who: Sebastian Katz
What: Katz describes his performance as a “wacky, tacky, elbow-dancing-banana-man party.”
Wear: “I don’t feel like Sebastian until I hear [my] fanny pack click.”
History: Katz says he grew up pretending to be Pee-wee Herman and lip-syncing to Weird Al songs. “It should have been a sign then,” he says. He started to dress up for Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings, but his real interest in drag was sparked when fellow D.C. drag king Rick Shaw brought him to a DC Kings show at Apex in 2011. The next year, Katz joined the Kings, and he and Shaw perform songs like “Gangnam Style” as a wacky drag-bro duo.
THE GOTH QUEEN
Who: Donna Slash
Wear: “My events have no dress code, no preferred body type, and no rules except that people should not be assholes to one another,” Slash says. She describes her look as “sloppy drunk sleaze metal groupie” or “ ’80s porn star in a heavy metal video.”
Music: Hole, Marilyn Manson, Veruca Salt, Republica
Herstory: Disappointed by the lack of diversity in gay nightlife, Slash started DJing and hosting GAY/BASH dance parties at the Black Cat, where she used to hang out as a teenager. “I would rather listen to rock ’n’ roll while throwing back whiskey and beer, and the gay clubs don’t cater to those apparently niche interests,” says Slash, who’s inspired by late drag queen Divine and Rocky Horror’s Dr. Frank-N-Furter. “I was a goth drama kid who just wanted to wear wigs and play with makeup. And get attention, of course.”
THE GLAM QUEEN
Who: Heidi Glüm
What: Glüm calls her look “glamorous, expensive, old Hollywood.”
Wear: “If there’s anything I can’t perform without, it’s a great corset,” Glüm says. “I also would cease to exist without a very high pair of Louboutins on my feet.”
Herstory: Glüm got hooked on the drag scene after watching friend Veruca la’Piranha perform at “a dingy bar in Brooklyn.” At the time, Glüm was working in clubs, hosting events for legendary party people Susanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny. “I wanted to take things to the next level,” she says. “I was drawn to the power of the stage.”
Click here for more from our 2015 Gay Issue.