No one ever said doing drag was easy. But no one ever told me it’d be this hard!
It was difficult driving in heels. I had lived without a car for so long that driving, in general, was a challenge. But those damn heels were testing my limits. And that was just one battle in this war. Preparing for my New Year’s drag reveal, I had so many fantasies of how I would look. I would float into the party at my friend’s apartment like Marilyn Monroe; cleavage pouring out, legs for days, and a hip to waist ratio that bordered on the cartoonish, all while looking around the room wondering what everyone was staring at. With that image, I got to work. I’d need a dress, sultry but a real class act; a wig, blonde waves down past my shoulders; shoes, tall and deadly; and makeup, smoky, elusive and flawless.
The dress was first. After spilling the beans to my friends on what was supposed to be my surprise reveal, I was honored with a gift of a gown from my friend’s mother. It was her previous year’s “sexy vampire” Halloween costume. The blood-red dress was high in the neck and draped all the way down to the floor with a large slit running down from the waist. It was almost an exact fit, hugging me just tight enough to show off my waist. A peculiar bulge disrupted the otherwise smooth fabric. I hadn’t perfected my tuck yet. The dress fit well with my vision, despite my shoulders which are as broad as a linebacker’s without any of the sex-appeal.
The shoes were next. For this, I enlisted my fashionista friend who I knew would lead me down the path of good shoes. I was betrayed with a kiss by Shoe-das. We found ourselves looking through the disheveled racks at TJ Maxx, weeding through the piles of shoes that I could only hope were designed as a gag. There was the occasional diamond in the rough, but they were all too small for my hobbit feet. In the ogre section, we found a pair of 6-inch stiletto sandals with a band around the ankle. They fit me fine, besides the ankle band which dangled sadly around my leg. But could I really bring myself to buy a pair of snakeskin stilettos? Could I really join the ranks of swampy Florida hookers, the sole owners of any such footwear? My credit card statement says “yes,” but I pretend otherwise.
The wig was a real treat to find. Having done drag more successfully now, albeit no more put-together, I have found the proper channels of wig acquisition; beauty supply stores or even Amazon if you know what to look for. Party City is not, nor will it ever be, one of these channels, and just as soon as those automatic doors opened, I knew I had made a horrible mistake. Looking at myself on the closed circuit TV above the entrance, I could see my own shame. But I hadn’t known any other way, so I dragged myself over to the costume section hidden in the back like some restricted adults-only area where you find cheap dildos and cotton candy flavored lube behind gross disheveled curtains.
The pickings were slim. I had my choice of a brown bowl cut with a picture of a man comically trying to look like Ringo Starr, a long black pin-straight piece suited best for Sonny-era Cher impersonators on a tight budget, and a blonde, curly, shoulder-length number that was haphazardly stuffed back in its bag after someone tried it on, probably as a joke. I pulled the blonde wig out and looked at it, using my fist as a stand-in. It felt like the manufacturers used the same material for the bag and the strands of hair that were sloppily sewn into the cap; cheap plastic. It smelled like how I would imagine a sweatshop would smell. I tried it on, grabbing at the locks with a tight grip and shoving it reluctantly onto my head. I had no mirror and the image in my head of how I looked thanked God for the lack of one. But I thought to myself, “I can style it to make it look better; maybe cut a little bit off.” I alway over-estimate my nonexistent skills when it comes to projects like this. “Oh, I can make a dress myself! Oh, I can craft the jewelry myself!” I stuffed the wig back in the bag and made my purchase.
As a teenager, I had worn eyeliner and mascara to school almost every day and the school musicals gave me some training on foundations, but eye makeup? Contouring? “And what do I do about these gorilla eyebrows?” YouTube aided my makeup adventure a bit, but some things just get lost in translation. I tried gluing down my eyebrows, smearing the purple stick into them. When your hair is as course as a wild boar’s, though, glue has little effect. I scrubbed out the glue and decided to pluck and shape instead. The contouring video I watched was little help as well. The naked-faced queen in the video described in little detail what he was about to do, leaned into the mirror out of frame and painted on a gorgeous face. I caught none of it. I ended up contouring a beard and unibrow onto my face. I washed and redrew at least 5 times before I stopped looking like a neanderthal after a free makeover from Claire’s. It didn’t help that all of my makeup was generously donated by my mother who is an avid Clinique user with a color pallet of varying shades of beige. Not quite suitable for a drag queen, though my skin felt dermatologically heathier.
With my chest, arms and legs shaved, my face beat to hell, my dress stuffed with socks, my tuck under control, my hair looking more tame and my heels clashing appropriately with my outfit, I was off to the party. I had trouble concentrating on the road as I felt my testicles squeeze back into my body. I stepped out of the car like a coked-up Hollywood prostitute, slipping on ice and trying not to make eye contact with the arriving families attending parties in the same complex. They held their children close to their sides as I placed one foot in front of the other. When I arrived, my entrance was similar to my vision only because everyone was staring, but unlike my vision, I knew why. After 6 hours of preparation, and weeks of hype before, I ended up looking like a Barbie doll after a house fire.
I introduced myself as Crystal Ball, and they loved it. I walked into the room and they admired my skills at walking in heels. I showed off my legs and they gasped. I knew they were just being kind. Anyone with eyes could tell I was a sight. But their support, however insincere, meant the world to me. So I grabbed a drink, strutted my stuff, and changed back into my pajamas not 10 minutes after arriving.