Queens and kings in quarantine: Local Drag performers adapt to COVID-19 regulations
October 1, 2020
Blanche DuBois, who has been a drag queen for 45 years, has seen many things, but nothing quite like trying to perform during a pandemic.
“When it all happened back in March, I had about five or six shows booked from the middle of March until April,” Dubois said.
Although surrounding states are still having shows, DuBois doesn’t feel the need to travel.
“The pandemic has hindered a lot of shows, we’ve had to cancel shows at our local bar, as well as my own show at the Varsity Theatre in Carbondale.”
DuBois, like many others, has had to become creative when it comes to entertaining.
“I’ve done a few shows virtually,” DuBois said. “As a matter of fact, we sat up a space in my dining room where I did an hour reading of a children’s book. I also had a backdrop put in front of my garage and performed a couple of numbers for Pride.”
Dubois said there are a few pageants that have moved online.
“With everything going on in this day and time, online is the ways it’s got to be,” Dubois said. “I don’t care for the idea, you can see much more of the contestant face to face. Though now you can’t really see beads missing or threads hanging.”
DuBois said they mainly stay at home and look at all of the clothes they can’t wear.
“I just look at all my racks of wigs and jewelry,” DuBois said. “ I really do miss it.”
Kailey Kream Santana has been in the drag scene for about four years. Santana is influenced by DuBois and said she has come out of her shell and is able to be herself on stage.
Santana said every day she misses performing; performing is her way of stress relief.
“I have done some Facebook live shows, and stuff like that for birthdays,” Santana said. “Some of us will do a small two people or less, and some small birthdays.”
Santana said she relied on performing for an extra income.
“I used performing for an income in between checks… it’s definitely been harder,” Santana said.
Santana said her favorite memories are any time she gets to spend with Jodie Santana and DuBois.
“We get into rants on the mic and go back and forth with one another,” Santana said.
Santana has worked with some of her biggest influencers.
“I have three people I look up to the most,’ Santana said. “Blanche DuBois, Jodie Santana and Tiffany Hunter, they have all been so kind and helpful. “
Santana said after the pandemic she plans to go right back into performing.
“I want to be in more pageants and perform as much as I can,” Santana said.
Faim Lee Jewls aka Julia Socorro started drag 15 years ago, during a time in his life where he didn’t feel whole. His beginning into drag came from a drag queen approaching him at a show and offering to let him perform.
“I was in jeans, a white t-shirt and a backward cap with an awful eyeliner drawn on beard,” said Jewls. “I didn’t know what I was doing or what drag was, when I got on stage I realized I liked it and I kept up at it.”
Jewls says his drag name stems from his birth name.
“All my life I was nicknamed Jewls, so that’s where jewls comes from,” Jewls said. “Faim Lee comes from family, the drag community feels like family.”
Faim Lee Jewls said he is one of the only drag kings in the area.
“It’s not common, I do my best and try to entertain,” Jewls said. “ Drag is an escape, it really allows me to be myself.”
Jewls said he couldn’t go into the building where all his performing stuff is for three months.
“I felt so lost and upset that I just couldn’t go out into the building, COVID-19 really took a toll on me,” Jewls said.
Jewls said along with drag he works at Bath and Bodyworks in Carbondale.
“A 9-5 shift then doing nothing over the weekend wasn’t normal to me, I always had some event or performance going on the weekends,” Jewls said. “When the pandemic was really bad in the spring I had nothing to do, no job or performing.”
Jewls said a Halloween show has been planned for October for nine months, but may have to be canceled.
“I’ve never not done a Halloween show, I trying so hard to think of something new,” Jewls said. “Maybe an outdoor performance or something of that nature.”
Jewls is trying to plan ahead post COVID-19 regulations.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever get to perform like I’ve done in the past, everything is different now,” Jewls said. “But I’m still hopeful.”
Staff reporter Sara Wangler can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @sara_Wangler. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.