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Meet Carbondale’s royal family: Members of the drag community share their stories

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Meet Carbondale’s royal family: Members of the drag community share their stories

Korey

Korey "Korra DeVil" Klausing takes a smoke break before the show on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 before the Carnival Drag Show at The Varsity.

Isabel Miller | @Isabelmillermedia

Korey "Korra DeVil" Klausing takes a smoke break before the show on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 before the Carnival Drag Show at The Varsity.

Isabel Miller | @Isabelmillermedia

Isabel Miller | @Isabelmillermedia

Korey "Korra DeVil" Klausing takes a smoke break before the show on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 before the Carnival Drag Show at The Varsity.

By Kallie Cox, Staff Reporter

Drag performers Korra DeVil, Faim Lee Jewls, Blanche Dubois, Kailey Kreme, Alejandra Leblanc Leight and Jodie Santana have their own unique back stories and breathe life into this chapter of Carbondale’s vibrant drag history.

Korra DeVil: Korra DeVil, also known as Korey Klausing, is one of the youngest drag queens in southern Illinois at age 19.

Klausing said they first publicly dressed in drag for their senior prom at Pinckneyville High School.

“It was so well received,” Klausing said. “That was the moment I knew I need to continue this.”

Klausing said their onstage personality reflects an amped up version of their offstage personality.

“My onstage personality is kinda the person I think I would be if I was a female,” Klausing said. “Kind of a dark, seductive, sort of little dark princess of the night.”

Klausing has been doing makeup since age 15, but getting ready is still a long process.

“If I want it to be a good night – total body, make-up, hair, costume, nails – it takes about maybe four hours to five hours at most,” Klausing said. “But if you gotta go quick, it can be done within three hours.”

Klausing said the hardest part about drag is the physical toll it takes on your body.

“You have to change your whole body figure, alter it in ways that it normally wouldn’t,” Klausing said. “I think the hardest part is having to sit in it for so long and keep poised, look pretty and really give a good show on top of that, especially because dancing in heels is not easy.”

Klausing said the support system in the Carbondale drag community is massive.  

“I am just very grateful for the community down here,” Klausing said. “It really is welcoming.”

Klausing said not to be afraid to put yourself out there because the community will stand with you.

“They will love you, and no matter what, you got family here in Carbondale,” Klausing said. “The drag family is very close and it is very caring; […] we always love new queens.”

Kailey Kreme

Kailey Kreme, also known as Colter Deaton, is a student at John A. Logan Community College and is from Crab Orchard, Illinois.

Deaton has been performing for a little over a year and his first performance took place the night after he had first dressed in drag.

“There was a girl that cancelled out of the show at Street Bar, so Jodie [Santana] said ‘go up and get ready’ – so I went upstairs and she painted me,” Colter said. “Honestly, it was really, really fun. It was a little nerve-racking but it was so much fun.”

Deaton said it takes him about 45 minutes to an hour to get into drag. He said Kailey Kreme is loud, crazy and more outspoken than he is offstage and her favorite thing to wear is a comfy cocktail dress.

Deaton said being a drag queen in southern Illinois can have its ups and downs.

“Sometimes it’s more accepted, sometimes people look at you like ‘What are you doing?’” Deaton said. “I can tell you the dating life was hard, but I met my husband and we just got married on the 16th.”

Deaton said his support system is great and there are a lot of supporters of drag within the community.

“We have a lot of very powerful people in charge in the community that are so willing to help us and my support system is honestly amazing,” Deaton said. “I couldn’t ask for better support from my family.”

Faim Lee Jewls

Faim Lee Jewls, also known as Julie Socorro, claims to be southern Illinois’ only drag king.

“It’s harder being a drag king because people don’t understand us,” Socorro said. “Once people finally figure out what a drag king is they become interested, but a lot of people have just never heard of one.”

Socorro has performed across the country and has been a drag king for 13 years. Last year, she won the Tri-State award for best male impersonation.

It takes Socorro around 45 minutes to an hour to transform into Faim.

“Becoming Faim turns me into a person that I would not be on a daily basis,” Socorro said. “Not that he is a bad guy, but he’s a lot more bold, a lot more confident than I would be myself offstage. Once the face and everything goes on, it’s a whole different ball game.”

Socorro said the Carbondale drag community is like a family.

“We stay close, we have each other’s back and we do just about anything we can to help each other out,” Socorro said.

Jodie Santana

Jodie Santana, referred to as “the blonde goddess,” is a drag mother and mentor to many queens in the community. She is also the show director for the Saturday night drag shows at Street Bar.

“I want to nurture all these young kids coming up,” Santana said. “I want to know one day when I decide to retire that if I decide to have a weekend off and want to come to a good show, I’ll see a good show that I helped develop by teaching these kids stuff.”

Santana began performing when she was 16 and has been a queen for 36 years. She has won numerous awards including Miss Chicago Continental, Miss Gay Missouri USofA and Miss Tri-State Continental 2004.

She has also performed across the country with RuPaul, a famous drag queen and host of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

(See more: The Transformation of Jodie Santana)

Santana said she used to sneak out her bedroom window to hitchhike and sometimes walk from Cambria to Carbondale to perform in drag.

“Things were a little different for me than they have been for culture here,” Santana said. “Back in our day, it wasn’t always safe. In some places it was against the law us to dress in drag.”

Santana said there used to be a law where a man could be arrested if he was not wearing at least one article of men’s clothing. Santana said the drag community in Carbondale has become much smaller as SIU enrollment has declined.

“When I first started, we would have 700 people in the bar,” Santana said. “It would be packed.”

Santana said when the college was doing well, lines for the shows used to be out the door.

“Now that the college is doing so poorly, it’s affecting every business in Carbondale,” Santana said. “We need to work on getting the [student] attendance back up because it is killing this town.”

Santana said new performers are always welcome in the community.

“There’s always gonna be people like me in the community that will embrace you, teach you what they know,” Santana said. “Don’t be scared [to join us] because we are so accepting of people.”

Alejandra Leblanc Leight

Alejandra Leblanc Leight, also known as Jose Blanco, is from Paducah, Kentucky and has been performing for 17 years.

Blanco said Alejandra is a more outgoing and crazy version of his personality.

“Whenever I am not in drag, I am very quiet and I don’t socialize as much,” Blanco said. “But whenever I am in drag, it’s just completely different.”

Blanco said he enjoys performing for the fun and entertainment aspect and the adrenaline rush. He said if someone is thinking about performing, they should go for it and they won’t regret it.

“Sometimes when I’m weak, that is where I find my strength– in the performance, in the art– that is what gives me the strength to go on,” Blanco said. “You will find something you don’t have as a boy; […] I can’t really explain it until you actually do it.”

Blanche Dubois

Blanche Dubois, also known as Steve Hale, has been performing drag for over 40 years and is referred to as the costume queen.

Blanche has won over 57 titles and still remembers the first time they performed in drag at 18.

“I did ‘I Love The Nightlife’ by Alicia Bridges and it was kinda scary,” Blanche said. “It was scary in lots of ways, the way my makeup was and hair. When you are first starting out, things are a lot different than perfection.”

Blanche has many stories about life as a drag queen; one they consider the most interesting happened at a competition in Indiana when their testicle slipped out during a routine.

Blanche said they were performing Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ wearing a corset with breasts made of oil bottles, covered in sequins and feathers. They didn’t notice the mishap until one of the judges told them.

“It was just outlandish,” Blanche said. “By the time my number got done, one of my testicles had slipped out of my corset. […] When I walked off stage the crowd was roaring and clapping and everything; I thought they were just clapping for my performance.”


Upcoming drag events include a show at Molly’s Pint to benefit the Rainbow Cafe on March 1, a performance by Silky Ganache from season 11 of RuPaul’s Drag Race at Street Bar on March 2 and a show put on by Saluki Rainbow Network at SIU on March 2.

Staff reporter Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @KallieC45439038.

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