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So you wanna be a drag queen

Toronto drag performers share tips on how to stock your closet so you can sashay your way to stardom

Toronto drag queens (Left to Right) Sofonda Cox, Sapphire Titha Reign and Daytona Bitch. Credit: submitted/Facebook/

Once upon a time there were three very different drag queens. One was slaying huge audiences with shows of pyrotechnics and teams of back-up dancers — her name is Sofonda. One was cracking up crowds with comedic routines and abusive verbal one-liners — her name is Daytona. And the last entranced rooms with her fishy beauty and elegant poise — her name is Sapphire. Now they all work for me. My name is Rolyn. Becoming a drag angel is no easy feat. Though all very different, all three angels agree that three things are a must: hair, face and body.

Hair

Sofonda Cox has been performing in Toronto and around the world for 16 years. Her Beyoncé-like look is achieved with the help of long, thick, curly wigs. “You can never go wrong with Beyoncé ‘Crazy In Love’ hair,” swoons Sofonda. With 150 wigs in her collection, she has more wigs than Carrie Bradshaw has shoes.

Daytona Bitch prefers big bouncy retro wigs and small blonde bobs to frame her expressive face, while young Sapphire tends to be more adventurous and can of be seen in stunning wigs in any colour imaginable.. “My look is cute and cohesive so I like my wigs to reflect this,” Sapphire says. Of course you’ll also need special wigs for Halloween performances of fictional characters like Cruella de Vil, or for impersonating celebrities — Katy Perry is still a popular go-to.

Face

Perhaps most important is your face. First, shave, and shave well. An electric razor isn’t going to cut it — use a sharp disposable. Next, cover up. A thick foundation is must to conceal that 5 o’clock shadow that might appear during your 1am performance at Woody’s. Choose your make-up wisely; subtle colours at first, then work more daring tints in later.

When on stage, you’re an actor, and much emotion is conveyed not just by waving your arms around, but how you interact with your audience. Your eyes must pop. “I use the blackest eyeliner I can find,” Sapphire reveals. It also doesn’t hurt to invest in some false eyelashes, and be sure to tame them bushy brows.

When you forget the lyrics to Lana Del Rey’s latest ditty (and you will), make sure your poor lip sync skills at least look good with great lipstick and lip liner. Theatrical performance applications require for very liberal uses. But don’t go crazy. Don’t use too much. Unless your drag name is Bobo The Drag Queen, you’re going to have pie on your face.

Hands often give drag queens away (if you got man-hands, you got man-hands), so be sure to find some great fake nails. Whether realistic trendy looks or something flashy for your Lady Gaga number, make sure they fit your real nail size or you’ll look like you’re wearing sandals two sizes too small.

Body

Your look should match your makeup and vice-versa. Sapphire and Sofonda often like to keep their look real, but they still consider how their outfit will react to stage lights. Choose fabrics with shimmer and shine. Or, boldly blur the hyper realness line, which Daytona is excellent at. Depending on your musical choice you can even create an onstage persona, like a hot nurse. Sick!

And always accessorize: glasses, headbands, necklaces or even a hat can take your look to the next level. Designer Coco Chanel once said, “Before you go out take one thing off.” But you’re a drag queen hunny, so leave it on.

When you’re all done (and give yourself around four hours to get ready), come see me.