3 min

The queen is dead

Long live the king

Credit: Savanna Wright

“Drag queens? that’s so over now,” John Waters once said. “What’s interesting now is drag kings, but it will take a while for them to figure that one out.”

The currency of drag queens aside, the ongoing popularity of the three main drag king troupes in Toronto, the Swiss film Venus Boyz and books like The Drag King Anthology prove that kings have caught on.

Kingdom, the international drag king magazine founded by Winnipeg’s Reece Lagartera-Manning and Washington, DC’s Kendra Kuliga, is an ever-evolving window on this bulging scene.

Kingdom is a digest of features, interviews, photos and art about drag king culture. It’s largest readership is in Australia and Germany, and it is also available in countries such as the US, Canada, Ireland and Japan. Now going into its third year of publishing, the twice-yearly magazine will go on-line as of May 1. The print magazine will still be out, but the on-line version will be updated quarterly, have more material and offer a cheaper subscription rate. The move is aimed, in part, to increase readership (only 1,000 copies of each issue are printed, sometimes more if there’s enough demand). The last issue wasn’t even distributed in Canada because there weren’t enough to circulate. The other reason is money.

“The difficulty is we have the demand,” says Lagartera-Manning (aka Carlos Las Vegas). “We just have difficulty securing the funding because drag kinging is such a new issue for a lot of people, it’s risky for a lot of businesses to invest in.”

Kinging may have become more prominent in recent years, but it’s hardly new. Lagartera-Manning has been doing it for 10 years. He says it’s firstly a form of entertainment, but has meaning deeper than that.

“Drag king isn’t necessarily male impersonation per se,” he says, “but it is an exploration of masculinity, an exploration of gender and the binaries that society has pressured us to choose.”

Lagartera-Manning is a student at the University Of Winnipeg and a fixture on the queer scene in the Manitoba capital. He met Kuliga at the annual International Drag King Extravaganza in Columbus, Ohio. Kuliga (then known as Drag King Ken and now known as Ken Las Vegas) was doing a zine called King and Lagartera-Manning thought he’d get involved doing graphics. At the conference, he says, there was a lot of discussion about how drag kings were misrepresented. He cites an episode of Sex And The City as an example. One show featured a drag king performance during which the drag king provided fodder for a man’s fantasy. He ripped off the king’s moustache and the two of them ended up having sex. It soon became apparent that what Kuliga and Lagartera-Manning really wanted to do was an international magazine and Kingdom magazine was born with the two of them taking on the roles of co-publishers. From the beginning the project was a labour of love. Neither had formal training in the magazine industry and nobody makes money off of Kingdom magazine.

“We wanted to give a voice to the community,” says Lagartera-Manning. “We wanted to tell our side of the story. We wanted to expose ourselves to the general public at large.”

Indeed they have. Kingdom magazine has been featured in The Globe And Mail and on CBC Radio. It is also part of the syllabi of some gender studies courses.

Past issues have included service pieces on how to produce a show and how to avoid hassles crossing borders. Other articles have covered the challenges teen drag kings face and a “bio queen manifesto,” as well as profiles of people such as drag king pioneer Gladys Bentley and Philadelphia’s Johnny KingPin. Photo essays have covered the International Drag King Extravaganza and the King Of San Francisco competition.

“People really believed in the magazine and people want to contribute because there hasn’t been a voice for drag king culture out there,” says Lagartera-Manning.

Because of the geographic distance between the two publishers, issues are put together on-line. There’s now an advisory committee with five or six members who keep the magazine up to date about what’s happening in different communities. There’s also a14-member editorial board that operates as a collective and meets on-line to put together each issue. Kuliga recently became the magazine’s gallery editor and Lagartera-Manning is now the sole managing editor.

“It’s very satisfying to know that it’s out there,” says Lagartera-Manning. “I didn’t do this for me per se. I did it because it needed to be done.”

* Kingdom’s forthcoming website is Print issues cost $7 plus $3 shipping; contact Throb Productions, 2-193 Furby St, Winnipeg, MB, R3C 2AC, or call (204)783-8891.