It started with a dare.
Party promoter Paige Frewer was bartending at Lick — the now-defunct Vancouver lesbian bar — in 2007, when she got her first taste of performing in drag.
She had asked a friend to help organize a show for her birthday party at the bar, and many of the enlisted acts were drag kings. Under pressure from the performers, she ended up onstage herself that night and the rest is history.
Frewer, who now regularly performs as Ponyboy, had seen a little bit of drag from her time working at Lick but didn’t know much about it. The success of her fundraiser birthday party led to the creation of Man Up, a monthly drag-king show and queer dance party.
“Suddenly, people seemed excited about drag again,” she says. While helping to promote Man Up, she slowly became a convert herself. “I was in love, and I haven’t turned back since.”
Five and a half years later, Man Up is still going strong and has inspired the spinoff Amateur Hour, a rookie night for drag performers who can compete for a paid slot at upcoming Man Up events, at The Cobalt in East Vancouver.
For Frewer, drag is multifaceted: it’s a form of entertainment, it’s a way to exercise a political voice, and it’s a way to reclaim a sense of identity that mainstream society — and even mainstream gay and lesbian society — may not offer.
“A lot of events in the queer community, and women’s events, seem a little bit more prescriptive to a particular type of gay or a particular type of lesbian, and not everybody feels comfortable in those spaces,” the 27-year-old says.
“What I aim to do with Man Up is to have it be an inclusive space where any kind of gay woman can go — but you’ll also find all kinds of other people as well.”