By KRISTIN SOUVIGNY
The gossip is turned to maximum volume, the air consists of more hairspray than oxygen, and the floor is covered in glitter. The girls lean closer to the mirror, applying the finishing touches to the lips, eyes and cheekbones. What was just an ordinary bathroom in the Milwaukee nightclub is now a dressing room of fantasy, where an ordinary man walks out a queen.
Friday nights at La Cage supplies energetic performances of Lady Gaga hits, Britney Spears ballads and Nicki Minaj numbers. All audience members are left in agreement: these queens can walk in heels better than most women.
Dressing in drag is performance art that is growing in popularity as society advances towards acceptance of the gay community.
The world of drag queens is that of their imaginations, fixed with desired costumes and even their own vocabulary.
But like most art forms, many do not understand “why.”
UWM student Brandon Creech has developed the alter ego named Miss Brandi.
“I was interested in dressing in drag since I can remember. One time, when I was really young, I put my grandmother’s heels on and went running through her house pretending I was Cinderella,” he said.
Today, Brandon draws inspiration from Sharon Needles, Trixie Mattel, Curella DeVille and Ursula.
“I like campy, cunny, over-the-top and exaggerated style of drag. That, to me, is what drag really is,” he said.
Inspired by the reality show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Brandon began his performing career at UWM’s annual drag show. Miss Brandi sashayed for over a thousand people, instantly falling in love with the stage.
“I went to a friend’s place for an after-party and I asked to use their shower to get out of drag,” Creech said. “But when I was looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, I just felt so beautiful. I never wanted to get out of drag.”
Another queen who got her start at the UWM show is Milwaukee local Christopher Goelz, also known as Windy Breeze.
“It was fun, scary, intimidating and crazy all rolled into one,” Goelz said. I just didn’t know what to expect, hardly knew anyone, and felt very inexperienced. My mom ended up coming to the show, so I felt better knowing she was there.”
Windy Breeze moved on to win the Miss La Cage pageant in 2010 and is now a beloved member of the Milwaukee drag community.
“My favorite part is making people laugh or getting them to sing along to a song you’re performing to,” Goelz said. “Getting the audience involved as much as possible is important to me. I love taking photos and I love when little kids end up at a show. At Pridefest, for example, they just absolutely adore you. It’s such a great feeling, especially in hopes that you get to inspire someone.”
Even though Miss Brandi and Windy claim that the drag scene in Milwaukee has died down in the past few years, business is booming at Hamburger Mary’s restaurant in Bayview.
“Our drag shows happen on Friday and Saturday nights. We always have a packed house with a diverse audience. The straights, the gays, the young, the old — it’s a lot of fun,” said employee Jesse McCarty.
“Dear Ruthie” (pictured at left) runs the show at bi-weekly charity bingo nights at Hamburger Mary’s, which is also known for its campy karaoke nights, called MaryOkie.
The personas given off by the queens — sassy, goofy, sophisticated, canny — are the perfect ingredients to any night in downtown Milwaukee.