Two hours before the show, Jessica Bereton was still wearing a plastic hospital wristband.
Even though she’d been sick for a week and a half, even though she just got out of the hospital today, she refused to miss the Spring King Fling. After the show, she was going back to the hospital—but for now, she was powering through.
Bereton is sick often, in and out of the hospital. That doesn’t stop her from attending her classes straight after getting out of the ICU, and it wouldn’t stop her from performing tonight. A combination of adrenaline and sheer willpower are what would get her onto the stage and keep her there.
“It’s just a thing for me,” said Bereton, 26, English, Manitoba Springs, Colo. “I can’t let it get me down.
She’s always terrified before a drag show. After her first performance at last fall’s HalloQueen drag show, she went into the back room and puked into a trash can. Before going onstage at Mik’s, a bar and nightclub in downtown Coeur d’Alene, Bereton said she can compensate for her nervousness by throwing back a drink. Performing at NIC is different, though.
“It’s representing the community to people who aren’t necessarily a part of it, while representing the GSA and the school,” she said.
Getting into character helps, too. Her drag persona, Roary, is an unrepentant nerd who would strut around the stage to the song “Stand Out,” a selection from the soundtrack of “A Goofy Movie.”
“Roary isn’t afraid of the audience,” she said. “He doesn’t care what the audience thinks.”
The Gay-Straight Alliance’s bi-annual drag show, the Spring King Fling, was March 14. By the end of the night, the club took in a record $828, a portion of which was donated to Bikers Against Child Abuse. In addition to amateur performers, drag kings and queens from the Imperial Sovereign Court of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho arrived to support the GSA and BACA.
The evening was peppered with educational speeches.
“We’re making an effort to be more inclusive,” said host David Glenn, 25, history. “While this school has a large LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) population, it’s not well-represented as a whole. This is a way to meet and inform the community.”
The amateur kings and queens kicked off the show. One drag king, Brianna Tollackson (who prefers the gender-neutral pronoun “ze”), has always been interested in drag and drag culture, but before the Spring King Fling, ze had never performed in drag in front of more than ten or 15 people.
A lot of work went into crafting zer drag persona, Elliet Sterling.
“A lot of yourself goes into it,” said Tollackson, 18, premed, Rathdrum. “Who you want to express that you don’t really get to express. It’s a lot of who you are, but it’s also a lot of who you’re not.”
When Tollackson took the stage as Elliet, ze was unrecognizable, clad in a dark work shirt, hat and short brown wig, with makeup strategically applied to make zer face appear more masculine. Makeup couldn’t completely hide Tollackson’s fine facial features, and that gave Elliet an almost vulnerable look as he began his routine, set to the rap song “Same Love” by Macklemore, a song that explores the challenges of growing up gay.
Elliet took out a compact mirror and applied lipstick and eye shadow. He stripped off his shirt and pants, revealing a sparkling blue minidress. Finally, Elliet pulled off the hat and wig, letting long blond hair unfurl from beneath.
When the song ended and the crowd surged to its feet, the person standing under the lights wasn’t quite Brianna Tollackson and wasn’t quite Elliet Sterling. This person, this character, was some combination of the two, not pinned in place by a set personality, gender or identity—and this person didn’t need to be.
If the amateurs were a marvel, the pros were a revelation. They cascaded across the stage in a rainbow of wigs, dramatic makeup and tight, sparkling dresses. They were a whirl of sunglasses, suspenders and painted-on abs and facial hair. Never failing to make the audience cheer, the professionals cranked the Spring King Fling to the next level.
The drag queen Freedom Rights was a definite crowd-pleaser. Sometimes she wore long platinum-blonde hair and a purple train. Sometimes she wore a Wonder Woman-style suit. No matter what she wore, Freedom Rights was a force, like a gust of wind or an earthquake. Nobody’s music was louder than Freedom’s: The pounding beats made the floor vibrate.
One performance in particular struck a chord with the audience. James Majesty started in full drag as Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy” began to play. Piece by piece, Majesty removed the wig, the shawl, the hoop earrings, the black bra. As the song built to its crescendo, he wiped off all his makeup and stood exposed before the crowd, arms thrown wide as if to embrace them. By the time the song ended, audience members were visibly moved.
At the end of the night, Tre Keough was crowned Best Amateur Queen, while Elliet Sterling was Best Amateur King. James Majesty and Freedom Rights shared the honor of Best Pro Queen. Chase R. Harder, who brought the house down with his provocative routine set to Pit Bull’s “Hotel Motel,” was named Best Pro King. Elliet Sterling was also crowned Best in Show.
“I’m incredibly surprised,” Tollackson said. “I did not think this would happen.”
Nova Kaine, a professional drag queen and princess of the Sovereign Court, said she thought the show was a success. She relished the opportunity to come to Idaho to support both BACA and the GSA.
“The crowd was very receptive,” she said. “I had a blast. I love coming to Idaho. I think it’s great to reach out to the younger community and help educate our history, give them an idea of those who came before.”
When David Glenn took charge of the Spring King Fling, his goal was to put on a better drag show than last fall’s HalloQueen show, to educate the community, to “offend and entertain.” He wanted to bring people together and help them understand each other. If the community turnout and enthusiasm of the audience was anything to go by, he succeeded.
“We aren’t freaks,” Glenn said, as the crowd roared approval. “We aren’t weirdoes. We’re just people trying to fall in love.”