Lipstick draws a thick, deep red line as it’s traced across his mouth. A mascara brush paints his long lashes a bit darker. A black wig is teased and situated snugly on his head as the long, silky locks fall across his shoulder blades.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a razor is taken to his cheeks to remove what has been growing for weeks – his beard.
“At that moment, I see myself as Marina,” said David Thompson, senior film production major and part-time drag queen. “I’m an extension of David.”
Some students like Thompson are part of a drag culture in which they dress as the opposite gender to challenge traditional perspectives of gender roles, both at Chapman and in society as a whole. They showcase their drag fashion in venues ranging from runways to classrooms and parties. Some costumes can take three to four hours and nearly $100 to complete.
A drag queen is a term used to describe a man who dresses and acts like a woman to entertain. A majority of drag queens are gay men, yet there are drag artists of all genders and sexualities. A drag king refers to a female who dresses and acts like a man.
Last year, Chapman’s Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) represented the university’s drag culture at Staches and Lashes, the first student drag runway show. QSA, which is made up of nearly 100 affiliated members, will host the event again this spring.
The Invention of Pretty
Thompson said getting into costume doesn’t necessarily mean aiming to be a woman. Instead, it’s about being beautiful.
“When I dress up in drag, I wouldn’t say that I ‘dress up as a woman’ because by saying that, you are saying that’s what a woman should look like,” Thompson said. “I don’t want people to say ‘David makes a pretty woman,’ I want them to say, ‘David is pretty.’”
Thompson said gender stereotypes became more obvious to him each year from first grade to high school.
“All I knew was that acting like a boy was good and acting like a girl was bad,” Thompson said. “[There were] decisions like Hot Wheels or My Little Pony or what instrument to play in band, saxophone or flute.”
Thompson said society limits people to act and look a certain way because of these assigned gender roles, and drag is a way to challenge typical expectations.
“I identify as a man, but just because I do, I don’t think it should determine how I express myself in that gender,” Thompson said.
Here comes the King
Brynn Nelson, a junior theatre major, has performed at venues such as Hamburger Mary’s, VLVT and at Chapman’s Staches and Lashes, under her drag king name, Charlie Doyle.
She said she was inspired by the performance of Landon Cider, a professional Southern California drag king.
As a drag king, Nelson said she wears clothing that is fit for a masculine figure such as men’s shorts and sweatshirts and often times has to bind her breasts.
“I would say this is a revolution and this is just my way of how I take part in this revolution,” Nelson said. “I’m not okay with women being the second sex.”
Nelson said she has brought her Charlie persona into the classroom on campus and was accepted, but has yet to feel completely comfortable in Orange.
“Orange is safe for the most part, but there are people who still don’t understand and who would be afraid,” Nelson said. “There are people who will be angry and try to hurt me instead of trying to recognize where their fear is coming from.”
Putting on a show
Drag outfit preparation time varies depending on look, because outfits and wigs range in cost and dresses can be purchased or custom made, Thompson said.
“It depends how much skin I’m showing and if I’m going to have to shave my arms or legs,” Thompson said. “There’s also a lot of support from within the gender community, and I actually can borrow a lot of things because it does get expensive.”
Thompson will be performing his first live lip-syncing drag performance at Club 340 in Pomona March 3.
Vincent said he is ready to take on stage performances as an option, but at the moment, the only person he performs for is himself.
“I don’t see it as taking on someone else, I’m taking on an inner-self,” Vincent said. “It’s still me, but it’s fabulous me.”