It’s loud, over-the-top and often vulgar, but it’s also a perfectly executed feat of showbiz; an act of refined, rehearsed and practiced performance.
A lot of hard work goes into the drag shows at Hamburger Mary’s and Missie B’s on Friday and Saturday nights. The performers often take the stage several times at Hamburger Mary’s, followed by a frantic rush to Missie B’s for another round of shows.
Widow Von’Du, aka Ray Fry, is a veteran of the drag show scene in Kansas City. Her ability to perform high kicks and splits draws piles of tips.
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“When I started doing drag it opened up my world. I was able to come out to my family, and it has opened doors for me to travel all over the country,” says Fry, who makes a living as an entertainer. “Outside of drag I’m a normal overweight African-American male with self-confidence issues, but the moment I’m Widow Von’Du, I’m the life of the party.”
Each performer has crafted her own onstage persona, with custom makeup, wigs and costumes. The point is to grab attention and thus to grab tips, and it can get competitive.
But backstage, the atmosphere is one of friendship and support. Performers help each other in and out of costumes, share laughs and discuss the next pageant.
“We’re all fighting to be the best, but it’s a sisterhood,” Fry says. “Each and every one of us help one another even though we are competing to be the one on everyone’s mind.”