By Meher Castelino
My first Drag Queen experience was back in 1970, in the era when a visit to Singapore was deemed incomplete if one did not take in the after dark look at Bugis Street. Here the parade of beautiful transvestites started after sun sank over the horizon. The ladies glided down the street and the place was alive with tourists enjoying the drinks, food and stories that the ladies were willing to share as they had drinks with the visitors. The Bugis Street of the past however closed down in 1985 and in its place is an ultra modern shopping complex.
My next encounter was again in Singapore but this time in 1997 at the famed “Boom Boom Room” where Kumar who looked like Linda Evangelista was known as the King of Queens. Kumar was a South Indian/Singaporean stand-up comic, dancer, singer and cross-dresser who performed a special dance extravaganza during our visit. Kumar, birth name Kumarason Chinnadurai, has rocked the island with his shows and is in demand yet, for movies and performance.
My latest show was in June 2018 when I visited the USA and stayed at West Chester Country in Pennsylvania. This time it was the very glamorous Drag Queen Brunch at Split Rail Tavern on a cool Saturday afternoon. The performers were four sensational stars that have a great fan following in the USA.
The compere and leader of the quartet was Ophelia Hotass a gorgeous buxom redhead who in real life is just plain Mathew DeFiore. Ophelia’s close partner was Roxanne Rohls, while the statuesque model-like beauty Vinchelle aka Shea Butter Werk but real name was Vincent Leggett and Miss Troy added their talents to the afternoon’s entertainment.
The monthly Saturday Drag Queen Brunch show – first sitting at 11.30 am with show at 12.00 noon and second sitting at 1.30 pm with show at 2.00 pm – cost us $25 each for the afternoon’s entertainment along with a free Brunch Cocktail. But the unlimited Brunch comprising waffles, French toast, scrambled eggs, salads, cold cuts, pasta, cheese, pastries, tea and coffee was an additional $12. We opted for the second sitting of the high-octane 60-minute show, which however made up for the amount spent.
The ladies brought the house down with wild applause from the packed audience as they lip synced and rocked to popular numbers from hit musicals like ‘Chicago’, ‘Cabaret’ and many more foot tapping music. Each woman went through two routines that kept the crowd wanting more.
With the men and women egging them on with bundles of $1 notes at every turn, which the ladies took happily, we realised that it was necessary that we kept a lot of loose change as the four performers were enticed with money. Ophelia’s jokes and humorous banter kept the atmosphere fun charged and what amazed us more was the fact that Ophelia’s mother present in the audience applauded the performers with great vigour and showered them with dollar bills!!
Ophelia’s performance was inspired by the legendary Ru Paul, while Lady Gaga is apparently her muse and Nicki Minaj her Patronus. “I don’t fit into boxes and I have a love/hate relationship with glitter, “declared Ophelia whose elaborate makeup, hair and costume were most intricate and exotic and must have taken hours to put on. Clad in a tantalising bright magenta bikini with her name prominently displayed around her neck, Ophelia was the society queen at the event.
Vincent Leggett aka Vinchelle originally from Nashville Tennessee moved to Philadelphia to receive her Bachelors Degree in Theatre from the University of Arts so that she could achieve her dream ambition of being an entertainer. Vinchelle won the “Drag Queen 2017” contest in Philadelphia after winning Drag Wars in 2015. Vinchelle is a self proclaimed Tribal Queen who loves combining dance, song and comedy. “Ru Paul’s Drag Race definitely had an impact on me doing drag,” said Vinchelle. Dressed first in a slinky, figure-hugging, shimmering, black, fish tail, gown Vinchelle ripped it off to reveal a startling, glittering, electric blue lace body suit that clung to every curve of her body.
The 12-minute video on YouTube, which shows the transformation of Vincent Leggett to Vinchelle, is a ‘must watch’ for lovers of artistic makeup.
Miss Troy was the fiery beauty in a zebra print, yellow, micro mini worn with black thigh high boots and an elaborate coiffure of blond hair. For Roxanne Rohls who wore a clingy pale pink mini dress as she danced energetically to hit Broadway numbers; it was the eye-catching makeup that made her an outstanding star.
What was spectacular is the way the four performers created such fantastic looks with their costumes that at times it was hard to believe that in real life they were men. The glamour quotients definitely hit the high mark as the men and women in the audience marvelled at their performances, as well as their sense of humour and at times mischievous repartee.
All the four performers are apparently heavily booked throughout the year. Every Sunday Ophelia Hotass is scheduled to perform at Barnaby’s in West Chester, while on Tuesdays, Ophelia Hotass and Roxanne Rohls are billed as the top attraction once again at Split Rail Tavern for their “Off the Rail Karaoke Night” at 10 pm where the drag show is from 10.30 pm to midnight. Their Facebook and Instagram handles reveal stunning looks that the ladies are experts at creating, as well as their forth-coming performances in different cities.