‘Looking at happiness again’: Like the world, drag brunch is getting back to normal after COVID-19


On Saturday morning, the five queens gathered, partly in drag, at the City Winery in Chelsea, a New York City neighborhood.

Ginger Ladd, Gina Tonic, Sofia Medina, Frida Kulo and Amanda Pork met for the first time while walking on stage to rehearse for the 11 p.m. show. Each was hired for a Spice Girls tribute brunch, hosted by Drag Diva Brunch by Bird Events, a national drag brunch company.

Like the rest of the world, drag brunch is slowly returning to normal.

“The Drag Queen Brunch Is Back to Life,” Poppy Tucker, author of “Drag Queen Brunch,” told USA Today.

“Reservations are harder than ever, and no one is more thrilled than the queens themselves, who have taken more than a year to work on a new routine and sew fabulous new costumes,” Tucker said.

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When the queens returned backstage to get ready in late May, spectators ordered cocktails and food from the venue. The curtains closed before Lad took the stage to host.

“I see happiness again,” said Ladd.making eye contact with audience members, commenting.

Tonic echoed Ladd’s sentiment: “There is no emotion on earth that beats the laughter and applause of a live audience.”

like his companions, Tonic performed online during the pandemic, but the feeling of returning to a live show setting is encouraging for both the performer and the audience.

“I think people are so excited about the return of live drag shows, I could hear them whisper things like, ‘We’ve missed you!’ As he slipped the dollar into my hand,” Tonic says, explaining that during live shows, queens bring shows to audience members as they collect tips.

Medina said that “the energy is so magical” and believes that people are enjoying drag brunch more than ever.

“We had a packed house at our first indoor show,” Ladd said. “It’s only going to get bigger and better.”

And can go with bigger spaces too. Joe E. Jeffreys, a drag historian told USA Today that she has noticed that some of the larger restaurants and bars are now hosting drag brunches as COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted.

“Announcing a drag brunch now is a strong comeback for businesses that are battling COVID because it’s good advertising and drag performers come up with great pictures and things and they’re ready to advertise,” he said.

City Winery’s vice president of programming Shlomo Lippetz told USA Today that drag brunch is a New York City tradition. City Winery. Also offers drag brunch Concerts and comedy shows.

“Brunches add to the diversity of City Winery’s experiential meals programming,” Lippetz said.

Drag demonstrations continue, and drag brunches are reopening in stages

Drag Diva Brunch is holding a “rolling reopening,” Drag Diva general manager Brian Peeke told USA Today, starting with Pennsylvania, Delaware and Texas in April, then adding locations in Boston and New York City.

During the pandemic, PK said that the drag diva pushed for digital content to help artists earn money. There are new restrictions back in places.

While the city was closed and drag brunches remained on hiatus or under restrictions, the queens took to the Internet to connect with a virtual audience.

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Ladd, who lost his father to COVID-19, said he did over 200 shows via social media in 2020 after feeling isolated and needed to reconnect with his audience.

tonic It also changed the way you reach your audience. I I had to teach myself how livestream on twitch

he started posting short videos TIC Toc, where he amassed more than 35,000 followers. Although eligible to be a part of Tiktok creator fund, she is not earning money from her videos.

For some digital shows, Tonic said ticket sales are often split between performers during the pandemic. As for other shows online, she said she relies entirely on suggestions sent through Venmo.

it was not always financially easy

Just before the pandemic, Pork began paying the bills by performing in drag, which was a goal. The change in virtual performance was disappointing in more than one respect.

“I had to go back to my retail job that I hated, and I felt really hopeless,” Pork said.

Pork was on unemployment for two months before returning to the retail job. She works and performs as an evening barista.

“I left my corporate retail job because they weren’t flexible at all with my performance schedule and would schedule me on days outside of my availability, knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to come,” Pork said. “It felt like they didn’t take me or my career seriously.”

Now that life is returning to normal and restrictions are being lifted, Pork’s performance schedule is getting hectic: up to three shows on Saturdays and up to two on Sundays, averaging three to four shows per week. Pork often makes guest appearances with “drag siblings” during the week. in different places Expect to add more solo gigs around town.

Per drag brunch with Burd Events, Pörq earns $300 to $400 including booking fees.

Pörq isn’t the only one who faced financial constraints during the pandemic while pursuing a career in drag.

“I closed my tattoo shop two weeks ago due to warnings from the CDC and found myself unemployed as a tattoo artist and a nightlife entertainer, and now a new father and a full-time home school teacher,” Ladd said. .

Kulo also faced several challenges related to finances: her landlord died of COVID-19, and she was forced to move away to save up. She was fired from her management job and said she tried to eliminate credit card debt. She tore her ACL and meniscus, further impeding her abilities as a dancer and fitness instructor.

Getting help, Kulo said, has been a challenge.

“I didn’t get food tickets or fare relief,” Kulo explained. “The only program outside the PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) that provided assistance ‘Feed the Queens’, produced by Shangela, actor/drag artist of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ (and) ‘We Are Here’ on HBO. I wasn’t able to worry about groceries for two months, and it came in handy because it was after my knee surgery where I lay in bed.”

‘Being revalidated’ in 2021

Though the pandemic proved difficult for the drag queens, things are looking up when drag brunch returns to normal.

“When your career is taken away from you and you have no viable way to bring in a livable salary, and it comes back then there’s a different game being played,” Peeke said. “It’s a different feeling than just ‘Oh wow, the restrictions are being lifted,’ it’s being re-validated.”

Pork also feels hopeful: “I’m so close to just getting back to drag, and I’m really excited and inspired by it.”

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