Arts & Culture

3 sisters who ‘helped develop each other and rise’ are changing drag in Mississippi

Drag performer Kara Mel D’Ville talks with guests at a drag bunch at Big Mike’s Speakeasy in downtown Gulfport on Sunday, March 26, 2017. The event supported the inaugural Gulf Coast Equality Fest.
Drag performer Kara Mel D’Ville talks with guests at a drag bunch at Big Mike’s Speakeasy in downtown Gulfport on Sunday, March 26, 2017. The event supported the inaugural Gulf Coast Equality Fest. amccoy@sunherald.com

Kara Mel D’Ville, Lexis Redd D’Ville and Miss Annie Thang may not be blood relatives, but they are sisters all the same. And they say they’re setting a new standard for drag in Mississippi.

Kara Mel is the dancing queen. Lexis has stage presence for days and the body of a goddess. And Annie serves face that will have you lip synching for your life.

The sisters are drag performers who founded The Orphan Haus, a non-traditional house of three sisters who “helped develop each other and rise,” said Allan Cramer, or Kara Mel D’Ville.

“It’s kind of like a little sorority house,” Cramer said during an interview with Out Here in America, a podcast by the Sun Herald and McClatchy that explores the lives of LGBTQ in the Deep South and America’s heartland. You can subscribe now on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Cramer spent six months creating his alter-ego whose wardrobe has taken over the closet in his apartment.

“A lot of people doubted me because they think (drag) is supposed to be a certain aesthetic,” Cramer said. “Being from South, people automatically assume you’re going to do pageant, every time. No — we don’t give that.”

AJ Lawson, also known as Lexis Redd D’ville, has always been a performer. After playing Angel in a production of Rent at the Biloxi Little Theatre, Lawson said he decided he was ready to do drag. He also guided his friend, Trevor Ladner, to find his voice in Miss Annie Thang.

“ I gave him some boobs and was like, ‘go ahead girl, go home and figure this out,’” Lawson said.

The sisters have been performing together for more than a year, and while Annie is away at Harvard University, Kara Mel and Lexis have planted roots on the Mississippi Coast.

The Orphan Haus has performed at all three gay bars in South Mississippi, and eight months ago, they also started performing at straight bars and restaurants. They’ve most recently taken the stage alongside other local drag performers at drag brunch events at restaurants across the Coast to benefit the Gulf Coast Equality Fest.

“We’re trying to get these people involved into knowing what drag is because a lot times people fear what they don’t know ... we’re trying to push and get (drag) out there,” Lawson said.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • How The Orphan Haus brings diversity to Mississippi’s drag scene
  • Why the D’Ville sisters invited Miss Annie Thang into their home
  • What it means to be a Gulf Coast queen

New episodes publish every Monday. Have an idea for OHIA? Send questions and suggestions to jmitchell@sunherald.com.

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