It was a Tuesday night at the AllWays Lounge, a bar and theater along the Faubourg Marigny stretch of St. Claude Avenue, and the future of New Orleans’ drag scene was on full display.
Before a packed house of more than 300 fans, Vinsantos DeFonte — one of the city’s most popular and influential drag and cabaret performers — was hosting a “Draguation” ceremony for 10 performers who had completed the New Orleans Drag Workshop.
It’s an education that began with 20 applicants, 13 accepting, then 10 completing the workshop — learning how to apply drag makeup, developing a persona, working a stage and lip-synching.
Performers also learned the history of the art form itself. Then they become “draguates” — but only after running the gauntlet that is the AllWays stage.
“Not only am I introducing them tonight,” Vinsantos cautioned, “but I’m also judging them. Let’s see who gets their diploma.”
Based on the reaction from the audience, which featured a who’s who of New Orleans’ drag, burlesque and circus scenes, the 10 passed with flying colors, graduating summa cum laude.
Three were tapped to perform at a party after the ceremony.
There was Jassy (Justin Gordon), recasting Anne Frank as a “Belieber,” a Justin Bieber fan girl in a green dress complete with bloomers, lip-synching to Bjork’s “It’s Oh Quiet.”
There was Kedavra, who as Dane Baxter is one of New Orleans’ most popular body-paint artists, but on this night closed out the ceremony in a curly auburn wig, 6-inch stiletto pumps and the song “Bring on the Men” from the Broadway musical “Jekyll & Hyde.”
And there was Slenderella (Corey Greenwaldt), a tall and lanky dancer so svelte, Vinsantos wisecracked, that classmates couldn’t even see her until she put on a wig.
Greenwaldt said he was looking for a way to feel less self-conscious about his slender 6-foot-3 frame, and thus invented a Slenderella — “silly, bubbly, a bit ditzy, and a laugh you can hear a mile away.”
Slenderella swayed and flopped her away around the AllWays Lounge stage, wrapped in a long white wig, a white leotard with matching stockings and a blue plastic miniskirt — all to the tune of “Primadonna” by Marina and the Diamonds.
“It truly represented my inner need to be perfect in an imperfect world, which can be dangerous at times,” Greenwaldt said after the show. “I’ve learned through the creation of Slenderella and the drag workshop that not everything is perfect, and at times, I just need to loosen up and have fun.”
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