Drag Performer Lady J Explores Drag History in Virtual Program

Tue 9/14 @ 7PM

Lady J is an extraordinary person. She’s become well-known in the local drag and burlesque communities for her stunning performances that blend spectacular costuming and extravagant movement with social commentary, often drawn from her own experience growing up queer in rural Tennessee. She also earned a PhD from Case Western Reserve University, writing a dissertation titled “From the Love Ball to RuPaul: The Mainstreaming of Drag in the 1990s.” And she is now the Director of Programming, Education & Outreach for Studio West 117, the LGBTQ+ hub being created in the former Phantasy complex in Lakewood.

This week, she’ll be presenting a virtual program called Un(masc)ing Drag History via Artists Archives of the Western Reserve, as part of its programming around its current multi-venue exhibit CONVERGE, featuring the work of  70 LGBTQ+ artists. We’re told it “reveals the foundational role of gender non-conforming people, trans people, and cisgender women in creating and advancing the art of drag, and that she’ll “explore over 150 years of U.S. & UK drag history, including the rich legacy of BIPOC performers and the difficulties they faced in even the most progressive drag scenes.”

She’ll discuss subcultures ranging from London’s 19th-century Molly Houses to the 1960 San Francisco psychedelic theater troupe the Cockettes that featured among others the pre-fame Divine and Sylvester. And she’ll talk about contemporary nightlife scenes open to an array of genders and gender identities which are often fluid.

“Over the last decade or so, this history brought me closer to my actual self: from genderqueer-ish boy starting grad school, to non-binary trans kid…to a non-binary trans woman who won’t be defined by anyone but herself…. “ says Lady J. “The people in this talk made space for people like me and other misfit weirdos to find our path in the drag world. The least I can say as a thank you is to try to bring these folks back into drag history where they belong.”

Following the free program there’ll be a live Q&A. Register to attend here.


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