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"Lipstick and paint makes a man what he ain't"

My interview with Shaina Wemsly of the University of Maryland

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Drag Queen
by Shaina Wamsley
 
 
Living in a home with about 50 wigs, $75,000 worth of extavagant dresses and other flashy outfits, hundreds of pieces of jewelry, and more make-up than a sorority house, Blair Michaels is not the average member of the LGBT community. He is a perfomer, and entertainer and a role model of the drag and impersonation subculture as well as the LGBT commuity.
 
This interview gave me the chance to branch out of my comfort zone. I thought long and hard about who I wanted to interview and finally decided meeting a drag queen would be an unforgettable experience. After some research online, I came across the webpage of Blair Michaels. I read about his life of entertainment, family and work with the AIDS foundations. I immediately e-mailed Blair and then recieved a response within the day with his phone number and his excitement about the interview.
 
Nervous butterflies in my stomach, I had to make sure I was all alone before calling Blair to set up the interview. Once I heard his voice, all my uneasy feelings were alleviated. His tone was warm and inviting as he asked me about my day and proceeded to tell me about his bad experience at "IHOP" and then changing a flat tire with his partner. He called me "honey" and "girl" making the conversation more personal thus turning my nervousness into anxiousness to meet him in person.
 
Even though I thought they had all disspiated, the butterflies returned right before the interview as I sat in Starbucks waiting for time to pass. The meeting took place at Alma's Temple, the location where The Academy of Washington, Inc. an organiztion comprized of drag queen, drag kings and female / male impersonators, meet for shows and other functions. Before walking into the building, I recognized Blair from his pictures online and called out his name; he immediately greeted me with a hug, Now for good this time, the nervousness feelings were gone. Every single person I met in that building was amiable. The atmosphere of the room was filled with cordiality and gentiality; I can honestly say it was the nicest group of people I've ever had the pleasure to meet.
 
Andrew Abell is Blair Michaels birth name. The name Blair came from the beloved television show "Facts of Life", and Michael is Andrew's middle name. Most people call him "Blair" dressed as a male or female. He said it is preferable to be referred to as a "he" when he's not in drag and "she" when he is; however, he said "I'll answer to anything as long as your calling me". He is not transgendered; he just dresses nd performs in drag as a hobbie. As Blair said. "Cover girl doesn't cover boy".
 
Homophobia has been a life shaping influence in Blair's life. While he never suffered from internal homophia and was able to come -out to himself during high school, he kept it a secret from his conservative, Irish-Catholic family. His parents acciedentally found a love letter from a boyfriend which resulted in him getting kicked out of the house once he refused to alter his life-style. Even though Blair's brother told him he accepted him, it was still very difficult to make the transition alone. Blair's grades in school quickly imnproved from below average to above average when he was on his own with no parental direction. Considering himself "literally (the) black sheep of the family in more ways than one". Blair went out to night clubs and discovered drag. His involement with drag "started out as a need for attention". Feeling alone and without family support, the attention he recieved from performing in drag filled a void. He has not since been affected by homophia in such an influential way. However, while living in San Francisco, he was chased up the block by straight men screaming "AIDS spreaders," and he has been threatened on the DC metro while with his partner. Most of his family as, however, now accepted Blair for the person he is. At a commitment ceremony for Blair and his partner, 150 people attended, including his mom. She was also present when Blair gave up the title of Miss Gaye America-DC: he described this surreal moment of his mom accepting him. His father, regretfully never reached this level of acceptance. Blair views homophobia as ignornance of hetrosexuals insecure with their sexuality. In our society, it is also a byproduct of the media not protraying the good aspects of the LGBT culture. Television shows and movies only portray hetrosexuals as the right people who make good choices in life. Blair challenges people to look beyond the superficiality of "gay life" just being sex, drugs and partying.
 
For the past 17 years, Blair has been commited to his partner, Brad. Like so many other LGBT couples, they defy that sterotype that gay relationships go no further than the bedroom. Blair said "I would never be where I am now without him." The guiding beacon of Blair's adult life, Brad has provided the support and care Blair always needed in his life. It is not the awards Blair has recieved that he is most proud of; it's the love and partnership with Brad that makes him feel successful. Neitherman are ashamed of their sexuality and will show public displays of affections. The two are lucky enough to recieve domestic partnership benefits from Brad's job as a supervisor at the Reinassance Marriott in Washington, D.C.
 
I was fairly ignorant on the subject of drag queens before setting up this interview. The one piece of information I  found while researching that really stuck me was a professor at the UNC said, "The purpose of dressing in drag is for sexual excitment.: When I posed this question to Blair, he dared that professor to wear nine pairs of panty hose, four pads on his hips and tuck his genitals away for housrs on end and see how much sexual gratification he recieves. Honestly, I thought the culture of drag invloved sexual interests for other drag queend, but I certainly learned otherwise.
 
An accomplised performer for 25 years, Blair has recieved numerous honors including Miss Gaye America-DC and, most recently, the title of the 46th Best Actress of the Academys of Washington, Inc. The latter award is presented to the drag queen of the organiztion who demostrates the most participation and dedication. Blair considers himself a perfectionist when it comes to performing; he grows his own nails and spends about an hour putting all his make-up on before performances. Camparable to other forms of entertainment, drag is about expressing oneself without being judged and doing what one loves. With glistening eyes, Blair recalls his first drag performance when he performed at Fantasies, a club that was once in D.C.; this ws the moment Blair fell in love with drag. Since then, he has performed all over the country and even went to London, England in 1999 as Miss Gaye America-DC. It's important to love what one does, and it is evident Blair loves every aspect of his hobby.
 
Drag, just as almost any other job, involves politics; how  far you get greatly depends on who you know. People will backstab others to further their own success. Thought it is not that common, there are known instances of drags placing tiny pieces of broken glass into others to cut their faces. Blair used to be vulnerable and trust others easily, but he has learned to watch out for himself. He has been hurt throughtout his life and said; "I don't have many friends" but I do have many acquaintances. If he hears through the grapevine  someone was talking about him, he'll go directly to the source rather than continuing the gossip. It may not follow the mainstreamhobby, but drag has the same negative aspects of politics and self-interest like any "normal pastime.
 
Going against the conventional lifestyle in a hetrosexist society, Blair remains successful in his career and community. He works as a self-employed make-up artist and pageant consultant. He's done make-up and hair for many Miss America contestants, and the highlight of his career was working at the 2005 Miss USA pageant. While he loves working with the girls of pageants, he is not a fan of pageant moms who try to tell him what to do with their daughters. Giving back to the community, Blair has assisted in raising over 1.6 million dollars in his lifetime. just a few weeks ago, he was part of a team a the 2007 AIDS walk that raised over $5000.00. He donates to various charites across the country and is always willing to help others. His friends have labled him the "Queen of Charity". Doing more than just entertain the LGBT community and their allies, Blair demostrates a giving, sefless virtue that all should emulate.
 
Unfortunately, I was unable to stay for the drag show after the interview due to time, Blair, however, wasn't performing; he was just sitting at the table of honor. At the end of the interview, he gave me alist of future shows in which he will be performing, and I am definately planning on attending  one of these show to further the experience of this subculture. A memorable experience that I certainly won't forget, I am glad I was able to learn something deviating out of my norm.
 
An entertainer, a charitable member of the community and, most importantly, a lover, Blair Michaels is no different than hetrosexual members of society; he as a career, has a hobby and has a family. He doesn't expect to be judged and differently than anyone else. All that matters in life, he said, is to "live you life honestly." If one does this, one may be lucky enough, a Blair is, to say "I'm living a dream."