Queens of the Night
by Lena Fix, on Jan 22, 2019 12:37:42 PM
Multiple layers of make-up. Last minute tryouts of various outfits. Finally putting on high heels and rehearsing for their dance performance at the club later that evening. It took about 3 to 4 hours for these performers to prepare themselves. I was taking pictures and trying not to disturb them as they were running around to get more clothing or make-up. By the end, each one looked completely transformed, and not one of them looked alike. Yet, they had one major thing in common… these were not women. They were all Drag Queens!
I grew up in a country that has an openly gay prime minister. I also had lots of queer people around me. It is therefore not surprising that growing up I felt naturally in my element around the LGBTQ+ community. Since I moved to Prague for my college studies, I have noticed that I prefer going to ‘gay’ or ‘gay friendly’ bars and clubs over others. This is how I met Gizela Kova. I went to see one of her drag performances with my best friend and absolutely loved it! A few weeks later, here I was going to her place to take pictures.
Having watched several seasons of American reality shows about drag queens, I already had some idea of what I was about to witness at Gizela’s, or perhaps I should say, Edgardo’s place. I was not disappointed. I was greeted at the door by Edgardo, proudly wearing a long dark wavy wig and a 5 o’clock shadow. Inside, four other men had gathered to change into their Drag alter-egos. Even the flat looked transformed for the occasion into a copy of my favorite drag queen show’s changing rooms. Tons of dresses, tights, heels, wigs, and make-up products piled up all around. For ambience, songs from famous drag queens, of course!
Edgardo about to start his transformation.
The outfits prepared for the show.
Everyone had their own routine to get prepared, but ultimately, they all went through the same process. Shaving off their beards. Using glue to fix their eyebrows (to draw new ones higher up later on). Applying a thick layer of foundation. Contouring their faces. Applying eye shadow and/or liner. Final details such as lipstick, fake lashes, and fake nails or nail polish. This already took a good portion of time, even with the help of a hair dryer for each layer to set faster.
Time to shave and glue those eyebrows.
Different stages of make-up.
Mirror, mirror, who is the prettiest queen of them all?
Final touches, applying the fake lashes.
A drag mom helping her daughter prepare for her first show.
Then arrived the part not everyone expects. See, it’s not enough for a man just to wear make-up and heels to give the illusion of a feminine figure. To arrive at this point, you need to ‘adjust’ the man’s curves. Drag queens create this illusion with corsets, tights, stuffed bras and even padding. Yet, what I consider the most drastic commitment made by drag-queens is the ‘tuck’. This can be done with duck-tape or tucking-panties. For those who may not know, tucking is the act of trying to re-arrange your manly package as smoothly as possible to create a flat feminine crotch illusion.
"Take pictures because you never see this on TV" - Gizela talking about all the undergarment helping create a feminine body illusion.
Finally came the time to get dressed. The show consisted of 3 to 4 performances which meant different wigs, outfits and shoes every time. I could not help but feel excited seeing the variety of colors, fabrics, hair styles,… and oh Lord the shoes! One of the queens brought out stiletto boots with platforms that I, as a woman, would never dare to even try on! As some were packing their other outfits in small suitcases, others were rehearsing perfect splits in the middle of the living room. I could finally compare all of these queens to the men I had met only few hours ago. The difference was like day and night. While talking to them, I found out some had already had a lot of experience while for others this was their first performance in a club. We then all crammed ourselves into 2 different taxis and rushed to the club. I wish I could have seen the driver’s face.
Duck tape can be a drag queen's best friend. Meanwhile, Gizela's daughter is getting dressed.
A little stretch before going to the club.
Backstage, everyone was very focused and discussing one last time with Gizela the steps to follow for each performance. Meanwhile, the club was getting packed. The show began at around 10pm, and the crowd was ecstatic. People were dancing, singing to the music, and cheering on the queens. I was pleasantly surprised to see such a diverse crowd in terms of gender, color, and sexual orientation. The drag queens were dancing, lip syncing, and falling into perfect splits. In between performances, Gizela would take the microphone and give the audience a taste of her sassy humor before presenting the next performer in line. Finally, during breaks, the queens would mingle with the crowd, dancing with the audience, and enjoying a well-deserved drink.
Backstage, the girls go over the planning of the show one last time.
Melancholia Blackbile looking... melancholic.
Gizela performing on stage.
Gizela Kova, Dima Arrest, and Tonic Iconic performing together.
The queen and her daughters.
Always shine in the spotlight.
A drag queen should always stand out from the crowd.
Beautiful performance by beautiful queens.
Big finale!... and this is what the tuck is for!
During the entire time at the club, I stopped imagining what some queens looked like as men. I didn’t even think of them as men at that precise point. To me, they were only artists. They were exceptional performers. They were the queens of the night!