Bubbling Debonair’s hair was slicked back allowing the audience to take in his painted-on, thick, black eyebrows and dark facial hair. He came out on the two-tier runway stage dressed in a silver metallic moto jacket and fuchsia knee-high boots.
Debonair danced along the runway to the tune of Panic at the Disco’s “King of the Cloud” as the crown erupted in cheers. As he captivated the audience with his artistic moves, an audience member met him on the runway to make it rain with tips.
Debonair is Gracie Sleeper’s drag name. Sleeper is a University of Oregon student who took part in the LGBTQA3’s annual drag show as a drag king. This year, the event was titled Drag-racadabra and was hosted by local drag queens Facisha Farce and Bonnie Rose. The drag show featured student and community drag performers.
This event was Sleeper’s first time performing in drag. Sleeper has been participating inSpectrum bar’s lip sync battles out of drag as practice and to experiment with songs to do in drag. The battles helped Sleeper become more confident with performing.
Sleeper, who recently transferred to UO, became interested in doing drag after seeing local drag shows and realizing the large presence the art form has in Eugene. Sleeper made it their new year’s resolution to figure out how to become a drag king.
“I’ve always been like ‘Why aren’t there more drag kings? There are so many drag queens,’” Sleeper said. “I don’t want to be a queen.
Drag-racadabra featured all different kinds of performers. Drag is traditionally thought to be a space for cis males to dress as women, but in this show, the performers included trans, gender nonconforming people, drag kings and women dressed as drag queens.
For Sleeper — who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns — drag is liberating and allows them to try different things and have fun.
“You’re a different person. In real life, I’m a quiet person and people don’t see me as a non-binary person. They see me as a little girl,” Sleeper said. “But when I’m on stage, I’m a man.”
Drag provides Sleeper with a safe space to explore their gender, especially the more masculine side of it. In elementary school, Sleeper first began to feel upset with being labeled female at birth. Later on in high school, they embraced their femininity, but Sleeper ultimately found that to be exhausting. The ability to explore that masculine side of themself is what led Sleeper to become a drag king.
“Gender is what you make it. It’s a performance, and you just need to find it out for yourself,” Sleeper said.
Bubbling Debonair is a piece of Sleeper that they’ve been wanting to explore for a long time — and are finally able to.
“I see him as an extension of myself, just a different part of me that doesn’t come out a lot. But when he’s there, he’s all over [me],” Sleeper said.
For Sleeper, Drag-racadabra is more than a drag show. It is a space where queer people can come together and celebrate each other.
“It’s just encouraging young, queer people to mess around with their expression and their relationship to gender and that’s really important in this day and age when people are getting attacked for being who they are,” Sleeper said as they teared up. “This is really important.”