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Drag queens kick-off March Madness

Vanilla Galore performs at March Madness on March 6. Photo by John Hollins.

The Hattiesburg Drag Show, hosted by Team Xclusive and the Haus of Hattiesburg, kicked off their first show this month, “March Madness,” with a flurry of magic tricks and gorgeous wigs at the multipurpose venue on Highway 49 on March 6. Attendees gathered inside the compact venue, with some dressed as extravagantly as the performing queens.

Two years ago, the drag community was much smaller and looking for a revival. After an hour long conversation with the multipurpose venue owners, the queens got a drag show secured and now host them the first Friday of every month.

One local drag queen, Vañilla Galore, clad in shimmering fabric as a magician’s assistant, co-hosted the show along with her long-time friend and fellow queen Madame Willow. 

“I started this show, me and Madame Willow, around August 2019. Previously, years before, this was called ‘unapologetic black gay pride,’” Galore said. 

Drag has been around for centuries, but it has recently come into huge popularity with shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Many people associate drag with explicit sexuality, but this is not always the case. While many Queens seek to push the bar with just how X-rated they can be on the stage, others layer their performances with elements of comedy, pole dancing and other artistic tools.

“It all came together, and we became the Haus of Hattiesburg. The venue is [a multi-purpose venue], and owned by Team Xclusive, so these shows are a Team Xclusive and Haus of Hattiesburg team-up,” Galore said.

Vañilla’s own performance consisted of pulling dildos out of her magic hat and making the audience’s money disappear. Madame Willow, dressed as a sexy vampire student, did a number to the opening lines of “Scary Movie” spliced into a pop song. But for these queens, drag is much more than just the glamour and performance high. 

Ashley Heinlein is a frequent patron of drag shows along the coast who came to “March Madness” to support one of the queens.

“These shows here are more exotic. The shows in Gulfport, they lip-sync and stuff, but these here are special, more for adults,” Heinlein said.

For many performers, including another queen Diamond, drag is an outlet for expression. 

“There’s a multitude of reasons why one would get into drag,” Diamond said. “For me personally, it’s a way I can express myself. I do know personally that in the past it was illegal. But now it’s come to where we can actually do this, this is actually a career. You kind of never get what you put into it, but it’s an outlet to be creative.”

Galore said she hopes to continue to help grow the drag community in Hattiesburg and let it be known just how inclusive drag truly is. 

“We book very diverse shows. Willow is out there cutting splits, and then I’m going to bring comedy or whatever. It’s just so broad. Drag can be whatever you want to be,” Galore said. “I think because of ‘Rupaul’s Drag Race’ drag has to be so cookie-cutter, and you have to look like a woman, blah blah blah. And [drag] really is, whatever you want to be.”

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Drag queens kick-off March Madness