Bowling Green resident finds liberation and self-expression through drag

Colby Wicker, 21, performs as drag queen Spectra Cosmos at WKU’s fifth annual “Drag Show” hosted by WKU Housing and Residence Life on April 11, 2019. At the time, Wicker said he has only been performing drag for about five months.

Kelley Holland

When Colby Wicker puts on one of his many colorful wigs and a full face of makeup, he feels transformed and ready to conquer the world.

Under the name Spectra Cosmos, Wicker performs as a drag performer around Bowling Green and Nashville. He first fell in love with drag after attending a show in Nashville in 2016, ultimately deciding to pursue a career of his own.

Although he is fairly new to the scene, Wicker hasn’t been shy about making himself known. Spectra boasts over 1000 followers on an Instagram account made only seven months ago, and he performed at Bowling Green Pride last month.

However, getting to this point in his life was not without hardships.

Born as a female in Hawaii to a military household, Wicker and his family moved around a lot. He lived in New Mexico, California, Pennsylvania, Michigan and even Germany before settling in Kentucky in 2016.

He began to question his identity during high school, saying he always felt he was different but wasn’t sure how to describe it.

“I wasn’t exposed to any queer media,” Wicker said. “I didn’t have the language to describe any of the feelings that I was experiencing.” 

He began to make friends who were part of the LGBTQ community around that time, doing research on the community’s history and even attending some gay bars and clubs. It was then he was able to pinpoint his feelings and discover his preferred identity as a male.

He said the realization was liberating, but he would need to break the news to his conservative, Christian parents.

They kicked him out of the house 15 minutes after the conversation.

“My mom didn’t look me in the face for, like, a year,” Wicker said. “It was such a strange, hard, heartbreaking relationship to try to keep.”

By this time, Wicker was about to start his sophomore year at WKU as an exercise science major. He was living out of his car as well as working a part-time job, making it difficult to be a full-time student. This eventually led him to drop out. 

Wicker took the opportunity to build himself from the ground up, wanting to show his parents he didn’t need them to succeed. Soon after, they had a change of heart.

“Once they were able to see how happy and healthy I actually was, that sort of changed their minds,” Wicker said. “Now they call me by my name, they address me, they’ve welcomed me back. So things are actually pretty good now.”

Now 21 years old, Wicker is a student at Bowling Green community college SKYCTC studying nursing. His goal is to pursue a career in healthcare outside of performing.

Tyana Hicks, Wicker’s roommate, described Wicker as an incredibly passionate and career-oriented person both in and outside of drag.

“When it is time to perform or time to work, he is ready to put on a show and make people happy,” Hicks said. “He is a very talented people person.” 

The two have known each other for about two years now. Hicks said although she was familiar with drag prior to meeting Wicker, he taught her even more about the scene and history behind it.

For Wicker, drag is all about self-expression.

“I have never experienced such a simultaneously thrilling and liberating medium to just be myself,” Wicker said.

Wicker said he doesn’t consider Spectra Cosmos an alter ego but simply a more amplified version of his own personality. He described her as louder and shameless.

The drag scene in Bowling Green is much smaller and underground than other areas, Wicker said. There are only a couple of local places for performances, including the A-Frame, which Wicker frequents.

He said he hopes people who are unfamiliar with the scene can be open-minded and realize drag performers are just like anyone else.

“I think there are a lot of common misconceptions about what drag is or what drag should be,” Wicker said. “What we’re doing is changing the world by putting our authentic selves and art out into the world.”

Features reporter Kelley Holland can be reached at [email protected]