Student finds means of self-expression through drag

Travis Lizer puts on makeup before the annual Housing and Residence Life drag show on April 5 at the Sloan Convention Center. Lizer goes by “Cheryl Cheva” on stage and was one of the co-hosts for the night.

Julie Sisler

Students find many ways to express themselves, whether it’s through art, writing, speech or involvement in clubs. For some students, like senior Marcus Harper, self-expression comes in a different form: performing in drag.

Individuals who perform in drag dress often are in elaborate clothes that are usually associated with the opposite gender. Harper, a drag queen, wears dresses and heels and does his hair and makeup in order to create his character, Scarlett Mascarra.

“Scarlett Mascarra is a fierce, sassy girl who didn’t come to play,” Harper said. “She will twirl the house down boots and leave you wanting more.”

Harper, a film major, said he has been doing drag for about a year and a half and began performing after attending WKU’s second annual drag show.

“What drew me to drag is the pure art that you can create,” Harper said. “You are a human canvas and your drag persona is your art. The amount of detail that goes into costumes and makeup is extraordinary.”

Drag requires a great deal of time, money and attention to detail. Performers spend hours perfecting their looks, picking what songs to perform to and choreographing their routines. It’s something that Harper said he continues to work on.

Fellow drag queen Venus Knight, who prefers to go by their drag name, said Scarlett Mascarra’s look continues to get better.

“I can tell that she is making improvements on her drag,” Knight said. “That night [of the WKU drag show] was the best I have ever seen her look.”

Drag queen Lexi Von Simmons, who prefers to go by their drag name, agreed, saying that Harper’s dedication to drag as an art is amazing and has allowed them to grow more than any other queen Simmons has seen.

“My absolute favorite thing about Scarlett as a performer is that she is completely open to criticism and tips from other queens,” Von Simmons said.

Von Simmons said Harper’s hard work is evident in the finished product. Scarlett Mascarra’s looks and routines are polished and show just how dedicated Harper is to the art, Von Simmons said.

Aside from the challenges that come with creating and maintaining the look required to participate in drag, Harper said that getting booked is one of the biggest struggles in the business, especially as a college student.

Even though Bowling Green doesn’t have as large of a drag community as places like Louisville and Nashville, Harper said that there is a large support system here.

Despite the long hours and hard work, Harper has found a creative outlet that has also helped him grow both in and out of his character.

“Doing drag has let me come out of my shell,” Harper said.

Harper’s friend, senior Hannah Bright said Harper’s involvement in drag has not only helped his confidence, but also given him something unteachable.

“He has a presence wherever he goes, on or off stage,” Bright said. “I think that’s what makes him such a fun person to be around.”

Harper said that his character helped him become a better person off the stage as well.

“I am a very shy person but there is something about it when I turn into Scarlett that lets me be more confident and outgoing,” Harper said. “And that has translated more and more into my everyday life.”

Harper also expressed his love for the drag culture and community, saying that he has experienced only love and support from the drag community.

“There is a sense of unity between the queens,” Harper said.

Von Simmons said something similar.

“We consider ourselves a sisterhood,” Von Simmons said. “We help each other and give each other room to grow and get what better at what we do.”

Harper also noted the support from those outside the community, citing the huge turnouts and support from those around him.

“If that [the turn out] doesn’t show the support, I don’t know what does,” Harper said.

Though the road to drag royalty isn’t an easy one, Harper thinks it’s worthwhile.

Features reporter Julie Sisler can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow Julie on social media at @julie_sisler.