“Cheap drag isn't good; good drag isn't cheap”

by Elisabeth Slay
Staff Writer

As she struts down the runway, she loves the attention and the crisp dollar bills placed in her hand. But performing alone can’t cover the cost of drag.

To be a drag queen takes a lot of time, skill and in most cases, money. Between the makeup, hair, and garments, for some drag queens, the cost of a perfect look adds up.

Tulsa female entertainer, Sara De La Hoya is Miss Gay Oklahoma USofA 2018 and manages her drag look on a budget. Photo provided.

However, current Miss Gay Oklahoma USofA, 26-year-old transgender Sara De La Hoya, manages her cost of being a female illusionist on a budget. The Tulsa performer said she still looks amazing without draining her bank.

“Of course, you will run out of things and have to buy stuff here and there,” De La Hoya said. “But as long as you take care of your ‘things’ they will take care of you.”

Over the years, De La Hoya learned what elements she needs most and how to make them last.

“When first starting out there are a few essentials for any entertainer. For me they were foundation for around $20, contour for $6, lashes for $3  and liner for about $6,” De La Hoya said. “Makeup, in general, can be expensive but learn what works for you. My ‘cheap stuff’ doesn’t always work for the next girl. It’s a learning curve,” she said.

Another way De La Hoya saves money is crafting her own garments.

“My outfits usually range between $25-$100. Again, that is just me,” she said. “People use the phrase ‘cheap drag isn’t good, good drag isn’t cheap.’ I beg to differ. It can be very cheap.”

Drag is not without its hardships, but De La Hoya said, in the end, it’s all worth it.

Alotta Vahjeen performs in Oklahoma City and treats drag as a labor of love. Photo by Carrie Strong.

“It’s so easy to get discouraged and want to give up this lifestyle, but those who can learn the game and not get bogged down in the politics will succeed,” she explained.

Contrary to De La Hoya, Oklahoma City drag queen and performer, Alotta Vahjeen views drag as a labor of love.

“I have somewhat expensive taste. I like wearing more high-end makeup. If I were to add up everything I use on my drag face it would probably be upwards of $200,” Vahjeen said.

They explained, in addition to makeup, their wigs and costumes range from $50-$145.

“I don’t sew, or my life would be much easier. I have most things made for me or I find them vintage,” Vahjeen said.

According to Vahjeen, the cost of drag depends on the queen, and though there are similarities, each persona has different required elements.

“I think drag is completely open to interpretation. Some queens never wear wigs, nails, hip pads and things like that,” Vahjeen said.

For this queen, drag is their art and passion so, despite the costs, they remain dedicated.

“Drag will almost always be a labor of love because you very rarely get more out of it than you’re putting in,” Vahjeen explained. “Drag is a lot of time, energy and effort. If you don’t love it, you won’t succeed at it.”

Naquita Lynn Carmichael is Miss Gay Kansas USofA 2018 and performs primarily in Wichita. Photo provided.

Like both Vahjeen and De La Hoya, Miss Gay Kansas USofA 2018 Naquita Lynn Carmichael spends much of her money on her drag essentials.

“To become Naquita Lynn Carmichael costs about $30 each time. I always buy new lashes and nails and usually I run out of something,” Carmichael said.

Each month the Wichita performer spends around $45 on makeup alone, which isn’t as much compared to other queens. For Carmichael, her biggest expense is what’s on her head.

“I’m a hair queen. I will buy new hair every week, and I have spent thousands on hair,” she explained. “I make 98 percent of the hair I wear.”

She too believes to be a successful queen one must roll with the punches.

“Effort goes a long way. I know it is hard starting out but don’t give up,” she said.

Eden Alive is a part-time drag queen from Little Rock and says makeup is the obvious drag essential. Photo provided.

For Little Rock queen and performer Eden Alive, the cost of drag is relatively low.

“My entire makeup kit costs around $500,” Alive said. “As for nails, a box of press-ons can easily go for $9 at the drugstore. It may sound silly to some, but I am not too proud to buy my nails from Dollar General.”

While Alive loves drag, she doesn’t do it full-time. Therefore her drag expenses are less than other queens.

“In buying makeup, I have learned to listen for the phrase ‘a little goes a long way.’ With that in mind, I probably spend about $200-300 per year,” she explained.

As for the aspects of her look, Alive said she finds her wigs and clothes from various sources and spends an average of $60-150 a wig and minimum of $200 on gowns.

According to Alive, for her and most queens, the biggest drag essential is makeup.

“Different forms and genres of drag have certain nuances in their needs, but there is one thing no one onstage can do without and that is makeup. And where there is makeup, there should also be moisturizer,” Alive said.

Copyright The Gayly – November 14, 2018 @ 11:00 a.m. CST.