A few yards away from me, Queen Bee is wearing a leotard and thrusting her pelvis with all the force and velocity of a jackhammer. I’m going over the words to “These Days” in my head and trying out different poses backstage. Downstairs, men are showing women how to put on makeup. Boys are hiking up their skirts. Girls are grabbing their crotches.
I’m in way over my head.
I won’t lie. At the first rehearsal last Tuesday I started to have second thoughts. I wasn’t nervous about putting on makeup and a wig and singing in front of hundreds of people (well, maybe a little bit). In fact, the problem was that my act didn’t seem outrageous enough. I had no dress, no leggings, no bra, no four-inch heels. I didn’t dance or strip or shake my moneymaker. It was just me in my jeans and tennis shoes and a women’s sweater, sitting in a chair and singing. It was nothing compared to the other acts. I felt like I was way out of my element.
Among the bright lights and mirrors of the dressing room on the big night, I tried clumsily to smear makeup on my face, but the foundation I was using was a shade too light, and I looked like a ghost. Fortunately, there were plenty of experienced stage makeup professionals around to help me get the job done right.
ROP Director Casey D. Hall said there can only be one diva on stage: the lips or the eyes. With this advice in mind, Jordan, the lady doing my makeup, decided to exaggerate my lips. My face was swabbed, penciled, painted, brushed and powdered. Ten minutes later, my own mother wouldn’t have recognized me.
After that, the waiting game began. This was when the nervousness started to set in. Fortunately, in the waiting game, everybody gets pizza. While boys were applying mascara and ladies were putting the finishing touches on their beards, I kept putting my earbuds back in and going over my act in front of the mirror. It occurred to me then that “Sarah Plain and Tall” might have been a better drag queen name than “Edie Sunshine.” I had no idea how the crowd was going to receive me after seeing so many other sexy performers.
A few tense minutes later, AS LGBTA Coordinator and host for the evening Amber Aldrich gave me an introduction and I stepped out onto stage. The positive response from the crowd immediately assuaged my fears. The applause and laughter throughout my performance kept drowning out the music and throwing me off track, but I didn’t care. They like me, I thought. They actually like me.
When my song ended, there was nothing left for me to do but be dazzled by the rest of the show. Lillian Comfortable and Cyrus performed “Take Me or Leave Me” from the musical Rent. Hall and Anne Albosta put on a racy show for Ciara’s “Like a Boy.” A troupe of drag queens and kings got down to “Big Girls, You Are Beautiful.” Courtney Crass put a gender-bending spin on Kanye West’s “The New Workout Plan.” For the grand finale, Queen Bee returned to the stage for Beyonce’s “Diva” and “Single Ladies.” By the end of the show, any sense of discomfort or modesty I may have felt at the beginning of the night was gone completely. I was just one of the girls.
As Amber Aldrich and LGBTA Programs Coordinator Missy Jensen read through the “I Saw U’s” collected during the performance, they came across one that was addressed to everyone at the show. Maybe the person who wrote that “I Saw U” summed up the feeling of the whole night: everyone was a diva, and everyone was beautiful.