While Caitlyn Jenner has been grabbing all the headlines, it’s been almost overlooked that Grand Junction has been experiencing some gender-bending of its own.
Grand Junction now has its first professional drag queen troupe, The CD’s Drag and Jewell Case, LLC. The troupe is another indication of a slow but steady culture shift going on in this formerly conservative area of Colorado, and for that reason alone it’s surely something significant enough to talk about.
The troupe currently has five members, although usually only two or three perform at any given time. The group’s founders and lead performers are Coco Jem Holiday and Donatella Mysecrets De’Ore, and the supporting members are Livvi Dior, Onyx Reign and Delilah Delight. With a total of five entertainers now in their “Jewell Case,” the CDs have enough so they can have coverage in the event that some can’t make it to a gig.
Ladies About Town
The ladies of CD’s Drag have been performing professionally around town, serving as ambassadors for the LGBT community in parades, festivals and private parties and hosting fundraisers. They recently appeared at Pride Fest downtown, and at a benefit show for a woman who was in an accident, to help her raise money for surgery. The CD’s Drag was in Delta for Deltarado Days, and won an award for the most unique act. “No one threw anything at us. That’s progress!” said Donatella.
Since a drag queen troupe in Grand Junction is a real novelty, I sat down with the troup’s founding members, Donatella Mysecrets and Coco Jem Holiday, to find out more about them.
First I asked Donatella, “How one get started doing drag?”
She explained that when young gay men in their teens come out to their parents, they risk getting kicked out of their house and becoming homeless. These young people need somewhere to turn, and within the gay community there are “drag moms” who “adopt” and house such homeless youth. The drag moms, who do female impersonation was a way to make money, give training in makeup, feminine dress, showmanship and other skills.
Dontalla was born and raised right here in Grand Junction and attended Colorado Mesa University, but spent time with a drag mom from Pueblo, Colorado, who taught her makeup, dress and entertainment. Fortunately, Donatella’s parents didn’t kick her out of the house after she came out to them as gay, though. In fact, Donatella’s parents, who are Mormon, were actually quite understanding not just about being gay (she is actually a male), but also about Donatella’s goal of becoming a professional drag queen. Donatella’s dad even urged her to be the very best she can at what she does.
It was through the relationship with her Pueblo drag mom that Donatella met Coco. They became the first gay married couple in Grand Junction not long ago.
While Donatella and Coco love both women’s and men’s fashion, they agree with what many straight women already know very well: women’s clothes can be very uncomfortable. They don’t particularly like wearing bras, nylons or wigs, which they admit are uncomfortable. What’s more, in order to perform the CDs have to wear hip forms, corsets and other items that “take away” from their bodies to help create female-type curves. But they’re willing to endure all this in the name of entertainment.
And these girls are serious about the business of entertainment.
An Inclusive New Act for Grand Junction
The CD’s Drag currently advertises in Colorado Mesa University’s weekly newspaper, the Criterion, on Facebook and on fliers in the downtown Main Street kiosks that announce their appearances. They travel out of the area as well. They’ve done shows in Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Denver, Moab, Salt Lake and even appeared at the first annual International Drag Festival in Austin, Texas. The group’s main target audiences are the western slope LGBTQ community, as well as straight audiences who just want a new and different kind of fun entertainment. Donatella and Coco report that they’ve had no negative blowback so far to performing around town, and attribute that to the fact that they are a classy act. “We’re not perverted or gross,” Donatella says. “People think the show will be dirty, but it’s just a good time. Drag is for everyone,” she adds.
They are looking to make a serious career out of the fun of doing drag. They say top queens can make up to $5,000 per show if they can get on TV, and about $500-$1,200 a gig that’s not on TV.
Aside from providing a new and different kind of entertainment in town, the CD’s Drag also want to help educate western Colorado residents who, with the highly visible recent “reveal” of Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner), are just now starting to be exposed to the concept and fact of gender fluidity. The CD’s Drag wants to work with the local community to positively affect the dialogue around gender issues, and help people with awkward gender and sexuality questions. Through sassy and fun conversation, for example, in their act they address questions like what pronouns to use when talking with or about transgendered people. “Just ask” a person whether to use “he” or “she” or “him” or “her,” they urge their audiences. They explained to me that within their own troupe, they have no “hetero-normativity.” One member of the group is transexual, one is bisexual, another gay. “None of us are the same,” Donatella says. “We’re forced to be open-minded.”
The main messages the troupe wants to convey are equality, acceptance of transgendered people and a “love thy neighbor” attitude. They also want to help people feel more comfortable with gender fluidity, and understand that it is part of the human condition.
On a more personal level, the CD’s Drag queens hope to one day move on to gigs in bigger cities. One particularly sought-after venue is a Denver nightclub called Tracks. People have to be invited to perform there and must audition first, they say. Even more exciting, each year Tracks has an “Ultimate Queen” competition, in which the winner gets a contract to perform at the club for a year. Pure gold for aspiring drag queens.
The CDs prefer to perform on weekends, but can perform during the week “in a pinch,” they say. Currently they have day jobs. Donatella and Coco create websites for a living.
Currently, the CD’s regular local gig is hosting Drag Queen Karaoke at Charlie Dwellington’s at First and Main Streets in downtown Grand Junction on Sunday evenings. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. It’s the only LGBT event that happens on a weekly basis in Grand Junction. They also appear at Barons, Sabrosa and the M City Lounge, where they did a Halloween show last fall.
To learn more about the CD’s Drag, check their performing schedule, book them for a gig or contact them for any questions, go to their website at TheCDsDrag.com.