Atlanta drag performers go virtual in wake of coronavirus

Atlanta’s drag performers have embraced live streaming and online payment services to keep the shows going and the tips coming in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Performers have taken to Facebook, Instagram, Twitch and even OnlyFans to stream shows. The performers also post their Venmo and Cash App account names to receive tips.

Many performers depend on tips as a vital source of income, according to Atlanta drag king Issac Redd.

“They pay their bills with their tips,” he told Project Q Atlanta. “It’s devastating. I know several [performers] are trying to find other ways to make ends meet.”

Atlanta drag king Jordan Michaels McCord echoed Redd’s comments.

“Everyone is going a little stir crazy, and of course the ones who use drag as a full-time job are running low on income resources,” he said. “I'm sure the effects will cause hardship in the upcoming weeks.”

Both Redd and McCord have full-time jobs to rely on in the meantime.

The crowds at the shows dwindled well before Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms closed bars, clubs and other businesses on March 19, according to drag queen and activist Taylor Alxndr (top photo). They last performed on March 14 at the Georgia Beer Garden.

“You could already tell that people weren’t coming out to the shows because it was pretty widespread in the media about COVID-19,” they said. 

Performers have been forced to adapt to the closings just like everyone else, according to Alxndr.

“We would have loved to have learned this technology without losing all our gigs, but it’s weird how things happen like that,” they said.

Alxndr is recruiting Atlanta performers for an online drag show called 404 Error.

“Hopefully that will be formally announced in the next week or so,” they said.

Atlanta drag performers Aries Alxndr, King Perk and Paege Turner will also debut a weekly online drag show on Facebook on Thursday at 8 p.m.

OnlyFans to the rescue

 

Mo’Dest Volgare and Nicole Paige Brooks needed to find a new home for their Wild Out Wednesday show once the bars and restaurants closed. The show has taken place at Felix's and Noni's.

“Wild Out was always the crazy show where anything goes, and I’ve always done things at Felix’s and Noni’s that you can’t do online or you’ll get in trouble,” Volgare (second photo) said. “We gotta figure out some way to do stuff at home and I really want to be completely uncensored.”

They found the perfect platform to keep the show going without censoring the content: OnlyFans. The show debuts on April 1 at 9 p.m. and is free to stream, but Volgare suggsted a $5 donation. 

"Performances will be posted individually and voted on after the livestream," she said.

The winner will receive a portion of the donations and $100 courtesy of show sponsor Night Owl ATL, according to Volgare.

Volgare will also perform in an international online drag show on Friday at 8 p.m. The event is hosted by “Dragula” star Biqtch Puddin’ and will stream on Twitch. Atlanta performers Davey Swinton, Qween Farrazz and Lavonia Elberton will also take part.

The shows are important ways to keep people entertained while bringing in money for performers, according to Volgare.

“I’ve seen some people complaining about it like, ‘Why are you begging for money?’” she said. “But I think it’s important to give money to the performers if they’re entertaining you outside of the bar. You shouldn’t only give a performer money when you’re drunk at a bar.”

LGBTQ-owned restaurants in Atlanta have reduced hours and offered new services to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic.

A bartender at Felix’s joined with a lesbian food truck owner and a non-profit leader to provide free meals to service industry employees who lost work due to the pandemic.

Photos by Russ Bowen-Youngblood