In the words of pre-eminent drag queen RuPaul Charles, “We’re all born naked, and the rest is drag.”
For decades, drag performances — in which drag queens and drag kings exaggerate femininity or masculinity for the purposes of entertainment — have been a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community.
“Drag is an art form,” local performer and entertainment coordinator for the group DeLand Pride Aaliyah Nouveau explained. “We come to express ourselves, to show our different talents. There are many types of drag; burlesque, some girls are comedy queens, drag kings — there’s a variety. We have everybody.”
There are pitifully few locations to see drag on a regular basis in West Volusia. A regular drag night at Abbey Bar in DeLand has only recently restarted after a COVID-19 closure.
Dan Reed, owner of Cafe DaVinci in DeLand, reached out to Aaliyah Nouveau to take over Tuesday-night entertainment at DaVinci, once filled by “Jazz in the Courtyard,” a popular night featuring jazz by the Davinci Jazz Experiment, which has been canceled since mid-March.
“We did it because we have a large LGBTQ community, not only in town, but also as patrons,” Reed said. “Those that know me well enough have been asking for a while to do some entertainment that was inclusive of the community. So we started ‘Tuesdays are a drag,’ and our plan is to have drag-themed entertainment every Tuesday.”
Plans include drag bingo, a talent night, and possibly an amateur drag night, Reed and Nouveau said.
Being able to bring drag to DeLand means something, Nouveau added. The 27-year-old DeLand local has been a drag performer for more than four years, and is a former U.S. Marine who works a day job as a tech specialist for a security company.
“It hits home, and makes me feel good inside,” Nouveau said.
The entertainer pointed out that for many in the community, finding a place where they can feel comfortable being themselves involves driving outside of the county to Orlando.
“Why is the only gay-safe place that we know in Orlando?” Nouveau asked. “Why not in Deltona? Even Daytona Beach is a drive.”
“Now we have another safe place to come together to be ourselves, and have a good time,” Nouveau said. “It’s not just for young people, it’s not just for gay people; it’s a little bit of everybody. … We all just want to have a good time and see a good show.”
Drag nights at Cafe DaVinci are planned every Tuesday night, beginning at 9 p.m. The event is 21-and-up, and there is no cover charge.
The Abbey Bar in DeLand, in conjunction with DeLand Pride, has a drag night set for Sunday, Nov. 15. That event is also 21-and-up and has a $15 cover charge, with a free drink included. Masks are required.