The show must go on! How drag queens are navigating the pandemic

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) — Drag performers were hit hard when the COVID-19 pandemic forced bars to close, but now they are back with a few more accessories.

CJ Carver, better known as London Manchester, A drag performer at the Baton Rouge nightclub, Splash. When bars closed due to the pandemic, Manchester and countless other performers were out of work.

“It was definitely a big hit for sure. I think honestly, everything was a little bit unknown. At my boy job, I was also furloughed so I was out of that for seven months as well. So it was definitely like a completely new experience to really be so unsure of where your income is going to be coming from,” Manchester said.

Now based out of New Orleans, Manchester says she had not performed there in almost a year. “In the very beginning of the quarantine, we were literally like on complete lockdown. I did not touch drag for like at least a month and a half,” Manchester said.

Many drag performers resorted to digital drag shows and would go live on social media for tips or to raise money to support the bars while they were closed.

Now that bars and other entertainment venues are starting to reopen, performers like Manchester practice a new routine.

“I had to add to my checklist, make sure that I’ve got my face shield, make sure that I’ve got, you know, my gloves, make sure that I’ve got this or that so that I can still be able to perform because at the end of the day, that’s all any of us want to do is be able to share our art and do it in the safest way possible,” Manchester said.

Everyone has a role in the pandemic in reducing the spread of COVID-19, and drag queens are not excluded. “It’s definitely not the same,” she says. The queens used to perform on the stage inside the club, but now they put on a show on the patio. “It’s not the same type of audience interaction that we’re all used to, and obviously for good reason. But I am just so happy to be back in front of an audience,” Manchester said.

Many venues are moving to cashless tipping, allowing performers to receive tips through popular apps like Venmo or CashApp.

After the hiatus, Manchester says she is grateful to be back. “Drag to me has been a way that I can just express anything about myself. Honestly, I grew up doing theater and I loved it, and so this is kind of like theater, but to the nth degree, because you are in control of the music and the looks and the wigs and the makeup and every single aspect of it,” Manchester said.

Manchester says it’s more important now than ever to support the local LGBTQ+ community, “whether it be a bar, whether it be a coffee shop wherever because they need love in a time like this.”

To follow London Manchester, visit her FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM

For more information about Splash, visit their website HERE

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