History of Drag Culture in New Orleans

Who doesn’t love a good drag show? The music, the outfits, and the possibility of an unexpected death drop are sure to leave you on the edge of your seat. Nowadays, drag is relatively commonplace and well accepted, but this was certainly not always the case. The art form has evolved in some pretty major ways over the years, and the drag scene in NOLA certainly helped shape that.

New Orleans’ drag culture can be traced back to around 1930 (although records are shoddy) with the opening of Club My-O-My. However, this club is probably not what you would expect a traditional drag club to look like today. My-O-My obviously catered to the LGBT community but also was an important tourist attraction for the straight community. Although, the club was part of a more “mainstream” scene here in the city, it doesn’t mean it was accepted. In fact, for many years, it was only legal to crossdress on Mardi Gras Day. But the queens of the city weren’t afraid to break the rules and paint outside the lines.

Here are some of the most influential drag performers that have come out of the city of New Orleans:

1. Gene La Marr

Gene was one of the cities oldest queens, dating back to the 1940s. This Cuban American immigrant made a name for herself as a performer at the Wonder Club and was influential in helping introduce our city to drag. She was famous for her bride-like dresses.

2. Vinsantos

Vinsantos is changing the drag landscape not just through her own memorable performances but also through her drag workshop. This workshop is a springboard for queens of all types to launch their careers. As of 2018, she has graduated seven classes of girls who are making their own splash on the drag scene. Some of the up and coming queens that have graduated from this class are Tarah Cards and Neon Burgundy. VInsantos herself, is known for her doll making and piano playing. Check out her shop, the Funeral Gallery, on Royal Street

3. Bianca Del Rio

Not so arguably the most famous drag queen to have gotten her start in New Orleans. Bianca made a name for herself first in NOLA before moving to NYC after Hurricane Katrina. She rose to national fame by snatching the crown on Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 6. Bianca is known as the comedy queen who could roast anyone on the spot.

4. Varla Jean Merman

Varla is another famous comedy queen to hail from our city. She started out her drag career in a very unique way, filming videos of her drinking a gallon of milk or polishing down a can of cheese whiz on the street. Eventually she worked her way into becoming more of a performer coming out with songs and theater performances. Check Varla out at her shows in NOLA or in these fun videos!

5. Coca Mesa

Coca has risen to drag fame recently, and was chosen as the Grand Marshal for Southern Decadence in 2018. She certainly knows how how to rock a lip sync and she can be seen at her regular show at the Boomtown Casino in Biloxi MS, just an hours drive from NOLA.

6. Persana Shoulders

If there’s one gay bar in New Orleans that everyone knows it’s Oz. And if there’s a girl that’s the Queen of Oz, it’s Persana. She’s an incredibly funny host and its one of the most personable and approachable queens you’ll meet. You can catch Persana at Oz almost any night of the week.

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