Rainbows pulsate through the air as hearts pound from the bass of the music being played, and Colana Bleu grabs the mic from the DJ’s set table to get the crowd ready to introduce the next queen to take the lip-syncing stage in the small, lively bar.
It’s in the Corner Bar above Irish Bred Pub in Opelika, Alabama, where Colana Bleu struts, dances and performs to songs that keep the crowd on their feet, dancing and handing over tips, draped in bold sequins or a brightly patterned Mumu.
Influencing the Auburn-Opelika throughout the year, Colana Bleu dubs herself the “Mumu Mistress of The South” and shares her love and art everywhere she goes.
Being a drag queen is something that Colana Bleu never saw coming, but now she finds herself hosting drag shows and other events to empower the LGBTQ+ community in the Auburn-Opelika area. It was the love given to her from others in her community that propelled her into the art of drag, transferring more love to those she influences in the area.
“I didn’t anticipate this happening, to be honest,” Colana Bleu said. “I honestly thought, you know, this is my senior year of college. If I’m ever gonna do drag, now’s the time. I’ll just do it for me senior year and, then, probably never do it again.
“It just didn’t happen. It kind of just took off.”
While attending Auburn University in 2015, Colana Bleu’s face was first painted by her friend and drag queen, Cora Bleu, for a Halloween costume. A week later, Cora Bleu decided to call Colana Bleu over, asking if she could put her in drag.
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“I wouldn’t say every gay man, but maybe most gay men probably would like to know what they look like as a drag queen,” Colana Bleu said. “She put me in drag, and I was hooked instantly.”
Colana Bleu’s love of drag stems from her community – the same community that would help her learn makeup in the beginning and teach her the ins and outs of hot spotting to get her name out there.
Cora Bleu would paint half of Colana Bleu’s face, contouring and highlighting her into a chiseled, stunning woman, letting her copy onto the other side to learn. Santana Sangria, another local drag queen and friend, would help her with her eye makeup, Colana Bleu said.
“I saw something in her,” Cora Bleu said. “I saw something in her because she’s a great performer, even before she was in drag, and I want that legacy to live on.”
It was a collaborative effort to create the drag queen Colana Bleu and set her up for her success to come.
“It’s astounding – the sisterhood of men that there is in drag,” Cora Bleu said.
As the first person to put Colana Bleu into drag, Cora Bleu is her drag mother, hence the same last name. The LGBTQ+ community has not only empowered Colana Bleu to take on drag, but the community is her family.
“I don’t talk to my parents,” Colana Bleu. “The LGBTQ community is literally my family. It’s just amazing – the love and support from the community. Is there drama? Duh, every family fights, bitch, but we love each other.”
Colana Bleu, along with her husband, was kicked out of her brother’s home last Thanksgiving and no longer speaks to her biological family, as they do not support her. However, she knows that she has found the family she has always needed and wanted in Auburn and Opelika.
In a state that is politically red, feelings toward the LGBTQ+ community are not always positive, but in the Auburn-Opelika area, both Colana and Cora Bleu have experienced deep love in its purest form: acceptance.
“In Auburn and Opelika, I’ve never had anyone say anything to me (while in drag),” Cora Bleu said. “I’ve never had any kind of bullying experience or anything like that, and it’s very hopeful. That’s why I love this area – very accepting.”
Lifted up by her community in Auburn and Opelika, Colana Bleu found herself moving to Dothan to follow an opportunity for her day job after graduation from Auburn. It was there that she got her first gig and learned the ropes, so when it was time to move back to Auburn, she was ready to come back on the scene.
Michael Spraggins, Colana Bleu’s husband, has watched his partner perform in drag shows and events, proud of the person he married. To him, Colana Bleu is a personality out of this world, strong and entertaining.
“[Colana] just blossomed in a very unexpected way,” Spraggins said. “[She’s] got something you can’t learn. [She’s] still getting better every week.”
The confidence she gained from performing both in Dothan and Auburn, along with her skills and personality, took to the drag scene in Atlanta, where she showed up to the bustling bars in full drag.
Lashes fluttering, glittered eyes dazzling and padding tight, filling in her signature dresses, Colana Bleu befriended everyone she came into contact with in Atlanta when she would visit. She was determined to take herself to the next level in drag, and networking works in the drag scene, too, as it is a business, in the end.
Eventually, her big blonde hair, smooth hips and pursed red lips caught the right person’s eye, and she was called to perform aside Asia O’Hara, famous drag queen and recent contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race. From there, her following grew, and her long for the art of drag grew.
“The last time I was booked, I asked, ‘Why do you keep booking me?” Colana Bleu asked the person who continues to hire her for gigs in Atlanta. “He said, ‘The crowd loves you, and you don’t pester the shit out of me asking me can you come perform.’ And I said, ‘Noted.’”
Colana Bleu travels for gigs in Atlanta and other clubs and bars, but her impact in the Auburn-Opelika LGBTQ+ community continues as she hosts and performs in shows for ROY G BIV, the gay bar in town. In 2018, she was crowned the first Miss ROY G BIV.
Though most see Colana Bleu and her fellow queens and kings at the community drag shows and events every week, many may not understand the impact that ROY G BIV has had in Lee County.
Pride on the Plains was created by those in the LGBTQ+ community that wanted more than just going to drag shows and gay bars. They wanted to show their pride, stronger than ever, and that was why POTP was created.
POTP brought the first pride festival to Lee County, Colana Bleu said. She is the treasurer of the nonprofit organization and is in charge of the finances. The organization is almost done with the planning of the 2019 POTP Festival. Through drag dinners and silent auctions, funds are raised and donated to fund the festival.
“[At pride, people] can come hang out, whether their gay, straight, bi,” Cora Bleu said. “It’s all about celebrating life … celebrating yourself.”
Celebrating herself with the guidance of many friends like Cora Bleu, Colana Bleu has found her niche.
What makes a successful drag queen, Colana Bleu said, is loving the practice and art but, even more so, being a social, likeable person.
“People want to go to a show, and not only see a show, but they want to have a conversation with a drag queen,” she said. “I’m a people person in and out of drag, and it’s natural for me to walk up to someone and start a conversation.”
Talking with guests is what built her community and her brand, simultaneously. That is what she says made her keep going, even though she didn’t intend on it becoming such a huge part of her life.
POTP secretary Do’Nyal Webb calls her community her family through and through, and Colana Bleu has been a true friend to her through her coming out journey and her start as a drag king.
“I’ve found support for so many different aspects of my life from the people in this community,” Webb said. “It’s been an amazing experience to be a part of this family. I know I can rely on my community here and it’s been a blessing to have that kind of love, acceptance, and support in everything I do.”
Webb was not on the board for POTP during its first year, but through the support of her community and watching the festival inspire others. After Webb moved to Auburn and came out, she struggled to find a place of worship where she felt comfortable. Colana Bleu was the friend that got Webb back into church and choir, something that Webb had lost touch with for a while.
“Colana was able to show me love and acceptance in a place I never thought I could,” Webb said. “I’m grateful for her being able to heal that part of my life that I’ve missed.”
As a newcomer into drag, Colana Bleu was a mentor to Webb, as she has been for many others in the Alabama drag community.
Webb’s favorite part of POTP is the way the group spreads unconditional love to everyone that is introduced to the community.
“The impact POTP has had in Lee County has been resilient,” Webb said. “I remember before I was a member of the board, watching the group in their first year and seeing a lot of their pushback. It was difficult to see how quickly people judged and reacted.”
Webb remembered not too long ago that a man walked into the local coffee shop Mama Mocha’s and began shouting white-nationalist rhetoric. The coffee shop is a known safe haven for everyone, including the LGBTQ+ and black community in Auburn and Opelika, and is where Spraggins works. Everyone a part of POTP and ROY G BIV were ready to get to Mama Mocha’s after the incident to support everyone who felt threatened by the outburst.
“Now, I’ve never been assaulted before. However, I’ve gotten plenty of heat from the sorts of people as I’m literally a queer black Asian woman and drag king,” Webb said. “There’s a fear that comes with being a person of color, and Mama Mochas has never been a place I’ve had to worry about that because it’s a coffee shop that’s very focused on serving an environment that exudes love and acceptance. And well, when that happened, I was heartbroken and terrified.”
Webb was distraught from the incident and was not in a place where she felt comfortable to leave her home in that moment as she heard the news; however, her friends in POTP and ROY G BIV were there to support their friends at Mama Mocha’s.
“All of the members saying what time they were going to support Mama Mochas and show them some love,” Webb said. “To see everyone ready to jump into action was like having little EMTS of love, acceptance and support come to aid. It was really powerful, and honestly, it gave me so much strength and pride.”
Colana Bleu is just an extension of the love that POTP exudes for everyone, but Webb said the impact that she had on Webb as a performer and activist in the Auburn-Opelika area has created a legacy that will live on for years to come.
Colana Bleu knows the community behind her is what lifted her up to become a success in the drag community, but people like Webb, Spraggins and Cora Bleu know that Colana Bleu has an aura of hope, hard work and strength that has traveled with her since the beginning and will continue to follow her as she spreads love throughout the area – and possibly beyond.
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